Strong Gentleness

We live in a very competitive society. Our competitiveness plays out in sports, business, on the road… really in virtually every aspect of our lives. Recently, I’ve noticed an ugly competitiveness becoming more prevalent in our society. It is on full display in the news and on social media; so much so that I have taken a hiatus from most of the major news networks and two of the most popular social media platforms. Competition can be healthy. But taken too far, it can do great harm.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Ephesians 4:2 NLT

In his sermon on gentleness last Sunday, pastor Trey Little of Grace Presbyterian Church here in Houston described gentleness as a strength. Indeed, in a society that often interprets gentleness as a weakness, it is a strength wrapped in peace. I couldn’t agree more.

Considering recent events in our country, it appears that gentleness and humility, to a large extent, have been thrown out the proverbial window. We see anger and violence playing out in the streets of many cities across the country. We see friendships destroyed as polarized views become insurmountable walls. And, as I stated earlier, we see people lashing out at one another on social media as anger increasingly becomes the rule of the day. This is not good, and it certainly isn’t healthy – not for our society and not for us individually.

I, for one, feel that we need more gentleness and humility in our society. As pastor Little said, we are to handle people, all people, with care. Isn’t this a much more positive approach to life and its challenges?

As I consider my reentry onto Facebook and Twitter, I am thinking about how I will reconstruct my experience so the anger and divisiveness is in the background as attitudes of gentleness, humility, love and patience take center stage. We Christians are to be Jesus to our world. We are to let our lights shine so that the world looks upon us and gives glory to our Father in heaven (see Matthew 5:14-16 and Sunday’s post here). That is my mission in business. It is my mission on social media. It is my mission here. Indeed, it is my mission in life.

Gentleness… Humility… Patience… Love...

Let’s do this. Let’s BE this.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Kindness

How are you doing? Are you worried about, or frightened of, COVID-19? Are you frustrated at having been locked down for a long period of time? Are you out of work? Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one? How are you doing?

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”

Proverbs 12:25 NASB

I know people in each of the situations I asked about. Some are more anxious and worried than others. Some are frustrated while others are downright angry. There is much disagreement over how we as individuals and as a society should conduct ourselves in this COVID-19 era. All too often, these differing positions yield resentment and division among smart people; even people with family ties or otherwise strong friendships. And this does none of us any good.

This succinct little proverb reminds us that, when others are experiencing difficulty, kindness is king. Even when we disagree, it is vitally important that we seek to understand and seek to be kind.

Let each of us pledge to take this into our day – today and every day.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

I Shook His Hand

I shook a neighbor’s hand yesterday. That’s right. In this era of social distancing and sideways glances, my neighbor offered his hand and I shook it. And, after shaking his hand, I threw my hands into the air and shouted, “Thank you, Jesus!” All who were with us laughed. And everybody understood.

So here is the story. After dinner, my wife and I took a walk in our neighborhood. As with most evenings, there were many neighbors outside enjoying the relative cool of the evening. One street over from us is a house with living space over the garage similar to ours. The homeowners happened to be outside and we asked them about the french doors and balcony on the front of their garage space, as we have been considering doing something similar. A conversation about living upstairs during post-Harvey home repairs ensued. At the end of the conversation, as we prepared to continue our walk, our neighbor extended his hand to me and said, “It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is George.”

George and I stood there a moment and looked at each other. I could tell he had somewhat reflexively offered his hand and wondered if perhaps he did so out of habit, not really intending to shake my hand. After meeting his gaze for just a few seconds I said, “I’ll shake your hand,” and I shook it. We exchanged a good, firm handshake. Just like I do routinely before and after business meetings. Just like I do routinely upon meeting a new acquaintance. And I can tell you that that good, firm handshake was therapeutic.

A business colleague recently posted this on LinkedIn:

“With the “new normal”, handshakes may become a thing of the past. We will each need a new way to greet-elbow bump, foot touch etc.”

Upon reading this post, I had to pause and think about that. Is this what COVID is doing to our society? Are we destined to live lives in which we view others as a cesspool of germs, afraid to interact and afraid to have contact? While I understand and generally support the social distancing measures currently in place, I reject the notion that social distancing must somehow become a permanent fixture of human life. Having said that, my intention here is not to stir up controversy, but simply to offer a more hopeful view of our post-COVID future. All inspired by the handshake I exchanged with my neighbor yesterday evening. That wonderful, therapeutic handshake.

Friends, I believe that God is doing some amazing work amid these strange and crazy times, and that He will reveal it in His good and perfect timing. For me, I have already gained a strengthened appreciation for my friendships and for human interaction in general. And, while I am thankful for the technology that allows us to remain connected remotely, I look forward to someday shaking your hand once again. If you choose not to reciprocate, that’s OK; I will respect your choice and take no offense. If you choose to accept, be ready to accept a good, hearty firm handshake in the spirit of human connection.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) workisministry 2020

Ultimate Authority

What strange times these are. I believe that these current days are likely the most significant days from an historical perspective that I will experience in my lifetime. Because of Coronavirus, record numbers of people all around the world are out of work due to orders to stay at home. They are understandably worried about their future, as many will not have a workplace to return to. The death toll from the virus continues to rise. Many are fearful for their lives or the lives of loved ones. Many are questioning their self-worth. We hear voices of authority offering differing opinions and conflicting guidance as to what we do next. The message from the media is often convoluted by political agenda. Indeed, there is a lot of noise out there. To Whom do we turn in times such as these?

“He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against His land and people. The Lord has spoken!

Isaiah 25:8

Yes, these are difficult times. But, thanks be to God, I know without a doubt that we will come through this. God tells us just that in His Word. Look at the promises in this verse from the prophet Isaiah.

  • He will swallow up death forever – Death is real. We will all face death, whether by COVID-19 or other cause, each of will face it. Just this past Sunday we celebrated Easter. The promise of Easter is that all who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will not die, but will live eternally with God in Heaven. This prophecy – He will swallow up death forever – has already been fulfilled! Do you believe that? I do. For the one who trusts the Lord Jesus, death is not the end. It is simply the passage from life here on earth to life in heaven. If you don’t believe this, seek me out. I would be honored to discuss it with you.
  • He will wipe away all tears – Sadness can be an overwhelming emotion. It is natural to feel sad when life hands us an unexpected circumstance. Loss of work, loss of sense of purpose, loss of a loved one all trigger sadness. Fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of tomorrow can also trigger sadness. These are normal and natural reactions to life’s circumstances, and nothing to be ashamed of. God says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11) God spoke this promise to Israel upon their exile to Babylon. Facing unexpected and daunting circumstances, God reminds them as He reminds us today that He has our backs. We can trust Him for that, as God always keeps His promises. Always.
  • He will remove all insults and mockery... – The executive I wrote about yesterday once told me during a rather heated discussion that I lack sense of urgency. He told me that my approach to the problem at hand was hurting our company and he was baffled at my lack of concern about what had transpired. He said this in a conference room full of people, including some of my team members, my boss, and other executives. As I listened to him rant, I understood in the moment that a rant is exactly what that was. This was his way of addressing a problem. And, while his words stung as the untruths hit me, I could see past them – not only because I knew they were not accurate – but because I knew that God knew they were inaccurate. Many of us, when we were young, learned this phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” While not from Scripture, I believe it to be true. People will unduly criticize and mock us in various ways under various circumstances. It’s OK. God has my back.

How do I know this to be true? How do I know that God will keep these promises? It’s right here. God, who spoke these words, is sovereign. The Sovereign Lord will achieve these things. Dictionary.com’s definition of sovereign includes, “having supreme rank, power, or authority.” The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth (see Genesis chapter 1). It tells us that Jesus is the Son of God, the Author of Life and Creator of all that exists (see John chapter 1). From here comes the surety that these promises of God are true, they are eternal, and they will be fulfilled.

Lastly, we are told, “The Lord has spoken!” Friends, that’s it. That is the final word. The Sovereign Lord has told us what He will do, and His Word is the supreme and final authority in each of these circumstances – death, sadness, fear, mockery and insult. I tell people often, these are difficult times but I can see past them. I can see past them because I know without a doubt that God has this under control. God never tells us that we will have no difficulties in life; rather, He tells us that He will see us through life’s difficult times. That, through faith in Him, we will be fine. We will get through this.

Do you believe that? I do.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

I’m glad I’m not like him…

About a year ago, an executive retired from my company and I celebrated his retirement. I didn’t celebrate in a congratulatory way; I celebrated the fact that he was gone and I would no longer have to deal with his haughty tone, his harsh criticism, or his abrupt demeanor. Don’t get me wrong, he was talented in his area of expertise and I respected that. But he could be a total jerk at times. He and I often clashed and I have to confess that I was happy to see him ride off into the sunset. I’m so thankful that I’m not like him…

Luke tells us in verse 9 that Jesus told this parable to a group of people who trusted themselves and deemed themselves righteous. The Pharisee stood in the temple, looked over at a tax collector who stood with his head bowed, and swelled with pride as he prayed this prayer. The tax collector, on the other hand, says this:

“God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

Luke 18:13

I think if each of us honestly looks inward, we can identify times in which our attitude towards another was like that of the Pharisee. Times when we look upon another person, another child of the Father, and feel thankful that we are not like him or her. This self-righteous attitude is borne of pride and it dishonors the One who created us all. When I think back on the evening I hoisted a glass of champagne and toasted Bjorn’s departure I feel ashamed. Indeed, I was the Pharisee. (Yes, I changed the executive’s name).

(Jesus said), “I tell you, this man (tax collector) went to his house justified rather than the other (Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 18:14

Each of us is human, and as such, imperfect. I am imperfect. I wonder sometimes if there are people who feel about me the way I felt about Bjorn. Who have I cut down, dishonored, or hurt? As I read my Bible each morning, I ask God to show me through His Word what a God-honoring life looks like. What attitude does the person who seeks to honor God with his or her life take towards those who can be difficult to deal with at times? How can I be dialed in to my own attitude so that, when the Pharisee in me wants to emerge, I discern it and squelch it?

Merriam-Webster defines “humble” as not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive. Jesus tells us here that the one who humbles himself will be “exalted”. The humble, according to Jesus, will be elevated in rank, power, or character as defined by Merriam-Webster. Many business owners and executives that I know and admire consistently approach their work with an attitude of humility. I look up to them and I respect them. Indeed, approaching life, even at work, with an attitude of humility pleases and honors God. Indeed, the one who humbles himself or herself is exalted in the eyes of God. That is huge.

A mentor early in my career offered some good advice that I try to follow to this day. He said to take note of the traits that I admire in coworkers and executives and seek to emulate them in my dealings with others in my daily work. Humility is one of the traits I admire the most. I am convinced of these things: Servant leadership is borne of humility. Mentoring others is borne of humility. Offering praise for a job well done is borne of humility. Deferring to those in authority, even when they may be difficult to deal with, is borne of humility. Humble. This is the man – the husband, father, employee, coworker, and boss – that I aspire to be.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Photo Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2020

Taste and See…

Yesterday morning I emailed my work team under the subject line, “WFH Week 5” and I stopped in my tracks. Week 5!? We are going into our fifth week of working from home?? Good grief, where has the time gone? It seems it was just yesterday that my wife and I were enjoying Ramon Ayala’s performance at Rodeo Houston (it was March 8), and now, all of a sudden, here we are. Week 5.

I enjoy reading on social media about the various ways people are spending their time as they do their part to flatten the curve. Seems that crafts, puzzles, games and conversation are making a comeback. And that’s good.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8

Here is something else to consider as we shelter in place: how about starting a Bible reading plan? These are strange and stressful times. Many around the world are out of work or furloughed. The COVID-19 death toll continues to rise and the economic fallout will be felt for years. People are worried. People are scared. People are angry. Fact is, we are living through a most challenging time, with many long-term ramifications. Scripture offers abundant hope, comfort and reassurance as it conveys God’s revelation of Himself to His creation. I begin every day with my Bible reading plan. And when I miss it, I miss it.

The You Version Bible App offers a plethora of reading plans of various lengths and topics from which to choose. It is also the source of the Scripture images I share here. I am currently working through Pastor Nicky Gumbel’s Bible-In-One-Year reading plan for the second time. God truly does speak to us through His Word.

Indeed, taste and see that the Lord is good. I double-dog dare you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Take Time to Pray…

Like so many working professionals, I’ve been ordered to work from home to help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of Coronavirus. I’ve never worked from home full time before, and I’ve always said that I prefer to go into the office; I feel I’m more productive there. After last last week, however, I am quite pleased with the productivity I have delivered, but I also find it difficult to shut down the computer and walk away from work for a while. Indeed, my normal routine is way out of whack!

One of the areas that has suffered most is my treasured morning time. In “normal” times – is there any such thing? – my day begins in Scripture and prayer. But I have quickly fallen into the work from home habit of firing up my laptop first thing in the morning to make sure something hasn’t happened overnight that needs my immediate attention and, Viola!, my work day begins as my Bible time fades into the background.

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Luke 5:16

Yesterday, I read this account in Luke about Jesus’ ministry. It seems that, everywhere He went, there were crowds. Crowds demanding His time. Crowds seeking a miracle. Sick people in need of healing and demon-possessed people needing release. As I read about this, I could relate. If I let it, my work will take up all of my time and energy, especially in these trying times. If I’m not careful, I could work myself into a state of exhaustion and ineffectiveness.

But then along comes this little verse. Jesus needed a break. Jesus needed to refresh and reenergize. Jesus needed to talk with His Father. Indeed, Jesus – the Son of God – needed to pray. And to meet that need, He removed Himself from crowd to seek solitude with His Heavenly Father. Yes. Jesus needed to pray.

If the Son of God needed to take time by Himself to pray, what about me? And what about you?

I love it when God speaks to me through His Word. Upon completing my daily reading yesterday, I opened my Christian Planner and I updated my prayer list. Then, I prayed through it.

I have many good friends who work from home full time. They offer some good advice that I am applying, beginning today (second Monday working from home):

  • Go to bed at your normal time
  • Set your alarm and get up at your normal time
  • Take a shower
  • Brush your teeth
  • Dress for work
  • Take your breaks
  • Walk away when you need to
  • Leave your work in your home office at the end of the workday

In other words, establish your routine and stick with it. Of course, these days, there are interruptions. These are strange and trying times. Duty may call at odd hours as I do my part to help my employer manage through this. But, this morning, I set my alarm, brewed my coffee, read my Bible, said my prayers and wrote this post. This feels good. This feels right. And, who knows, I may come to love this working from home gig. Just maybe.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

The Importance of Listening

I call it, “the bull elephant trumpeting the herd.” Know what I mean? I’m thinking about the person who comes into a meeting at work, or worse yet, at church who has all the answers and is bound and determined to make sure everybody in the room knows it. He is not there to listen or seek to understand; he is there simply to stir the pot and leave others to clean up his mess as he makes his grand exit.

“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

Proverbs 13:10

Merriam-Webster defines strife, “(1) bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension; (2) exertion or contention for superiority.” Why does one behave this way, especially in professional and church settings? This is where pride rears its ugly head. Pride tells a person he must always be right. Pride tells a person she must always be the smartest in the room. Pride tells a person that the people in the meeting with him are of small importance and have little to offer. Pride says, “I will speak, you will listen.” In the church and in business, such behavior not only impedes progress, but it needlessly builds dissention and disunity – both of which can destroy a church and a business if allowed to take root. “Don’t be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

In his book and seminar entitled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey famously said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This, my friends, is wisdom. Wisdom casts personal pride aside and puts to interests of the group first. Wisdom looks around the room, sees value in everybody present, and earnestly seeks to hear what they have to say. Wisdom says, “I know I don’t have all the answers, but these people can help me discern the right path.” Wisdom seeks truth and understanding before forming opinions about what to say or what strategy to deploy. Wisdom listens first, asks meaningful questions, and thanks the team for their contributions. “Be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

Which Jeff will I bring to work today? The prideful, arrogant Jeff (he’s there, trust me)? Or the wise, discerning Jeff (he’s there too, thank God). I seek wisdom for my life through God’s Word and the counsel of Christian friends whom I trust. Through this, I am equipped to leave the prideful, arrogant me in the background as I seek to lead my team with kindness, love, and – yes – wisdom. Time to go to work.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Love One Another

Jesus on Earth was the epitome of Love. He showed Love to the unlovable. He viewed every person with whom He came into contact as having value, no matter who it was or what they had done. Love. What does that mean for us in 2019?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

Jesus gave this command to His disciples as they celebrated Passover in what Christians have come to call the “Last Supper”. It was here that He washed His disciples’ feet. It was here that He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It was here that He began to explain to His disciples what was about to happen. Jesus is about to return to the Father, leaving his disciples to a call of ministry.

As I read the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Jesus’ love for humanity was unflappable. It was consistent. It was patient. Jesus approached people differently than we humans approach them. And, because of that, Jesus stood out; He was different.

Think about it. We tend to prejudge what a person might be like based on skin color, the clothes they wear, the neighborhood they live in, the car they drive, the career they chose… You get the point. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus offered His love to everyone, even those who rejected Him.

Jesus stood out from the world. By commanding (note: this was not a suggestion or a recommendation – it was a command) His disciples to love one another, Jesus knew that they would look different from the world. They would stand out. They would be Jesus’ representatives to the lost and fallen world that so desperately needs to know Him. This kind of Love is contagious!

What was Jesus’ purpose in giving this command? “By this everyone will know you are My disciples…” Boom. Friends, I am guilty as charged. Thank God that He forgives me through Jesus Christ. In response, I am committed to doing my best to obey this commandment, not just in my church but in my home, my office, behind the wheel – everywhere, all the time. “By this everyone will know you are My disciple…” What doors might this open for me to share the Good News of Jesus Christ? What doors might this open for you?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

The Way of a Fool

Have you ever seen a person headed down the wrong path, making decisions in a vacuum, and knowing that this will lead nowhere good? I have, and it can be painful to watch.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Proverbs 12:15

Merriam-Webster offers this definition of a fool: “A person lacking in judgment or prudence.” I call it, “flying blind.”

I have learned over the years, sometimes the hard way, that my idea of how to solve a problem or approach a difficult situation is not necessarily the best idea. I used to be somewhat bull-headed, not always the best listener, and at some point down the course I charted for myself found that I was not where I had intended to be. It is sometimes the School of Hard Knocks at which we learn some of our most valuable life lessons.

Strong leaders are not bull-headed. They do not “fly blind.” They do not chart a course without first gathering all the facts and examining possible options. Strong leaders do not abuse their titles. Do you know people who do this? Have you ever been in a meeting at which the most senior person in the room belligerently states his unfounded opinion as the subject matter experts try to help him see the light? But, through self-importance, pride, or something else, he just will not listen? I have, and sometimes it can almost be comical watching a person make a fool of himself even when I have been the target of another’s belligerence. “Big title, small mind,” I’m tempted to think.

That is exactly the behavior addressed in this Proverb. I am blessed to work with an incredible team of very smart people. Sometimes, difficult situations arise. I am a fool if I address those situations on my own without seeking their counsel and advice. I have experienced countless situations in which the brightest and best idea comes from a surprising source. Strong leaders tap into the talent that surrounds him or her. Setting pride aside, the leader listens to subject matter experts, weights the options, and reaches an informed decision on how to proceed. The strong leader then gives credit where credit is due.

For me, this is a constant life lesson. I am thankful for this reminder from God’s Word on this Monday morning. Now it’s time to take on the week!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019