loving life.

Category: Jesus (Page 1 of 4)

Once and For All

A sink full of dirty dishes

You know that satisfying feeling you get when you do the dishes? I don’t just mean loading the dishwasher and pressing start. I mean the kind of cleaning that involves scrubbing the pans, wiping off the counters and drying the wine glasses by hand. It’s a very personally rewarding feeling. 

And then someone in your household walks over with yesterday’s coffee cup, or tonight’s ice cream bowl, and thoughtlessly drops it in the once-sparkling sink. And just like that, the spotless feeling is gone.

That’s the thing about cleaning: You have to do it over and over and over again.

This week at Day Camp, kids as young as four years old are learning that very lesson. They are learning how it relates to sin and forgiveness. They are learning all about the tabernacle, the high priest, the curtain, and Jesus.

Imagine walking to Jerusalem each year with your own pet lamb. Imagine confessing a year’s worth of your sins and the sins of your family to the priest at the tabernacle. You give your lamb to be sacrificed. Its blood is sprinkled on the altar for your forgiveness. 

As you turn toward home, you see your neighbor driving up in a tricked-out chariot, and you think, “What I wouldn’t give for a ride like that.”  And just like that, you are guilty of the sin of coveting. And just like that, the spotless feeling is gone. That’s the thing with sacrifices: You have to do it over and over again.

Thanks be to God, In Christ we no longer have to live that way. We don’t have to sacrifice a perfect lamb over and over again! Let’s join with our little children and learn to never take for granted the beautiful truth that the blood of Jesus, our high priest and perfect Lamb of God, has cleansed us once and for all. 

“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Hebrews 7:26-27.

You’re important.

planting seeds is important

Do you know how important you are?

Okay, I know we need to be careful to not stroke our already-inflated egos. This is not that.

But you are important. Significant. Powerful, even.

Let me tell you two stories from this week to illustrate what I mean.

Firstly, my husband and I had a stay-at-home date night this week. And if you know my husband, you know he is the king of starting big conversations with a big question. This one was, “Who has God put in our path and how can we intentionally invest in those relationships?”

In the process of answering that question we began listing out the people we feel God calling us to pursue for His sake. We thought of a dear couple who I knew would be driving through Iowa this week. I obeyed the Holy Spirit, texted them, and we were able to meet them for dinner. I thought they were maybe just beginning to pursue God. But actually they have developed a serious faith in Christ with a passion to see the gospel spread through their lives. 

Guys, this is literally an answer to decades of prayer. Prayers I honestly thought were hopeless because I’ve been praying them for so long and seeing no effect. Turns out God has been working for years and I just hadn’t been aware.

Prayer is important. Significant. Powerful, even.

Secondly, I received a text this week from a young mom. Her 7-year-old son saw a homeless man and in his compassion he declared, “I want to give him my Bible so that he knows that Jesus loves him. I can buy myself another Bible with my own money. I want him to have my Bible.” So their family prayed over the Bible and gave it to the man, letting him know that Jesus loves him.

There is literally nothing better on the planet than seeing your children loving and looking like Jesus. 

In one brief encounter, we see so much of Christ’s beauty on display: compassion, generosity, courage, faith, trust, love.

That small child has come to know Jesus through the discipleship and example of his parents. It can sometimes seem like years of following Christ or teaching your kids has little effect. Turns out they’ve been watching you all along, even if you weren’t aware.

Example is important. Significant. Powerful, even.

So wherever you are today, be encouraged, even excited. God is alive and well and actively accomplishing His work through you! Prayer and a faithful example are simple seeds that, when faithfully sown, do eventually bear fruit! Don’t lose heart and definitely don’t give up. You’re so important!

“…let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Ephesians 6:9.

Happy Summertime,

Countercultural

Years ago, at age 14, my daughter Emily designed, printed and paid for her own business cards. Some of you may still have one on your refrigerator. It says, “Emily Bushlack, Babysitter.”  She built a pretty good book of business by handing those out to parents as they picked their kids up from Sunday school. She has learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed caring for lots and lots of your kids.

But I’ll never forget the time she came home from one job. It was her first time babysitting for this family. And she said, “Mom, you won’t believe it. The parents told the boys that they had to listen and obey…They actually used the word OBEY!”

What a concept. It stood out to her because it was rare and exceptional and helpful.

Obey.

That’s not a very popular word today. No one likes to be told what to do. And that is a very, very dangerous way to live–for our kids and also for us.

Certainly there have been abuses of authority all throughout the pages of human history and maybe even in some of our own stories. But we should be careful not to use that as an excuse for our own disobedience. There is such a thing as God-ordained authority. Parents have authority. Pastors have authority. And God has absolute authority.

As followers of Christ, I hope we all understand and accept that. And it would be excellent if we were training our children to understand it as well.

There’s an account in the Bible that illustrates God’s righteous response to rebellion. It’s from the book of 1 Samuel and it’s about the two sons of a priest named Eli. Here’s how they are introduced: 

Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Sam 2:12)

Scoundrels! Seriously, if you read more you will agree they were really bad dudes. And because God has absolute authority, He has the right to inflict absolute consequences. They disobeyed and died. Their consequences weren’t like our kids’ consequences. They didn’t disobey and get a count to three. They didn’t disobey and get a time out. They didn’t disobey and get sent to their rooms. They had no regard for the Lord. As a result, when they disobeyed Him, they died.

Turns out there is a Holy God in Heaven who gets to be serious about being obeyed. 

Somewhere I fear we’ve forgotten that. I know I have. I often think of God as a good-natured grandfatherly god who has mellowed over the centuries. I can sometimes imagine he excuses, understands or ignores my bad behavior and the bad behavior of those I love. In fact, I also expect Him to bail us all out and remove hard consequences when we mess up. But a good Father doesn’t do that. 

A good Father knows what is best for his children. He has boundaries around their behaviors to keep them safe and healthy. He has rules to teach them to become responsible and kind. He has standards for their character and integrity. Because all these things strengthen the loving bond between them, he is serious about being obeyed.

Just to be clear: I’m not a fan of authoritarian parenting. In terms of Diana Baumrind’s four parenting styles, I’m squarely in the authoritative camp. I’m also not a legalist. I don’t believe obedience earns you salvation. I don’t believe obedience makes you a child of God. That gets the cart in front of the horse. 

Rather, when we are a child of God, the Holy Spirit gives us a heart that wants to obey. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16) and “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT). 

We no longer want to be scoundrels. We want to be like our good Father. Enjoying a loving relationship and avoiding the consequence of rebellion.

So even though it’s totally countercultural, let’s get serious about obedience. 

“”Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).

Thankful for your sacred work as parents,

Don’t Miss His Best

Your faith community is one place where you are meant to experience God's best.

I will never forget last Sunday. It was one of the most powerful times of worship I can remember. We were led in praise by some amazing and strong moms. And we got to join with parents in commitment to a lifetime of pointing their kids to Jesus. And we got to hear a powerful, personal, and painful testimony of conviction from my courageous and dear friend Laurie. And we got to behold and bow before a Holy God, stare our own sin in the face, and respond to the conviction of the Spirit by confessing our sins openly and honestly. Many of you came forward for prayer and confession. Such an incredible morning.

But many of you did not come forward for prayer and confession.

So I wonder why. And I want to encourage you to wonder why as well. Hopefully, it’s because you responded at lunch with a dear friend or that night with your spouse, or already this morning during your quiet time. If so, thank you for doing the hard work of confession.

But if not, please, please, do not let the word of the Lord and the voice of the Spirit go unheeded. I pray that whatever may have hindered you on Sunday or in the days since will not keep you from action today.

I’m outside of my comfort zone even typing this. I don’t want to be the bad guy bringing the hammer down. But I believe God is right now calling all of us at New Covenant to a higher level of holiness and I need to obey Him by continuing to exhort His people to obedience.

So, if you haven’t taken the time to respond to conviction yet, I want to encourage you to not wait another moment. Sit in silence and ask the Spirit to reveal to you an oblivious sin or give you the courage to confess to a trusted friend the blatant sin you know you carry. Right where you are as you read this you can confess, be washed clean, and have a burden of sin lifted from you.

He may be convicting you of:

  • Enslaving sins: Addictions, lusts, gluttony
  • Prideful sins: Vanity, gossip, arrogance, unforgiveness
  • Selfish sins: Greed, hypocrisy, not serving, not giving
  • Unbelieving sins: Fear, faithlessness, worry, despair

Whatever it is, I urge you to remember: conviction is not condemnation. Conviction is a gift. It shows God’s favor. It shows He is actively leading your spirit. He is caring for you as a loving Father who wants the best for His child. And His best is confession, healing, obedience, and power.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’m praying to see personal repentance become true revival.

Who do you love?

Can I risk the embarrassment of confessing some childhood TV crushes?

The first crush I can remember was on Albert, the adopted son on Little House on the Prairie. Why did I like him? Easy. He was cuter than Willy and not as rotten.

From there I moved on pretty quickly to characters on Happy Days, Growing Pains, Magnum P.I., Wiseguy, Moonlighting, Cheers, and Wings. My reasons for crushing on these guys matured. They were cute, yes. But also smart, brave, funny, and had darling dimples. Yes it’s true. As I’ve looked back over the heartthrobs of my youth, they all seem to share that trait. 

And of course when I eventually met the love of my life he had all that and more: Godly character, patience, thoughtfulness, loyalty, and yes, great dimples.

When I was growing up, I had been learning to love the admirable traits of a bunch of different fictional characters, waiting and hoping to meet someone who embodied them in real life.

Who do you love? Or, actually, what traits do you love in a person?  

Seriously, think about it, maybe make a list.  

You have all these imperfect people in your life who still exemplify beautiful virtues galore. And they don’t all share the same ones. 

  • My dad was a hard worker, a great storyteller and he loved to laugh.
  • My mom is generous. She is delighted by her children. She cares for those who are suffering.
  • I have a child who is fiercely loyal and remarkably thoughtful. I have another whose heart breaks for the lost and broken. And another who is resilient and contented.

If we were to list all of the best traits in the best of people it would be a long list indeed.

And if we were to finally find one friend who embodied every single awe-inspiring, respectable, admirable, enjoyable, attractive quality on that list, we’d have

Jesus.

When the Bible says he lived a perfect life, it doesn’t just mean that he never fibbed or sassed his parents or lifted a fig from the market without paying. He obviously didn’t sin. But he is so much more than that. He is the perfect person. Everything you love about everyone you love–embodied in this one dear friend, Lord, and King, without failure, weakness or exception.

Here’s an excerpt from my Wednesday morning’s devotion:

“In all other beings we see some lack, in him there is all perfection. The best even of his favoured saints have had blots upon their garments and wrinkles upon their brows; he is nothing but loveliness. All earthly suns have their spots: the fair world itself hath its wilderness; we cannot love the whole of the most lovely thing; but Christ Jesus is gold without alloy–light without darkness–glory without cloud–“Yea, he is altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:16). –Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, March 9th.

My friend Andrew, who also happens to be the Family Life Director here at New Covenant Bible Church has a saying that I love:

“Follow the sunbeam up to the sun.”

It means, when you enjoy something, trace it to its source and give thanks there. When you love someone, and all the lovely somethings about that someone, follow those virtues up to the Son, the embodiment of everything lovely. And give Him the thanks and love and worship He deserves.

In everything He has supremacy…”For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him” (Colossians 1:19).

With love,

In like a lion….

I’ve heard it said, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” I’m not so sure… 51 degrees and sunny is pretty mild for March 1. Hopefully it doesn’t work in the reverse this year and come in like a lamb and go out like a lion!

Lions and Lambs. Gotta love weather forecasts that still make you think of Jesus.

We sing the song:

“Our God is a lion, the lion of Judah…
Our God is a lamb, the lamb that was slain…” 

The Lion and the Lamb. Mooring, Brown and Johnson. 2018.

So great yet so gentle. So powerful yet so peaceful. So mighty yet so mild.

It’s so beautiful to know that God is a both/and God. You don’t have to pick one or the other. 

You need a mighty warrior, who defeats your greatest enemies: sin, death, and the devil? You got it. You need a patient, welcoming, forgiving friend who comes toward you in your deepest pain and brokenness and brings gentle healing? You got it.

And as followers of Jesus, we are supposed to become like Him.

Gentle Giants. Filled with Patience and Power. Strength and Softness. 

Not either/or. Both/and.

As I’ve seen the headlines out of Ukraine, the beloved motherland of our two adopted sons, my heart is breaking. But my heart is also inspired by stories of our friends and fellow believers. Exhibiting incredible toughness and tenderness. Brave and benevolent. Looking and acting like Jesus. Lion and Lamb.

Let’s be this way in our homes. There’s times we have to be tough as parents and partners. When it will take incredible courage, endurance and strength to pursue the hearts of our kids. To forgive and reconcile in our marriages. Times we need backbone and possibly a little bite to our discipline or boundaries or expectations or communication.  

But even even if sometimes you need to come in like a lion, remember to go out like a lamb. Humble. Gentle. Keeping in mind that a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). Remembering that even in his justice, God prefers mercy. Remembering that self-sacrificing LOVE is the greatest commandment of all.

Let the warm sunshine on your face this month remind you to be like Jesus. Lion and Lamb.

“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Warmly,

Tune-up

One thing I’ve started to take more seriously as I’ve gotten older and wiser is maintenance. Car maintenance, home maintenance, health maintenance. When you’re young you feel invincible. But eventually you begin hearing stories of the bad things that happen to people who don’t take good care of their things. 

I’ve been hearing stories of bad things happening to people this year. And many of them center around relationships, especially marriages: facing apathy, trouble, crisis, or all-out destruction. Who do you know who is facing that pain?

It’s heartbreaking. And I know that sometimes the damage is one-sided and couldn’t be predicted or prevented.

But sometimes, the damage is caused by long seasons of neglect. Both people taking each other for granted. Sometimes people simply stopped doing the good and life-giving things together. 

And from my perspective, the most life-giving thing you can do in a relationship, especially a marriage, is experience God together: Long, rich conversations about spiritual things. Sharing memories of God’s faithfulness. Celebrating God’s generosity. Meditating on God’s promises. Praying together. Worshipping Jesus. 

Maybe you’ve never ever done these things with your spouse. I know most people have not seen this modeled well and many people don’t know where to begin. But what if this was the single most important maintenance you could ever do? What if this is the best way to protect your marriage from sliding from apathy to trouble to crisis to destruction?

What would that be worth to you? 

I want to offer a first step. AbideCR. Invest in the tickets, invest in the babysitter, and invest in your marriage by taking time away to experience the goodness of God in a new and powerful way. The Lord is a healer. He is a redeemer. He brings forgiveness and hope and joy. Resting with Him will bind your hearts closer together. 

This isn’t a marriage conference. It’s not a Bible conference. It’s more like a retreat. New Covenant will be transformed into a beautiful environment to enjoy Jesus like never before.

Great music. Great food (Feedwell, The Hip-Stir, Crumbl Cookies). Great preachers. Great people. Places to gather in a large group and spaces to escape and share a few quiet moments. Bring a friend and spread the word. All the info is available at the AbideCR website.

If your marriage, or simply your own precious soul, could use a tune-up, please turn to our good and gentle shepherd. He wants so much for you to feel his care.

Hope to see you there,

Oh no.

Oh no.

Two teeny tiny words that can convey a significant inconvenience or an entire world of grief.

Maybe it’s relatively minor like your furnace stopped working or your wife got in a fender bender on the way to work or your child needs braces. Expensive predicaments for sure, but not desperate.

But maybe you’ve received news that stops you in your tracks. A sudden death. A natural disaster. A criminal allegation. An unexpected diagnosis. A shocking infidelity.

News so bad it feels like it may be the death of you. Something so terrible you wake up each morning hoping it was a nightmare.

It may be devastation brought on by someone’s sin. Or it may be devastation brought on by no one’s fault at all.  But you’re devastated, nonetheless.

This is real life. Maybe it’s the real life of a friend of a friend. Maybe it’s the real life of your neighbor or co-worker or sister or small group friend. This kind of devastation is happening all around you right now. Or maybe it’s happening to you right now. Actual devastation and personal carnage—today.

Is there any hope? Is there anything we can say or do to help? Is there anywhere we can turn or any way we can make it better?

In the horrible face of that kind of darkness, I hesitate to give the Sunday School answer: Jesus.  It seems trite.

I call on each of us, if there’s a friend in crisis, a friend in agony, a friend in deep, deep need:

Be their friend.

Be loyal. Gracious. Patient. Present.  Sit with them at the hospital. Listen to them late into the night. Hug them as they cry. Hold their hand in the courthouse or the funeral home. And commit to persist for the long haul. Be their friend.

But I also call on each of us, trite as it may seem, to be wise and brave enough to whisper the only true answer to their questions. The only true balm to their wounds. The only true hope for their despair.

Jesus.

Because this life, as good as it can be, does not last. It will end. Either the illusion will be shattered with some god-awful news or the sands of time will simply run out.

Unless… Jesus.

God saw our sad predicament. He saw the depth of our excruciating sorrows and pains and endless anguish and he said,

“Oh no.”

Oh no to sin. No to betrayal and addiction and abuse. No to war and murder and cruelty. No to pain and disease. No to fear and suffering. Oh no to death and its forever goodbye.

Everyone’s life is inevitably sad, tragic and temporary. Unless… Jesus.  He clears away every evil and hurtful thing and makes a way for you to have a new and living hope.

When today is dark, there’s promise of a new day. When we receive bad news, Jesus preaches good. When we face death, we see beyond to new, perfect, painless, beautiful, eternal life. This moment may feel unbearable, but one day, as the 15th century mystic Julian of Norwich wrote:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

That’s why Jesus isn’t a trite answer even in the absolute darkest hour.  He promises ultimate deliverance from every trouble and affliction. May you bring His peace to those living through their worst nightmares. And may you call on His name when bad news comes for you.

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:17-19).

Hopefully,

Abide in Me

We had all 6 of our kids home for Christmas. At first it was a frankly difficult adjustment getting used to all those people (and their stuff) back under one roof. But then when it was time to say goodbye, it was equally difficult watching them go.

I found myself wanting to live the last few hours in slow motion, taking advantage of those final meals and memories. Paying extra attention and relishing every last little bit of their company so that once they are far, far away I can relive those precious moments in my heart.

That’s what I imagine John 13-17 was like for the disciples. How often did they mentally replay those final, sweet memories with Jesus? How much they must’ve cherished the beloved words he shared with them mere hours before his execution.

One of the final instructions Jesus gave was, “Abide in me.” Abide. Remain. Dwell. Continue. Tarry. Endure. The idea is staying. Strong’s concordance definition says: “Staying in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy.” Take off your coat and stay awhile. Our world doesn’t like to slow down and tarry. But we need to. And Jesus told us to.

This year we are hosting a weekend event to give you the opportunity to do just that. To take off your coat and stay awhile with Jesus. For once to abide and continue and remain in your time with Him. To seek His presence for longer than a 30 minute quiet time before rushing off to the next thing.

This event is called AbideCR. It will take place on February 11-12, 2022, hosted at New Covenant. Friday evening and all day on Saturday, you will have extended time to pray, journal, learn, sing, reflect, discuss, and bask in the presence of Almighty God.  It’s going to be amazing.

We are creating a unique and special space for you to drink deeply of the goodness of God. Additionally, we have partnered with local businesses Feedwell Kitchen & Bakery, The Hip-Stir and Crumbl Cookies to make sure you feed your body as well as your soul. Think of it as a spiritual retreat and a night out and a staycation all in one.

We are linking arms with great leaders from many area churches who will bring solid biblical teaching, passionate worship, and a heart to experience the glory of God in the unified Body of Christ as we all abide in Him.

We also welcome special guest Aaron Williams and the Worship Initiative Band all the way from Dallas, Texas. They will be leading us in some extended times of worship as well.

Tickets are on sale at an early-bird rate of $69. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but you can also get an additional $10 off by using the promo code ABIDESAVE10.  Bring your family and friends and come cherish some precious time with our great God. Get your tickets today.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4).

So excited to see you there!

Recommendations

When was the last time someone shared with you a “100 %, would recommend”, word-of-mouth endorsement? Whether it was Crumbl Cookies or MODE boutique, or Feedwell Kitchen & Bakery, I bet once you heard the recommendation you made a mental note to try it out for yourself.

I have a couple of those to share with you.

Firstly I want to recommend to you some great advice that my husband and I received when our kids were young: 

If you’re married, keep dating your spouse.

I know that once the babies come along, those helpless, adorable, needy, charming, tiny little darlings do everything they can to become the center of your family universe. Don’t let them. Does that strike you as odd coming from your Children’s Ministry Director? Maybe. Especially when Hollywood and Disney and the mommy blogs all tell you to “put the kids first.” Instead, I strongly suggest “put the marriage first” and let the kids come in at a strong second.

There’s a ton of reasons I endorse this. One is that I believe kids feel most loved and secure when the adults in their lives are loved and secure. Another is the reality that the universe doesn’t revolve around your kids. They might as well learn that as soon as possible. Lastly, before you know it, your kids are going to be gone. Gonzo. Vamoose. And you’re going to be left at home staring at this other adult with 30 more years of life ahead of you. That’s way more time to be married after the kids are grown and gone than before. That’s a pretty big chunk of time. You’ll be wise to invest where you’ll get the best long-term returns.

Date each other. Go out to dinner. Go for walks. Sometimes Jeremy and I would just go grab a stack of books at Barnes & Noble or the library and leaf through them while drinking a coffee. Dates don’t have to break the budget. Put the munchkins to bed and turn off the TV. Read a book together. Talk about something besides work and the kids (this may take some planning ahead-that’s okay).

And once in a while-go away together. Stay in a hotel. Winky winky. Sometimes we simply go to Hotel Kirkwood for a night, not even leaving town. Just to focus on each other and keep the romance alive. 100% would recommend.

My second word of mouth recommendation is for an event coming up next month: AbideCR. Trust me, it is going to be incredible and worth the investment.

AbideCR will take place on February 11-12, 2022, hosted at New Covenant. We will join together with other area churches Friday evening and all day on Saturday. You will have extended time together or individually to pray, journal, learn, sing, reflect, discuss, and bask in the presence of Jesus. 

We are creating a unique and special space for you to drink deeply of the goodness of God. Additionally, we have partnered with cool local businesses Feedwell Kitchen & Bakery, The Hip-Stir and Crumbl Cookies to make sure you feed your body as well as your soul. Think of it as a spiritual retreat and a date night and a staycation all in one. 

And we’ll welcome special guest Aaron Williams and the Worship Initiative Band all the way from Dallas, Texas. They will be leading us in some extended times of worship as well.

Tickets are on sale now at an early-bird rate of $69. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but you can also get an additional $10 off by using the promo code ABIDENCBC. The catered meals alone are worth the price of admission. 

And just in case your ears perked up at the idea of a night out at a hotel-we have negotiated a super discounted rate at the Marriott for conference attendees. Get a babysitter and really enjoy each other. Winky winky.

There’s a couple quick word of mouth recommendations I hope you’ll consider! Make 2022 the year where you invest in your most important relationships. 

See you there!

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