Tag Archives: Todd Agnew

God’s Reputation

You displayed miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, his officials, and all his people, for you knew how arrogantly they were treating our ancestors. You have a glorious reputation that has never been forgotten.
Nehemiah 9:10, NLT* (emphasis mine)

Many North American Christians are walking closely with God and growing in our faith. But to the watching world, even to many in (or leaving) the church, God’s glorious reputation has been forgotten, replaced by one that’s distorted. (Click to tweet.)

That makes me sad. No wonder people aren’t drawn to follow Him, when they don’t know who He is.

In context here, the returned Israelites have heard the Law read aloud, have confessed their corporate and individual sins and vowed to live God-honouring lives. Even when they’d forgotten the nuances of holy living, they remembered God’s mighty acts.

We don’t tell God’s stories: miracles in the Bible and our own personal encounters, large and small.

We don’t live in clear trust, in joy or peace. We’re bogged down by the cares of this world (some of which are heavy indeed). Respect for diversity (or fear of offending) keeps our faith low-key, personal and private.

But even Israel’s enemies knew God’s reputation. We can tell the stories without insisting others embrace them, and trust God to do what He will with our words.

We’ve given the wrong impression of God. Instead of a glorious reputation, He’s perceived as judgmental, carrying a big stick and waiting for an excuse to swing it. Or people think He’s helpless, because flashy miracles aren’t happening much in North America and the quieter miracles aren’t recognized or aren’t shared. Others think He’s confusing, because we can’t answer the deep pain questions and yet we’ve felt we had to be able to explain Him.

Holy and majestic God, God of power and tenderness, judgment and love, we don’t understand how Your character traits mesh together. Still, we know we can trust You. Forgive us for the part we’ve played in the damage to Your reputation. Remind us of who You are, of what You’ve done. Help us to live confident in You, to see and share what You do. Restore Your glorious reputation in the eyes of all the world, and in Your grace give us a part to play in that restoration. Not because we’re worthy, but because You are good.

A good song to focus our faith is “Our Great God,” by Todd Agnew and Rebecca St. James.

*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.

Abundant Life

Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
John 10:9-10, NLT* (emphasis mine)

This is part of Jesus’ “I am the Good Shepherd” message, and it warms my spirit. The King James Version translates the last line as “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, KJV)

Abundant life. Don’t we all want it?

I used to think “abundant life” meant energy, enthusiasm, cheer and a lot of other things. And I used to wonder where mine was, as a Christian.

But those are personality traits—great if they come naturally, but not the fruit of the Spirit.

These past few weeks, I’m beginning to see more clearly that it’s all about our loyal trust in God, and about living, moving, acting and speaking in His strength and not our own.

This is not new material to anyone who’s been a Christian for very long. It’s one of those layered truths, though, where we get it but we don’t really get it all, at least not all at once. The more we apply it, the more we understand and experience it.

In those moments when I live in God’s strength instead of taking all the responsibility on myself, there’s a peace and a freedom from striving and stress. There’s a hint of a rich and satisfying life.

It’s about relying on Jesus, coming and going freely and finding good pastures: pastures He leads us to. Something about knowing this—knowing I really am receiving a rich, satisfying, abundant life—gives me quiet joy.

And hope. Maybe even a bit of what passes for exuberance etc. in my particular personality.

Our God, You are good, and in Your care we are well-Shepherded. Help us to grow in our faith-life, to intentionally rely on Your strength instead of our own. Open our eyes to see Your care and to recognize Your abundant, rich, full-to-overflowing life springing up in our spirits. Make it visible to others, so they’ll want it too.

This week’s song, “Don’t You Think,” by one of my favourite artists, Todd Agnew, is not new to me but I heard something new in it this time. Note the examples of God-followers trying life in their own strength and then trying it God’s way.

*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.

A Song on Good Friday

Without the Cross, there’s no salvation. No hope. But it’s hard to think about what the Son of God endured for you and me that day.

Jesus Christ. God’s Son. Our Saviour.

Not a victim. The fulfillment of prophecy. A daring Rescuer.

This song from Todd Agnew helps me process what Good Friday means to me: “Blood on My Hands.”

What Pleases God?

He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
or in human might.
No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Psalm 147:10-11, NLT*

If you take a few minutes to read Psalm 147 you’ll see descriptions of God’s power and actions. He restores the nation of Israel but also heals the broken-hearted. He names each star and feeds baby ravens.

He does it all without needing our help, although the Bible makes it clear that He invites and empowers us to participate in His work.

God is big, vast beyond our knowing. His power can’t be thwarted, nor His mercy exhausted.

What does He ask us to do? Save ourselves? Restore and bind up ourselves? Name the stars and feed the wildlife?

Some of those things we will do, and it will please Him. We’ll care for one another and for creation. That’s important. And I’m sure He doesn’t mind that we name the stars, even though His names for them are truer.

But it’s not our strength, accomplishments or actions that delight God. It’s our heart-responses to Him—responses of healthy fear of His power and hope in His love. His unfailing love, in case we missed that.

Majestic Creator God, there is none like You. You give us so much—including salvation—that we could never earn nor repay. Instead of trying to do the impossible, our response is to be reverent fear and hope. You say it pleases You, so help us to live this way more and more. And help us to show our love for You in how we treat others.

God has saved us, and we have nothing to prove. Here’s Todd Agnew’s song, “I Need No Other.” You may recognize the seeds of an older song, “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place.”

*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.

Surrounded by Glory

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Psalm 19:1, NLT*

My part of Canada is just heading into winter’s cold. We have crisp mornings with each grass blade sheathed in white and with cars covered in etched patterns of frost. The change is new enough that I might see mist rising from the still-warmer lakes on my way to work.

Beauty is everywhere.

I’m challenged by how rarely I stop to take notice, and I’m reminded of how God nudged me in June to be alert to find wonder. How quickly I’ve forgotten!

It’s not just the beauty or the details. And it’s not just about stopping to enjoy it. It’s God – in the details, giving us a glimpse of who He is. It’s amazing.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries
[From “Aurora Leigh”]

Magnificent and lavish Creator God, forgive us for getting used to the glory that surrounds us and for taking it for granted. Awaken us to see what You’ve made, and to see the hints of who You are. Earth is so crammed with Heaven that it’s dripping with Your glory. Open our eyes. Captivate us. Draw us to worship, to wonder, to adore.

Todd Agnew’s song, “Isaiah 6,” is about the glory of God. Don’t miss the line about God’s glory filling the whole earth.

*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.

The Kindness of God

What can I offer the Lord
for all he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.
I will keep my promises to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
Psalm 116:12-14, NLT*

The kindness of God has been on my mind a lot lately, and the depth of love He inspires when we see how good He is to us. I think that’s where the psalmist is going here with his question.

Earlier in the psalm he talks about the hard place he was in, and how God answered his desperate prayer. There’s no way he can repay his Rescuer, except with his life.

How then will he live?

He’ll accept and embrace the salvation. No holding it off because he’s not worthy and can’t earn it. Neither will he keep it to himself. He’ll declare God’s praises publicly so others will know God’s character.

And he’ll keep whatever promises and vows he makes to the Lord. I don’t think this is about any bargains he may have tried to make with God in the troubled time. I think it’s about integrity in his ongoing relationship with God and in the presence of witnesses.

He also commits to be part of corporate worship as well as private worship. I’m not sure if it’s for his own need or in honour of God, but despite any irritating, flawed or hypocritical people in his faith community, he won’t walk away. His example of faithfulness and his declarations of praise will encourage others’ faith, and theirs will encourage his.

As I pray for people struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and other disasters, and as I pray for people digging themselves deeper into trouble of their own making, I’m sad that sometimes we  have to reach despair before we cry out to God for help. Yet He’s waiting like the prodigal’s father, arms outstretched, longing to bring good into our lives.

God, You are our Creator and Sustainer, our Saviour and our King. Your kindness reaches for us even while we’re running away from You. Soften the hearts of those who know You and of those who don’t, and help us all to look to You for help. Yes, we can fear Your discipline, but it’s when we experience Your love and Your mercy that our hearts are undone. We love You because You loved us first. Help us live in light of Your love.

Todd Agnew’s song, “Kindness,” is one I’ve been singing in prayer for some of those I care for who are still running. May His kindness draw us all nearer.

*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.

Stop, Look and Listen for God

…they did not believe God
or trust him to care for them.
Psalm 78:22, NLT*

The Psalmist is reviewing Israel’s history, as a parable to teach the people. He looks at what God did on the journey out of Egypt and until the time of King David, and he looks at how the people repeatedly rebelled, “stubbornly tested God” and complained.

All God wanted them to do was believe, trust and obey Him. You’d think He gave enough proof of His power and love that they could discern the pattern: God was leading, and He would meet their needs.

In these verses, they’d complained that God could give them water but couldn’t feed them. He proved them wrong, and it wasn’t pretty. (See verses 23-31)

They had a cloud leading them, and they saw God’s miracles. Christians today have the Holy Spirit leading from within us, and we sometimes see His miracles too. If we pay attention, we see His touch on our lives. But these verses remind me how important it is to stop, look and listen for God, and to deliberately trust Him. It’s how we’re designed to live.

Holy and powerful God, how much easier it would have been for the Israelites if they’d been able to believe and to trust in You. You know our weaknesses, and that we’re no stronger today than they were. Please give us faith to believe You, and help us choose to trust You.

Since we’re as wayward as sheep, I thought this was a fitting song: Todd Agnew singing “Saviour Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”

*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.

How Irritating Are We to God?

The LORD said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Moses did just as the LORD commanded him.

The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to die?”
Numbers 17:10-14, NIV*

Do you ever think about how irritating it is for God to put up with us?

Yes, He loves us. He wants to rescue us from the mess we’ve dug ourselves into—even at the cost of His own Son’s life—but so many times we just don’t get it.

I’ve been reading the account of Moses, how God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt to bring them into the promised land: a place of peace and safety where they won’t be slaves anymore.

All they do is grumble and complain and wish they were back under Pharaoh’s thumb. The context of today’s passage is that some of the people accused Moses and Aaron of taking too much authority, of elevating themselves as better than the rest.

God settled it in dramatic fashion, destroying the usurpers. The people hurled more accusations, and God sent a plague. You can read the whole account in Numbers 16.

So God told Moses to get a staff from each of the tribal leaders, including Aaron. “The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.” (Numbers 17:5, NIV*)

Next day, when Moses collected the staffs, Aaron’s “had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.” (Numbers 17:8, NIV*) The others remained inert sticks of wood.

All this to give the people an enduring sign of approved leadership, so they’d quit complaining and would not die. And what do they immediately do?

God’s trying to protect them and they yell, “We’re all gonna die!” And they exaggerate: “We can’t even go near the tabernacle now!”

What if they’d trusted and obeyed?

What if we trusted and obeyed, instead of misunderstanding and overreacting?

Holy and patient God, how simple life would be if we’d just let You shepherd us, instead of trying to be in charge of our own lives. You tell us to trust You and not rely on our own understanding. But like sheep we’ve all gone astray. Teach us to seek You first, to trust You. To stop ascribing frightening motives to You and instead remember You are the only trustworthy one. Help us believe You instead of trusting our own fallible understanding.

Todd Agnew’s song, “Shepherd,” speaks to where we too often find ourselves.

*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.

Friday Findings: Music from John DeGrazio

I love contemporary Christian music. John DeGrazio is a new name to me, but I really like what I’ve heard from his new album, Stronghold.

If you’re not familiar with him either, check out what his website has to say. Here’s a bit to orient you:

A two-time ASCAP Award winner, John DeGrazio is an accomplished songwriter/composer/producer. He has a number one hit song to his credit; has worked with many major label artists; played in the group Burlap to Cashmere; and toured with Jars of Clay, DC Talk, and Jaci Velasquez.

My favourite song from Stronghold is “New Life“. I like what he does with the lyrics and with the music. I can’t quite articulate why, but it reminds me of Todd Agnew’s music–which is a very good thing in my books.

Of Tea and Spiritual Maturity

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:1, NIV*

I often read pages of Scripture before something nudges my spirit. Other times the same verse catches me for days.

This is one of those times. Today I’m looking at the “be strong in” segment of this verse.

Hot tea steeps in 3-7 minutes. Sun-brewed tea takes 2 – 5 hours. Refrigerator tea steeps 6 hours or overnight. One starts with boiling water, the others with cold.

If we’re the water, the steeping time depends on our temperature—how much heat we’ve been exposed to before we come to Jesus.

As water that hasn’t been heated enough to boil, I’m drawn to the sun tea image. Not that I can go sit in the sun and relax, but as I go through the day, can I keep that spirit-focus to be held in His Light?

Tea has an optimum strength, depending on the variety and on the taster’s preference. Leave the bags in too long and it’ll get bitter. Not so with us.

Steeping in the Lord’s grace takes a lifetime.

Father, help me rest in You—steep in Your Spirit and Your grace. Let it change and flavour me as I learn to abide in You. Quiet me, remind me, draw me ever nearer to Yourself. Cradle and sustain me until You brew me into that which You’ve designed me to be.

This week’s song is “If I Could Just Sit With You Awhile,” written by Dennis Jernigan. I’m glad I found the version sung by Todd Agnew on one of his early indie CDs. Please ignore the typing issues in the video. I work with what’s available on YouTube.

*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.