59:29 · March 28, 2023
In this episode of Grace at the Fray, Jim is joined by Barbara Bancroft, who, along with her husband Josiah, has been a part of Serge since its earliest days. Together, they delve into what it means to follow the Spirit and maintain ongoing fellowship with Him in our daily lives. By doing so, we experience the fullness of what Jesus Christ has achieved for us, no matter our emotional or circumstantial state.
In this episode of Grace at the Fray, Jim is joined by Barbara Bancroft, who, along with her husband Josiah, has been a part of Serge since its earliest days. Together, they delve into what it means to follow the Spirit and maintain ongoing fellowship with Him in our daily lives. By doing so, we experience the fullness of what Jesus Christ has achieved for us, no matter our emotional or circumstantial state.
Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!
This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy.
Our guest for this episode was author, speaker, and mentor Barbara Bancroft. She has worked alongside her husband, Josiah, since 1976 in pastoring, church planting, and missions.
𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.
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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His kingdom.
Jim Lovelady 0:26 Hello, beloved! Welcome to another episode of Grace at the Fray, the podcast from Serge, where we share stories of gospel transformation from the world of Serge for the life of the world. Today, I want to share a conversation that I had with Barbara Bancroft. She and her husband, Josiah, have been with Serge for years and years as missionaries and as part of the leadership of our organization. And we have a conversation about what it means to follow the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, and have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. And it’s a conversation that just meanders because that’s kind of what it means to have fellowship with the Holy Spirit: wherever the Spirit goes, you go. So I hope you find yourself in this story as we wrestle through what it means to walk in step with the Spirit.
Jim Lovelady 1:27 There’s a word for when you can’t remember the word. Do you remember what the word is?
Barbara Bancroft 1:35 I love that. I have this… I don’t know what it is. Anyway, I get these emails every day with vocabulary words, and I read them, engage them, and love them. But I cannot integrate them into my everyday life. I need to use it ten times or whatever. I’m like, oh, my gosh.
Jim Lovelady 1:55 My mom, when I was growing up, set about making me… or the endeavor of giving me a high vocabulary. And I remember two words.
Barbara Bancroft 2:08 I started to say, “Good for her,” but then, well…
Jim Lovelady 2:10 I remember two words I learned in that phase of growing up.
Barbara Bancroft 2:15 Which were?
Jim Lovelady 2:15 Recalcitrant…
Barbara Bancroft 2:16 Okay, that’s a good word to teach a kid.
Jim Lovelady 2:18 …and pulchritudinous.
Barbara Bancroft 2:20 Pulchritudinous. I do not know…
Jim Lovelady 2:21 Like, gorgeous…
Barbara Bancroft 2:26 That’s a great word!
Jim Lovelady 2:28 That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. That’s all I know!
So I love that you are a Gaggia owner.
Barbara Bancroft 2:36 I love that thing.
Jim Lovelady 2:37 I mean, this podcast is not sponsored by Gaggia, but…. The fact that you did the research means that you’re, on some level, a coffee geek?
Barbara Bancroft 2:45 Well, yes; I’m embarrassed to say how many coffee devices we have in our home and have gotten rid of because you can only accommodate so many.
Jim Lovelady 2:56 My brother is a huge coffee geek. And then he’ll constantly be upgrading something. And I’ll be like, I can’t do that—the accessories for all the espresso.
Meanwhile, we’re drinking green tea.
Barbara Bancroft 3:11 Because hey, I’ve had my double lungo; I am done for the day.
Jim Lovelady 3:15 Me too.
So, hey, it’s really good to meet you.
Barbara Bancroft 3:20 Very nice to meet you, Jim.
Jim Lovelady 3:21 I’m glad that you’re here. And I love that when Anna said, “Hey, do you want to be on the podcast? What do you want to talk about?” You said what it means to walk with the Spirit. So before we pressed record, we were talking about how this is a thing that is like: What does it mean to take the theology and actually work it out in our lives? And this is one that can feel just disconnected, and we can just feel confused. So that’s what I want to talk about today. But, you’ve got to tell… we just met. I mean, I know the legend of you.
Barbara Bancroft 4:03 Oh, that’s unfortunate.
Jim Lovelady 4:05 But you’ve got to tell me about yourself.
Barbara Bancroft 4:08 Well, when Josiah was in seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, he started going over to this little town in Louisiana to preach on the weekends. We ended up going there as our first church. There were three families in a small town where four rivers came together, so it was basically a swamp. Backwoods. The town had been settled by civil war deserters and criminals. So it wasn’t what you would call the cream of the crop in terms of a place to be.
Jim Lovelady 4:48 Cultural pace setters.
Barbara Bancroft 4:50 We were just green out of a seminary. We got married young; I was young. We had, by the time we got there, three little kids. But there were… people were being… people were knocking on the door, people were demon-possessed. And these guys that established the church became believers as adults, so they were passionate about Christ. They were successful businessmen; their business was oil. But they just believed that if the Bible said it, it was true. And they would pray for anything. I remember when Josiah was still going back and forth, there was a man in the community who was a Christian leader who had died. And Josiah came over, and the elders wanted to pray for this guy’s resurrection. He said, “We can’t live without this guy; our community needs this guy.” And Josiah was like, okay, so he went back to seminary and asked his Systematics professor, “Can I pray for resurrection? Is this appropriate? Can you give me some pointers? Do you know how this goes?” And, God bless him, the Systematics professor said, “You know, the Bible doesn’t prevent it. But I don’t really know a lot about it. You probably need to go find some charismatics.” And so that was our first pastorate. And so I think what God did to a PCA… someone that could have become sort of stayed in their Presbyterianism, God just shook that up right at the beginning.
Jim Lovelady 6:47 Immediately.
Barbara Bancroft 6:48 And so our whole ministry life has been… we had this category for things going on, and I don’t know what… it’s just a part of who we are. And so I think that how the Spirit works, and seeing the Spirit work and staying connected with that has always been a part of how I think about the Christian life.
Jim Lovelady 7:21 So Josiah was in seminary, getting his head full of theology.
Barbara Bancroft 7:27 Yes.
Jim Lovelady 7:27 And then immediately, he jumps into this place where it’s like… well, I love that even the seminary professor was like, “That’s outside my category of comprehension, but it’s not outside the working of the Spirit.”
Barbara Bancroft 7:40 Right. Right. Right.
Jim Lovelady 7:41 And so the Holy Spirit goes, “Hey, don’t let your head… I love you too much to let your head get away from your heart.”
Barbara Bancroft 7:51 It was such a gift from God because people were so unschooled, if you will, in scripture that the first thing they did was buy pew Bibles. And Josiah would always say turn to page whatever. And that’s how people would find where he was in scripture. So yeah, it was a great thing to jerk you out of the seminary “whatever it is” that everybody has to get over.
Jim Lovelady 8:17 Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I was warned in seminary, “Hey, watch out for this.” And it’s like, “Oh, yeah, totally. Totally.” Then, sure enough, in the first year of ministry, man, I was a jerk. I was a jerk. I was a theology-know-it-all jerk.
Barbara Bancroft 8:37 I think it’s almost impossible.
Jim Lovelady 8:39 And I was warned! Like, everyone warned me. “Hey, don’t be a know-it-all. Don’t come in with all the answers.” “Oh, yeah. Yeah, sure. Sure, sure. All right. I’m here because I have all the answers.”
Barbara Bancroft 8:51 That’s right. And I will just tell you, this first church we were in had zero… they were not impressed with that at all. Now, they begged Josiah to come and be their pastor because he’s an exegetical Bible teacher. And I think he’s really gifted at that. And they recognized that, and they really… in the vernacular of the time, they’re like, “We need teaching.” That was the way they were, and they always called him… he was “Brother,” and I was “Sister.” They called each other Brother and Sister; it was just great. It was just a great difference from the atmosphere of seminary. And then, all of these people with these wild… and we saw people healed, and it was just wild. So that was great. It was a good beginning because we thought, “Wow, the Holy Spirit does stuff.” Like, He really does stuff. I think people are so cautious. Like, is this right? Is this wrong? Can I pray about this? It’s like… I think… I do so many things wrong, so why is it that area I’m not willing to do something wrong? You know, step out and…
Jim Lovelady 10:06 We so often want to pray with this fear of some kind of doctrinal, “Dear God, Jesus Father, Spirit. God,” we just want to make sure that all of our theological…
Barbara Bancroft 10:20 Right. Yeah, absolutely.
Jim Lovelady 10:23 And then, the Holy Spirit’s like, “I know your heart. And I just want to be with you. It’s okay. It’s okay. Let’s go have some fun.”
Barbara Bancroft 10:33 Reading the gospels is, it’s almost, it’s so surreal. First of all, it’s a world we don’t understand, and we can’t visualize it. And the sounds, the smells, the dust, anything, everything… so we instantly read in our western culture. But Jesus was just so unpredictable. He was just so interesting as a person. And there are situations, and you think, “Oh, I think He’s going to say this.” And He would say…
Jim Lovelady 11:13 …the exact opposite!
Barbara Bancroft 11:14 …something completely different! Yeah, I think it’s really easy to be wrong about God. And it’s only the Spirit. And I think that’s the thing that I love, the idea of the Spirit is truth. And I don’t mean that as whatever I think, then it’s true. That’s not what I’m saying. But that I can trust Him to reveal truth to me. And that He really is trustworthy. He will do that. I’ve always seen this in myself and others, and I believe that He would like to tell me a lot more than I’m willing to hear. And so it’s not that God is withholding stuff from me. It’s that I’m holding my ears, “please don’t tell me, please don’t tell me, please don’t tell me.”
When Josiah and I went through the Sonship course, which is kind of an old part of Serge, that was back in 1991. At that point, we had been in two different church plants over about 12 or 13 years. And I was pretty depressed. Being a pastor’s wife just did not particularly fit who I was. I found it difficult. Because I think, as a pastor’s wife, I had gotten into this mode of: my job was to appear competent, to appear as someone without troubles, to appear as someone who trusted God and knew what they were doing and was a good mom and a faithful wife. And I had this…
Jim Lovelady 13:08 All these unspoken or sometimes spoken expectations for what it looks like or what it should look like for someone to be a pastor’s wife.
Barbara Bancroft 13:18 And it’s like the frog in the frying pan. I had gradually bought into that without even realizing it. But then all of a sudden, you find yourself in this place where you think…
Jim Lovelady 13:31 Where you’re cooking!
Barbara Bancroft 13:33 I’m depressed. I hate my life. And I hate everyone around me, particularly the church. I hate the church. You know, just horrible responses. But they were responses of desperation.
Jim Lovelady 13:44 It’s funny how you finally wake up to that. The frog in the frying pan is a great illustration because you go, “Wait a second. What’s that smell? Something is burning.” And then you start to have language for it, where you go, “Oh, I don’t like these people. Oh, I don’t like the expectations.” And then you have the language for it. And you go, “Oh my goodness. What do I do about that?” And that’s where the desperation comes from…
Barbara Bancroft 14:10 And there is all this stuff that comes out, and then you think, “Oh my goodness, all of the stuff has been in me, and I’ve just been tamping it down.” So I think part of going through the Sonship course was seeing that my sin was no longer a threat. It wasn’t scary anymore.
Jim Lovelady 14:27 Oh, that’s good.
Barbara Bancroft 14:28 Because it’s like seeing my sin and then being willing to say Jesus actually did enough to pay for the sin—not being that victim who is beyond help, which I was very good at. You know, God can help everybody but me…
Jim Lovelady 14:47 Cuddling up with self-pity.
Barbara Bancroft 14:48 God can change everybody but me, and all that horrible stuff. But anyway, that was actually the door. Recognizing sin, agreeing with the Holy Spirit, turning to Christ, and saying, “You’re sufficient to cover this.” That was the door to fellowship; that was a door to the Spirit filling my heart in a way that I could experience Him. That was the door to beginning to experience God’s love for me—emotionally, actually, not just as some sort of head thing that I could recite. I knew a lot, but the experience of it was just beyond me because I was so afraid that my sin was beyond redemption. And yeah, but once I connected those ideas of the Spirit revealing sin and then what the Spirit does. He doesn’t leave us there. He then pushes us to Christ. He then opens our eyes, and we see the cross, and we see our righteous Savior who not only forgave us but also… now, I’m righteous! Now I stand before God, and I don’t have to hang my head. I don’t have to be ashamed. And so I feel like all of that together. You can’t separate the power of the Spirit from the daily experience of His leading and walking. He convicts, but then He comforts, and then He points us to Christ, and all of that. You can’t separate it. And I tend to want to separate it because, in a way, it’s a lot. But in another way, it’s kind of instantaneous. Once the Holy Spirit opens my eyes or, in the morning, reorients me to who I am, then it’s a different ballgame. It’s, I don’t know…
Jim Lovelady 17:11 Yeah. Every Christian I know would say, if I said, “Hey, maybe on a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel like your fellowship with the Holy Spirit is?” They’d be like, “Oh, I know that I want that to be better. Don’t make me put a number on it. Please don’t make me put a number. I do know that. I want it to be better.” So there’s an inherent invitation even with that question.
Barbara Bancroft 17:40 I have found that one of the ways that the Holy Spirit really effectively and powerfully works in people’s lives is just for me, as I’m engaging them, to trust that He is doing that. And that I don’t have to figure out a way to introduce a topic or guide them to where I want them to go. But the Spirit, He loves them, and He’s powerful enough to do it in a way that I might be a part of that, in a phrase, a verse, a story, or just, you know… A lot of times—the thing that’s funny—this used to happen to Josiah all the time when he preached, I’m sure it happened to you too, is that people would come up afterward and say, “Oh, when you said this, it was so helpful.” And he’d say, “I never said that.”
Jim Lovelady 18:38 Exactly.
Barbara Bancroft 18:38 And I think that oftentimes the Spirit uses more the fact that we are there, with the Holy Spirit in us, believing, so we are believing for them. And that’s a powerful moment. And that the Spirit inhabits that, the Spirit uses that, He works at that moment. And we may never know it. We probably, most of the time, don’t know it. And I think that’s part of what it means to walk by faith, is that, instead of assuming that nothing’s happening, that part of what God wants me to do is step in and assume that something is happening. You know? And that He is working in, if I will engage that with faith, like, okay, I’m available and here and then at that moment, of course, it’s really helpful if I’m believing that my sins are covered. Because I also think… what happens is that if I’m not in that place where I am experiencing the righteousness of Christ for me, it’s easy for me to have an agenda for people. It’s easy for me to try to get life out of them, you know what I mean? Like something I need, and I can use people to get what I need and never even know it. And not be aware of that. And I think that it’s powerful when I’m standing in the righteousness of Christ.
Jim Lovelady 20:20 That seems like a big step in and of itself, though. So I think about a housewife who’s just discouraged because her husband’s a jerk. And I think about a husband who’s discouraged because his boss is a jerk. And I think about all the places where the low-level anxiety is just always there – for me, for folks who are trying to follow Jesus. So there’s this, “I’m anxious about something.” One of my favorite verses is “Be anxious for nothing.” I go, “I’m good at that. I can be anxious for nothing.” Is that not how that goes? So this low-level anxiety distracts me, and I go, “Okay, Jesus. Tell me what to do.” and then I’ll sit there. And then the anxiety creeps in. And I go, “Oh, Jesus, could You help me forget about the anxieties? Because I want to focus on You. Okay, I’m going to focus on You. Here comes the anxiety. Could you please?” and so what I think is beautiful about what you’re saying is that, no, it’s the anxiety that is forcing itself into your heart right now that’s reminding you of its existence—because that’s where the Spirit wants to meet you.
Barbara Bancroft 21:43 That’s the moment.
Jim Lovelady 21:44 That’s the moment.
Barbara Bancroft 21: 45 That He’s pushing in and inviting us. And I know it. What I’ve always found difficult to articulate is that it doesn’t seem to make sense that if I focus on what… focus is not the right word because I don’t think I should live there. But if I open myself up and say, “Lord, just show me what you want to show me today about myself.”
Jim Lovelady 22:21 Yeah. And what immediately pops into your brain is something that’s like, well, certainly not that. But, well, that’s distracting me.
Barbara Bancroft 22:28 But that actually, that doesn’t seem like, well, that doesn’t seem like that would help me have the grace for my jerky husband. It doesn’t seem to make sense. Like, what I need to have grace for my jerky husband is to read passages about, whatever, have some list of passages that I should read through…
Jim Lovelady 22:53 Which is our normal strategy.
Barbara Bancroft 22:55 Right, which is going to help me to tolerate my husband. But that’s not going to be effective. That’s not powerful. That’s like zero because it doesn’t… although the scripture is powerful, the thing that makes it powerful in me is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has to apply that scripture to my heart. And I think that’s one reason I just couldn’t seem to get out of this depression and frustration with being a pastor’s wife and discouragement and whatever, and I’m not good enough, and all that, is because I kept trying to address the specific issues. And what I was unwilling to do is just simply let the Holy Spirit show me my need for Christ and believe that that would change me; that is what would give me the power to love somebody who is difficult, or because, as I’m in that moment, I can see, “Well, they’re not the only difficult person in the room.” You know, because it works humility in our hearts. It’s that humility that allows me to…it’s that humility that the Spirit inhabits because that humility that says, “If it weren’t for Jesus covering my sins, not only would I be like that, I would be worse.” And that you have this idea that, “You know, I wonder how other people experience me? It’s probably not very good.” or, I mean, I have this moment all the time. I have this… anyway. I see the entitlement in my heart frequently when I’m driving my car.
Jim Lovelady 24:51 Okay. Yeah. Preach!
Barbara Bancroft 24:52 Because in the area I live in, there are a fair amount of older people. Now I myself am 67, but I don’t think of myself as an older driver.
Jim Lovelady 24:50 All those older people driving around!
Barbara Bancroft 25:02 Which is very ironic, but that’s human.
Jim Lovelady 25:05 Part of that goes with the whole entitlement thing there.
Barbara Bancroft 25:08 There you go. Because, that’s right because I’m special. But I have this little five-speed 2006 Scion. It’s a piece of crap. But I love it.
Jim Lovelady 25:17 Wait, you have a Scion?
Barbara Bancroft 25:18 I have a five-speed Scion.
Jim Lovelady 25:20 I drive a Scion.
Barbara Bancroft 25:21 No way!
Jim Lovelady 25:22 A five-speed manual Scion. What color is yours?
Barbara Bancroft 25:25 Mine is, you know, that silver color.
Jim Lovelady 25:26 That’s what mine is! Yes, mine is in the shop right now…
Barbara Bancroft 25:29 My hood is peeling, and Josiah is trying to get me to get it repainted. But I’m so cheap; I’m like, it doesn’t matter.
Jim Lovelady 25:37 I love it.
Barbara Bancroft 25:38 Because I love driving a manual. I come up on people’s bumper, I can tell when I’m in that entitlement mode because they’re in my way. And so I tend to kind of ride their bumper. And then the Holy Spirit is so great, because it’s one of those almost jokes we have between us. Because I do this…
Jim Lovelady 26:02 There you go again.
Barbara Bancroft 26:03 And then He just tweaks my heart. And I’m like, “Oh, my goodness.” And it’s a great moment because then I have this sweet time of fellowship with the Holy Spirit. He just breaks through. And I think that’s another thing I’ve seen: when you talk about the work of the Spirit, you have to be open. You have to be looking for it. You have to act like that’s actually going to be a part of your day—that all during the day, the Holy Spirit should be interrupting me. It is just not a big deal, just this interruption. And so I think that’s kind of part of what it means to walk in the Spirit or keep in step with the Spirit or whatever. Because I’m anticipating that He’s there, and that He’s going to interrupt me when I need to be interrupted. So I’m not surprised, and that happens. And then the moment is over, and you confess your sin.
Jim Lovelady 26:59 Well yeah, so contrast that with being surprised by our sin and being overwhelmed with, “I can’t believe I did that. Oh, my goodness, I am such a….” And the move towards self-deprecation, self-pity, and worldly sorrow that leads to death versus a godly sorrow that leads to joy. And in the simplicity of… They break on a dime, those Scions. So you can have that, like, “Here I am,” and then the Spirit moves in and goes, “Oh, hey, look what you’re doing.” And it’s like, “Oh, my gosh!” Well, when you’re so safe in the love of Christ, it’s silly. It’s silly that you’re doing that. It’s also silly that you would be ashamed of that, that you would be condemning yourself, that you would be accusing yourself because Satan is the accuser—don’t join his team! But you go, “Oh, Jesus, I did it again.”
Barbara Bancroft 27:56 But I don’t want to be confused that it is shameful. I mean, it’s shameful that I’m riding on this person’s bumper. It’s shameful that I think that somehow they shouldn’t be in my way. Yeah, it’s so arrogant.
Jim Lovelady 28:10 I mean, sin is horrible.
Barbara Bancroft 28:12 It is so arrogant, and so I don’t want to make light of my arrogance. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s God’s will at all that we live there. He just wants us to say, “That’s really ugly.” But I want to be careful to say that feeling confident in Christ’s righteousness and love was something that happened over time. This is not something that you can say, “Okay, I’m going to be that way too. Okay. All right. That’s me.” Because we had these ruts of sin that are so deep, and so at first and for a while, it’s really awkward. You’re thinking, “Okay, Jesus died for my sin.” And, it feels very awkward, like you’re learning how to dance or whatever, before it really becomes more of a confidence that my heart has changed—that I feel confident in something that took me a long time to feel confident in. It didn’t happen quickly.
When we first got to Ireland for our first term, it was a hard adjustment. We had three teenagers in an Irish school. And it was so traumatic for everybody that we didn’t make them take the city bus; Josiah said, “I’ll drive you in.” And for two weeks, our youngest daughter threw up every morning. It was either in the front yard, or he’d have to stop the car, and she’d throw up out the door. It was so so traumatic, so stressful. And we were all just really struggling.
Jim Lovelady 29:59 Frazzled.
Barbara Bancroft 30:00 And I would go, and I was just, I really didn’t know what to do. And I started reading Ephesians 3, where it talks about God’s love, Christ’s love for us. We had a little ensuite bathroom in our bedroom, which was the only place I could go and close the door and know that everybody would leave me alone. I would go in there almost daily and just weep through that passage. Because I was like, I wanted to know that, but I didn’t feel that. I wanted to know that love, but I couldn’t grab hold of it. And I just started praying that passage and prayed that passage for months. And God really began to give me this confidence that I had never had before in His love for me, which…
Jim Lovelady 31:03 Through the weeping prayer.
Barbara Bancroft 31:06 Through just engaging it and saying, “I can’t do this. I cannot. You have to do this. You have to show me. You have to open my heart. You have to help me.” So I think with everybody, you have these, your journey is different. And there are these milestones where you see that God really used this. And that was a milestone for me, and out of that, I’ve never been the same. I’m not saying I never doubt, but it looks and feels different than it did then. But at the same time, like being blind to your sin or being blindsided by your sin, the other night I couldn’t sleep, and I was staring at the ceiling, and I thought, “I’m really angry with you, aren’t I, God?” I hadn’t thought that. Josiah and I have had a tough year for various reasons. And I realized that I was really mad at God. And, that night and over the last few days, He’s really unpacked that. And when you see that ugliness in your heart, you just go, “Will I ever, ever change? Will I?” I mean, I think that’s the journey; the journey is no, we never arrive; the journey is not about how I’m doing. The journey is whether or not I’m connecting with Jesus. Am I believing Him? Am I having faith in what He’s done? Am I open to His Spirit? And then He takes care of the other stuff. So sometimes it’s stupid stuff like riding somebody’s bumper. And then sometimes it’s waking up in the night going, “Oh, I think I’m really mad at you.”
Jim Lovelady 33:27 Both are very similar, right? But it’s fascinating how you’ve been in conversation with the Spirit in such a way that when that happens, when you catch yourself driving, it’s like, “Oh, Jesus, there I go again. There, I did it again.” Maybe the first time you realized that there was this overwhelming sense of, “Oh, my goodness,” this shock of recognizing that “even in this little split second of a moment in my entire life, I am rebelling against the Divine. In this silly way? Seriously?” And when you actually see it, it’s even more ridiculous. But then, when you’re lying, staring up at the ceiling, it hits you. And it becomes this shocking moment. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still there. And so it’s like, I’m shocked about this. I’m embarrassed about this, Jesus, but I’m still mad. So here it is. Here’s everything, and those are the frayed edges of life. The grace at the fray, this podcast is called Grace at the Fray. Those are the frayed edges of life where Jesus goes, “Now you’re ready for a grace that you had never imagined.”
Barbara Bancroft 34:46 Yeah, I think the older I’ve gotten, the less surprised I am at what comes out of my heart and the more grieved I am. It’s not that I’m never defensive. But defensiveness was my number one response for many years: excuse-making, defending…
Jim Lovelady 35:22 Blame shifting.
Barbara Bancroft 35:23 Right. These are the extenuating circumstances, which is why it’s okay for me to be this way. And I know it’s going to sound weird, but I think it’s like, there’s that phrase that God is fitting us for heaven. And one of the weird things about getting older is that you begin to see that that’s actually a reality. And I’m less defensive and more, well, sometimes sinfully discouraged, going, “Come, Lord Jesus. It’s time. Please.” But a lot of times, I think it’s genuinely godly sorrow. I think one of the things I love about being more willing to look at my sin is that it also gives you this perspective of how holy God is, how other, how awesome. So it’s not just that it’s this little thing that happens down here in the dirt, but it’s like, it opens these vistas of God’s kingdom and God’s heaven. And hey, this thing is bigger than I am. This thing is bigger than I ever imagined. I think it captivates us. It captures our hearts. And we want to be a part of that. It gives me a reason to live other than this “tick the boxes” kind of way that I often live. So it’s all like a cloth. It’s all a fabric. It’s all woven together. And, sometimes, I might be more on this than that. But it’s like God opening us up to the reality. And I think that’s part of the thing about the Spirit; He opens us to the reality of the spiritual world. And I think now these days, I don’t know about you, but these days, it’s like, “Oh, okay. Oh, my gosh, everything happening in the world and so much evil.” And part of it is because now we have access. I mean, evil men have been doing evil things forever since time began. But now we get to see it; we get to hear it.
Jim Lovelady 37:53 It’s the same thing going on. When you and Josiah started your ministry in this little town, there was enough evil going on to fill that 50-square-mile area. And now your vista has grown to where now it’s a global thing. And it’s the same kind of evil, but you also met a wild God who heals and does wild, beautiful things to remake His world. And now you’re seeing as you’re lying down, staring at the ceiling, you’re confronted with a God who is beyond your wildest imaginations: His otherness, His holiness, His beauty, and you meet Him in that intimate, quiet moment. And it’s like… How do you describe that?
Barbara Bancroft 38:49 I don’t think you can. When I was driving over here, I was listening to a song, and my heart was filled with joy, thanksgiving and gratefulness, and I thought, “People that don’t know Jesus don’t get this. They don’t get this.” It is joy. It’s very elusive in the Christian life. I think we all want it. We all strive for it, and we’re all like, how do you get it? And…
Jim Lovelady 39:33 I mean, having this conversation is, I don’t know, we’re just fumbling through that question.
Barbara Bancroft 39:41 Right. But, it’s just, it’s all connected to, at least to me, it’s connected to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is moving and working. And if I look for Him, I will find Him. If I look for His work, He will be working. If my heart is open, and I want to participate in that, it will happen. Josiah and I were having devotions this morning, and we were talking about the difference between in the Old Testament, where they brought their sacrifices for sin, and now, of course, we have Christ, and it’s once for all, but it’s by faith. And we were having this conversation that was like, “I know, this doesn’t sound right,” but in some ways, just being able to get a goat, take it down to the temple, and do whatever was prescribed in the law for that particular sin, and say, “Okay, you did it. Good.” And then you go back home, but we don’t walk by sight. It’s all by faith. It is all by faith. So, I have to believe the Holy Spirit is working. I have to believe that He’s answering prayers. Or I won’t pray! I mean, I know that when my relationship is off, it’s because I don’t pray. And I don’t pray because I don’t believe anything will happen. So, because I can’t see it happening, therefore, it must not be happening. And we’re so oriented towards wanting to see results. I want to see this. I want to see that. I think in ministry, one of the things you learn is, “Oh, I had no idea I had all these expectations until God didn’t meet them.” And then I’m like, “Well, maybe I had some expectations that weren’t a part of what He was doing.” And, that is the rub; it is by faith: I either believe that Christ has done enough to cover my sins today, or I don’t. I can believe that I stand in the righteousness of Christ, completely accepted and loved by my Father, or I don’t. I can believe that when I pray, the Spirit will work. I can… all those things. It doesn’t change the fact that I belong to Him.
Jim Lovelady 42:07 Yeah. And I’m going to move through life as if that’s true and that’s… Okay. I’m going to function as if “Jesus, You are alive. And Spirit, You are with me. And Father, You love me.” I’m going to make my decision based on those things. Even though I don’t feel that, even though it doesn’t seem like that’s a real experience, I’m going to… as I engage with my wife, as I engage with my friends, as I go into a conflict with someone, as I weep over broken relationships all over the place, I’m going to do all of those things, functioning as if the Father loves me. And the Spirit guides me because Jesus is alive.
Barbara Bancroft 42:51 And He’s at work. And that’s what Jesus said: the work of the believer is to believe. And if you want to boil it down, what is my job when I wake up in the morning? My job is to believe. Now I need to fill that belief with truth.
Jim Lovelady 43:14 It does get flushed out. Yeah.
Barbara Bancroft 43:18 But, my job is to believe, and then it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to make things happen. To make it work, to open doors, to open hearts…
Jim Lovelady 43:30 And part of belief is expecting those things are going to happen.
Barbara Bancroft 43:33 Yeah, yes. If you don’t expect it or are not living that way, even when it’s really hard, you can cry out to God that He’s there. You know that He’s just and faithful. And you’re just struggling to grab hold of that, but you’re still looking to Him. Even in your sorrow, even in your confusion, you turn to Him.
Jim Lovelady 44:04 Yeah. So those are expectations for expectations, right? So I have an expectation that the Spirit is going to move, but I also have an expectation of how He’s going to move. And so when He doesn’t move that way, I go, “ugh.” So how do you navigate, expecting that the Spirit is going to guide you, expecting that Spirit can be there, but also being open-handed with your expectations?
Barbara Bancroft 44:31 Well, expecting that the Spirit is going to move and work has nothing to do with my agenda. Those are two completely separate things. And I don’t think it’s bad. I mean, obviously, it’s not bad to make plans. It’s not bad to be organized. It’s not bad to want things to happen. We are with an organization that works all over the world, and people get things done in a good way, for the good of the people there. And, these teams have plans; they have job descriptions. None of those things are in any way wrong. But what we’re really talking about is how I approach people, how I approach situations. What is my response if it doesn’t go the way I had hoped? Am I going to go, “Well, God didn’t show up?” Or, “Well, He doesn’t always answer prayers.” Or, “Am I a little disappointed in Him?” Or, whatever it is, am I going to blame other people? “It would have worked if that person hadn’t been so recalcitrant.”
Jim Lovelady 45:51 Nice. Nice job.
Barbara Bancroft 45:53 I do think you get better at it as a Christian; you get better at recognizing. And maybe it’s a part of people’s gifts. Some people are more intuitive. Some people are not that intuitive about themselves. They can be in a room, and be offending everybody, and they never know it. And they may have good hearts; that may not be their intention. And so there is that human element; some people just don’t have a lot of that intuition. But generally, I think you grow to where you can kind of recognize those things. You see those things.
Jim Lovelady 46:36 Yeah. When you were talking, it reminded me of John 11, when Mary and Martha present their expectations and agenda to Jesus with the same words, “Jesus, if you had been here, you could have done something.” So whenever we recognize those expectations or the agenda, I like how you separate the word expectation from agenda because I do expect the Spirit to work, but I still have an agenda for the Spirit. So when I realize that my expectation and my agenda are different things, then the invitation, which is the victory of God in Christ, is that Jesus goes, “Tell me. Tell me, I know it. I know what you’re going to say. Say it.” “Okay, I’m going to say, Jesus, if you had been here, you could have done something about this.” There it is. There’s my agenda. And He goes, “I’m the resurrection and the life,” or He weeps with you.
Barbara Bancroft 47:34 Right. Yeah. And, I love the moment also when Jesus just says, “It’s none of your business. It’s none of your business what I do or how I do it. I love you. You’re my child. I’m for you, but let’s not be confused here. Who’s in control? Whose agenda is this? This is my agenda.” you know? And, and it’s even, you know…
Jim Lovelady 47:57 Trust me.
Barbara Bancroft 47:58 But you just love that. Because what did Jesus say when He was on earth? It’s not my agenda. It’s the Father. I only do what the Father, I see the Father do, I only say what I hear the Father say. And so Jesus is very familiar with that; He only did what pleased His Father. So yeah, especially for people who are visionaries, or who are whatever, you just learn, better to hold an open hand of that agenda. And say, “I’d really like to see these things happen, Lord, I’d really like to see this work or that,” or whatever. And you can do that. And still say, “But not my will but Yours.”
Jim Lovelady 48:47 Yeah. And that’s the ultimate response that we’re constantly wrestling with. “Oh, I’ve been doing it in my will. Okay. I’m sorry.” And repent. And I appreciate what you said earlier about how the longer you’re a Christian, the more you recognize a sorrow for when you do that because you’re seeing what it does to yourself, you see what it’s done to the people around you. And so it’s like, “Oh, I can’t pretend to be naive about how bad really that little bitty thing that so many people would just ignore, but I’ve been faced with it for so long that ‘No, I can’t ignore that and I can’t disregard it.’ Here it is. And so there it is: not my will, but Yours be done.”
Barbara Bancroft 49:44 And I think the other aspect you see is how it breaks your fellowship. And it’s so easy to hold on to those little… I guess I don’t even know what you call them, freedoms or whatever independence: “I have a right to be this way. I want to be this way. I want to hold on to this.” And it’s just so easy to slide into that unconscious mentality. Then all of a sudden, I’m sure you’ve had this experience, I’ve had it so many times, it’s like all of a sudden, you wake up, which is obviously the Holy Spirit, and you go, “Where did Jesus go? I haven’t felt Jesus. I haven’t thought about Him. I lost Him; where did He go?” And He’s like, “I didn’t go anywhere.” But that fellowship, if I want to hold on to that stuff, I lose it. I lose Him, and He is the joy we’re looking for. That relationship is what produces joy.
Jim Lovelady 51:05 I love that this whole conversation about the Spirit has kind of been like what it means to follow the Spirit. It’s just all over the place. And when you’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, you go, “Okay, well, I want more of You. And I want to find You here. Will You be here? Will You be here when I drive my 2006 Scion back home, will You be there? Will You be with me when I find myself in all sorts of mundane, boring things? Will You be with me in the stress? Well, I’m going to look for you.”
Barbara Bancroft 51:50 Yeah. And those who seek, find. If I am seeking Him, He’s not going to hide. He’s not going to hide from us. I know we always think, I mean, I often think terrible things about God, like He’s withholding Himself or He’s punishing me. I mean, God does discipline His children, but I often want to make Him harsh in a way. He’s not harsh. I think one of the things that too happens as you grow older in your Christian walk, or that can happen, is that when you lose that fellowship, you do gradually more and more say, “I’d rather have fellowship and hang on to that sin. And it’s actually the relationship that is the motivation. To please God is actually a motivator.
Jim Lovelady 53:04 You just get way more out of that than you used to get out of…
Barbara Bancroft 53:07 But it’s in fits and starts, you know? It’s good, then it’s not good. I’m making progress and I seem to be reverting.
Jim Lovelady 53:20 And there’s grace for all of that.
Barbara Bancroft 53:22 And there’s grace for it. And the thing is, all of that doesn’t matter. In all of that, no matter where I am, my sins are covered. I stand in the righteousness of Christ. I’m fully loved by God. I am His child. And what we’re really talking about is what is my experience of that, because that’s not going to change. And He is willing to answer our prayers and fill our hearts just as full as they can be with His presence.
Jim Lovelady 53:52 It’s, “You’re freed from this, so go live into that freedom.” It’s not, “You’re freed from these things, so you can go ahead and do them anyway.”
Barbara Bancroft 54:04 Yeah, if you belong to Christ, it doesn’t even compute. And I think freedom is kind of like the ocean. I love that old hymn, The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus. It’s like the ocean of His love. We’re free to swim in the whole ocean. We’re free to explore the whole thing. What is it like to be loved by God? What would that look like here? How would that come out in my heart? How could I speak to others about that in a way that they could hear it? I mean, that is the kind of thing that occupies our thoughts.
Jim Lovelady 54:47 So good. Well, would you pray for folks watching or listening who want to experience more—it’s even hard to talk about the words—of the Spirit?
Barbara Bancroft 55:04 Oh, yeah. I would.
Jim Lovelady 55:07 We’ll close in prayer.
Barbara Bancroft 55:08 Okay, great, thanks. Father, I thank You that You are with each person listening now who longs to know You better, to feel closer to You, Lord. Your desire is for people to know how much You love them, to get a glimmer of why Christ came and what that means to them. Father, I pray now that You would send your Holy Spirit in power to each heart. First, Lord, to comfort and remind them that they belong to You, to open up the vistas of how big Your forgiveness is—that our sin, no matter what it is, or where it is, or how much it is, Lord, that Christ’s sacrifice covers all sin. And Lord, I pray even more that, as believers, we would learn to stand before you in the righteousness of Christ, not ashamed, but excited to be there feeling Your love, beginning to grow in our understanding of who we are because we belong to You. We are Your children. Father, I know that You desire for Your children to experience the joy of their salvation of what You’ve done. So, Father, I pray now for those hearts who are longing that You would answer their prayers, and I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jim Lovelady 57:22
Now, the beauty of a conversation like what Barbara and I had, is that it’s one out of millions of conversations that Christians all over the world are having when they just wrestle with one another about what it means to have a relationship with God. And it really is messy, because this is a relationship. This isn’t a robotic machinery kind of thing where you do the right things, and suddenly everything works out. That’s not how relationships work. The messiness is actually very beautiful.
So I encourage you to keep wrestling with what it means that the Lord already knows the things that are going on in your heart, and He loves you. And those things that seem to trip you up from having a relationship with God are actually the very things that the Lord wants to use to make your relationship with Him more beautiful, richer, and more full of joy.
And if you want to track down Barbara, she has this wonderful book called Running On Empty. It’s the gospel for women in ministry. And it unpacks a lot of these things from her story of how she’s wrestled through burnout and into a deeper fellowship with God. I’ll have a link to that in the show notes and on our YouTube.
But for now, as you go, you go with the blessing of God, which means that you have fellowship with God here and now. So as you go, blessed to be a blessing for this world, may the Lord bless you and keep you, and make his face to smile down on you. May the Lord be gracious to you, and turn His bright eyes to you, and give you His peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting. Amen.
Barbara has been in full-time, vocational ministry with her husband, Josiah, for most of their 39 years of marriage. Their work has included two U.S. church plants and leading international mission teams in Ireland. Barbara travels extensively with Josiah encouraging the many missionaries and pastor’s wives she meets around the world. Barbara also speaks at conferences and women’s events bringing her passion for women’s issues and the unique pressures on women in ministry. She and Josiah have three children and three grandchildren.
Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.
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