My, How You’ve Changed

1 Corinthians 15:51–54 (ESV)
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

My, how you’ve changed
Was the regular refrain
Each time we met again
My Grandmother and I.

My, how you’ve changed.
How you’ve grown
In one year alone,
For distance has sped my advance.

My, how you’ve changed
Since I saw you last.
Too long has passed!
But alas we’re together again.

My, how you’ve changed
It’s hard to ignore
That you’ve changed more than ever before!

Or so it seemed to her.
For I seemed the same to me
And so did she.
Until the roles reversed.

My, how you’ve changed,
For more often than not
She forgot.
This was our journey now.

My, how you’ve changed.
We sit; we rehearse
Our story’s verse.
A final I love you.

My, how you’ve changed.
Jesus whispers, “Come.”
Her spirit runs.
And she begins to give thanks.

Now I look to the day when
In new bodies arrayed
We in unison say,
My, oh my, how you’ve changed!

Goodnight, Grandpa

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 (ESV)

He’s fallen asleep. That’s all. No need to grieve like one with no hope. Grieve, but grieve in hope.

Jesus died. Moreover, Jesus is risen! This is the ground of our hope, Paul reasons.

Grandpa has fallen asleep. Oh, but what a precious reality of assurance it is to me that while he was awake, Grandpa treasured Jesus. And his treasuring Christ during his 83 years is his claim to the promise of resurrection with Jesus in the age to come.

I embrace so many fond memories of time with him when he was awake. His love for Jesus was evident. He modeled a life that showed Christ’s importance… his value. Service to Jesus’ church was ingrained in Grandpa. He wanted others to know and love Him. I never knew a time when he didn’t love God (though I recognize that his relationship with Christ did have a beginning… It just began before I, myself, woke up). I loved this about Grandpa.

Grandpa rejoiced in creation, and gave glory to its Creator. God was good to him, blessing him with a love for the outdoors and with many years post-work, where Grandpa could enjoy what He had made. Fishing. Hunting. Golfing. Shooting. Boating. Gardening. Mowing (you shoulda seen his yard!). My back yard exists as more than dirt because of Grandpa’s expertise with nature. I loved this about him.

Grandpa was an entrepreneur. An inventor and a creator after the image of The Creator. He understood things. He just… did. From business to mechanics to electronics… He just knew things. I loved this about him.

Not only did I love his creativity, I imitated it, myself… or at least I’m trying to. My interest in computing was directly related to the days at his house, sitting behind him, watching him use the computer. From the early days of DOS to modern iPhones and iPads, Grandpa loved computers and enjoyed sharing that experience with me. I’m grateful. I love software development, and I attribute that to him. But like Grandpa, my love for computing is not an end in itself. Rather, it is (and was, for him) a reflection of God’s own creative expression.

I could go on, and on, but more words would simply echo what’s already been said, just from different perspectives and experiences. I think I’ll pause here, while I have a few moments of quiet to wrap up (life with a two year old and a newborn is hectic, to say the least).

Goodnight, Grandpa. I’ll see you in the Morning.

Reflections on Love: Asking Too Much, or Giving Too Little?

1 John 3:16-17 (ESV)

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

Knowing Love

In the first part of verse 16, we are given the essence of what love really is:

“By this we know love…”
Q: By what? What is “this”?
A: “He laid down his life for us.”

Jesus. Son of God. Anointed One. Perfect. Sinless. Beautiful. Glorious. God in flesh.

Abandoned. Mocked. Beaten. Scourged. Flesh ripped from his body. Crucified.

For us.

Jesus on the cross, dying for us, us the ultimate picture of love, and without this, humanity would have no true experience of divine love.

Overflowing Love

The remainder of verse 16, and verses 17, 18, and 19 expand that fundamental essence of love and gives its natural outworking: Overflow. Love naturally overflows!

What does that overflow look like?

“…we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

How amazing is it that John says, “…he laid down his life for us…” and immediately concludes from that statement that we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

In other words, if we are Christ’s, we ought to do as Christ did.

One demonstration of love is that, just like Jesus, you and I would willingly deny our own physical care to accommodate the need of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, even if that would cost us our very lives.

This is a staggering conclusion that John makes. It left me turning inward. I began to ask myself, “How often does the thought of even possibly needing to give my life for another believer cross my mind?” In all honesty, it never does unless I run across this verse and it causes me to think.

So I thought. And what I thought hit me like a ton of bricks.

Love and sacrifice: Asking too much, or giving too little?

If we should so-mimic our Savior that we ought go to the extreme of dying for our brothers and sisters in Jesus, how could we possibly be unwilling to do something for them that would require less of a sacrifice.

In other words, if the most extreme sacrifice we should ever make for another believer is to die for them, shouldn’t we be able to make any other sacrifice requiring less of us on their behalf?

You and I can give nothing greater than our very lives. That, it seems, is the greatest sacrifice we could make for another person. Therefore, if those who are in Christ should go to that extent if the situation required it, all other sacrifices being less severe, should also be within the realm of “oughtness” as well.

Perspective Prayer

This puts verse 17 into incredible perspective, doesn’t it?

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

Your brother is in need. He’s not asking for your life… just a helping hand. Just a few dollars. Just a friend. A meal. Some time. A smile. [insert need.]

“Oh Father, how meetable are so many needs. You have shown us clearly that following your Son in self-sacrificial love is a beautiful way to treasure him. Yet our brothers and sisters rarely ask us for our last breath. May the overflow of joy in you that would empower us to lay down our lives also move us to glad-hearted, need-meeting generosity.”

Experiencing a Miracle – A Review of "Caged In"

Home sweet home

I had just returned from an amazing journey in the mountains at the base of the Himalayas. Some fellow classmates and I had organized a team to visit a small village school that had no clean drinking water. We built them the first of three water cisterns, and by golly, it was holding the water that was being piped to it from a fresh mountain spring. Success!

Exhausted doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when I finally made it back to my apartment after the week’s labor and journey home. After I cleaned up, I sat down, and opened my e-mail.

“It’s from Momma!”, I thought, as I browsed my mid-November messages.

The subject: “Dad”.

“Ooohh, boy. Here we go – what’s he done now?”, I said to myself as I clicked the message to read it.

Hey Sweetie,

Momma began…

I’m not sure if you are getting internet at your new place or whether you are out and about … I wanted to let you know that Dad has been in an accident in Oklahoma.

My heart sank. I couldn’t see the screen anymore – a blur washed over my eyes and I couldn’t bear to read what my mind had already extrapolated had happened.

I took a moment, and began again where I left off.

By all indications right now, Dad is going to be okay. He does have a few injuries, but considering the circumstances we are very blessed to still have him with us.

What-a-range-of-emotions. At this point I needed more than e-mail, so I called home and got as many details as I could from Momma.

Something’s missing

But you know, there’s only so much that can be communicated over such long distance in the midst what had to have been chaos back home. On top of all that, there was absolutely nothing I could do at the time to help with the situation, except pray my heart out for my Dad’s recovery.

God’s calling on my life had landed me in a place of total absence in the story of my Dad’s accident, his miraculous survival, and his tenacious recovery… I missed it… All of it…

I felt so incomplete in terms of being able to relate to what he went through. When I returned to the States in 2008, he’d made astounding progress and had recovered from the accident (for the most part). I didn’t see him when he experienced the hardest times. I didn’t feel his pain. I didn’t experience his emotions. I didn’t watch his progress and witness his setbacks and the emotional and spiritual highs and lows that accompanied being a miracle survivor. I wasn’t there.

Dad’s latest accomplishment

But then my dear Dad went and did something amazing. He wrote a book! “Caged In”, he called it. “Experience the Journey of a Miracle Survivor Fighting the Cages of Life’s Obstacles”.

I was absent in my dad’s story, but I entered it as I turned the pages of his autobiographical work, covering the events of November 2007 and the months following.

From “Pizza Pockets” to “Free to Soar”, you will experience my amazing, miracle of a father in true “Charlie Bancroft” form.

I loved reading his book, not only because it filled in the vast number of gaps I had in relating to his story prior to reading it, but also for these reasons:

  • It’s genuine – you truly get the “Charlie Bancroft experience” – corny jokes and all. Enjoy!
  • It’s relatable – you will relate to something in this book.
  • It gives perspective – As my Mamaw (his mom) says, “If he can survive that, I can survive today!”
  • It’s helpful – My dad worked hard to point out life’s many cages, and he gives practical, God-honoring advice on how to break out of those cages and soar. He provides several “Teachable Moment” segments which accompany his story as well.

For your joy

I commend the book to you for your joy and encouragement. If you’re going through a hard time… If you know someone who’s going through a hard time… “Caged In” is inspirational and motivating in every way.

It can be purchased from his website, or on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle edition.

Thank you, Dad, for the hard work you put in to helping others know the joy you’ve found in Jesus by writing this book and giving him credit and glory for the breaths you’ve been granted to breathe today. Thank you for the insight it gave me into your story. I love you!

Simple words. Powerful cross.

1 Corinthians 1:17 (ESV) — 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Whenever the topic of faith in Jesus enters a conversation, my attention is immediately heightened to what I’m saying.  Do I sound “intelligent”?  Is my “credibility” as a “rational person” at stake when I start talking about the gospel?  In a world permeated with the need to be found reasonable, I often react in one of two ways when God comes up in a conversation:

  • Shrink back and say nothing.
  • Present my case for the gospel in a way that attempts to maintain the right perception that I’ve “researched” and “studied” and “am compelled by” the historical and factual nature of the New Testament’s account of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (ie, sound as eloquent and intelligent as possible).

Reflecting on 1 Corinthians 1:17 this morning leads me to believe that both reactions are inappropriate because both deny the power of the cross.

Silence

By the very structure of the sentence, Paul says that he preaches the gospel, and he doesn’t preach the gospel without words.  There is no such thing.  He qualifies how he preaches by saying that he does it without words of eloquent wisdom.  Shrinking back and saying nothing wordlessly conveys the message that the cross was not and is not powerful in my own life.  A cross of Christ that’s not powerful enough to compel me to communicate its saving power is apparently a pretty weak one.

Eloquence

What about the other end of the spectrum?

To that comes Paul’s qualification that while he preaches the gospel, he does it without words of eloquent wisdom, arguing that if he were to augment the message of the gospel with eloquent wisdom, that it would strip the cross of its power.  This struck me big time, because I never considered that by attempting to come across with sophistication and intelligence when preaching the gospel, I’m effectively diminishing the intrinsic power of the cross.

Paul seems to think that the hearer ought to be compelled by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit partnered with the message of the cross of Christ to take what would normally be a stumbling block or a message of pure foolishness (v 23) and transform it into the saving power of God.

Challenge

Let the cross be what it will be.  Leave both silence and eloquence behind.  Don’t empty the cross of its power. Trust God to take the simple words you speak and bring out the deep-rooted power of the cross of Christ.

Is God's "God-ness" Enough?

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

“I am with you”, says God. “Therefore, fear not.”

“I am your God”, says God. “Therefore, be not dismayed.”

In righteousness God promises strength, help, and upholding. “I will”, God says. “I will.”

Faith sees these words and embraces them as reality. It looks and says, “Jesus bought that for me with his blood!”

Jesus bought God’s “God-ness” as I’m terming it. Because of this amazing reality, God is with me. God is my God, and he promises to be my strength and help, and to uphold me. God’s righteous right hand is on my side. All of this. For me (and you). In Jesus. Is it enough?

I’m asking God to persuade my heart at every inkling of doubt to trust and believe this solid ground as I face the uncertainty that is every single day of 2014. Join me.

Father's Day 2.0

How is it that the father of a 5.5 month old baby boy (me!) is claiming to celebrate “Father’s Day 2.0”??

My wife wrote a very compelling blog post last year around Father’s Day. You can find it over at her blog, “Eve’s Daughter”.

I love the argument she presents – how we wholeheartedly believe that life begins at conception and that our baby boy is 5.5 months old since birth, but he has existed as a human being for well over a year now. She wrote,

If we believe that life begins at conception…then why do we tell a mom that she isn’t really a mom until a baby is born?

Likewise, is a dad only a dad when his baby is born? Does not a baby exist prior to birth? If that’s what we hold to be true (which is what we’re saying when we say “life begins at conception”), then that baby must also have parents!

As I reflected on this today, I began to think of it like this:

If we agree with the assertion that Courtney and I only became parents on December 31, 2012 when Silas was born, this would mean one of two things:

1. Silas was not a person before he was born. However, we have already written that we do not hold this to be a true statement. Silas was a human being in the womb.

OR

2. Silas was an orphan before he was born.

A child without parents is by definition an orphan. And I assure you, my baby boy has never been without a mom and a dad who love and care for him.

So I am celebrating my second Father’s Day today because my baby boy had a daddy from the very start who loves him beyond what language can express.

How Old is Silas Allen?

“Ooooohh, now… how old is he??”  I love this question.  Really!  I do!  Every time I’m asked I get to talk about my kid, and that’s always fun.  But today, things just got even more fun.  Now, instead of just telling people his approximate age, I can show them his precise age down to the second!

As some of you know, I’ve been nerding out on learning to build iOS apps for iPhone and iPad.  Well, to celebrate Silas turning another month old, I built a little app that tells me how many years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds he is old.  I also built in functionality so that I can see how much longer it will be until his birthday (actually, I think I just thought of a bug with that part, but it won’t show itself until 2014 so I have time…it shouldn’t be nearly as bad as the Y2K panic – but date math is non-trivial, just so you know). 

And yes, for those of you who are just as OCD as I am, I did consider the fact that he was born at 12:06 AM (sorry…they didn’t give us the exact millisecond of his debut or I’d have that in there too).

Check out this video of the app showing his age as he turned 3 months old this morning!

Silas Allen Turns 3 Months Old! from Andrew Bancroft on Vimeo.

Review of "Love to the Uttermost"

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As a dad looking for a way to lead my family in devotions for Holy Week, I was thrilled when I heard that Desiring God had released a daily devotion guide for this week leading up to Easter. Courtney and I (and Silas, though he was still preparing for his big day) really enjoyed reading the Advent series during Christmas, so I was excited to see the Holy Week counterpart, “Love to the Uttermost”.

And I was not disappointed. I cheated… I read all of it already. I highly, highly recommend this simple, yet powerful book. It’s designed to ignite our joy in Jesus by causing us to pause and reflect on his love for us, most visibly demonstrated and felt when he laid down his life and took it up again, so that undeserving sinners can be happy in God forever.

The devotions are

  • Clear and concise
  • Eye-opening
  • Joy producing
  • Jesus-glorifying

If you don’t yet have a plan for this week, it’s not too late. The devotions are short but powerful. You could even catch up if you don’t see this recommendation until mid-week. Head over to Desiring God’s site and download this free eBook today. For your joy!

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you… What?

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart“, the Psalmist writes in chapter 37 verse 4.

Question:

What is the promise of this verse?  What exactly does “give you the desires of your heart” mean?

Confession:

I am so caught up in myself and in the world I see.  Sadly, my vision of true worth and true beauty is far from 20-20.  My senses just don’t pick up on what really satisfies – I’ve become desensitized…  dull…  I feel like I’ve entirely missed the point of Psalm 37:4 for the majority of my life.

I have come upon this sentence multiple times.  Each time, the Psalmist’s words have met my heart in varying but similar ways:

  • “Really?  Delight myself in the Lord and he’ll give me whatever I want??  Awesome!  Done deal!”
  • “I’m pretty sure I was wrong before – this probably doesn’t mean I get whatever I want if I delight myself in the Lord.  BUT, maybe if I start to want things that God wants he’ll grant me those wants.  And maybe some of these wants I have can sort of become ‘godlified’ so that it’s less greedy…but in the end I still get some of what I want…”
  • “Maybe this delighting in the Lord thing has more of a shaping effect on my desires than I thought before – maybe God means that he’ll put the actual desires in my heart as I focus on him.  Maybe that’s how I start to want the things that God wants.  And maybe he’ll give me some of the same wants that I’ve wanted before, only now they’re really what God wants for me because he wanted me to have the want and stuck it in my heart!”  (my brain… I know…  this happens all day…)

The Trend:

Did you notice a trend in each of those themes of thought?  If I could pick a key word to describe all three of those, I’d choose the word self.  Sure, the latter two were a little less obviously selfish.  But don’t let the spiritual mask over the face of my idolatry fool you – at the core, I kept hoping that God was in some way promising that if I’d just delight in him, he’d be the supplier of all that I’ve ever wanted.  In fact, he was promising something far different (and far greater) if I had eyes to see.

Breakthrough:

The promise of this verse as I see it now is quite simply this:  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you [himself].”

Recall that the psalmist wrote that he will give you “the desires of your heart”.  Why do I believe you can safely replace “the desires of your heart” with “himself”?

My reasoning is quite simple:  Delight presupposes desire.  In other words, if you find yourself pursuing your delight in something or someone, it must be true that you first desire the object of your present delight.  You cannot truly delight in something or someone that you despise.  Otherwise, the “delight” is a ruse.  It’s hypocrisy.

So if that’s true, then my delighting in the Lord is a result of the fact that I desire him.  The promise becomes something so much greater than God giving me the stuff I’ve always wanted.  As my heart is changed to desire God, delight in God rises, and as I’m delighting in the Lord, his promise comes:  “I will satisfy the desires you have for me by giving you myself.”

In fact, would it not be cruel and unloving of God if he was promising something other than this?  Think about it… “I desire God.  Therefore I delight in him.  God then responds by giving me [money], [a great job], [some other substitute] instead of what I actually desire (namely, God, himself)???  No!  No, no, no!  

I’m not saying that God doesn’t bless his people.  I’m just saying that’s not necessarily the point of this verse!  This verse is saying that your heart’s abundant desires can not merely be met by God, but, more incredibly, can be satisfied fully and completely in God.  As desire for God produces authentic delight in him as the supreme Treasure that he is, he promises to satisfy you by giving you himself.

Thrill or Disappointment?

I can’t say this has always been true in my life, but when I read this and thought about it, it thrilled my heart (which spurred this blog post).  I can think of how this promise would have met me in the past – sadly, I would have probably been somewhat disappointed that my “old” desires aren’t even in the picture.  Tragically, I’d have viewed God as the inferior substitute satisfaction, rather than the other way around.

So how does this promise meet you?  I’ve tried to be transparent in my assessment of my own life.  Can you be transparent with yours?  God is promising himself to you.  Does this land on you with thrill, or with disappointment?