Do Your Part

It's supposed to be hard to obey God because our nature, culture, and narrow view is so contrary to His.  You may have had moments of frustration in your walk with Jesus because the challenge feels overwhelming or even impossible.  It may feel wrong, but it actually is the norm for following Him.  God is actually at work in those moments forming you.  Not just your skills, but actually who you will one day be.  God uses these unlikely moments to make, to create, to mold, to breathe life into.

This is how I would describe many of the events in the life of David starting with his anointing to one day be king.  See God made a king out of David in a way that our nature, culture, and narrow view never could.  We learn in 1 Samuel 16 that Samuel goes to Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel.  He is expecting what you and I would:  God will speak and tell him to anoint the man that looks like a king.  Instead, God leads him to Jesse and his seven sons, whom are not the future king.  He has to wait, he has to feel confusion, face some stress, feel fear of anointing a new king while the current one was still sitting on the throne.  Feel familiar? Finally, Jesse called David from the field and God speaks to Samuel to anoint him to be king.

This isn’t just a story about David being chosen even though he didn’t fit the look of king.  This is a story about Samuel having to obey God even when it’s hard.  If Samuel had been impatient and chosen the wrong man, that’s a whole life that’s changed that would cause a huge ripple effect.  And by choosing David, God is forming David’s understanding of who He is and of how he works.  Think about the impact of being chosen when David knew he wasn’t qualified, born from royalty, and didn’t fit the mold.  This all happens because one man does his part.

Samuel wasn’t instructed by God to make a king, just to anoint one.  He wasn’t asked to make sure everything works out in the years ahead.  Samuel just does his part.

Do you part today, listen and obey God.  That may be in a godly choice, an act of faith, or even specifically something you believe God wants you to do.  Don’t worry about every detail after, just do your part.  Trust that God is forming you with this obedience, and trust that He sees the ripple effect of your obedience.

Nelz

 

 

 

 

Silent Saturday

Worry and fear fills the void of the unknown so well.  I mean it fits so nicely.  It’s like a magnet that sprints to the spot that anticipation left.  Life never goes as planned, but we still let the unknown decide our attitude.

When Jesus was buried and the disciples where left wondering and alone, they weren’t.  It was in that very moment that God was working.  It was on that silent Saturday that what they couldn’t see and understand kept them from having hope fill the void.  They didn't understand all that Jesus taught and promised, but soon they would.

Just because you can’t feel God, don’t lose hope.  Just because we don’t understand how He works, don’t lose hope.  Just because you can’t see Him work, don’t lose hope.  God isn’t done with your life yet!  He’s still at work! Hope will overfill that void!

Good Friday

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People say they want to be like Jesus, but rarely do they say they want the life He had.  Anyone else find that telling?

It tells me we like how loving and kind Jesus was, but we don’t like how He didn’t have the envy of his peers.

It tells me we like how Jesus gave so much, but we don’t like how He didn’t have a 401k to retire on.

It tells me we like how Jesus wasn’t materialistic, but we don’t like how He didn’t have the comfort of heated seats.

It tells me we like how Jesus had a crew to follow Him around, but we don’t like how He was betrayed by them.

It tells me we like Jesus, but we don’t like the package he was delivered to us in.

It tells me we want what Jesus offers, but we don’t want to walk the path to get to it.

Control Freak

Making a member of your family do what you want will never really get you want you want. Why? Because compliance doesn't produce closeness.  When we force others to comply to our needs/wants through abuse, fear, or withdrawal, we won't get love in return because comes from a free choice.

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On their wedding day, no one says "I can't wait till he/she feels like a stranger to me." Everyone is filled with the hope that this person they are marrying will make them feel loved and connected forever.  When considering having kids, no couple says "I can't wait till our kids grow up and have nothing to do with us."  Deep down we want closeness, intimacy, connection so much that sometimes we force it.  We try to control others to give it to us.

Consider the incredible moment of Jesus sacrificing Himself for all people.  That moment was the most purest love that exists.  It was God's love on display.  It's important to note that this also was a moment of complete relinquishing of control. Jesus trusted God, and let His will happen His way.  This event also closed the massive gap that sin made between man and God.  Loving in a way that surrendered control brought about such intimacy that we are now called children of God.

You deeply want closeness from your parent, spouse, child, or sibling.  Don't make the mistake of manipulating them and expect to receive.  Forcing their compliance will actually push them further way.  Surrender control and let God's love bring the intimacy you so desire.  

What does your future family look like?  You will have a future family mesh if you love well.  You will have a mess if you control.  Today you can hope for better.

Family Mesh or Mess?

Are you making a family mesh or a family mess?  Are you helping to create a supportive mesh that is a safe, loving, healthy place or are you laying the ground work for a painful mess one day? Whether you are a parent, sibling, in law, spouse...we all impact our families.

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Maybe your family couldn't even be called a family because they weren't there for you.  It could be you have no idea how to get along with your sibling because it's been difficult for years.  Or maybe you find yourself driving a mini van, stepping on Legos every morning, and wondering how many times you have to say something for your kids to listen to you...but deep down you wish you knew how to create that supportive, awesome family they deserve.

Don't lose hope.  It's possible not because you have all the answers, not because your family was perfect, or definitely not because it'll just happen.  It's possible because Jesus died to solve the real problem that causes the worst family messes, our own selfishness.  Jesus wants us to be free to love, give, and share.  So He breaks the rule that says you can't be free because of the true nature of our hearts.  Family in itself is supposed to be selfless, but we are so bent on getting what we need and having others suffer for it.  Think about your family mess, or someone else's you've heard of...selfishness is always a piece of that mess!

So a really good approach to making a family mesh is to consider how your selfishness affects your family.  Could it be a routine that you just wont change so everyone else has to adjust?  Maybe it's always having to feel like you are in charge?  Or maybe it's taking out a work frustration on a family member? It could be an addiction you won't seek help about.

Yes, we are all guilty of selfishness. but we can all also be free to be better.  Today ask Jesus to heal your own heart.  Ask him to reveal how your selfishness has caused pain to others.  Would you do your family a favor and consider if you are building a mesh or a causing a mess?

I'm no John Rambo

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I've seen all 200 Rambo movies, and I've accepted that I'll never be like him or ever want to be like him.  Not because of the work it takes to have those abs, but because I don't want my manhood to be only identified by outward strength, unbridled negative emotion, or defeating my enemies.  This post is aimed at men but women may also relate to being taught a certain way of being or perhaps this may shed some light on the men in your life.

Shouldn't a man of God live his live differently than someone who doesn't know or walk with God?  Identity absolutely isn't easy growing up through childhood and adolescences while being influenced by John Rambo, but I don't think it's easy later in life either.  As human beings and spiritual beings we should have a tension between our worldly understanding of manhood and what God’s views are.

Let's face it, our own selfishness, the traditional role of the American man, and our own belief that freedom is being able to do what you when you want all not so gently push us in the wrong direction.

The story of creation reveals that God gives man relationship with Himself and Eve, a job to do all before sin enters the world.  I emphasize that real men of God accept the work God has given them and expect to work at all He's given.  While it's easy for men to work hard at their job, men of God work really, really hard at being a good husband, father, son, brother, friend, and brother in Christ. Men of God cultivate their relationship with God and others because God's given them all these.

Real men of God cultivate all that God has given them as worship to God.  For me that meant quitting my job and being a stay at home dad for a year.  I wasn't providing income for my family, but I was still working for the best of my family.  Although it didn't fit the traditional American role for man as the provider and was personally challenging, I was tending to what God had given me. This also means that as a parent, I'm not looking just to get my kids to learn how to behave well, be responsible, take care of themselves, to follow Jesus, etc.  I have to do it in such a way that is spiritually, emotionally and relationally healthy.  

I could go on, but you get the point...as men we have to accept all the work God's given us and really work at it.  

Men, may you consider what it means to be a man of God.  

Men, may you find freedom in doing it God's way.  

Men, may you find delight in working hard at all that God's given you.

Hope in Marriage

The best weddings I've attended are great not because of the music, food, or decor.  It's great because of the hope for better ahead.  Paul writes in Romans 12:12 to be joyful in hope.  Hope creates joy during a wedding that we all love experiencing.  Last Saturday I was able to share about never losing hope in your marriage.

Yes, marriages are about love and commitment, but it's hope for even better ahead that caused two people to decide to spend the rest of their lives together....even though they can't know all that is ahead.  Don't let your wedding day be the most hopeful day in your marriage.

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Today is a really good day to renew your hope that you are better together than apart. While together is harder, it's still better.  Often we look to joys of our past single life that can't be experienced as married.  Don't label your spouse as a ball and chain because they prevent you from the joys of the past for today.  Rather open yourself to experience new joys that you couldn't experience while single.  When we stop hoping for better joys ahead, we hurt ourselves from having an even better marriage.

Don't ever stop hoping that God can transform you and that other person.  A better marriage means a better you.  Our mistakes in marriage no matter how petty can cause us to give up on each other. God's not done yet.  There's still hope for a better spouse because God wants to heal and help every weakness.

Hope for help to love and be loved better.  Often we are instructed to love each other like God loves us.  I think that we need divine help to love each other with divine love.  Why do we even expect to be able to love someone without God's help?  Serving each other in a loving way can be exhausting. Just when you thought you had it all figured out, your spouse's needs change. Good thing you aren't striving alone.  God's on your team helping you to succeed!

Psalm 71:14 declares "I will always have hope."  I want that to be my anthem as a husband. I've witnessed loveless marriages last, but I've never seen a hopeless marriage last.  Hope for better ahead!

Step 5: Reliance

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Don't believe the lies of this world so that you doubt the truths of Heaven. While you may have been taught you can do anything...you can't.  How many times has someone promised you to work hard and you'll get what you want?  What movie have you recently seen that tells the story of dreaming big and never giving up?  Those ideas actually keep us chained.

Real freedom comes from real reliance. The truth is that without God, we can do nothing (John 15:5).  You actually get free when you surrender your striving to bring about what you desire.  You actually get free when you open your hand to what you hold so tightly.  That will create room for God's hand to help.  I know, this sounds like I'm saying you should be lazy and not work hard.  It's not being lazy, it's acknowledging our limited ability and inviting God's unlimited ability.  The treadmill of relying only on own efforts and ability is exhausting.

Relying on God results in peace, hope, and unwavering obedience to Him.  Ask yourself today, what am I anxious about?  You can have peace knowing that you can't do it on your own anyhow. What area of my life do I lack hope in?  You can renew hope because we look to Him to bring about change.  And He is able.  What risk does God want me to take, but I struggle to obey?  It's easier to obey God when you know He makes it possible.   

Admitting "I can't without God" is the start of getting off the treadmill of relying on yourself.  "I can't forgive, I can't excel at work, I can't pay that bill, I can't convince my kid, I can't without God"  Give it a try today.  Aren't you ready for a freeway?

Personal Response to MAX Attack

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Read the story here

The recent attack on the MAX light rail shouldn't have happened.  A white man yelling at two innocent non white girls shouldn't have happened. 'Two people dying for standing up for the innocent shouldn't have happened.  A man, fueled by anger and racial supremacy, shouldn't have been so violent.  All this shouldn't have happened in a city known to be tolerant and accepting.  

Truth is I get scared.  Hate doesn't reside in a zip code, but in the heart of man.  If only we could have a place to live, work, and play where hate can't go.  But people are everywhere, and so is hate. There is no completely safe place on earth where two people are together.  I wish there was a place I could take my kids, so this would never happen to them.

Truth is I get angry, especially because I'm Indian-American.  No one should be told what these girls were told.  No one should think they deserve better than someone else.  No one should feel the freedom to hate and kill.  I want this guy to be punished to the point where he can never have the possibility of standing next to me or my family on the MAX.  He's lost that right hasn't he?

Truth is I get self-righteous. I know I'm better than this guy.  I don't have this level of hate or anger towards anyone.  I wouldn't kill someone over this.  I easily point my finger in judgement and know what he only deserves.

But as a follower of Jesus, the truth is I'm broken over his sin and should be broken over my sin.  Truth is when I heard about these attacks, I had to also repent of my own sin and ask God to heal me.  No I've never done anything like he has, but sin without restraint could do awful things. So in my fear, I remember that God can heal.  So while hate is everywhere...so is God's healing.  So in my anger, I remember that I too am a sinner and peace enters my heart.  So in my self-righteous attitude, I humbly call out injustice to not forget I too deserve a punishment.

I hope today for better hearts...and so can you.

Step 4 to get free: Forgiveness

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"Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die"

That quote about sums up how toxic it is to not forgive someone.  You may be right about whatever the debt, offense, or pain is, but that doesn't mean it's good for you.  Have you considered how it's affected you?  No it's not your fault, but what it is doing to you is your responsibility.  

Forgiving someone for something they said, did, or didn't do is confusing.  Do they have to say sorry first?  Is forgiving someone agreeing with what they did?  Does forgiving the person mean you are reconciled?  Why is it that saying the words"I forgive you" doesn't guarantee we don't hurt?  

Forgiveness is a heart matter between you and God first.  We forgive because the Father forgave us.  To forgive means to let the debt go.  It means that we don't expect or hold the other person to pay back anything that we assume will make things even.  You can let the debt go without giving your stamp of approval on what they did.  You can let the debt go, but it takes both parties for reconciliation to happen.  Just because you forgave someone, doesn't mean you can trust them.  Hopefully that should make you feel a little bit better...just a little bit.

Only God can fix/heal what someone else broke/hurt.  We naturally assume that the person that hurt us can fix us...but it's a lie.  See God made you.  Because He created your heart, only He can truly fix it.  How can someone ever make amends for pain inflicted?  Are they that powerful?  And yet we wait, we expect, we DEMAND they fix it.

We waste years calling for a lawyer when we should be calling an ambulance.  God wants to heal your pain...call the one who is able!

Step 3 to get free: Ownership

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Blame is discharged pain.  We all do it, instinctively.  We highlight someone else role in our mistake or problem or pain yet can't see our own responsibility in it.  Immediately we start our defense with whose fault it was, instead of considering what we are responsible to own.  No one likes to feel that feeling of what we are responsible for because we have to face ourselves.

Three words will get you free...I - own - it.  No, everything that happened to you isn't your fault. Imaging you had a party at your house and the mess everyone left proves how much fun they had. Their empty cups are everywhere, their food is ground on the carpet, their , their game ended with broken chairs, and their plus one is still sleeping on your couch.  How long do you stay angry before you realize it's their fault, but your responsibility to clean up the mess?  How long do you look at the garbage everyone before you accept it's your house so what happens here is your's to clean up? How long do you watch that guy sleeping on your couch before you realize you can do something about his snoring?

Your life is the same way...people, circumstance, and just life have trashed it.  But that life is yours. Own it.  Start doing something about the mess and stop blaming those that made the mess.  You can be free...

Step 2 to get free: Discovery

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Aren't you tired of feeling dead inside and stuck?  Why is it that you need to be perfect at everything?  Why can't you stop talking about yourself in a conversation?  Why do you sabotage every meaningful relationship you've had?  How come you can't stop yelling at your kids?  

Discovering truth about God and truth about you is the way to freedom.  

You can study and learn the Bible for your whole life, but if you never learn about yourself you won't get free.  Let that sink in for a second.  Maybe you have a hard time swallowing it.  Why isn't knowing truth about God enough?

Because we aren't all knowing, we may not even realize how we are hurting God or others. When we take the time to ask God like the psalmist "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts," then we can discover truths about ourselves that Jesus wants to redeem.  God wants to reveal to us why we do what we don't want to do.

Warning:  looking deep within ourselves is scary.  It's so scary that most of us will do what fear causes us to do.  We will fight it, freeze in the midst of it, or take flight as far away from it as we can. Be courageous....Jesus is with you no matter how deep and scary your discovery is!  

So, what are you discovering about yourself?

Step 1 to get free: Awareness

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"the world breaks all of us"

Why did it take me so long to learn that?  Would I have been open to this unless life had brought me to the point of crying out for help?  Freeway:  A not so perfect guide to freedom is all about going beneath the surface to face what's really going on in our lives.  As a church, we are meeting in groups as men, women, young adults, and couples hoping for better.

Last night I felt safe, I felt encouraged, and I felt community.  Step 1 was  about becoming aware of how distracted and busy we are.  As I sat with the other men in my group, I realized how similar we really were.  Work, the expectations of others, and kids all fill our schedules.  I was relieved by others taking time to listen to me, and was encouraged when taking the time to listen to them.

Awareness is about knowing not just why we run, but what we are running from.  I can't listen fast.  I can't hear what I'm running from without quiet, alone time.  My prayer is not that God would speak, but that I'd have the strength to slow down to listen.  I look forward to what I'll hear.

I don't want to travel at the speed of life that I miss God's voice.  Join me in finding the Freeway.

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Not So Good Friday

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1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
 
When you think of the suffering of Jesus, doesn’t it make you cringe?  If you’re like me, when I watched the Passion of the Christ it turned my stomach.  It’s gross, sickening, too ugly to watch. 
 
All over the world today people are thinking about this moment in history when Jesus suffered to give life to those that didn’t deserve it.  He took our punishment of death. Most of us understand this part of the good news that Jesus has for us.
 
However, have you stopped to look at the grossness, the ugliness, the pain and then identify with it?   It took me years for it to finally hit me.  That’s what my sin is and does.  It’s awful, it’s gross, it destroys myself and others.  That’s actually me up there.
 
We try to deny the effect of sin, but Jesus revealed it. You can’t really embrace how great God’s love is until you admit how great your sin is.  Sister Faustina said it this way “The knowledge of my misery frees me to know the immensity of your mercy”

Jesus let me share the immensity of your mercy.

Consider your sin today, Consider Jesus’ suffering today, Consider His mercy today
 
-Pastor Nelz