a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: Encouragement (Page 2 of 2)

Running on Grace

This morning I left the house feeling GREAT! I had just done an hour of speed work interval training for the first time with a local running club and I am wearing new jeans in a size that I haven’t worn since probably I was 25. I was walking out the path just filled with self-satisfaction that quickly moved to a gratefulness toward God. And not a false-humility, oops-I-feel-guilty-for-taking-any-credit, kind of gratefulness. I think there is a place that God allows for us to feel a joy for our part of the relationship we have with Him. But that said, I am quite mindful of just how insignificant my role is in all the changes I have gone through in the last few years.

Now that the “number”, the amount of weight I have lost, is public (currently now at nearly 210lbs), I am getting all sorts of positive comments from people. I have been getting the ‘you look good’, and ‘how are you doing it?’ sort of statements, to which I appreciate. I am human, and compliments and acknowledgement does feel good. But it has now ramped up to a level of how inspiring I am and how I have motivated people to make changes and that I represent hope. And of course I know these are nothing but well intended and I accept them as nothing but pure compliments. But I still get a bit uncomfortable with them nonetheless as the changes REALLY are not about me.

Yes, I have had to follow-through with good behavior and choices on eating and exercise. But if you have heard or read my story you know that before there was any weight loss, there was a year or more of counseling and prayer and “dot-connecting” as to why I had developed reactionary and self-sabotaging habits. God had clearly begun a deep work of heart and I have come to realize just how much I failed to trust God’s plan to deal with stress and pain and chose my plan to self-soothe with food.

And that is ALL God! I am so immensely grateful that He loves me enough to continue to reveal in me just how much I need to continue to grow and trust. The work of “forming Christ in me” is a long and beautiful process. It isn’t easy and frankly is so difficult to discern when you are trusting in Him vs self. I really was shocked when I had those numerous AHA-moments that wasn’t really fully trusting Him. But once I saw it, I knew nothing but good was coming. Such a huge weight lifted, that was greater than any amount of fat on my body.

This new stage and passion of running may not last (although I hope it does), but what will last is the ever-growing reliance on Him. When I run, it is on a “path” of grace. “Eat less, move more” is the simple lifestyle change strategy I share, but the REAL change is found in trusting God’s plan and not your own.

Again, I don’t mind the compliments (keep ’em coming), I know they come from nothing but a great place of love and encouragement. But please know there is a BIG God behind what has happened in my life. And I would love for you to join me on that run!

BUT God…

Following is the text of my portion of the Good Friday 2014 message at Mariners Church.  Paul, our lead pastor, and I shared the speaking and it was interspersed with worship music.  I welcome you to listen to the full service and get caught up in the worship of the evening.  But I also include my text below as it will serve to encourage you as well.  Paul opened the evening by setting up our sin condition and Christ’s suffering on the cross.  It was followed by the song: Blessed Redeemer.

My message section 1…

As we’ve spent some time recognizing that our sin has created this absolute separation from God, I think of that cinematic effect where the view of something moves further and further away from our grasp as I am pulled back in some sort of tunnel. My SIN…MY sin…has left me lost and hopeless and broken and far from the God who loves me and created me to have a full life with Him.

BUT GOD…

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8 (NLT)

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Ephesians 2:4–5 (NLT)

Today is GOOD Friday. The crucifixion, the blood, the gore, the pain and suffering. We could focus on them. But WHY? When we could focus on BUT GOD! His love and pursuit of us is what drove Him to the cross.

Our sin forced this great divide from God that we have no ability to fix or repair. We try. But we fail.   I know this doesn’t sit well with us. We hate to hear this. We muster up all our efforts and self esteem to make ourselves look good to Him and others. But dead is dead.

BUT GOD never gave up on us.

Even though we don’t deserve forgiveness…He forgives.

Even though without God, we are worthless…He has chosen to love us.

The apostle Paul, after listing all the things that he and others would think made him worthy and a great man, said,

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness … rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.  Philippians 3:7–9 (NLT)

This is why we devote our lives to following God. He has rescued us. This is why we worship. He is great and loving and has restored hope to us. This is why we sing and become joyful. He has brought us back from death in our sins to a full life in Him.

As we continue this evening we’re going to sing some songs that put this in the proper perspective. We bring nothing to our relationship with God. He is the one who pursued us. My goodness is not good enough. His is, and He gave it to us. My strengths are not strong enough.

BUT GOD…

This next song’s chorus says,

Our sin was strong, but Jesus is stronger.

Our shame was great, but Jesus you’re greater!

As we sing that, I invite you to get lost in a “BUT GOD” moment.

SONG: Raised to Life (Elevation Worship)

SECTION 2

So if Jesus is greater and stronger than our sin and shame, why do so many of us still struggle?

I’ve observed in others and in myself, times when I let my shame get the best of me. I see people let the victory over sin pass them by.   The victory Christ has freely and fully made available to us.

I want to go and shake that person and say, YOU’RE NOT THE EXCEPTION!

Your shame…Your guilt. They’re not a shock or too great for God!

He’s able to bring real change and freedom to all of us. To you!

We need to stop trying to gut out our plan and willpower to overcome the struggles in our lives. God can be trusted. His plan is best.

Please stop standing on the edges. Stop staring from the outside looking in wondering why you’re the “only” one not experiencing the joy that we talk about. Again, you are not the exception!

Paul writes,

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.

This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.  He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:3–8 (NLT)

This is why it is GOOD Friday. It was God’s plan all along to pour out His grace and mercy on us. To pursue us, to give us freedom! This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

I hope tonight something that has been said here has helped you to move God’s grace, His free gift of forgiveness, down into your heart to defeat this cycle of shame, to experience His great love.

He pursued you. So what does it look like to pursue Him? To respond to him?

What does it look like to show gratitude to the one who has rescued you? What does it look like to live your life in that freedom and pursuit of more of Him?

Our worship team is going to come and lead us in songs. Again, I invite you to focus on what He has done for us. FOR YOU!

Perhaps tonight you come here having been wrestling with letting go. Maybe you’ve felt it really didn’t seem to be for you. Or that somehow, you accepted forgiveness, but didn’t let go all the way. To live in that real freedom He purchased for us.

Maybe that cycle of shame – of going back over and over again to the same exhausting destructive choices, has left you feeling hopeless.

Maybe you’re here this evening and this is all new to you and something in you is saying to dive in. To give in. To let go.

Then please do.

His love is crazy and irrational and His pursuit of you is passionate. He never has or ever will give up on you. And He doesn’t ask that you that you fully understand it, just that you receive it.

As you sing these songs, pause and just say something to God like, “I want this. I want you to lead my life, to give me that freedom. To learn to trust you. Thank you for rescuing me, for loving me.”

In a few moments we’re going to take communion together – to remember His death on our behalf – by taking the bread and cup. It’ll be a bit later and Mark will let you know when you can come up and get them. When you do, please take them to your seat and wait with them until we all take together.

SONG: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Your Glory/Nothing But the Blood of Jesus (All Sons & Daughters)

Communion

SONG: I Stand Amazed

Exchanging What Seems Right for What is Really Right

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Proverbs 16:25

I have heard and quoted this verse so many times in my life, but it really didn’t mean a whole lot to me because, first of all, I was already “saved” so it didn’t apply to me any longer regarding that.  And of course I was trusting God for the leading of my life – going into vocational ministry and all.

But this past few years, and especially this last, I have come to realize that I still was keeping control of so many areas of my life.  And in fact may unknowingly still be doing so.  I had developed deeply embedded coping skills to manage hurts and pains from my childhood.  And even though I would pray about it, “trust” God for His answers and help, I kept on my path thinking my ways were succeeding or enough.  How foolish and useless.  Cuz as Dr Phil says, How’s that working for you?”  My answer?  Not so well.  I still would find my responses were more like reactions.  Rather than truly dealing with issues, I would mask them or self-medicate with food.  It all seemed right.  I spoke the Christianese and I love God, so how could it not be?  But I found myself going round and round the same issues with no resolve.  For the longest time I wasn’t even aware I was even in need of some healing.  But eventually I did allow God to show me I had some issues, and once He did, I was ready to work some things out.

Praise God for His patient grace!  That we are in a process of change and becoming.  That He is wise and loving and knows we are frail and take time to made complete.  It’s easy to think we are disappointing Him and making Him mad and that He may get so frustrated with our (lack of) progress that He drop-kicks us away.  But that is most definitely not God.  He is long-suffering and His love never fails and He forgives and forgives and forgives yet again.  So if you find yourself struggling over and over with the same sin issues or patterns of behavior that don’t move you closer to God or find yourself saying, “Why does this keep happening?”, instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself, am I working my plan or God’s.  I can pretty confidently tell you it is yours!  But you need to own that and then figure out God’s.  For me it took more than prayer and Bible reading.  I needed outside sources to help me connect the dots and I needed to trust God enough to let others have that kind of access into my life, past, pains and psyche.  I think that is needed for all of us, cuz if we could figure it out on our won, we likely would have already.  But we are on our own plan that seems right.

I think it originated from Rick Warren, but at our church we say, “It’s not your position, but your direction that matters”.  And by that such amazing grace can be experienced.  Because none of us are in the “perfect” position yet, but as long as we are in the direction pointed to a desire to be like Jesus, then there should be no guilt or condemnation from self or others.  Because certainly there is none for our God.

That, however, is not license to just be a blob where you are at.  We do need to suck it up, put our big boy pants on, and lean in to being/becoming mature.  Don’t beat yourself up, but also don’t give yourself a continual pass.  Grace has no problem or conflict with effort.  The key being an effort working God’s plan, not ours.  One of the major lessons I have learned and hinted to at the beginning, is that even though I thought I was trusting God, I really had not been.  And even though God had broken open huge areas of my life, I still have not arrived.  So what else am I unaware of?  What more is God going to work out in me?  The more I trust, the more I see I need to trust.  The healthier I become, the more I see I need to become healthy.

Do I think everyone is unhealthy and has such issues?  Of course not.  But I do think that everyone has to mature and lean into maturing and that takes more and more trusting and less and less relying our ways that seem right. In that process perhaps we discover we were less healthy than we thought.  But most definitely we will all discover that we need to decrease so He can increase.  And that won’t happen until we let go of what seems right for what is really right.

The first moment I heard this song at a youth leader’s conference I was encouraged to put a deeper faith in God. To be reminded of His faithfulness is so faith building. It is easy to get your eyes off of this truth and to get lost in your own circumstances. But God is faithful and He doesn’t let go.

God is so encouraging

Admittedly, I am having a bit of a crisis of doubt this morning.  But as I sit here listening to worship music, reading the Bible and seeing other’s posts, I see God is encouraging me.  Even Jon Acuff’s post, who is normally very funny, wrote, “It is often only when the waves are over your head that you discover what a deep water rescue God we truly have.”  And of course worship music should be encouraging, but one after another the songs are like, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, and All the Way my Savior Leads, and Our God.  And then Psalm 139 reminding me that God knows me and protects me.  So even though the storms, real or perceived, are easy to get lost in, I am choosing today to see God!

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