Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reflecting on Truths from 2007

By Charlotte K. Lowrie

Oh, the joy in knowing that Jesus is with us, as near as our breath, wise beyond comprehension, loving us without reservation, guiding, teaching, consoling, encouraging us in every single thing that we do. He is the perfect teacher, the perfect friend, the perfect Savior, the Holy Lamb of God.

Thinking toward a New Year and reflecting back on the past year, I take stock of my daily walk with Christ. Of the many, many truths that He has taught me during 2007, one truth in particular resonates with me, and that is to stop worrying. During the past months of writing two books, I learned much more about trusting the words of the Lord in Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV), excerpted here.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store way in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

It seems that no matter how much I’ve learned in the past about not worrying, there is always more to learn. I’ve learned that because worrying is one of those “human things,” it’s also one of those things that I have to give to the Lord over and over again. Despite my knowing for certain that He will provide for all of my needs, I still periodically fall back into my old habit of worrying about people, projects, and plans.

Most recently, I learned that when I worry, I lose focus on Jesus. When I fill up my mind with concern about a project or a task, there is no room for Him. And, predictably, I go my way instead of His way. And it’s at the end of “my” road that I need Him to step in and fix my mess. I’ve learned that if I stay on-focus with Jesus, all that I would otherwise worry about never becomes an issue of concern.

I’m reminded that it’s my job, my life’s work, to follow Jesus. The more I follow, the more my heart becomes like His heart. That change of heart represents true change, not simply a rote reminder to follow Him, but rather a change in who I am and how I respond to all of life’s experiences.

I’ve also been reminded that it’s not the approval of others that I work for, but rather I work for His approval—and that changes everything. The Lord reminded me that, “I didn’t call you to follow the crowd. I called you to follow Me.” Enough said. Human approval—whether it’s from the editor reviewing my latest book, or approval from my friends—means nothing in the Kingdom of God. What means everything is doing all work as unto Him.

I’m reminded that when I let go of my worries and minor obsessions and give them to the Lord, that He will give those situations back to me with His victory. Every time I give Him my worries, I can watch in awe as His perfect purpose is accomplished.

And most of all, I’ve learned again that on other side of worry is His perfect peace—now and always. Could I ask for more?

Wishing you a closer walk with Jesus Christ in 2008.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Perfect Christmas Gift

The day of Christmas dawns.
We celebrate the gift of the Father,
His only Son, Jesus Christ,
Come to earth to live among us;
Mighty in strength,
Full of love,
Full of righteousness.

He came to bear our burdens,
To lift us up
From our trouble.
He came that we may have life;
The life the Father intended
From the beginning,
The life that leads from
Glory to glory.

It is the Father’s heart that
None would be lost,
But that all would come to Him,
Reconciled and redeemed,
Worthy of sharing His great glory.

He gave the gift in love,
A love greater than we can imagine,
A love that stretches through eternity.
The only requirement is that we believe.
And in believing, we have life,
Life that springs from the Father,
Life that is ever-lasting.

As Christmas dawns,
Think on that gift.
Think on the Holy Son of the Father.
He came freely,
And at no cost to you or to me.
He came that you might have life.
Think on it.
Rejoice in it.
Share it with others.

So great a gift.
So great a love.
Can we do less
Than praise and honor Him
Now and forever?

Can we step outside ourselves
And celebrate this great gift?
For only if we step outside of ourselves,
Will we see the true gift of Christmas
That was brought to all of mankind.
And having seen it,
We see that we must
Live this gift of love in our lives.

We did nothing to deserve such a gift,
Nor can we earn it.
Rather it is ours to receive,
To live, and to share.

A transforming gift of love;
A gift that never wears out,
A gift that grows more beautiful
With use year after year.

Celebrate with JOY
This matchless gift from God.
Dance and sing with abandon
For you will never receive
Anything of greater value
Than the gift of that first Christmas—
Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

There is only one God,
And He reigns eternal.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

What Makes an Eternal Difference?

By Charlotte Lowrie

Last week, I was getting estimates on having the exterior of the house painted. The first estimator came into the house to review the estimate with me. As we walked in, I was immediately aware of how messy the living area looked.

My living area looks like a writer and photographer’s work area—stacks of books, ranging from photography books to Bibles and concordances cover most free surfaces, while camera gear fills the remaining surfaces. And a good chuck of floor space is devoted to my desk, two computers, and two large monitors. Why do I notice the messiness only when I see it through the eyes of a guest? But I noticed, and I was unsettled by it.

As the estimator and I talked, I tried to concentrate on the painting estimate, but in the back of my mind, I wondered why I hadn’t cleared the table so we could spread out the papers.

What Makes an Eternal Difference?

I didn’t think about the incident again until one morning in prayer and meditation. Gently, the Lord pointed out that I have a strong sense of responsibility for maintaining the house and yard. While that sense of responsibility is good, it isn’t the most important concern.

The Lord brought to mind the story of Mary and Martha. When Jesus came to visit, Martha was the one who fretted over the household concerns. I’m sure that Martha had many of the same concerns that we have today. What would they eat? Was the house clean? Who would go to the market for food and cook it? And when Jesus arrived, Martha was probably in a hot kitchen cooking.

Mary, on the other hand, was enthralled with the Lord. Unlike Martha, Mary likely didn’t care if Jesus or anyone else ate. She cared that she could sit at Jesus’ feet to absorb His presence and His words.

Martha fretted about earthly cares. Mary focused on Jesus. Martha complained to Jesus.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 NIV.

Like Martha, I fretted, although silently, that the house wasn’t picture perfect.

As the Lord showed me, the priority is to bring His presence to the others—in this case, to bring His presence to the my guest. No one cares what the house looks like. As a follower of Christ, it is all about Jesus—about bringing Him to the table.

The Lord asked, “Did your guest see you silently fretting about the house, or did He see Me?”

The answer was clear. I was preoccupied not only with the way the house looked, but also about the estimate, the contract, and the schedule. To my way of thinking, I was being responsible for the blessings that the Lord has given me. But, like Martha, I missed the point entirely. We are to focus on Jesus, not on earthly cares. Earthly cares will pass away. Jesus will never pass away.

I pondered this for many long minutes. Bringing His presence is a simple matter of asking Him to be present in all encounters. Nothing we do draws people to Jesus. Just as it has been for more than 2,000 years, people are not drawn to us, they are drawn to Jesus—to His presence.

A clean house makes no difference. Bringing Jesus to the table makes an eternal difference. That is what it means to do His will on earth, here and now, as it is in heaven.

If we don’t bring Jesus to the table, to the office, to the grocery store, to every encounter, who will?

Lesson Learned?

With this profound lesson in mind, I prayed with extra fervor that the Lord would be with me throughout the day. Then I left to run some hurried errands. As I stopped at various stores, I reverted to my usual strategy with sales people—keep conversations short and avoid unwanted sales pressure at all costs.

When I got home, I prayed again. Clearly, the Lord had seen many needs in the people we encountered that I had not seen. Instantly, I realized that it had been all about me again, all about my schedule. I had overlooked the need to bring His presence to all the people—even to eager salespeople.

I wish that I could say that I learned this vital lesson, and then immediately put it into practice, but I can’t. I trust that over time I will pray His presence in every encounter.

I know now that nothing will make a bigger difference both now and for eternity.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Conversations with the Lord

This, and many other articles to come, arise from spending time with the Lord in prayer and conversation. The messages are, of course, too rich not to be shared.

· You cannot pacify people and be effective. You must electrify people to be effective.

· Do you think that any one of the Saints would have chosen the lives they had? They followed the Lord and became what He needed for the Kingdom’s work. That is the highest calling—to be what the Lord calls you to be; to serve the Lord, no matter what.

· Under the old covenant, God’s people lived under God’s law. Under the new covenant, we live free of the law, but we live with responsibility to take an active role in the Kingdom. Greater is our responsibility than theirs, and greater is the grace.

· It’s the Lord’s way, not our way. It’s the Lord’s timing, not our timing. He leads. We follow. We have the power to do what he has gives us to do without strain or worry. He opens doors. We walk through those doors by faith.

· Earnestly seek the pure love of the Holy Father. That is the love that led the Lord to the cross. That is the love that allowed Him to bear the sin of the world. That is the love that gives us the strength to endure all things.

· Love is what changes people. Love is what draws others to Christ. Love is what heals us and others. We are to bring His love to others.

· There is nothing that is untouched by God. There is nothing outside of His domain. Everything that we do merits God’s attention—e v e r y t h i n g.

· People are not drawn to religion.
People are not drawn to church.
People are drawn to the Lord.

· In the Scriptures, nothing is left undone. Every word, every message is meaningful in multiple ways on multiple levels. To discern the meaning, we must have eyes to see and a heart to understand.

· Contrary to popular opinion, we cannot live and let live. We live for the Lord. It's our job to step on toes.

· Don't preach to the choir, preach to the lost. Few unbelievers find their way to church. We must go to them with the Lord's message wherever they are. Sunday isn't the only day to save souls. Any day is a good day to bring the lost home.

· The Father doesn't want to lose any who are called. Our responsibility is to call them in the Lord's name, through His cross, and bring them home.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Take a Look Across the Room

By Charlotte K. Lowrie

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he left a single, all-important charge to those who would follow Him.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 38:18-20 NIV.)

I read this passage, known as the Great Commission, as applying to all followers of Christ, whether they have the spiritual gift of evangelism or not. And even if you disagree with my view, I have to wonder how we, after receiving such great grace and love, cannot let these divine gifts spill over onto everyone in our lives?

Asking the Hard Questions

The ordinary and extraordinary events of everyday life recently prompted me to ask myself some hard questions about sharing my faith in Christ. Every time I look across the room, or I visualize my far-away friends who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior, I get cold chills.
What if they never heard about the forgiveness, joy, and peace that Christ offers just because I am too fearful, too lazy, or too preoccupied with work to share it with them? Would I regret not sharing the gift of Jesus? Yes! Would I be able to stand before Christ knowing that I had not taken His Great Commission personally? No!

As I look across any room and see people who could miss the greatest experience of a lifetime, my perspective changes. It is that change in perspective that led me to write the list of questions that follow. I share these questions with you in the hope that you will find them useful in your daily walk with Christ.
· When was the last time that you spoke of your faith in conversations with non-believers?
· What is the boldest word you’ve spoken or action you’ve taken for Christ in the past month?
· If a non-Christian asked you why you are so into God, can you tell him or her why? And if you can, would you deliver a long monologue, or would you hunker down for a soul-deep dialogue. Can you listen carefully to the other person’s questions and relate your experiences to their questions and problems?
· Can you talk about your faith in everyday language to non-believers? Can you use contemporary words that non-believers can immediately relate to and understand?
· In two minutes or less, can you tell a non-believer how Christ changed your life?
· Do you ask people to come to church because you’re afraid to or uncomfortable in asking them to come to Christ?
· Do you eagerly jump at the opportunity to say a word for God in conversations, or do you shy away for fear of being politically incorrect?
· Do you talk about your faith as an everyday reality and necessity regardless of who’s in the audience?
· If you knew for certain that the Lord would return next week at this time, which non-believer would you want to share your faith with immediately?
· Can people tell that you are “different;” can they feel that an extraordinary love lives within you and that that love is directed toward them?
· And, finally, do you think of God as being there to serve you, or do you think of yourself as you being here to serve Him?

Regardless of which questions resonate with you, one thing is certain: Time is short. Whether it is the short amount of time left in your life or in the lives of others, or the nearness of the Lord’s return, we have this moment in time to make the Great Commission part of our everyday lives.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NIV)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two Very Different Approaches to Serving

By Charlotte Lowrie

Serving—some call it one of the essential Christian disciplines. It is a discipline, but, for me, serving is a high privilege. Jesus set the example for serving in virtually everything that He did while on earth. But perhaps the best known and most quoted example is from John 13. In this passage, Jesus and his disciples share their last meal together. During the meal, Jesus quietly leaves the table, fills a basin with water, ties a towel around His waist, and washes and dries the disciples’ feet.

When all of the dusty feet were washed and dried, Jesus asked his disciples, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Clearly, Peter, who objected to the Lord washing his feet, didn’t understand. For Peter, washing the guests' feet was a job for the servants—far too demeaning a service for the Teacher.

So Jesus explained. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet. I have set for you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:12-15 NIV)

Choose an Approach

Recently I had several opportunities to serve. I was excited. It didn’t matter what the service was, I was anxious to serve, and I jumped in with both feet. But while serving, I realized there are two very different approaches to serving.

One approach to serving is motivated from a natural desire to be helpful and to give to others. Another approach to serving is as if we are serving the Lord Himself.

Obviously, there is a significant difference between the two approaches.

The innate desire to be helpful is instinctive for many people. In this approach, we offer our time, compassion, and help to those who are in need. But this approach falls short of the standard that Jesus set for us. Paul describes this approach in Colossians 3:23-24. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ that you are serving.”

Serving as if we are serving the Lord Himself not only helps others, but, most important, it brings the light of the Lord into the lives of those we serve. Rather than serving in our limited human compassion, we bring the Lord to others via His work through us. And that changes everything.

Lead or Follow?

But the second approach is harder for several reasons. To serve in this way, we have to be in fellowship with the Lord moment by moment, committing the work to Him and seeking His inspiration and revelation.

It’s also more challenging because we have to give up on assuming that we “know how” to do the task. And this is a biggie! Whether our service is a project for the church, bathing a sick family member, or bringing food to a family, we take pride in thinking that we know how to do the work. And because we know how, we can jump in and do the task quickly and efficiently.

But in the process of hunkering down and getting the work done, we crowd out the Lord. In short, we lead rather than follow the Lord. The result of our service is a practical, lackluster exercise in “doing good.”

Sure the work gets done, but the experience is empty of divine richness and rightness.

Last week, I barreled through the service opportunities as if I were trying to prove myself to the Lord, or worse, as if I were adding a few “good works” to some mental score card.

But the Lord already knows what I can do under my own power. He wanted to show me what He could do through me under His power. And there is no score card—there is only minute-by-minute following Him. I also realized that if I don’t bring the Lord with me in the service, how will others see Him? Jesus told us to let our light shine. And dedicating our service to Him allows His light to burn brightly to those we serve.

This point is critically important because time is short. Whether you realize that your life is as brief as a noon-time shadow, or you sense the nearness of His second coming, our work is to bring His light to all of those whom we serve. Paul emphasized this in Colossians 4:5: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”

Jesus concluded His explanation to the disciples by saying, “I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:16-17)

Not only will you be blessed, but those whom you serve will also be blessed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What Could We Do If We Didn’t Think We Can’t?

By Charlotte Lowrie

A friend was telling us that she has no luck growing plants. Knowing this, she takes her plants to the preschool where she works, and the children water the plants for her. She described how the children keep pouring in water until the plants are flooded. Regardless of the drenching, the plants thrive under the children’s care.

It occurred to me that the plants thrive because the children don’t know yet that they can’t grow plants. How much more could we do for the Lord if we didn’t ‘know’ (or think) that we can’t?

And with that, here are a few recent thoughts on living every day for Christ.

· You get to keep what you give away. Has the Lord blessed you? Then give away blessings. Has the Lord healed you? Then give away healing. Has the Lord taught you? Then teach others. Everything He has given you, give away to others--never counting the cost.

· The Lord takes care of you even when you’re not looking.

· Get over the shock about evil deeds and acts. Satan is evil. Evil is as ugly as it gets regardless of how prettily it is disguised. The Lord didn’t mince words about satan. The everyday struggle against evil is a life-and-death battle of epic proportions.

· Recent conversation. Question: Why can’t my faith move mountains? Answer: Have you tried to move mountains? And if you tried, would you believe that you could?

· Have you counted up the works of the Lord in your life lately? If you look only at individual works, you’ll learn only individual lessons. But if you look at the whole of it, you’ll realize the big messages that the Lord is speaking in your life.

· Speak of the Lord with boldness. Be strong, be forceful. After all, the stakes ARE life or death.

· Get out of your personal box. You are bigger than your circumstances, bigger than your career, bigger than your problems, and bigger than your finances. You are bigger because God is bigger.

· Look beyond immediate needs and problems. Get a vivid vision of God's Kingdom and what He needs you to do in that Kingdom.

· Humility is not self-deprecation. Humility is genuine when our sins sicken us as they sicken the Father.

· Every single day, claim the promises, rights, and privileges of being a child of God, and claim the power that comes from serving our risen Savior!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Live the Victory on the Other Side of the Cross

By Charlotte Lowrie

Only last month, we marked Easter—a celebration of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. If you spent any time pondering the cross, or considering the burden that Jesus took on his shoulders for our sins, then the only response can be humility and profound gratitude. Time spent at the foot of the cross is humbling.

But the foot of the cross isn’t where Jesus wanted us to stay.

He expected us to get past our sorrow, to move beyond our own sense of unworthiness, and to fully realize the victory and power that His resurrection gives us.

It’s on the other side of the cross, in the shadow of His gloriously empty grave, that Jesus expected us to prevail over all earthly darkness with the divine power that can come only from a risen Savior!

No, You are Not 'Only Human'

‘Yeah, well,’ you say, ‘that was Jesus, and He is God. I’m only human.’ Oh so wrong. If you are a Christian, you are supernaturally human. If you don’t believe me, then believe what Jesus said in John 14:12-14 (NIV):

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Now think about what Jesus did while he walked the earth. He healed the sick, He performed miracles, and He wrought mighty signs, and wonders. And always, He healed all of humanity that fell within His shadow. And He expects that we will do this and even more.

To that end, He sent the Holy Spirit. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26).

As a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit now. And the Spirit is a mighty thing. As Bill Johnson points out in his powerful book, When Heaven Invades Earth, “There is no economy class Holy Spirit. He only comes fully equipped. He is loaded, full of power and glory. And He wants to be seen as He is, in us.” (Emphasis mine.)

If you spend any time thinking about what living on “the other side of the cross” means, it just doesn’t jibe with our comfortable routine of church-on-Sunday and mid-week Bible study.

Doing the Work of the Kingdom

The point of the cross and the resurrection was to give us His power. Jesus expected us to see beyond our own lives. He expected us to see, and to sign up to do the work of His Kingdom. What is that work? The work is to bring the light of Christ into the darkest places of our neighborhoods, communities, and cities.

He lived, died, and rose again to provide the power. It’s up to us to believe it and use it.

We are humbled by the cross, but
Live His Victory.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Worrying Over Our Lives

Why do we think that anything is too hard for God?
Why do we think that we always know better than God?
Why do we think that worrying will help God along?

Jesus said in Matthew 6:27, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

And Jesus went on to say, “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. “
Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV)

But worry is ingrained in us. How much we want and think that we ‘need’ to control everything. And worry is only one symptom of our need to control.

But in fact, we are not in control. God is in control. He always is in control. But He also always gives us the ability to choose. We can choose to turn over control to Him, or we can continue to frantically direct our own lives.

I think of it this way: We can choose to give Him control and receive His blessing, or we can keep control now, and then ask Him to bless the mess we’ve made tomorrow.

Remember, the Lord always gives to His children never measuring the amount. He gives to us in a measure so full that it can’t be contained within a single soul.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What's Your Story?

By Charlotte Lowrie

How many times have I felt that I was unqualified to do one or another task for the Lord? But then I realized that the Lord equips us for whatever He asks us to do. For example, when we accept him as our Savior, the first tool that He gives us is our story; the story that recounts the road that led us to Him.

For each of us, the story of how we encountered Christ is unique. You may not think that your story is impressive or dramatic enough to tell. But I’m convinced that each story has the exact words, the precise experiences that someone somewhere—or many people everywhere—need(s) to hear. Your story will resonate with them as no other story can.

The Lord didn’t give us the gift of our story to keep it to ourselves. He gave it to us as our first tool in serving Him. And as we continue to experience Christ fully, He gives us more stories—more tools that will surely touch the lives of others.

Having realized this, I also realized that it is foolish to think that I am unqualified to tell others about Christ. He gave me my story. And that story immediately equips me to tell others about Him.

Jesus teaches us to let His light shine. Let your story illuminate someone else's path to Christ.

Note: If you’d like to share your story here, please e-mail me at

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Prayer for Those at Virginia Tech

Lord, may You abide with all those who are suffering from the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
Let Your light shine in the terrible darkness of this tragedy.
Heal the wounded.
Hold those who grieve in Your loving arms.
Give them Your comfort and bring them into the light of tomorrow with your love.

In the name of our precious Lord Jesus, we pray.

Putting the Lord's Lessons into Action

By Charlotte Lowrie

Since I posted the article, Refined During Times of Testing, a work opportunity came up to test the lessons that I’ve learned in the past two months. This week, I received a call asking if I would help with a project that was in a jam. The call was from a company I’d worked with for years, so I had some loyalty to them.

The good part was that the pay would be nice. The bad part was that the project would ‘silently’ violate a non-conflict contract that I signed with another company. To get around this, the person explained that no one would know that I worked on the project, and, thus no one would know that the contract was violated. Before I could say no, the person asked me to think about it, to sleep on it, and to call back the next day.

Knowing that I would refuse, I mentally reviewed the telephone conversation as I showered, and then I came downstairs to pray. I was anxious to get the Lord's insight.

Precise Words that Ring True

The Lord’s message was that I don’t have to take every project that comes my way. Instead, I should take the work that He sends to me: And I will recognize that work because it will be “pure and guileless.”

I thought about the words of the message. Certainly, I’d heard the word “guileless” from reading the Bible and from childhood sermons. But I had only a vague sense of what the word meant.

The dictionary was close by, so I looked up “guile.” Here is a summary of the most applicable definitions. Guile: insidious, treacherous, cunning, deceit. A trick; stratagem. Wow! That described the situation perfectly. I had always thought of “guile” as being an old-fashioned King-James-type of word that I usually brushed over. Obviously, I was wrong.

While I was at it, I looked up the word “pure.” Here is a summary of the applicable definitions. Pure: free from adulterants or impurities; . . . Free from dirt, defilement, or pollution; clean. Containing nothing inappropriate or extraneous.

It struck me again how the Lord uses language not only concisely, but also with a razor-sharp precision that leaves no room for questions. And Mark 4:22 (NIV) also leaves no room for questions. “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought into the open.”

The Lord's insight was what I wanted, and He provided it again. I was happy to turn down the offer the next day.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Refined During Times of Testing

By Charlotte Lowrie

Who hasn’t gone through times of testing from the Lord? Regardless of the timing or situation, you can usually tell that you’re in a testing time when your prayers seem to hit the ceiling and rise no further. For some reason, divine intervention seems to be stalled indefinitely. In the meantime, you try everything you know to do, but, inevitably, nothing works. Then, sometimes, entropy sets in, and the situation or problem goes from bad to worse.

No. Our Needs Do Not Trump the Lord’s Needs

During the times when the Lord tests us, we often don’t know why. And usually, there is no early warning system. If your tests are like my tests, the one sure thing is that they come at what seems like the worst times.

So we wait. Surely, we think, our urgent needs trump the Lord’s need to test us. (Of course, at a later juncture, we understand how our thinking was flawed.)

But the Lord's need to transform us is most important. The Lord tests us so that He can refine us. The Hebrew word for refine, “tsaraph,” paints the picture beautifully. Tsaraph means to cast, refine, melt, purge away. Visualize a metalworker heating metal so that he can separate out the dross—the refuse, or waste—so that only the pure silver or gold remains.

Additionally, think of refining as reducing to a pure state, cleansing. These definitions and insights make sense. When we sign on as Christians, we sign on to become more like the Lord, and that process necessarily entails ongoing refinement.

But that doesn't mean the refinement process is easy.

Silent Screaming and Wringing of Hands

I just spent the past two months in a time of testing—and the testing came at exactly the time that I needed new work, and needed it quickly. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t planned in advance for ongoing work. But suddenly, previous verbal promises of work were inexplicably stalled. I couldn’t change the situation with any amount of trying. I realized that I was in a time of testing.

Of course, I knew that there are both lessons and blessings in every test; but as the days and weeks ticked by, I began to wonder, was I the world’s slowest learner? There were days when I felt like running around the house alternately screaming and wringing my hands.

But screaming wasn’t helpful since it scares the dog, so I settled for silent screaming. And since nothing I did made any difference, I was forced to look past my needs and concentrate on how the Lord wanted to refine me.

He taught me what needed to be refined. I learned, and the learning changed everything.

Check Your Motives 101

In a nutshell for my trial, I learned that I must examine my motives for everything that I ask the Lord to supply to me. I learned that the Lord’s top priority is not my income, but it is building His Kingdom. And I learned that whatever work I do, I must do it ‘as unto the Lord.’

Many times during the two months, the Lord reminded me that He didn't put me on this earth just to 'survive.' He put me, and all Christians here to serve Him.

He assured me that work would come "soon." With stunning insight, every time I'd ask, "When?" the Lord would ask, 'What's your hurry? Are you looking for income, or are you looking to do My will?'

When I answered honestly that my motive was money to pay the bills, He'd remind me that was the wrong motive. Rather, I should be looking to do His will, and then the rest would be added to me. I pondered that long and hard. It's not as if I am a pastor or missionary. I write, teach, and do professional photography in secular venues. But I learned that every kind of work is an opportunity to touch people with His love and light. In other words, every single thing counts to and for Him.

We had these conversations more times than I can count. And in every conversation, He told me check my motives. It's not as if I didn't consider all work as an opportunity to serve Him, but this lesson refined that thinking by fire. I was no longer in my own little sphere directing events and asking the Lord for help. Now, He is in charge, and I am in Him—same sphere, totally different concept.

I knew that He had brought me to a new place. While I had no landmarks, no directions, and I didn't know my way, I knew that this was His place, and that was both comforting and reassuring. I learned what it means to wait on the Lord.
Eventually though, I had to ask, "How long is soon?" He reminded me that "soon" is when He says.

Finally, I understood. Only after these lessons were permanently engraved in my head and on my heart did the work come. And I looked at the work opportunities much differently from the way I would have looked at them two months earlier. After all, this was not just another in a string of income-producing projects, this was the Lord’s work. He supplied it. And regardless of whom I work for technically, ultimately, I work for the Lord.

Tests are marvelous opportunities to know the Lord in all kinds of life events and in all circumstances. And in knowing Him better, we learn that He is faithful to bless us in more ways than we could imagine.

If you asked me about the test today, I’d tell you that I am just as thankful for the test as I am for the work that He provides me.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Cure for Couch-Potato Christianity

By Charlotte Lowrie
After celebrating Easter, I began reading the book of Acts, anxious to review the early days of the first Christians. The first-century history is so incredibly rich and inspiring that it’s impossible to sit still after reading about the church’s work. And as I read Acts 22, the whole idea of “sitting still” became a topic in its own right. But first let me set the stage with a brief summary of Acts 22.

An Apostle and a Riotous Mob

Paul returns to Jerusalem after a missionary journey. Just before Paul’s missionary journey ends, Paul’s companions and church leaders warn him that if he returns to Jerusalem, he’ll be arrested. Paul feels led by the Holy Spirit, and he returns to Jerusalem anyway. Upon his return, the church leaders in Jerusalem suggest that Paul take a vow to be purified—a process that includes shaving his head and making sacrifices. Paul does this, and just before the seven-day purification period is finished, some Jews from Asia recognize Paul at the temple. These men, who knew Paul from his missionary trip, accuse Paul of teaching against Jewish laws and traditions, and of bringing a Gentile into the temple court—an offense that called for the offending Gentile to be killed. (There was no evidence to support this accusation against Paul.) Within minutes of these accusations, people come from all directions to form a large and angry mob. The mob drags Paul outside the temple gates and beat him, intent on killing him.

Just then, a Roman commander arrives and the crowd backs off. The commander arrests and chains Paul. But the mob isn’t satisfied. In fact, by the time the soldiers and Paul reach the steps of the barracks, the soldiers have to carry Paul through the crowd to avoid further violence.

But Paul asks the Roman commander for permission to speak to the mob. Then Paul asks the crowd to listen to his “defense.” Instead of pleading with the mob for a fair hearing, and instead of defending himself against the charges, Paul tells the mob what Jesus has done in his life. In short, Paul doesn’t plead for himself: He pleads for Jesus.

The crowd settles down and listens to Paul’s story of his encounter with Jesus until he gets to the part where Jesus sends Paul out to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. At the mention of Gentiles, the mob erupts again, and Paul is taken into the barracks.

Jesus Didn’t Call Us to the Couch

I stopped reading at this point. I had to wonder why Paul chose such a dicey platform to testify about Christ. But even a cursory reading of Acts shows that Paul and the other Christians seized every opportunity to spread the Gospel of Jesus. They didn’t question whether speaking out for Jesus was “wise” or not. They acted decisively. And their actions, their passion, and their commitment laid the foundation of Christianity. Their courage and their testimony stand as their legacy to Christians today. We stand on the shoulders of their ceaseless and courageous work.

For early Christians, following Christ was nothing but hard. Comparatively, for most of us in America, following Christ is easy. So easy, in fact, that it’s easy to grow complacent. Complacency means that we leave the business of introducing others to Jesus to “the church,” or to preachers and missionaries. And as for speaking out for Christ, complacency means that we avoid politically incorrect religious discussions that could offend others. In short, it’s easier to just live and let live.

And isn’t that just what Satan wants us to think, and isn’t that just how he wants us to act—or, more precisely, to not act? Can you think of a better way to grow crop of couch-potato Christians who don’t make one bit of difference? I can’t. And I’m not pointing a finger at anyone. I have plenty of first-hand experience as a couch-potato Christian. I know how easy it is to sink into the couch after a stressful day at work, grab the remote, and dissolve into the spiritual—and mental—black void of television.

But Jesus doesn’t call us to the couch. He calls us to follow Him.

“Follow” Is an Active, Moving Kind of a Word

Still, I wondered, what exactly does it mean to “follow Him?” So I looked up the word, “follow.” In modern language, it means to move; in other words, it means to take action, to move along a course, to emulate.

Then, I got out the concordance and looked up variations of the Greek definition of “follow.” Follow not only means to follow a teacher by becoming a disciple, but it also implies accompanying, going with, following along and continuing to the end, and following close up or side by side. (Emphasis added.)

Interestingly, in no dictionary that I own does “follow” mean to sit on the couch.

Dictionary and concordance definitions are enlightening. But the Bible is, predictably, even more enlightening. Jesus gets to the heart of what ‘Follow Me’ means:

* Luke 9:23 (NIV): “Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’

* Luke 18: 22 (NIV): “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

The way I read this is that no couch or television remote control is involved—rather there is action, movement every single day. For a minute, I considered how ironic it is that I expect Jesus to be here for me regardless of the time of day or the situation. And sure enough, He is there whenever I call on Him. He never stops working on my behalf. But, likewise, He calls me, and us, to work for Him—whether ‘working’ means showing kindness to an elderly neighbor, bringing food to the hungry, or telling others about how Jesus has changed our lives.

Get Moving

When Paul’s spoke to the mob in Jerusalem, he told them how the brilliance of the light of Christ temporarily blinded him. The brilliance of Christ’s light burns just as bright today as it did for Paul. We just have to let Him shine through us. And I’m convinced that won’t happen if we’re sitting on the couch with the remote control in hand. Nowadays, my prayer now isn’t for a day off to relax on the couch; rather it is for His guidance on getting “moving” —following Him.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

We Serve a Risen Lord

Good Friday

“Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Isaiah 53 (NIV)

The Last Supper

“‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’

And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’’’ Luke 22:14-22 (NIV)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Stones Will Cry Out!

Celebrating Palm Sunday

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,


Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the King of Israel!’

Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

‘Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
See, your king is coming,
Seated on a donkey’s colt.’”

John 12:12-13 NIV

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’

‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘If they keep quiet the stones will cry out.’”

Luke 19:39-40 NIV

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Words of Encouragement

By Mildred Mungan

I wanted to share a word of encouragement:

“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22, 23

These verses were part of my devotional this morning, and I wanted to share them. May they encourage you as they encouraged me this day.

He is faithful even when we are not, or even when we don’t feel like being so.

Rest in His peace.

We Are the Dot on God's Timeline of History

In our small group, we have the privilege to study Beth Moore’s amazing video series on the book of Daniel. The second half of the 12-week course focuses on the prophetic chapters of Daniel.

Through history, we know that Daniel's prophecies have come to pass as the world moved from the golden age of Babylon, to the silver age of the Medo-Persian empire, to the bronze age of the Grecian empire, and then to the iron-and-clay Roman empire. And now, we are in Church Age as we wait for the remainder of Daniel’s vision to be fulfilled.

This short history recap may sound innocuous.

In fact, you may be yawning.

But as Beth Moore points out with stunning urgency:

WE are the current dot on God’s timeline of history.

There are no more empires waiting in the wings--only the end times await us.

Stifle the yawn because this means that:

  • This is the age.

  • This is the time.

  • This is the hour.

  • This is the moment to shine for Christ.

We are literally the Light of the World that Jesus spoke of.

That means you.
That means me.
Right here.
Right now.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rock Our World

By Charlotte Lowrie

How far removed are Christians today from Christians of the first century? I’ve often wondered about that question, so I went to Acts 3 and 4 to learn more. In these chapters, Peter and John call on the power of Jesus’ name and heal a crippled man. The healed man, joyous with his new mobility, walks to the temple courts with the disciples. Actually, he alternately walks and jumps—praising God the entire time. People recognize the crippled beggar, and they are stunned to see him walking and jumping.

Soon a crowd gathered around the three men at Solomon’s Colonnade, a raised porch at the outermost part of the temple.

Peter saw the surprise of the people, and he quickly and powerfully told them that they had not healed the man through their own power or goodness but through the name and power of Jesus. Peter reminded them that in ignorance, they and others had handed over Jesus to the authorities, and ultimately they had “killed the author of life.” (Acts 3:15 NIV) But Peter told them that God raised Jesus from the dead. And in the name of Jesus, Peter and John were able to heal the crippled man. Many in the crowd believed in Jesus that afternoon, but the temple guards, priests, and Saducees were quick to quell the disciples’ teachings. They took Peter and John into custody and threw them into jail for the night.

Interrogation before the Sanhedrin

The next day, Peter and John were taken before the Sanhedrin for questioning. The 71-member Sanhedrin, presided over by the high priest, was the highest Jewish council, something like a Supreme Court for Jews. Peter and John had every reason to be concerned. After all, the Sanhedrin was the governing body that plotted to have Jesus arrested and killed. With Jesus’ persecution and crucifixion still fresh in mind, Peter and John were doubtless aware of the potential consequences of preaching the name of Jesus and answering to the Sanhedrin for it.

Yet, during the questioning by the religious leaders, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke boldly. They told the council, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10) Peter quoted Psalm 118:22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” pointing out that the stone refers to Jesus. Then Peter told them, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 3:12)

The religious council members were cornered. Standing in front of them was the healed man. Many people on the temple grounds had seen the healed man enjoying his newly found mobility and praising God. Clearly, the religious leaders were in no position to publicly discredit or punish Peter and John. So they ordered Peter and John to stop teaching in the name of Jesus.

Peter responded, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 3: 19-20)

Then the disciples went back to their group of believers and told them what had happened. Without hesitation, the new Christian congregation responded with prayer. They based their prayer on Psalm 2, a powerful Psalm prophesying of Jesus and His ultimate authority over all nations on earth. The Psalm asks why nations conspire and people plot against the Lord and His Anointed One? It says that when rulers conspire to ignore or depose God, God not only laughs, but also makes rulers the focus of His righteous anger. In this Psalm, God sets His Son over all nations, making it clear that nations are to serve Him with fear and trembling. In their prayer, the early Christians remind God how rulers conspired against Jesus to bring to pass all that God had ordained beforehand for His Son.

Rocking the World for Jesus

Theirs was a powerful prayer, to be sure. But as the prayer continues, it is important to note what the believers did not pray for, and to consider what we would pray for if we were in similar circumstances today. They, or we, could ask God:

· For protection from harsh actions from the Sanhedrin including jail,
banishment from the temple, and other sanctions
· To escape to a safer city to spread the Gospel
· For religious tolerance
· For freedom of speech

But they didn’t ask for protection or fairness. Instead they prayed to speak with the Lord’s word with “great boldness.” In effect, they did not pray to be spared, but they prayed to be placed in the thick of the battle: To speak louder, to speak more eloquently, to speak more powerfully for the Lord. They showed no fear, and they had no hesitation. They wanted even greater power to rock the world for Jesus.

The believers realized that the religious leaders showed restraint only because of the miracle of healing the crippled man. So they also prayed, “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29) And with the backing of irrefutable miracles and signs, they wrapped themselves with the mantel of the Lord—impervious to harassment and threats. They prayed for the power to do more in the name of Jesus.

God responded to their prayer immediately. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 4:31) And, indeed, they spoke the word of God boldly. As Christians today, we are a living testament to their boldness and to their courage.

What a great lesson in prayer! How many times are our prayers skewed toward not having our world rocked? How often do we resist having our tidy world rocked, rearranged, threatened, or changed in any way. What would we have done if we had been in the same situation? Would we have prayed for greater boldness, or would we have wanted to avoid trouble with the authorities? The early Christians prayed to create more ‘trouble,’ regardless of the consequences. They claimed the promise of Psalm 2:12, “…Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”

The early Christians realized—far more intimately than those of us who live in a safe Christian nation—how important it was to keep spreading the Gospel at all costs. Thinking through this story in Acts, I had to take a long and hard look at my courage to speak out for Jesus. And since that long hard look, my perspective, and my prayers have changed. Today, my prayer is that God will rock my world and let me speak the Word of the Lord boldly. And like the early Christians, I pray that He will stretch out His hand to rock the entire world with His healing, and miraculous signs and wonders.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Celebrating His Presence

His voice whispers in every living thing.
In every seed that breaks forth,
In every wind that blows,
In every mountain pushing up to the sky,
His signature is beauty and majesty.
From Him all beauty, purity, and knowledge flow.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lessons from the Blind Man

Charlotte Lowrie

Recently my daughter wanted a framed picture to put in her new office. I knew that I had a picture like the one she described, so we set off to my upstairs “junk” room, to find it. We looked though several stacks of framed prints and photographs, but it wasn’t there. So we fanned out, looking through other rooms and closets. Eventually, we regrouped in the junk room, both of us ready to give up. Then my daughter said, “Turn around.” There on the wall behind me was the picture we were looking for. It had been in hanging front of us the entire time.

We went downstairs laughing that we had missed what was right before our eyes. Our encounter with “blindness” reminded me of the story in John 9. Here is a recap of that story.

One Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples encountered a man blind from birth. Jesus spit on the ground and made enough mud to cover the blind man’s eyes. Then Jesus told the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The blind man went and washed, and he could see for the first time. The dismayed neighbors took the healed man to the Pharisees where the man began a long interrogation process. The judges, however, refused to believe the man, and called in additional witnesses; in this case, the man’s parents. Sure enough, the parents testified, this was their son, and he had been blind since birth.

But that wasn’t good enough. The Pharisees called the healed man in again, this time warning him to give the glory to God because they “knew” that this man Jesus was a sinner. The healed man replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.”

But the court still wasn’t satisfied. They asked the man to repeat the story of his healing, this time accusing the man of being a disciple of Jesus, and reminding the man that they didn’t even know where this fellow Jesus came from.

Clearly exasperated, the healed man said, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Predictably, the Pharisees were enraged at this lecture and threw the man out, telling him that he’d been a sinner since birth.

Jesus heard what happened to the formerly blind man. Jesus talked to the man, and the man became a follower of Jesus. Pharisees, who were hanging around nearby, overhead the conversation between Jesus and the healed man. They asked Jesus, “What? Are we blind too?”

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
(Recounted from John 9:1-41 NIV)

Like the picture that my daughter and I searched for, the Pharisees, men of "vision," missed what was right in front of their eyes--Jesus, the very Savior that they were waiting for.

On the other hand, the man who had no vision, allowed a stranger to pack mud on his eyes. Then by faith, he walked to the pool, washed off the mud, and he could see--for the first time in his life.

Then, the time that should have been a wonderful celebration for the healed man turned into an ugly court hearing. But the healed man’s testimony is absolutely classic. With the eloquence of a man whose entire life changed by Jesus, the healed man says simply, “One thing I do know, I was blind, but now I see!”

And don’t those words from the blind man encapsulate our own testimony about Jesus?

Sometimes, I 'envision' the grand things I want to do for Jesus. That's when He reminds me to keep it simple: “I didn’t call you to be great. I called you to follow Me.”

Jesus doesn’t call most of us to be great. He calls us to simply testify of His life-changing presence in our lives.

Nothing fancy. Nothing difficult. He calls us to tell what He has done for us—to simply tell our story to one person, then another, and another.

And in that way, we spread His light; and in that way, He continues to open the eyes of the blind.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Plugged in to His Promises

It’s amazing to me how the Lord is there for us just when we need Him. I recently sent my tax information to my accountant—tax time is always a dicey time of the year. A week later, the accountant called with devastating news. While the Lord had blessed me last year, the Federal Government wanted a huge chunk of money, not the least of which resulted from a doubling in the self-employment tax.

Unlike my reaction in years before accepting the Lord as my Savior, I remained calm throughout the conversation with my accountant and afterward. Still, I knew that this tax bill would set me back and make it very hard to keep up with monthly bills this year.

I went to the table to eat breakfast, study the Bible, and pray. I’d been reading through Isaiah again, so I opened to the chapter for the day, Isaiah: 59. These are the first words that I read.

“Surely the arm of the Lord
is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.”

I read the first verse, and then I read it again. Then I read further to see what the context was. The context was that Israel’s sin separated them from God.

Despite the context, the Lord kept bringing me back to that first verse. He reminded me that we live under His new covenant, and that I should trust this promise. From past experience, I know that the arm of the Lord is long, strong, and faithful. So I trust His promise, knowing that He will work this situation, and everything else in life, to His glory.

Rumor has it that there are no taxes in heaven. . .

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Thoughts for the Journey

"Loving other people, it turns out, is all about them. Then in serving and loving the other person--after making that person's cares my priority--the reward from that eventually comes back to me. That means hanging on. Praying without ceasing.
"...Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus meant that for real, it turns out. And what a Savior. He showed us how to do it: Love imperfect people because I have loved even you."

-- Patricia Raybon, from I Told the Mountain to Move.
"I simply argue that the cross be raised again
at the center of the market place
as well as on the steeple of the church,
I am recovering the claim that
Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral
between two candles:
But on a cross between two thieves;
on a town garbage heap;
At a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan
that they had to write His title
in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek. . .
And at the kind of place where cynics talk smut,
and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.
Because that is where He died,
and that is what He died about.
And that is where Christ's men ought to be,
and what church people ought to be about."

-- from, "I simply argue that the cross" George MacLeod, as quoted in Charles R. Swindoll, Come Before Winter (Carol Stream, III: Tyndale House, 1985)
"A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking.
But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening."

-- Soren Kierkegaard

"If our prayers are to mean anything to God, they must mean everything to us."

-- Frederick D. Haynes III, from "Prayerfully Handling Situations beyond Your Control," in No Other Help I Know: Sermons on Prayer and Spirituality, ed. J. Alfred Smith, 1996.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Lord Waits on Us

The Bible tells us to wait on the Lord.

For example, in Psalm 27:14, David says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

And in Isaiah 30:18, Isaiah writes, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

But very often, it’s the other way around—the Lord waits on us.

In Exodus 12:42, it says that the Lord “kept vigil that night to bring them [the Israelites] out of Egypt.”

In Joshua 3:17, the Levite priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood in the middle of the Jordan River and waited while the entire nation of Israel, about 40,000 armed for battle, crossed over before the Lord on dry ground.

Think about 40,000 people. That is literally acres of people. To make a modern-day comparison, Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon that seats 46,000. Imagine the time it takes to empty a stadium of that size. Now factor in that the people aren't wearing their running shoes and carrying little felt pennants; instead, they're wearing armor and carrying big, heavy shields and spears. There is no question in my mind that the Lord, and the priests, waited patiently a very long time.

Isn’t it astounding that the creator of the universe loves us so much that He will, and, He most often does, wait for us to cross safely to the other side regardless how long it takes?

Recommended Reading

In If you’re looking for books to help you in your walk with Christ, here are some recent recommendations from my personal bookshelf.

I Told the Mountain to Move, by Patricia Raybon. With painfully honest and captivating writing, Patricia Raybon takes readers on her journey from lukewarm Christianity to a thrilling and powerful relationship with Christ. She starts her journey out of disillusionment by focusing on prayer. She vows to learn as Richard Foster describes, the “real” way to pray: to “Pray so things healed. Pray so things stopped. Pray so things started. Pray so things changed.” She learns not only how to pray with power, but also how to mend a broken life. Highly recommended.

The Power of Your Words: How God Can Bless Your Life Through the Words You Speak, by Robert Morris. If you think that what you say is expendable both for yourself and those around you, think again. In The Power of Your Words, Morris provides solid Biblical evidence that the words you speak are either a blessing or a curse, and they always have a consequence. By the end of the book, you’ll know “Oh, how much your words matter.”

What Your Do Best in the Body of Christ: Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, Personal Style, and God-Given Passion, by Bruce Bugbee. In this practical and highly readable book, Bugbee provides a sequence of text and evaluation tools to help you discover what you do best as a Christian and within the Church. He guides you to find God’s purpose for your life, your spiritual gifts, personal style, and your passion.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Greatest Hero of All

Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a hero. As a boy I would play Tarzan in the mulberry tree in our yard or I would tie a towel on myself and become the caped crusader. I’m sure you know what I mean.

Hero’s captivate our imaginations and find their way into our hearts. Everything from rescuing a kitten from a tree to the incredible men and women who risked their lives in the 9/11 tragedy.

Every legend, every movie, every sporting event and epic battle has a hero. It’s the person who stands out the one who is spoken of with reverence. That’s who I always wanted to be.

“I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15

At 41 years old I stood guilty in a courtroom as an honorable judge looked upon me as if I was the most despised criminal he had every seen. At least that is how it felt. He looked right at me and sentenced me to 2 ½ years in a state prison. That night I went down and he went home – justice served – who’s the hero?

I had become a drug addict, a thief; I abandoned my family, my business. I had become the most selfish person I had ever known. I have done things that to this day haut my imagination. The power of addiction, one of Satan’s greatest lies, enticed me to do, to be, the very thing I hate.

The pain of facing the guilt and the shame caused bitter depression within me. I had the sour taste of defeat in my mouth and as hard as I tried I just couldn’t spit it out. I was stripped of everything; even the last ounce of pride I cherished was gone. Amidst the tears and despair I could hear a voice inside of me, I just couldn’t understand it.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

My dysfunctional way of thinking and my addiction to chaos created great void within myself. As I moved through my own life, I learned to live with a distorted view of who I was.

Even though in the middle of all my confusion I could faintly hear that voice glowing louder. Then, as I found myself in prison the voice was as plain as day.

“I have so much more planned for you than you have planned for yourself.”

Now, if I can believe that God loves me enough to send His son to die for the sins that I committed so that I may be freely pardoned to the Kingdom of Heaven then how could I possibly believe that God would spend His time creating me so that I would grow to 41 years old and become totally and utterly defeated.

This is something that deserves some thought. God has called us His masterpiece – the King James Version says we are His workmanship. I have recognized that the way we view ourselves is a long way from the way God views us.

I built roads and bridges in the outside world. I’m a crane operator, heavy equipment operator; I’m experienced in concrete and even owned my own contracting company. When we would get a job I would review the blueprints, survey in elevations, cut and fill in dirt to make the roadway smooth and straight, a little concrete here and a little concrete there. Soon the whole environment resembled the vision of the designer. This roadway has a specific purpose.

God works the same way. He takes the time to design us with purpose, then He sends us out with a plan and we screw it up. It’s like sneaking into a museum and drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa with a magic marker. That’s who I had become, 41 years old walking around with a magic marker.

“Forget former times, do not dwell on the past, see, I am doing a new thing!” Isaiah 43: 18-19

Things got a whole lot easier for me when I truly realized that God was for me an not against me. He is a God of many chances and we should give many thanks for that.

But honestly, I have looked in the mirror and wondered “What can God really do with me?” I have wasted so much and quite frankly coming to prison has felt more like the end than a new beginning.

Here is what I know – this I understand, I know what it is like to have an uncontrollable addiction. I know what it feels like to abandon people who love and depend on me and I know what it’s like to be abandoned. I know the severe pain that comes with guilt and shame. I know what it’s like to lie, cheat, steal, rob, hurt someone just to finance an addiction. I know what it’s like to lose all my respect of myself and the respect of others, to lose everything and to sleep behind dumpsters or on the steps of a broken down building.

I know what it’s like to raise my hands up to Heaven and beg God to let me die. How could God possibly use this …?

“Greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

As I was laying in my bed last night I realized for the first time in my life what a true hero really is. You see I always wanted to be a hero so that I would be recognized, maybe a parade, or a medal or the front page of a magazine. I waned to be a hero for me.

A hero is someone who becomes self-less in adversity not selfish for notoriety. A hero puts others before himself and uses what he has to help them, like a fireman uses a ladder – it’s what he knows.

If I could use what I know to help even one to see he Saving Grace of Jesus Christ then I would become the hero that god created me to be. My desire to be a hero has been his plan all along. In fact, He calls us all to be heroes.

The circumstances of our past can be used like a coat that we can through over a puddle so other won’t get their feet muddy. We lay our lives down maybe not literally but figuratively, just as Jesus did – The Greatest Hero of All.