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

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

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

Real Transformation

As I watched the news the other night, violence, lawlessness and dysfunction dominated the broadcast. At one point I shook my head as I caught myself asking aloud, “where are our leaders?”

Our nation is in distress, and I am dismayed that those elected to public office seem content to allow the violence, lawlessness, and destruction to continue. This is not how we address challenges or problems, but it seems as if many in our country see this activity as good and necessary. I don’t. Not at all. Through these actions, I see a nation that is increasingly abandoning all sense of goodness, righteousness, unity and faith. I see a nation that is embracing divisiveness, violence, hatred and sin. Our nation needs somebody to rise above the fray and bring us together. Our nation needs a transformation.

“The real transformative work of a nation is the transformative work of the Gospel.”

Pastor Allistair Begg

Immediately upon lamenting the violence, lawlessness and the lack of leadership I perceive, God reminded me of these words from Pastor Allistair Begg of Truth for Life. Then, the next morning, YouVersion Bible App offered this reminder from the psalms as its verse of the day:

“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth.”

Psalms 121:2 NASB

God’s timing is perfect and His Word is rich. I am praying that our nation is transformed from deep within our collective souls. No human, no political party, and certainly no radical group of anarchists can bring about the transformation our nation needs. But God can. Those of us who trust in Him must be in prayer. We must not allow ourselves to be dragged into the mire of hatred, lawlessness and disunity. We know the Truth. We are to shine the light of the Gospel on our world, beginning with our own homes and our own spheres of influence. Some will mock. Some will jeer. But many will see the light and be drawn to it. Through the Gospel, God will effect change. Let us not lose faith; rather, let us press on.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) workisministry 2020

That Strong Tower

I earned my bachelor’s degree at a small liberal arts college in Austin, Texas. Part of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod education network, it was known as Concordia Lutheran College when I was there; today it is Concordia University Texas. One of the aspects of attending Concordia that I appreciated the most was the daily chapel service. Lasting about 20 minutes, it offered a daily grounding in worship and Word as students and faculty gathered together each morning. I miss that.

“The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”

Proverbs 18:10 NASB

Do you sometimes feel stressed or overwhelmed by all that is going on in the world? COVID-19. Civil unrest. Divisiveness. Disunity. Joblessness. Dysfunction. Oh, and on top of all of that, it is an election year. I’m reminded of the old TV commercial, “Calgon, take me away!” Ha! (For you younger readers, the Calgon of years past is the Lush bath bomb of today.)

I have learned over the years that the things on which I focus tend to take center stage in my life. For good or for harm, they have influence. Focus on the turmoil in the world and life feels tumultuous. But, shifting that focus to God’s Word has an amazingly calming effect. Much more so than any bath bomb can offer.

What does this have to do with chapel at Concordia or the proverb quoted above? College life offers its own set of pressures and stress. As I walked into Concordia’s chapel each morning, I was entering that strong tower. That place of peace and calm. The place where we were reminded each morning, through worship and Word, of Who it is that we serve and the fact that He has a grand purpose for our lives. It was in chapel that students and faculty worshipped together, unified by the Word of God and uplifted by the examples of Christian faith all around us. And, as I departed the morning service, everything I faced, no matter what it was, took on a completely different perspective and priority.

I often wish there was a daily chapel service I could attend today. Thankfully, God comes to us through His Word no matter where we might be when we seek Him. God meets us where we are. For me it is in the quiet of the early morning, when I read and consider God’s Word, that I am most at peace. The act of posting here and on Instagram inspires me. Even if nobody ever reads this, I am reassured, regrounded and rejuvenated by having taken the time to write.

I do miss Concordia’s morning chapel. I miss gathering with other Christians to worship, receive the Sacraments, hear God’s Word proclaimed, and offer mutual encouragement. And I am thankful that He is here, with me now, in the quiet of this early morning. Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App with (c) Roger Coles

(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

I’m Reminded…

I’m reminded over the past few days that I have no tolerance for lawlessness and chaos.

Sadly, I’ve learned over the past few days that many seem fine with lawlessness and chaos, as long as it helps achieve some objective.

I’m reminded over the past few days of just how precious life is – every life. Black, white, brown, pre-born, and how each of these deserve to be protected.

I’m reminded over the past few days that government leaders are human beings in need of prayer support from the faithful.

I’m reminded over the past few days that my political views differ greatly from those of many people important to me, and that I still treasure their friendships.

I’m reminded over the past few days that evil is ready to take God’s place when we open the door and invite it in. We see this playing out in many great cities across our country.

I’m reminded over the past few days that this is my Father’s world, and even in the midst of human chaos, Jesus is on His throne.

I’m reminded over the past few days of just how vast and ripe is the harvest of souls for Christ; that He loves each and every one of them, and how badly I want to be salt and light to this lost and fallen world.

I went to bed angry last night. I woke up angry this morning. This is no way to live. My prayers this morning are for our nation, our elected officials, and for those charged with keeping the peace. I also pray that we Christians would rise above the fray and be Jesus to our world. We can do better. We must do better. In Christ, we will do better.

Soli DEO Gloria.

(c) workisministry 2020