asking questions

My daughter turned 4 this past April. She is at an interesting stage of life – asking “why?” about everything, wanting to know about how everything works and comes together. So I decided that I wasn’t going to give her silly little answers anymore when she asks “where does the sun go when it’s dark?” I decided this because she didn’t want my silly answers anymore. She really wanted to know why! And she was asking me because she trusts me to help her with her questions.

Tonight was no different. Tonight she wanted to know about thunder and lightening. Now in all honesty, I didn’t pay much attention to science back in 5th grade…so answering this question to satisfy her curiosity was going to be a stretch. However, with the help of my brilliant wife, we told her all about it, in a way that she could understand. And, we did so in a way that made her feel safe from it ever hurting her too. (She was a little concerned about lighting hitting her at some point.)

After the conversation with her I was left thinking about what just happened. She kept asking more and more questions until she really understood everything. She wasn’t afraid to ask any question. This experience with her reminded me of something really important about my relationship with God, too. It reminded me that God desires to have such a strong connection with each one of us that we are never left feeling alone, filled with questions or doubt about His perfect will and timing. It reminded me He is patient with me and longs to spend time with me as I face all of the “why’s” in life.

Too often we look at God as this distant entity in our lives that is either too busy or too far removed to ever be concerned about all of our questions and desires. But the truth is that God is very present in all that we do and He longs to give us His wisdom and peace concerning anything that we face.

And, all too often we find ourselves too busy, even with some very good things, to just stop and ask God to show us His heart and His plan for all the “why’s” that we face in life. We cannot continue to neglect seeking the heart of God in order to keep a schedule or to balance a list of tasks. And when we stop to seek God’s heart, we have to be willing to wait on Him and His direction for what we seek.

Psalm 105:4 says, “Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.” And Psalm 24:3-6 says, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from The Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face…”

We can approach God with any need and with any question. His knowledge is great. And He lacks nothing. A time will come when I won’t have all the answers to all the questions my daughter may have. However, God has established a way for each of us to always seek His heart: through humility, patience and a desire to not let any excuse or temptation keep you from faithfully following Him – and waiting on Him.

May we be a generation who makes seeking Him, who makes seeking His will, the main priority and focus of our lives! And may we be faithful to wait on Him as He gives us the wisdom and knowledge that we seek!

a lead vest of righteousness?

I recently took a trip to the dentist. This was my first time at this dentist, so they needed to do x-rays of my teeth to see what they were working with. So while sitting in the dental chair, they place a large and heavy vest over your chest. This vest is made out of lead and it is meant to shield the rest of your body from the x-rays they are taking. Basically, the radiation from the x-ray has to be limited to just the part they taking the picture of, as it is bad for the body to be exposed to too much radiation. Thus the lead vest protects other vitals parts of your body during your dentist visit so only a small part for just a quick second is exposed for the actual x-ray. (Now don’t I sound smart…fooled you!)

As I sat at the dentist, the dental assistant left me with the vest on my chest. I was reclined a bit in the dental chair and I could feel the whole weight of this vest on my chest. After a few minutes, I could really notice this heavy vest. Although I’ve been to the dentist dozens of times, during this visit, with the vest still on my chest, it made me think about what exactly this vest was doing and why I had to have it. It wasn’t an option. It was for my safety. It was keeping a vital part of me, safe from over exposure and damage. It was a shield covering my chest. 

In Ephesians 6 we are encouraged to put on the armor of God so that we can stand firm against Satan’s exposure in our lives. We are encouraged to put on every aspect of God’s armor, including the breastplate of righteousness, so that we are covered and protected by our righteous Lord and Savior. Righteousness also means blameless. Jesus was blameless and perfect, and He took our sin upon Himself and became a willing, perfect sacrifice, suffering the punishment that we deserved. This act of God, through Jesus, takes the righteousness of God and clothes us in it. It is nothing we can do on our own. Rather, it is what God has done for us. God desires for us to be covered from that over exposure and damage this world will place upon us. 

God has given us a “lead vest” of righteousness. We are protected by the righteousness of God when we surrender our life to Him and seek to live a holy life of absolute service and devotion unto God. Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness…” Our righteousness comes by faith in God and God has clothed us in His righteousness and we are covered by Him.

You are covered and protected by God through His righteousness. The world around you wants to expose you to lies and deceit – it is everywhere we look in our culture today. But God has provided a perfect plan to keep you protected from over exposure and damage.  This world will want to radiate through you. Satan will bombard your heart and mind with lies, with temptation, and complete chaos. But God only wants us to be exposed to His perfect love and righteousness so that we can can reflect His most powerful and live transforming love for this world. For whatever your soul is exposed to, it will radiate out of you. 

John Wesley said that our lives, if they are covered by the righteousness of God, that our lives are characterized by Holy Spirit-inspired joy, holiness, and peace. He called these elements, undeniable markers of the Kingdom of God in ones life and they also prove that you have your “lead vest” of righteousness on. So the question is: are you covered – are you covered by a “lead vest” of righteousness?

When we believe in Him and live a life of surrender and devotion to God, He has promised to wrap us up in His robe of righteousness. 

a new season

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To my RWC Church Family and many friends:

I write this post to you and your family on behalf of myself and my family.

During our worship service this past Sunday at RWC it was announced that I have been called to pastor our sister church in Carson City, Nevada – Good Shepherd Wesleyan Church. Our last Sunday at Riverside will be May 12th.  Leaving this loving church family will be very hard for us as we deeply care for all of you and for this church.  And, you have faithfully cared for us – for that, we are so very grateful. However, we are only moving a few hours away and we are so excited to step into this new season of ministry.

The Process

The opportunity to pursue this ministry position came to us a mere 6 or 7 weeks ago. Just prior to this opportunity being made available to us in Nevada, Pastor Mike had announced to RWC that I would be stepping away from student ministry at the church and focusing more on family based ministries at the church. Our pastoral leadership team had been praying and strategically planning for this transition for some time. And yet, at this same time, the church in Nevada had been looking for a few months for a new senior pastor. The church district leadership had wanted to try and place a more experienced pastor at this church for the previous pastor was very loved and he had served this church faithfully for 25 years before retiring due to health issues. Even in mid-February I had been told that this church would not be ideal for a young pastor. However, Pastor Mike, and one of our district’s Assistant District Superintendents (who have both poured into me, mentored and coached me), both felt that this ministry opportunity would be something I am fitted and equipped for. Through their leadership and influence, I was presented to our church district leadership as a possible candidate and then contacted by the church board in Nevada.  We all are amazed at how God’s hand and timing was in this process and how He has led us out of one area and into another!

Pastor Mike & Robin have been so faithful to help develop and equip Melanie and myself for ministry. Pastor Mike not only allowed me to participate in district leadership events and groups, but he fostered opportunities, encouraged my participation and lovingly cheered me on to pursue all that God was preparing us for. It is because of you Church that I will be ordained this summer as a Wesleyan pastor. Pastor Mike and the RWC leadership made sure I was able to take all the classes necessary to accomplish this. I am grateful for his leadership and his friendship and for his heart to disciple, equip, and release. Since coming to RWC in November of 2009, I was able pursue many great things and I grew so much in my ministry position at our church. I have been very blessed and I am very excited that I will be able to maintain that strong connection with Pastor Mike (and thus RWC) in my new role as the Senior Pastor of Good Shepherd Wesleyan Church.

The Future

We want you to know how grateful we are for you and this church. It has been a true honor to serve here and our prayer for this church is that it will continue to reach people in Pocket/Greenhaven with the love message of Jesus Christ and this church will continue to be a loving community of dynamic faith that seeks to advance the Kingdom of God. Although our season of ministry at RWC will draw to an end very soon, it is our desire to maintain our connection with each of you.  Thank you for believing in us, for encouraging us, and for loving on my family and myself. We love every one of you and we look forward to hearing from you how God is at work in the life of RWC. Stay faithful to this amazing church family and may all that you do, be for the glory of our Lord and Savior.

Continue to pray for us as we serve the Kingdom together, but now at Good Shepherd Wesleyan Church!  Bless you all saints!

– Pastor Nick Emery

reckless love

Perhaps your like me. Perhaps, whether it’s just for a moment, or for the day – you struggle with knowing God’s reckless love for you. I don’t fully understand why we have to constantly battle this, but every so often, Satan tries to pollute my head and my heart with a lie that says: “God doesn’t love you.” Perhaps, you’re like me. And perhaps, you’ve struggled with walking in God’s perfect and yet reckless love for your life.

Early this morning, I had that moment come, again. That dark moment of the lie from Satan saying, “I’m worthless, God doesn’t love you.” And all day I have fought against this lie. It was dispatched against my head and heart with such fury that it has taken all that is within me to battle this potent lie with God’s truth. With His promise of His reckless love for me.

A key truth I’ve been resting in today comes from Zephaniah 3:17, and it says this: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Another version of this truth says that “with His love, He will calm all your fears.”

Scripture tells us to draw near to God. Fight the temptation that would allow anything else than the righteousness of Christ to be the source of strength that you draw from in those dark moments. Remind yourself of all that God has done for you – you can truly trust in Him. And allow yourself during those moments of fear to be consumed by the reckless love of your Savior.

Jesus has the final word. And with His mighty love, He will save you. Just call on Him – He will fill you with His hope. Remind yourself of all that He has done and trust in all that He will do, for you. Jesus, He has the final word. And He, is victorious!

buying into the marriage lies

I believe with all my heart that there is an attack upon marriage today. People come together, in holy matrimony, and are ending up in a holy hell. I see it almost every day in perfect strangers – as well as I hear about it all the time from friends. Naturally my heart hurts for the stranger I witness in a store or park, whose marriage is “oh-so-publically” falling apart. And if it is possible, my heart aches all the more for my dear friends who are struggling in their marriage as well. Marriage is meant to be amazing – and with the right tools & support – redemption from the hard stuff a marriage faces is suppose to be life-changing. Yet for many it is not. For many, their marriage is struggling, and even ending.

My marriage is far from perfect, because I am far from perfect. My smokin’ hot wife is truly amazing. Compassionate, merciful, faithful, fiercely loyal and tremendously loving. When communication breaks down in our marriage and we experience a conflict, she is always quick to show me grace, and give me space to process my short-comings, or my needs. We have always worked at not buying into the marriage lies that many today are faced with, and many of which they are believing. Before our marriage even started, we made a commitment to one another, that in our marriage, we will give up our right, to be right – and that we are committed to be redemptive, rather than “be right.” Not buying into the marriage lies takes focus and commitment, consistently – and that’s what makes it so hard.

Recently a friend shared on a social media site a blog called, “3 Marriage Lies“. I read it once, and then I read it again. I read it a third time. And then I called my wife and I told her to read it. I read it so many times and ended up calling home about it because it so clearly articulated exactly what so many people are struggling with right now in their marriages. Whether its been a perfect stranger, or a dear friend, many I encounter are buying into the marriage lies rather than living in the truth and power of redemption. Read this blog and let it encourage your heart, and your marriage. (CLICK HERE to read the “3 Marriage Lies” blog.)

What you just read in the “3 Marriage Lies” is just the start. There are so many other tools out there for you to grab onto – the key will be for you to use them. If you need help, tell someone. Talk to someone, now. Let them know the lies you are buying into and stop going to “people and sources” that you know are just going to agree with you, and fuel the lies you’ve bought into. It’s not working – so stop it.

God never intended your marriage to be a place of pain or isolation. And I don’t want to, for a second, ignore those in a marriage where there is so much abuse happening either that you see no other way out, then leaving. That situation needs help. You need to be safe. You deserve to be loved and secure. What I am talking about, or speaking to rather, is those marriages where people are wounded and hurt and who have bought into a variety of marriages lies that have done nothing but bring down their marriage. God never intended your marriage to be a place like this and I hope you understand that God has no plan to leave it that way – so why should you? Fight for your marriage my friends. Seek redemption over your rightness. Seek healing over pain. Stop buying into the marriages lies and start living out, each day – and perhaps, moment by moment – the truth of what love really is suppose to be…

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrongsuffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

“Jesus Today”

Many of my friends have been reading a book by Sarah Young called “Jesus Today: Experiencing Hope Through His Presence.” Although this book is on my list of books to read, I haven’t started it yet. But, I am very excited about reading this book.

However, I just finished up some devotional material I had been working through the past couple of months. And today, I received an e-mail giving me the opportunity to get a free devotional e-Book that she has written based on her book.

Free is good, right?! So I clicked on the link and saw this video. Normally, I skip past these type of videos. Not that they aren’t good – but generally, they don’t grab my attention. However, today, it was different. This video was different. It is a ‘trailer’ to her book, however, I found it to be a great source of encouragement to my soul today. And I’m praying that this video, becomes a great source of encouragement to you today as well.

And perhaps you’d be interested in doing this two week devotional too – either in addition to what you are already doing, or saving for a time when you can. Either way, CLICK HERE, to go to their site and download the “Jesus Today” e-Book devotion for yourself.

a slow fade

I will never forget that moment when I heard God speak to me about my future. I had always thought that my future would be as a teacher and football coach – serving in a church as I could. When God spoke to me about my future, it was actually what I had always dreamed of as a little boy – but much different than the plans I had been making for myself.

When the Lord spoke into my life about my future in ministry I was already deep into it but I wasn’t fully sold out to it as my life’s calling. I was pulled into student ministry and I’ve been there ever since. Sure, I had exposure to other aspects of the church but my passion became seeing students fall madly in love with Jesus Christ. I had great mentors who fanned this desire into big flames as they poured into me, showing me God’s redemptive heart for the world.

I have always loved student ministries and since 2002 I have served in this arena of the church in a variety of capacities: volunteer, speaker, intern, small group leader, coach, and pastor. I will never forget the first winter camp i served at, on a whim, that got me hooked. Each place of ministry with different teams of people has helped shaped my heart to serve in the church. Every role and each church has also helped me to understand clearly why I do, what I do: to advance the Kingdom of God and to build up followers of Christ.

There are so many stories. Funny ones that will be great to tell for years to come. Growth opportunities that are almost embarrassing to recall – but grateful for being stretched and challenged as I was. Yeah, definitely grateful for growth and for opportunities to lead and grow and mature not just as a leader, but also as a follower of Christ.

A little over three years ago I started off at a new church, focused on reaching students with the love message of Jesus Christ. Never did I imagine that my passion and focus in ministry would change and grow along with me to the point that I wouldn’t be in student ministries. I truly thought I’d be that “life-long youth pastor.” Yet, over the last three years God has brought a new set of leaders and mentors that the Lord used to speak into my life – just like He did many years ago when I thought I knew what my future was going to be then.

God began to shift my focus in ministry. And as my focus shifted, my passion did as well. I was surrounded by the right people who are confident in who they are in God. They were willing to pour into me and point me towards God’s best for my life. These were more people who God used to confirm my calling to serve Him and who equipped me to learn and grow. I’m grateful for this slow fade of change as it has brought me to this place, here and now.

This slow fade…as tough as it is to say, is truly best. I am confident that this is a special part of God’s plan for my life. It means saying goodbye to student ministries as a pastor. It means saying goodbye to all things youth – but also, it means something else. It also means saying I’m ready for what is next. It also means saying I am ready to step out and follow Christ to new areas of ministry where once again, I can humbly learn what it means to love God and love others in new and passionate ways. I am truly excited for what is next. And I’m confident that the Lord has been preparing me for this moment, for this shift, for this change.

A huge part of my heart was sad when I first considered this change becoming a reality. I love my students and their families. I love hanging and pointing them to Jesus. Student ministry has always allowed me, to be me. However as I’ve walked along this path of change for over a year now I have heard God speak powerfully about my future, about His future for my life. My heart and passion for families and marriages, for life groups and small groups, for discipleship and evangelism and for boldly proclaiming the Word of God has grown and expanded. Those students that I love so much deserve a new leader who has a strong & undivided passion for them, their friends and their families. This slow change into something new will allow me to serve in new ministries and embrace a future that God has prepared for me.

Officially as of April 1st, I will no longer serve as the Student Ministries Pastor at my church. I am so thankful for this but even though my role as a pastor is changing, I get to stay at my current church. This is so great for so many reasons as I get to be surrounded by great leadership, amazing friends and an awesome church family during this slow fade from student ministries. I’m very confident in the team of leaders who have risen up and been equipped to serve our students at this church and I am very excited that I get to continue to serve at my church, to pastor and shepherd, to encourage and to equip, people that I have grown love and a community that I long to see fall in love with Jesus Christ.

My passion for ministry remains. I long to see people fall madly in love with Jesus, to find ways to show the power and grace of God and to see those people commit themselves to a vibrant life of prayer. My desire to advance the Kingdom of God and to build up followers of Christ during this new aspect of ministry is clear. To say no to one thing, means I am able to fully say yes to something else. I always want to be able to say yes to fulfilling the calling on my life and to be able to radically obey Christ in every aspect of my life. This slow fade into something new will allow me to do just that…

Praising God for what He has called me to do in and through Him!

a little love story…

ImageGrowing up I always wanted a true best friend. I remember getting jealous when one of buds would favor another friend over me. But that desire for a true best friend never went away. I prayed and prayed for that best friend. I grew frustrated waiting  but I realized I didn’t know what I was even truly waiting for. And, there were even times I felt like there was no one in this world that could ever be that best friend.

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Until I met her. And all of that changed. The joy she brought into my life is amazing. We had so much fun dating. When I was done coaching each day I would rush out of football practice to my car just to drive to see her. She in Sacramento and me in Yuba City. We put a lot of miles on our cars when we dated. And I remember so clearly the day the Lord told me: marry that girl. Asking her to marry me on the bluffs of Santa Cruz was such a great day for so many reasons.

I found my best friend. Compassionate. Selfless. Caring. Fun-loving. Loyal. Beautiful. Honest. Her laugh still melts my heart to this day. And although our journey together as husband and wife has been short, I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else. She is my best friend and we make an incredible team: Team Emery, the Awesome’s.

It was four years ago today, I pledged these vows to my wife:

Melanie, I thank my Heavenly father for you. His perfect love has captured my heart. Now filled with His love, my heart is yours. By His grace I will my life giving you my deepest devotion, my most tender car and my gentle leadership. Through the pleasures of the present and the uncertainties of the future, I will be faithful to you. Together, we will never walk alone. My heart will be your shelter. My arms will be your home. I submit my life to God’s call to live by faith, love and hope. Through our Lord Jesus Christ I humbly accept the privilege and responsibility of being your loving husband. I am yours for life.

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And I pledge this all over again. Every day I ask the Lord to make me more like Him to be a better husband and father. I know there are times where I fall short of this and I so appreciate your grace and compassion. Thank you for believing in me and for sacrificing so much for our family. Your love and devotion is amazing and I am so blessed to be able to share in this amazing journey with you. I love you with all of my heart Melanie. You are truly my best friend and there isn’t anything in this world we can’t face together!

 

confession time

I love my mom. And that’s not the confession I’m making…

Many years ago she started e-mailing us kids each day of the work week; she shared a verse and thought of the day from a devotional calendar that she has. And it has stuck – and now we get a little glimpse into whatever she is doing that day, etc. as well.

Today’s e-mail made my heart happy. Life over the past couple of years for my mom has been hard. She lost her sister and then almost a year later, we lost my brother. So things have been tough – but she has been faithful with her daily e-mails and faithful to encourage others. Today she shared this: “I had a chance to witness to Debbie, our apartment manager, yesterday. She is really close to the truth, and wants to understand the bible-please pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the right words. I invited her to church, and will invite her to go to Bible Study…”

I wrote her back and I told her I loved her and I loved her heart for others. She told me she has really grown and been stretched this last year. And its great to see her wanting to share with others about her faith in the Lord and the hope she has in God. And it is true – something has changed in her…

I’m also madly in love with my wife. And that’s no confession either – pretty much everyone knows how crazy I am about her…

My wife shared with me recently that she has a new desire to be more open to sharing about the love of God with people she is connecting with or new people she meets. If you know her, you know that she tends to be more a “behind the scenes” kind of person. But recently, God has been growing her and stretching her to look for opportunities each day, wherever she is at, to connect with people and to point them to Jesus. And guess what? Well, every park we’ve been to with the kids in the last couple of weeks the Lord puts on my wife’s heart to connect with a person she meets there. It’s incredible – this change in her, this desire and boldness…

My mom and my wife are inspiring me with their desire to share with others about their love for God. The Lord has used them to re-ignite within me an awareness of what He has already at work doing in the lives of people I encounter each day. Their example in my life has encouraged me to more bold with people I connect with. It’s led me to pray with strangers at the pet store and Wall-Greens. It’s led me to stop, connect and listen with people I normally pass by. And it’s given me opportunities to share with each of them, the hope that I have found in the Lord.

So my confession is this: I have not been good at sharing with others the hope that I have in the Lord. And to my family and friends who aren’t yet connected to God – I am sorry I haven’t been more courageous about sharing my faith with you. We know its there – for crying out loud, I’m a pastor. But I want that to change. I want you to see in me and my actions the hope that I profess in Jesus Christ. I don’t want to just pray for you, I want to, if you’ll let me, to pray with you. And, regardless of what you might think about the church, or the Lord – I want to, if you are willing, to have great conversations with you about God and His love for you. I love each of you and I want to spend eternity with you. I care about you, and about us, and I care too much to stay silent about this anymore.

So…who are you going to share going to share the Good News of God’s love with today? There are people all around you that need to know the Hope you have in the Lord – be bold, be courageous and point someone to Jesus today!