fbpx
mm

About James Banks

Dr. James Banks and his wife have two adult children and live in Durham, North Carolina, where he is the pastor of Peace Church. He is the author of The Lost Art of Praying Together, Praying the Prayers of the Bible, Prayers for Prodigals, and Prayers for Your Children. Find books by James Banks

Imaginative Faith

By |2022-09-19T02:33:10-04:00September 19th, 2022|

“Look, Papa! Those trees are waving at God!” As we watched young birches bending in the wind before an oncoming storm, my grandson’s excited observation made me smile. It also made me ask myself, Do I have that kind of imaginative faith?

Reflecting on the story of Moses and the burning bush, the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote that “Earth’s crammed with heaven, / And every common bush afire with God; / But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.” God’s handiwork is evident all around us in the wonders of what He has made, and one day, when the earth is made new, we’ll see it unlike ever before.

God tells us about this day when He proclaims through the prophet Isaiah, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12). Singing mountains? Clapping trees? Why not? Paul noted that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

Jesus once spoke of stones crying out (Luke 19:40), and His words echo Isaiah’s prophecy about what lies ahead for those who come to Him for salvation. When we look to Him with faith that imagines what only God can do, we will see His wonders continue forever!

Lighting Candles

By |2022-09-02T02:33:03-04:00September 2nd, 2022|

It was noon, but the sun wasn’t visible. New England’s Dark Day began the morning of May 19, 1780 and lasted for hours. The cause of the surreal darkness was likely heavy clouds of smoke from massive wildfires in Canada, but many wondered if it might be Judgment Day.

The Connecticut Governor’s Council (senate) was in session, and when some considered adjourning because of the darkness, Abraham Davenport responded, “I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

Davenport’s desire to be found faithfully performing the work God had given him to do on the day He returns is illustrative of Jesus’ words: “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes” (Luke 12:35–37).

Day or night, it’s always good to serve our Savior. Even when darkness encroaches, His promises for all who look forward to Him will stand. Like candles in the darkness, may our “light shine before others, that they may see” (Matthew 5:16) and love and serve Him too.

When Prayer Shakes the Earth

By |2022-08-03T02:33:05-04:00August 3rd, 2022|

Dr. Gary Greenberg has magnified and photographed sand from beaches around the world, often revealing surprising, vibrant splashes of color from the minerals, shell, and coral fragments contained within. 

He’s discovered there’s more to sand than meets the eye. In arenology (the study of sand), the microscopic analysis of sand’s mineral content can reveal much about erosion, shore currents, and their potential effects on coastlines. Even a little sand can yield information of great worth! 

A single prayer, like a grain of sand, can be a weighty thing. Scripture indicates prayer’s powerful role in the coming of God’s kingdom. In Revelation 8, John sees an angel standing at the altar before His throne holding a golden censer containing “the prayers of all God’s people.” “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake” (vv. 3, 5). 

Immediately after the angel hurled the censer filled with fire and prayer, seven angels with seven trumpets “prepared to sound them” (v. 6), heralding the old earth’s last days and Christ’s return. 

Sometimes we may not feel like our prayers add up to much, but God doesn’t miss one. He so values them that they somehow even play a role in the consummation of His kingdom. What may seem like the smallest prayer to us can have earth-shaking weight with Him!

Hurry Up and Wait

By |2022-07-07T02:33:04-04:00July 7th, 2022|

“What will we do with all our spare time?” That thought was at the heart of an essay published in 1930 by the economist John Maynard Keynes. In it, Keynes proposed that within a hundred years, technological and economic advances would bring humans to a point where we work only three hours a day and fifteen hours a week.

It’s been more than ninety years since Keynes published his famous essay. But technology, instead of creating more leisure, has made us busier than ever. Our days are full, and while everyday tasks like travel and meal preparation take less time, we’re still in a hurry.

One striking incident from David’s life shows us how to stay steady in life’s rush. When David was fleeing King Saul (who was trying to kill him), he asked the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” (1 Samuel 22:3, italics added). David had his hands full. He was trying to escape Saul’s murderous pursuits and also provide for his family. But even in his hurry, he took the time to wait on God.  

When life’s frenetic pace sweeps us along, we can trust the One who can keep us in His peace (Isaiah 26:3). David’s words sum up the matter well: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

The Kindness of Candor

By |2022-06-06T09:06:03-04:00June 6th, 2022|

“My dear friend, sometimes you sound holier than you really are.”

Those words were leveled with a direct gaze and gentle smile. Had they come from someone other than a close friend and mentor whose discernment I highly valued, my feelings might have been hurt. Instead, I winced and laughed at the same time, knowing that while his words “hit a nerve,” he was also right. Sometimes when I talked about my faith, I used jargon that didn’t sound natural, which gave the impression that I wasn’t being sincere. My friend loved me and was trying to help me be more effective in sharing with others what I genuinely believed. Looking back, I see it as some of the best advice I ever received.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted,” Solomon wisely wrote, “but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6). My friend’s insights demonstrated the truth of that counsel. I was grateful he cared enough to tell me something I needed to hear, even though he knew it might not be easy to accept. Sometimes when someone tells you only what they think you want to hear, it isn’t helpful, because it can keep you from growing and developing in vital ways.   

Candor can be kindness, when measured out with genuine, humble love. May God give us the wisdom to receive it and impart it well, and so reflect His caring heart.

Pressing Pause to Pray

By |2022-05-29T09:06:11-04:00May 29th, 2022|

The fire hydrant gushed into the street, and I saw my opportunity. Several cars had splashed through before me, and I thought, What a great way to get a free wash! My car hadn’t been cleaned for a month and the dust was thick. So I fired it up and headed into the deluge.

Crack!

It happened so fast. The sun had already beaten down on my black car that morning, heating its glass and interior. But the water from the hydrant was frigid. As soon as the cold gush hit the hot windshield, a crack struck like lightning from top to bottom. My “free” car wash ended up costing me plenty.

If only I had “pressed pause” beforehand to think or even to pray. Ever have a moment like that? The people of Israel did, under far weightier circumstances. God had promised to help them drive out other nations as they entered the land He’d given them (Joshua 3:10) so they wouldn’t be tempted by false gods (Deuteronomy 20:16–18). But one of the nations saw Israel’s victories and used stale bread to trick them into believing they lived far away. “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace” (Joshua 9:14–15, italics added), unknowingly circumventing God’s instructions.

When we make prayer a “first resort” instead of a “last,” we invite God’s direction, wisdom, and blessing. May He help us remember to “press pause” today.

Walking by a Blessing

By |2022-05-12T09:06:03-04:00May 12th, 2022|

In 1799 twelve-year-old Conrad Reed found a large, glittering rock in the stream that ran through his family’s small farm in North Carolina. He carried it home to show his father, a poor immigrant farmer. His father didn’t understand the rock’s potential value and used it as a doorstop. The family walked by it for years.

Eventually Conrad’s rock—actually a seventeen-pound gold nugget—caught the eye of a local jeweler. Soon the Reed family became wealthy, and their property became the site of the first major gold strike in the United States.

Sometimes we walk past a blessing, intent on our own plans and ways. After Israel was exiled to Babylon for disobeying God, He proclaimed freedom for them once again. But He also reminded them of what they’d missed. “I am the Lord your God,” He told them, “who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea” (italics added). God then encouraged them to follow Him away from old ways into a new life: “Leave Babylon . . . . Announce this with shouts of joy”! (Isaiah 48:17–18, 20).

Leaving Babylon, perhaps now as much as then, means leaving sinful ways and “coming home” to a God who longs to do us good—if only we’ll obey and follow Him!

Carried by Love

By |2022-04-13T09:06:04-04:00April 13th, 2022|

My four-year-old grandson sat on my lap and patted my bald head, studying it intently. “Papa,” he asked, “What happened to your hair?” “Oh,” I laughed, “I lost it over the years.” His face turned thoughtful: “That’s too bad” he responded. “I’ll have to give you some of mine.”

I smiled at his compassion and pulled him close for a hug. Reflecting later on his love for me in that cherished moment also caused me to ponder God’s selfless, generous love.

G. K. Chesterton wrote: “We have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” By this he meant that the “Ancient of Days” (Daniel 7:9) is untainted by sin’s decay—God is ageless and loves us exuberantly with a love that never falters or fades. He is fully willing and able to fulfill the promise He made to His people in Isaiah 46: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you” (v. 4).

Five verses later He explains, “I am God, and there is none like me.” (v. 9). The great “I AM” (Exodus 3:14) loves us so deeply that He went to the extreme of dying on the cross to bear the full weight of our sin, so that we might turn to Him and be free of our burden and gratefully worship Him forever!

Making Every Moment Count

By |2022-04-11T09:06:05-04:00April 11th, 2022|

The halted hands of a pocket watch in a library’s archives at the University of North Carolina tell a harrowing tale. They mark the exact moment (8:19 and 56 seconds) the watch’s owner Elisha Mitchell slipped and fell to his death at a waterfall in the Appalachian Mountains on the morning of June 27, 1857.

Mitchell, a professor at the university, was gathering data to defend his (correct) claim that the peak he was on—which now bears his name, Mount Mitchell—was the highest one east of the Mississippi. His grave is located at the mountain’s summit, not far from where he fell.

As I ascended that mountain peak recently, I reflected on Mitchell’s story and my own mortality and how each of us has only so much time. And I pondered Jesus’ words about His return as He spoke to His disciples on the Mount of Olives: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44).

Jesus clearly indicates that none of us knows either the moment He will return and establish His kingdom forever or when He may summon us to leave this world and come to Him. But He tells us to be prepared and “keep watch” (v. 42).

Tick . . . tick . . . The “clockwork” of each of our lives is still in motion—but for how long? May we live our moments in love with our merciful Savior, waiting and working for Him.

Witness Marks

By |2022-04-01T10:01:57-04:00April 1st, 2022|

“See that?” The clock repairman pointed his flashlight beam on a small, fine mark roughly engraved inside the old grandfather clock he was working on in our home. “Another repairman could have put that there almost a century ago,” he said. “It’s called a ‘witness mark,’ and it helps me know how to set the mechanism.”

Before the age of technical bulletins and repair manuals, “witness marks” were used to help the person making a future repair to align moving parts with precision. They were more than just time-saving reminders; they were often left as a simple kindness to the next person doing the work.

The Bible encourages us to leave our own “witness marks” as we work for Him by serving others in our broken world. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:2). This is the example of our God, “who gives endurance and encouragement” (v. 5). It’s about being a good citizen of both earth and heaven.

Our “witness marks” may seem like small things, but they can make a vital difference in someone’s life. An uplifting word, a financial gift to someone in need, and a listening ear—all are kindnesses that can have a lasting impact. May God help you to make a mark for Him in someone’s life today!

Go to Top