Hectic Morning and Liturgy…

Oh, come on, dogs! It is 3AM! What in the world are you barking at? Indeed, awakened well before dawn serenaded by barking dogs, I got up to see what the heck was going on. Lightening. Thunder. Rain. They usually don’t bark at these things. I never did figure out what the fuss was all about. But I was up.

I brewed some coffee and came upstairs to do my morning reading. I was distracted, my mind racing between various things I need to accomplish today and still wondering why I was up so darn early. As I closed my eyes, trying to settle down to pray, this Scripture came to mind:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.

(Psalm 51:10-12 KJV)

Over and over I prayed this Scripture, eyes closed, asking God to calm my heart, ease my mind and give me the sense of peace that seemed so elusive. And, you know what? God answered that prayer.

I grew up in a liturgical church. Every Sunday we sang, chanted or spoke the liturgy. What I didn’t realize then was, as we worshipped I was memorizing Scripture! Indeed, the various Orders of Worship laid out for us in the front pages of the hymnal were taken right from Scripture, much of it from the Psalms.

At the time I didn’t appreciate it; I sometimes thought it was boring. But recently, as I’ve read through my Bible and come across familiar passages I recognize from the liturgies of my youth, I have gained a newfound appreciation for the liturgy and how thoughtfully it is presented. And I realize I miss it.

In many churches today, the liturgy is a relic of the past. Worship styles vary greatly, and that’s OK. However, I wonder if abandoning the liturgy in favor of a series of worship songs and forgoing readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and Gospels in favor of a single reading from “today’s text” may reduce Bible literacy amongst believers. I am concerned that the tendency in some churches to exclude corporate Confession and Absolution except during Lent and possibly Advent may be creating a generation of Christians that do not fully grasp the nature and prevalence of sin and therefore do not fully appreciate the magnificent message of the Gospel.

I pray each morning for Christ’s Church. I pray for unity firmly grounded in the Truth of God’s Word. I pray for bold preachers and teachers to deliver the Word in fullness of truth out of genuine love for God and His people. Indeed, as I said earlier worship styles can be different, and that’s OK. But, sometimes, I miss the Order of Worship with which I grew up.

What a crazy morning it’s been. From a chorus of barking dogs at 3AM to a sense of peace at 6 I am ready to take on the day. Perhaps with a nap inserted somewhere…

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

To His Glory…

How do you approach life? Yesterday, in my daily Bible reading, this familiar passage really resonated and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB

The words whatever and all are two of the most inclusive words in the English language. I don’t see that this passage leaves any room to carve out an aspect of my life and exclude God from it. Not that that is my intent, but to be perfectly honest, it does happen sometimes. There is the Jeff that people encounter at church. There is the Jeff that people encounter at work. There is the Jeff that my family encounters at home. And, there is the Jeff that people encounter in social settings. Years ago, these four Jeffs could be radically different. I don’t think that is what God wants from us.

I am reminded this morning of the greatest gift offered to humankind: the gift of salvation through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. If there is one truth on which I can hang my hat it is this: that I am a sinner, completely unworthy of any relationship with God because of my sin. God sought me out and gave me the gift of faith. Jesus, God incarnate, came to earth as a man to be sacrificed as payment in full for the sins I have committed – yesterday, today and tomorrow. Through His sacrifice, I am redeemed. I am made worthy to be in relationship with God. I will enjoy eternity with Him in Heaven.

Friends, THIS. CHANGES. EVERYTHING!

The calling of the Christian to do all we do to the glory of God is not a litmus test on which our position with God will be determined. Not at all. My seeking to do whatever I do to His glory is in direct response to the gift of salvation He has given me through His Son. That’s it! God wants me to enjoy my life. He desires my worship and involvement in my church. He wants me to enjoy and excel in my work. He wants me to love my family and be a blessing to them. And He wants me to enjoy the many relationships He has given me. When I view each of these through the lens of the Gospel, the natural response is to strive to do whatever I do to the glory of God. Yes, I will mess things up. Yes, I will say things I want to take back. Yes, I will make mistakes. Yes, I will sin. And, yes, I am forgiven!

Gracious Heavenly Father, I thank you this morning for the gift of faith. I thank you that Jesus died on the cross to free me from the bondage of my sins and place me in relationship with You. I give you this day, and I give you this week. I pray that your holy angel would be with me, that all my doings and life may please You. And I pray that my very life would be a witness to all with whom I come into contact, that they would see You through me and give You all honor, glory and praise. Indeed, Lord, help me to do all I do to Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

The Most Important Race

I work in corporate America as a risk management professional. To help foster productivity and success in my work I have earned an advanced degree and two professional designations. To keep abreast of industry changes and advances in technology I attend conferences and seminars, and I enjoy offering content at those as well. Indeed, to succeed in business, one must have a firm base of knowledge on which to build a level of expertise that consistently adds value. If such preparation is important in business, is it not important in our Christian walk as well?

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB

In the chapters of 1 Corinthians leading up to this passage we learn that Paul is writing to a church that had issues. It was divided. It was tolerating, and even embracing chronic sinful behavior amongst its members. It was at risk of being destroyed from within. This church was in trouble and it needed its pastor to help it refocus on the prize: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That, in summary, is the theme of 1 Corinthians.

Here, Paul is describing his disciplined approach to ministry. Really, his disciplined approach to ministry was grounded in his disciplined approach to life. It is tempting to lift this verse out of context and use it as the foundation of a “rah-rah” motivational talk on success in sports, sales or any other endeavor. But Paul is addressing something far more important: Paul is addressing the winning and nurturing of souls for Jesus Christ.

“But, Jeff, didn’t you open this missive with a description of your preparation and nurturing of yourself to achieve success in your career?” Indeed, I did. And, yes, this principle can be applied to many facets of daily life. And, while I enjoy my career and I want to succeed, my highest calling is to live a life that points directly to Christ. My highest calling is to live and conduct myself in such a way that others see Jesus through me (Matthew 5:16).

With that context, this verse compels me to think. Am I better prepared for business than I am for daily ministry? (Yes). Are there aspects of my life that point in some direction other than Christ? (Yes). Are there aspects of my life that point to Christ? (Yes). Have I seen progress in my spiritual growth? (Yes). Do I have room to grow and improve? (Yes). As I think about this verse in the context of this business man who wants a role in reaping the harvest for Jesus, I see the footsteps that have carried me to this point and I see areas in my life that need some work.

Run in such a way that you may win.

This verse is incredibly motivating and encouraging. The runner of the race is in a constant state of training and preparation. It is a process of constantly seeking to hone one’s skills. And, while God has led me to this place this morning, I see opportunities to build my knowledge and understanding of Scripture and how to apply it in my daily living at home, at work, and at rest. I ask Got to strengthen my faith so I am better equipped to let my light shine, that through me, others will see the Lord Jesus. This is not about me. It is about Him. Let us who believe in the Lord Jesus run this race together, to His honor and glory, with our eyes on the prize: The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him alone be all honor, glory and praise.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Consecrate My Life?

One of my fondest memories of church is from many years ago. It was 1978 and I was 16 years old. Our congregation in Katy, Texas had outgrown our little church. Even with two Sunday services, the space was cramped on Sunday mornings. We wanted a space large enough that all could worship together in one service each Sunday morning. The unity we shared as a congregation as the construction progressed and we worked towards our first service has stuck with me over the years. It was here that I first began to understand what being the church was all about.

“Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?”

1 Chronicles 29:5b NASB

Consecrate. The first time I ever heard this word was in the context of dedicating our new sanctuary to the Lord’s work. Our first worship service was an Order of Consecration. What does this mean exactly? According to Merriam Webster, to consecrate is to “dedicate to a sacred purpose.”1 Pretty simple, right? That makes sense; we built the building to serve as the place in which we gathered to worship God. It was special, different from any other space. It was to be set apart. It was to be holy. Indeed, it was to be a sanctuary.

As I was reading my Bible a couple mornings ago, this verse from 1 Chronicles hit me right between the eyes. For context, King David had decided to build a temple, a house, for the Lord. God spoke to David through a prophet telling him that he was not to build God’s house. God had determined that David’s son, Solomon, would build the house. So David gathered all the materials needed to build and furnish God’s house. He then anointed Solomon as king, and after doing so, David asked this question of Israel. In response, donations came flooding in, sacrifices were made, and Solomon assumed his reign.

So, here I sit this morning with that question on my mind. Am I willing to consecrate myself, indeed my life, to the Lord? If so, what would that consecrated life look like? The short answer for me is, of course, “yes”. Yes, I am willing. However, I cannot help but feel I am not worthy – not of my own accord.

I hearken back to the dictionary definition of consecrate: to dedicate for a sacred purpose. What is my purpose? My purpose is to honor God by seeking to obey Jesus’ command recorded in Matthew 5:16. I’ve written about this before.

As I ponder this question I begin to wonder how in the world do I achieve this? I think about sins I’ve committed in the past, decisions I have made and later regretted, and things I have said I wish I could take back. Who am I to think that I can consecrate my life to the Lord? As I I think about these things, two words from David’s question leap out at me. Let’s read the question again:

“Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?”

Emphasis Mine

Do you see it? The past is the past. This question today can mark a fresh start, a new beginning, if you will. As I consider my past sins I am convicted; that is what the Law does for the Christian. Jesus died so that my sins might be forgiven. He bore my burden; He paid the price. Am I worthy? Of my own accord, no. But through the blood of Jesus I am made worthy. The burden I felt as I first considered this question is now a feeling of freedom. Through Christ, I am free to live my life to His glory! Through Christ, I can answer this question with a hearty, “Yes, Lord!”

Indeed, the past is the past. In Jesus, no matter what my past or your past looks like, we can leave the past where it belongs: In The Past. And we can move forward, freed from the burden of past sins, free to serve Him in joy and thanksgiving. Will I make mistakes? Yes. Will I give in to temptation? Yes. Will God work through me anyway? Yes! Thanks be to God through His Son, Jesus!

Today, Monday morning, marks a new beginning. I am consecrated to the Lord. I will seek to honor Him in my work, my relationships, my social media posts – everything. How about you?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Images from YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

1“Consecrate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consecrate. Accessed 9 Aug. 2020.

Church Music: Unity or Division?

I love music of almost every genre. My favorites in the secular world include classic rock, country, classic pop and easy listening. My favorite station on Pandora is Dinner Party Radio. I like musicals, both on stage and film. Music brings joy to my life. It is an important part of my life. And, you know what? It is important to God, too.

“David and the commanders of the army set apart for the service some of the sons of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun, who were to prophesy with lyres, harps and cymbals;”

1 Chronicles 25:1

As I read through the Bible I am struck by the number of times music is mentioned. The entire 25th chapter of 1 Chronicles describes how the various roles around music were assigned in the Jerusalem temple. The Chronicles can admittedly be some dry reading. But what I see in these books is a characteristic of God around organization, both in terms of keeping records and setting up the temple for the worship of God. Chapter 25 of 1 Chronicles is all about the music, and it concludes by telling us that 288 priests were assigned to provide the music for worship. That is a significant investment of talent!

Sadly, musical preference often causes division in the modern church. Believers sometimes argue about music, even leaving one church for other over musical style. Me? I grew up with the worship service built around a chanted “high church” liturgy. The liturgy I grew up with in the Lutheran church comes straight from Scripture; we use God’s Words in worship! I grew up singing beautiful hymns accompanied by a majestic pipe organ played by skilled hands and feet. These styles of worship seem to be diminishing in popularity, but they are still offered in many churches today.

My church offers a beautiful and meaningful “traditional” worship service each Sunday. I sing in the Chancel Choir. It is a God-honoring worship service. We also worship in more contemporary fashion led by a praise band that, quite frankly, can rock! Our band plays traditional hymns and they play modern worship songs as well. Some in the congregation sing along while others soak up the music as they worship God. Me? I’m a singer. I like to sing. This more modern style of worship is also meaningful. It also honors God. And I like it, too.

It saddens me, though, that churches sometimes divide over musical style. My church, for example, offers “contemporary” worship and “traditional” worship. These services take place at different times on Sunday mornings. This is a common phenomenon these days. And it bothers me. While music is clearly important to God as evidenced by the number of mentions in Scripture, it was never intended to divide us. But, if we are honest, we have to acknowledge that some of the more heated discussions that flare up in a church are around musical style and taste. Indeed, musical style for some is sacred ground on which another must not tread.

Houston, as you know, was hard hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. During the months that followed the storm, my church offered one service each Sunday morning due to the number of members impacted by the storm and unable to attend worship. The service was “blended” musically. The pipe organ played beautiful hymns, the Chance Choir offered an anthem, and the praise band led much of the music with the praise team leading much of the singing. It was amazing! We demonstrated that a variety of musical styles can contribute together to a very meaningful and God-honoring worship service. Many of our members (myself included) were disappointed when the time came a few months later to resume our normal worship schedule – contemporary at 9:00 and traditional at 11:15.

I may be stepping on some toes here, and that is not my intent. I’m simply suggesting that we believers keep an open mind when it comes to musical style in church. Let us not allow this to become a point of contention or division. Music that glorifies God and honors His Word should be embraced, whether accompanied by a majestic pipe organ and led by a choir, or accompanied by a praise band and led by a praise team. I find great joy in both. Both can coexist. Until then, on many Sundays, I attend both services: contemporary and traditional.

“Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord all the earth!”

Psalm 96:1 NIV

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit YouVersion

(c) workisministry 2020

Working for God (Re-Launch!)

What do you do every day? How do you spend your time? Have you ever thought about your daily life as ministry?

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.”

Psalms 90:17 NASB

I work in corporate America, for a Fortune 100 company on its risk management team. Specifically, I oversee the purchase of the company’s insurance, the management of claims, and the gathering & distribution of analytics to various stakeholders within the organization. I know. Risk management, insurance, analytics… Sound pretty dry, doesn’t it? I get it. One of my favorite movie lines is from Planes, Trains & Automobiles when Steve Martin’s character says,

“I could tolerate any insurance seminar for days. I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They’d say, ‘How can ya stand it?’ And I’d say, ‘Cause I’ve been with Del Griffith.'”1

Yep, that’s me. I geek out over this stuff. I look forward to those seminars, not only for the knowledge and insight I gain, but also for the relationships I have built over the years. I truly enjoy what I do for a living.

When I entered college way back in 1980, it was with the intent of entering the professional ministry. I was studying to become a pastor in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). My father worked for an insurance brokerage firm at that time, and I would work during summers and longer breaks in the firm’s mail room. After a while, my head was turned. I liked what I saw. I never enrolled in seminary.

God has blessed me with success in my career. Although traditional retirement age is approaching increasingly rapidly each year, I don’t know what I would do if I quit. I still have aspirations to grow my career and add even more value to the company I work for. Or perhaps someplace else. But, as satisfied as I am with my vocation, I have often asked the big question: “What if…” What if I had gone to seminary? What would my path have been in the LCMS? Would I even have made it? Did I ignore God’s call for the wrong reasons? A college friend told me, upon sharing my decision to forego seminary in favor of a business career, that I was abandoning God to go and serve the devil. Was he right? (Rest assured, I know now that he was so, so wrong).

I have wrestled with these questions over the years. And here is where I have landed:

God has me exactly where He wants me. God wants me in business. Not every ministry is carried out in a sanctuary, donned in clerical vestments, leading worship, preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments. Oh, make no mistake, the ministry carried out in Christ’s Church is of vital importance. I am thankful to have many friends in professional ministry in the LCMS and other Christian denominations, even in the US military. I am thankful for the faithful pastors that have nurtured me in faith over the years. Ministry was never intended to be confined within the four walls of the church. Ministry is to occur in every facet of life in every corner of the world, and the church equips us to carry it out. Indeed, ministry is to be carried out in the business world. And that is what I seek to do.

“Confirm the work of my hands…” Did you know that our daily work is important to God? That He ordains it and sanctions it? That He uses you and me, no matter where we work, to further His kingdom? He does! This truth puts my daily work into an entirely different perspective! In a way, I am as much in ministry as my friends are who serve God in His Church. My ministry is manifested in my conduct, my attitude, my outlook and my quest to always deliver top-flight work. A coworker once asked me during a particularly difficult time at a prior employer how I “did it.” Door opened. I told him that my faith in God was seeing me through. God does open doors for us to share our faith. Even at work.

A couple years ago I was thinking about daily ministry. As I walked across the pedestrian bridge that connects the two buildings that are our corporate offices, the idea hit me: Launch a blog called workisministry.com. Share the Gospel. Offer encouragement and motivation. Share your faith and how it applies to your daily work. Let your light shine. Show Jesus to those with whom you work – and beyond. And, viola! This blog was born.

I have not been completely faithful in posting here. Over the past week or so, I have come to realize that this is an important aspect of my ministry. And so, today, I relaunch. I trust God to use this blog, and to use my life, as He sees fit according to His good and perfect will. I hope you find it helpful. If you do, I hope you will consider sharing it with your colleagues and friends.

As I nurture this blog, I will continue to strive to serve the Lord in all my endeavors. The Scripture below nicely summarizes my mission here:

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) workisministry 2020

1Hughes, J. (Producer & Director). (1987). Planes, Trains and Automobiles [Motion Picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures