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!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Eyewitness

There is nothing more powerful in supporting a position than the eyewitness. Throughout history, eyewitness testimony has carried great weight in courts of law all around the world. Jurors and spectators hang on every word the eyewitness speaks as he describes what he saw and heard at the crime scene, or as she describes the violence of the collision she witnessed on the highway. Through the lens of the eyewitness, the facts emerge.

“I have seen and I testify that this is God’s chosen One.”

John 1:34

The Bible offers eyewitness testimony regarding Jesus. After Jesus’ Ascension, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2), and with that they were equipped to carry out Jesus’ instructions to go into the world and share the Gospel. All of their questions, their doubts and their fears were eradicated. They were fully equipped to do God’s work.

People ask me from time to time, if they were to begin reading the Bible for the very first time, what should they read first? I refer them to John’s Gospel, the writings of one of many eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, His ministry, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, His post-resurrection appearances & interactions, and finally His Ascension. John saw it all, and writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, beautifully offers his eyewitness testimony of just who Jesus is, starting with Jesus as Creator in the beginning (John 1:1) all the way through to His promise of eternal life to all who would believe in Him.

Has it been awhile since you opened your Bible? I know, we’re all busy. But therein resides all we need to know about who God is, what He is about, and how we are to live in response. Therein resides the bad news of our eternal situation without Jesus and the good news of God’s promise of eternal life through faith in Jesus. Isn’t this worth an investment of time?

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(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!

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(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.

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!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Strength in Trials

“Be strong and courageous.” God speaks these words to Joshua three times in the first nine verses of this book. Three times! Do you think strength and courage are important to God? I do.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

This passage is often quoted, and, indeed, it is a favorite of mine. For context, God spoke these words to Joshua as He commissioned him to lead Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Moses had just died, and Joshua was appointed by God to take his role. This was a daunting task, a huge project, if you will. This would require strong leadership, resilient will, incredible strength and unwavering courage. This was God’s mission, assigned to Joshua to execute. This was a big deal.

These were not just marching orders from God. Notice the incredible promise God offers Joshua: “…the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Do you think God expected Joshua to summon up strength and courage from somewhere deep within himself? I don’t. This verse, indeed God’s commissioning of Joshua to lead Israel across the Jordan, was God’s statement that this was going to happen. Joshua was not on his own; Joshua was God’s instrument, called, positioned and equipped to carry out His mission with God Himself alongside him, just as Moses had executed God’s mission to rescue Israel from bondage in Egypt.

“The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I take great comfort in these words. You see, this is a foundational truth. No matter where I go, no matter what I am doing, God is there. In one sense that gives me pause, as he sees the good, the bad and the ugly of me. But even through the bad and the ugly, He does not abandon me. He is with me. Always.

Several jobs ago, I was directed by an executive of the company to do something that I knew was not entirely right. But, he was an executive, he supported his direction with (worldly) reason, so I carried out his orders. After all, he had a “C” title.

An internal investigation ensued and as a result, I was dismissed from my position with that company. Yes, I was fired. As all of this unfolded, I never worried. I remember feeling that I should be worried, but I had this incredible sense of peace. Indeed, God was there. God was with me. I wasn’t leading a nation across a mighty river. I wasn’t preaching a sermon to a crowd of unsaved. I was just doing my job as directed by a superior. Do you think the executive that directed my actions stood by me through the investigation? Of course not. He was nowhere to be seen. But God did.

Most of us work in the secular world. The secular world can be tough. Sometimes we see and hear things that make us cringe. Sometimes we get dragged into uncomfortable meetings. Sometimes we are faced with temptation. But at all times, we have an opportunity to be salt and light to a dark world that desperately needs to taste and to see. We live and work among people from various walks of life with a variety of world views. The workplace is a mission field. And God is there.

As the internal investigation was drawing to a close, everybody knew what was happening. At one point, a coworker walked into my office and closed the door. He was a declared non-believer. He asked me how I was able to remain so calm and positive knowing what was happening and what was likely to come. I told him that this was not of me. I could only ascribe my sense of peace to my faith in God. He got up, left my office, and we never spoke of it again. We’ve since lost touch but I think of him often.

Friends, as you go into your workplace today, be strong and courageous, no matter what. For the Lord your God goes with you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Trust Amid the Storm

My family and I were directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey. More accurately, we were impacted afterward when the US Army Corps of Engineers opened the flood gates of the Barker Reservoir sending a deluge of flood waters into my neighborhood and many, many others in the City of Houston. For thousands of Houstonians, the impact of Harvey began as the storm itself moved from our area.

“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.”

Psalm 13:5 NASB

The days, weeks, and even months after we evacuated our home are somewhat of a blur, but I remember them vividly. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but the statement is accurate. Evacuating with no advance warning, we had to make quick decisions about what we took with us, heeding the instructions of the boat pilots to take as little as possible. We didn’t have time to worry about where we would go or what we would do; we just knew we had to leave.

You know what? As I look back on what I call our “Harvey Story”, my heart fills with gratitude. For through everything, from evacuation to fostering pets, from accepting vehicles on loan to a fully furnished home to live in as we cleaned ours out, from dealing with the federal government for a low-interest loan to managing through repairs (which still aren’t fully completed), we experienced God’s provision. God worked through the volunteers who helped us evacuate and later clean out our home. He worked through so many who donated cash, gift cards, cars and even a house. He honored the prayers of many friends as He offered clarity to my sometimes rather dazed mind. Indeed, amidst the tumult of the storm, God never left us. He was always there, and more importantly, He was directing everything.

As David wrote this psalm, and many others, his life was in turmoil. He sometimes felt that God had forgotten him, leaving him on his own to deal with his thoughts and circumstances (Ps 13:1-3). But, while God sometimes allowed David to experience trials and tribulations, He never left Him. And through it all, David was reminded of that which is truly important: “…my heart rejoices in Your salvation.”

I wish I could tell you that my attitude throughout the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was always positive. I wish I could tell you that I consistently maintained my disciplines of study, worship and prayer. I wish I could tell you that I never worried, never doubted, never feared. I wish I could, but I cannot. But here is what I can tell you. I can tell you that through my lows, through my lack of discipline, through my worries, my doubts and my fears, God was always faithful. He met every single need we had as the need presented itself. God directly intervened in our lives to see us through the disaster.

Now we are faced with a sizable loan that must be repaid. I drive part time for Uber and Lyft to help make the payments. I’m sometimes tempted to worry about our financial future. Then, in the quiet of the morning, God gives me His Word. He offers this reminder that, no matter what, my eternity is sealed. My salvation is sure, thanks to His grace and mercy through His Son, Jesus. And, with that reality and His blessing, I can face anything.

What storms are you facing today? Is there turmoil in your life that you’re struggling to manage through? Do you wonder where the next paycheck will come from? Is work stressful and overwhelming? Take a moment today and read Psalm 13. It’s short, but packed with meaning. Let God remind you of that which is supremely important. And know that He hasn’t forgotten you, nor has He abandoned you. He is there. He loves you. He cares. He will see you through.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Finding Meaning

Drudgery. Minutia. Routine. Unimportant. Unappreciated. Boring.

Do you ever feel this way about your work? Do you ever wonder why you show up each day to do the same darn things only to have nobody notice or appreciate your efforts? Do you find yourself saying, “I hate my job,” or, worse yet, “My life has no meaning.” I know people who feel this way and my heart breaks for them.

“Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

Proverbs 16:3

If you’re feeling this way, I want you to ask yourself who it is you serve. For whom do you work? Had you asked me this question a few years ago I would have answered with the name of a company or the name of my boss. But in reading God’s Word, my perspective has changed. Yes, my employer provides a paycheck. But I work for the Lord.

The masters we serve in the world are imperfect. Executives sometimes make poor decisions. Bosses are sometimes hard to work with. We see unfairness and injustice in the world around us. And when we are touched directly by such things, as I have been, our attitude may become negative and our productivity may decrease. In contrast, the Master we ultimately serve is Almighty. He is kind, gracious and merciful. Always. In every circumstance. We are to approach everything we do as being done for Him. Because it is.

The beauty of this proverb is that its truth extends beyond our employment, and it includes a promise. “Works” here contemplates all that we do – our daily work, our morning routine, our evenings and our weekends. Indeed, this proverb reminds us that we are to commit our very lives to the Lord.

Note the promise: “…and your plans will be established.” The passive verb here is important. God doesn’t tell us that we will establish our plans. No – He tells us that He will establish our plans! Contrary to what many modern-day thought leaders will tell you, life’s purpose does not come from within. It cannot be established by reading self-help books or even through self-determination. Life’s purpose is found in the Lord. When we commit our lives to the Lord, our plans become His plans – actually, His plans become our plans. We are aligned with our Lord. The pressure is off! If that’s not a gift, I don’t know what a gift is! Praise God!

Dear friend, if you are one for whom your life’s work, or even your life itself, is unsatisfying and unfulfilling, ask God to change your heart. To whom (or Whom) are you committed? If your commitment rests with anyone but the Lord, why not consider making Him your life’s focus? Commit your works, indeed your very life, to Him. Seek Him through reading His Word and prayer. There are a plethora of Bible reading plans that can help you get started, including many in your local Christian book store and on YouVersion Bible App.

God is waiting. He is available. He will provide. He will establish your purpose. He will work it out. For you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com (2019)

“What is it Like…?”

The question stopped me in my tracks. It was January 6, the first Sunday of 2019. I was sitting in the pew next to my wife listening to the first sermon of the year. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I read the title in our bulletin: “Living Under the Influence: Resolve”. Great. A sermon on New Year’s resolutions. Not exactly what I came to hear. But as our pastor spoke, I realized that my prejudgment was (as it often is) way off the mark. Preaching on a portion of Acts 14, Pastor was speaking of how critical a proper attitude is to living a life that glorifies and honors Christ as we seek to make Jesus visible to the world around us. Then he suggested we ponder this question:

What is it like to live with me every day?

Rev. Dr. Trey Little, Grace Presbyterian Church

Wow. I have never considered that. Glancing at my wife seated next to me, I wondered how she might answer that question. After all, I’m not always the easiest guy to live with. Then I thought about my coworkers at Sysco. If I were to ask them what it is like to work with me every day, how might they answer? Am I supportive? Am I approachable? Am I respectful? Am I trustworthy? Next I considered people with whom I do business – insurance brokers, claims professionals, attorneys, and various consultants. How might they answer? As I’ve pondered this over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize that these answers are important, but their importance is less about me than it is about Him.

My chief mission in life is to conduct myself in a manner that honors God while seeking to be salt and light to the world in which I live, just as Jesus Himself described.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

See why I say the answer to the question is more about Him than it is about me? I do not seek the “right” answers to these questions so I can puff up my chest and be proud of the great man everybody thinks I am. No. I seek the “right” answers to these questions because I want to be a beacon in this dark world. I want to be different from the world so God can use me to draw the lost to Him through me – by whatever manners and means He chooses to use. I want my life to glorify Him.

Ever since Pastor posed this question I’ve sensed some change. The question is written in my prayer journal to remind me to ponder it each morning. Indeed, I am God’s work in progress. I stumble every day. I say stupid things. I make mistakes. Thankfully, I know that God will not give up on me. And neither will I.

So, what say you? Does this question give you pause as it did me? If so, what are you going to do about it? As I go into my work place this week, I pray that God will equip me to conduct myself in a manner that draws others to want to know Him. How about you?

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com (2019)

Worried?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes for me life can seem overwhelming. Between the demands of my work, my responsibilities at home, the need to work part time to repay our government loan, I am often tempted to worry. Am I making the right decisions at work? What if I’m not? I’m too tired to work through this stack of mail this evening – what if something important is there? Thanks to property damage from post-Harvey flooding, when will I be able to retire? Will I be able to retire? Where will those resources come from? Yada-yada-yada.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jesus: Matthew 6:34

I believe that worry is the most negative energy one can expend. Think about it. When has worry ever solved a problem? Do you ever feel better about a situation after having worried about it a while? Do you sleep better when you worry? Do you eat healthier foods or drink less alcohol when in worry mode?

When we really stop to think about it, worry is a distraction from that which is really important. Don’t get me wrong; I often worry about important things. But I’ve learned over time that worry hinders my problem-solving abilities even as it hinders productivity. Indeed, the worried mind is a distracted mind; when we worry, things often seem worse than they really are.

I love Jesus’ instructions here. Don’t worry about tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year. Deal with the circumstances of today. Focus. Seek God’s guidance and trust Him for the resources, solutions and results you need. He is reliable and He will provide. When we put our faith and trust in Him, He will not leave us hanging. We can trust Him for that.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow; but it empties today of strength.”

Corrie ten Boom

The author of the my 2019 Bible reading plan offered the above quote from Corrie ten Boom, and it really resonated with me. If you’ve never heard of Corrie, don’t despair; I hadn’t heard of her until this morning. What a hero! During WWII Corrie and her family defied the Nazis by helping Jews escape Nazi persecution. You can read about her heroism here.

Sometimes I wish I could simply flip off my worry switch, but it’s not always that easy. Fortunately, I can lean on my Savior when the worry bug strikes. Lifting the situation in prayer, reading His Word (such as Jesus’ words above) and trusting Him for the outcome helps put my mind at ease as it restores my focus and grants me peace of mind.

Friends, God wants to hear from us. Additionally, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes in our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). Not only is He a good listener, He is my advocate. It doesn’t get any better than that!

What is on your mind today? What worries are distracting you from the important things you need to accomplish? Why not take a pause, lift them up to the Lord in prayer, then watch expectantly to see what He does. If you need prayer support, please reach out. I’m happy to pray for you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Happy New (Work) Year!

Why do we work? Our impulsive answer to this question may be something like, “to put food on the table, numbskull!”

While that is certainly true, there is a bigger, more important reason behind the work that we do each day. Work is mentioned many times in Scripture, beginning with…the beginning:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” ~ Genesis 2:15 NIV

You see, God did not create Adam to simply exist in the beautiful world God created. Not at all. After creating Adam, God immediately gave him work to do, a vocation if you will. God put Adam in charge of His creation. Adam’s calling was to cultivate (work) the garden and keep (take care of) it. But this passage is not just about the Adam of Genesis. Did you know that “adam” is the Hebrew word for “mankind”? That’s right – this passage is about you and me, too.Have you ever thought of your daily work in this context? Have you considered the notion that God has called you to do what you do each day for a reason? That your calling, or vocation, is actually a gift from God given to you as a means of caring for His creation? This is a game changer! When we understand that our work is given to us by God, it repositions everything. What was once drudgery is now a pleasure. What was once mundane is now exciting. What was once considered unimportant is now critical. What was once viewed as a job is now a calling, a vocation, from God.Of course, none of us are in the Garden of Eden. Some of us work in office buildings, some in schools, some in restaurants, some in stores, some in warehouses, some behind a wheel, some at home, some outdoors… No matter where you work or what you do for a living, know this: You are surrounded by God’s creation. Each day presents an opportunity to make a difference. You can influence your world for Christ. At work. Every day.Next time you are in your work place, take a look around. Every person you see is a child of God. Some know it, some don’t. Let’s join together as followers of Jesus and commit our work in this New Year and beyond to Him. Let’s do all that we do knowing that He has each of us where we are for a reason. If we will work in this way, God will work through us to cultivate and reap His harvest.

Happy New Year!Soli DEO Gloria

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(c) workisministry.com 2019