Marvelous Indeed!

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

The pastor of my youth opened every Easter Sunday service with this ancient declaration and response. This Truth and its acknowledgement is a succinct statement of what makes me tick.

“But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

Luke 24:12

Luke tells us, early on the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James gathered the spices they had prepared for the anointing of Jesus’ body. They headed to the tomb where He had been laid and discovered that the tomb was open and His body was gone. I cannot imagine what was going through their minds. Just as they stood there, “perplexed,” Luke tells us, two men appeared to them “in dazzling clothing” and declared the shocking news:

“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:5-7)

The women, remembering Jesus’ words, went and told the disciples what they had seen and heard. The disciples didn’t believe them. But Peter had to go see for himself.

I have focused on Peter these past few days. Peter was one of three disciples, along with James and John, who seemed to have a particularly close relationship with Jesus. Jesus took only these three up the mountain to witness His transfiguration for example (Luke 9:28-36). Peter was the disciple who vowed to stand with Jesus on Maundy Thursday, but soon afterward deserted Him, denying Him three times. Luke wrote that Peter wept bitterly upon hearing the rooster crow, just as Jesus said. Here, we see Peter, gathered with the other ten disciples, receiving this incredible news from the women who had visited Jesus’ tomb. As the others expressed doubt, Peter went to see.

I love what Peter did upon looking into the the tomb, containing only the linens that once wrapped Jesus’ body, but otherwise empty just as the women had said. Luke doesn’t say he returned to the place where the disciples were gathered; maybe he did. But what Luke tells us Peter ultimately did really resonates with me:

“…he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

This is a lot to take in. Sometimes we just need time alone to ponder, consider and pray. Peter “marveled” at what had happened. Have you ever marveled over the works of God? Have you ever watched the sun set over a vast ocean or mighty mountain range and marveled at the glory of God’s creation? Have you ever found yourself in need, really in need, and have God meet that need seemingly out of nowhere? Have you ever opened Scripture and heard God’s voice as you read it? Does the reality of what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for those who believe hit home?

Today we Christians celebrate the most important event in all of history and the greatest miracle of all time – the resurrection of our Lord from the grasp of death. The victory lies not with those who killed Him. The victory is His, and through His victory, we have assurance of eternal life with Him in Heaven. This, my friends, is something to celebrate. This is something worth marveling. This is most certainly and eternally true.

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Happy Easter!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

What Now?

I’ve never really known what to do with the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It seems that it should be different from other Saturdays, given the events of Good Friday and the coming celebration of Easter Sunday, like we’re sort of on “pause” as we await Jesus’ resurrection. Reading my Holy Week devotional this morning, God offered this:

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

While this is not a direct answer to my Easter Saturday dilemma, it made me think: what do I do with Good Friday? Do the events of Good Friday have any lasting influence on my life here on Earth? Or do I simply coast, awaiting the day when God calls me home to be with Him, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?

As I pondered this, it struck me that the man who wrote this letter is Peter, the disciple who swore vehemently that he would never abandon Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34) Through the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the disciples still did not understand what God was unfolding. I can only imagine the disciples on Saturday, sitting together, wondering what to do next. Their beloved teacher, Jesus, was gone. His enemies had won (or so it seemed). I’m sure they feared potential repercussions upon themselves. Scripture does not tell us how they spent Saturday – probably because that is not what God wants us to focus on.

In reading Peter’s letters, we see a different person than the man who cowered by the fire that Thursday night, denying Jesus as the young girl and others pointed him out to those who had gathered (Luke 22:54-61). Jesus was right. Peter would deny Him three times. When that reality hit, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). And then, after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the disciples finally got it, thanks to Jesus’ appearing to them and to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1-2). Peter and the rest were changed forever and God worked through them in incredible ways.

So here we sit in 2019 with the benefit of Scriptural insight, including eyewitness accounts of the events that first Easter weekend. And, Peter, the one who denied Jesus, offers this. Jesus, by His sacrifice, healed the wounds that our sins heap upon us. It was His action that saves us for all eternity. Our response: to reject sin (“die to sin”) and seek a righteous, God-pleasing lifestyle (“live to righteousness”). The fact that we are freed from sin’s bondage and eternal consequence offers the opportunity to open our arms wide, embrace life and approach it from an entirely different perspective – the perspective of one who is free, one who is loved, one who is saved. The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is, I believe, the ideal time to ponder this. What does this mean for my life? What changes will I make? What will I do to live a life that honors and pleases my Lord and my God?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Mission Accomplished!

“Good Friday”. What an ironic name for the day on which Jesus was humiliated, hung on a cross, and suffered a horrible death by those He came to save. But – that was exactly why He came to Earth.

“Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

John 19:30

Just a few days ago, I wrote about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday.” Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, was on a mission that only He understood at the time. As the people celebrated what they thought would be a conquering king and warrior, Jesus knew what was to take place over that coming week. He knew His mission. He knew it would be agonizing. He knew it would be humiliating. He knew it would be excrutiatingly painful. He knew it was necessary. And, so He went.

So, on Friday, after being betrayed by one of His disciples and deserted by the rest, after facing severe beatings and being convicted of false charges, there He hung as soldiers and bystanders mocked His name and cast lots for His clothes. When I was young, I thought these words of Jesus were words of defeat. The Pharisees and scribes had been plotting His death since the beginning of His ministry three years’ prior. They finally got their way in most dramatic fashion. But that is when I was young and naive.

“It is finished!” That mission that Jesus came to exact was completed! Jesus, God incarnate, true God and true man, achieved the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He was no victim; He “gave up His spirit” willingly for you and for me so that we might be saved.

Dear friends, this is indeed “Good Friday”. And you know what? That conquering king and warrior the people wanted? That is exactly who Jesus is: King of kings and Lord of lords. By His sacrifice, Jesus won the victory over sin and death once and for all. It was not the victory that the people anticipated on Palm Sunday, but it was the victory they most needed. Indeed, Jesus achieved the greatest victory of all time. By His sacrifice, we who believe in Him are saved for eternity by grace through faith.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Betrayal & Desertion

Maundy Thursday. The events of this day always give me pause. I am simultaneously disappointed in His disciples, amazed by His love, and reflective of what my reaction would have been had I been there with Him. Indeed, it is an active day that culminates with Jesus standing alone before His accusers.

“‘…but all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets’. Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”

Matthew 26:56

As I read Matthew’s account of the events of this day (Matthew 26), I’m struck by how much happened in the span of just a few hours. Jesus and His disciples celebrated Passover, during which Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion. He announced to His stunned disciples that one of them would deliver Him into the hands of those who seek to kill Him as the rest of them flee for their personal safety. His disciples promised to stand by Him, but Jesus knew they would not and stated so.

Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was real. Here we see His nature as Son of God (true God) and Son of Man (true man). As a human, He asked God to remove the burden He was about to undertake. He expressed His frustration at His disciples who did not grasp what was going on, and could not stay awake and keep watch as He prayed. As God, Jesus knew exactly what was coming, He knew it must be, and He went willingly. As Judas betrayed Him with a kiss and He was seized by soldiers with swords and clubs, the 11 disciples fled, just as He knew they would. Jesus faced His accusers alone, just as He knew He would.

I would like to think that I would have reacted differently had I been one of the eleven. I would like to think that I would have stood beside my Lord as He was carried off to face the authorities. I would like to think that I would have spoken up in His defense and, if need be, have gone with Him to death. I would like to think these things, but I know I wouldn’t have reacted any differently than the 11 did. How do I know that? Because, like them, I am human. Pondering the events of Maundy Thursday, I think about opportunities to witness that I have squandered, avoiding the subject because it can be uncomfortable to discuss. When I squander those opportunities, I betray Him. I think about the times when I say and do things that I know displease and dishonor Him. When I say and do these things, I betray Him. Just as Jesus knew His disciples would abandon Him, He knows and understands my shortcomings and failures. Knowing all of this, His love never wavered. He went to the cross for them, for me, and for you.

When Jesus distributed the bread, “…this is My body…” and the wine, “…this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins,” (Matt 26:26-27) He announced a new covenant. He would be the perfect Sacrifice, sufficient to achieve perfect, everlasting atonement for our sins. I look forward to Maundy Thursday worship tonight. Tonight, with my church family and with Christians all around the world, I will celebrate Holy Communion. I will receive, once again, His forgiveness for my sins. And I will remember the events of this night over 2,000 years ago – the night on which Jesus went forth to die for you and for me.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Be Still…

3:05 AM and I’m wide awake. Any of us who work in corporate America experience times like this – times when the whirlwind is fierce, activity abounds and time is demanded, even more time than we seem to have. So, in the wee hours of the morning before the sun comes up, my mind is racing as I lay in bed. I’m thinking of two emails in particular that need to be addressed. I get up, make a pot of coffee and carry my work laptop up to my office. But, before I power it up I open my Bible for my morning reading and this is what God gave me:

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

Talk about an injection of healthy perspective! God reminded me this morning that He is the One of utmost importance. And as I read my Bible I kept coming back to this verse. “Be still…”

People often quote the first part of this verse and forget the second. As I ponder those words I’m reminded that God is why I’m here. This creation is His, my life is His, my work is His… No matter what the whirlwind may bring my way, I will rest in calm knowing that God is right here with me.

So – that is what I have to offer this morning. I know this is short and (hopefully) sweet, but I couldn’t start my work without sharing this. No matter how busy I am, I must always take time to be still, go to God’s Word, ponder what He has to say and give the whirlwind up in prayer. Having done that, I am best equipped to take on all this day is going to bring. Christian business man/woman, if you’re not taking time each day to “be still and know that He is God” you’re missing out on a beautiful relationship.

Now – time to take on that whirlwind!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Palm Sunday: Jesus’ Mission

My allergies have been relentless over the past few weeks! How frustrating it was for me to be in worship on one of my favorite Sundays of the year with no voice, unable to join in hymn and worship. But then I remember, this is not about me. My vocal limitations did not reduce the significance of this day.

The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

Matthew 21:9

For as long as I can remember, Palm Sunday has been one of my favorite worship days of the year. Reading about all that Jesus said and did in the three years prior to His fateful entry into Jerusalem, it’s no wonder the people were celebrating. The people believed that Jesus had come as a conquering king; the one who would seal their protection from Rome and from their enemies. Indeed, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, but He is not the sort of king the people expected. And, in just a few short days, as this reality hit home, their shouts of “Hosanna in the highest” would become shouts of “crucify Him”!

Today, as we ponder Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we have the lens of Scripture through which to view these events. Through Scripture, we know that Jesus knew exactly what was to happen. You see, Jesus knew his mission. It was not to conquer Rome. It was not to amass an army to take on the world. No. Jesus’ mission was to achieve the greatest and most important victory of all time: the victory over sin and death. He knew that His mission would be achieved that very week through pain and agony – indeed through death. He went willingly, out of love for those He came to save, including me and including you.

On the church calendar, this is Holy Week. I am using this week to prepare my heart, my mind, and my soul to confess that my sins hung Him on that cross, to remember that He went willingly out of love for me, and to be assured once again that I am saved by His grace through faith. I’m also using it to reflect on my mission in life. I know God has me here for a purpose, as He does each of us. Let us each pause in the busy-ness of life to prepare our hearts to celebrate His victory over sin and death in our behalf and to ponder anew what God would have us do to serve, honor and glorify Him.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Workplace Harvest

Sometimes I feel like the world has gone crazy (sounds like a song lyric, doesn’t it?). As I read about current events, navigate through the plethora of misinformation in social media, and scroll through the channel guide on my TV I often become discouraged. This morning, God reminded me in His Word that I am to use my discouragement as motivation – motivation to be out in the world, working for Him.

And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’

Luke 10:2 NASB

Indeed, all of those things that cause me to feel discouraged are evidence of a vast, rich, ripe harvest longing to be gathered. And, just as Jesus sent His disciples into the world to share His Word, so He sends me and each of us who follow Him.

Like many of you reading this, much of the field in which I find myself is my workplace. And, like most workplaces, we have rules about what we can and cannot say. Even so, God gives me a new opportunity every day to go into that field and reap His harvest. How can we reap while complying with the rules of conduct each of our employers have implemented? Here are three things each of us can do today in our respective harvest fields:

  • Take God’s Word with you. I’m not talking about walking around the office with your Bible tucked under your arm. I’m talking about carrying God’s Word in your heart and in your mind. Take today’s verse for example. How different might your day look if you memorized this verse and repeated it to yourself as you walk around your workplace, attend meetings, take calls, compose emails and perform your other daily tasks? Might you see your coworkers and colleagues from a different perspective? I work with a group of really wonderful people, many of whom I have no idea where they stand with God. I would hate for my behavior to dishonor Christ to the extent that a non-believer becomes more entrenched in his non-belief. Rather, I want to be salt and light in my workplace as evidenced by my conduct, trusting that God will use that to His glory and as an implement through which His harvest yield may be increased. Carrying God’s Word in my heart and on my mind helps me keep that salt & light perspective.
  • Take a prayer break. “Yeah, right,” you might say. I’m busy, but I try to take a few minutes several times a day to talk to God. I find this very grounding. Sometimes I take a walk. People I pass by have no idea that I’m speaking with the Lord, seeking wisdom, clearing my mind, or asking guidance about a problem or issue that has come up. Sometimes I sit at my desk and say a quick prayer, just a few seconds, to refocus and reground. I take a brief moment to pray before each meeting, asking God to guard my thoughts and mind my words. Every once in awhile, I walk over to our in-office Starbucks, grab a cup of coffee and sit in one of the comfy chairs looking outside as I talk with the Lord. These quick prayers help me break through the blur of a busy day while helping me stay focused on what God wants me to do.
  • Be available. Several years ago, a coworker told me she felt I was unapproachable. She told me that I’d get a look of annoyance on my face when she appeared at my office door. She said I seemed to resent being interrupted. I was horrified, as I’ve always considered myself to be a good “people person”. My expression was communicating a message that I had absolutely no intention of conveying. I thanked her profusely for telling me and I’ve never forgotten the important insight on myself that she gave me. If we are perceived as unapproachable, uncaring or unconcerned – if we believers are so focused on our daily tasks that we are unavailable to those around us – our harvest work is impaired. Our salt and light become bland and dim. Be available to those around you. Ask questions and be genuinely interested in what people have to say. You may be surprised at some of the doors that may open.

As I write this, I’m excited to head to my office. Today is a day stacked with meetings. I have a full email in-box. I have an abundance of opportunities to serve my employer, my coworkers, and my God. Indeed, the harvest is plentiful and I feel up to the task. Time to get to work.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com

Calm in the Whirlwind

I read this passage in a late February morning devotional. I was busy; hence, I was struggling to manage my time and maintain my priorities. I struggled with this throughout the month of March. I fell behind in my Bible reading plan, my prayer life lapsed, and I let weeks pass without posting a blog. As I read this passage, it brought me great comfort and I saved the image to share with you when I had ample time to offer my thoughts:

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:4-5

My work environment is fast-paced and I generally enjoy that. But there are times when the volume and the pace combine to reach an almost overwhelming crescendo – one in which my morning devotional time is diverted to early email cleanup and weekend R&R is replaced by quiet hours in the office catching up on work. When I allow this to happen, I become distracted from that which is truly most important: my relationship with God.

Why does David seek to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to behold His beauty and to meditate in His temple? Because it is grounding. You see, I yearn for His presence. Being in the presence of God resets my compass. When I am dialed in to my morning routine of Scripture reading, prayer and writing, my life takes on an element of calm, even as life’s whirlwind swirls around me. Do you see God’s action here?

“He will keep me safe…”

“He will shelter me…”

“He will set me high upon a rock.”

The peace and calm that come from spending time in worship, Bible study and prayer is God’s doing, not mine. And in that calm I am best equipped to handle everything that comes my way at home, at work, in life. Indeed, everybody wins.

On a recent lunchtime walk, I gave myself a rather stern lecture. I knew I was not managing my time according to my priorities. I reminded myself that my time is a gift from God. I own it, but He has first dibs. While I am dedicated to my work and other responsibilities, I cannot allow those to rob me of my time with my Lord. As I walked, I asked God to give me the strength, wisdom and means to realign my time with my priorities. And, as usual, God answered my prayer.

Thanks to two contractors having scheduled work at my house today (April Fools Day of all days) I took a day off – well, except for a conference call this morning and answering a few emails… Between offering instructions and answering questions, I used today to catch up on my Bible reading plan, update my prayer journal, and draft a few posts for my blog.

It’s been a good day.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Communication

Have you ever said something, only to wish you could immediately recall the words that just escaped your lips? I sure have. Lots of times. Over the course of my life I’ve listened as several pastors prayed this verse as their sermon opening. I’ve adopted it as my morning prayer:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 NASB

As a witness for Christ in my workplace, I believe that my communications with coworkers, vendors, and customers is a key element of my witness. Indeed, I can “walk the walk” with every instant message (IM), text and email I send. Here are a few communication tips I seek to apply each day:

  • Listen. Communication does not occur if we don’t place a priority on listening to one another. I learned this wise saying at a Stephen Covey seminar: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Active listening demonstrates respect for the person with whom you are communicating while efficiently leading all parties to the most favorable outcome. One of the most meaningful compliments I’ve received in my career was the person who said, “You took the time to hear me out. Thank you.”
  • Use the Right Communication Tool. I appreciate the efficiencies offered by instant messaging, text messaging and email, and I use these tools daily. But we have all experienced occasions in which over-reliance on the written word led to misinterpretation of the message, personal misunderstanding, and even personal offense. The efficiency of these tools is lost if we seek to apply them to every communication scenario, every day, every time. While technology is grand and must be embraced, the most effective and efficient means of communication may often be a phone call or *gasp* a face-to-face conversation. I apply a two-exchange max rule to IM and text communications – if we have to go beyond that I will call you. It drives some of my younger coworkers nuts – but it works.
  • Avoid Profanity. Profanity is unprofessional, ugly and demeaning. It has no place in the workplace, and no place in my personal life either. I do not subscribe to the notion that a few strategically placed cuss words help drive the point home. Some refer to habitual profanity as “gutter mouth” or “potty mouth”. Considering some of the stuff that flows through gutters and gets flushed down toilets, I prefer to stay above that. Clean speech is elevated speech.
  • Grammar, Grammar, Grammar. A pet peeve of mine is the email rife with misspellings and poor grammar. I sometimes lament that professional writing skills seem to have diminished in importance for many. Several years ago, I became so frustrated with the poor quality of a third party provider’s written communications (many of which would be seen by my management team) I made them put the employees servicing my account through a professional writing course as a condition of retaining our business. For me, these things are a matter of corporate and personal pride. Although these are often “quick” communications, they bear my name, and that means something to me.
  • Remember Whom You Ultimately Serve. Seeking to abide by the above guidelines has served me well thus far in my career. But even more important than pleasing those with whom I work is honoring my Creator by my words and the quality of my work. If I approach my communications with this at front-of-mind, the rest actually comes rather naturally.

I am a firm believer in the notion of a “walking witness” – witness via action. I know that the words I choose and the manner in which I convey them are indicators of what really makes me tick. And maybe, just maybe, somebody will take notice and ask me about that. I hope that then that happens, I will discern the opportunity to talk about the One most important to me. In the meantime, I will pray my morning prayer and do the very best I can. For, you see, my work is my ministry.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019