Consecrate My Life?

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

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

1 Chronicles 29:5b NASB

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emphasis Mine

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

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

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

Soli DEO Gloria!

Images from YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

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

Church Music: Unity or Division?

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

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

1 Chronicles 25:1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 96:1 NIV

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit YouVersion

(c) workisministry 2020

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

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

Easter Monday: Now What?

I did a lot of soul-searching this weekend. It really began Saturday morning as I read my church’s suggested Scripture reading for Day 40 of Lent (James 5:13-18).

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.

James 5:16

Confess. You see, I’ve always sort of wondered what to do with Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Years past, I would pretty much go about my normal routine. But these aren’t “normal” times, are they? As I read from James’ epistle, I felt that I needed to do something different from past years. So I embarked on a journey beginning with a 5 1/2 mile walk during which I listened to my favorite podcast pastor Alistair Begg. After his sermon, that word kept nagging on my mind. Confess.

I spent the second half of my walk talking with God. I felt closer to Him than I have for quite some time. I offered up various confessions and felt this tremendous sense of reassurance. As I approached home, I knew what I needed to do. I needed to take some time along to *finally* design my 2020 Vision Board in my Christian Planner. How’s that for procrastination? Now, I’m not much of an artist. But this came very quickly, and I am pleased with the result.

Here it is. My roadmap. This represents all that is most important to me. With Christ at the center, I will do a better job of nurturing the three important components to living a happy, fulfilling, God-pleasing life:

  • Something to do;
  • Something to love;
  • Something to hope for.

I am grateful to Pastor Larry Coulter for sharing this wisdom at my brother-in-law’s funeral service this past December. His passing came as a shock, and we all miss him terribly. Larry reminded us that these three fundamental needs are necessary for us to live out our lives here on earth as we await the great reunion that will take place in Heaven one day.

Easter morning I woke up – wide awake – at 4:25 AM. I couldn’t wait to worship with a few congregations online. I worshipped with Holy Trinity Brompton in London, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Greenfield, Iowa and Word of Life Fellowship in Cibolo, TX before joining my home church’s online service here in Houston. My wife and I watched “The Passion of the Christ”. As strange as this Easter was, unable to gather in person but able to gather online, it was exactly what I needed. I just love it when God anticipates and meets my needs!

So – Easter was yesterday and today is Monday. What next? Well, here you have it. Knowing that I can rest assured in my salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am free to pursue my hopes and dreams – hopes and dreams that I will consistently seek to align with God’s Word, His perfect will, and His perfect ways.

He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Now let’s get on with living!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Is Anything too Difficult for God?

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” Sometimes, important points are made through the asking of a rhetorical question.

The Bible in One Year reading plan begins in the book of Genesis. I always enjoy reading these accounts of God interacting with His people as He foreshadows His ultimate act of salvation through Jesus. Here, the context is God’s promise that Sarah, elderly and beyond normal childbearing years, will have a son from whom God will build a vast nation (Israel). What Sarah doesn’t know is that, from this lineage will come Jesus, Son of God and Savior of mankind!

I am also greatly encouraged in seeing how God does magnificent work through imperfect people; sinners like me.

Is anything too difficult for the Lord? Of course not! Amen!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit @youversion

The Majesty of Creation

During a recent visit to the ophthalmologist for my wife’s glaucoma, the doctor used a large illustration of the eye to explain what was going on. As she explained the eye structure to us, I saw clear evidence of the Creator. There is no way the human eye evolved by chance, from nothing. No way.

I speak often about how God reveals Himself through Scripture. He also reveals Himself through His magnificent Creation. The Apostle John, in describing Jesus, says this in part, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

Want to see Jesus today? Just look around you. Consider nature and the order of the universe. Consider our environment and how it is set up to support all kinds of life. Speaking of all kinds of life…wow, such variety! To dismiss the Architect of all of this is to dismiss our Lord Himself.

🎶 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the Earth! 🎶

Happy Lord’s Day, time to prepare for worship!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit @youversion

Time Flies…

“Time flies when you’re having fun,” someone once said. Or, how about this: “Time flies when you’re busy at work.” Whatever the reason, time flies! It’s been almost five months since I last posted here. I was thinking about that over the weekend, and I realized that this ministry is important. But in order for God to use it, I must do the work. So, here I am. I’m back.

“So, what happened?” you may be asking. Or maybe not. In any event, I’m going to tell you. The succinct answer is, “Life happened.” What does that mean, really? It means I’ve been very busy at work, spending more Saturdays than not at the office. As of now I am reclaiming my weekends. It means I became a bit lazy in my morning routine. As of today I am reclaiming my mornings. It means I let the busyness of life interfere with this ministry. There is a proper balance here; I just need to find it. I am trusting God to help me do that.

That’s about all I have to say this morning. As you can see, the purpose of this post is not really to impart any Scriptural wisdom; that comes next. The purpose of this post is simply to get me writing again. To reengage and recommit.

I will leave you with this:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His mercy endures forever.

Psalm 118:1

Indeed, His mercy endures. Even when I’m busy. Even when I’m distracted. No matter what, He is there. And for that I am thankful.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Love One Another

Jesus on Earth was the epitome of Love. He showed Love to the unlovable. He viewed every person with whom He came into contact as having value, no matter who it was or what they had done. Love. What does that mean for us in 2019?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

Jesus gave this command to His disciples as they celebrated Passover in what Christians have come to call the “Last Supper”. It was here that He washed His disciples’ feet. It was here that He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It was here that He began to explain to His disciples what was about to happen. Jesus is about to return to the Father, leaving his disciples to a call of ministry.

As I read the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Jesus’ love for humanity was unflappable. It was consistent. It was patient. Jesus approached people differently than we humans approach them. And, because of that, Jesus stood out; He was different.

Think about it. We tend to prejudge what a person might be like based on skin color, the clothes they wear, the neighborhood they live in, the car they drive, the career they chose… You get the point. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus offered His love to everyone, even those who rejected Him.

Jesus stood out from the world. By commanding (note: this was not a suggestion or a recommendation – it was a command) His disciples to love one another, Jesus knew that they would look different from the world. They would stand out. They would be Jesus’ representatives to the lost and fallen world that so desperately needs to know Him. This kind of Love is contagious!

What was Jesus’ purpose in giving this command? “By this everyone will know you are My disciples…” Boom. Friends, I am guilty as charged. Thank God that He forgives me through Jesus Christ. In response, I am committed to doing my best to obey this commandment, not just in my church but in my home, my office, behind the wheel – everywhere, all the time. “By this everyone will know you are My disciple…” What doors might this open for me to share the Good News of Jesus Christ? What doors might this open for you?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Who is this Jesus?

Who is this Jesus? Even today, this is a hotly debated topic. Some say He was good man, a powerful teacher and a strong leader. Others claim He is a hoax, foisted upon the world by a band of disciples who somehow got their false claims about Him to stick. Some, including me, know He is God.

” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…”

John 1:1

This succinct statement, along with the 13 verses immediately following, describe Someone who is completely unique from any other understanding about who God is. I love the progression here. Jesus was present at the start, He was with GodHe was God. Boom! There you have it. Jesus is eternal. No person who has ever walked this earth other than Jesus has this status. Nobody. This is a foundational Truth of the Christian faith as it is a foundational Truth on which I build my life.

Why is Jesus called “the Word” in this passage? According to Lutheran Cyclopedia,

“Word of God covers the whole field of God’s revelation of Himself. His Word is the essential mode whereby God intervenes in the world; Through it, He creates the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1); through it He reveals Himself to men (John 1:1-14); and by its proclamation the history of the church develops and is fulfilled (Acts 4:29, 31).” (1)

Every time I ponder this foundational truth, my heart races as I realize just Who it is I serve. And, with that realization, everything I do in life is repositioned. My life becomes an act of service to Him, even as imperfect as I am. Throughout Scripture, God works through imperfect people. From Abraham to Moses to Rahab to David to Peter to John and all the rest… All had their flaws. All were human. Yet all were called to serve. In fact, the only perfect (without sin) Person that has ever walked the earth is Jesus. The only One.

This is big stuff. It is real. And, whether you believe it or not, it is completely and eternally true. And because of that, Jesus is a game-changer. Without Him, there is no hope for eternity. By His grace (willingly taking on the punishment we deserve) and mercy (not giving us the punishment we deserve) we who believe in Him have the hope, indeed the reality, of eternal life.

I don’t know about you, but this fires me up! As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning, about to get ready to take on another work day, I am refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to go into the world and serve my God in the place where He has me.

How about you? These are bold claims, but they are the claims of God’s Word, the Bible. On this foundational Truth I take my stand. On this foundational Truth I build my life. Although I am not perfect, I am loved by The Word. And so are you!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(1) “Word of God.” Lutheran Cyclopedia: a Concise in-Home Reference for the Christian Family, by Erwin Louis. Lueker, Concordia Publ. House, 1984, pp. 825–825.