LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Month: September 2013

Being Known

I walked into Starbucks this morning as is my typical routine.  Before I even get to the register I am asked if I want my venti dark roast.   “Yes, thanks!”  As I walk up to it, the register is already waiting for me to scan my phone.  I do.  The young lady smiles, thanks me and then hands me the latest Starbucks card.  They had all been waiting to give it to me.  Now if you don’t know me, I collect Starbucks cards.  Believe it or not, there is actually quite a community of people who do.  I think they are cool pieces of pop art. Anyways, this card I was aware was coming out next week and I knew it before the employees did.  I told them about it yesterday and so when they got their shipment this morning, they set one aside.

Now the point of all of this is how I felt.  I felt warm, and thought of, and…KNOWN.  Each of us hunger to be known.

God wired us to live in authentic relationship with others.  To know and be known.  I love the team at “my” Starbucks, but they don’t really know me.  However, there are those who do and I cherish them.

Now to bring this to a deeper level, we need to find the joy of realizing we are known by our maker.  Despite our built-in desire to be known, many of us expend great energy to run from the one who knows us best.  I love Psalm 139!  It is for the Christ-follower one of the most comforting passages.  But to the one who has not welcomed the love of God into their lives it is haunting, and exhausting.  Where can we run from God?  Wherever we try to, He is there.

God knows the hairs on my head, bottles the tears I cry, calms the fears I give in to, and provides for all my needs.  He has committed Himself to complete the work He has begun in me.  He KNOWS me.  And that gives me comfort, and security, and assurance, and hope, and peace, and freedom to dream and even risk and even fail.

But let’s come back from the depths a moment and get back to the level where we live with others.  Sometimes we are tricked to believe that to be spiritually mature is to believe we only need to be known by God.  To be super spiritual.  God, however, reveals Himself so often through others.  The little graces we receive, like the serendipitous gift of a Starbucks card, to the full on rescue and emotional comfort we can get from a shoulder to cry on.   I see and experience God on display in the best of others.

It’s tempting to say that all of my greatest moments in life were the spiritual highs.

Yet as I look back, the list also includes times shared with others!  And as I reflect on them, I am drawn to praise God and thank Him for all His “blessings.  I realize that because He knows me, He has brought people into my life to give me joy, and challenges, and growth.  Because He knows me, He brings others into my life that I might know Him.

What a great intertwined, interdependent, puzzle it all is!

No Room for Guilt and Shame When Growing Deeper

This weekend I found myself having a conversation with a wonderful lady who was “filled up” with the love of God.  She had shared though how during the week she struggled with yielding over trust to God in a situation and that it surprised her because she thought she had settled that issue.

I then found myself sharing something that I had actually never articulated before and I pass it on to you.  I too have been filled with shame and guilt and discouragement thinking that I too have settled issues only to be returning to them again and again.  I have come to see this differently.  Of course there are times when we actually return to the same issue as we don’t always really give it up and grow through it.  But more often we sell ourselves and the growth that God is actually accomplishing in us short.  Becoming like Jesus is a life long process and just like we can’t see a tree grow moment by moment, we do see it year over year.  We need to get a higher view of our journey and not judge ourselves in the moment.

First off guilt and shame are NEVER God’s desire for us.  So whether we are dealing with the same issue over and over or not, we need to find ways to react that lead us toward God.  He came to offer grace and freedom from guilt and shame.  Godly sorrow and the Holy Spirit’s conviction are more appropriate.  They lead us forward to change and growth.

But in addition to that, I suggest that what we sometimes interpret as discouragement from facing the same issues over and over may in fact not be the same thing at all, but a deeper level.  Here I am not talking about sin specifically, but the areas of yielding trust and faith to God’s control in our lives.  Every step of the way on our journeys is going to be met with opportunities to trust Him.  And they are not like going back to the fist step on our path.  I too wish that I was perfect in trust.  But I am not, and neither are any of us.  But that doesn’t mean that we are not maturing and growing.  And in that process we are digging into deeper layers of issues in our lives that need to be handed over to God.

Instead of interpreting your latest opportunity to trust God as a failure of having yielded yourself fully to God last time, see it as growing deeper.  At the last opportunity you, to the best of your ability and passion and awareness may have fully offered yourself over to Him.  But as He is working in you for His good will, He may be taking you to a deeper or different aspect of something familiar.

Keep leaning in to God’s heart and growth for you.  Don’t let your own guilt or shame derail what God is doing in you.  Instead, and again, let the godly sorrow and Holy Spirit’s conviction propel you to a deeper walk with Him as you become more like Him.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.  Philippians 3:12-16 ESV

(Listen to Jeremy Riddle’s Sweetly Broken.  “At the cross you beckon me. Draw me gently to my knees.”)

Living Worthy

Just to be straight from the start I am making many references in this post to the writings of Matt Chandler; The Explicit Gospel and To Live Is Christ To Die Is Gain.  They have recently been informing my thoughts, particularly since my growth group is going through the second book as we focus on the Letter to the Philippians.  I wholly encourage you to read these books!

In Philippians 1:27 Paul writes, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  From my “moralistic, therapeutic deistic” view of life I was raised in, this was always a verse that shamed me, kept me in check, and was anything but liberating.  As so many of us have been raised in the church have come to believe, perhaps not in our teaching, but in our behavior, we are constantly attempting to “manage” our sin to be worthy or acceptable to God.  We know about God’s grace and and even teach it, but then somehow behave in a manner that is all about managing sin to appear moral.  So many of our sermons and Sunday School lessons could be boiled down to “stop sinning, pray, read the Bible”.  And certainly those are expected behaviors.

But that flies directly in the face of what God says to us.  Through Christ we are ALREADY acceptable.  His work on the cross was complete and we are free.  The disciplines are not the goal or even the path to growth!  They are the results of growth, of an intimate relationship with Jesus.  I know that sounds odd and likely it’s not quite as black and white as that.  But the focus of our lives should be Jesus!  And it is too easy for us “not see the forest through the trees” and live the kind of life that elevates the disciplines over the relationship, even to the point of pushing out intimacy altogether.

So what does it mean to live worthy of the gospel?  It means to ascribe worth to God.  Let our lives not be self-focused, but God-focused.  To Live is Christ!  Every moment of our existence should be to bring glory to God.  He is not shaming us or guilting us or asking us to manage our sin that we might be counted worthy.  I could never be worthy!  Salvation, the gospel, is not about me and my need, but God’s great majestic love and mercy.  Because He is loving He chose to rescue me from my sin.  He alone is worthy and there is no other God like Him.

So living worthy means to direct our eyes to Him and allow Him to be big in our lives.  To give over residence to Him so that our self-efforts have no space left.  Then as Paul continues to write you will, “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.”

So then shedding the entanglements of sin and living out the Christian disciplines are responses and natural outcome of a life where we have fallen in love with Jesus.  They are no longer attempts in hope that we will be picked to be on the team, but the results of one already on it.  It’s a difficult dance to be sure.  For us to see where the motivation in our hearts begins.  Is our relationship with Christ the foundation or the goal of our behavior?  I think this is where Revelation’s letters to the churches come in – “you have forgotten your first love”.  We may start well but somewhere along the way it becomes about the routine, the discipline, and we begin to deceive ourselves into thinking we’ve got it handled.  But we don’t!  John’s plea to not “claim we are without sin” is not for the first moments of our conversion, but for our whole life.

But even here I am not trying to focus our eyes on our sin!  Stop striving to manage sin, to be worthy in your efforts and instead rest in God’s greatness, the power of the transforming gospel, and direct your life’s passion to ascribing worth to Him.  Let your “striving” be for living together as one for faith of the gospel.

Prayer:  God help me, help us as your body, to recognize the transforming power of the gospel and to be free from trying somehow to make ourselves worthy.  Help us not to get caught up in shame and effort, but instead to rest in the full measure of your grace and see just how big you are and can be in our lives.  May our life’s goal be to know you in the power of your death and resurrection.  A power that causes our sin to die once for all and to be made new again in life.  And may we be filled with such a response of praise that our whole life ascribes worth to you through a unity of faith in the gospel!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrgmjZU1ivI&w=560&h=315]

Nothing is Wasted (Elevation Worship) is a fantastic song. One lyric in particular, the title phrase, strikes me. “Nothing is Wasted, You work all things for good.” If in fact God does work all things for good for those who love Him, then there is nothing that is left outside of that work on His part. ALL means Nothing is Wasted. God is so powerful and loving that He has the ability to make even the most insignificant or most hurtful or most evil part or experience of my life work out for His good. And not just the ability, but in fact He does accomplish this.

Now let’s get real here though and let go of childish naiveté. His good does not mean our view of happy endings. As C.S. Lewis said, God doesn’t care if we are happy, He wants us to grow up. And that growth is often through sharing in Christ’s sufferings.

But as we press in and let Him accomplish the work He has begun in us, nothing is wasted.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCunuL58odQ&w=560&h=315]

These past couple of days I am enjoying the song How He Loves and it’s amazing lyrics.

“When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all”

What an amazing statement! To become unaware of our afflictions because they are eclipsed by the glory of God. What a beautiful reality to live in. What a beautiful way to say it. I am reminded of the old chorus, “turn you eyes upon Jesus…and all these things will grow strangely dim in light of His glory and grace”.

We (I) need to continually make God bigger in my view. To allow myself to focus more on Him. So much energy is spent on trial/sin/affliction management; fear, worry, fret, solutions, and frankly even telling ourselves we need to see God more and then running to the Bible for the fix. There is a franticness even in trying to see God.

But God calls us to just…rest. We don’t need to drum up His action. He already has accomplished it and it is there for us. We need to dwell, rest, delight and abide. Much different mood or tone with those words that are used all throughout scripture to describe the way to approach our Father.

The song continues,
“Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”

I imagine those slow motion scenes where a person is falling backwards into the water and you see it just engulf them and then the shot takes you under the water where you see the silhouette floating down with the light rays behind. That moment of complete surrender and yielding. No fighting or struggling. Just a resignation. Of course we are not drowning, but we are dying to self. Drawn to the absolute grace. No more effort to maintain our image. No more struggle to become good enough. Just grace!

“I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way

Oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves all”

Some Recommended Reads

I have read a few books in my time, some of which I think rise to a level of “must reads”.  And so I am compiling a list of them here.  I will be adding more as time goes on; either from my current reading or a better remembrance.  (They are in no special order)

 

Leadership/Church Development

A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders, Reggie McNeal

  • A fantastic work on understanding our call and shaping moments!

Deep & Wide, Andy Stanley

  • This is just plain old good practical wisdom and insight.

Exponential, Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson

  • A fascinating look at the birth of vision and dreams.  It goes into detail of a multisite structure, but the greater values is encouragement to see that “You Can Do It”  Whatever “It” is.

it, Craig Groeschel

  • I appreciate how Craig reminds us our schemes and strategies and plans are far less important than the heart devotion to and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  This book has great practical advice of how they “do” church, but in the end the lesson you get is to do what, and go where, God is leading.

 

Personal Development

How People Grow, Henry Cloud and John Townsend

  • The mixture of theology and psychology, the acknowledgement the grace of God and the God-created humanity of man all comes together to really lay out a path for for real growth. 

Autobiography of God, Lloyd J. Ogilvie

  • I just loved this look at the parables as being God’s story/revelation of Himself to us.  I read this in college and return to it all these years later as a beautiful book.  His teaching on the Prodigal story was particularly impactful for me. 

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, John Piper

  • Intimacy, passion, hunger for more of God, the call to enjoy God and take pleasure in Him; this resonated with me and shaped my early years in personal faith and ministry.

A Greif Observed, C.S. Lewis

  • I read this at a very difficult time of loss and it walked me through a gut-wrenching time of dealing with grief.  I encourage you not to stop half way through as C.S. Lewis’ logic abilities might just talk you out of believing in God.  But he comes around full circle to share just how our grief brings us closer to God.

The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler

  • A thorough treatise of and correction of our sloppy cultural view of the Gospel.  The first two sections are a bit academic at times, but the third section offers great insight to the results of the imbalanced views.

Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud

  • Saying ‘no’ to good things allows you to say ‘yes’ to better things.  A great book to help you with boundaries, decision making, creating the urgency to walk through change, and to let those dreams come alive (again). 

Forgotten God, Francis Chan

  • A fantastic call to recognize the active and necessary role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is free of denominational and doctrinal divisions that pendulum swing one way or the other.

The Five Love Languages, Gary D Chapman

  • Chapman gives us a ‘method’ to think of the way we show and received love as a ‘language’.  It is a brilliant approach to help give concrete application to such an abstract reality.

 

Fiction

Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

Child 44, The Secret Speech, and Agent 6, Tom Rob Smith

Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

 

What do you recommend?  Leave a comment.

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A8almp_nCU&w=560&h=315]

Beyond the Sun

Waves of sadness and joy course over me as I have an “aha” moment.  Once again, God has shown me something.  Not anything new to mankind, but a deeper awareness of what he has been saying all along.

I have have been hungering more for God and leaning in to that posture more and more lately.  I am excited to see what God is doing in me and around me and I want more of that. 

But how that takes shape is continually surprising.  Recently I found myself repeating an experience that I have had in the past.  Something I knew then was not the best for me but it didn’t hold the same weight of grief when done in the past.  But this time, it truly grieved me after the fact.

Jumping ahead, this morning I am reading Matt Chandler’s, The Explicit Gospel, and he writes this, “In the end, there is nothing under the sun that brings lasting fulfillment.  You have to look beyond the sun.”  This of course is a reference to Ecclesiastes and the preacher declaring all is meaningless, there is nothing new under the sun.  While reading this, the song in my headphones became clear to me. “set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain, that I can’t control.  I want more of you God, I want more of you! (Set a Fire, Will Regan & the United Pursuit)

Back to my grief of sin.  I am not trying to justify or excuse it in any way, but there was a positive side to this.  I discovered that as I fill my life’s ambition with more of Christ, the impact of anything less than him, is greater.  I was broken because I had disappointed Him.  That is a right response.  But rather than get stuck in the shame, I now see instead the joy.  I have tasted the Lord, and He is good!  I went back to try something else, but it just didn’t satisfy like it used to!  In fact it tasted outright bad.  Am I glad I tried it again?  No.  But am I glad that I had this awareness, YES!

What is under the sun is meaningless and is old, stale and unsatisfying.  It may not be “sin”.  It may just be normal pursuits.  But in comparison to the fire that God set’s within our hearts, it just won’t do.

© 2017 LenBanks

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑