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.

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!

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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

Be Still…

3:05 AM and I’m wide awake. Any of us who work in corporate America experience times like this – times when the whirlwind is fierce, activity abounds and time is demanded, even more time than we seem to have. So, in the wee hours of the morning before the sun comes up, my mind is racing as I lay in bed. I’m thinking of two emails in particular that need to be addressed. I get up, make a pot of coffee and carry my work laptop up to my office. But, before I power it up I open my Bible for my morning reading and this is what God gave me:

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

Talk about an injection of healthy perspective! God reminded me this morning that He is the One of utmost importance. And as I read my Bible I kept coming back to this verse. “Be still…”

People often quote the first part of this verse and forget the second. As I ponder those words I’m reminded that God is why I’m here. This creation is His, my life is His, my work is His… No matter what the whirlwind may bring my way, I will rest in calm knowing that God is right here with me.

So – that is what I have to offer this morning. I know this is short and (hopefully) sweet, but I couldn’t start my work without sharing this. No matter how busy I am, I must always take time to be still, go to God’s Word, ponder what He has to say and give the whirlwind up in prayer. Having done that, I am best equipped to take on all this day is going to bring. Christian business man/woman, if you’re not taking time each day to “be still and know that He is God” you’re missing out on a beautiful relationship.

Now – time to take on that whirlwind!

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Trust Amid the Storm

My family and I were directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey. More accurately, we were impacted afterward when the US Army Corps of Engineers opened the flood gates of the Barker Reservoir sending a deluge of flood waters into my neighborhood and many, many others in the City of Houston. For thousands of Houstonians, the impact of Harvey began as the storm itself moved from our area.

“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.”

Psalm 13:5 NASB

The days, weeks, and even months after we evacuated our home are somewhat of a blur, but I remember them vividly. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but the statement is accurate. Evacuating with no advance warning, we had to make quick decisions about what we took with us, heeding the instructions of the boat pilots to take as little as possible. We didn’t have time to worry about where we would go or what we would do; we just knew we had to leave.

You know what? As I look back on what I call our “Harvey Story”, my heart fills with gratitude. For through everything, from evacuation to fostering pets, from accepting vehicles on loan to a fully furnished home to live in as we cleaned ours out, from dealing with the federal government for a low-interest loan to managing through repairs (which still aren’t fully completed), we experienced God’s provision. God worked through the volunteers who helped us evacuate and later clean out our home. He worked through so many who donated cash, gift cards, cars and even a house. He honored the prayers of many friends as He offered clarity to my sometimes rather dazed mind. Indeed, amidst the tumult of the storm, God never left us. He was always there, and more importantly, He was directing everything.

As David wrote this psalm, and many others, his life was in turmoil. He sometimes felt that God had forgotten him, leaving him on his own to deal with his thoughts and circumstances (Ps 13:1-3). But, while God sometimes allowed David to experience trials and tribulations, He never left Him. And through it all, David was reminded of that which is truly important: “…my heart rejoices in Your salvation.”

I wish I could tell you that my attitude throughout the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was always positive. I wish I could tell you that I consistently maintained my disciplines of study, worship and prayer. I wish I could tell you that I never worried, never doubted, never feared. I wish I could, but I cannot. But here is what I can tell you. I can tell you that through my lows, through my lack of discipline, through my worries, my doubts and my fears, God was always faithful. He met every single need we had as the need presented itself. God directly intervened in our lives to see us through the disaster.

Now we are faced with a sizable loan that must be repaid. I drive part time for Uber and Lyft to help make the payments. I’m sometimes tempted to worry about our financial future. Then, in the quiet of the morning, God gives me His Word. He offers this reminder that, no matter what, my eternity is sealed. My salvation is sure, thanks to His grace and mercy through His Son, Jesus. And, with that reality and His blessing, I can face anything.

What storms are you facing today? Is there turmoil in your life that you’re struggling to manage through? Do you wonder where the next paycheck will come from? Is work stressful and overwhelming? Take a moment today and read Psalm 13. It’s short, but packed with meaning. Let God remind you of that which is supremely important. And know that He hasn’t forgotten you, nor has He abandoned you. He is there. He loves you. He cares. He will see you through.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Finding Meaning

Drudgery. Minutia. Routine. Unimportant. Unappreciated. Boring.

Do you ever feel this way about your work? Do you ever wonder why you show up each day to do the same darn things only to have nobody notice or appreciate your efforts? Do you find yourself saying, “I hate my job,” or, worse yet, “My life has no meaning.” I know people who feel this way and my heart breaks for them.

“Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

Proverbs 16:3

If you’re feeling this way, I want you to ask yourself who it is you serve. For whom do you work? Had you asked me this question a few years ago I would have answered with the name of a company or the name of my boss. But in reading God’s Word, my perspective has changed. Yes, my employer provides a paycheck. But I work for the Lord.

The masters we serve in the world are imperfect. Executives sometimes make poor decisions. Bosses are sometimes hard to work with. We see unfairness and injustice in the world around us. And when we are touched directly by such things, as I have been, our attitude may become negative and our productivity may decrease. In contrast, the Master we ultimately serve is Almighty. He is kind, gracious and merciful. Always. In every circumstance. We are to approach everything we do as being done for Him. Because it is.

The beauty of this proverb is that its truth extends beyond our employment, and it includes a promise. “Works” here contemplates all that we do – our daily work, our morning routine, our evenings and our weekends. Indeed, this proverb reminds us that we are to commit our very lives to the Lord.

Note the promise: “…and your plans will be established.” The passive verb here is important. God doesn’t tell us that we will establish our plans. No – He tells us that He will establish our plans! Contrary to what many modern-day thought leaders will tell you, life’s purpose does not come from within. It cannot be established by reading self-help books or even through self-determination. Life’s purpose is found in the Lord. When we commit our lives to the Lord, our plans become His plans – actually, His plans become our plans. We are aligned with our Lord. The pressure is off! If that’s not a gift, I don’t know what a gift is! Praise God!

Dear friend, if you are one for whom your life’s work, or even your life itself, is unsatisfying and unfulfilling, ask God to change your heart. To whom (or Whom) are you committed? If your commitment rests with anyone but the Lord, why not consider making Him your life’s focus? Commit your works, indeed your very life, to Him. Seek Him through reading His Word and prayer. There are a plethora of Bible reading plans that can help you get started, including many in your local Christian book store and on YouVersion Bible App.

God is waiting. He is available. He will provide. He will establish your purpose. He will work it out. For you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com (2019)

The Peace of the Evening

I don’t know about you, but I often have those evenings in which my body is so physically tired I can barely keep my eyes open as I sit on the couch trying to concentrate on the TV. I finally give in and announce to my wife, “I’m going to bed,” only to lie down and have my mind begin racing over the events of the day and the work of the day to come. As my  mind races, it shifts to thoughts of financial security, the welfare of my kids, did I feed the dogs, are the doors locked… Oh, be quiet already! I just want to sleep! Have you experienced evenings like this?

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.”

Psalm 4:8 NASB

I remember the very first time I read this Psalm. I was a freshman at Concordia Austin in the fall of 1980. A group of us were talking at an evening chapel service about all of the studying we had to do, the difficulties of learning Latin, and various other stresses that college students face. A classmate opened his Bible and read this psalm to us, and it was as if the door opened wide and the light shined bright.

King David wrote this psalm. If you’ve done much study on David, you know he had a lot going on in his life. He was king of Israel. He was a sinner, and he knew it. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, then arranged for her husband’s death to try and hide his sin. He had rivals seeking to take his life. David, as imperfect as he was, knew that he could take solace and comfort in the arms of his Lord. That is what this psalm is all about. And it applies as much to us today as it did to David when he first wrote it under the inspiration of God Himself.

I recently wrote about the quiet of the morning, and how my morning time in Scripture with God is my favorite time of the day. Evening has the potential to also be a time of quiet; a time to settle down, to calm the mind, and to meditate and pray over the events of life. David writes earlier in this psalm, “Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” (Ps 8:4b) Do you take time each evening for a closing moment with God? I confess – I don’t. And I’m reminded as I re-read this psalm how important it is to do just that. You see, my problem is I wait until I have physically exhausted myself before going to bed but I do nothing to prepare my mind for sleep. It’s almost as if my mind is saying, “what about me? I’m not tired yet!”

This week I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try taking a few moments after I’ve hit the sack to read this psalm again, meditate on God’s message, and dedicate the night’s sleep to Him. I believe that there can be peace in the evening, the source of which is in God’s Word.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Worried?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes for me life can seem overwhelming. Between the demands of my work, my responsibilities at home, the need to work part time to repay our government loan, I am often tempted to worry. Am I making the right decisions at work? What if I’m not? I’m too tired to work through this stack of mail this evening – what if something important is there? Thanks to property damage from post-Harvey flooding, when will I be able to retire? Will I be able to retire? Where will those resources come from? Yada-yada-yada.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jesus: Matthew 6:34

I believe that worry is the most negative energy one can expend. Think about it. When has worry ever solved a problem? Do you ever feel better about a situation after having worried about it a while? Do you sleep better when you worry? Do you eat healthier foods or drink less alcohol when in worry mode?

When we really stop to think about it, worry is a distraction from that which is really important. Don’t get me wrong; I often worry about important things. But I’ve learned over time that worry hinders my problem-solving abilities even as it hinders productivity. Indeed, the worried mind is a distracted mind; when we worry, things often seem worse than they really are.

I love Jesus’ instructions here. Don’t worry about tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year. Deal with the circumstances of today. Focus. Seek God’s guidance and trust Him for the resources, solutions and results you need. He is reliable and He will provide. When we put our faith and trust in Him, He will not leave us hanging. We can trust Him for that.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow; but it empties today of strength.”

Corrie ten Boom

The author of the my 2019 Bible reading plan offered the above quote from Corrie ten Boom, and it really resonated with me. If you’ve never heard of Corrie, don’t despair; I hadn’t heard of her until this morning. What a hero! During WWII Corrie and her family defied the Nazis by helping Jews escape Nazi persecution. You can read about her heroism here.

Sometimes I wish I could simply flip off my worry switch, but it’s not always that easy. Fortunately, I can lean on my Savior when the worry bug strikes. Lifting the situation in prayer, reading His Word (such as Jesus’ words above) and trusting Him for the outcome helps put my mind at ease as it restores my focus and grants me peace of mind.

Friends, God wants to hear from us. Additionally, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes in our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). Not only is He a good listener, He is my advocate. It doesn’t get any better than that!

What is on your mind today? What worries are distracting you from the important things you need to accomplish? Why not take a pause, lift them up to the Lord in prayer, then watch expectantly to see what He does. If you need prayer support, please reach out. I’m happy to pray for you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019