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.
“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.
God knows what each of us are going through and He goes through it with us. That, for one, is something for which to be thankful!
Happy Thanksgiving! Or is it? While this is the favorite holiday of many, including yours truly, I am sure there are many who would just as soon skip Thanksgiving and maybe even Christmas this year and go straight to 2021. Indeed, 2020 has been a challenging year to say the least. And, as I write this, the long-promised November surge in COVID-19 cases seems to be well underway. Many are ill, too many have perished, healthcare providers are tired and stressed, and all of us likely suffer from pandemic fatigue to some extent. So, given all of this, what are we to do with Thanksgiving 2020?
This may be easier for some of us than for others this year. But, as believers, we know that God is in control. Jesus is Lord and reigns today. Even through COVID. Even through social unrest. Even through temporal death and sadness. Jesus reigns. He has not relinquished control. He will never leave us nor forsake us. This is true for all who believe, no matter what difficulties and challenges we have faced this year. Dear friends, we must cling to Him when times are rough. God knows what each of us are going through and He goes through it with us. That, for one, is something for which to be thankful!
As I look back on 2020, I am reminded that I have much to be thankful for. I am thankful for my faith in the One True God who loves me despite all my faults and shortcomings to the point of sending Jesus to die for my sins. I am thankful that God reveals Himself through His Word, the Bible, and through His creation. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my church and I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for the technology that allows us to connect with one another when social distancing is our temporary normal. I am thankful for a rewarding and satisfying career. I am thankful for good health. I am thankful for all who work diligently to keep us safe and for those who give selflessly to care for those suffering illness. I am thankful that I live in the great state of Texas and the greatest country on earth.
Have you had a rough year? Has 2020 dealt you more blows than you feel you can handle? If so, know that I care and I am praying for you. As Christians, we are to build each other up. We are to support and encourage one another in good times and bad. I hope you find some encouragement in this little piece. And I hope you can find a few things for which to give thanks. Even this year. Even in these trying times.
May God bless all who read this, and I pray that each of you have a very Happy Thanksgiving.
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!
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.
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.
I have found it helpful to constantly remind myself that every person on this earth is loved by God — Every. Single. Person.
Based on what I see on the news and in social media, I perceive a significant absence of peace in our society these days. And that bothers me. Of course, we cannot control the thoughts, feelings or behavior of others. So what is the Christian to do?
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
Romans 12:18 NASB
Well, for starters, we can seek to influence others for Christ. Each of us has our own sphere of influence – people we interact with by various means for a variety of reasons. Why not begin within that sphere? There are many ways we believers can strive to influence others for Christ. Seeking peace is one of those. Striving to be a peacekeeper is one way we, as Christians, can let our lights shine in this lost and dark world. Does this mean we allow others to trample, abuse or hurt us? I don’t think so. But some examples of seeking peace include sincere listening and contemplation, seeking reasoning over argument, and not allowing ourselves to be drawn into pointless exchanges or conflict.
The weight of the world is not placed on our shoulders here:
“If possible…” – As I said earlier, we cannot control the thoughts, feelings or behaviors of others. We cannot control others’ motives. Some seem to relish conflict, even thrive in it. Modern day social media has its trolls, “a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content” as defined by Merriam-Webster. Is it possible to seek peace with someone whose chief motive seems to be to stir the proverbial pot? Maybe. When I encounter such people online, I think of these two words, “If possible…” and scroll on by. It’s interesting, though – I used to block trolls until a pastor friend reminded me that, sometimes, the troll is very person who most needs to hear your message.
“As far as it depends on you…” I believe God wants us to engage our world. We cannot expect to let our lights shine for the Lord if we hide them. As hard as it may be at times, we are to rise above the fray, not allowing others to drag us into a pointless exchange of insults or one-upmanship. People notice when we behave differently from the world. I pray every morning that God will help me let my light shine as Jesus commanded (Matt 5:16). God is faithful; He will answer that prayer. But, at the end of the day, if my efforts bear no fruit because the person I’ve encountered is not interested in peace, it’s OK. I’ve done my part, and honored God by having done so.
I have found it helpful to constantly remind myself that every person on this earth is loved by God — Every. Single. Person. I find, when I try to view others through that lens, it becomes a bit easier to rise above the fray and be Jesus to my little sphere of influence.
Seek to be at peace with others, if possible, and as far as it depends on you. What a great way to honor our Great and Mighty God as we seek to be salt and light to this lost and fallen, but also big and beautiful, world!
I often call the Bible “The Treasure of God’s Word”. This Treasure is available to each of us, and when we open it, God reveals His nature, His character and His plan for our eternal success.
Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.
Joshua 1:8 NASB
This was one of God’s instructions to Joshua as he prepared to lead Israel into the Promised Land. The “book of instruction” was the Torah – the five books of Moses that comprise the first five books of the Bible. Pastor Allistair Begg of Truth for Life often reminds his listeners that we are to read and understand the Old Testament in the context of the New Testament. Specifically, we are to view the Old Testament writings through the revealing lens of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I want to call out a few words in this passage:
Instruction – The Torah reveals God’s Law under which all will be judged. It also lays out the covenant God made with Israel as He freed them from the bondage in Egypt. Succinctly stated, that covenant said God would free Israel if they would obey His laws. It also provided a system of confession and sacrifice to address violations of the Law (sin). For Joshua and for Israel, this system would preserve them in God’s eyes until the promised Messiah came. For us, the Book of Instruction is the complete Book of Scripture, the Bible. Not only does the Bible help us understand our condemnation under the Law, but it also assures us of redemption and salvation through faith in Jesus. The Bible instructively informs us of God’s eternal plan for our lives, already assured and secured through Jesus.
Continually – God did not give us Scripture with the intention that we only consider it when read to us in church on Sunday mornings. He did not intend for our Bibles to sit on a bookshelf gathering dust. No! God wants us to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” His Word (1662 Book of Common Prayer). I have discovered over the years that my outlook and my life are in a much improved place when I read my Bible daily than when I let the book sit as the dust gathers. God speaks to us through His Word, and we gain the most benefit from His Word when we spend time in it.
Meditate – More than just reading the Bible, we are to ponder God’s message to His people. Often, after my morning reading, I use my morning walk as a time of solitude to pray and think about what I just read. Through prayer and meditation, we connect with God and He helps us discern His message. The Bible does not say different things to different people. Its message is singular, it is consistent, and through prayer and meditation God helps us understand what we have just read.
Day and night – I love this. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us, and it is also our instruction manual for living our lives. It is the foundation on which the Christian is to build her values, organize his priorities, conduct her daily activities, and approach his sphere of influence. It is the complete package. We are to carry God’s Word into our homes, our workplaces, our schools, and each of our human interactions.
Obey – Actually, I should highlight “obey everything”. In Old Testament times, obedience to the Law was the focus of the covenant. In New Testament context, we know that our obedience does not secure our place in Heaven. No, our place in Heaven has been secured through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our obedience to God is an outflow of the salvation we know. We obey God because we know Him, we love Him, and we want to glorify Him so others see and give Him glory as well. This obedience is not easy. In these modern times, much of what the world esteems as right and good is contrary to the instructions found in the Bible. The easy path is to align with the world’s values. The more difficult path is to remain in alignment with what the Bible teaches us, even when society says otherwise. I pray every day that God would give me the courage to obey Him completely.
Prosper and Succeed – This is not “name it and claim it” prosperity. This is not about a growing bank account, a nice home, or a fancy car. This is not about those things at all. Prosperity and success are eternal. That is not to say that God is not interested in our daily lives or that He does not provide for our needs – He is interested and He does provide. But this prosperity and success is most appropriately viewed through an eternal lens, extending far beyond anything we can achieve, accomplish or gain in this temporal life. When we surrender our lives to God, fully trusting in Him, we will prosper and we will succeed. For ever and ever.
See what I mean? This, my friend, is Treasure! There is so much negativity and strife in the world today. Indeed, 2020 is shaping up to be quite the strange year. The world faces a pandemic. We have rioting in our streets as some seek to unravel the threads of American Democracy in exchange for something else. We live in a society that considers the killing of children in the womb to be healthcare and of supreme importance. Law and order seem to be diminishing in importance as many with power and influence support these movements. These are scary times. But, thanks be to God, He reminds us in His Word that He is Almighty. God is sovereign. God has a plan for us that will not be derailed. In fact, that plan is already achieved through the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.
When is the last time you picked up your Bible, found a quiet place, and read God’s Word? If it has been a while, why not dust it off and start anew today? There are a plethora of Bible reading plans on the You Version Bible App. I am in my third “Bible in One Year” reading plan, and I can tell you, the Treasure is real, it is tangible, and it awaits you.
Soli DEO Gloria! To God alone be all honor, glory and praise! Amen!
Thanks be to God, I can see past all this. These afflictions will pass. I know they will.
I woke up, wide awake, thinking it had to be close to my 4:45 alarm time. It was 1:40. After drifting in and out of sleep, I decided at 3:15 to make a cup of coffee and head upstairs. I was not in the greatest of moods.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
2 Corinthians 4:16 NASB
Coffee in hand, I headed upstairs and opened God’s Word. As I read my daily devotional it crossed my mind that maybe God knew I needed some more time this morning. So, rather than be angry that I couldn’t sleep, I decided to give thanks to the Lord for some extra time with Him in His Word.
The Apostle Paul was a great encourager. Here, he offers reassurance to the Corinthians and to us today that we can face the afflictions the world tosses our way knowing that there is a bigger plan in place. I am tired this morning. But more than fatigue from a short night’s sleep, I am tired of the strife. I am tired of COVID-19 and the restrictions it has placed upon my life. I am tired of the lawlessness playing out in our nation today. I am tired of the divisiveness and disunity. With all that is going on, it is easy to become discouraged, to want to throw in the proverbial towel. After all, I am just one man. What can I do to effect change? What can I do to be a part of the solution? And from where will the strength to do so come?
2 Corinthians 4:16 was the verse of the day on You Version Bible App. Do you see what it says? Here, Paul reminds us that even though we grow older, and although we may feel tired, frustrated or dismayed by the world’s afflictions, our spirits are being renewed each day! Renewed! Indeed, this spiritual food I have enjoyed this morning is rejuvenating. It is essential. And, even as I type this, a smile is on my face.
Paul goes on to say this:
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.“
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB
Thanks be to God, I can see past all this. These afflictions will pass. I know they will. Through Jesus, the score is already settled. Through His death and resurrection, all who believe in Him are saved. Those eternal things which are not seen are very, very real. I know they are. And through that knowledge, through that hope, through the nurturing God offers through His Word, through prayer and through sacrament, my inner man is renewed. And I realize that the weight of the world does not rest upon my shoulders. God is in control. He is sovereign. My job is to let my light shine, that others would see my deeds and give glory to my Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Thank You, Lord, for this time this morning. Thank You for feeding me. Thank You for renewing me. Lord, I am ready to serve.