Ultimate Hope

2020 has been one heckuva year, has it not? I often see posts and memes on social media lamenting the awfulness of this year and looking ahead, longing for something better. As a believer in Christ, I know that the “something better” for which we all long has already been accomplished.

Amidst all the noise that is 2020, this assurance rings true:

God’s goodness and love have not left the building. God is just as present in 2020 as He has ever been. He speaks to us through His Word just as He always has. And, fellow believers, we have so much to look forward to, including the incredible promise that we will dwell with Him forever.

God has much good to say to us, but we must dial in. Be in the Word. Be in prayer. Be in worship, whether online or in person. God is our ultimate hope for our life’s future and for our eternal destiny. Indeed, we can take comfort in these words from one of the most quoted chapters in Scripture, remembering that even in the darkest of days and the toughest of times, God is in control. He’s got this. And He’s got you and me cradled in His loving arms – today and for all eternity.

With that reality in mind, let’s take on this day!

Soli DEO Gloria!

The Most Important Race

I work in corporate America as a risk management professional. To help foster productivity and success in my work I have earned an advanced degree and two professional designations. To keep abreast of industry changes and advances in technology I attend conferences and seminars, and I enjoy offering content at those as well. Indeed, to succeed in business, one must have a firm base of knowledge on which to build a level of expertise that consistently adds value. If such preparation is important in business, is it not important in our Christian walk as well?

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB

In the chapters of 1 Corinthians leading up to this passage we learn that Paul is writing to a church that had issues. It was divided. It was tolerating, and even embracing chronic sinful behavior amongst its members. It was at risk of being destroyed from within. This church was in trouble and it needed its pastor to help it refocus on the prize: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That, in summary, is the theme of 1 Corinthians.

Here, Paul is describing his disciplined approach to ministry. Really, his disciplined approach to ministry was grounded in his disciplined approach to life. It is tempting to lift this verse out of context and use it as the foundation of a “rah-rah” motivational talk on success in sports, sales or any other endeavor. But Paul is addressing something far more important: Paul is addressing the winning and nurturing of souls for Jesus Christ.

“But, Jeff, didn’t you open this missive with a description of your preparation and nurturing of yourself to achieve success in your career?” Indeed, I did. And, yes, this principle can be applied to many facets of daily life. And, while I enjoy my career and I want to succeed, my highest calling is to live a life that points directly to Christ. My highest calling is to live and conduct myself in such a way that others see Jesus through me (Matthew 5:16).

With that context, this verse compels me to think. Am I better prepared for business than I am for daily ministry? (Yes). Are there aspects of my life that point in some direction other than Christ? (Yes). Are there aspects of my life that point to Christ? (Yes). Have I seen progress in my spiritual growth? (Yes). Do I have room to grow and improve? (Yes). As I think about this verse in the context of this business man who wants a role in reaping the harvest for Jesus, I see the footsteps that have carried me to this point and I see areas in my life that need some work.

Run in such a way that you may win.

This verse is incredibly motivating and encouraging. The runner of the race is in a constant state of training and preparation. It is a process of constantly seeking to hone one’s skills. And, while God has led me to this place this morning, I see opportunities to build my knowledge and understanding of Scripture and how to apply it in my daily living at home, at work, and at rest. I ask Got to strengthen my faith so I am better equipped to let my light shine, that through me, others will see the Lord Jesus. This is not about me. It is about Him. Let us who believe in the Lord Jesus run this race together, to His honor and glory, with our eyes on the prize: The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him alone be all honor, glory and praise.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Working for God (Re-Launch!)

What do you do every day? How do you spend your time? Have you ever thought about your daily life as ministry?

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.”

Psalms 90:17 NASB

I work in corporate America, for a Fortune 100 company on its risk management team. Specifically, I oversee the purchase of the company’s insurance, the management of claims, and the gathering & distribution of analytics to various stakeholders within the organization. I know. Risk management, insurance, analytics… Sound pretty dry, doesn’t it? I get it. One of my favorite movie lines is from Planes, Trains & Automobiles when Steve Martin’s character says,

“I could tolerate any insurance seminar for days. I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They’d say, ‘How can ya stand it?’ And I’d say, ‘Cause I’ve been with Del Griffith.'”1

Yep, that’s me. I geek out over this stuff. I look forward to those seminars, not only for the knowledge and insight I gain, but also for the relationships I have built over the years. I truly enjoy what I do for a living.

When I entered college way back in 1980, it was with the intent of entering the professional ministry. I was studying to become a pastor in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). My father worked for an insurance brokerage firm at that time, and I would work during summers and longer breaks in the firm’s mail room. After a while, my head was turned. I liked what I saw. I never enrolled in seminary.

God has blessed me with success in my career. Although traditional retirement age is approaching increasingly rapidly each year, I don’t know what I would do if I quit. I still have aspirations to grow my career and add even more value to the company I work for. Or perhaps someplace else. But, as satisfied as I am with my vocation, I have often asked the big question: “What if…” What if I had gone to seminary? What would my path have been in the LCMS? Would I even have made it? Did I ignore God’s call for the wrong reasons? A college friend told me, upon sharing my decision to forego seminary in favor of a business career, that I was abandoning God to go and serve the devil. Was he right? (Rest assured, I know now that he was so, so wrong).

I have wrestled with these questions over the years. And here is where I have landed:

God has me exactly where He wants me. God wants me in business. Not every ministry is carried out in a sanctuary, donned in clerical vestments, leading worship, preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments. Oh, make no mistake, the ministry carried out in Christ’s Church is of vital importance. I am thankful to have many friends in professional ministry in the LCMS and other Christian denominations, even in the US military. I am thankful for the faithful pastors that have nurtured me in faith over the years. Ministry was never intended to be confined within the four walls of the church. Ministry is to occur in every facet of life in every corner of the world, and the church equips us to carry it out. Indeed, ministry is to be carried out in the business world. And that is what I seek to do.

“Confirm the work of my hands…” Did you know that our daily work is important to God? That He ordains it and sanctions it? That He uses you and me, no matter where we work, to further His kingdom? He does! This truth puts my daily work into an entirely different perspective! In a way, I am as much in ministry as my friends are who serve God in His Church. My ministry is manifested in my conduct, my attitude, my outlook and my quest to always deliver top-flight work. A coworker once asked me during a particularly difficult time at a prior employer how I “did it.” Door opened. I told him that my faith in God was seeing me through. God does open doors for us to share our faith. Even at work.

A couple years ago I was thinking about daily ministry. As I walked across the pedestrian bridge that connects the two buildings that are our corporate offices, the idea hit me: Launch a blog called workisministry.com. Share the Gospel. Offer encouragement and motivation. Share your faith and how it applies to your daily work. Let your light shine. Show Jesus to those with whom you work – and beyond. And, viola! This blog was born.

I have not been completely faithful in posting here. Over the past week or so, I have come to realize that this is an important aspect of my ministry. And so, today, I relaunch. I trust God to use this blog, and to use my life, as He sees fit according to His good and perfect will. I hope you find it helpful. If you do, I hope you will consider sharing it with your colleagues and friends.

As I nurture this blog, I will continue to strive to serve the Lord in all my endeavors. The Scripture below nicely summarizes my mission here:

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) workisministry 2020

1Hughes, J. (Producer & Director). (1987). Planes, Trains and Automobiles [Motion Picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures

Blessing Aug 2, 2020

Sunday morning. I haven’t been to church in months, thanks to COVID-19. It is easy to feel a bit disconnected from my church family. Of course, my church offers worship online and our production team does a stellar job of offering a quality and meaningful worship experience. But it is still not the same. And, sometimes, I let that get me down.

“May the God of hope fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 NASB

I needed this passage this morning. To be sure, I cannot wait to go back to church. But, for now, I am thankful for the technology that exists and the talent God gave many for using the technology that allows us to worship, although remotely, together.

Christian friends, it is important that we keep our habits of worship, study and sacrament – in person or online. The JOY and PEACE we know through the Lord is not diminished just because we cannot gather together for a time. My prayer for you this morning is just that. Reread it. And read it again. And let the Holy Spirit work His power in your life.

God bless you all and may each of you have a blessed Lord’s Day.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion

(c) workisministry 2020

Real Transformation

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

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

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

Pastor Allistair Begg

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

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

Psalms 121:2 NASB

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

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) workisministry 2020

Let Your Light Shine…

I have read these words of Jesus many times. I read them again just a few days ago, and they resonated with me in a big and wonderful way.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

I have written before about what I call my “walking witness”. Everything I say and do points to something or someone. My words and my actions reveal my heart. When people look upon one another and observe the way we conduct ourselves, they draw conclusions about the base motivations that drive the behaviors. What message am I conveying to those around me when I speak or when I act? To whom do my words and actions point? Are my words and actions helpful or are they a hindrance? Most importantly, does my conduct point others to Jesus, or does it point them elsewhere?

2020 has been a very trying year so far. The world has been impacted heavily, in so many ways, by COVID-19. As we began to see improvement in disease spread and reducing death counts, the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis occurred. Following that, peaceful protests descended into violent riots, with the livelihoods of innocent citizens destroyed as large swaths of many of America’s greatest cities descended into chaos. The lawlessness and disorder continues in several cities today as the level of anger across our nation seems to be increasing exponentially.

If there was ever a time when God’s people need to let our lights shine, that time is now.

As the events of 2020 unfolded, I found myself sucked into the anger and divisiveness in ample display on Facebook and Twitter. News feeds that were once dominated by life events and useful information have become platforms for sowing divisiveness and disunity. Well-intended expressions of position are attacked by those in opposition, sometimes in ugly and threatening ways. I found myself drawn into this. As I review my own posts and comments to posts of others, I am dismayed and even disturbed by several of them. Indeed, these social media platforms I once enjoyed became snares. How does one deal with a snare? Snares and traps are best avoided by staying away or removing them altogether. So I decided to exit. I logged off of both platforms and deleted their applications from my devices. In the 12 days since I began my hiatus from Facebook and Twitter, the anger and frustration I felt have quickly disappeared. I decided I would not return.

Then, just a few days ago, I read these words of Jesus. I quickly realized that I had allowed the world to extinguish my light, at least on these huge platforms that reach millions of people. I realized that the world needs the light of the Gospel to pierce the darkness of sin, despair and chaos. I realized that the easy way out is to stay away and keep quiet. But God doesn’t call us to take the easy way out. He doesn’t call us to stay away and keep quiet. He calls us to be the light of the world, shining brightly from the lampstand of the Gospel so that the world, through me and through you, can see Jesus.

At some point, I will return to Facebook and Twitter. But before I do, I am prayerfully considering how I will reconstruct and recraft my experiences to avoid the snares of anger and divisiveness while being the light my Lord calls me to be. I will let my light shine in such a way that those on Facebook and Twitter see my posts and glorify my Father who is in heaven. In so doing, I hope to be a witness to my Lord while once again enjoying the personal connections of so many friends and loved ones.

If there was ever a time when God’s people need to let our lights shine, that time is now. May God direct my words and actions as I prepare to relight my lamp.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit; YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

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

A Powerful Conversation

People sometimes ask the hypothetical question, “If you could have a conversation with a famous person, whom would you choose, and why?” Answers to this question vary greatly. Some identify a major politician, some a sports star, some a famous actor or actress. Who would you choose?

“Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.'”

John 4:26 NASB

I love this account of Jesus’ conversation with the woman from Samaria. His disciples had left him to go and purchase food. This woman came alone to the well in the heat of the day, as she was of such ill repute that she could not go with the other women of the city in the cool of the morning. Jesus asks her for a drink of water, and a conversation ensues (John 4:7-30).

The woman is surprised that Jesus spoke to her, for Jews did not associate with Samaritans, and she said such to Jesus. Jesus turns this conversation about a simple sip of water into something much more important. He tells her that if she knew who she was talking with, she would ask Him for “living water” and that all who drink of this “living water” will never thirst again. The woman, of course, still has the water deep down in the well in mind. But Jesus is not talking about a dipper full of water from the well. He is talking about eternity. He is talking about salvation. When the woman asks Jesus to give her the life-giving water He described, He tells her to go, get her husband, and come back.

One thing that strikes me the about this encounter is the fact that this woman was outcast from her society, and Jesus knew that. When the woman responds that she has no husband, Jesus recounts to her that she has had five husbands and was living with another man out of wedlock. She discerns that He is special, a prophet, and ultimately states that the Messiah, when He comes, will “declare all things to us.” Jesus answers that statement with this profound declaration, “I who speak to you am He.”

There is much for us to learn in reading this encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. One thing I notice every time I read it is Jesus’ approach to this known sinner. Jesus acknowledges her sins and reveals to her the path to freedom from sin. He doesn’t condone her sin (contrary to popular modern thought, Jesus never condones sin) but He doesn’t lecture her, either. He simply states the facts in a gentle, loving and kind manner. There is a takeaway here for each of us.

Jesus’ disciples return from buying food and are surprised to see Jesus talking with this woman. Meanwhile, the woman, the outcast from society, runs into town and tells people what had happened and Whom she had encountered. Many return to the well with her to see Jesus. They asked Him to remain with them, and John tells us that he stayed there, in Samaria, for two days and that many came to believe in Him.

So, there you have it. Jesus takes the time to invest Himself in a lowly, sinful woman from Samaria. And, through that encounter, she comes into faith and shares the good news with her community. And with that introduction, many in her community come to faith in Jesus.

As I read this beautiful account, I am reminded that I am in no better state than she. I am a sinner; different sins perhaps, but a sinner nonetheless. I am a sinner who knows Jesus and partakes of His life-giving water. And, just as He worked through this lowly Samaritan woman, He can work through me, too.

If I could have a conversation with a famous person, whom would I choose, and why? I think you know my choice.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

What Were You Thinking??

“What were you thinking??”

Have you ever asked that question of yourself or someone else? You know, when you say or do something that, in hindsight, you realize was totally wrong or stupid or harmful… I can think of many times in my life when I sit in the quiet of the morning, thinking about something I said or did the day before or even sometime way in my past, shaking my head and asking my self, “What were you thinking??”

“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.”

Psalm 51:1 NASB

The story of King David and Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11) is one of the Old Testament accounts that intrigues me the most. In summary, King David looks out the window of his palace and sees the beautiful Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. Although Bathsheba is married, David summons her to the palace and has sex with her. Bathsheba becomes pregnant as a result, so to cover up what he had done, David sends for her husband, Uriah, from battle and suggests that he take a break and lay with his wife. Uriah refuses to do so, citing his loyalty to his fellow soldiers whom he had left behind in battle. So, David sends Uriah back into battle with a note the commander that Uriah be placed front-and-center on the battle line and, of course Uriah is killed – just as David had planned. After Uriah’s death, David takes Bathsheba as his wife.

“What were you thinking??”

The Bible tells us that God sent the prophet Nathaniel to confront David with this horrible sin (see 2 Samuel 12). He uses a parable to do so, and when David declares that the guilty man portrayed in the parable should die, Nathan announces, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David, upon realizing his guilt before God, offers the confession recorded for us in Psalm 51.

You may be asking, “Why is the account of David and Bathsheba one of your favorites?” Here are two points to consider:

  1. David, even in spite of this horrible sin, is one of the great men of God. This story reminds me that God does great things through imperfect people; imperfect people like me and you. David, as a human, was unqualified to serve God, as am I. But God chooses to qualify the unqualified. He worked amazing things through David and, if He chooses, He can work amazing things through me and through you, too.
  2. Do you think David knew the character of God? I do. Note the three adjectives that David cites as he asks God to forgive his sins. God is gracious (merciful, compassionate); God shows lovingkindness (tender and benevolent); God demonstrates compassion (sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress with a desire to alleviate it)(i). Remember, this is the Old Testament. This is before Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins. Aside from faith in the God he knew to be gracious, kind and compassionate, David had no grounds to ask for forgiveness. But he asked. And God forgave. Not only did He forgive, but He kept His promise to David as evidenced by the birth of Solomon by Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:24-25). And, as promised, David was in the lineage of Jesus, Himself (Matthew 1:6).

I find it both beautiful and comforting that God chooses to forgive us, even when we commit horrible, wicked sins. That He chooses to show mercy and grace when we fail and when we confess our failures. He did so in Old Testament times and He does so now, in these New Testament times, through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Indeed, Jesus seals the deal. Through faith in Him we are assured that we will spend eternity with Him in a place called Heaven.

I am encouraged that God chooses to work through imperfect, sinful people. He chose to work through David. My hope and prayer is that God will choose to work through me, too. Of course, I’m no King David. But I do have a passion to share the Gospel. That is why I post here and on Instagram @workisministry. That is why I started the My Morning Walk channel on YouTube. I put the content out there and I trust God to use it to inspire, encourage, motivate and draw others to faith in Jesus, or to not use it according to His good and perfect will. I don’t have to know; I trust Him.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(i) Definitions from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online

Image Credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020