09
Jan 13

Tender Love

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And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. – Genesis 3:21

Father,

In reading Genesis today, I was struck by how good you are to us, even in the midst of our disobedience. In Genesis 3:21, you provided for Adam and Eve, tenderly loving them out of their shame. Even in disciplining us, you show the same kind of love for us. In Genesis 4:7, you reminded me that sin is always crouching at my door. You tell me to rule over it – to live out of who I am, to pursue holiness. Help me to love you more than sin, to always go back to the cross and live a life in the light.

Amen

21
Nov 11

The Story

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“You can’t have a good story without tension and conflict, without things going wrong. Unanswered prayers create some of the tensions in the story God is weaving in our lives. When we realize this, we want to know what God is doing. What pattern is God weaving? If God is composing a story with our lives, then our lives are no longer static. We aren’t paralyzed by life; we can hope.” Paul Miller, A Praying Life

21
Apr 11

Cultivating Safe Places of Grace

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Kathi and I have been spending the last couple of days talking about safe places of grace – those churches, homes, families and people you long to be with – where it is ok that you can’t bring anything to the table, where you are listened to and not condemned for your unbelief in the gospel to help in that moment of struggle, where agendas don’t exist, where your true identity in Christ is affirmed,  and  laughter and silliness abound – a place where grace pours out on others because it has been poured out on us.

We all long for those places and are continually seeking them out. We look for people who can be that for us, we look for churches and communities where the atmosphere is thick with grace. The problem comes, though, when we can’t find it. What do we do? How do we cultivate that where we are?

It isn’t top-down, grass-roots, or programmatic. It is doing it right here, right now with where God has you. It is rooted in humility and an outpouring of thankfulness to God for the mercy and grace that He shows us. Out of that, grace will begin to seep through our phone conversations, our talks at the dining room table with our spouses, our listening to the teenager struggling with performance, and the single person battling loneliness – all because we have the Gospel at the center of who we are and everything we do.

If we desire safe places of grace in our home, church, work place, communities and friends, we have to begin by being that safe place for others. We look in to others eyes and listen to their hurts. We ask them questions about how their struggle with contentment shows an unbelief in the gospel and then point them to what Christ has already provided for them. We laugh with them. We drink wine together. We watch movies together and then talk about them. We desire to drive beneath the problem presenting itself to what is really going on within their soul. We ask them questions about where they are getting their value and significance. We don’t hold each other accountable – we remind each other that our identity is found in Christ and not in our failures – now go live like who you really are and stop believing the lie.

29
Dec 10

Trusting God With Myself

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Driving across the front range of the Rocky Mountains is one of the most beautiful drives there is. Rolling hills, wild flowers, winding roads, trains hauling coal, and ranches nestled between bluffs – all set against the backdrop of towering mountains offering unique perspectives at every turn.

It was against that backdrop today that I began pondering what it really means to trust God with myself and how that practically plays out in the day to day. My stomach gets queasy just thinking about it. Oddly enough, though, it is also where I long to be.

Trusting God with myself means that things won’t quite work out the way I expect them to. Like a kid waking up early Christmas morning, sometimes I’ll walk down stairs and peer into the living room hoping to see that bright red bike. Yet, it won’t be there. Tucked away behind the tree, though, is something richer that I never thought to ask for, yet He knew I needed.

Trusting God with myself means I’m trusting that He’ll be there to help me work on those sin issues that keep nagging away at me. I’m trusting that when He says He loves me regardless, He really means it and that He isn’t secretly belittling me behind my back. It means trusting that Grace really is real.

Trusting God with myself means desiring what He wants for me more than what I want for myself.  It means that the promised pleasures of sin are a grain of sand compared to the Joy He says I’ll have in Him. It means remembering that even in the midst of prolonged pain.

Trusting God with myself means letting go of fear and performance and, instead, holding on to my identity. It means my standing with God isn’t based upon what I did today, how I screwed up, whom I helped or how badly I spoke. It means when He sees me, He sees Christ’s perfect obedience and that He really is madly in love with me.

Trusting God with myself means extending mercy and grace to others – because they have been so lavishly poured out upon me.

photo credit: rmrider.com

28
Dec 10

How To Avoid Going to the Gym at 5:00 am

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I shared on Facebook the other day that my pants called and said they wanted their old belly back.

It’s true. I’ve perfected the art of avoiding going to the gym at 5:00 am and thought I’d share my insights with everyone:

1. Convince yourself that you really didn’t get enough sleep that night and the extra hour would make all the difference

2. When the alarm goes off, open up the Weather app on your iPhone and take a look at the temperature. 23 degrees is enough to keep anyone in bed

3. Remember that you’ve missed the previous four days and you wouldn’t want to mess up a good thing. If it happens to be Monday, remind yourself that Mondays are never a good day to do anything unusual. The need to prepare for the unexpected is paramount.

4. Forget to set the coffee schedule the night before. Trust me – you’ll remember that there is no coffee when that alarm goes off

5. Begin your Read Through the Bible in a Year schedule. It’ll buy you a good 30 days before you’ll need to employ another tactic

6. Plan on going at 3:00 pm instead when things are quieter at the gym and you are more awake

7. Convince yourself that you “need” some quiet time all to yourself to think and reflect

8. Stay up late the night before trying to get three stars and a new high score in Angry Birds

9. Convince yourself that your tummy ache really is real

10. Write a blog post at 5:00 am about how to avoid going to the gym at 5:00 am

25
Dec 10

Troubled in Soul

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The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

20
Dec 10

The Good Stuff is the Journey

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I talk a lot about how pain and trials are just as much God’s blessings as laughter and joy. We tend to equate good things with blessings and trials as something we must endure to finally get to the “good stuff”. What I’m learning, though, is that the “good stuff” is the journey. God’s blessings don’t always come with a pretty red bow. More times than not, they come with a tear, some anger, and a gentle tug from God reminding us of who we are in Him.

I experienced that yesterday.

I was asked to speak for about 5 minutes during our Sunday School class on a topic I love – ministering mercy to the needy and poor and how God’s grace is our pattern for doing so. I knew my topic and was passionate about communicating it to the class. About 15 minutes before I was supposed to speak, though, a crushing feeling of inadequacy and fear overcame me.

I prayed. I popped extra pieces of gum in my mouth. I asked people to pray. I drank some water. I slowed down my breathing. Nothing was working.

As I stepped up to the mic, everything began to fall apart. I stumbled over my words. I looked at every word I was supposed to speak with fear that they wouldn’t come out.  I felt the un-comfortableness of the class and that made me uncomfortable for them. Fears of being judged overwhelmed me even though deep down I knew they weren’t. I started off on the wrong foot, and, as I hard as I tried, I couldn’t communicate what was on my heart. I was an utter mess. Every raw nerve was on display for everyone to see and I felt abandoned by God for allowing it to continue.

I was out of control and I hated every minute of it.

Eventually it all ended and I sat down next to my comforting wife. And that is when the real battle began.

Anger. Tears. Silence. Embarrassment. Out of control. Exposed. Why did those things matter to me? What did those feelings say about what I believed of God? Why was I blaming God for what happened? Why didn’t he help or protect me? I needed affirmation during this dark struggle – why do I need affirmation? God and I worked through those questions all afternoon and all night; and, I am still working through most of them with him right now. In my anguish and feeling of abandonment, He’s showing me himself.

Before, during and after that whole debacle, I had forgotten who I was. Even as I type this, I’m having to remember who I am.

I have the DNA of Christ residing in me and I’m made in his image – not in an image I can control or a situation I can remedy. I’m made in his image. I’m loved and desired by the one who calls himself “I am”. Am I still frustrated that God the Protector didn’t show up? Absolutely. But had he shown himself in that way, I wouldn’t have the privilege of working through these issues with him and knowing him deeper as a result.

That’s the real blessing – God coming along side us and saying “hey, let’s take a look at what happened today and work through that together.” It is him reminding me of who I am in Him, even during what I perceive as my worst moment ever.

30
Oct 10

What If…

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My wife Kathi and I attended the TrueFaced Intensive Conference this weekend. It was about grace, sanctification, removing masks, and trusting God and others with who He says we are in Him. It was the most impacting event we have ever attended.

The following is John Lynch, one of the co-authors of TrueFaced and presenters from the conference, on the New Testament Gamble speaking from the perspective of God. I highly recommend the book.

17
Oct 10

Who Am I?

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Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

August, 1944

15
Oct 10

Preparing for Suffering

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Michael Horton, from A Place for Weakness:

The gospel is good news for losers, that in fact we are all losers if we measure ourselves by God’s interpretation of reality rather than our own. The demand for glory, power, comfort, autonomy, health, and wealth creates a vicious cycle of craving and disillusionment. It even creates its own industry of therapists and exercise, style, and self-esteem gurus—and churches—to massage the egos wounded by this hedonism. When crisis hits, the soul is too effete to respond appropriately. We become prisoners of our own felt needs, which were inculcated in us in the first place by the very marketplace that promises a “fix.” We become victims of our own shallow hopes. We are too easily disappointed because we are too easily persuaded that the marketplace always has something that can make us happy (26).

Michael’s book is reviewed here.


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