Love One Another

Jesus on Earth was the epitome of Love. He showed Love to the unlovable. He viewed every person with whom He came into contact as having value, no matter who it was or what they had done. Love. What does that mean for us in 2019?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

Jesus gave this command to His disciples as they celebrated Passover in what Christians have come to call the “Last Supper”. It was here that He washed His disciples’ feet. It was here that He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It was here that He began to explain to His disciples what was about to happen. Jesus is about to return to the Father, leaving his disciples to a call of ministry.

As I read the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Jesus’ love for humanity was unflappable. It was consistent. It was patient. Jesus approached people differently than we humans approach them. And, because of that, Jesus stood out; He was different.

Think about it. We tend to prejudge what a person might be like based on skin color, the clothes they wear, the neighborhood they live in, the car they drive, the career they chose… You get the point. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus offered His love to everyone, even those who rejected Him.

Jesus stood out from the world. By commanding (note: this was not a suggestion or a recommendation – it was a command) His disciples to love one another, Jesus knew that they would look different from the world. They would stand out. They would be Jesus’ representatives to the lost and fallen world that so desperately needs to know Him. This kind of Love is contagious!

What was Jesus’ purpose in giving this command? “By this everyone will know you are My disciples…” Boom. Friends, I am guilty as charged. Thank God that He forgives me through Jesus Christ. In response, I am committed to doing my best to obey this commandment, not just in my church but in my home, my office, behind the wheel – everywhere, all the time. “By this everyone will know you are My disciple…” What doors might this open for me to share the Good News of Jesus Christ? What doors might this open for you?

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Eyewitness

There is nothing more powerful in supporting a position than the eyewitness. Throughout history, eyewitness testimony has carried great weight in courts of law all around the world. Jurors and spectators hang on every word the eyewitness speaks as he describes what he saw and heard at the crime scene, or as she describes the violence of the collision she witnessed on the highway. Through the lens of the eyewitness, the facts emerge.

“I have seen and I testify that this is God’s chosen One.”

John 1:34

The Bible offers eyewitness testimony regarding Jesus. After Jesus’ Ascension, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2), and with that they were equipped to carry out Jesus’ instructions to go into the world and share the Gospel. All of their questions, their doubts and their fears were eradicated. They were fully equipped to do God’s work.

People ask me from time to time, if they were to begin reading the Bible for the very first time, what should they read first? I refer them to John’s Gospel, the writings of one of many eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, His ministry, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, His post-resurrection appearances & interactions, and finally His Ascension. John saw it all, and writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, beautifully offers his eyewitness testimony of just who Jesus is, starting with Jesus as Creator in the beginning (John 1:1) all the way through to His promise of eternal life to all who would believe in Him.

Has it been awhile since you opened your Bible? I know, we’re all busy. But therein resides all we need to know about who God is, what He is about, and how we are to live in response. Therein resides the bad news of our eternal situation without Jesus and the good news of God’s promise of eternal life through faith in Jesus. Isn’t this worth an investment of time?

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Who is this Jesus?

Who is this Jesus? Even today, this is a hotly debated topic. Some say He was good man, a powerful teacher and a strong leader. Others claim He is a hoax, foisted upon the world by a band of disciples who somehow got their false claims about Him to stick. Some, including me, know He is God.

” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…”

John 1:1

This succinct statement, along with the 13 verses immediately following, describe Someone who is completely unique from any other understanding about who God is. I love the progression here. Jesus was present at the start, He was with GodHe was God. Boom! There you have it. Jesus is eternal. No person who has ever walked this earth other than Jesus has this status. Nobody. This is a foundational Truth of the Christian faith as it is a foundational Truth on which I build my life.

Why is Jesus called “the Word” in this passage? According to Lutheran Cyclopedia,

“Word of God covers the whole field of God’s revelation of Himself. His Word is the essential mode whereby God intervenes in the world; Through it, He creates the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1); through it He reveals Himself to men (John 1:1-14); and by its proclamation the history of the church develops and is fulfilled (Acts 4:29, 31).” (1)

Every time I ponder this foundational truth, my heart races as I realize just Who it is I serve. And, with that realization, everything I do in life is repositioned. My life becomes an act of service to Him, even as imperfect as I am. Throughout Scripture, God works through imperfect people. From Abraham to Moses to Rahab to David to Peter to John and all the rest… All had their flaws. All were human. Yet all were called to serve. In fact, the only perfect (without sin) Person that has ever walked the earth is Jesus. The only One.

This is big stuff. It is real. And, whether you believe it or not, it is completely and eternally true. And because of that, Jesus is a game-changer. Without Him, there is no hope for eternity. By His grace (willingly taking on the punishment we deserve) and mercy (not giving us the punishment we deserve) we who believe in Him have the hope, indeed the reality, of eternal life.

I don’t know about you, but this fires me up! As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning, about to get ready to take on another work day, I am refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to go into the world and serve my God in the place where He has me.

How about you? These are bold claims, but they are the claims of God’s Word, the Bible. On this foundational Truth I take my stand. On this foundational Truth I build my life. Although I am not perfect, I am loved by The Word. And so are you!

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(1) “Word of God.” Lutheran Cyclopedia: a Concise in-Home Reference for the Christian Family, by Erwin Louis. Lueker, Concordia Publ. House, 1984, pp. 825–825.

The Treasure of God’s Word

I often refer to Scripture as “the treasure of God’s Word.” From Genesis through Revelation, God reveals Himself to us through different authors, writing styles and over a large span of time. It’s truly amazing. But the most important thing to remember about Scripture is it’s all about Jesus – every bit of it.

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

Luke 24:27

I would love to have been walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus with these two followers of Jesus. I can only imagine what they were feeling and saying as they recounted the events of the past few days – Jesus’ trial, conviction, crucifixion, disappeared body and reports of a resurrection. I’m sure their minds were racing with confusion as they tried to sort this out. As they walk a stranger appears and asks them what they are talking about. Unbeknownst to them, the stranger is Jesus Himself. Perplexed, they ask Him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” (24:18). Jesus asks, “what things?” to which they reply by describing Jesus – His powerful teachings, His death and reports of His resurrection. Jesus responds by chastising their lack of faith and proceeds to “…explain to the them things concerning Himself in the Scriptures.”

I am dismayed that many Christian churches rarely, if ever, include Old Testament Scripture in worship and teaching. I’ve heard many Christians say that the Old Testament is no longer relevant in these New Testament days. Oh, how wrong they are!

Let me ask you a question:

Would you buy tickets to a great play and skip Act 1, going straight to Act 2?

Of course you wouldn’t. That would make no sense at all! Without seeing Act 1, you will not understand what is happening in Act 2.

“Why is she doing that?”

“Why did he say that?”

“How did they get there?”

Have you ever sat next to this person at a play or a movie? I have, and, man, can they be annoying!?

The Old Testament is God’s Act 1. In it, He reveals His creative nature and His sovereignty over His creation. He gives us the Law and exposes us to our sinful nature. He tells us of the separation from Him that comes through sin. He reveals His plan to remedy that by sending the perfect Sacrifice, His Son, to take the punishment we deserve. The Old Testament shares the bad news we need to hear while assuring us that the Remedy is coming!

To fully understand God’s Act 2, the New Testament, it needs to be set up by Act 1. Read, studied and preached with the context of the Old Testament, the Gospel rings out loud and clear. To ignore the Old Testament is short-sighted at best, foolhardy at worst. I am convinced that the tendency towards ignoring the Old Testament in many churches today is a major reason we see an increase in lukewarm, watered-down Christianity.

All of Scripture – the entire book – is God’s redemptive story and worthy of our time and attention. This really began to resonate with me the first year I worked through a reading plan through the complete Bible. And, as I make my way through my third, God continues to expand my understanding. If you have never embarked on such a plan, I strongly encourage you to do so. You don’t have to wait until January 1 to start; today is as good a day as any. The YouVersion Bible App is free, and offers a plethora of reading plans from which to choose, including topical, seasonal, and full Bible plans. Give it a try – I double-dog dare you.

Final note: One of my favorite preachers, Alistair Begg, offered the analogy of a great play to explain why the entire Bible is worthy of study. To not credit him would be disingenuous on my part. If you’re into podcasts and good, solid Bible teaching, I encourage you to give Truth for Life a listen.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Marvelous Indeed!

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

The pastor of my youth opened every Easter Sunday service with this ancient declaration and response. This Truth and its acknowledgement is a succinct statement of what makes me tick.

“But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

Luke 24:12

Luke tells us, early on the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James gathered the spices they had prepared for the anointing of Jesus’ body. They headed to the tomb where He had been laid and discovered that the tomb was open and His body was gone. I cannot imagine what was going through their minds. Just as they stood there, “perplexed,” Luke tells us, two men appeared to them “in dazzling clothing” and declared the shocking news:

“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:5-7)

The women, remembering Jesus’ words, went and told the disciples what they had seen and heard. The disciples didn’t believe them. But Peter had to go see for himself.

I have focused on Peter these past few days. Peter was one of three disciples, along with James and John, who seemed to have a particularly close relationship with Jesus. Jesus took only these three up the mountain to witness His transfiguration for example (Luke 9:28-36). Peter was the disciple who vowed to stand with Jesus on Maundy Thursday, but soon afterward deserted Him, denying Him three times. Luke wrote that Peter wept bitterly upon hearing the rooster crow, just as Jesus said. Here, we see Peter, gathered with the other ten disciples, receiving this incredible news from the women who had visited Jesus’ tomb. As the others expressed doubt, Peter went to see.

I love what Peter did upon looking into the the tomb, containing only the linens that once wrapped Jesus’ body, but otherwise empty just as the women had said. Luke doesn’t say he returned to the place where the disciples were gathered; maybe he did. But what Luke tells us Peter ultimately did really resonates with me:

“…he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

This is a lot to take in. Sometimes we just need time alone to ponder, consider and pray. Peter “marveled” at what had happened. Have you ever marveled over the works of God? Have you ever watched the sun set over a vast ocean or mighty mountain range and marveled at the glory of God’s creation? Have you ever found yourself in need, really in need, and have God meet that need seemingly out of nowhere? Have you ever opened Scripture and heard God’s voice as you read it? Does the reality of what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for those who believe hit home?

Today we Christians celebrate the most important event in all of history and the greatest miracle of all time – the resurrection of our Lord from the grasp of death. The victory lies not with those who killed Him. The victory is His, and through His victory, we have assurance of eternal life with Him in Heaven. This, my friends, is something to celebrate. This is something worth marveling. This is most certainly and eternally true.

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Happy Easter!

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

What Now?

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!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Mission Accomplished!

“Good Friday”. What an ironic name for the day on which Jesus was humiliated, hung on a cross, and suffered a horrible death by those He came to save. But – that was exactly why He came to Earth.

“Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

John 19:30

Just a few days ago, I wrote about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday.” Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, was on a mission that only He understood at the time. As the people celebrated what they thought would be a conquering king and warrior, Jesus knew what was to take place over that coming week. He knew His mission. He knew it would be agonizing. He knew it would be humiliating. He knew it would be excrutiatingly painful. He knew it was necessary. And, so He went.

So, on Friday, after being betrayed by one of His disciples and deserted by the rest, after facing severe beatings and being convicted of false charges, there He hung as soldiers and bystanders mocked His name and cast lots for His clothes. When I was young, I thought these words of Jesus were words of defeat. The Pharisees and scribes had been plotting His death since the beginning of His ministry three years’ prior. They finally got their way in most dramatic fashion. But that is when I was young and naive.

“It is finished!” That mission that Jesus came to exact was completed! Jesus, God incarnate, true God and true man, achieved the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He was no victim; He “gave up His spirit” willingly for you and for me so that we might be saved.

Dear friends, this is indeed “Good Friday”. And you know what? That conquering king and warrior the people wanted? That is exactly who Jesus is: King of kings and Lord of lords. By His sacrifice, Jesus won the victory over sin and death once and for all. It was not the victory that the people anticipated on Palm Sunday, but it was the victory they most needed. Indeed, Jesus achieved the greatest victory of all time. By His sacrifice, we who believe in Him are saved for eternity by grace through faith.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Betrayal & Desertion

Maundy Thursday. The events of this day always give me pause. I am simultaneously disappointed in His disciples, amazed by His love, and reflective of what my reaction would have been had I been there with Him. Indeed, it is an active day that culminates with Jesus standing alone before His accusers.

“‘…but all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets’. Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”

Matthew 26:56

As I read Matthew’s account of the events of this day (Matthew 26), I’m struck by how much happened in the span of just a few hours. Jesus and His disciples celebrated Passover, during which Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion. He announced to His stunned disciples that one of them would deliver Him into the hands of those who seek to kill Him as the rest of them flee for their personal safety. His disciples promised to stand by Him, but Jesus knew they would not and stated so.

Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was real. Here we see His nature as Son of God (true God) and Son of Man (true man). As a human, He asked God to remove the burden He was about to undertake. He expressed His frustration at His disciples who did not grasp what was going on, and could not stay awake and keep watch as He prayed. As God, Jesus knew exactly what was coming, He knew it must be, and He went willingly. As Judas betrayed Him with a kiss and He was seized by soldiers with swords and clubs, the 11 disciples fled, just as He knew they would. Jesus faced His accusers alone, just as He knew He would.

I would like to think that I would have reacted differently had I been one of the eleven. I would like to think that I would have stood beside my Lord as He was carried off to face the authorities. I would like to think that I would have spoken up in His defense and, if need be, have gone with Him to death. I would like to think these things, but I know I wouldn’t have reacted any differently than the 11 did. How do I know that? Because, like them, I am human. Pondering the events of Maundy Thursday, I think about opportunities to witness that I have squandered, avoiding the subject because it can be uncomfortable to discuss. When I squander those opportunities, I betray Him. I think about the times when I say and do things that I know displease and dishonor Him. When I say and do these things, I betray Him. Just as Jesus knew His disciples would abandon Him, He knows and understands my shortcomings and failures. Knowing all of this, His love never wavered. He went to the cross for them, for me, and for you.

When Jesus distributed the bread, “…this is My body…” and the wine, “…this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins,” (Matt 26:26-27) He announced a new covenant. He would be the perfect Sacrifice, sufficient to achieve perfect, everlasting atonement for our sins. I look forward to Maundy Thursday worship tonight. Tonight, with my church family and with Christians all around the world, I will celebrate Holy Communion. I will receive, once again, His forgiveness for my sins. And I will remember the events of this night over 2,000 years ago – the night on which Jesus went forth to die for you and for me.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

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!

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(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!

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