Reminder to Me: Love

On September 10, 2001, I started a new job in Roanoke, Virginia. My wife and two young children were in Houston as our transition began. On September 11, 2001, all hell broke loose as terrorists attacked our nation in a most horrific fashion. We all remember where we were and what we were doing as those horrible events unfurled. Today, 20 years later, my memory of that day is as vivid as it was then.

Do you remember what it was like when we woke up on September 12? How we shed our stereotypical feelings about Democrats and Republicans, people of other races and creeds, and came together as Americans to mourn our collective loss and embark on recovery together? I do. And as I sit here this morning, September 11, 2021, I am sad for all who lost loved ones that day. I also ask myself, why does it take a disaster like 9/11 to bring us together?

A few days ago, during my morning Bible reading, God offered this reminder through the words of the Apostle Paul:

Today, our nation is more divided than at any time I can recall over my nearly sixty years of life. Hatred and vitriol permeate our media, and they seem to dominate social media as well. Indeed, the Evil One is wreaking havoc in our nation and world today. Which makes it incredibly important for God’s people to be in His Word and in prayer.

I cannot control what others think, feel or say. I cannot control others’ attitudes towards their neighbors. But I can seek to be light in this present darkness. And here, in this succinct little verse, God presents a sound foundational building block. Can you imagine the transition that would take place in our country if all who claim Christ as Savior sought to approach every aspect of life with this as our compass? I can. I carry this verse in my heart. And I challenge all Christians to do likewise.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(C) workisministry 2021

Ministry at Work

I have come to realize over time that my words and actions always point to something. Good or bad, beautiful or ugly, helpful or harmful, they point to something. My words and my actions reveal to the world my true heart. And, if my words and actions are not aligned with what I know and profess to be true as a Christian, indeed, if my words and actions do not reveal Jesus to the world around me, my witness is tarnished and my ministry is ineffective. Nothing would please me more than to know that God worked through me as I go about my daily work, even despite my personal faults and shortcomings.

I pray a version of this prayer most mornings:

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

The responsibility I feel in serving God in my workplace manifests itself it two broad ways:

  1. There are believers at the office. Each is at a different place in his or her journey with God. I want to seek them out and form relationships for mutual support, encouragement, and accountability. Additionally, I desire to do nothing that would distract from or impede their growth in Christ. With God’s help, my light will shine in such a way that believers here will see it and be drawn to me as I am drawn to them. It is important that Christians know they are not alone at work. And, as David prayed in today’s text, may my believing coworkers not be disgraced because of me.
  2. There are nonbelievers at the office. Jesus said that the harvest is ripe but the workers are few (Matt 9:37). I know many who do not know the Lord, and it pains me to think about where they will spend eternity outside of faith in Jesus. This is tough. I am at work. Actively seeking to share the Gospel with coworkers is frowned upon in the least, and could cost me my job in the worst. But, there are no rules against living out the fruits of the Spirit. There are no rules against kindness, respect, honor and humility. There are no rules against civility, politeness, laughter or fun. I believe God can work wonders through my conduct. And, should it open a door through which a nonbeliever walks with a question, there are no rules against my offering an honest answer. As David prayed in today’s text, may those who seek You not be put to shame because of me.

Ministry can happen at work. Ministry does happen at work. My life’s mission is that those around me would see Jesus through my words and actions. There are no rules against that. Additionally, my objective as a Christian is to know other Christians in my workplace so we can encourage each other to do likewise. One light can shine brightly. Many lights, shining collectively, can offset much darkness. Work is ministry. That is why I am here.

If you are a Christian working in the secular world, I would love to connect with you. Let’s encourage one another. Let’s do ministry together.

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, Go with me to work today. Help me to let my light shine, that others would see You through my words and actions. Show me likeminded coworkers who know You and love You, that we might serve you at work together. In Jesus’s name. AMEN.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c): workisministry2021

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

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!

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(c) workisministry 2020

I’m glad I’m not like him…

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

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

“God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

Luke 18:13

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

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

Luke 18:14

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

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

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

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2020

The Importance of Listening

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

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

Proverbs 13:10

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

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

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

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

The Way of a Fool

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

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

Proverbs 12:15

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

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

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

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

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

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

When Arrows are Flying…

Have you ever felt that you were under attack? That the arrows are coming straight for you from all sides, and as you duck and jive to avoid being struck, you can’t help but think that at some point an arrow will find its mark? I have, and it can be overwhelming – until I’m reminded that, even as the arrows fly, I am not fighting this battle alone.

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

Psalm 55:22

David wrote this Psalm as he was under attack by Saul, a close acquaintance and trusted friend. David was in fear for his life even as he was disappointed in the betrayal he felt. In the first fifteen verses of this psalm, David writes of the attack and his disappointment in who it was leading the charge:

“But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend…” (Psalm 55:13)

One of my favorite movies is “My Cousin Vinny”. Joe Pesci plays a New York lawyer seeking to win his first case. His girlfriend, played by Marisa Tomei, anxiously awaits that day, for Vinny has promised to marry her after that first win. Vinny’s cousin and his cousin’s best friend have been wrongfully charged with murder in Alabama. Vinny is defending them, and as the pressures of discovery and trial preparations mount, his girlfriend confronts him with the reality of her ticking biological clock. This is about all Vinny can take, and he asks in total frustration, “How much more can we pile on??”

I can relate to Vinny at times, can you?

Of course, David and Vinny are completely different people – one is real and the other fictional. They are under totally different forms of attack. And while it may be difficult to relate to the attack on David, I’m betting that pretty much all of us have experienced pressure similar to that which was piled onto Vinny Gambini’s shoulders.

Sometimes in my work role I am a deliverer of bad news. One-off bad news events are typically easy to manage through. But when “the hits just keep on coming” as I’m prone to say in times such as these, I am tempted to worry about tarnished credibility. I am tempted to worry about discussions taking place in which I am not a participant. Sometimes the arrows come from unexpected places – “out of left field” – and the pain of the news is coupled with disappointment in its source. I sometimes feel alone as the arrows come my way; my mood and demeanor are impacted and people see that. This is where my faith comes in. This is when I feel the reality of God’s sustenance.

Here is what Vinny doesn’t know, but David knew, as do I: I know that I have an Advocate; I know I have a Sustainer. I know that God is right here with me. Even as I work through some challenging issues right now, I can see past the tough times at hand and be reassured that God is in this with me. I am not in this alone. He is here, protecting my flanks from the incoming arrows and equipping me to do what I need to do as I honor my chief objective to always glorify Him. Indeed, I trust Him completely.

What battles are you facing right now? Do you know that God cares? I assure you, He does. Cast your burdens upon Him and He will sustain you, just as He has sustained me time and time again. If you have questions, please reach out. I am available and willing.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

The Treasure of God’s Word

I often refer to Scripture as “the treasure of God’s Word.” From Genesis through Revelation, God reveals Himself to us through different authors, writing styles and over a large span of time. It’s truly amazing. But the most important thing to remember about Scripture is it’s all about Jesus – every bit of it.

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

Luke 24:27

I would love to have been walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus with these two followers of Jesus. I can only imagine what they were feeling and saying as they recounted the events of the past few days – Jesus’ trial, conviction, crucifixion, disappeared body and reports of a resurrection. I’m sure their minds were racing with confusion as they tried to sort this out. As they walk a stranger appears and asks them what they are talking about. Unbeknownst to them, the stranger is Jesus Himself. Perplexed, they ask Him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” (24:18). Jesus asks, “what things?” to which they reply by describing Jesus – His powerful teachings, His death and reports of His resurrection. Jesus responds by chastising their lack of faith and proceeds to “…explain to the them things concerning Himself in the Scriptures.”

I am dismayed that many Christian churches rarely, if ever, include Old Testament Scripture in worship and teaching. I’ve heard many Christians say that the Old Testament is no longer relevant in these New Testament days. Oh, how wrong they are!

Let me ask you a question:

Would you buy tickets to a great play and skip Act 1, going straight to Act 2?

Of course you wouldn’t. That would make no sense at all! Without seeing Act 1, you will not understand what is happening in Act 2.

“Why is she doing that?”

“Why did he say that?”

“How did they get there?”

Have you ever sat next to this person at a play or a movie? I have, and, man, can they be annoying!?

The Old Testament is God’s Act 1. In it, He reveals His creative nature and His sovereignty over His creation. He gives us the Law and exposes us to our sinful nature. He tells us of the separation from Him that comes through sin. He reveals His plan to remedy that by sending the perfect Sacrifice, His Son, to take the punishment we deserve. The Old Testament shares the bad news we need to hear while assuring us that the Remedy is coming!

To fully understand God’s Act 2, the New Testament, it needs to be set up by Act 1. Read, studied and preached with the context of the Old Testament, the Gospel rings out loud and clear. To ignore the Old Testament is short-sighted at best, foolhardy at worst. I am convinced that the tendency towards ignoring the Old Testament in many churches today is a major reason we see an increase in lukewarm, watered-down Christianity.

All of Scripture – the entire book – is God’s redemptive story and worthy of our time and attention. This really began to resonate with me the first year I worked through a reading plan through the complete Bible. And, as I make my way through my third, God continues to expand my understanding. If you have never embarked on such a plan, I strongly encourage you to do so. You don’t have to wait until January 1 to start; today is as good a day as any. The YouVersion Bible App is free, and offers a plethora of reading plans from which to choose, including topical, seasonal, and full Bible plans. Give it a try – I double-dog dare you.

Final note: One of my favorite preachers, Alistair Begg, offered the analogy of a great play to explain why the entire Bible is worthy of study. To not credit him would be disingenuous on my part. If you’re into podcasts and good, solid Bible teaching, I encourage you to give Truth for Life a listen.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Off to RIMS!

After many years of business travel, I still very much enjoy it. As I type this, I am several miles above the earth winging my way to Boston for the annual Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) national conference. RIMS offers risk management professionals a golden opportunity to learn, network, and meet with colleagues and business partners as we eat well and drink well in some of America’s finest cities. As I fly today, I’m looking forward to all of this, but I am also keenly aware that I have a ministry. As I enjoy the comaraderie and festivities that is RIMS I pray that my actions and my words honor my God.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10

David wrote these words after confessing his sins around his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. Trusting God to forgive him, he asked God to cleanse his heart and renew his spirit, seeking to start fresh serving his God and his Lord. Growing up in the Lutheran church, we sang this as part of our response to receiving words of absolution after publicly confessing our sins. It is a statement of faith that allows us to stop looking back and look ahead to better and brighter days to come, thanks to the forgiveness we know through the grace and mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I hear the question now, “What in the world does this have to do with RIMS?” Well, to be fully transparent I must admit that I tend to get caught up in the festivities. I enjoy them. I hate to miss a good time. The fine food and good wine flow, sometimes to excess, and I like to be right in the middle of it all. It’s fun! But, as I grow older and more mature in my faith, my desire to honor and please God with my words and actions grows stronger. In the past I know I’ve said and done things that dishonor and displease Him. When that happens my witness is tarnished. I don’t want to offer a tarnished witness.

So, with this verse on my mind, off I go. The past is the past and I know I am forgiven for prior sins. As I look ahead to Boston, I am excited to arrive. I fully intend to make the most of RIMS 2019 as I enjoy the meetings, fellowship, relationships, food and, yes, the wine that goes along with it. My prayer is that God gives me the self-awareness and the presence to know when to say when, always remembering that I serve Him, first and foremost.

To my risk management and insurance friends & colleagues, I wish you safe travels to Boston and I look forward to catching up. Have a great conference!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019