Off to RIMS!

“I fully intend to make the most of RIMS 2019…”

After many years of business travel, I still very much enjoy it. As I type this, I am several miles above the earth winging my way to Boston for the annual Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) national conference. RIMS offers risk management professionals a golden opportunity to learn, network, and meet with colleagues and business partners as we eat well and drink well in some of America’s finest cities. As I fly today, I’m looking forward to all of this, but I am also keenly aware that I have a ministry. As I enjoy the comaraderie and festivities that is RIMS I pray that my actions and my words honor my God.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10

David wrote these words after confessing his sins around his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. Trusting God to forgive him, he asked God to cleanse his heart and renew his spirit, seeking to start fresh serving his God and his Lord. Growing up in the Lutheran church, we sang this as part of our response to receiving words of absolution after publicly confessing our sins. It is a statement of faith that allows us to stop looking back and look ahead to better and brighter days to come, thanks to the forgiveness we know through the grace and mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I hear the question now, “What in the world does this have to do with RIMS?” Well, to be fully transparent I must admit that I tend to get caught up in the festivities. I enjoy them. I hate to miss a good time. The fine food and good wine flow, sometimes to excess, and I like to be right in the middle of it all. It’s fun! But, as I grow older and more mature in my faith, my desire to honor and please God with my words and actions grows stronger. In the past I know I’ve said and done things that dishonor and displease Him. When that happens my witness is tarnished. I don’t want to offer a tarnished witness.

So, with this verse on my mind, off I go. The past is the past and I know I am forgiven for prior sins. As I look ahead to Boston, I am excited to arrive. I fully intend to make the most of RIMS 2019 as I enjoy the meetings, fellowship, relationships, food and, yes, the wine that goes along with it. My prayer is that God gives me the self-awareness and the presence to know when to say when, always remembering that I serve Him, first and foremost.

To my risk management and insurance friends & colleagues, I wish you safe travels to Boston and I look forward to catching up. Have a great conference!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

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

What Now?

“What do I do with Good Friday?”

I’ve never really known what to do with the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It seems that it should be different from other Saturdays, given the events of Good Friday and the coming celebration of Easter Sunday, like we’re sort of on “pause” as we await Jesus’ resurrection. Reading my Holy Week devotional this morning, God offered this:

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

While this is not a direct answer to my Easter Saturday dilemma, it made me think: what do I do with Good Friday? Do the events of Good Friday have any lasting influence on my life here on Earth? Or do I simply coast, awaiting the day when God calls me home to be with Him, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?

As I pondered this, it struck me that the man who wrote this letter is Peter, the disciple who swore vehemently that he would never abandon Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34) Through the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the disciples still did not understand what God was unfolding. I can only imagine the disciples on Saturday, sitting together, wondering what to do next. Their beloved teacher, Jesus, was gone. His enemies had won (or so it seemed). I’m sure they feared potential repercussions upon themselves. Scripture does not tell us how they spent Saturday – probably because that is not what God wants us to focus on.

In reading Peter’s letters, we see a different person than the man who cowered by the fire that Thursday night, denying Jesus as the young girl and others pointed him out to those who had gathered (Luke 22:54-61). Jesus was right. Peter would deny Him three times. When that reality hit, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). And then, after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the disciples finally got it, thanks to Jesus’ appearing to them and to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1-2). Peter and the rest were changed forever and God worked through them in incredible ways.

So here we sit in 2019 with the benefit of Scriptural insight, including eyewitness accounts of the events that first Easter weekend. And, Peter, the one who denied Jesus, offers this. Jesus, by His sacrifice, healed the wounds that our sins heap upon us. It was His action that saves us for all eternity. Our response: to reject sin (“die to sin”) and seek a righteous, God-pleasing lifestyle (“live to righteousness”). The fact that we are freed from sin’s bondage and eternal consequence offers the opportunity to open our arms wide, embrace life and approach it from an entirely different perspective – the perspective of one who is free, one who is loved, one who is saved. The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is, I believe, the ideal time to ponder this. What does this mean for my life? What changes will I make? What will I do to live a life that honors and pleases my Lord and my God?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Palm Sunday: Jesus’ Mission

“Jesus’ mission was to achieve the greatest and most important victory of all time: the victory over sin and death.”

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

“…God grants me a new opportunity every day to go into that field and reap His 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

“…there are times when the volume and the pace combine to reach an almost overwhelming crescendo…”

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

Communication

“As a witness for Christ in my workplace, I believe that my communications with coworkers, vendors, and customers is a key element of my witness.”

Have you ever said something, only to wish you could immediately recall the words that just escaped your lips? I sure have. Lots of times. Over the course of my life I’ve listened as several pastors prayed this verse as their sermon opening. I’ve adopted it as my morning prayer:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 NASB

As a witness for Christ in my workplace, I believe that my communications with coworkers, vendors, and customers is a key element of my witness. Indeed, I can “walk the walk” with every instant message (IM), text and email I send. Here are a few communication tips I seek to apply each day:

  • Listen. Communication does not occur if we don’t place a priority on listening to one another. I learned this wise saying at a Stephen Covey seminar: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Active listening demonstrates respect for the person with whom you are communicating while efficiently leading all parties to the most favorable outcome. One of the most meaningful compliments I’ve received in my career was the person who said, “You took the time to hear me out. Thank you.”
  • Use the Right Communication Tool. I appreciate the efficiencies offered by instant messaging, text messaging and email, and I use these tools daily. But we have all experienced occasions in which over-reliance on the written word led to misinterpretation of the message, personal misunderstanding, and even personal offense. The efficiency of these tools is lost if we seek to apply them to every communication scenario, every day, every time. While technology is grand and must be embraced, the most effective and efficient means of communication may often be a phone call or *gasp* a face-to-face conversation. I apply a two-exchange max rule to IM and text communications – if we have to go beyond that I will call you. It drives some of my younger coworkers nuts – but it works.
  • Avoid Profanity. Profanity is unprofessional, ugly and demeaning. It has no place in the workplace, and no place in my personal life either. I do not subscribe to the notion that a few strategically placed cuss words help drive the point home. Some refer to habitual profanity as “gutter mouth” or “potty mouth”. Considering some of the stuff that flows through gutters and gets flushed down toilets, I prefer to stay above that. Clean speech is elevated speech.
  • Grammar, Grammar, Grammar. A pet peeve of mine is the email rife with misspellings and poor grammar. I sometimes lament that professional writing skills seem to have diminished in importance for many. Several years ago, I became so frustrated with the poor quality of a third party provider’s written communications (many of which would be seen by my management team) I made them put the employees servicing my account through a professional writing course as a condition of retaining our business. For me, these things are a matter of corporate and personal pride. Although these are often “quick” communications, they bear my name, and that means something to me.
  • Remember Whom You Ultimately Serve. Seeking to abide by the above guidelines has served me well thus far in my career. But even more important than pleasing those with whom I work is honoring my Creator by my words and the quality of my work. If I approach my communications with this at front-of-mind, the rest actually comes rather naturally.

I am a firm believer in the notion of a “walking witness” – witness via action. I know that the words I choose and the manner in which I convey them are indicators of what really makes me tick. And maybe, just maybe, somebody will take notice and ask me about that. I hope that then that happens, I will discern the opportunity to talk about the One most important to me. In the meantime, I will pray my morning prayer and do the very best I can. For, you see, my work is my ministry.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

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