Don’t Forget That God Is With You

Besides John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, and Philippians 4:13, there is one other verse that is extremely popular in Christian circles.

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. – Numbers 2:1-2

Now, obviously I’m kidding. You may have never seen that short little passage before.

Recently I’ve been reading through the book of Numbers in my time with the Lord. There is a whole lot about it that confuses and befuddles me, and I’m only just getting into it. Seriously, my journal is filled with a lot of questions.

But reflecting on this chapter (2) has been convicting and encouraging.

Let me unpack what is going on in these verses and how life-forming they should be for us as followers of Jesus. Here’s some truths to take away and consider.

1. God Was With His People 

The ‘tent of meeting’ was the tabernacle, the place where the presence of God dwelled. Jesus shows us the exact nature of God the Father, but Jesus was not the first theophany (appearance of God on earth), rather He was the ultimate one.

God appears on earth over and over again, beginning with walking in the garden with Adam and Eve. He appears to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. While leading the people of God out of Egypt, He appeared as a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke.

Now, here in the trek towards the promised land, He is with them in the tent of meeting.

Guys, the message of the Bible is not ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. The message of the Bible is NOT about being good, moral people. The message of the Bible is ‘God with us’. It’s what we celebrate at Christmas. God with us.

Y’all, the commands of Scripture (of which there certainly are many) do not come from ethereal being in the heavens who has no relationship with His people. No, the commands of Scripture are built upon the foundation of God’s presence with His people.

Every family of God’s people made sure that their tents faced the tent of meeting. Think about it. Every morning, when they left their tent, they looked at where God’s presence dwelt. Every day began with reflections about God’s presence.

2. When You Forget God Is With You, Sin Surely Follows 

Things are relatively good at this point in the story of God’s people. The people have been rescued from slavery. They have a God who is with them, leading them.

The rest of the book of Numbers however unpacks how the people of God descend into lots of sin, simply because they forget that God is able and willing to provide for them and protect them.

In Numbers 11, the people of God complain against the Lord. They doubt His ability to provide for them in the wilderness. So then this happens.

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord,and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the Lord had burned among them. – Numbers 11:1-3

God’s anger was aroused and some of their were destroyed.

Now, this is probably one of those passages that people would use to accuse the portrayal of God in the OT to be one of anger and malice.

A couple quick things. First off, God is a righteous and angry God. We forget that anger is not inherently sinful. God has the right to be angry with His people. Our sin is telling Him that we are not allegiant to Him as Lord.

Secondly, the fact that God didn’t destroy everyone here is grace. When we accuse God of mistreatment, we forget that just one sin separates us from Him. One sin requires judgment and justice. So this passage is exuding grace, even if our human sensibilities are irked.

Lastly, God immediately provides manna and quail for His people. Even in their sin, God is still providing for His people.

Later on in the story, the people of God are on the cusp of the promised land. They are commanded and called by God to go to war and remove the Canaanites. But instead, they refuse to go in. They think that the people of the land are way too big and powerful.

THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE THAT HAD WATCHED GOD RAIN DOWN PLAGUES UPON THEIR ENEMIES IN EGYPT.

Yet, now their cowardice leads to sin. They forget that God is with them and is ready to protect them.

And their punishment is a generation dying out in the wilderness.

Now, before you start thinking that these people are a bunch of idiots, look in the mirror (I’m including myself in this, fyi). God no longer dwells in a tent of meeting or a temple. Rather, according to the message of Scripture, He dwells in us.

I mean, come on!

We have the very presence of God with us, in us. Yet we doubt His ability to provide and protect. We forget He is near. God is omnipresent. There is no such thing as private sin in my life. God sees it all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let your life reflect that God is with you. Do people see you trusting in His ability to provide and protect? Do people see you reflecting His character?

Brothers and sisters, God is with you.

He is with you.

Rest in that.

Rejoice in that.

God is with you.

Don’t forget it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

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

Young Lions

I grew up on Psalm 34:8.lions.jpg

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! – Psalm 34:8

I’ve seen it referenced time and time again, whether in somebody’s kitchen, on somebody’s Facebook post, or before taking the Lord’s Supper with a church community. Yet I have failed to recognize the beauty of this verse in the context of the entire 34th Psalm. Nestled in this verse is the doctrine of divine providence. We see the truth that God provides for and protects His people. I am not a seasoned scholar or theologian so I’m not even going to try and explain God’s sovereignty vs. the free will of man. However, I will tell you that God is ultimately the Provider and Protector of us His children.

Our every single need is met by God. He provides for all of our needs.

Not only does the 34th Psalm teach us that He is a Provider, it also teaches us that He is a Protector.

Look with me at verses seven and ten.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. – Psalm 34:7

There are days where I blow through life without meditating on or thinking about the spiritual aspects of my day-to-day life. There are other days where I’m more acutely aware of the spiritual warfare being waged around me. This verse should strengthen any feeble man, as it reminds us that God’s legion of hosts are around us, and that we will be delivered in the times of our need (v. 6).

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. – Psalm 34:10

I’ve not been around lions outside of the zoo, but it is apparent to me that they are accomplished hunters. Young lions especially are adept at hunting due to their speed, ferocity, and energy. They are referred to as the kings of the jungle for a reason. They are at the top of the food chain in their neck of the woods. For them to go hungry, many things have to be off kilter.

That’s what makes this verse so striking. There are seasons in the Sahara where the lions may be lacking in food, lacking in what they need to survive the season. Yet for the follower of Christ, no good thing is lacking. What a beautiful promise of God’s provision.

As we meditate upon the provision and protection of the God we serve, we should remember a few different things. There are truths this passage will remind us of before we expect a perfect life.

Be humble.

As we think about God’s providing and protecting hand, we must remember that we are called to remain humble before God. Psalm 34:2 will remind us to boast in the Lord, that the humble will hear of the promises of God and be glad. Psalm 34:6 tells us that it is the poor man whose cries the Lord hears.

God is loving, compassionate, and generous. At the same time however he is not a fan of the arrogant and prideful. His grace through Jesus is strong enough to cover over those sins, yet we should still seek humility before Him.

The very provision and protection of God is what is designed to lead us to be humble before Him. As I meditate upon the ways that God is providing for and protecting me each and every day, I am humbled because I understand that I’m not capable of doing those things in my own life.

Seek God.

God’s provision and protection should also lead us to worship Him and seek Him more. Psalm 34:4 says, I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. God is always in control of the cosmos. That being said, I know for a fact that in my life when I chase after Him and seek Him that I become more acutely aware of that reality.

When I’m coasting through life, I forget about God’s provision and protection and find myself shackled to fear and worry. I was a worry wart almost the entire time I was in Phoenix. Yet in the seasons of life where I have chased after God with everything in me, I have seen and beheld the ways that God has provided for and protected me and I am delivered from my fears.

Seeking God helps us to acknowledge the ways God is working in our midst.

Remember He is God and He is good. 

Lastly, we need to remember that not everything in life will work out the way that we would want it to. Just this very day things are not working out the way I had hoped in the life of one of my closest friends, and I question what God is up to.

Yet look with me at Psalm 34:9-10.

Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. – Psalm 34:9-10

The doctrine of divine providence does not promise perfect lives for followers of Christ. These verses do not promise our every heart’s desire. Instead these verses should remind and encourage us that God is God and God is good. When the psalmist promises us that we will lack no good thing when we seek the Lord, He is telling us that God is all the good we need.

When we pursue after and seek Christ, we get Him.

When we get Him, we lack nothing.

God promises to provide and protect for His people. Open your eyes and start acknowledging the ways God has done just that in your life. Next time you eat, thank God for His provision. Next time you sleep in safety, thank God for His protection.

In every bite and morsel throughout our lives we ought to taste the provision of God. 

Young lions may go hungry.

Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Prayer Changes Things

When I was in Phoenix, I had a job as an early morning janitor. 4-8 AM every day. It was the worst, and I only lasted a month. If you can do that, you have my utmost respect and awe.Psalms.png

Anyway, the store I worked at didn’t open until 9 AM, so I asked if I could wear headphones. The manager said I couldn’t. So for four hours every day I would sweep, buff, and vacuum in total silence. Let me tell you, the vacuuming was the best, because it was one of those Ghostbusters vacuums.

There was one morning when I was like, here we go, I’m going to try and pray this whole shift. I wrote out a list of prayer needs on a card and got ready to go. I clocked in and started sweeping. I prayed everything I could think of and looked at my watch. It was 4:06. It had been a whopping six minutes since I started praying. I kept trying to find my groove but I would get distracted. I was not very good at praying, and to be totally honest I’m still not adept at this spiritual discipline. Psalm 3 teaches us however that prayer truly does change things. Prayer reorients our perspective, and through our humble petitions, God is willing to move.

Let’s do it.

O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. – Psalm 3:1-2

This is a psalm of David, and in this Psalm David is in desperate need. He is running from his own son who wants to kill him and take his throne. He is surrounded by his former men who have now sworn allegiance to his son Absalom who wants to kill him.

Not only is there the fear of physical death in this situation, David is dealing with the fear of God’s abandonment. The foes and enemies of David were proclaiming that there was no salvation for David in God. I’m sure this led him to at least momentarily doubt whether or not God was still for him.

Have you ever felt that way?

Have you ever felt like God had abandoned you?

I know I have, and I can tell you that there is great confidence, hope, and faith to be found in David’s response to this intensely bleak season of his life. Instead of caving to the lies and losing his trust in God (although there are other Psalms where he does begin to question God’s faithfulness, which should remind us all that that is an okay emotion to work through), David continues to have deep confidence in Him.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. – Psalm 3:3-6

David is confident in the Lord’s ability to protect and provide. One of the greatest benefits of prayer for me is the opportunity to take a deep breath and remember that God has been faithful and will continue to be so. In this Psalm, David understands three crucial aspects of God’s character, and this leads to his confidence in prayer.

  1. God is his shield. This terminology is used all throughout the book of Psalms. It is warfare imagery, and it is a reminder for David and for us that God is able to protect us from anything that comes our way. He shields us from the enemy. This doesn’t mean that all will be perfect in our lives. Rather it means that God will not allow anything to hit us spiritually that He has not provided us the strength to overcome through His grace and mercy.
  2. God is his glory. David understood that anything in his life, any throne, any praise, and accolade, any glory, was ultimately just a shadow of God’s great glory and was a result of God’s gifts to him as his child. God is our glory as well. Anything we’ve got in this life is from him and for him.
  3. God is the lifter of his head. David knew that God would restore his countenance, that God would restore joy and hope to his heart, lifting up his head. When you and I get discouraged or down, our heads droop. But God lifts up our heads.

God answered David’s prayer. That is the beauty of verse four. Remember that this is after the Bathsheba incident. This is a wonderful reminder that God forgives, and that God shows great grace. God answered the cries of David’s heart.

Now in our lives, the answers may not come in the way or in the timing that we would ask for, but God still is in the business of answering prayers.

David then decides to go to sleep. This is the part of this passage that blows my ever-loving mind. David is being pursued by this enemy force and he is so confident in God’s ability to protect and provide for him that he takes a nap.

May we have equal confidence in God’s ability to provide for and protect us in every situation we encounter.

The Psalm closes with David praying total destruction upon his enemies, and for the sake of length I don’t have the space to tackle that today. I wanted us to take a look at this Psalm for the sake of being reminded that prayer truly does change things.

God hears our prayers and answers them. Prayer is vitally important. We don’t like to do it because it’s foreign and makes us slow down. But it is no less important. Because of Jesus’ death in our place, we can know God personally.

LET THIS SINK IN.

We can talk with God, we can share our lives and our worries with him. There is no prayer too big or too small for us to share with Him. We can ask for his help. We can give him the praise he deserves.

Tell God your worries.

Remind yourself how powerful and in control he is.

Ask God to help you.

Get some sleep.

You can rest in God’s provision and protection.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Go Out In The Fields

God is faithful and provides for His people. Yet this doesn’t mean that we are to just sit idly by and wait for God to abundantly bless us according to His great love. No, oftentimes we are told to work diligently and with discipline, and through this God blesses us with all that we need. fields

The book of Ruth has much to say about this very subject. Ruth experienced the providential care of the Lord, yet she experienced this via diligent work in the fields. Ruth is an example of Christ-like living in so many ways that I seek to emulate her in, and one such way is her work ethic. God would meet her needs in incredible and inexplicable ways, yet this would be done because she chose to go out in the field and collect grain that wasn’t being used (Ruth 2:3). Even after God chose to provide for her through the loving care of Boaz, Ruth still committed to working day after day in the fields in order to receive this provision:

So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law. – Ruth 2:23

Since I’ve moved to Phoenix I’ve experienced this truth in many ways. God has been faithful to provide for me financially, yet not via me just sitting in my bed. Too often that has been my response to any fears I have about surviving financially in Phoenix. I could show you countless journal entries asking God to help provide for me financially. Countless entries with no plan of action in-between. This wasn’t me walking in faith. This was me laying in laziness. I would be lying to say I wasn’t at first overwhelmed by the daunting nature of rent costs and utility bills combined with the lack of knowledge regarding the job market here in the West Valley. However, I needed to act. When I did, God was faithful to provide.

The Scriptures say that every good and perfect gift is from Him, and this includes jobs. It’s been a carousel of part-time jobs since I got here four months ago, yet God has been faithful to provide me with a new one each time I stepped out in faith and applied or professed interest in a new one.

This is not of my own doing. God has been gracious to give me parents that instilled a deep work ethic in me as a teenager. I by no means have a perfect one, and I’ve not been excited to give my all in every job I’ve had out here (I’m looking at you, early morning janitor shift. Seriously, nothing tested my faith in this truth more than my 3:30 AM alarm clock going off.). Yet whenever I’ve gotten scared about my finances or have been overwhelmed when a job doesn’t pan out the way I planned, God has been faithful to supplant in my life a new one to fit my needs just as I’m crying out to Him for help.

God’s provision comes in a myriad of other aspects of our lives, not just financially. Let me give a couple other examples.

In ten days a team from Oklahoma Baptist University will be arriving to partner with Wellspring Church and engage with different worldviews that are on display in the Phoenix area. I was given responsibility to schedule and host this team for the nine days they are here. Week after week I was overcome with anxiety of making all that needed to happen, happen. Like clockwork it seemed that every Monday I would get overwhelmed with all that needed to be done and I would cry out to the Lord for help. Then the next Monday would roll around and I would cry out to Him again. It was only after reading Ruth’s story as part of a devotion that I realized I needed to go out in the fields so to speak. That afternoon I made all sorts of phone calls and then got the whole trip mapped out in just that one day. God was faithful to provide me with favor in all the connections I made, but I had to step out and make the connections. They weren’t going to magically appear in my lap as a result of my prayer.

Spiritually speaking, this is true as well. I’ve journaled a bazillion times (this a rough estimate) about wanting to have my heart grow in some way. Whether it’s the courage to share my faith daily, the desire to pray constantly, the discipline to memorize Scripture, the fortitude to fight for purity, or the desire to have a Christ-centered dating relationship, those things don’t happen unless I go out in the fields spiritually.

Only when I share my faith will I experience the courage in that moment. Only when I make it a habit to pray even when it’s hard and I don’t know what to say will the desire to pray more arise. Only when I fight with no compromise will I experience purity. Only when I guide my heart and Jamie’s to Jesus will our relationship be centered on Him. Only when I set out to memorize a verse will I memorize a verse (this last one seems obvious but I’m telling you too often I just envision and don’t act).

God is faithful. God is beyond my mind’s comprehension. There is definitely no limit to what He can do. He can choose to bestow blessings whenever and however He sees fit. Yet I’ve seen in Scripture and my own life that it takes me stepping out in the fields of faith that He blesses me with the grain of godliness.

Whatever you are lacking, go out into the fields. Emulate Ruth, walking and working diligently in the strength of Christ.

Our God is faithful to provide and He promises to care for His children.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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I Am Naomi

I have a heart that is fickle and discontent. I cry out against the Lord when I feel slighted but then ‘joyfully’ thank God for His kindness and provision as soon as things are going my way. I am Naomi.

The story of Ruth is one that I’ve been drawn to many times recently. It’s been particularly fascinating as I’ve realized that it is a story of God’s provision in a time of need as well as a story of simple faith. The book of Ruth is not like Exodus. It is not full of eventful miracles like the parting of a sea or various plagues that lead to redemption. No, the book of Ruth is about two women who were empty but found fullness in God. The book of Ruth is about God’s wonderful and ever-present care in one what would appear random family’s journey. As I’ve been walking through the book with a devotional by Mike McKinley, I found myself realizing that I was in fact Naomi.

Naomi was a widow, finding herself with a dead husband and two dead sons. She was broken and confused and in a foreign land. Orpah and Ruth were her daughters-in-law, yet only Ruth chose to return to Bethlehem with her. When they arrived, the whole town was excited and cried out to Naomi. This was Naomi’s response:

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” – Ruth 1:20-21

On one hand, Naomi had a correct understanding of God’s sovereignty and control over all things. She on the other hand however forgot that not only is God great, He is also good and orchestrates all things to best glorify Him which in turn brings us the most good. She asked the town to call her “Mara” which means “bitter”. She was so distraught she proclaimed that they should refer to her as essentially the bitter one.

Fast-forward one chapter. In chapter two, God provides for Ruth and Naomi through Boaz. Boaz was their relative and allowed the widowed Ruth the opportunity to safely gather grain in his fields with the protection of his workers. It is a moment of great joy as Naomi acknowledges God’s care all along.

“The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative, he is one of our guardian-redeemers.” – Ruth 2:20

The Lord is no longer referred to as the one who brought down misfortune on her. Rather, Naomi refers to the Lord as He who has not stopped showing kindness to the living and the dead.

I wonder if Naomi would want to take back what she had said a chapter earlier. I wonder how often I am just like Naomi. One minute I’ll be crying out in anger at the Lord about all He has taken away from me, and then the next I’ll be praising Him for all that He’s doing in my life at the time. I would encourage you to read the Psalms and be encouraged that there will be times of heartache and doubt and times of joy and gratitude. However I would also caution you against criticizing God’s plan for your life (as I often do to be completely honest). Let us all push back against the Naomi in each of us. Let us be men and women of God who praise God in the storm and praise Him in the clear blue skies. Let us praise Him in the grief and praise Him in the celebration.

Crying and feeling heartache are not what I’m speaking against. I’ve had bouts of tears regularly in this most recent season of my life. When it becomes dangerous is when I begin to call out against God’s plan in my life due to my discontent and due to things not being perfect. Contentment is what I’m desperately fighting to secure in my heart and in my life. Hopefully this following passage will help.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Do you ever find that your heart is fickle, complaining about God’s provision for you one moment and then joyful when you later get what you want? What would be a godlier attitude in these times? – Mike McKinley 

We take nothing out of this world. Nothing. If we have food and clothing, we should be content with that. I know that’s hard to actually live in but I’m striving to. I don’t want to be Naomi, I don’t want to have a fickle heart.

Let’s strive together for contentment.

– Nate Roach