LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Month: November 2013

Here is the incredible song that I was listening to while writing the previous post.  I have loved this song for many years.  Having grown up fatherless it has meant much to me to focus on the fathering nature of God in my life.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0NwaJ54atw&w=420&h=315]

Put THAT on your bumper!

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are talking to someone only to realize that they left the room and didn’t hear a thing you said?  Or you were on a call that dropped, but you didn’t know it for the longest time?  It’s awkward and embarrassing and ultimately you realize it was a pointless waste of time.   Talking to yourself on purpose may help you process things.  But talking to someone else by yourself makes no sense and accomplishes nothing.

I love that there are verses we celebrate and remember and quote.  But the risk of creating the bumper sticker or coffee mug quotes is that we fail to see/remember the fuller context.  One such verse that hit me today was Philippians 4:6-7.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

By itself it’s very encouraging and hopeful.  But by itself it also pits anxiety against the action of prayer.  “If I just pray more.”  “I am struggling because I need to pray more.”  We tend to turn this into a “I need to do more” situation.  It is so works and self dependent.  What’s one of the first things we tell people when they are struggling?  “You need to pray.”

Now, it is true that prayer changes our hearts and we find a peace.  The action of prayer is powerful.  But the fuller context here has nothing to do with our effort.  Prayer is a response, not a self-medication for anxiety!

Verses 4 and 5 are key.  Particularly 5.  Paul exhorts us to Rejoice!  Why?  Because the LORD IS NEAR!  Because the Lord is near we can rejoice and should rejoice!  Because the Lord is near we don’t need to be anxious, and instead pray.  Because God is ever-present we can be confident that prayer is not pointless exercise.  I don’t need to wonder if He will hear me or care for me or act on my requests.  I don’t need to feel like He has left the room and I am only talking to myself.  I can be confident that my call is always connected.

When I recognize that God is NEAR, I rejoice and commune and petition and give thanks!  Because He is near, I experience peace and protection.  The entire passage pivots on that phrase, “the Lord is near”.

“The LORD is Near!”

Now there is a bumper sticker for you!

Side Note:  Song playing when I read this passage:  “Father, You’re all I need, my soul sufficiency.  My strength when I am weak.  The love that carries me.  Your arms enfold me until I am only a child of God.”  (Child of God, from Hungry, Vineyard UK) God is so near, He is hugging me until all I am aware of us is my relationship with Him.  Nothing else enters in, instead it is all pushed away.

I almost missed the joy of the moment!

We are in! Our church held it’s first service in our new building last night. It has been a long journey and there is no other way to explain it other than giving God all the credit to make a way for us. It is not finished as floors and a whole lot of other things still need to be done to get our final inspections approved. But it is safe and it is ours and God is being worshipped in it. I have seen people step up and serve in such incredible ways and sadly I have seen others who I would have expected to, not. Of course they have their reasons and so this has revealed to me once again the part of me that I don’t like.

I found that I slip towards discouragement and judgement and anger far too easily. I am not trying to beat myself up or bring a cloud over this wonderful watershed moment in the life of our church. But I strive to be more like Jesus and can’t just pass over and excuse my own behaviors. Yesterday as we were digging in to get it ready, still doing major electrical installs along with serious clean up, I was “stressed out” which is just code for angry and grumpy and fearful it wouldn’t get done. Of course it did because people stepped up and some of us stayed until very late, even after our first service. But while the service was happening and worship was playing I found myself weeping both out of joy and repentance/shame at the same time. It was so wonderful to finally have praises to God going up from our congregation and at the same time I was so sad I let the pressure of the day almost steal the joy of that moment.

It is so easy to miss silver linings by focusing on the cloud. And in reality it is less of a cloud with silver lining and more of a gloriously sunny day with just a small rain cloud on the horizon. But I/we can get focused on the wrong things. I am glad I was able to step back and see it, but it came much later than I wished it had.

Thank you God for what you have done and how you have done it through incredible people who I have such a deep appreciation and respect for. Thank you for working in me to reveal areas of needed growth and to help me step back and not miss your hand at work. You are such a great God.

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