Kindness

How are you doing? Are you worried about, or frightened of, COVID-19? Are you frustrated at having been locked down for a long period of time? Are you out of work? Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one? How are you doing?

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”

Proverbs 12:25 NASB

I know people in each of the situations I asked about. Some are more anxious and worried than others. Some are frustrated while others are downright angry. There is much disagreement over how we as individuals and as a society should conduct ourselves in this COVID-19 era. All too often, these differing positions yield resentment and division among smart people; even people with family ties or otherwise strong friendships. And this does none of us any good.

This succinct little proverb reminds us that, when others are experiencing difficulty, kindness is king. Even when we disagree, it is vitally important that we seek to understand and seek to be kind.

Let each of us pledge to take this into our day – today and every day.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

I Shook His Hand

I shook a neighbor’s hand yesterday. That’s right. In this era of social distancing and sideways glances, my neighbor offered his hand and I shook it. And, after shaking his hand, I threw my hands into the air and shouted, “Thank you, Jesus!” All who were with us laughed. And everybody understood.

So here is the story. After dinner, my wife and I took a walk in our neighborhood. As with most evenings, there were many neighbors outside enjoying the relative cool of the evening. One street over from us is a house with living space over the garage similar to ours. The homeowners happened to be outside and we asked them about the french doors and balcony on the front of their garage space, as we have been considering doing something similar. A conversation about living upstairs during post-Harvey home repairs ensued. At the end of the conversation, as we prepared to continue our walk, our neighbor extended his hand to me and said, “It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is George.”

George and I stood there a moment and looked at each other. I could tell he had somewhat reflexively offered his hand and wondered if perhaps he did so out of habit, not really intending to shake my hand. After meeting his gaze for just a few seconds I said, “I’ll shake your hand,” and I shook it. We exchanged a good, firm handshake. Just like I do routinely before and after business meetings. Just like I do routinely upon meeting a new acquaintance. And I can tell you that that good, firm handshake was therapeutic.

A business colleague recently posted this on LinkedIn:

“With the “new normal”, handshakes may become a thing of the past. We will each need a new way to greet-elbow bump, foot touch etc.”

Upon reading this post, I had to pause and think about that. Is this what COVID is doing to our society? Are we destined to live lives in which we view others as a cesspool of germs, afraid to interact and afraid to have contact? While I understand and generally support the social distancing measures currently in place, I reject the notion that social distancing must somehow become a permanent fixture of human life. Having said that, my intention here is not to stir up controversy, but simply to offer a more hopeful view of our post-COVID future. All inspired by the handshake I exchanged with my neighbor yesterday evening. That wonderful, therapeutic handshake.

Friends, I believe that God is doing some amazing work amid these strange and crazy times, and that He will reveal it in His good and perfect timing. For me, I have already gained a strengthened appreciation for my friendships and for human interaction in general. And, while I am thankful for the technology that allows us to remain connected remotely, I look forward to someday shaking your hand once again. If you choose not to reciprocate, that’s OK; I will respect your choice and take no offense. If you choose to accept, be ready to accept a good, hearty firm handshake in the spirit of human connection.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) workisministry 2020

Unity over Division

A few days ago, our local news channels posted various questions to Twitter asking whether or not people planned to visit Texas businesses that reopened May 1. Many of the comments posted in response to the question were quite disturbing. Rather than simply answering the question, several people spewed vitriol at people whose positions differed from theirs. People who look forward to a safe reopening and who plan to patronize businesses were called greedy, money-hungry, uncaring and worse. People who said they will stay home a while longer to ensure their safety were accused of living in fear and giving in to the virus. Just that morning, these words of Jesus were part of my daily Bible reading:

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”

Mark 3:24 NASB

To be perfectly honest, I am more concerned for the long-term survival of American society than I am about Coronavirus or the ramifications of reopening the economy too quickly. When peoples’ first reaction to a statement with which they disagree is to attack the person making the statement, something is horribly wrong.

I am a frequent visitor to various social media sites. I probably spend more time there than I should. But I enjoy it. Through Facebook, I enjoy keeping up with friends from high school and college. I enjoy seeing what is happening in their lives and wishing them a happy birthday when the app reminds me it is their big day. On Twitter, I follow various pastors, news outlets, and bloggers and this has become one of my primary means of accessing news and information from various sources. I have two Instagram accounts – one @workisministry where I offer content similar to what is available here, and the other @jeffstrege where I share more personal content. Both are publicly viewable. Until recently, I had no idea there are Instagram bloggers and I now follow several while offering content of my own. And, lastly, I recently set up a channel on You Tube called “My Morning Walk”. I’ve been encouraged to explore something called Tik Tok, but I think what I have currently is enough. Let me know if you disagree.

Indeed, social media is a great tool, but it is rife with abuse. From the relative safety of an anonymous presence, some people post harmful, derisive, divisive – crap. And, for many, this appears to be the level of discourse they prefer. Speaking from uninformed, simplistic and naive positions, many of these people gain followers who hang on every word. And, through them, the seeds of divisiveness and anger are sown.

Jesus’ words here are most certainly true. A kingdom, or in our case a nation, divided against itself will not stand. As we deal with the serious issues presented by the Coronavirus, let us do so with empathy, kindness and thoughtfulness. Let us not allow those who seek division over unity to succeed. And, more than anything, let us all strive to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. That is my pledge.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

The Importance of Assembly

This is week six, I believe, of church online. Six weeks of not being able to gather with our respective church families to lift our voices in praise and worship. I know I’m not the only one who misses being in church, but I also understand and support the need to stay home and keep ourselves and one another safe. I am reminded this morning of this passage from the book of Hebrews:

“Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:24-25

There are a myriad of passages in Scripture that discuss the importance of God’s people gathering together. The focal point of Israel’s relationship with God was the tabernacle – the place where God was present among them and where the people went to be in His presence. The psalms talk about gathering together to offer worship and praise in the presence of God. Jesus, and the apostles after Him, preached and taught people assembled in homes and in the local temples. We read about thousands who gathered to hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His miraculous feeding of over 5,000 with just a few loaves and fishes. And, in Acts chapter two, the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit as they were gathered together soon after Jesus’ resurrection. Indeed, Scripture is abundantly clear on the importance of God’s people assembling for worship, prayer, preaching, teaching, and edification in the Word of God.

Here, the writer of Hebrews emphasizes the importance of gathering together for the purpose of encouraging one another. Not just pastors and teachers encouraging the flock, but all of us reaching out to one another, shaking hands, embracing, offering words of comfort and encouragement to one another. The well-known phrase, “Don’t go it alone” comes to mind. As we assemble to offer worship and praise to God, we also serve as ministers to one another in a “strength in numbers” kind of way. The world is replete with people and things that seek to draw our attention away from God. As we assemble in church, we are reminded that there is a vast community of believers of which we are a part. This walk with God is not a solo effort; we are all in this together. Assembling regularly serves to strengthen our faith and prepare us to go into the world and live lives that honor the Lord.

Indeed, I miss going to church. Having said that, I am thankful to God for the technology that allows church to come to me. The last few Sundays, I have virtually visited several churches around the world via their online worship services. Many are pastored by dear friends with whom I attended college. This technology, truly, is a gift from God and I celebrate it. And I will continue to celebrate it until the day, hopefully soon, that I can once again walk through the doors of Grace Presbyterian Church in Houston and worship once again in the presence of my church family.

Stay safe, my friends. Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2020

Ultimate Authority

What strange times these are. I believe that these current days are likely the most significant days from an historical perspective that I will experience in my lifetime. Because of Coronavirus, record numbers of people all around the world are out of work due to orders to stay at home. They are understandably worried about their future, as many will not have a workplace to return to. The death toll from the virus continues to rise. Many are fearful for their lives or the lives of loved ones. Many are questioning their self-worth. We hear voices of authority offering differing opinions and conflicting guidance as to what we do next. The message from the media is often convoluted by political agenda. Indeed, there is a lot of noise out there. To Whom do we turn in times such as these?

“He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against His land and people. The Lord has spoken!

Isaiah 25:8

Yes, these are difficult times. But, thanks be to God, I know without a doubt that we will come through this. God tells us just that in His Word. Look at the promises in this verse from the prophet Isaiah.

  • He will swallow up death forever – Death is real. We will all face death, whether by COVID-19 or other cause, each of will face it. Just this past Sunday we celebrated Easter. The promise of Easter is that all who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will not die, but will live eternally with God in Heaven. This prophecy – He will swallow up death forever – has already been fulfilled! Do you believe that? I do. For the one who trusts the Lord Jesus, death is not the end. It is simply the passage from life here on earth to life in heaven. If you don’t believe this, seek me out. I would be honored to discuss it with you.
  • He will wipe away all tears – Sadness can be an overwhelming emotion. It is natural to feel sad when life hands us an unexpected circumstance. Loss of work, loss of sense of purpose, loss of a loved one all trigger sadness. Fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of tomorrow can also trigger sadness. These are normal and natural reactions to life’s circumstances, and nothing to be ashamed of. God says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11) God spoke this promise to Israel upon their exile to Babylon. Facing unexpected and daunting circumstances, God reminds them as He reminds us today that He has our backs. We can trust Him for that, as God always keeps His promises. Always.
  • He will remove all insults and mockery... – The executive I wrote about yesterday once told me during a rather heated discussion that I lack sense of urgency. He told me that my approach to the problem at hand was hurting our company and he was baffled at my lack of concern about what had transpired. He said this in a conference room full of people, including some of my team members, my boss, and other executives. As I listened to him rant, I understood in the moment that a rant is exactly what that was. This was his way of addressing a problem. And, while his words stung as the untruths hit me, I could see past them – not only because I knew they were not accurate – but because I knew that God knew they were inaccurate. Many of us, when we were young, learned this phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” While not from Scripture, I believe it to be true. People will unduly criticize and mock us in various ways under various circumstances. It’s OK. God has my back.

How do I know this to be true? How do I know that God will keep these promises? It’s right here. God, who spoke these words, is sovereign. The Sovereign Lord will achieve these things. Dictionary.com’s definition of sovereign includes, “having supreme rank, power, or authority.” The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth (see Genesis chapter 1). It tells us that Jesus is the Son of God, the Author of Life and Creator of all that exists (see John chapter 1). From here comes the surety that these promises of God are true, they are eternal, and they will be fulfilled.

Lastly, we are told, “The Lord has spoken!” Friends, that’s it. That is the final word. The Sovereign Lord has told us what He will do, and His Word is the supreme and final authority in each of these circumstances – death, sadness, fear, mockery and insult. I tell people often, these are difficult times but I can see past them. I can see past them because I know without a doubt that God has this under control. God never tells us that we will have no difficulties in life; rather, He tells us that He will see us through life’s difficult times. That, through faith in Him, we will be fine. We will get through this.

Do you believe that? I do.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Taste and See…

Yesterday morning I emailed my work team under the subject line, “WFH Week 5” and I stopped in my tracks. Week 5!? We are going into our fifth week of working from home?? Good grief, where has the time gone? It seems it was just yesterday that my wife and I were enjoying Ramon Ayala’s performance at Rodeo Houston (it was March 8), and now, all of a sudden, here we are. Week 5.

I enjoy reading on social media about the various ways people are spending their time as they do their part to flatten the curve. Seems that crafts, puzzles, games and conversation are making a comeback. And that’s good.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8

Here is something else to consider as we shelter in place: how about starting a Bible reading plan? These are strange and stressful times. Many around the world are out of work or furloughed. The COVID-19 death toll continues to rise and the economic fallout will be felt for years. People are worried. People are scared. People are angry. Fact is, we are living through a most challenging time, with many long-term ramifications. Scripture offers abundant hope, comfort and reassurance as it conveys God’s revelation of Himself to His creation. I begin every day with my Bible reading plan. And when I miss it, I miss it.

The You Version Bible App offers a plethora of reading plans of various lengths and topics from which to choose. It is also the source of the Scripture images I share here. I am currently working through Pastor Nicky Gumbel’s Bible-In-One-Year reading plan for the second time. God truly does speak to us through His Word.

Indeed, taste and see that the Lord is good. I double-dog dare you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Take Time to Pray…

Like so many working professionals, I’ve been ordered to work from home to help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of Coronavirus. I’ve never worked from home full time before, and I’ve always said that I prefer to go into the office; I feel I’m more productive there. After last last week, however, I am quite pleased with the productivity I have delivered, but I also find it difficult to shut down the computer and walk away from work for a while. Indeed, my normal routine is way out of whack!

One of the areas that has suffered most is my treasured morning time. In “normal” times – is there any such thing? – my day begins in Scripture and prayer. But I have quickly fallen into the work from home habit of firing up my laptop first thing in the morning to make sure something hasn’t happened overnight that needs my immediate attention and, Viola!, my work day begins as my Bible time fades into the background.

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Luke 5:16

Yesterday, I read this account in Luke about Jesus’ ministry. It seems that, everywhere He went, there were crowds. Crowds demanding His time. Crowds seeking a miracle. Sick people in need of healing and demon-possessed people needing release. As I read about this, I could relate. If I let it, my work will take up all of my time and energy, especially in these trying times. If I’m not careful, I could work myself into a state of exhaustion and ineffectiveness.

But then along comes this little verse. Jesus needed a break. Jesus needed to refresh and reenergize. Jesus needed to talk with His Father. Indeed, Jesus – the Son of God – needed to pray. And to meet that need, He removed Himself from crowd to seek solitude with His Heavenly Father. Yes. Jesus needed to pray.

If the Son of God needed to take time by Himself to pray, what about me? And what about you?

I love it when God speaks to me through His Word. Upon completing my daily reading yesterday, I opened my Christian Planner and I updated my prayer list. Then, I prayed through it.

I have many good friends who work from home full time. They offer some good advice that I am applying, beginning today (second Monday working from home):

  • Go to bed at your normal time
  • Set your alarm and get up at your normal time
  • Take a shower
  • Brush your teeth
  • Dress for work
  • Take your breaks
  • Walk away when you need to
  • Leave your work in your home office at the end of the workday

In other words, establish your routine and stick with it. Of course, these days, there are interruptions. These are strange and trying times. Duty may call at odd hours as I do my part to help my employer manage through this. But, this morning, I set my alarm, brewed my coffee, read my Bible, said my prayers and wrote this post. This feels good. This feels right. And, who knows, I may come to love this working from home gig. Just maybe.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

Yes, I’m Worried. But…

What strange times we are living in. People are experiencing an array of emotions – fear, anxiety, worry, anger, angst…

I must confess that I worry more about the long-term impact Coronavirus will have on our society, our economy, and our world than I do about the possibility of my actually catching the virus myself. I worry about the hourly workers whose workplaces are closed, some indefinitely. Yes, I confess. I worry.

The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26


“Worry.” Ugh. Worry is evidence of misplaced trust, even of weak faith. It is also a tool the enemy uses to try and separate us from God. For me, when I worry, I want to “do something” to solve the problem, sometimes allowing that perceived need to rob me of my morning time in Scripture. See what I mean?

This morning I woke up early. Worried. So I got up, brewed a pot of coffee, and opened my Bible reading plan. And this is what I read – the traditional benediction offered at the conclusion of worship in so many churches. And I’m reminded that, as a Christian, I am in the world, but not of the world. Worry is displaced by faith, comfort and peace. Just as it should be.

Y’all, we will get through this.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: Youversion Bible App