Tag Archives: Casting Crowns

Embracing Weakness

Each time he [the Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT*

Humanly-speaking, wouldn’t the Apostle Paul have been more effective for the Lord without his limiting “thorn”? Whatever it was, it tormented him and left him weak. It wasn’t a good thing, nor desirable, but God used it for a good purpose – to keep Paul humbly dependent on Him.

Maybe Paul would have seemed more successful in the short term, reaching more people, covering more territory, but would his life and ministry have had such a lasting effect? Might people have been distracted from Christ by the brilliance of the messenger? Would pride have ruined him?

God was so good to give Paul what He knew was necessary, even though it was painful. His goodness helped Paul wrestle through it to understand its purpose. By the time he wrote today’s verse, Paul saw its value. He had pleaded three times for release. Did God tell him to stop asking, or was that when he received perspective?

What do we see as a limitation? A liability or weakness that holds us back? “If it wasn’t for _________, I’d be so much more useful to God.”

God crafted each of us the way we are, and He has plans for us. Even if we’ve taken a detour and feel that our “thorn” is self-inflicted, God can use us as – and where – we are.

Just as Paul learned to embrace the things that kept him weak, knowing they kept him dependent on God’s power, we can do the same, as God helps us to do so. It won’t be easy, but even here His grace is enough.

Instead of “doing things for God,” we’ll be positioned for God to work through us. After all, it’s not about stroking our pride. It’s about showing the world who He is.

Holy, powerful, and sovereign God, You have chosen to work through the weak, to show what only You can do. Sometimes this hurts us, but please help us entrust ourselves to You. In our weakness and in our apparent strength, protect us from the snare of pride and from self-reliance. Help us find our sufficiency and our value in You, surrendered to Your purposes and living for Your glory.

Casting Crowns’ song, “In Me,” shows where our true strength lies.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Reason for the Season

Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 7:24b-25a, NLT*

This is why we celebrate Christmas, and Easter, and every other day of the year. We had an impossible need, and God, in His love, mercy and grace, sent His own Son to meet it.

To walk among humans and reveal what the Father’s heart and will looked like. To lay down His life to ransom and redeem us and to break sin’s hold on us.

For this, we have Jesus, and a lifetime of thanks is not enough. Let’s walk with Him each day, hearts surrendered to His, in worship, obedience and adoration.

God our Maker, Redeemer and Sustainer, without You we’d be lost and hopeless, marking time and deceiving ourselves. Thank You for setting us free – at such extreme cost. Help us receive Your gift of salvation and live it fully, so that others will see the difference You make.

Casting Crowns‘ version of “Glorious Day” sums it up so well:

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Enough Time

My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Psalm 31:15, NIV*

This is one of my comfort verses. The NLT translates “times” as “future,” and that seems to be the major meaning of the text in context of the danger from David’s enemies.

My “times,” then, are all the minutes of my life. God holds my future and no enemy can shorten it. He also holds my present.

Sometimes all that’s pursuing me are to-do lists and deadlines. I’m in the middle of a very busy patch right now, and what a treat to wake yesterday with this verse in my mind.

One of the to-do items was this post, and I knew God would provide one after doing so for six years, but I didn’t yet have it and I knew there wasn’t a lot of free time to find and write it before Wednesday morning.

Writing time is scarce for now, with some temporary employment, a kitchen renovation and being away last weekend. God knows all that. My times are in His hands.

To the best of my understanding, I’m only taking on what He has for me. As I take time each morning to commit the day to Him and pray to know and heed His presence in it, I can be sure He will help me best use the minutes and the hours. This is one of those stretches where there won’t be much left over for relaxation, but He even provides some of that. I had the most delightful stroll with a cone of gelato on Saturday.

God who made the universe, thank You for giving each of us a part to play in it. Thank You for opportunities to serve You and to show Your love to those around us. Today and each day, help us resist anxiety and choose to trust in Your sufficiency. Open our eyes to see how to use the time You give us. Give us self-discipline to turn away from those things we’d like to do that aren’t on Your agenda for the moment. Help us find soul-rest in You

Casting Crowns shares the secret of how to live fully no matter our circumstances: “I Know You’re There.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

God at Work

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28, NIV*

Many of us know and rely on verses like this in times of trouble. I hadn’t paid attention to the NIV footnotes before hearing Rob Whittaker (Principal of Capernwray Bible School) speak recently at the Halifax Keswick Convention.

Look at one of the alternate wordings mentioned in the footnote:

…that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who… (Romans 8:28, NIV*)

In all things, God works with us to bring about what is good.

Clearly there’s more evidence to support the traditional interpretation, or it wouldn’t be the one in the main Bible text. But this other option opens a whole new vista for me.

It changes my focus from how God will look after me to how He will care for others through me.

Yes, we have personal stresses and difficulties, and yes, God is our Hope and our Helper. We can trust that He will work to make all things good in His way and His time. But it’s easy to become selfishly absorbed in our own circumstances and overlook the needs around us. Or to see those needs and be too overwhelmed to know how to start making a difference.

The idea of God working together with us is biblically sound – as long as we remember that He’s in charge. We’re to act as His hands and feet and to represent Him. Christ in us empowers us and uses our small actions to achieve His larger goals.

I’ve been asking God to help me see and hear from His perspective instead of my own. This verse turns my eyes to others, and takes away my fear of not being able to make a difference. Of course I’m not enough on my own. God never intended me to act on my own.

God our Saviour and Redeemer, You created everything in the beginning and You’re still at work creating beauty from our broken pieces and our messes. Thank You for the opportunity to join You in Your work, and thank You that it’s not our responsibility to fix anything. Our responsibility is only to show up with willing and obedient hearts, and to share what You give us with those we meet. Help us to do this, so that others will experience Your great love.

Casting Crowns‘ song, “Love Them Like Jesus,” reminds us of our calling.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Light in the Tunnel

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:4-5 NIV*

I’ve always thought of Psalm 23 as a progression. There are the green pastures, the quiet waters, the paths of righteousness, the dark valley, then the feasting.

But I wonder… many translations broaden the KJV’s “valley of the shadow of death” to be a dark valley of any kind, where we may be in danger or may just be slogging and struggling.

Isn’t that where the enemies are? Not when we come out the other side, but in that valley? Where the Shepherd keeps His staff handy to protect us?

When the going is hard and we’re desperate for a light at the end of the valley-tunnel, remember that our Shepherd—the Light of the world—is with us.

Sooner or later we’ll glimpse the end. We’ll even reach it. But even now, when we despair of going on, here in the presence of our enemies—illness, grief, negativity, fear, family, work, whatever valley we’re in—maybe our Shepherd is setting a table for us. Maybe He’s whispering, “Sit for a minute and eat. Rest and catch your breath. I AM here.”

Jesus, our gentle but strong Shepherd, remind us of Your presence in the light and in the dark. Help us rely on Your love and care. You know our needs. Help us trust You to meet them. Even in the valleys, with enemies all around.

May Casting Crowns‘ song, “I Know You’re There,” be our prayer today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

When Faith Affects Our Lives

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
James 2:18, NLT*

James talks about loyalty to God—faith—and about how that looks in the Christian’s life. He gives practical examples (don’t practice favouritism, actually help your friend instead of just wishing him well) and I think that’s so we’ll realize our faith isn’t something we compartmentalize. It’s meant to affect everything we do, say and think.

The good deeds he’s asking for are to grow naturally out of applying faith in Jesus to our daily lives. There’s no eternal value in good work without a heart for God. People judge by appearances and actions, but God looks at the heart.

If our faith is growing, it will cause visible changes in our lives. We’ll learn to rely more on God in our daily thoughts, responsibilities and experiences. That’s one reason a daily quiet time with God is so vital.

Remember James’ words on accepting the word of God planted in our hearts? Prayer, listening, reading the Bible are key ingredients in a growing faith.

In our culture of busyness, over-calendaring and of being always “on call” to texts, emails etc, the danger is that there’s no time for God. We’re busy, distracted, and it’s easy to take God for granted. But if we don’t read His word, don’t spend time getting to know Him, how will we know what’s true? How will we know how to live or have the confidence that He can—and wants to—help us? We’ll be the unstable people James warns us about in his first chapter.

God who created us, who knows our hearts, help us be intentional in taking time with You. Give us hearts that long to know You better and to please You. Give us wisdom in how to use our time so we can do what You’ve given us to do and yet grow in relationship with You and with those You’ve given us. Give us faith, and work that faith out in our lives in good works—not for You but because of You.

Casting Crowns‘ song, “Lifesong,” makes a good prayer.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Self-pity or God-praise?

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
2 Corinthians 11:23, NIV*

The Corinthian believers have been listening to trendier leaders than Paul, and while those leaders may have a better delivery they aren’t delivering the truth. In this passage, Paul is reminding these Christians of his “credentials.”

His litany of sufferings prove he’s serving Christ—to the point of enduring persecution. But he’s not talking like a victim, nor a beaten-down fighter.

Instead of “poor me” he’s boasting about this. Not that he’s proud of the suffering as such. He’s saying “See how much Jesus trusts me—He knows I’ll keep focused on Him, and others will hear.” And “See how good He is to sustain me and to advance His kingdom even when its enemies throw everything they’ve got.”

That’s what happened in the jail in Philippi when Paul and Silas were singing praises to God. They showed how to “rejoice in the Lord always.”

Praise and thanksgiving really do work when we want to keep our spirits set on God.

Father, Sustainer of our spirits, most of us haven’t faced the abuse Paul did, and a lot of what we’ve endured hasn’t been because of persecution. But we still need to keep our eyes on You and our hearts tuned in praise and worship. You are God. Help us anchor in You. Strengthen us so others will see Your goodness and love even when we’re in hard times.

Casting Crowns’ “Praise You in this Storm” is a good song to keep us focused.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Fear and Lies

You grumbled in your tents and said, “The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.”
Deuteronomy 1:27, NIV*

It seems we have a propensity for believing lies over the truth.

I’ve been working through the study material with Robert S. McGee’s book, Search for Significance. This week’s lesson included listing some of the lies the devil has told us. Identifying them is the first step in replacing them with truth.

With that in mind, Moses’ words above struck a chord. He’s referring to the people’s reaction to the spies’ report of the Promised Land, when instead of entering the land they ended up wandering in the desert for 40 years. (See Deuteronomy 1)

Wow. We’re not usually so open in articulating the issue, or at least I’m not. I’ll feel anxious or put upon, maybe discouraged or even resentful, and in the past I haven’t investigated the feeling’s origin to root out the lie.

You can hear the fear in the Israelites’ words. And there were indeed giants in them-thar hills. But instead of bringing their fear to God, remembering that He’s bigger, relying on His promises, they went the other way with it and accused Him.

We may be more subtle, but don’t we do the same? Too often we listen to the doubts and believe the lies instead of standing on the truth.

Holy and sovereign God in whom is no lie or shadow, if not for Your grace, patience and love, we’d be doomed. Teach us to recognize the enemy’s lies and to rely on Your word and Your character. Thank You for setting us free; now help us learn to live in that freedom and in confidence in You.

This week’s song is Casting Crowns’ “Voice of Truth.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Job is a Gift

The LORD said to Aaron, “…I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD to do the work at the tent of meeting. But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary is to be put to death.”
Numbers 18:1a, 6-7, NIV*

God gave specific, high-visibility roles of service to the priesthood (Aaron and his sons) and to the wider group of the Levites as a whole. Like other places in Scripture, God chose the people and assigned the tasks.

From our perspective, the person in a key ministry position or crucial role is someone important—special. Our star-struck culture inclines us to admire him or her because of the position, not because of character or deeds.

Today’s verse reminds us of God’s view: the high-profile role is a gift to the person, for God’s greater plan to bless the people that individual will serve. The support roles are also gifts, and just as significant. There’s no room for “He likes you more than He likes me” or the other way around.

With the “great” roles comes great responsibility, and it’s better to pray “Lord, use me where You will,” than to set the sights of personal ambition on a high-profile position. Are we here to please ourselves, or to give honour to our Creator?

He puts some of us in the lead roles, and more of us in the supporting ones. But in God’s overall view, each part matters. Our responsibility is to be consecrated, ready, and obedient to His call.

Father, thank You for those You empower for leadership roles, and for those You empower for behind-the-scenes roles. Thank You that no job is too big for the person You choose or too small for a person to need Your strength and leading. Help us remember it’s not about us—it’s for Your glory. Give us ears to hear and hearts to obey. Let us neither envy another’s service nor begrudge our own.

Casting Crowns‘ “In Me” is a good reminder of Who we’re serving and where the power comes from.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Christian Unity

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:15-16*

The Apostle Paul has just urged us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1b-3, NIV*)

I don’t have to look farther than myself to see how hard this is. And my local congregation, nice people and sincere in their faith, struggle with it too. After all, as one member who’s now with the Lord was fond of saying, “We’re so human.”

Maybe I’m thinking about this because our annual meeting is coming up and it always seems to bring out the worst in us. (There must be a better way!)

Whatever the reason, the “Body” references in the New Testament have been on my mind lately. Christians are to function as one body: different roles and strengths, but a common goal of living for God. Jesus is the Head, and He only says and does what He hears from the Father. (John 14:10)

I’ve been thinking about how attitudes, misunderstandings, personality traits and critical or defensive spirits hamper the body’s ability, and it reminds me of NJ Lindquist’s article, called “Is the Body of Christ Handicapped?

Father, You are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, because Your power is working in us. I believe that. Help us trust and cooperate with You as You build Your people into a pleasing body, fully functional in You. We can’t do this on our own, but You are more than able.

This week’s song is another one from Casting Crowns: “If We Are the Body

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.