a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: Grace (Page 2 of 2)

Lessons I Learned In 2013

2013 has been a profound year for me. Losing significant weight and discovering the why’s behind it, selling our home and seeing God arrange things powerfully through it, and moving our church into a newly purchased building. These events and more taught me many lessons. I hope I can remember them all to post here.

1. I have much more in me than I give myself credit for.
2. I think too highly of myself.
3. There are far more incredible people giving of themselves far more freely than I ever have realized.
4. My wife is more wonderful and amazing to me than ever.
5. God actually is trustworthy.

That’s the summary list but there is so much more to it. I have been challenged and stretched and so changed this year.

In regards to my weight I keep getting asked what have I been doing. What diet or program? And there just isn’t anything special about it – “move more/eat less” is the basic thing. But the deep work was done in the heart and head. God has shown me areas where I really didn’t let Him heal me of hurts from childhood. Areas where I put my plan in place to cope with the hurt instead of trusting His plan. When I began to peel those layers away is when the weight really began to drop. I still have and always will struggle with weight. I like to snack on high-fat foods and have a metabolism that doesn’t burn it fast. But I am well on my way to keeping it off this time around.

Along the way I dreamed and learned about risk taking and came to realize that I have a lot to offer. I desire to make a difference for the Kingdom and want to see God do huge things. I saw areas in which I sabotaged myself instead of stepping up in confidence using the gifts God has given me. I also believe I have untapped gifts and dreams that I want to see developed.

But those dreams also set the sinful part of me going off to overreaching places thinking more highly of myself than I ought. I continue to realize that it isn’t God who needs me, but me who needs God. His kingdom will go on without me and my efforts. I am humbled by the reality that He desires to use me and that I get to go on this ride with Him, but I need to make sure I keep that in perspective.

God’s GRACE and TRUSTWORTHINESS have been huge themes the past few years. This year mostly trustworthiness as grace was really hit on last year for me. But I have seen the grace of God strongly in people this year. Acts of undeserved kindness shown to me personally and major sacrifices made on behalf of our church in getting into our new building. It has been beautiful to watch. I am so undeserving of people’s service to me, and yet that has been one way in which I saw God’s plans for me being far better than to rely on myself – to control and avoid real trust.

This has been a fun year with my wife. 27 years of marriage to this wonderful woman and I love her more than ever. As I stripped away the layers of brokenness and did the heart work that God intended, there was more room in my heart for her. I gave over to her areas that I had been protecting. To be honest we bicker a bit more, but I think it’s because we care more to be understood and real with each other. Walking through the home sale and my weight loss and the health scare and the church move I have seen at the same time both a strong and fragile woman emerge to really co-direct our steps. Her openess to reframe our lives has been exciting and her belief in me is inspiring. I am sure she believes in me more than I do (which I know frustrates her too). All of this has led to a much deeper love for her.

I meant to say it just as I did. God is actually trustworthy. I know biblically He is. I even know personally He is. But somehow this year He has taken me to greater levels of experience of this. It’s one thing to say He is trustworthy, but to experience is quite another. I have had to really confront my control and hanging on to my “baggage”. I have never doubted His trustworthiness, I just came to realize that I also never gave whole areas over to Him to actually trust Him with. And here I thought I had. A mind-blowing year. This of course has left me wondering what other areas I am still holding on to. But I still have the rest of my life to figure that out and grow in Him.

To 2014!

I’ve been posting worship songs that reflected my heart to “yearn” for God, but there are just times you want to jump, shout, and be filled with an exuberance. That is where this song comes in. I rejoice that God, the “maker of the heavens knows my name”. My soul will ever sing His praise!

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.

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!

[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”

My Shortcomings or God’s Sufficiency?

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)

How do you see yourself?  What is the tape that plays in your head?  What fears drive you?  What limits do you place on yourself?  Have you disqualified yourself from even trying to step out and trust God?  “I could never do __________ because _________.”

Here’s what I see in this verse.  God loves you and chose you!  He did this BEFORE _________________ (insert limit here).

He decided in advance.  He chose before.  He loved!  Before any of us did what we did.  And yet I still have talked myself out of trying sometimes.  As if my situation is the exception.  That somehow my sin or incompetence or fear or failure is the ONE that God can’t handle.  The ONE that causes Him to step back and say, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming.  You’re right, this doesn’t apply to you.”  The ARROGANCE!  God knew exactly what and who I would be before the earth was formed and He still loved, chose and adopted me – to be holy and blameless and part of His family.

He has showered His grace and kindness.  He purchased my freedom.  These are extravagant descriptions.  These are bold actions.  These are powerful declarations and the ONLY reasonable response is to praise Him.  And look at what it says, He did this because He WANTED to and it gave Him GREAT PLEASURE!  So what do we do?  We praise Him.  We give our lives to Him!

Am I holy? No.  Am I righteous? No! Am I anything special? No.  The answer is always no, IF it’s based on me alone.  But God loved and chose and decided that I was in fact holy and righteous and special and it gave Him pleasure to shower me with kindness and grace and freedom.  “And now I get to be what I got to be!”*  

But It’s not about ME!  It’s about who God is!  

He has declared me free and all my internal exceptions are nullified.  I don’t have a case to not step into the plans God has for me.  I need to stop disqualifying myself and instead see myself as God sees me.  To live up to who He has called and allowed me to be and become.  

And instead of spending emotional energy focusing on my shortcomings, I need to spend it focusing on God’s sufficiency.  

Thank you God for your great love and kindness.  That no matter the condition I am in, you chose me in advance to become part of your family.  Thank you for purchasing my freedom!  Please forgive me for thinking that somehow I was the exception to your grace and disqualifying myself from being more available to your purposes.  Help me to focus instead on your sufficiency!

*I heard Steve Fry say this years ago and it has always stuck with me!

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