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

Blessing Aug 2, 2020

Sunday morning. I haven’t been to church in months, thanks to COVID-19. It is easy to feel a bit disconnected from my church family. Of course, my church offers worship online and our production team does a stellar job of offering a quality and meaningful worship experience. But it is still not the same. And, sometimes, I let that get me down.

“May the God of hope fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 NASB

I needed this passage this morning. To be sure, I cannot wait to go back to church. But, for now, I am thankful for the technology that exists and the talent God gave many for using the technology that allows us to worship, although remotely, together.

Christian friends, it is important that we keep our habits of worship, study and sacrament – in person or online. The JOY and PEACE we know through the Lord is not diminished just because we cannot gather together for a time. My prayer for you this morning is just that. Reread it. And read it again. And let the Holy Spirit work His power in your life.

God bless you all and may each of you have a blessed Lord’s Day.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion

(c) workisministry 2020

Seeking Peace

Based on what I see on the news and in social media, I perceive a significant absence of peace in our society these days. And that bothers me. Of course, we cannot control the thoughts, feelings or behavior of others. So what is the Christian to do?

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

Romans 12:18 NASB

Well, for starters, we can seek to influence others for Christ. Each of us has our own sphere of influence – people we interact with by various means for a variety of reasons. Why not begin within that sphere? There are many ways we believers can strive to influence others for Christ. Seeking peace is one of those. Striving to be a peacekeeper is one way we, as Christians, can let our lights shine in this lost and dark world. Does this mean we allow others to trample, abuse or hurt us? I don’t think so. But some examples of seeking peace include sincere listening and contemplation, seeking reasoning over argument, and not allowing ourselves to be drawn into pointless exchanges or conflict.

The weight of the world is not placed on our shoulders here:

  • “If possible…” – As I said earlier, we cannot control the thoughts, feelings or behaviors of others. We cannot control others’ motives. Some seem to relish conflict, even thrive in it. Modern day social media has its trolls, “a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content” as defined by Merriam-Webster. Is it possible to seek peace with someone whose chief motive seems to be to stir the proverbial pot? Maybe. When I encounter such people online, I think of these two words, “If possible…” and scroll on by. It’s interesting, though – I used to block trolls until a pastor friend reminded me that, sometimes, the troll is very person who most needs to hear your message.
  • “As far as it depends on you…” I believe God wants us to engage our world. We cannot expect to let our lights shine for the Lord if we hide them. As hard as it may be at times, we are to rise above the fray, not allowing others to drag us into a pointless exchange of insults or one-upmanship. People notice when we behave differently from the world. I pray every morning that God will help me let my light shine as Jesus commanded (Matt 5:16). God is faithful; He will answer that prayer. But, at the end of the day, if my efforts bear no fruit because the person I’ve encountered is not interested in peace, it’s OK. I’ve done my part, and honored God by having done so.

I have found it helpful to constantly remind myself that every person on this earth is loved by God — Every. Single. Person. I find, when I try to view others through that lens, it becomes a bit easier to rise above the fray and be Jesus to my little sphere of influence.

Seek to be at peace with others, if possible, and as far as it depends on you. What a great way to honor our Great and Mighty God as we seek to be salt and light to this lost and fallen, but also big and beautiful, world!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion

(c) workisministry 2020

God’s Instruction Book

I often call the Bible “The Treasure of God’s Word”. This Treasure is available to each of us, and when we open it, God reveals His nature, His character and His plan for our eternal success.

Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

Joshua 1:8 NASB

This was one of God’s instructions to Joshua as he prepared to lead Israel into the Promised Land. The “book of instruction” was the Torah – the five books of Moses that comprise the first five books of the Bible. Pastor Allistair Begg of Truth for Life often reminds his listeners that we are to read and understand the Old Testament in the context of the New Testament. Specifically, we are to view the Old Testament writings through the revealing lens of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I want to call out a few words in this passage:

  • Instruction – The Torah reveals God’s Law under which all will be judged. It also lays out the covenant God made with Israel as He freed them from the bondage in Egypt. Succinctly stated, that covenant said God would free Israel if they would obey His laws. It also provided a system of confession and sacrifice to address violations of the Law (sin). For Joshua and for Israel, this system would preserve them in God’s eyes until the promised Messiah came. For us, the Book of Instruction is the complete Book of Scripture, the Bible. Not only does the Bible help us understand our condemnation under the Law, but it also assures us of redemption and salvation through faith in Jesus. The Bible instructively informs us of God’s eternal plan for our lives, already assured and secured through Jesus.
  • Continually – God did not give us Scripture with the intention that we only consider it when read to us in church on Sunday mornings. He did not intend for our Bibles to sit on a bookshelf gathering dust. No! God wants us to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” His Word (1662 Book of Common Prayer). I have discovered over the years that my outlook and my life are in a much improved place when I read my Bible daily than when I let the book sit as the dust gathers. God speaks to us through His Word, and we gain the most benefit from His Word when we spend time in it.
  • Meditate – More than just reading the Bible, we are to ponder God’s message to His people. Often, after my morning reading, I use my morning walk as a time of solitude to pray and think about what I just read. Through prayer and meditation, we connect with God and He helps us discern His message. The Bible does not say different things to different people. Its message is singular, it is consistent, and through prayer and meditation God helps us understand what we have just read.
  • Day and night – I love this. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us, and it is also our instruction manual for living our lives. It is the foundation on which the Christian is to build her values, organize his priorities, conduct her daily activities, and approach his sphere of influence. It is the complete package. We are to carry God’s Word into our homes, our workplaces, our schools, and each of our human interactions.
  • Obey – Actually, I should highlight “obey everything”. In Old Testament times, obedience to the Law was the focus of the covenant. In New Testament context, we know that our obedience does not secure our place in Heaven. No, our place in Heaven has been secured through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our obedience to God is an outflow of the salvation we know. We obey God because we know Him, we love Him, and we want to glorify Him so others see and give Him glory as well. This obedience is not easy. In these modern times, much of what the world esteems as right and good is contrary to the instructions found in the Bible. The easy path is to align with the world’s values. The more difficult path is to remain in alignment with what the Bible teaches us, even when society says otherwise. I pray every day that God would give me the courage to obey Him completely.
  • Prosper and Succeed – This is not “name it and claim it” prosperity. This is not about a growing bank account, a nice home, or a fancy car. This is not about those things at all. Prosperity and success are eternal. That is not to say that God is not interested in our daily lives or that He does not provide for our needs – He is interested and He does provide. But this prosperity and success is most appropriately viewed through an eternal lens, extending far beyond anything we can achieve, accomplish or gain in this temporal life. When we surrender our lives to God, fully trusting in Him, we will prosper and we will succeed. For ever and ever.

See what I mean? This, my friend, is Treasure! There is so much negativity and strife in the world today. Indeed, 2020 is shaping up to be quite the strange year. The world faces a pandemic. We have rioting in our streets as some seek to unravel the threads of American Democracy in exchange for something else. We live in a society that considers the killing of children in the womb to be healthcare and of supreme importance. Law and order seem to be diminishing in importance as many with power and influence support these movements. These are scary times. But, thanks be to God, He reminds us in His Word that He is Almighty. God is sovereign. God has a plan for us that will not be derailed. In fact, that plan is already achieved through the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

When is the last time you picked up your Bible, found a quiet place, and read God’s Word? If it has been a while, why not dust it off and start anew today? There are a plethora of Bible reading plans on the You Version Bible App. I am in my third “Bible in One Year” reading plan, and I can tell you, the Treasure is real, it is tangible, and it awaits you.

Soli DEO Gloria! To God alone be all honor, glory and praise! Amen!

(c) workisministry 2020

Don’t Give Up

I woke up, wide awake, thinking it had to be close to my 4:45 alarm time. It was 1:40. After drifting in and out of sleep, I decided at 3:15 to make a cup of coffee and head upstairs. I was not in the greatest of moods.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

2 Corinthians 4:16 NASB

Coffee in hand, I headed upstairs and opened God’s Word. As I read my daily devotional it crossed my mind that maybe God knew I needed some more time this morning. So, rather than be angry that I couldn’t sleep, I decided to give thanks to the Lord for some extra time with Him in His Word.

The Apostle Paul was a great encourager. Here, he offers reassurance to the Corinthians and to us today that we can face the afflictions the world tosses our way knowing that there is a bigger plan in place. I am tired this morning. But more than fatigue from a short night’s sleep, I am tired of the strife. I am tired of COVID-19 and the restrictions it has placed upon my life. I am tired of the lawlessness playing out in our nation today. I am tired of the divisiveness and disunity. With all that is going on, it is easy to become discouraged, to want to throw in the proverbial towel. After all, I am just one man. What can I do to effect change? What can I do to be a part of the solution? And from where will the strength to do so come?

2 Corinthians 4:16 was the verse of the day on You Version Bible App. Do you see what it says? Here, Paul reminds us that even though we grow older, and although we may feel tired, frustrated or dismayed by the world’s afflictions, our spirits are being renewed each day! Renewed! Indeed, this spiritual food I have enjoyed this morning is rejuvenating. It is essential. And, even as I type this, a smile is on my face.

Paul goes on to say this:

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB

Thanks be to God, I can see past all this. These afflictions will pass. I know they will. Through Jesus, the score is already settled. Through His death and resurrection, all who believe in Him are saved. Those eternal things which are not seen are very, very real. I know they are. And through that knowledge, through that hope, through the nurturing God offers through His Word, through prayer and through sacrament, my inner man is renewed. And I realize that the weight of the world does not rest upon my shoulders. God is in control. He is sovereign. My job is to let my light shine, that others would see my deeds and give glory to my Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Thank You, Lord, for this time this morning. Thank You for feeding me. Thank You for renewing me. Lord, I am ready to serve.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) workisministry 2020

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

Let Your Light Shine…

I have read these words of Jesus many times. I read them again just a few days ago, and they resonated with me in a big and wonderful way.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

I have written before about what I call my “walking witness”. Everything I say and do points to something or someone. My words and my actions reveal my heart. When people look upon one another and observe the way we conduct ourselves, they draw conclusions about the base motivations that drive the behaviors. What message am I conveying to those around me when I speak or when I act? To whom do my words and actions point? Are my words and actions helpful or are they a hindrance? Most importantly, does my conduct point others to Jesus, or does it point them elsewhere?

2020 has been a very trying year so far. The world has been impacted heavily, in so many ways, by COVID-19. As we began to see improvement in disease spread and reducing death counts, the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis occurred. Following that, peaceful protests descended into violent riots, with the livelihoods of innocent citizens destroyed as large swaths of many of America’s greatest cities descended into chaos. The lawlessness and disorder continues in several cities today as the level of anger across our nation seems to be increasing exponentially.

If there was ever a time when God’s people need to let our lights shine, that time is now.

As the events of 2020 unfolded, I found myself sucked into the anger and divisiveness in ample display on Facebook and Twitter. News feeds that were once dominated by life events and useful information have become platforms for sowing divisiveness and disunity. Well-intended expressions of position are attacked by those in opposition, sometimes in ugly and threatening ways. I found myself drawn into this. As I review my own posts and comments to posts of others, I am dismayed and even disturbed by several of them. Indeed, these social media platforms I once enjoyed became snares. How does one deal with a snare? Snares and traps are best avoided by staying away or removing them altogether. So I decided to exit. I logged off of both platforms and deleted their applications from my devices. In the 12 days since I began my hiatus from Facebook and Twitter, the anger and frustration I felt have quickly disappeared. I decided I would not return.

Then, just a few days ago, I read these words of Jesus. I quickly realized that I had allowed the world to extinguish my light, at least on these huge platforms that reach millions of people. I realized that the world needs the light of the Gospel to pierce the darkness of sin, despair and chaos. I realized that the easy way out is to stay away and keep quiet. But God doesn’t call us to take the easy way out. He doesn’t call us to stay away and keep quiet. He calls us to be the light of the world, shining brightly from the lampstand of the Gospel so that the world, through me and through you, can see Jesus.

At some point, I will return to Facebook and Twitter. But before I do, I am prayerfully considering how I will reconstruct and recraft my experiences to avoid the snares of anger and divisiveness while being the light my Lord calls me to be. I will let my light shine in such a way that those on Facebook and Twitter see my posts and glorify my Father who is in heaven. In so doing, I hope to be a witness to my Lord while once again enjoying the personal connections of so many friends and loved ones.

If there was ever a time when God’s people need to let our lights shine, that time is now. May God direct my words and actions as I prepare to relight my lamp.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit; YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Universally True

A believer recently told me that he believes God is bigger than any book. “He’s got to be,” my friend said. And it broke my heart.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.'”

John 14:6 NASB

I remember many years ago, in a Bible study at my church, our pastor asked if there anything that is universally true. Surprisingly, several people in the group answered, “no.” I was shocked. I told the group that the Bible is universally true. A dear lady replied, “I like to think that there are many ways for people to get to God.” I told her she can think what she likes, but that belief flies in the face of Scripture. It is simply not true.

It saddens me that many Christians have adopted the notion that Jesus is just one of many pathways to God. As my dear Christian friend said, “God is bigger than any book; He’s got to be.” Dear Christian, if this is your position, you are effectively calling Jesus a liar. Indeed, Jesus is not simply a pathway to God. He is God. The Bible makes this clear, and Jesus says so Himself in this succinct but powerful statement. To believe anything other than this about the nature of God and how to be in relationship with Him is idolatry. And it is very, very dangerous.

How can this be? How can such a fundamentally oppositional position have taken root in Christ’s Church? How is it that many dear and well-intended Christians have adopted this position? And what are pastors and church leaders doing about it?

I cannot speak for pastors and church leaders, but here is what I am doing. I am committed to reading and studying God’s Word, not just to expand my knowledge and understanding, but also to have within myself a stronghold against the false teachings and beliefs that many espouse in this post-modern era. I am committed to proclaiming the Gospel. That is the mission of workisministry. That is why I am here.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” This is most certainly true.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

A Powerful Conversation

People sometimes ask the hypothetical question, “If you could have a conversation with a famous person, whom would you choose, and why?” Answers to this question vary greatly. Some identify a major politician, some a sports star, some a famous actor or actress. Who would you choose?

“Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.'”

John 4:26 NASB

I love this account of Jesus’ conversation with the woman from Samaria. His disciples had left him to go and purchase food. This woman came alone to the well in the heat of the day, as she was of such ill repute that she could not go with the other women of the city in the cool of the morning. Jesus asks her for a drink of water, and a conversation ensues (John 4:7-30).

The woman is surprised that Jesus spoke to her, for Jews did not associate with Samaritans, and she said such to Jesus. Jesus turns this conversation about a simple sip of water into something much more important. He tells her that if she knew who she was talking with, she would ask Him for “living water” and that all who drink of this “living water” will never thirst again. The woman, of course, still has the water deep down in the well in mind. But Jesus is not talking about a dipper full of water from the well. He is talking about eternity. He is talking about salvation. When the woman asks Jesus to give her the life-giving water He described, He tells her to go, get her husband, and come back.

One thing that strikes me the about this encounter is the fact that this woman was outcast from her society, and Jesus knew that. When the woman responds that she has no husband, Jesus recounts to her that she has had five husbands and was living with another man out of wedlock. She discerns that He is special, a prophet, and ultimately states that the Messiah, when He comes, will “declare all things to us.” Jesus answers that statement with this profound declaration, “I who speak to you am He.”

There is much for us to learn in reading this encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. One thing I notice every time I read it is Jesus’ approach to this known sinner. Jesus acknowledges her sins and reveals to her the path to freedom from sin. He doesn’t condone her sin (contrary to popular modern thought, Jesus never condones sin) but He doesn’t lecture her, either. He simply states the facts in a gentle, loving and kind manner. There is a takeaway here for each of us.

Jesus’ disciples return from buying food and are surprised to see Jesus talking with this woman. Meanwhile, the woman, the outcast from society, runs into town and tells people what had happened and Whom she had encountered. Many return to the well with her to see Jesus. They asked Him to remain with them, and John tells us that he stayed there, in Samaria, for two days and that many came to believe in Him.

So, there you have it. Jesus takes the time to invest Himself in a lowly, sinful woman from Samaria. And, through that encounter, she comes into faith and shares the good news with her community. And with that introduction, many in her community come to faith in Jesus.

As I read this beautiful account, I am reminded that I am in no better state than she. I am a sinner; different sins perhaps, but a sinner nonetheless. I am a sinner who knows Jesus and partakes of His life-giving water. And, just as He worked through this lowly Samaritan woman, He can work through me, too.

If I could have a conversation with a famous person, whom would I choose, and why? I think you know my choice.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Introducing Jesus

I have several of what I call my “foundational verses” of Scripture. This is one of them.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:1 NASB

This verse says so much. Of course, “The Word” is Jesus, and the writer of this verse, indeed the book of the Bible that this verse opens, is the Apostle John, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples and an eye witness to everything Jesus said and did.

John packs a great deal of important information into this verse, and from here he builds his Gospel. Here we learn two important things: Jesus is eternal and Jesus is God. Indeed, Jesus is present in Genesis 1:1, He is present in Revelation 22:21, and He is present on every page, in every chapter and in every verse of Scripture in between. Many today view Jesus as just one of many pathways to get to God. I know many Christians who claim this to be true. But, according to Scripture, it’s not. I will have more to say on this in a later post.

When people ask me what book of the Bible they should read first, I direct them here, to John’s Gospel. John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us very clearly who Jesus is, why He came to walk among us, and what He did in our behalf.

Today, I am embarking on a project I’ve wanted to take on for a long time. I am going to write a devotional book that will guide the reader through John’s Gospel with the purpose being to illuminate the Person, character and and position of Jesus. I pray that God will guide my writing. I have a pastor friend who will offer guidance and editing as well. My hope and prayer is that God will use this to edify believers while also helping reap the harvest of nonbelievers for Christ. This will take a while, but with God’s help I will get it done.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020