Us vs. Them

My bedroom here in Phoenix is adjacent to a relatively quiet street. Yet every late evening and early morning, cars come flying down it with their engines revving and their music blaring. I’ve tried every single trick imaginable to drown out the noise but alas I’m almost always woken up by it. In these moments of frustration I always have thoughts run through my head of how much better life would be for me if they weren’t around, if these humans that enjoy loud and fast cars in the wee hours of the night just went somewhere else.

This is a small example of how often my mind has an us vs. them mentality. Too often we have feelings of fear towards others or we perceive others to be but a burden on our life or society. Search your own hearts. Are there individuals, people groups, religious groups, families, or other various groups of people that you see in such a light? Maybe it’s a co-worker. Maybe it’s those involved in criminal activity. Maybe it’s people who have differing political views than you do. Maybe it’s the ‘burden’ of financially and physically caring for the elderly or your own children (this is seen on a societal scale but maybe not personally).

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This city is full of people that aren’t like me. 

We are sinful. We struggle to see ourselves as Christ sees us. We also struggle to see others as Christ sees them.

 

I overthink. One thing I overthink is God’s calling on my life. In that I mean I overthink what God may be calling me to do. Yes I believe it is Biblical to wrestle with what God may be calling you into in the future. Yes I believe it is Biblical to try and discern what God may be calling you to do as a next step. Yet God’s calling on our lives while we wait for the return of the King of Kings is pretty simple. It is to love God and love our neighbor. Right now. Where you reside. This can happen via a lot of different routes or specific callings that you may have. But all we do should come out of our love for God and our desire to love our neighbors.

We are called to love God and love neighbor. Jesus Himself made this abundantly clear.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

Loving God can be pretty easy sometimes when I meditate and consider all that He has so graciously and mercifully lavished on me in my day-to-day life. Loving my neighbor isn’t nearly as easy. My neighbors aren’t like me. As I write this at my kitchen table I am acutely aware of the religious, financial, ethnic, and lifestyle differences between me and my immediate neighbors. Christ has showered love onto my life, and I in turn should be a conduit of His love to my neighbors.

Every good and perfect thing that I have in my life is from above (James 1:17). God is not served by human hands and He doesn’t need anything from me (Acts 17:24-25). He is enthroned on high, being praised forever by the multitude of saints who have gone before, and the great celestial beings. Yes His mercies should result in a desire to worship, but He doesn’t need me to. He is not any less than Himself in the absence of my praise. Those blessings He invests into me each day should go somewhere, and they go horizontally to those in need around me, to my neighbors.

I’ll let Michael Horton bring us home:

In Christ our perspective on other people is transformed. We no longer see people as barriers to our happiness or as people to be feared. Through the lens of the gospel we see them as our neighbors, as part of a mutual exchange of gift giving, and not as threats to our well being. 

I pray today that God would continue to convict me in the times where I have an us vs. them mentality. I pray that God would give me an us for them mentality. I pray that I would joyfully labor daily for the good of my neighbor, whoever that may be, in light of the mercies of Christ and the way that God sees my neighbor.

As followers of Christ, it’s not about us vs. them.

It’s about us for them.

Go in peace.

–  Nate 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