Persevering in Troubled Times

Do you ever wonder what in the world has happened? We turned the calendar over to 2020 and find ourselves in a world that seems to have flipped upside down. All around the world, people are living through a pandemic called COVID-19. We are staying home, wearing masks when we venture out, watching national economies strained, and waiting anxiously for news that we have “flattened the curve”. We see civil unrest such that this nation has not experienced in a long time – civil unrest that seems to be gaining momentum rather than subsiding. We are in a strange election year with little campaigning and an uneasiness over the process. We wonder when, or if, things will return to normal. Indeed, what in the world has happened??

“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.”

Zephaniah 2:3

For historical context, the prophet Zephaniah saw that Babylon was about to take Israel into captivity. These were unsettled times in Israel’s history and the people’s world was about to be rocked. Zephaniah reminded Israel to keep focused on the Lord, even as the world around them sank into turmoil. He reminded them to do the right thing and to stay humble. While these actions would not preserve them from exile in Babylon, the Lord would see them trough the trouble.

Fast-forward to 2020. What in the world has happened? And what are we, as believers, to do? I suggest we heed the same guidance that Zephaniah offered Israel so many centuries ago:

  • Seek the Lord – I find peace in God’s Word. I have learned that if I watch too much news I become stressed. The media is often accused of fear mongering, and while there may be some of that, we must remain informed. But, on what or on Whom should we focus? When we seek God through His Word and through prayer, He allows us to view current events through the lens of eternity. Current events, from an eternal perspective, are like grains of sand on a vast seashore. Through communing with God in His Word and in prayer, He reminds me that, although the times in which we are living may be difficult, He is in control. And although He will allow this to play out, He will not abandon His children. I trust Him completely. I know that my eternity in Heaven is secured through Jesus. I take great comfort in this, and I know that I will be fine. No matter what. Indeed, I find peace in God’s Word. And that peace is available to you, too.
  • Seek righteousness – Do the right thing. Seek to be God’s light in this dark world. Seek to stand out from the crowd so the world takes notice and gives glory to our Father in Heaven (see Matthew 5:16). What is the right thing? For starters, we should follow the guidance of our elected officials. Trust me, I hate wearing a mask when I venture out of the house; but I do. We are part of a larger community, and God wants us to honor that. Second, we should stand firmly on God’s Word as we address the issues of our day. We should seek to be peace makers and peace keepers. We are to be voices of reason, calm and confidence in the face of turmoil, whether we are interacting in person or online. Doing the right thing in these difficult times may often be contrary to what the world believes we should do, but we must do it anyway.
  • Seek humility – Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) Do you see much of this in the media, in our politicians, in our streets or on social media? One great way we believers can let our lights shine is to seek humility. In this, we have a great example to follow in the Lord Jesus, who being Himself God, humbled Himself to take the burdens of our sins to the cross winning, once and for all time, salvation for all who believe. If every Christian sought to view those around us, no matter who they are or what their political views, as greater than ourselves, we will stand out from the world and we will change the world.

There you have it. This isn’t easy; we are human, after all. But by beginning in God’s Word and striving to live our lives accordingly by seeking righteousness and humility we will become agents of change – good and positive change – in our nation and in our world.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Abandoning God

Have you ever wondered what a society might look like if it abandoned God? The book of Judges is one of the toughest reads in the Bible. It describes a society in chaos; a society in which everybody did what they wanted to do with no fear of meaningful consequence or repercussion. Every time I read Judges I ask myself, “could my country descend to this depth?”

“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

Judges 17:6 and 21:25 NASB

Indeed, the days of Judges were very dark days in Israel’s history. Israel, of course, is God’s chosen nation. These are the people He rescued from bondage in Egypt and led to the Promised Land. These are the people with whom God entered into a special covenant. But what we see here, at least in part, is that God will allow people to reject Him. And when they do, they reap the consequences of their choice.

I am concerned about the current state of affairs in the United States and what this might mean for our nation’s future survival. We see before our very eyes the sinful nature emerging in our country. The greatest example of this is the legalized killing of innocent children inside their mother’s wombs, with many political leaders celebrating as they gleefully sign bills expanding this “right” through laws supporting late-term abortion. I know many Christians who staunchly stand for the right to kill these children; yes, Christians. Indeed, the wolf in sheep’s clothing is alive and active in this great nation. This is just one of many examples of his deceptions. And the chief aim of the enemy is to separate people from God.

Our nation is becoming increasingly divided in many aspects of life: rich versus poor, race versus race, liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican, mask versus no mask, reopen versus quarantine… There are a plethora of examples of the division that is rife within our society. The rhetoric tossed from one side to the other is increasingly volatile and hateful. Don’t believe me? Listen to how our leaders in government attack one another, seeking to belittle their political opponents like a bunch of seventh graders fighting over a kickball. Listen to the so-called “discussion panels” featured on many cable news channels as they talk over one another as they attempt to prevent one from making his point. Even the moderators interrupt when they do not agree with what a panelist is saying. Consider the flow of comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as people launch personal attacks against the person who posted her comment. Rather than listen, many simply shout louder in an attempt to drown out the voices of those with whom they disagree.

Truth be told, a nation divided within itself cannot stand.

I believe that the root of this growing division is in our country’s collective rejection of God. Oh, to be sure, many people claim to believe in God, but the god that many claim for themselves is not the God of the Bible. Many who regularly attend church claim to believe in God, but many who regularly attend church do not believe in the God of the Bible. And when the church fails to preach and teach the full truth of God’s Word, this societal reimagining of God infiltrates the very Church He established. Indeed, in this era of relative truth, where man is free to reimagine god as each sees fit, deception slowly replaces Truth and the society descends into chaos. As I look at my country, I see a country placing its collective faith in the wrong place. I see a country headed for deep trouble.

Have you ever wondered what a society might look like if it abandoned God? Sadly, I don’t think we have to look far.

The good news is that it is not too late to turn back to God. Redemption and forgiveness is available through God’s Son, Jesus. I pray every morning for our nation and her people. I pray that we would turn back to God as a nation. I pray that we would rise above the fray of division and strife, choosing to listen rather than drown out. I pray that those of us who know Jesus as Lord and Savior would be salt and light to our nation and our world. And I pray that my voice would not feed the fires of division and enmity, but instead fan the flames of faith and unity built on the foundation of God’s Word.

One of my favorite songs is called “Prayer”. Released by Christian rock band Petra in 1990, here are the lyrics to the bridge followed by the chorus:

As we face the last and final hours
Turn a wayward country back to You
And keep us from the evil that devours
Keep us on the path and lead us through
Keep us in Your light until Your kingdom comes
And our work is done.

This is my prayer
Lifted to You
Knowing You care so much more than I do
This is my prayer
In Jesus’ name
Your will be done I humbly pray.
This is my prayer.

This is my prayer, too.

One of the reasons I started this ministry is to build a platform from which to be salt and light to this increasingly lost and fallen nation; yes, to shine the Light of the Gospel so eyes might be opened and many might come to faith in Jesus. I pray that God will use this ministry to achieve His good and perfect purpose according to His good and perfect will.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Watch Petra’s “Prayer” video here.

Image Credit You Version 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

The Greatest Bible Study Ever

Who is the greatest teacher you have ever encountered? Think about that for a moment. It could be anybody – a teacher in elementary, junior high, or high school. Perhaps it is a college professor or a mentor at work. Maybe the first person that comes to mind is a pastor or Sunday School teacher. I can think of people in each of those categories that have had a profound impact on my life, and I am grateful to each of them.

“Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

Luke 24:27 NASB

This account recorded for us in Luke tells about an incredible teaching encounter. On the afternoon of Jesus’ resurrection, two of His followers were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As they walked, they were discussing the events of the weekend. A man sidles up alongside them and begins to walk with them. Luke tells us that the man is Jesus Himself, and that the men were kept from recognizing Him. Jesus asks what they are talking about. Somewhat incredulously, they asked, in essence, “from under which rock have you just crawled?” They were surprised that the man seemed completely unaware of the events that had transpired – the conviction and execution of an innocent man, “a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people…” (Luke 24:19). Jesus, still not recognized by the two disciples opened up the Scriptures to them as He connected the dots between the Old Testament scriptures – all that they had at that time – and the events of the recent days. It was later that evening, as the man broke bread and offered it to them that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus – alive and sitting with them!

“They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us as He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?'”

Luke 24:32 NASB

Can you imagine what was going through these disciples’ minds once they realized what had just happened? After what had been for them a weekend filled with sadness and confusion, Jesus Himself opened their eyes to the fullness of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus Himself taught them from the Scriptures all that God had revealed through His Word about what was going to happen. Jesus showed these men how everything God revealed and promised in the Old Testament had just been fulfilled through Jesus Himself! Jesus opened these mens’ eyes and changed their sadness and confusion into joy and thanksgiving. Luke tells us that Jesus vanished from their sight when they recognized Him and that they immediately walked back to Jerusalem to share what had happened with the rest of the disciples. Indeed, this was news worth sharing!

Did you know that the entire Bible – every word, every verse, every chapter and every book – is about Jesus? Have you ever read the Bible – all of it? Many Christians today believe that the Old Testament no longer has relevance. Indeed, many Christian churches today rarely, if ever, read, teach and preach from the Old Testament. And that is a shame. Having read the Bible in its entirety twice and being part way through my third time through a one-year Bible reading plan, I can tell you with complete certainty that there are dots to be connected. There are times when I read the Old Testament and my heart burns within me as I begin to see and understand the connections between Old and New Testaments. Prophecies written and prophecies fulfilled. Promises made and promises kept. Assurances offered and assurances given. Salvation foretold and salvation granted. All of this through Jesus Christ.

I hope this has peaked your interest in digging further into God’s Word. My One-Year Bible Reading plan was arranged by Pastor Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Brompton in London and it is available on the You Version Bible App. Of course, your local Christian book store also offers a plethora of Bible reading plans from which to choose. What are you waiting for? Dig into the treasure of God’s Word. I promise, you will be blessed.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

What Were You Thinking??

“What were you thinking??”

Have you ever asked that question of yourself or someone else? You know, when you say or do something that, in hindsight, you realize was totally wrong or stupid or harmful… I can think of many times in my life when I sit in the quiet of the morning, thinking about something I said or did the day before or even sometime way in my past, shaking my head and asking my self, “What were you thinking??”

“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.”

Psalm 51:1 NASB

The story of King David and Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11) is one of the Old Testament accounts that intrigues me the most. In summary, King David looks out the window of his palace and sees the beautiful Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. Although Bathsheba is married, David summons her to the palace and has sex with her. Bathsheba becomes pregnant as a result, so to cover up what he had done, David sends for her husband, Uriah, from battle and suggests that he take a break and lay with his wife. Uriah refuses to do so, citing his loyalty to his fellow soldiers whom he had left behind in battle. So, David sends Uriah back into battle with a note the commander that Uriah be placed front-and-center on the battle line and, of course Uriah is killed – just as David had planned. After Uriah’s death, David takes Bathsheba as his wife.

“What were you thinking??”

The Bible tells us that God sent the prophet Nathaniel to confront David with this horrible sin (see 2 Samuel 12). He uses a parable to do so, and when David declares that the guilty man portrayed in the parable should die, Nathan announces, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David, upon realizing his guilt before God, offers the confession recorded for us in Psalm 51.

You may be asking, “Why is the account of David and Bathsheba one of your favorites?” Here are two points to consider:

  1. David, even in spite of this horrible sin, is one of the great men of God. This story reminds me that God does great things through imperfect people; imperfect people like me and you. David, as a human, was unqualified to serve God, as am I. But God chooses to qualify the unqualified. He worked amazing things through David and, if He chooses, He can work amazing things through me and through you, too.
  2. Do you think David knew the character of God? I do. Note the three adjectives that David cites as he asks God to forgive his sins. God is gracious (merciful, compassionate); God shows lovingkindness (tender and benevolent); God demonstrates compassion (sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress with a desire to alleviate it)(i). Remember, this is the Old Testament. This is before Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins. Aside from faith in the God he knew to be gracious, kind and compassionate, David had no grounds to ask for forgiveness. But he asked. And God forgave. Not only did He forgive, but He kept His promise to David as evidenced by the birth of Solomon by Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:24-25). And, as promised, David was in the lineage of Jesus, Himself (Matthew 1:6).

I find it both beautiful and comforting that God chooses to forgive us, even when we commit horrible, wicked sins. That He chooses to show mercy and grace when we fail and when we confess our failures. He did so in Old Testament times and He does so now, in these New Testament times, through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Indeed, Jesus seals the deal. Through faith in Him we are assured that we will spend eternity with Him in a place called Heaven.

I am encouraged that God chooses to work through imperfect, sinful people. He chose to work through David. My hope and prayer is that God will choose to work through me, too. Of course, I’m no King David. But I do have a passion to share the Gospel. That is why I post here and on Instagram @workisministry. That is why I started the My Morning Walk channel on YouTube. I put the content out there and I trust God to use it to inspire, encourage, motivate and draw others to faith in Jesus, or to not use it according to His good and perfect will. I don’t have to know; I trust Him.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(i) Definitions from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online

Image Credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Lost and Found

On business in London, I decided to visit Buckingham Palace during a free afternoon. I took a taxi to the palace, and after exploring the area, I decided I would walk back to my downtown hotel. That is quite a distance, but I enjoy walking and I needed the exercise. Confident in my sense of direction, I headed off. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a residential neighborhood, and as I turned corner after corner trying to find my way out, I began to feel unsafe. I realized that my wandering was not leading me to my destination; in fact, it may have been leading me to a place I didn’t need to be. Fortunately, I had a city map in my pocket. It took me awhile to figure out where on the map I was, as the direction I had gone was the complete opposite of the direction I thought I had gone. Thanks to that map, I was able to navigate out of the neighborhood to a subway station and safely back to my hotel.

In the grand scheme of things, my getting lost in London was not that big a deal. Getting lost in life, however, is a very big deal with potentially eternal consequences.

Sin separates us from God. We read in the third chapter of Genesis about the very first sin, Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and its consequence. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. They were banished from the very presence of God. Indeed, sin separates people from God. And the Bible tells us that unrepented sin separates people from God forever. Without rescue, our eternity under sin is apart from God in a place called Hell.

In today’s modern society, there is a notion that “truth” is relative, that every person is free to define truth for himself or herself on whatever basis the individual believes to be most desirable. Many practices and lifestyles that are sinful in God’s eyes are encouraged and celebrated today – even in many Christian churches. This is not, however, unique to our modern times. The Apostle Paul wrote about this very phenomenon in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans (see Romans 1).

Today’s passage tells us that we all have gone astray. Although God has laid out a clear path for us to follow, we fail to do so. We either forget or ignore God’s Word or, worse yet, in some cases we decide for whatever reason that God’s Law somehow does not apply to us. Some say that times have changed and the rules of human behavior must change with the times. But that is not what God says.

When sheep go astray, they need a shepherd to find them and bring them home. When humans wander off of God’s path, we need a Shepherd to find us and bring us Home. And that is exactly what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection.

Notice that today’s passage comes from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53 comes after Isaiah lays out the human condition in sin, apart from God. And, more than 700 years before Jesus was born, God tells us through this great prophet that He has a plan for our rescue. God’s plan of rescue through Jesus is foreshadowed and prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Indeed, pastor Nickey Gumbel of HTB Church in London often reminds the readers of his daily devotional that the Old Testament must be read and understood from a New Testament perspective – The Old Testament, just like the New Testament, is all about Jesus. It is all about man’s sinful condition apart from God and God’s plan of rescue through His Son.

What does this mean for me today, April 22, 2020? Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 3:23-24 NASB

That sounds a lot like the prophet Isaiah, does it not? Although I stray from God’s paths often – many multiple times each day – I know that my eternity is secured through the blood of Jesus. And, with that knowledge, I don’t have to wallow in my sin. I don’t have to worry about sin’s eternal consequence because Jesus, the great Shepherd, found me and bore sin’s consequence in my behalf. And in yours. And, so, in the words of the great Nat King Cole, I can “pick myself up, take a deep breath, dust myself off, and start all over again…” That, my friends, is freedom in Christ.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credits: Me in front of Buckingham Palace: Selfie. Bible verse image credit YouVersion Bible App.

(c) workisministry 2020