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James Banks

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

Articles by James Banks

Deeper Love

When they first met, Edwin Stanton snubbed US president Abraham Lincoln personally and professionally—even referring to him as a “long-armed creature.” But Lincoln appreciated Stanton’s abilities and chose to forgive him, eventually appointing Stanton to a vital cabinet position during the Civil War. Stanton later grew to love Lincoln as a friend. It was Stanton who sat by Lincoln’s bed throughout the night after the president was shot at Ford’s Theater and whispered through tears on his passing, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Reconciliation is a beautiful thing. The apostle Peter pointed followers of Jesus there when he wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Peter’s words cause me to wonder if he was thinking of his own denial of Jesus (Luke 22:54–62) and the forgiveness Jesus offered him (and us) through the cross.

The deep love Jesus demonstrated through His death on the cross frees us from the debt for our sins and opens the way for our reconciliation with God (Colossians 1:19–20). His forgiveness empowers us to forgive others as we realize we cannot forgive in our own strength and ask Him to help us. When we love others because our Savior loves them and forgive because He has forgiven us, God gives us strength to let go of the past and walk forward with Him into beautiful new places of grace.

Hope’s Sure Foundation

Lessons on faith can come from unexpected places—like the one I learned from my 110-pound, black Labrador retriever, “Bear.” Bear’s large metal water bowl was located in a corner of the kitchen. Whenever it was empty, he wouldn’t bark or paw at it. Instead, he would lie down quietly beside it and wait. Sometimes he would have to wait several minutes, but Bear had learned to trust that I would eventually walk into the room, see him there, and provide what he needed. His simple faith in me reminded me of my need to place more trust in God.

The Bible tells us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). The foundation of this confidence and assurance is God Himself, who “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (v. 6). God is faithful to keep His promises to all who believe and come to Him through Jesus.

Sometimes having faith in “what we do not see” isn’t easy. But we can rest in God’s goodness and His loving character, trusting that His wisdom is perfect in all things—even when we have to wait. He is always faithful to do what He says: to save our eternal souls and meet our deepest needs, now and forever.

All Things New

Junkyards intrigue me. I enjoy working on cars, so I frequently make trips to the one near our home. It’s a lonely place, where the wind whispers through discarded hulks that were once someone’s prized possession. Some were wrecked, some wore out, and others simply outlived their usefulness. As I walk between the rows, a car will sometimes catch my eye, and I’ll find myself wondering about the adventures it had during its “lifetime.” Like a portal to the past, each has a story to tell—of human hankering after the latest model and the inescapable passage of time.

But I take particular pleasure in finding new life for an old part. Whenever I can take something discarded and give it new life in a restored vehicle, it feels like a small victory against time and decline.

It sometimes makes me think of Jesus’s words at the end of the Bible: “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5). These words refer to God’s renewal of creation, which includes believers. Already, all who’ve received Jesus are a “new creation” in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).

And one day we will enter into His promise of unending days with Him (John 14:3). Age and disease will no longer take their toll, and we will continue the adventure of an eternal lifetime. What stories each of us will have to tell—stories of our Savior’s redeeming love and undying faithfulness.

Lord of the Moment

Not long ago I was working on a construction project at my son’s home three hours away. The job took days longer than expected, and each morning I prayed we would finish by sunset.  But every evening there was more to be done.

I wondered why. Could there be a reason for the delay? An answer came the next morning. I was picking up a tool when my phone rang and a stranger’s voice spoke urgently: “Your daughter was injured in an accident. You need to come immediately.”

She lived near my son, so it took just fourteen minutes to reach her. If I had been home, I would have been three hours away. I followed the ambulance to the hospital and comforted her before surgery. As I sat holding her hand I realized if my project hadn’t been delayed, I would not have been there.

Our moments belong to God. This was the experience of a woman whose son God had resurrected through the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4:18–37). She left the country because of famine and returned years later to beg the king for her land. At precisely that moment the king was conversing with the prophet’s servant Gehazi. “Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored” her son, the woman walked in (8:5). Her request was granted.

We don’t know what even the next second brings, but God is graciously able to use any situation for good. May God give us grace to walk with Him expectantly into His appointments for us today.

Who's Driving?

My neighbor Tim has a figurine on his dashboard of a “wild thing” from Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.

Not long ago Tim was following me through traffic and made some abrupt moves to keep up. When we arrived, I asked, “Was that the ‘wild thing’ driving?”

The following Sunday I forgot my sermon notes at home. I “flew” out of the church to retrieve them, passing Tim along the way. When we met later, he joked, “Was that the wild thing driving?” We laughed, but his point hit home—I should have paid attention to the speed limit.

When the Bible describes what it means to live in a relationship with God, it encourages us to “offer every part of [ourselves]” to Him (Romans 6:13). I took Tim’s response to me that day as a gentle reminder from God to yield my “lead foot,” because I am to give all of myself to Him out of love.

The question of “who’s driving?” applies to all of life. Do we let the “wild things” of our old sin nature drive us—like worry, fear, or self-will—or do we yield to God’s loving Spirit and the grace that helps us grow?

Giving in to God is good for us. Scripture says that God’s wisdom takes us down “pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). Better to follow where He leads. 

Your Way, Not Mine

Kamil and Joelle were devastated when their eight-year-old daughter Rima was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. The disease led to meningitis and a stroke, and Rima lapsed into a coma. The hospital medical team counseled her parents to make arrangements for Rima’s funeral, giving her less than a 1 percent chance of survival.

Kamil and Joelle fasted and prayed for a miracle. “As we pray,” Kamil said, “we need to trust God no matter what. And pray like Jesus—not my way, Father, but Yours.” “But I want so much for God to heal her!” Joelle answered honestly. “Yes! And we should ask!” Kamil responded. “But it honors God when we give ourselves to Him even when it’s hard, because that’s what Jesus did.”

Before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). By praying “take this cup,” Jesus asked not to go to the cross; but He submitted to the Father out of love.

Surrendering our desires to God isn’t easy, and His wisdom can be difficult to understand in challenging moments. Kamil and Joelle’s prayers were answered in a remarkable way—Rima is a healthy fifteen-year-old today.  

Jesus understands every struggle. Even when, for our sake, His request was not answered, He showed us how to trust our God in every need.

Trust Him First

“Don’t let go, Dad!”

“I won’t. I’ve got you. I promise.”   

I was a little boy terrified of the water, but my dad wanted me to learn to swim. He would purposefully take me away from the side of the pool into a depth that was over my head, where he was my only support. Then he would teach me to relax and float.

It wasn’t just a swimming lesson; it was a lesson in trust. I knew my father loved me and would never let me be harmed intentionally, but I was also afraid. I would cling tightly to his neck until he reassured me all would be well. Eventually his patience and kindness won out, and I began to swim. But I had to trust him first.

When I feel “over my head” in a difficulty, I sometimes think back on those moments. They help me call to mind the Lord’s reassurance to His people: “Even to your old age . . . I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you (Isaiah 46:4).

We may not always be able to feel God’s arms beneath us, but the Lord has promised that He would “never leave us” (Hebrews 13:5). As we rest in His care and promises, He helps us learn to trust in His faithfulness. He lifts us above our worries to discover new peace in Him.

Legacies of Love

I was paging through my great-grandmother’s Bible when a treasure fell into my lap. On a small scrap of paper, in a young child’s handwriting, were the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3–4 kjv). Scribbled beside those verses in wobbly cursive was my mother’s signature.

My great-grandmother had a habit of teaching her grandchildren to write Scripture verses so they would learn them and take them to heart. But the story behind this verse brought tears to my eyes. My grandfather died when my mother was very young, and her little brother (my uncle) died just weeks later. It was in that tragic season that my great-grandmother pointed my mother to Jesus and the comfort only He can give.

Paul wrote Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Faith isn’t inherited, but it is shared. Timothy’s mother and grandmother shared their faith with him, and he believed.  

When we encourage those close to us to have hope in Jesus, we offer them a legacy of love. Through a simple note, my mother left evidence of my great-grandmother’s love for her Savior and her family. Oh, to share Him with those who come after us! 

Unchanging Love

When I was in high school I played on the varsity tennis team. I spent many hours of my teenage years trying to improve my skills on four concrete courts located two blocks from the home where I grew up.

The last time I visited that city one of the first things I did was drive to that location, hoping to watch others play and reminisce for a moment. But the old courts, so familiar to my memory, were nowhere to be seen. In their place was a vacant field, inhabited only by an occasional weed waving silently in the breeze.

That afternoon remains in my mind as a stark reminder of the brevity of life. One of the places where I expended some of my best youthful strength no longer existed! Reflecting on that experience later brought me to this truth, expressed by an aging King David: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him” (Psalm 103:15–17).

We grow older and the world around us may change, but God’s love doesn’t. He can always be trusted to take care of those who turn to Him.

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