Sunday, October 30, 2011

Creativity and the Daily Walk, Part II

By Charlotte Lowrie

I continue to seek greater creative expression in my work. And in my daily walk with the Lord, I ask for insight and guidance on being creative. And the Lord often reveals more about the source and expression of creativity.

Here are some of the latest notes on creativity from my prayer journal.

"I instilled [creativity] in you from the beginning. It is from Me, and within you. Give it space and time. [Creativity] must be nurtured, allowed to breathe—to have breath. It cannot live otherwise. Breath is life in all things. Let it breath. Do not crowd out your creativity with too many thoughts. Our creativity works together—what I’ve instilled in you, and what I inspire you with. That is how the gift works."

"Through the gift of creativity, the creative process on earth continues beyond the [original] creation, for you are my agents. I work through you if you answer the call."

"The [creative] expression is yours. The Source is Me. You have the nuances of expression, and the content is Mine. [Creativity] flows from Me to you. Accept it. Expect it. Embrace it. Look for it every day."

The Lord has cautioned me to not block creativity. Following the crowd—following the popular trends of whatever creative endeavor we’re involved in, can block creativity. Instead, the Lord encourages us to seek His approval rather than approval from the others. "Don't focus on others; focus on what you can do, and do it well. You know what you do well…cultivate your uniqueness."

And for anyone who looks at what the Lord has created, this note will not be a surprise. "There is beauty in all [that I create]. Beauty and function co-exist in perfect harmony."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Letting Go

By Charlotte Lowrie

It wasn't until I let go
Not until I relinquished control
Did my life become whole.

I'd gone as far as I could go
Alone, under my own control
And still, I was not whole.

Not until I let go,
Not until I turned over control
And said, "I give up,"
Could He make me whole.
Because He knows me,
Because He cares,
I could dare
To let go.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Which Do You Love Most: Glory from Man or God?

By Charlotte Lowrie

As I was reading the Gospel of John, I came across a familiar passage that describes the reaction of many who saw the miracles that Jesus performed.

“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so they would not be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12:42-43 ESV)

This passage made me stop and think. In a world of pervasive social networks where the goal is to collect the most “friends,” “likes,” “followers,” “+1’s,” or be in the most “circles,” I thought about how we chase the glory that comes from man now more than ever before. But more specifically, I questioned how much of what I do is to glorify myself rather than to glorify God.

So I asked myself questions. When I write articles or books, do I write in such as way as to glorify God, or do I write what I think will be popular with readers? When I make pictures, do I choose scenes and subjects that I think will gain recognition for me as a photographer, or do I photograph subjects and scenes that will help others “see” God? While I can honestly say that most of the time I want to glorify God through the work He gives me, it’s still tempting to slip into the popularity-contest syndrome, or to do what I or my client thinks will sell best.

And then there is the problem of experience and habit. Once I get deeply involved in a project or I’m facing a deadline, I fall back into my years of experience and forge ahead, neglecting His presence and leading. I hate it when that happens, so I’ve learned to do two things.

First, every morning, I ask for the Lord to guide me in all that I do. And, second, at the end of the day, I evaluate what I’ve done during the day. Almost always, I can pinpoint times when I went off on my own. So I talk to the Lord about why it happened and ways to keep it from happening tomorrow. For me, it’s an ongoing process of learning to be attuned to His presence in every moment.

Doing work that glorifies God begins at the outset of whatever work we do—at the stage of conception. With photography, it is looking for the light and subject that illuminates the stunning beauty of God’s creation. And the focus on glorifying God continues as I edit images with integrity toward what I saw and photographed. The same is true with writing, and with any work. From beginning to end, the goal is to glorify God in every step. The beauty of it is that if I ask for His help, He graciously and generously provides the ideas, light, subjects, and words that I need. And what the Lord provides is always far better than anything I could come up with on my own. (And while I'm talking about work in this post, glorifying God applies to all that we do in our lives.)

Earlier in the book of John, Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’” (John 12:27-28 ESV) Our work is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ so that He, in turn, can glorify the Father. And Jesus promised, “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26) It is for this purpose—to glorify God—that we have life.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Are You a Missing Note?

By Charlotte Lowrie

Are you a missing note in the song of the Kingdom today?

I believe that God has orchestrated His believers so that each of us has a part, or a note, to play in the Kingdom song — the song or work that is playing or being accomplished at this moment in time. And for the song to be complete, every note is necessary.

I recently questioned my part in the song. As I looked at the plethora of accomplished photographers and writers, I wondered if I had anything to contribute to the song, or was I simply duplicating the same note that many others were already playing.

The Lord reminded me that many people are blessed with the same talents that I have, but they cannot do what I have been – and what you have been – singularly anointed to do in the Kingdom of God. The Lord reminded me that, “There is only one you. And only you can do what I have given you to do. Do what I have given you to do.”

This message is for every believer. The Kingdom song—the Kingdom work—is not complete without your unique note. No one else can play your note, for it is ours alone—your unique calling. And that’s what not only makes the song complete, but it is what makes a difference.

By way of example, there is only one person in the world that has my, or your, testimony. This is the unique story that God has given each of us. Part of our work in the Kingdom is to share our story with others. Another part of our work is to uniquely use the talents and gifts that God has given us to advance the Kingdom.

You may think that your talents and gifts are so small or insignificant that they would make no difference. Sometimes, and even often times, it’s hard to see what, if any, difference our work makes in the Kingdom. But seeing the difference we make is less important than faithfully serving the Lord with the talents and the gifts that we have received.

When Jesus commissioned the disciples, He told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. He concluded by saying, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) And so it is with us. We are gifted—every one of us with our part. It’s our work to freely give back to the Kingdom what we have freely received.

Play the note that you, and only you, can play in the song of the Kingdom.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Preparing for the End Times

By Charlotte Lowrie

When we see disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, we automatically ask ourselves if we are prepared for such disasters. For example, I have stocked a supply of drinking water and food, and I have a plan for temporary shelter if my home becomes unlivable. With natural disasters, we never know if we will experience one, but we prepare just in case.

For Christians, there is no question of whether Christ will return. It's not a matter of "if" but "when." And just as with a natural disaster, the question is, are we prepared? And having asked that question, the next question has to be, "What does being prepared mean?" The following list provides starting points for Christians to prepare for Christ's return.

What Does Being Prepared Mean?

  • Know the Word of God. Be able to quote Scripture when you come against the evil one. He will try to trick and deceive followers of Christ. Answer with the Scripture, just as Christ did in the wilderness temptation (Matthew 4:1-11), and as He did when many questioned him during his time on earth. Know both the promises and the commands of God by heart.

  • Prepare your heart. It is easy to follow Christ when there are no trials in our lives, but He has called us to stand strong in trials, and there will be trials for Christians even in Western countries. Be prepared to stand firm in the faith and in His words.

  • Expect trials. Many Christians are asleep, unaware of growing evil, unaware of the growing threats to our Western freedoms, and unaware of how insidious changes are happening every day. In thinking about trials, I think about what the saints of the first-century church did when they were brought before government courts, and what they did when they were thrown into jail. I also think about what Jesus did under persecution. Ask yourself what you would do if everything you have was taken away, and you faced a group of armed, hostile kidnappers? Imagining these scenarios may seem foreign to Western Christians, but they are every day experiences for Christians in the Middle East, China, India, and parts of South America and Africa. Be prepared.

  • Expect the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. His coming will be soon--sooner than you think. As Jesus says in Matthew 24:35-37 (NIV), "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angles in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." in Mark 13:33, Jesus adds, "Be on guard. Be alert. You do not know when that time will come." (Some manuscripts say be "alert and pray.")

  • Prepare for His coming. As Jesus said in John 4:34-36 (NIV): "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish His work. Don't you have a saying, 'It is still four months until harvest?' I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together." In all harvests, the Holy Spirit prepares the way. Follow the Spirit's urging. Tell your story to others. The time is short. Of those you love, who will be left behind at the trumpet call? Have you shared your story with those people?

  • Test the spirits. As John says in I John 4:1-3, "Dear friends, do no believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." The Message puts verse 1 this way, "My dear friends, don't believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world."
And regardless of the trials that the end times bring, remember John's words in I John 4:4, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Called to Love

I remind myself very often that Christ called us as believers to first love God with all our hearts, all our strength, and with all our minds, and to love others as ourselves. But once in awhile, I have to be reminded that we are to love others as they are, not as we want them to be.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." (I Corinthians 13:12-13 NIV)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Support Israel

In light of the speech by President Obama suggesting that Israel return to the pre-1967 borders, many Christians are taking action to support Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response to President Obama's suggestion that a return to those borders is indefensible.

If you want to support Israel's response, I encourage you to visit the Christians United for Israel Web site (just click the previous text to visit the site), and send an e-mail supporting the Prime Minister's stance. The e-mail text is written, you only need to sign the letter. The goal is to have 50,000 letters of support mailed by Tuesday, May 24 when Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

God in Every Moment

By Charlotte Lowrie

I often hear sermons about waiting for “God to show up.” When I hear these sermons, I am inevitably confused. I believe that God shows up in every moment of life. There is no waiting. He said that He will never leave us or forsake us, and I take that promise literally. I believe that it means He will be present in every moment of every day of my life.

This is important because for many years, I was determined to live my life myself—all by myself. Independence was the watchword of my life. I trusted no one except myself. After I found Christ, one of the first changes in my life was turning over everything in my life to Christ. Relinquishing control over my life required complete trust in Him.

Through the years, day-by-day, challenge-by-challenge, I've found Him to be wise beyond human understanding. His decisions are sometimes beyond my understanding, and they are always perfect. The impossible becomes possible, not once, but over and over again. Ordinary moments became extraordinary as I learn of His love. Moments are also extraordinary as I also experience His marvelous sense of humor. Periodically, I still remind Him that He's invited to be in every moment and every aspect of my life. And, once invited, He is there faithfully. I never have to wait.

Does this mean that everything goes perfectly in my life? Far from it. I know that there are many things that He has to teach me that involve changes and challenges. And in the course of an average day, I make mistakes. But because He is in every moment of life, I can immediately talk to Him about the mistakes and learn from them. And we, together and in that moment, can move on from that place.

After all these years, I can imagine my life no other way. I never wait for God to show up. I know that He is there in every moment, just as He promised.

For me, a moment without God is a moment without breath. I pray that He is in every moment of your life as well.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blessings During Easter Season

Easter is celebrated on one day, but living life as a follower of Jesus
is a journey that lasts a lifetime.
As Easter day passes, let us
live the power of the resurrection every day!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thoughts for Holy Week, 2011

By Charlotte Lowrie

If you’re like me, the ongoing events throughout the world are clear signs of Biblical prophecies being fulfilled before our eyes. As we enter holy week anticipating the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, I’m reminded of His command:

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this, if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24: 42-44 NIV)

As we watch and wait, I hope that you will join with me in praying for:

  • A mighty, powerful revival that will sweep through the world.
  • A strong, clear voice for Christians worldwide.
  • Our brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide who are today being persecuted for their faith in the Lord.
  • The Lord’s continued protection of Israel and Jews worldwide.

Jesus said that many deceivers would come. And today, we’re conditioned to be tolerant and accepting of other beliefs and religions. But the Lord didn’t tell us to be politically correct. He warned of false Christs and prophets that will deceive many. Rather, we are to test the spirits. I John 4 says, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (I John 1-6, NIV)

For a new and important look at the end times and prophecy, I recommend reading God’s War on Terror. This book by Walid Shoebat, a former Islamic terrorist who converted to Christianity, provides a detailed and revealing look at the end times.

I pray that this week will bring a renewed commitment to sharing the Lord Jesus Christ with friends, family, and anyone who will listen.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Prayer Is a Conversation

By Charlotte Lowrie

For years, I’ve admired believers who can pray with power and passion, with eloquence; prayers that inspire listeners to renewed faith and service. For years, I’ve known that I am not I am not one of those people. I’ve thought that I “should” be an eloquent pray-er, and that’s been troubling. In fact, if even one other person is present, I get nervous and self-conscious—a response that is a world different from my daily ongoing conversations with and prayers to the Lord.

Of course, I know that there is a difference between prayers prayed in different contexts, such as prayers prayed in a worship service with a group of believers, and the daily prayers of an individual believer.

First, I looked at what Jesus taught about prayer. The classic passage on praying is found in Matthew 6. In verses 5-15, Jesus gave specific instructions on prayer. To paraphrase, He told us:

  • Not to pray in places and in ways to bring attention and credit to ourselves.
  • To pray simply. The Father already knows what we need. Just ask.
  • To pray privately--in a prayer closet with the door closed.*

And then Jesus gave us the Lord’s prayer, a short prayer of perfect order and simplicity. First we honor the Father and pray for the advancement of His Kingdom. Then we ask him to provide for our daily needs—needs that He already knows. Then we ask for forgiveness of our debts as we forgive others. We ask for His protection from temptation and evil. Then we give Him the glory and honor that belong only to Him.

Certainly, Jesus’ model of prayer argues for simplicity. But I wanted to know more, and so I asked. As I’ve known for many years, prayer is a two-way conversation. With every sentence there must be time for an exchange. If the Lord questions me, I pause, listen for His questions, and then answer from the heart. I am careful with answers. Because He knows the heart, only a heart-honest answer will do. And if I ask questions, I must likewise pause and listen from the heart.

That attitude of prayer as a conversation sets the stage for a rich exchange. Beyond that, the Lord expects that we will, “Pray always from the heart simply, for I know the heart. Anything else is simply noise, and it is not heard.”

It’s important to note that He did not say to pray from the mind. The mind is strong and opinionated. It makes excuses. It has desires, logic, and it colors real needs with both right and wrong motivations. By contrast, the heart reduces the chatter of the mind to our true, essential needs. In some ways, it is harder to pray from the heart than from the mind. For example, to pray from the heart, I have to first question myself closely before prayer to see what lies heavy on my heart. And when I know what’s on my heart, then my prayer is unfailingly simple and direct. In other words, searching the heart truly gets to the heart of things.

Finally, the Lord added, “It is the heart that the Father know and sees. It is the heart that He cares for.”

And when I still have questions about whether my prayers are acceptable, He asks me, “Are your prayers answered?” And the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” So I continue to pray as a two-way conversation, simply, and from the heart. And it is indeed good.

Amen, and Amen, and Amen.

* The prayer closet brings to mind the Jewish custom of covering the head with a tallit for morning prayers. A tallit is a large, rectangular shawl. When closed, the tallit forms an instant prayer ‘closet.’ A blue thread is sewed into the fringe so the wearer will remember and do the commandments of the Lord, and be holy unto God. (Numbers 15: 38-40)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Looking to the Bible for New Year's Resolutions

New Years is a time of new beginnings, fresh starts, and resolutions seem especially appropriate today with the unique calendar sequence of 1/1/11. We resolve all sorts of things, but at the heart of them all is to the desire and conviction to change one thing or another in our lives. Of course, all the resolutions in the world pall by comparison to the life transformation that comes through Jesus Christ.

But when we "resolve" in unison with the Lord, we can experience success in our goals. I looked in the Bible for resolutions, and I found many. These resolutions inspired me, and I share them that they may inspire you as you look forward to this new year.

"Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, 'A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar' (that is En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help form the Lord; Indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek Him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4, New International Version)

"The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way." (Daniel 1:7-9)

"I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word." (Psalm 119:16 NIV)

"Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name." (Psalm 18:49 NIV)

"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)

And my favorite resolution from the Bible is in Joshua:

"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

May the Lord richly bless you and keep you now and always.