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

The Greatest Bible Study Ever

Who is the greatest teacher you have ever encountered? Think about that for a moment. It could be anybody – a teacher in elementary, junior high, or high school. Perhaps it is a college professor or a mentor at work. Maybe the first person that comes to mind is a pastor or Sunday School teacher. I can think of people in each of those categories that have had a profound impact on my life, and I am grateful to each of them.

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

Luke 24:27 NASB

This account recorded for us in Luke tells about an incredible teaching encounter. On the afternoon of Jesus’ resurrection, two of His followers were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As they walked, they were discussing the events of the weekend. A man sidles up alongside them and begins to walk with them. Luke tells us that the man is Jesus Himself, and that the men were kept from recognizing Him. Jesus asks what they are talking about. Somewhat incredulously, they asked, in essence, “from under which rock have you just crawled?” They were surprised that the man seemed completely unaware of the events that had transpired – the conviction and execution of an innocent man, “a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people…” (Luke 24:19). Jesus, still not recognized by the two disciples opened up the Scriptures to them as He connected the dots between the Old Testament scriptures – all that they had at that time – and the events of the recent days. It was later that evening, as the man broke bread and offered it to them that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus – alive and sitting with them!

“They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us as He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?'”

Luke 24:32 NASB

Can you imagine what was going through these disciples’ minds once they realized what had just happened? After what had been for them a weekend filled with sadness and confusion, Jesus Himself opened their eyes to the fullness of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus Himself taught them from the Scriptures all that God had revealed through His Word about what was going to happen. Jesus showed these men how everything God revealed and promised in the Old Testament had just been fulfilled through Jesus Himself! Jesus opened these mens’ eyes and changed their sadness and confusion into joy and thanksgiving. Luke tells us that Jesus vanished from their sight when they recognized Him and that they immediately walked back to Jerusalem to share what had happened with the rest of the disciples. Indeed, this was news worth sharing!

Did you know that the entire Bible – every word, every verse, every chapter and every book – is about Jesus? Have you ever read the Bible – all of it? Many Christians today believe that the Old Testament no longer has relevance. Indeed, many Christian churches today rarely, if ever, read, teach and preach from the Old Testament. And that is a shame. Having read the Bible in its entirety twice and being part way through my third time through a one-year Bible reading plan, I can tell you with complete certainty that there are dots to be connected. There are times when I read the Old Testament and my heart burns within me as I begin to see and understand the connections between Old and New Testaments. Prophecies written and prophecies fulfilled. Promises made and promises kept. Assurances offered and assurances given. Salvation foretold and salvation granted. All of this through Jesus Christ.

I hope this has peaked your interest in digging further into God’s Word. My One-Year Bible Reading plan was arranged by Pastor Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Brompton in London and it is available on the You Version Bible App. Of course, your local Christian book store also offers a plethora of Bible reading plans from which to choose. What are you waiting for? Dig into the treasure of God’s Word. I promise, you will be blessed.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Lost and Found

On business in London, I decided to visit Buckingham Palace during a free afternoon. I took a taxi to the palace, and after exploring the area, I decided I would walk back to my downtown hotel. That is quite a distance, but I enjoy walking and I needed the exercise. Confident in my sense of direction, I headed off. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a residential neighborhood, and as I turned corner after corner trying to find my way out, I began to feel unsafe. I realized that my wandering was not leading me to my destination; in fact, it may have been leading me to a place I didn’t need to be. Fortunately, I had a city map in my pocket. It took me awhile to figure out where on the map I was, as the direction I had gone was the complete opposite of the direction I thought I had gone. Thanks to that map, I was able to navigate out of the neighborhood to a subway station and safely back to my hotel.

In the grand scheme of things, my getting lost in London was not that big a deal. Getting lost in life, however, is a very big deal with potentially eternal consequences.

Sin separates us from God. We read in the third chapter of Genesis about the very first sin, Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and its consequence. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. They were banished from the very presence of God. Indeed, sin separates people from God. And the Bible tells us that unrepented sin separates people from God forever. Without rescue, our eternity under sin is apart from God in a place called Hell.

In today’s modern society, there is a notion that “truth” is relative, that every person is free to define truth for himself or herself on whatever basis the individual believes to be most desirable. Many practices and lifestyles that are sinful in God’s eyes are encouraged and celebrated today – even in many Christian churches. This is not, however, unique to our modern times. The Apostle Paul wrote about this very phenomenon in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans (see Romans 1).

Today’s passage tells us that we all have gone astray. Although God has laid out a clear path for us to follow, we fail to do so. We either forget or ignore God’s Word or, worse yet, in some cases we decide for whatever reason that God’s Law somehow does not apply to us. Some say that times have changed and the rules of human behavior must change with the times. But that is not what God says.

When sheep go astray, they need a shepherd to find them and bring them home. When humans wander off of God’s path, we need a Shepherd to find us and bring us Home. And that is exactly what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection.

Notice that today’s passage comes from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53 comes after Isaiah lays out the human condition in sin, apart from God. And, more than 700 years before Jesus was born, God tells us through this great prophet that He has a plan for our rescue. God’s plan of rescue through Jesus is foreshadowed and prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Indeed, pastor Nickey Gumbel of HTB Church in London often reminds the readers of his daily devotional that the Old Testament must be read and understood from a New Testament perspective – The Old Testament, just like the New Testament, is all about Jesus. It is all about man’s sinful condition apart from God and God’s plan of rescue through His Son.

What does this mean for me today, April 22, 2020? Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 3:23-24 NASB

That sounds a lot like the prophet Isaiah, does it not? Although I stray from God’s paths often – many multiple times each day – I know that my eternity is secured through the blood of Jesus. And, with that knowledge, I don’t have to wallow in my sin. I don’t have to worry about sin’s eternal consequence because Jesus, the great Shepherd, found me and bore sin’s consequence in my behalf. And in yours. And, so, in the words of the great Nat King Cole, I can “pick myself up, take a deep breath, dust myself off, and start all over again…” That, my friends, is freedom in Christ.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credits: Me in front of Buckingham Palace: Selfie. Bible verse image credit YouVersion Bible App.

(c) workisministry 2020

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

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.

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!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019