“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:17

DO JESUS AND BUSINESS BELONG TOGETHER?

When I am on the radio doing interviews, almost every time I am asked, how can you mix Jesus and business?  Or when I give a presentation and clergy are in the crowd, I am cautioned about mixing Jesus and business. Even in one case I was told that mixing Jesus and business was sinful.

My reply is always, why not?  In this age of political correctness, Jesus is avoided in conversations, despite 75% of all Americans identifying themselves as Christian. The misconception isn’t really about mixing Jesus and business, it’s more about how do we mix Jesus and business.

My friend William Cunningham, states, “We should be the Gospel and not just say the Gospel.”  Will, has lived this life for many years and today is an author of Where I belong  and a Christian Counselor in Asheville, North Carolina. In his previous life he was involved in military intelligence throughout the Middle East, where he lived this life of  Jesus being with him where ever he went. Including praying in dark prisons of Afghanistan.

Was he uncomfortable during these times, sometimes. But Jesus was always with him.

Will’s point is that we first live out our faith wherever we are. Through our actions we become recognized as Christian’s. Merely stating to others that they should believe in our professional or work lives isn’t enough and frankly can be detrimental.

Bringing Jesus to work through proclamation isn’t enough or effective. Bringing Jesus to work through our actions is the most powerful form of mixing Jesus and our careers. It is human nature to become more empowered by what people do versus what people say. This is Will’s point.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  In other words, in all that we do, we should do it as if serving the Lord. The Apostle Paul in this statement includes our work lives.

We don’t have to go to work and declare we are Christians, but our various actions will declare us as Christians. Words are hollow, actions are real. It is in our actions that we proclaim our faith and in our actions we are judged.

The clergy I meet are right that business can create temptation, but business itself is not sinful. It is more about how we act in business than whether business is sinful. But all of life, has inherent temptation to be sinful, not just when we are at work.

Being bold in our faith isn’t what repels people about our belief, it’s when we don’t live the Gospel that repels people. How could any person not agree with the Golden Rule, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” Certainly we want to be and surrounded by people that live their lives with this foremost in their minds. Doing what is right is consistent with our Christian faith.

When we sell to our customers, should we think about ourselves first or the customers needs? The latter should be our focus. Not only is this a Christian value, but it is good for the long term health of any company.

Lets consider the Wells Fargo scandal, where millions of credit cards were issued without the customer knowing they had been opened in their name. This scandal eventually cost the CEO his job. What if the bank had used Jesus’ Golden rule? Would there have been a scandal? Probably not if it had been part of the employee’s code of conduct. Or consider the number of sexual abuse cases against women by men in power, would they have occurred if there was an adherence to the values of Jesus? Again probably not.

Christianity is good for business. The businesses that are run with principles of fair play and equal treatment for all, are strongly aligned with Christian values.

Companies like Chick-Fil-A thrive and are Christian based. While we might not all agree with some of their thoughts about Christianity, we can all agree they live into their principles. They believe in giving Sunday off as a Sabbath or day of rest. This year the Super Bowl was played in Atlanta and in that stadium exists a Chick-Fil-A. They were still closed, despite the monetary losses of not being open on Super Bowl Sunday.

But Chick-Fil-A still is the strongest of all Fast Food outlets in terms of customer loyalty and finances. Go there for lunch someday and you will see long lines of loyal customers and friendly employees. Their Christian based model works.

Some will say Christians are intolerant as a reason for not mixing Jesus with our work lives. Being a Christian based person or business doesn’t mean we are exclusive or rejecting of people who don’t share our faith. It means being open and courteous to all.

Jesus himself used those outside his religious affiliation to portray acts of openness and kindness. The story of the Good Samaritan is about a person who was outside of Jesus’ faith. The Samaritan’s of the first century were consider outcasts by the dominant Jewish faith. Yet Jesus uses them in one of the preeminent examples of kindness to all. Part of being Christian is being tolerant.

Yes, we can bring Jesus to work! It is okay for the one hundred and twenty million Christians who will go to work tomorrow to be and practice the values of Christianity. We should be the Gospel in all that we do. It isn’t politically incorrect and only is if we don’t live the Gospel in all that we do.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Herrmann Stamm

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“Awake, awake, Deborah!
Awake, awake, utter a song!

Judge 5:12

DEBORAH, A SYMBOL OF GOD’S EQUALITY

After the Israelites had entered the promised land and Moses had died, they were ruled by Joshua. Joshua had been loyal to the mission of the great Exodus out of Israel and when others grumbled, Joshua maintained his faith. He led the Israelites for the balance of his life, fairly and justly.

Upon his death, the Israelites became leaderless and slowly drifted into being a loose confederation that slowly slipped into a complacent life. Their faith lives dimmed and slowly drifted away from the values of God.

To help reverse this trend a new group of leaders emerged, called Judges. These were people assigned to rule and lead Israel. To bring the Israelites back into alignment with God.

The book of Judges contains many great Biblical stories, like Samson and Delilah; and Gideon. The book of Judges contains the stories of the early leaders of Israel before the kings of Israel, like King Davis. Judges contains the story of Deborah, the first female leader of the Israelites.

Deborah, was a woman with a rock solid faith and trust in God. In the turbulent times of her life, she turned to God. Where she gave advice it contained wise solutions that were based on the values of God. It was for this reason she was raised up to be a Judge.

Deborah was the fourth Judge or go between for God and his people of Israel. Deborah’s reign started with the people once again turning away from God and then asking God to save them. This was a repeating pattern that occurred with Joshua and the three previous Judges. Now it was Deborah’s turn.

Deborah, spent most of her days sitting under a palm tree and was visited by many for her advice. For the previous twenty years the Israelites were under the rule of King Jabin of Canaan, who was a harsh and oppressive ruler. The Israelites called out to God to be freed. Deborah became God’s choice to once again lead Israel out of bondage.

As the new leader of the Israelites, God asked Deborah to act to save her people, by saying, “Awake, awake, Deborah.” Hearing this call, Deborah called on the military leader, Barak to move his armies against King Jabin.

Lacking in faith, Barak was not convinced that he could succeed, even with God’s help. He was sure he would be doomed and to test Deborah, he said, “I will go, if you will go with me.”  With absolute certainty that arose from her faith in God, she agreed. But also told Barak, that this victory would not be credited to him, and that a woman would be credited with the victory. Still doubting, Barak accepted the task.

Sure enough the Israelites won the battle, but the leader of the opposing army escaped. Only to be discovered by a woman named Jael. Who dispatched the general of the opposing army and was credited with the victory.

Barak, had been cagey in his dealings with Deborah and tried to avoid a fight to free the Israelites. But Deborah did not take the bait, instead relied on her faith to fight a stronger opposing force. In turn, God prevented Barak from receiving the glory of a victory and gave it to another, a woman.

What is important about this story,  is it is one of the first times in the Bible that women are raised up as being wiser, more faithful and stronger than man. It is a story that has been subdued for many years, not because God didn’t see women as equals, but that those who tell the story of the Bible have ignored the great stories of women that exist in numerous examples in the Bible.

In Genesis, God made all humankind in the image of God. For added emphasis, God states, “ both man and woman” in Genesis 1:27. Deborah was an example of this equality and proved equal to her male predecessors.

Like her male counterparts in earlier stories, she corrected the pattern of disobedience to God in her people. This story, while an exciting war story, is more about the equality of gender. We shouldn’t look past her gender as an important statement by God. That all people, regardless of gender, race or national origin are made in the image of God.

The stories of the Bible have been told many times over the last four thousand years. In these stories are a history of God’s relationship and saving of God’s people. But these stories have many sub-plots and this story’s subplot is about equality of the genders.

For a different view of the Bible, Google great women of the Bible. You will receive a long list of women who have made significant contributions to the ways of God and in the story of the Bible. From Ruth to Esther to Rahab to Tamar to Mary and so forth. A legacy of the value of woman in God’s eyes.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Daniel Buckle

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“And he said to them, “why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and sea; and there was dead calm.”

Matthew 8:26

CALMING THE STORMS OF LIFE

How many times in our lives do we stand at a place where all things seem lost? These times of distress are inevitable and will visit all, both the weak and the mighty. Jesus asks us to be calm and have faith. Jesus asks us to stand calmly when the swirling seas of life pound the rocks of our lives. Jesus asks us to stand firmly faithful and turn our eyes toward God. Our life answers are found when we stand calmly and face our foes with an unwavering trust in Jesus. Our trust in Jesus replaces the turbulence of life with a calmed spirit.Points of Reflection

  • When faced with periods of stress, how often do we get anxious?
  • Why is it hard to stop and pray when difficult times arise?
  • In the past, how has Jesus helped overcome life’s hurdles?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Ben White

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But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A BIBLICAL LEADER?

Moses met God at a burning bush in the wilderness. God had picked Moses to lead the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt and wanted to give Moses instructions for accomplishing this task. Moses, the leader God had hand picked was reluctant and tried many times to have God look for someone else. Moses complained that Pharaoh was too powerful. Moses minimized his own ability by stating he was a bad speaker. Moses didn’t want the task, but God wanted Moses.

God persisted and pressed on with Moses. God showed Moses that he wouldn’t be alone, that God would be with him every step. At one point God asked Moses to take his staff and throw it on the ground. When Moses dropped his staff, it turned into a serpent. When Moses was instructed to pick up the serpent it turned back into a staff. This was God’s way to show Moses God would be with him. All Moses had to do was believe that God was with him.

Imagine ourselves in this situation. Imagine strolling through a park and having a tree talk to us. What we have done? Likely, assumed it was a prank and moved on. It is easy to judge Moses, but we all are similar. When God visits us and he does, are we ready?

There was something deeper in Moses, despite his reluctance. God knew Moses wouldn’t walk away. Why else did God choose such a reluctant leader. A leader who didn’t want to lead. God saw something different, he saw a person with a heart for others and a respect for God. God chose Moses, not because of worldly stature, but because of his heart.

Moses didn’t know it at the time, but this future life meant leading a reluctant nation through the wilderness, across rivers and mountains for forty years. There would be times of scarcity with food and water. There would be grumbling by his nation and disobedience.

Through all of this Moses would have to lead by being obedient to his boss, God. While continuing to offer hope for the people of Israel. Many times Moses would be alone in these tough moments, no place to turn other than God.

God chose Moses, not because he was reluctant, but because he had a heart for his nation of Israel and a commitment to God. His reluctance wasn’t out of not believing in God, but believing in himself. He didn’t see in himself what God saw in him.

Moses would have to face the mighty Pharaoh to convince him to release the Israelites. Not once but ten times.

This still wasn’t his greatest feat. Consider the actual crossing over event at the Red Sea. The Israelites approached the Red Sea to become freed, they then noticed the Egyptians were pursuing them with a vast army. In front of them was the Red Sea and an unknown life. Behind them was a menacing army determined to slay them. They cried out to Moses, asking him why he had led them to a certain death. Even the severe bondage they lived in seemed like a better choice than their current state.

By now they had seen God’s great miracles and the powerful relationship Moses had with God. Even with God preceding them on their journey, as a pillar of clouds during the day and as fire at night. They still doubted and cried out to be saved. Not out of lack of confidence in God or Moses, but out of fear for their lives. Fear that overcame their faith. A fear we also sometimes let erode our own faith.

At God’s request Moses raised his staff to part the Red Sea. The sea parted, but the Israelites were still reluctant to go. Not trusting that the seas would hold back. Finally, Moses convinced this large nation to proceed. They crossed over saved by a miraculous intervention of God, through Moses.

For forty more years Moses led this reluctant group through the wilderness. A group who despite all they had seen from God through Moses still didn’t believe. But Moses led them and advocated for them.

How many times in our own lives have we witnessed the bounty of God, only to turn away in periods of stress?

After a generation had passed, they finally entered the promised land. Moses was old by then and did not enter the land promised by God. Dying on top of a mountain that overlooked the promised land.

Moses created this story in the book of Exodus through his obedience to God. After a reluctant start, he continued as a leader who was a go-between with God and the Israelites.

Over time when his people wouldn’t believe, Moses believed. Moses was many things, a judge, a counselor and provider. He kept his passion to lead despite seemingly overwhelming odds. His greatest leadership quality was his relationship with God. Instead of turning to human thoughts he maintained a rock steady faith that God would answer.

He climbed mountain tops through dense clouds to see God. He led his people through a vast desert sure of his direction with God, but never sure where the end would be. He created water out of stones and bread in the morning.

Moses led through his faith in God and compassion for his people. Moses led not out of self-interest or personal power. He believed in the higher good of serving God and humankind.

The first five books of the Bible are called the books of Moses. From Genesis to Numbers, they contain the law of God and the great history of Israel. The oral tradition of the first believers. A story that is real in that it is metamorphically connected to the lives of an ancient people with our own faith lives today.

The story of Moses is about leadership with the heart. Leadership that is not self-interested, but committed to a common good. Leadership inspired by a relationship with God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Kalen Emsley

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