“But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

– Matthew 5:39-41

PERSPECTIVE

How many of us have been cut off in traffic and replied in anger? Is there a person at work who is constantly irritating us? How often have we started our day and been sidetracked by someone else? These moments test our Christian beliefs. These are the moments in life when Jesus asks us to consider a different response than our natural instincts. In today’s verse Jesus says to reward our offenders. Jesus wants us to show love not hate. In these moments, Jesus wants us to elevate our Christian beliefs. He wants us to have a perspective of being positive and helping the world.

“The moments in life when Jesus asks us to consider a different response than our natural instincts.”

For every negative reaction we get, perhaps we should add a moment of grace to someone else’s life. What if we tried to go to bed every night having done more good than bad that happened to us? What if we went to bed having returned every act of kindness to us with one more to someone else? Today, Jesus is asking us to not engage with retaliation, but with the spirit of God. By doing this we stopping a cycle that can only spin downward.

When we are wronged, there might be an underlying reason that needs our compassion. Perhaps the person who cut us off is late for work or has already had a bad start to his or her day. Perhaps the person who irritates us is in need of affirmation of his or her being. We can never know the real reason for bad behavior, but if we are empathetic we can see the possibilities.

“Jesus wants us to index to the positive and remember all are made in the image of God.”

Jesus is asking us to change our perspective. Jesus wants us to index to the positive and remember all are made in the image of God. Life diverts us from this image. It causes us to move away from our intended purpose. Remembering that we are all made in the image of God changes our perspective. We assign more respect and sympathy to those who are struggling. We become helpers. As Christians, this is perhaps our hardest task. To rise above feeling victimized and slighted. To put on our suit of Christian armor in the face of anger.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

With whom do we need to be more charitable?

Do we see the image of God in people?

How do we find the good in people?

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

– Colossians 4:6

THE POWER OF WORDS

At an introductory meeting with a potential business contact to exchange ideas, I was confronted with a request that revealed the true intent of the meeting. After the normal exchange of introductions and pleasantries, I was asked by the other person if he could be my mentor for a fee of two hundred dollars an hour. I recoiled in my mind and wondered why someone would go into sell mode in the first five minutes. It revealed to me the man’s true purpose: not to exchange ideas as he had originally stated, but to harvest money. Because of that one question, I checked out of the meeting, having pleasantly continued just long enough to not offend him.

“When we talk long enough, our words reveal who we are.”

Over time, we learn to discover who is sincere and who isn’t. By listening carefully, we get the clues. It’s in what people ask and their level of interest in us. If it is sincere, the words will be in the form of questions to get to know us. We will know people’s level of interest in us by their use of the word “I” or “me.” Used too often these words indicate self-focus. Do the other person’s words suggest partnership? Is the language appropriate for the meeting? Is the context of his or her comments designed to explore or tell? Are the words gracious or are they demeaning? These are the clues we can derive from the words people use. When we talk long enough, our words reveal who we are.

“The Bible tells us the power words have and calls us to be cautious in what we say and how we say it.”

I was always amazed by Peter Brown, the treasurer of Foot Locker. He would come out of a meeting and tell me exactly what actually just got said. He deciphered this not only by the words that were used, but also by their timing and context. Peter himself was always interested in others. His words were almost always gracious, and people liked and trusted him. He was unfailingly polite and courteous. His words revealed a genuine interest in the other person. Words mattered to Peter, both in what he said and what he heard.

The Bible talks about the power of words and calls us to be cautious in what we say and how we say it. It asks us to be gracious and seasoned with salt. Salt symbolizing integrity and wisdom. People will hear this in our words. Not just in the words we say, but in when we use them. When our hearts are oriented toward being gracious and mutual, our words will flow in the same vein.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How do we prepare for an important meeting?

Do we think of the other person when we ask questions?

Do we seek our agenda or a mutual agenda?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Luke 12:34

WHERE IS OUR TREASURE

Roger is a very successful dentist. Over a thirty-year period, his practice grew to be one of the largest and most respected in his local market, and he has sat on the state board of dentistry. He is a wonderfully protective father and a model husband. Roger’s practice didn’t grow because it was his goal to grow it. It grew because he strived to be the best dentist he was capable of being. As with all things in his life, his focus was on being the best at whatever he was involved in. His intention is always what is right.

“Jesus says that our heart follows our treasure.”

Many times in Roger’s practice he had to take financial losses to advance his professional ability to care for his patients. Each year he went to conferences to learn how to be a better dentist. Each time I went to his office, a new technique or machine was there to better serve my needs. Questions I would raise were always thoughtfully answered in an unhurried manner. I got to witness the professional development of his business over two decades. Many of the other dentists in the area started out strong, but only some, like Roger, grew. Many stayed in place. The trade-off of taking a larger paycheck instead of adding new technology constrained their practice. Over time it diminished their business.

Jesus says that our heart follows our treasure. For a successful business this gets to the root of why they are in business. The simple truth is that a choice must sometimes be made between making more money and being the best at what you do. Many companies, like Yankee Candle, focus on being the best. Yankee Candle has the highest customer likeability of all products sold in America. Like Roger, their focus is on providing the best product. The irony is that being the best costs money at first, but overtime provides long-term financial gains, while the pursuit of money produces a larger amount of money in the short term, a diminished revenue stream over the long term.

“When our treasure is to provide quality service, be responsive and a good follower of Christ, our customers see this in our business.”

Our customers see who we are and where our hearts are, when they are in our businesses. They silently approve or disapprove. When our treasure is to provide quality service, be responsive and a good follower of Christ, our customers see this in our business. When our focus is on money, we distort ourselves. In the short term it may pay off, but our customers see and our community sees. We know when we are following the right treasure, because we are excited about the morning. We enjoy our customers. we want to complete our tasks to the best of our ability. We feel secure.

Eventually, we all have to make this choice of where our real treasure lies.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What are examples of good customer service?

Why do we work?

Do we wake up every morning excited to go to work?

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”

– John 1:12

FINDING SELF-WORTH

Many of us in the marketplace are pushed to believe our value rests in our net worth not our self-worth. We spend a lifetime surrounded by the message that our value lies in how much we earn, what are car looks like, or if we have the latest and greatest. We never seem to reach that golden ring these messages tell us exists. The effect of all this is a reduction in confidence and self-worth.

“Many of us in the marketplace are pushed to believe our value rests in our net worth not our self-worth.”

We are influenced subtly by our culture, our friends, our family, and even our thought life. They all conspire both innocently and purposefully to undermine our confidence. As we continue our journeys, we find ourselves stuck in a world that lionizes size-two Hollywood starlets or people with ten thousand-square-foot homes. We over analyze ourselves and find we don’t match up to these images. The overly analytical critique sears our souls and drives us deeper in the wrong direction.

Like all formulas, if the input is wrong, the answer is wrong. We have all heard the expression “garbage in garbage out.” In many of my counseling sessions I hear the silent voice that says, Why don’t they want me? But I see a different picture in these people. I see bright and enthusiastic people who want to lead a good life. God sees the same thing and says so in Genesis 1:27, where it states “So God created humankind in God’s image, in the Image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This is a powerful assertion of the value God places in each of us. We are like God.

“We need to reach down and change the input from our own to God’s.”

So how do we from the marketplace defend ourselves from our own overly critical analyses and cultural influences? We receive Jesus and believe in his name, as the Book of John advises us. But we also have to live out this inheritance both internally and externally. We need to reach down and change the input from our own to God’s. We are made in God’s image. Our outward expressions to our neighbors should simulate this same act of love that God expresses to us. At Starbucks, build up the life of the barista and from our hearts wish him or her a good day. At the grocery store thank the clerk for their hard work. Never tire of doing good with a heart formed in love. Both the inner expressions to ourselves and the outer expressions to others will gird our self-worth. Over time the importance of net worth will fade and be replaced with the value of self-worth. Our priorities will change, and life will seem brighter. We are all children of God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Where do we spend our money? Is our credit card statement a reflection of our self-worth or net worth?

Do we allow others to make us forget how God thinks about us?

Do you treat everyone like a child of God?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”

– Matthew 5:8

QUIETING OUR HEARTS

Saint Augustine, one of the church’s early leaders, said, “Our hearts are unquiet until they rest in God.” A powerful statement from a man who in the first half of his life engaged in much debauchery. He was a great lawyer and orator in his early life. His fame was so widespread that he was recruited to go to Rome to teach aspiring students about oratory, reading, and philosophy. During this period of his life he was in constant pursuit of the “truth,” while engaging in a life of sin. Encouraged by his mother, he met Bishop Ambrose in Milan. Through these meetings Augustine discovered that he was on the wrong path to truth. In a garden in Milan he heard a child’s voice that he felt was the voice of Jesus, and knelt to accept Jesus as the truth. From this point he became a bishop, and he went on to become a key figure in firmly establishing the church.

“Jesus asks us to not give in to our personal power, but to our hearts and the existing human desire to do good.”

Today’s verse is one of the Beatitudes delivered to us by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us in this verse to have a pure heart. A heart led to do good. One that avoids the temptation to give in to our fears, desires, and schemes. A heart that reaches outward to our neighbor. A heart that has faith in God. A heart that endures momentary losses and looks to the future. A heart of hope. Jesus asks us to not give in to our personal power, but to our hearts and the existing human desire to do good.

A friend of mine named Donna talks about this state of being as it relates to her business. After a difficult period early in her life that involved alcoholism and challenging times with her parents, Donna found Jesus. She took her savings and bought a building, and broke it up into small offices to start an “office share” business. Competing against bigger companies, she has over time built a successful business that includes numerous other buildings and many customers. She let go of her fears and thrived. At the various crossroads of this amazing story of revival, she focused on two things. The first was to make ethical decisions;the second, to listen for God’s direction. She tells me that over time at each of these crossroads, the decisions got easier and her business grew.

“If our hearts are God-centered and faithful, we will survive and more likely thrive.”

Jesus asks us to trust our heart and follow its direction. There are times when our hearts appear wrong or we are beset with worry. If our hearts are God-centered and faithful, we will survive and more likely thrive. Decisions that are made with the wrong intentions, however, will nag us in the future. Sleeping and our overall sense of being improves when we act with a pure heart. The momentary losses that sometimes stand in our way will disappear over time. Our hearts will become quiet and not restless.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do we incorporate God in our decision making?

Do we fret over decisions we have made?

Can we make hard choices?

“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

– Galatians 5:22-23

FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT

A friend of mine asked me, “How do you know if a person is spirit-driven?” My response was “I look for nine things: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” My friend, amazed, replied, “Boy you are smart.” Not really, I read this in the book of Galatians and use it in my daily life to observe and act.

“In the book of Galatians, Paul contrasts worldly behavior to that of those who accept Jesus.”

Scholarship suggests that Galatians could be the first book in the New Testament. It was written fifteen to twenty years after the first Easter, earlier than the four Gospels, and was the apostle Paul’s first writing in a series of thirteen books either written by Paul or ascribed to him. In the book of Galatians, Paul begins the process of describing a Christian life. Central to this was the attitude of being Christian. In the book of Galatians, Paul contrasts worldly behavior to that of those who accept Jesus. For Paul these nine traits are exhibited by those living by the spirit.

The spirit is in each of us, but do we always act in the spirit? Do we hold doors for others? Are we kind in our comments? Do we avoid gossip at work? Do we patiently listen to our customers? Do we control our anger in the workplace? It is through outward expressions that we demonstrate the spirit. Doubtless, no one ever fully exhibits these traits on a full-time basis. But if we make the traits our goal in how we live our lives, they will emerge. Perhaps slowly at first, but over time we will notice an increase in repetition. An expansion of how we desire to be viewed and how we treat others. A general reconditioning in how we view the world, our business associates and ourselves. An expansion of who we are.

“What is in our hearts is exhibited in our actions. When we truly acknowledge Jesus and God, our lives become the light before people that brings glory to our father.”

In Matthew 7:16-20 God tells us “You will know them by their fruits.” We see this again in Luke 6:43-45, paraphrased teaching us that what is in our hearts is exhibited in our actions.  When we truly acknowledge Jesus and God, our lives become the light before people that brings glory to our father (Matthew 5:16).

I encourage you to read the book of James. In James chapter 2 God teaches us that true faith has a result. True faith bears fruit. We begin to avoid the salacious and negative influences. Our priorities change. Our hearts grow sensitive. Our awareness of our surroundings increases. We will find more people smiling when we enter a business meeting. It will be easier to stand in line. A gentleness will fill our soul. We change.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What do we watch on television or YouTube, is it a reflection of who we are?

Is it a reflection of the spirit?

Do we index to doubt or optimism?

Can others trust us?

“Pray then in this way: Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

– Matthew 6:9-13

PRAYER

While I was discussing prayer with a business friend of mine, he related to me his morning practice. Each morning on his bike ride he would recite the Lord’s Prayer. Previously he had struggled with how to pray and what to pray for. He discovered the Lord’s Prayer and noted that this was Jesus’s example of prayer. So he incorporated this prayer into his bike ride and later would also say it in other quiet times of the day. Over time he felt that he was just reciting the lines and not being sincere. He began to change the words to reflect his understanding of the prayer. For instance, instead of saying “Our father in heaven,” he would replace it with “God our creator” or something similar. Or instead of saying “Give us this day our daily bread,” he would say “Feed me your words of wisdom.” This kept the prayer fresh for my friend and helped him explore his relationship with God.

The Lord’s Prayer appears two times in the Bible, first in Matthew 6:9–13 and a shorter form in Luke 11:2–4. The version in Matthew is part of the Sermon on the Mount. In Luke, Jesus uses the prayer to explain to his disciples how to pray. In both cases it contains the elements that are important in a prayer of petition. First, praising and recognizing God. Then petition. There are three petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. The first is for the substance to live a godly life, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This can mean food, spiritual guidance, or personal strength. The second is asking God to “forgive our debts,” or sins and that’s followed quickly by our taking responsibility for forgiving our neighbor’s debts or sins. The third petition is for protection. Protection from evil but also from the temptations of evil. Over time the prayer has morphed into longer forms that place further emphasis on the sovereign nature of God. For instance, many endings add something along the lines of “For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever more.” The verse quoted at the top of the blog is a direct quote from the NKJV Bible.

“Jesus gives us The Lord’s Prayer as a basic prayer that will open up our prayer life.”

Many of us struggle with how, what, and when to pray. Jesus gives us The Lord’s Prayer as a basic prayer that will open up our prayer life. In the marketplace, where many are pressed for time, this prayer is easily memorized and can be said many times throughout the day. The prayer is easily adaptable to our personal circumstances. My friend learned how to say the prayer with creativity and tailor it to his day. God does not want us to just say the prayer from memory, God wants this prayer to be part of our personal relationship with him. It is okay to use the prayer as a template and expand it to fit into our own connection with God. Following the parameters of the Lord’s Prayer and remembering to say “In Jesus name I pray” at the end of every prayer were the only two things my friend needed in his prayer life.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do we pray by rote or from our hearts?

Are we remembering to praise God?

Are we willing to accept God’s answer?

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”

– Matthew 19:24

WHERE ARE OUR HEARTS?

In our modern marketplace we are taught and encouraged that the measure of our success is how much we make. Corporations are rewarded for increasing their earnings per share. We all want our raises and bonuses to be bigger. For many who read this verse in Matthew it appears that Jesus is saying that if you are rich you won’t be able to go to heaven. However, if we use the discipline of historical context, we can see a different message. A message that refers more to where our hearts reside.

“Jesus desires for us to turn our hearts humbly to the purpose of God.”

In ancient Jerusalem there were two gates to enter the city. A large gate where all could pass and a smaller gate used at night to prevent entry by potentially dangerous invaders. The smaller gate was called the “Eye of the Needle.” For camels to get through this gate they had to kneel and be relieved of all their baggage. The camel was the largest beast of burden in ancient Judea, suggesting its purpose in Jesus’s analogy. The act of kneeling is a humbling act. An act of submission or honor, both in the ancient world and today. Jesus desires for us to turn our hearts humbly to the purpose of God.

A writer friend of mine engaged with a well-connected literary figure who signed a contract promising to help my friend get his book published. For a sizeable amount of money from the aspiring writer, the literary figure promised to introduce him to publishing firms. A contract was signed and the literary figure sent off an e-mail to an agent, who replied to the writer with a rejection. From the literary figure’s point of view, an introduction had been made and therefore the money was due. While technically the literary figure had provided the contracted service, he did little more than send a random e-mail to a random agent. The aspiring writer was on the hook to pay the contract fee but had little to show for his money. While everything was done legally according to the contract, the heart of the literary figure was in making money and not in providing substantial help to the writer. His actions were legally correct, but not correct within the context of intention.

“Jesus cautions us to be humble and careful in pursuing wealth…To decide between a short-term gain and being fair with our neighbors. He is saying that when we stand at this crossroads, we should follow a heart that wants to help others.”

In this story lies the point of Jesus’s message. Is our goal to make money regardless of who we affect? The lure of wealth often times puts us in this position, to decide between a short-term gain and being fair with our neighbors. In the marketplace we often stand at this crossroads. Jesus isn’t saying that being rich is bad. He is saying that when we stand at this crossroads, we should follow a heart that wants to help others. Jesus cautions us to be humble and careful in pursuing wealth. He is well aware of the temptation of riches and the delusional effect of wealth. He is advising us that the pursuit of wealth, while intoxicating, can be harmful to our hearts. Are we following the command of Galatians 5:13 to put aside our own worldly desire and instead using what we have to serve others in love?

Earning a living isn’t the issue; where our hearts reside is the issue.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do we make decisions that are made with a heart that wants to help?

How do we protect our hearts from the delusions of wealth?

How do we stay humble?