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)