Last April, I wrote about the importance of adopting a life “purpose statement”; a succinct phrase that defines the focus of everything I do. It is an attempt to answer the philosophical question, “Why am I here?” To be honest, I did not write my purpose statement – God gave it to me. And, ever since that morning, I ask God daily to help me live this out in every facet of my life, whether at home, at work, on the road… No matter where I am or what I am doing, this is the man I seek to be:
I often say that I am a work in progress. Yes, even at my age, I am growing and maturing in my faith. I have come to understand that everything I do, everything I say, points to something. My sincere desire is that my something is Jesus Christ. Thankfully, as I look back over the years of my life, I see progress. Sanctification, the process of making or declaring something or someone holy, is a process and I am thankful that God is working that process in me. Am I perfect? Heck, no. Am I holy? Working on that.
I started this blog several years ago with the mission of (hopefully) being a source of inspiration and motivation to Christians working in the secular world. What I have found is that the process of writing these posts blesses me. In 2022, I seek to be more diligent here. This is part of my Bible study. It is part of my maturation process. Even as I type this, I smile at the notion that God is teaching me. Right now.
How about you? Do you have a Purpose Statement? If so, how are you nurturing it? What is God doing in your life? I pray that all who read this will be drawn closer to the Lord, day by day, and that each of us who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will let our lights shine so that we are a blessing to all whom God brings into our lives.
On September 10, 2001, I started a new job in Roanoke, Virginia. My wife and two young children were in Houston as our transition began. On September 11, 2001, all hell broke loose as terrorists attacked our nation in a most horrific fashion. We all remember where we were and what we were doing as those horrible events unfurled. Today, 20 years later, my memory of that day is as vivid as it was then.
Do you remember what it was like when we woke up on September 12? How we shed our stereotypical feelings about Democrats and Republicans, people of other races and creeds, and came together as Americans to mourn our collective loss and embark on recovery together? I do. And as I sit here this morning, September 11, 2021, I am sad for all who lost loved ones that day. I also ask myself, why does it take a disaster like 9/11 to bring us together?
A few days ago, during my morning Bible reading, God offered this reminder through the words of the Apostle Paul:
Today, our nation is more divided than at any time I can recall over my nearly sixty years of life. Hatred and vitriol permeate our media, and they seem to dominate social media as well. Indeed, the Evil One is wreaking havoc in our nation and world today. Which makes it incredibly important for God’s people to be in His Word and in prayer.
I cannot control what others think, feel or say. I cannot control others’ attitudes towards their neighbors. But I can seek to be light in this present darkness. And here, in this succinct little verse, God presents a sound foundational building block. Can you imagine the transition that would take place in our country if all who claim Christ as Savior sought to approach every aspect of life with this as our compass? I can. I carry this verse in my heart. And I challenge all Christians to do likewise.
Ministry can happen at work. Ministry does happen at work
I have come to realize over time that my words and actions always point to something. Good or bad, beautiful or ugly, helpful or harmful, they point to something. My words and my actions reveal to the world my true heart. And, if my words and actions are not aligned with what I know and profess to be true as a Christian, indeed, if my words and actions do not reveal Jesus to the world around me, my witness is tarnished and my ministry is ineffective. Nothing would please me more than to know that God worked through me as I go about my daily work, even despite my personal faults and shortcomings.
I pray a version of this prayer most mornings:
The responsibility I feel in serving God in my workplace manifests itself it two broad ways:
There are believers at the office. Each is at a different place in his or her journey with God. I want to seek them out and form relationships for mutual support, encouragement, and accountability. Additionally, I desire to do nothing that would distract from or impede their growth in Christ. With God’s help, my light will shine in such a way that believers here will see it and be drawn to me as I am drawn to them. It is important that Christians know they are not alone at work. And, as David prayed in today’s text, may my believing coworkers not be disgraced because of me.
There are nonbelievers at the office. Jesus said that the harvest is ripe but the workers are few (Matt 9:37). I know many who do not know the Lord, and it pains me to think about where they will spend eternity outside of faith in Jesus. This is tough. I am at work. Actively seeking to share the Gospel with coworkers is frowned upon in the least, and could cost me my job in the worst. But, there are no rules against living out the fruits of the Spirit. There are no rules against kindness, respect, honor and humility. There are no rules against civility, politeness, laughter or fun. I believe God can work wonders through my conduct. And, should it open a door through which a nonbeliever walks with a question, there are no rules against my offering an honest answer. As David prayed in today’s text, may those who seek You not be put to shame because of me.
Ministry can happen at work. Ministry does happen at work. My life’s mission is that those around me would see Jesus through my words and actions. There are no rules against that. Additionally, my objective as a Christian is to know other Christians in my workplace so we can encourage each other to do likewise. One light can shine brightly. Many lights, shining collectively, can offset much darkness. Work is ministry. That is why I am here.
If you are a Christian working in the secular world, I would love to connect with you. Let’s encourage one another. Let’s do ministry together.
Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, Go with me to work today. Help me to let my light shine, that others would see You through my words and actions. Show me likeminded coworkers who know You and love You, that we might serve you at work together. In Jesus’s name. AMEN.
“Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than leaving the office each day feeling like God is pleased with my efforts.”
What is your Purpose Statement? In a business context, one’s Purpose Statement succinctly defines a person’s life focus, typically addressing career, charity, and sphere of influence. I’ve heard dozens of keynote addresses that encourage us to define our life’s purpose in some fashion:
Develop your personal brand.
You are your CEO.
Write your purpose statement.
Set your goals.
These are all worthy and admirable. As a Christian in business, my Purpose Statement is simple. Its focus is not on me, my career, or my sphere of influence. No. My Purpose Statement comes straight from Scripture in the words of the Lord Jesus. And its focus is on Him.
What does this look like at work? For starters, let’s consider the Scripture on my home page:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…
I work with some very good and smart people. Their approach to running our business is truly impressive, and working alongside them naturally ups my game. But – when I consider my work as being God’s work, my purpose at work is repositioned. Yes, I serve my leaders. But nothing gives me greater satisfaction than leaving the office for the day feeling like God is pleased with my efforts.
God plants His children in places at which we can minister by our attitude, conduct and work ethic as we interact with coworkers and business leaders in the routine course of the work day. This is not about walking around the office, hands in the air, singing “Amazing Grace” for all to hear. This is about seeking a Godly focus in all that we do, even in completing the most ordinary or mundane tasks. It’s about seeking excellence in quality of work. It’s about being available to coworkers and helping solve problems or address challenges. It’s about honesty and integrity. It’s about seeking to honor Jesus’ command to let our lights shine – not to gain glory for ourselves, but to let others see Him through me. It’s about Him.
How do we position ourselves for His service? Here are a few things I do to help stay focused on Him:
My Church – Regular participation in worship and engaging with my church family helps shore up my foundation. I miss church when I miss church. It is my weekly booster shot, if you will. At church, I worship, serve and learn alongside many others in the same position as me – a Christian earning his living in the secular world. If you haven’t been to church in a while, I encourage you to reengage. And, if you have no church home, ask God to help you seek one out. I believe this to be incredibly important.
My Morning – I am an early riser. My favorite time of day is the predawn, when the house is quiet and I can focus. After that first cup of coffee helps me wake up, I go into God’s Word and ask Him for wisdom to take me through my day. This is an important time for me; I notice that my day is different when I miss this morning time with God.
My Journal – There are many planners and journals on the market these days. I use a planner called “Faith & Focus” published by Christian Planner. In this book, I plan my day each morning and log notes and future follow-ups through the course of the day. This helps me keep my focus while also helping me stay organized.
My Pause – I schedule a 15-minute pause each morning and afternoon. This is time set aside to clear my mind, offer prayer, and reenergize. Sometimes I take a walk. Sometimes I find an empty conference room. I sometimes give it up on particularly busy days. That’s fine. The purpose of the pause is to invite God into my day and remind myself Whom it is that I ultimately serve.
A few years ago, God planted the seed for me to start workisministry.com. My ministry is to encourage and inspire Christians working in the secular world to view and execute their work, first and foremost, to the glory of God. If we seek this objective as our primary purpose, we will very effectively serve our employers, coworkers, and shareholders. We will be a valued asset to the company. We will have personal satisfaction in our chosen vocation. And we will honor Jesus’ commandment to let our lights shine, that others would see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. That, my friend, is my Purpose Statement.
Who would’ve thought, one year ago today, that 2020 would be the year that it’s been? Yet, here I sit this Christmas morning, thinking on the year we are about to close out and what a blessing this day remains despite the trials, tribulations and troubles this year has wrought. “Blessing, you say?” Yes, Blessing.
Today we come face-to-face with eternity in the Person of the Christ Child. His birth in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago was not His beginning. St. John opens his Gospel by declaring the eternal presence of Jesus, the Author of Life and Savior of the world (see John 1:1-5). When I consider the difficulties of 2020 in the context of knowing the One Eternal God, I am comforted, at peace, and excited for the future.
People like to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I have repeated this many times over the years. Recently, a pastor friend of mine turned the tables a bit when he posted this on Facebook:
YOU are the reason for the season.
This stopped me in my tracks. Indeed, this is true. Jesus was born for a purpose. His mission was to defeat sin and death so that all who believe in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life in God’s presence. No pandemic, no civil unrest, nothing that happens here on Earth will shake this truth. God, in the Person of Jesus was born for me and for you. Indeed, WE are the reason for the season! Knowing this, we can be at peace.
Dear friend, as you ponder the meaning of Jesus’ birth, remember the cross on which the one, perfect sacrifice was given for you and for me. With that Truth in mind we can say to one another, “Merry Christmas!” Yes, even in 2020.
Have you ever felt Jesus’ presence? I am a “people person” – one who thrives in the presence of others. To be sure, I enjoy my alone time. But there is an energy, a spirit of unity that I feel when I am gathered with other believers.
The earliest recollection I have of feeling Jesus’ presence in a very real way was in August, 1977, at fifteen years old. We moved from Minnesota to Katy, Texas that July. We visited what would become our home church, Memorial Lutheran Church of Katy, soon after moving in. After our very first visit, the church’s pastor came to our house to welcome us to town and to Memorial. Although we hadn’t yet joined the church, Pastor Loomis invited my sister and me to join the youth group on their annual beach retreat to Matagorda, TX the following weekend. With some degree of apprehension we accepted the invitation. The group welcomed us as if we had been with them for years. The fellowship we enjoyed over the weekend was like nothing I had experienced before. Sunday morning, we worshipped on the fishing pier overlooking the river on which the house was situated. There, for the first time, I knew Jesus is real.
Through my high school years, my church, and more specifically, my youth group and its adult leaders, were grounding elements in my life. I felt called into professional ministry, and enrolled at Concordia Lutheran College in Austin for pre-seminary studies. At Concordia, I received a top-flight education as I earned a Bachelors Degree in General Studies. More important, though, were the friendships I gained over those four years. Countless times, whether in class, in chapel, or in small groups, I felt Jesus’ presence with us. The unity among my Concordia friends is grounded in Christ, and that unity still flourishes today.
Now, here we are. 2020. COVID-19. I don’t have to recap the story here; we have all lived it. In March, when churches closed due to pandemic, the phenomenon we call online church emerged. It grew and developed into a major force in the church. At first I really enjoyed it. I have several friends who pastor churches all over the country and I enjoyed visiting their churches online and hearing them preach the Gospel. Over time, I found that I didn’t necessarily have to tune in at the exact time of worship; many were available on YouTube and other media (still are) and I could watch at my convenience. Yes, I could watch…. For me, online worship was not participatory; I felt that I was observing from the outside and I longed to gather together. In person. At my church.
I am not knocking online worship. It is an incredible blessing for those with high risk factors to COVID-19 and I thank God for the technology and expertise that makes online worship a high quality and blessed experience. But, it does not replace the in-person gathering of Christians to lift our voices in praise, hear the Word together and partake of the Sacraments. I am so thankful that many churches, including my church family at Grace Presbyterian Church in Houston, are once again gathering in person while maintaining their online presence for those who cannot safely partake.
One of the things I love most about this promise from Jesus is the fact that it is not limited to gatherings in church. When believers gather to share a meal, when we gather for a simple visit, even when we gather for a Zoom happy hour as a few of us from Concordia did last Friday – this promise is true. Jesus is with us. We encourage each other, we support each other, and the unity in Christ that we share is fortified.
Indeed, I love this promise from Jesus, and I know it to be true. This evening, for the first time in about eight months, I will join with other choristers at my church in a rehearsal for this Sunday’s worship service. We will be a smaller number than usual. We will be socially distanced. We will wear masks. And… We will sing. We will be together. Jesus will be there, too. And I can hardly wait!
The calling of the Christian to do all we do to the glory of God is not a litmus test on which our position with God will be determined.
How do you approach life? Yesterday, in my daily Bible reading, this familiar passage really resonated and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB
The words whatever and all are two of the most inclusive words in the English language. I don’t see that this passage leaves any room to carve out an aspect of my life and exclude God from it. Not that that is my intent, but to be perfectly honest, it does happen sometimes. There is the Jeff that people encounter at church. There is the Jeff that people encounter at work. There is the Jeff that my family encounters at home. And, there is the Jeff that people encounter in social settings. Years ago, these four Jeffs could be radically different. I don’t think that is what God wants from us.
I am reminded this morning of the greatest gift offered to humankind: the gift of salvation through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. If there is one truth on which I can hang my hat it is this: that I am a sinner, completely unworthy of any relationship with God because of my sin. God sought me out and gave me the gift of faith. Jesus, God incarnate, came to earth as a man to be sacrificed as payment in full for the sins I have committed – yesterday, today and tomorrow. Through His sacrifice, I am redeemed. I am made worthy to be in relationship with God. I will enjoy eternity with Him in Heaven.
Friends, THIS. CHANGES. EVERYTHING!
The calling of the Christian to do all we do to the glory of God is not a litmus test on which our position with God will be determined. Not at all. My seeking to do whatever I do to His glory is in direct response to the gift of salvation He has given me through His Son. That’s it! God wants me to enjoy my life. He desires my worship and involvement in my church. He wants me to enjoy and excel in my work. He wants me to love my family and be a blessing to them. And He wants me to enjoy the many relationships He has given me. When I view each of these through the lens of the Gospel, the natural response is to strive to do whatever I do to the glory of God. Yes, I will mess things up. Yes, I will say things I want to take back. Yes, I will make mistakes. Yes, I will sin. And, yes, I am forgiven!
Gracious Heavenly Father, I thank you this morning for the gift of faith. I thank you that Jesus died on the cross to free me from the bondage of my sins and place me in relationship with You. I give you this day, and I give you this week. I pray that your holy angel would be with me, that all my doings and life may please You. And I pray that my very life would be a witness to all with whom I come into contact, that they would see You through me and give You all honor, glory and praise. Indeed, Lord, help me to do all I do to Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN.
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.
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.
“Ah, the good old days…” How many times have you heard somebody say this, or something similar? How many times have you said it yourself? I have to admit, I am guilty as charged.
“Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”
Ecclesiastes 7:10 NASB
Isn’t it interesting the people in Old Testament times had this same lament that we often hear today? So much so, apparently, that the writer of Ecclesiastes felt the need to address it.
When we dwell in the past, longing for “the good old days”, we become distracted from living today to its fullest potential. Today is a gift from God to each of us. He wants us to enjoy it. So let us celebrate today! Live it! Enjoy it! Relish it! Indeed, Seize It!
As one reads through this book, the author’s point is revealed: Life lived absent of God is futile. Life lived in relationship with God is fulfilling.
I remember as a boy a commercial jingle for a fast food chain that started, “Eat, drink and be merry!” This chain is famous for its ice cream treats and, indeed, as a youngster it was always a treat when my parents would give in and take us to Dairy Queen to enjoy one of their sweet, sugary concoctions. Truth be told, I still enjoy the occasional visit; drive through almost any small town in Texas and you will likely see the DQ sign somewhere along the main drag. What better way to enjoy the Texas countryside than an ice cold shake (vanilla is my fav)?
“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.”
Do you enjoy your work? Do you enjoy your life? Did you know that God wants us to enjoy life? He does. Now, we must be careful here. This is one verse that is easy to take out of context and go way off the rails with how we apply it to life. Pull this out of the context of the whole of Scripture and it appears to be a license for gluttony, drunkenness and “whatever”. Taken within the context of the whole of Scripture and we quickly realize that is not the message here at all. So, what is the message?
Let’s work backwards through the verse. “This is his reward.” According to Merriam Webster, a reward is “Something that is given in return for good or evil done or received or that is offered or given for some service or attainment.”1 What is the reward here? The reward is to “eat, drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor.” Simply put, to enjoy the fruits of our labor. This is not a careless free-for-all; it is, however, an expression of joy.
The writer of Ecclesiastes writes much about the futilities of this life. He goes on about the vanities of life. The lack of purpose of life. But as one reads through this book, the author’s point is revealed: Life lived absent of God is futile. Life lived in relationship with God is fulfilling. Daily toil with no perceived purpose is futile. Daily work with an attitude towards service to God is fulfilling. And in the midst of all this, he tells us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, for that is our reward. It is not a license to sin, but it is a reminder to enjoy life’s blessings.
A fictional young man named Ferris Bueller summed it up quite well:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.“2
[Ferris Bueller’s Day Off]
As strange as it may seem to quote Ferris Bueller in seeking to understand a passage of Scripture, I think young Ferris hit this one square on the head. A wise person once said, “Stop and smell the roses.” I think that about sums it up.
So – here are some things I enjoy “under the sun”:
I enjoy the relationships of family and friends.
I enjoy a Blanton’s bourbon on a large rock after a long day of work.
I enjoy a thick steak accompanied by a bold Cabernet Sauvignon at a fine restaurant with family, friends and coworkers.
I enjoy a long walk on the beach (yes, I really do).
I enjoy the fresh air of the early morning.
I enjoy boarding an airplane to travel someplace new or someplace familiar.
I enjoy watching an Astros baseball game at Minute Maid Park, and I really look forward to the day when we fans can return.
I enjoy reading and meditating on God’s Word. That is partly why I write this blog. In fact, I am enjoying listing things I enjoy!
I enjoy live music and dancing a two-step to a good country band.
I enjoy reminiscing with my friends from Concordia days.
I enjoy singing in the choir.
I could go on. As I write this, I am reminded of how much I enjoy my life and that God wants me to enjoy my life. What a blessing that is!