LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: Philippians

“Squirrel!”

That’s how I feels these days.  Like the dog in Disney/Pixar’s UP.  I am not generally an ADHD type person, but I do tend to get distracted and caught up in my latest obsessions.  So I went through a season of posting multiple times a week to not showing up for a while.  I was off chasing other interests.  This is the way I am wired.  I get bored and obsessed easily.  This has wonderful results as I learn and experience a breadth of things.  But it also has negative fallout in living for the long-haul.

I remember in college hearing a message from our college president, Dick Foth, that the Christian life was not about sprinting or even a marathon, but plodding.  I don’t recall all the details of his message, but the word plodding stuck with me all these years.  I hate plodding.  I walk fast, make decisions fast, get distracted fast.  There is nothing remotely attractive to plodding to me.  But there is wisdom and truth to this behavior, at least where serving God is concerned.  Pressing on, leaning in, holding fast – these are marks of commitment and growth.

But as to my being regular in my blog posts, well, plodding will likely never be a good description.  I do have stuff to say and share and process externally, and so I will continue to do so.  But as God made me to be one who gets caught up in things, I will from time to time be off on my latest adventure.

My first 5K!

My first 5K!

Currently that adventure is tied into my long journey of getting healthy.  I have NEVER been one to love sport and fitness.  But I have been bit by the running bug.  Well less about running, and more about Disney’s events around running.  I did my first-ever 5K last week at DisneyWorld. It was an amazing experience.  I was personally proud of the achievement.  Again, I am 50 years old and this fitness thing is all new to me.  And because it is Disney, they go all out to create experiences; the fireworks marking your run start, the swelling soundtrack throughout the park as you run, the giant finish line with crowds cheering you on, and the draping of a medal around your neck.  It is VERY cool.  And as I am one who gets distracted, this type of event is a great tool for me to keep focused on the exercise journey.  So I am already signed up for the next run event.  On August 30 and 31 I am going to do the “Dumbo Double Dare” at the Disneyland Half Marathon.  On Saturday I will run a 10K and then on Sunday a half marathon.  So while the training regimen is boring, dare I say, like plodding, the goal is worth it.

Hey, that sounds like our faith journey, huh?  (Did you see what I did there?  😉 Flipped it right back.)  Yes, we are in our journey to live for Christ and the day to day may seem uneventful and boring, but the goal for which Christ has called us is worth it!  At least in the area of your faith journey, don’t get distracted by the squirrels, and stay the course.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

Added Note:  My goal of participating in the run in August also includes raising money for the children of St Jude hospital.  If you would like to encourage my personal journey of getting fit AND help children get treatment for cancer, then check out my info and donation page at http://heroes.stjude.org/lenbanks

Dance the Dance

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11 NIV)

In recent years I have developed a strong bias towards being a practitioner of the faith of Jesus Christ rather than a studier of the Word. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in reading and studying the bible, but I have observed so many over the years who have spent hours on bible study and little time on application. Lives were broken and inconsistent with the bible they studied so much. Or I noticed so many who equated maturity with knowledge. And even worse I also observed so many who became pharisaical and determined their holiness by their knowledge.

But I also may have anchored to this view to cover for a bit of my own laziness and lack of deeper study. Being real here.

In any case, I still believe that knowledge without application or life transformation is selling God short. Jesus IS the word and therefore our interaction with the bible should be more about relationship than education.

The above passage struck me today as it compels us to add knowledge and insight to our experience. Why? It appears that our love, ability to discern what is best, and our righteousness are all linked directly to it. This is not surprising or new to me, but it does cause me to be careful not to swing to one extreme or another. It’s a delicate dance to balance study and application. To make sure we don’t see education, which is the American way, as our primary means of changing. But to also make sure that we don’t also just go out there and try to navigate the choices of life with too little information and insight of God’s mind and heart. We can’t just live on sermons of others, no matter how good they are. Remember the phrase, “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”? We need to get into the word on our own regularly so that we will not just know what God says to us on how to live, but so that we will know God.

I have heard too many times from people leaving their churches that they weren’t being fed. But I say, pick up the fork and eat yourself. God has a feast in His word for each of us. We’ve been invited to the dance. To rejoice in Him.

And because His word is alive, and again, is Jesus, we are “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” when our love abounds in knowledge and deep insights.

So dance today. Immerse yourself in His word, be transformed by being with Jesus. Seek the deep insights. And like me, try not to swing to either extreme.

Moving Towards Christ

I have observed an interesting and sad result when offering people in our church cash gifts in their difficult times.  We have a team that quietly distributes funds to various ministries and individuals as they feel led.  The individuals are told that there are no strings attached, it’s just a gift to help in a particular time of need.  The gift of course is almost always received with gratefulness.  Often with humility and brokenness.  But then over time I have seen a number of people become uncomfortable, feeling that somehow they should pay it back.  We stress it isn’t necessary, but you can see the struggle they’re going through.  And in most cases, they couldn’t pay it back anyways.  But they wrestle with accepting what they feel is “charity” and what we feel is an expression of love.  Sadly many over the years end up leaving the church shortly after the gift because they feel shame in having this obligation.  They find it easier to not be reminded each time they come to church.

I think this plays into exactly what author and pastor, Matt Chandler, brings out when he asks the question, “What moves you towards Christ?”  

That’s the question posed his new book, To Live Is Christ (chapter 5), regarding the passion that Paul expresses in Philippians and David shows throughout the Psalms.  The hunger, deep groanings, to consider all things rubbish in comparison.  He wonders why more of us don’t find ourselves in that place and then offers this as a possible reason…

“What often happens for us when we come to know the Lord—and usually it comes from a very sincere place—is that our love of God’s grace is replaced with a sense of obligation to please Him. It starts with gratitude but easily and naturally turns into trying to pay back a debt—to earn His grace, in other words. We move on to the self-salvation project so rapidly.

“Instead we need to ask a question complementary to good works. We need to ask ourselves: What moves me toward Jesus? What stirs my affections for Jesus Christ?” Matt Chandler & Jared C. Wilson. To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain.

There is something inside of us (pride) that wrestles with grace.  We feel an obligation to try to pay back, to be on the same footing as the giver.  And yet in the case of the cross, that just will never be the case.   We will never be on the same footing with Christ.  The pot will never be equal with the potter.

I think this is perhaps an aspect of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling”.  The struggle to not let pride strip away the necessary complete abandonment to grace is part of our journey.

So what moves us towards Christ?  What motivates us to settle for just being good or better instead of being intimate with Him?    I can’t answer that for anyone else as I struggle enough for myself.

What I do know is that I want to have words like yearn, passion, burn, groan, hunger and thirst to be part of what describes my desire to know God deeply and intimately.

Prayer: God, thank you so much for your free and immense gift of grace to me.  May I receive it continually and not move towards trying to earn it in any way.  Help me to see my place of desperation at all times instead of attempting to convince myself of my own worth.  Instead may my life, by the power and leading of your Holy Spirit, be marked with a devotion and passion to bring you glory!  “As the deer pants for water” may my soul long for you.  I want to press in to more of you.

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.”)

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