Palm Sunday: Jesus’ Mission

My allergies have been relentless over the past few weeks! How frustrating it was for me to be in worship on one of my favorite Sundays of the year with no voice, unable to join in hymn and worship. But then I remember, this is not about me. My vocal limitations did not reduce the significance of this day.

The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

Matthew 21:9

For as long as I can remember, Palm Sunday has been one of my favorite worship days of the year. Reading about all that Jesus said and did in the three years prior to His fateful entry into Jerusalem, it’s no wonder the people were celebrating. The people believed that Jesus had come as a conquering king; the one who would seal their protection from Rome and from their enemies. Indeed, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, but He is not the sort of king the people expected. And, in just a few short days, as this reality hit home, their shouts of “Hosanna in the highest” would become shouts of “crucify Him”!

Today, as we ponder Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we have the lens of Scripture through which to view these events. Through Scripture, we know that Jesus knew exactly what was to happen. You see, Jesus knew his mission. It was not to conquer Rome. It was not to amass an army to take on the world. No. Jesus’ mission was to achieve the greatest and most important victory of all time: the victory over sin and death. He knew that His mission would be achieved that very week through pain and agony – indeed through death. He went willingly, out of love for those He came to save, including me and including you.

On the church calendar, this is Holy Week. I am using this week to prepare my heart, my mind, and my soul to confess that my sins hung Him on that cross, to remember that He went willingly out of love for me, and to be assured once again that I am saved by His grace through faith. I’m also using it to reflect on my mission in life. I know God has me here for a purpose, as He does each of us. Let us each pause in the busy-ness of life to prepare our hearts to celebrate His victory over sin and death in our behalf and to ponder anew what God would have us do to serve, honor and glorify Him.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Workplace Harvest

Sometimes I feel like the world has gone crazy (sounds like a song lyric, doesn’t it?). As I read about current events, navigate through the plethora of misinformation in social media, and scroll through the channel guide on my TV I often become discouraged. This morning, God reminded me in His Word that I am to use my discouragement as motivation – motivation to be out in the world, working for Him.

And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’

Luke 10:2 NASB

Indeed, all of those things that cause me to feel discouraged are evidence of a vast, rich, ripe harvest longing to be gathered. And, just as Jesus sent His disciples into the world to share His Word, so He sends me and each of us who follow Him.

Like many of you reading this, much of the field in which I find myself is my workplace. And, like most workplaces, we have rules about what we can and cannot say. Even so, God gives me a new opportunity every day to go into that field and reap His harvest. How can we reap while complying with the rules of conduct each of our employers have implemented? Here are three things each of us can do today in our respective harvest fields:

  • Take God’s Word with you. I’m not talking about walking around the office with your Bible tucked under your arm. I’m talking about carrying God’s Word in your heart and in your mind. Take today’s verse for example. How different might your day look if you memorized this verse and repeated it to yourself as you walk around your workplace, attend meetings, take calls, compose emails and perform your other daily tasks? Might you see your coworkers and colleagues from a different perspective? I work with a group of really wonderful people, many of whom I have no idea where they stand with God. I would hate for my behavior to dishonor Christ to the extent that a non-believer becomes more entrenched in his non-belief. Rather, I want to be salt and light in my workplace as evidenced by my conduct, trusting that God will use that to His glory and as an implement through which His harvest yield may be increased. Carrying God’s Word in my heart and on my mind helps me keep that salt & light perspective.
  • Take a prayer break. “Yeah, right,” you might say. I’m busy, but I try to take a few minutes several times a day to talk to God. I find this very grounding. Sometimes I take a walk. People I pass by have no idea that I’m speaking with the Lord, seeking wisdom, clearing my mind, or asking guidance about a problem or issue that has come up. Sometimes I sit at my desk and say a quick prayer, just a few seconds, to refocus and reground. I take a brief moment to pray before each meeting, asking God to guard my thoughts and mind my words. Every once in awhile, I walk over to our in-office Starbucks, grab a cup of coffee and sit in one of the comfy chairs looking outside as I talk with the Lord. These quick prayers help me break through the blur of a busy day while helping me stay focused on what God wants me to do.
  • Be available. Several years ago, a coworker told me she felt I was unapproachable. She told me that I’d get a look of annoyance on my face when she appeared at my office door. She said I seemed to resent being interrupted. I was horrified, as I’ve always considered myself to be a good “people person”. My expression was communicating a message that I had absolutely no intention of conveying. I thanked her profusely for telling me and I’ve never forgotten the important insight on myself that she gave me. If we are perceived as unapproachable, uncaring or unconcerned – if we believers are so focused on our daily tasks that we are unavailable to those around us – our harvest work is impaired. Our salt and light become bland and dim. Be available to those around you. Ask questions and be genuinely interested in what people have to say. You may be surprised at some of the doors that may open.

As I write this, I’m excited to head to my office. Today is a day stacked with meetings. I have a full email in-box. I have an abundance of opportunities to serve my employer, my coworkers, and my God. Indeed, the harvest is plentiful and I feel up to the task. Time to get to work.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com

Calm in the Whirlwind

I read this passage in a late February morning devotional. I was busy; hence, I was struggling to manage my time and maintain my priorities. I struggled with this throughout the month of March. I fell behind in my Bible reading plan, my prayer life lapsed, and I let weeks pass without posting a blog. As I read this passage, it brought me great comfort and I saved the image to share with you when I had ample time to offer my thoughts:

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:4-5

My work environment is fast-paced and I generally enjoy that. But there are times when the volume and the pace combine to reach an almost overwhelming crescendo – one in which my morning devotional time is diverted to early email cleanup and weekend R&R is replaced by quiet hours in the office catching up on work. When I allow this to happen, I become distracted from that which is truly most important: my relationship with God.

Why does David seek to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to behold His beauty and to meditate in His temple? Because it is grounding. You see, I yearn for His presence. Being in the presence of God resets my compass. When I am dialed in to my morning routine of Scripture reading, prayer and writing, my life takes on an element of calm, even as life’s whirlwind swirls around me. Do you see God’s action here?

“He will keep me safe…”

“He will shelter me…”

“He will set me high upon a rock.”

The peace and calm that come from spending time in worship, Bible study and prayer is God’s doing, not mine. And in that calm I am best equipped to handle everything that comes my way at home, at work, in life. Indeed, everybody wins.

On a recent lunchtime walk, I gave myself a rather stern lecture. I knew I was not managing my time according to my priorities. I reminded myself that my time is a gift from God. I own it, but He has first dibs. While I am dedicated to my work and other responsibilities, I cannot allow those to rob me of my time with my Lord. As I walked, I asked God to give me the strength, wisdom and means to realign my time with my priorities. And, as usual, God answered my prayer.

Thanks to two contractors having scheduled work at my house today (April Fools Day of all days) I took a day off – well, except for a conference call this morning and answering a few emails… Between offering instructions and answering questions, I used today to catch up on my Bible reading plan, update my prayer journal, and draft a few posts for my blog.

It’s been a good day.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(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!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Get Some Rest!

I went to bed at 9:00 last night. 9:00! On a Friday night! I remember “back in the day” just getting ready to head out for the evening at 9:00 and now, here I am, hitting the sack! Truth is, I’ve had a busy week and I’m tired. I need some rest. I need to sleep.

“By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

Genesis 2:2 NASB

I find it rather fascinating that the concept of “rest” originated at creation with the Creator Himself. Here, in Genesis, at the conclusion of His creative work, God takes a whole day to rest. What did He do on that day? Why does God need to rest? As I ponder this, my mind fills itself with questions that Scripture does not answer. And I know that the fact that Scripture does not answer them means that those questions really aren’t all that important. Which leaves me with…God’s action. His example. His rest.

Do you ever feel like our society has dismissed the notion of a day of rest; that society considers taking a day to rest a waste of time? I do, sometimes, and that is a huge mistake. Scripture does offer some additional insight:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”

Exodus 20:8-11 NASB

So now we have God’s example and we have God’s command. We are told to rest and to keep the seventh day holy. So, what does that mean? In this busy, 24/7 world in which we live, what are we to do with that?

I remember watching a movie years ago in which a Christian family of 1800’s vintage spent a Sunday afternoon sitting in chairs staring at the walls. They had gone to church, and now they were trying their best to obey God’s command to rest. They were not allowed to speak. The children, if they fidgeted, received a stern look from their father. And there they sat. All afternoon. Is that what God wants? As well intended as I believe these parents were, I think they missed the mark.

Jesus, Himself, was criticized by the Pharisees for “working” on the Sabbath day. First, His disciples had the gall to pluck heads of grain and eat them as they walked through grain fields on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1ff). Wait – Jesus and His disciples are walking on the Sabbath! Jesus rebukes the Pharisees’ rebuke and continues on to the synagogue. Inside, He encounters a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus answers with a question (I love it when He does that) and proceeds to heal the man’s hand which, of course, sent the Pharisees straight over the edge. (See Matthew 12:1-14)

I think the Pharisees would have liked that 1800’s family. But we see here that, like the 1800’s family in the movie, the Pharisees missed the mark. What we see here is so much bigger than my decision on how to spend my day of rest. Here, we see Law and Gospel. Sin and Grace. Condemnation and Redemption. Jesus, the perfect fulfillment of the Law, provides the answer to my dilemma.

One of the commitments I’ve made for 2019 is to be deliberate in seeking rest; Taking one one day to unplug from work and give my mind a break from what it spends so much time doing most of the week. Just as God gave Himself a break from His work of creation, I am committed to taking a break from the toils of my daily work. I’m not staring at walls. I’m not maintaining silence. I’m doing something different.

You see, I am best equipped to do my best work when I show up in the morning well rested and reenergized. And so are you. Do you get enough rest? Are you able to unplug? It is important. When we rest from our work, everybody wins.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(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!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(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!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

The Best Walk…

I like to walk. It is my favorite form of exercise and I find it offers a great opportunity to gather my thoughts, listen to podcasts or music, and commune with God. When I read about walking in the Bible, specifically people who the Bible says “walked with God” I become very intrigued. For example:

“…Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.”

Genesis 6:9b

So what does it mean to “walk with God”? I picture a quiet stroll, walking side by side, talking about things of importance with a general sense of peace permeating the moment. Think about it. When we walk alongside a person important to us, we commiserate on life – what’s up, what are we doing about it, what’s next, and so on. Or maybe we walk together quietly, simply enjoying the company of a person important to us. Either way, we treasure the moment.

Why would a walk with God look any different? When I walk with God, I have the ear of the One most important to me, and He offers insight and wisdom that I can apply each and every day. Through that walk, our interests align and I am better equipped to fulfill the mission and the ministry He has given me. I come away with a more fervent desire to serve Him in all that I do. When I’m walking with God, life’s challenges become easier to manage; in fact, God sees me through those challenging times in life and at work. Everything in life takes on a whole new perspective when I seek that relationship with my Lord. I believe this is the relationship Noah shared with God, and in turn, I believe that God wants that same relationship with me and with you.

Where do we walk with God? I walk with Him through reading His Word. What a gift His Word, the Holy Bible, is to each of us! When I read my Bible each morning, God speaks directly to me through the words He inspired so many years ago. I walk with him through quiet prayer in the privacy of my room. I walk with him throughout the day, seeking His blessing on the calls I take and the meetings I attend. Friends, this is where the rubber meets the road.

Life today moves fast. I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy. We have demands placed upon us by our families, our bosses, our coworkers… It is vitally important that we take the time for a daily walk with our Lord. For me, it’s in the early morning. For you it could very likely be different. God doesn’t care about that. He wants that relationship, and He meets each of us where we are. Even at work.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019