longevity of faith

“Be Strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God.”

– Ephesians 6:10-11

AN EVERYDAY WOMAN FULLY ARMED WITH FAITH WHO DEFEATED A STRONG MAN. 

Patricia Williams worked selling time-shares for one of the largest time-share companies. Many of these companies use high-pressure sales tactics and often sell the time-shares at prices much higher than their market value. Patricia’s company was no different. However, she needed a job and she thought this was the best she could find. Over time she noticed illegal sales practices and began to report them anonymously on the company hotline. Unfortunately, her input was not kept anonymous and she was fired.

“Finally, after four years of fighting, the jury hearing her case found in her favor. She was awarded $20 million dollars in damages.”

Patricia filed a whistle-blower lawsuit claiming she was fired only because she had reported these illegal tactics. When Patricia resisted accepting a small settlement from the company, the company fought back. For four years Patricia struggled financially. Often low on money, she resorted to eating out of her mother’s pantry. The only work she could get paid little. As the suit dragged on, her problems grew. Thankfully, her attorney hung in with her and pressed forward. Finally, after four years of fighting, the jury hearing her case found in her favor. She was awarded $20 million dollars in damages. The company was admonished; many former associates had testified in her defense.

“Her faith in God sustained her against a more powerful foe.”

When asked why she didn’t settle, Patricia replied, “It’s been a long battle. But I had faith every minute that if I got in front of a jury of twelve unbiased people and an unbiased judge, they would see the truth.” Her faith in God sustained her against a more powerful foe. Jesus describes this faith as being fully armed. Our foes will persist in their attacks and oftentimes seem insurmountable. Times can get tough. But giving in to pressure reduces our Christian armor and allows our foes to overcome us.

“Having a powerful set of armor created by faith in God, surrounds us with protection.”

Many of us hit these times of stress, perhaps not as severe as Patricia’s. When we work in the marketplace, we are exposed. Temptation and schemes surround us daily. Having a powerful set of armor created by faith in God, surrounds us with protection. Very often in these battles there is a short-term loss, followed by a period of doubt. Holding firm when we know we are right becomes our rudder. A life well lived, that includes faith, doesn’t mean we won’t be tested. But it provides us with protection for these times. A life that hasn’t had its faith tested is long overdue.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What life experience have we had that tested our faith?

Did we settle or hold fast?

How do we react when tempted to give in?

asking with faith

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

– Luke 11:9

SAVING A BUSINESS BY ASKING WITH FAITH

I remember sitting at my desk waiting for an answer. A few hours earlier, our chief accounting officer had told us that we were just hundreds of thousands of dollars from breaking our debt agreements. In effect, our $8 billion company was on the precipice of financial disaster. Six months earlier, I had been made the CFO of Foot Locker, inheriting responsibility for a company that was deeply in debt. Earlier in the day, I had called all our staff in for a meeting and asked if they could stay late that day, until we found a way to keep our company afloat. Not finding the means to do so would put the company into a cataclysmic spiral that would cost thousands their jobs and potentially result in a bankruptcy. We agreed that no one would go home until we came up with a solution.

It took hours, but finally, at 8:30 p.m. that night, our assistant treasurer and the chief accounting officer walked into my office, looking visibly relieved.

“We don’t know what you were so worried about,” they joked weakly. “We found some money in a long-forgotten utility deposit account.”

It was just enough to buy us another ninety days. But that was enough time to avoid the crisis, and we managed to use it to turn the company around. Two years later, we were praised in a Forbes magazine article for managing to make such a tremendous save.

JESUS AND ASKING

Jesus says all we have to do is ask. But there is more to it than just asking. We need to consider, Is what we are asking for the right thing? Are we willing to be patient and wait for God? Are we willing to put in the effort to search for the solution with Jesus? Jesus wants our participation. Once we ask, Jesus wants us to participate in searching for the answer, to take an active role in finding what we seek.

Often, we pray and ask for an answer. Many times, the answer doesn’t arrive on the timeline we’d like it to. Many times, the answer is different—but also better—than what we’d originally hoped for. Each time we ask for God’s help, we must be willing to work toward finding a solution by working with God. This is God’s way. I remember sitting at my desk alone that evening at Foot Locker, calmly considering every possible solution. For hours, I could find no viable option. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a solution materialized.

“Each time we ask for God’s help, we must be
willing to work toward finding a solution by
working with God.”

At times, the answer to our prayers comes through people or circumstances, but it can also come simply from a Bible verse. So, after we ask, we need to become aware of our surroundings. We need to search alongside Jesus for the answers we seek. But we also must be patient. Once we ask for God’s help, we must be willing to wait for the answer on God’s time. If our hearts are pure and we take an active role in seeking what we want or need of God, we will receive what we’ve asked for.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Can we be patient in prayer?

Do we worry or stay calm after prayer?

How has God responded in the past?

“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

— Acts 2:46–47

HOW DO CHRISTIAN BUSINESS PEOPLE DEVELOP BELONGING?

Everyone wants to belong to something that is good. It is part of the human condition to want to be a member of a group that has meaning. We search for this in book clubs, in the companies we work for, in our neighborhoods, and within the church. When we belong to a group that is good, we anticipate the meet-ups, we immerse ourselves in helping the other members, and we care. We want to be part of something that important.

When we recruit people to work at our companies, we try to convince them that we are a good group. We have them meet others in our company. We work hard to get them to feel they belong.

Belonging turns into believing. Believing in the principles of the group. Believing in our company. Believing in our book club. Believing in our Christian faith. Believing comes over time; belonging comes first.

“Jesus is not a condemning Lord. Rather Jesus gives life and enriches our lives.”

Many Christian evangelists skip over the belonging part in the process of helping a person to live his or her life through Christ. They espouse the notion of “believe or be doomed.”  Jesus is not a condemning Lord. Rather Jesus  gives life and enriches our lives. Jesus frequently says the word “with.” He strives to bring us into relationship. Jesus knows we are on a journey to find faith together. And the groups that we belong to are there to help us with this journey.

Today’s verse discusses the fellowship of the first-century Christian life. These events occurred shortly after Easter and the passage describes the sense of belonging to the early Christian community. The verse describes a happy, generous, and well-respected group. They were filled with goodwill and had the goodwill of others. Who wouldn’t want to belong to this group?

“With the help of Jesus, we help others to believe.”

From this small early Christian community grew a group that is today the largest in our world. As Christians we all evangelize; in the way we live, in the way we act, and in the way we talk. With the help of Jesus, we help others to believe. And creating a sense of belonging is the first step.

Creating a sense of belonging in others starts with universal acceptance and affirmation of their humanity. Making others feel welcomed starts with listening. Followed by our own commitment to Christian values that is shown not through words, but by action. By listening we give people a voice. BY walking through our lives with a rigorous adherence to the words of Christ we create a model to follow. Doing both creates in others a sense of belonging.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How do we make other people feel welcomed?

Do we let them explore our values at their own pace?

What voice will they have after they join?

“ One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

— John 9:25

THE “AMAZING” STORY OF JOHN NEWTON’S JOURNEY TO WRITING AMAZING GRACE

John Newton, the former slave ship captain, wrote the famous Christian hymn “Amazing Grace.” Included in the lyrics is the verse from John 9:25, “Was blind, but now I see.” However, John Newton’s past was very checkered. He was known for extraordinarily bad language. One sea captain considered his vocabulary the worst of any seaman he had encountered. He frequently was disobedient and  even was forced to spend time as a slave in Sierra Leone. In spite of his life’s circumstances he continued to be drawn to the sea. Because he was an extraordinarily good seaman, his faults were often overlooked. He endured a number of close calls at sea, where his ships were either close to sinking or in such bad weather that men were washed overboard. Even though he had turned away from God, during these difficult moments he would still cry out, “God have mercy.”

It was through these moments that Newton began to turn to a different life. He became associated with the early Methodist movement in England and became well known to John Wesley. Wesley encouraged him to write and become a pastor. Later he became a rector at a small Anglican church. While at this church he helped write hymns. Included with these hymns was the song “Amazing Grace.” Later in his life,Newton became an avowed abolitionist and was a good friend of William Wilberforce, the person largely responsible for ending the slave trade in England.

“Overtime, the continued proximity to death and a restless heart forced him deeper into his relationship with Christ.”

John’s conversion occurred over a number of years. He would come close to turning his life around and then fall back. Overtime, the continued proximity to death and a restless heart forced him deeper into his relationship with Christ. And then it became inevitable and it eventually took hold. It was at this point that he was no longer blind, but could see. The words to “Amazing Grace” were many years off, but he could see.

“Jesus’s healing of the blind man symbolizes our own moment of seeing and giving in to having a relationship with God.”

Today’s verse is about a blind man Jesus healed. The local religious elite, seeking to discredit Jesus, were questioning the blind man, whose sight had been restored. Today’s verse is the blind man’s answer to his questioners. Jesus’s healing of the blind man symbolizes our own moment of seeing and giving in to having a relationship with God. Like Newton we fight back and sometimes have to endure a great deal of hardship before we see. We struggle at times to pursue this relationship with God. Sometimes we are in and at other times we are out. But God persists through Jesus to bring our sight back. We get close and fall back.

Then at some moment the events of our lives tip over our resistance and we are now no longer blind.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How is our story similar to John Newton’s?

What holds us back from accepting Jesus?

When do we see?

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

— Romans 7:19

FOUR WAYS TO RESOLVE THE INNER CONFLICT OF DOING GOOD

When I first read this verse, I was stunned. How could Paul think this about himself? The Apostle Paul was the earliest Christian writer of the Bible. Inspired by God, he is credited with thirteen of the books in the New Testament. He was largely responsible for starting the Christian movement outside of Jerusalem. His travels to spread the Gospel were extensive, dangerous, and met with skepticism wherever he went. How could this man of extraordinary faith write this verse?

“We all want to think of ourselves as good, but are inherently disappointed when we aren’t.”

In reflection, I realized that Paul is answering one of the most basic questions each of us has with ourselves. We all want to think of ourselves as good, but are inherently disappointed when we sometimes aren’t. We don’t always do the things we know we should, and later in our internal dialogue we question our actions. We go to an important business meeting or interview, full of hope on what we want to accomplish and say, and at times we fall short of being perfect in doing what we hoped. This is the dilemma Paul is talking about. How come we can’t  always be who we know we should be?

The verse gives us hope in the natural human condition, that we all know good. The test is converting this knowledge into action. When we are in an interview, we hope to get the job. But when confronted with a tough question, do we answer completely honestly or do we shade our answers slightly? It is the lure and need of the job that begins to twist us away. Our failures arise from things we want and have the freedom we have to spin the truth to get them. Perhaps it’s also taking a shortcut when no one else is looking. Perhaps it’s massaging some numbers to make our projects look better. It is these points that cause us sometimes to drift into not being who we want to be.

“Through a life of connected prayer and reflection, Jesus helps us move away from our internal conflicts.”

There are many solutions to this dilemma.

  • The first is to become more aware of these temptations.
  • The second is to see the benefit to our reputation of being honest over the long term.
  • The third is to recognize that our responsibility is to helping others.
  • Lastly and most importantly is the realization that we are inherently good and that our feeling of personal want in these situations needs to diminish to create this greater sense of self-worth.

Even Paul, the greatest of all evangelists, struggled with this concept. It is the natural human condition.

Through a life of connected prayer and reflection, Jesus helps us move away from our internal conflicts.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How often do we reflect on our inner condition?

What are the things we do to diminish our goodness?

How do we strengthen ourselves to avoid the natural state of want?

“Whatever your task, put yourself into it, as done for the Lord and not for people, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.”

— Colossians 3:23–24

BELAY AND WORKING FOR THE LORD

In early 2017, I sat at my desk frustrated with the results of my efforts to find quality help in finishing my book and getting my website started, along with my Christian advisory services. It wasn’t that the work being completed was poor in quality; my frustration was that it didn’t have that extra effort. The work given to me was lacking the zeal of commitment. In spite of my willingness to give people the creativity to complete tasks as if they were their own, their work lacked the added value that makes things great.

My goal wasn’t to be good, but to produce the best. While I knew where I was going, I didn’t have the ability to be the best I could be without help. I decided to scrap all my plans and start over. I began by searching the Internet with a stronger focus and looking for Christian-based help. There I found my answer, a Christian-based business called BELAY. They had all the resources I needed to get my website fixed, an assistant to help, and people who desired to be the best.

At first I was skeptical, even stating to my BELAY contacts, Lucy and Meg, “I am used to great performers after working for many years with top companies like Foot Locker and Yankee Candle. Can you achieve this standard?” They didn’t reply with heavy salesperson talk. They replied with a thoughtful plan. A plan that produced in six weeks a world-class website, an assistant that was as strong as I had experienced in my previous jobs, and a direction that gave me hope that I was going to be successful.

“We don’t just work, we work for the Lord.”

What was the difference? My new assistant from BELAY, Kristina, explained it to me one day. “We don’t just work, we work for the Lord.” A simple explanation that spoke volumes. Instead of just getting work done, I noticed a warm assertiveness that insisted on doing things the right way. Polite and firm help that raised our level of performance. I noticed that they understood what I wanted, as a Christian author and advisor, even when it was still vague to me.

As we were approaching the launch date for the new website, I noticed an extra effort. Things I hadn’t thought of got done without my asking. E-mails from Kristina and Erica, the webmaster, would appear at one in the morning and later that day at five in the morning. Things got done. They were working for the Lord Christ.

“Each day I am inspired, because I work with great people…those committed to not just doing the job, but working for our Lord Christ.”

Later, as I was looking for an editor, I applied the same thought, “Find a devoted Christian.” I did, Richard Willett, who edited my manuscript in half the time others had quoted. Changes in my writing were made that improved it without fanfare. The publisher of my book, Jesus and Co., upon receiving the manuscript expressed high satisfaction in the editor’s work.

Each day I am inspired, because I work with great people. My answer was on the Internet, in the form of Jesus and those committed to not just doing the job, but working for our Lord Christ.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do we work as if we are working for Jesus?

Why is Jesus the difference in our mindsets?

Are there areas in our work today where we could go from good to great?

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit . . .”

— Luke 12:35

DRESSED FOR ACTION

On 9/11 two planes hit the World Trade Center, causing them to collapse. When they collapsed, thousands of lives were lost and our country was thrown into mourning. It was a great national tragedy. Not only were lives lost in the towers, but the buildings surrounding the Trade Center were crushed. One of the buildings was the Verizon communications center. In that moment Foot Locker lost its ability to communicate with our four thousand stores throughout North America. Immediately we were in a position of mourning for our neighbors and had lost the ability to run our business.

“Bill was always prepared and dressed for action.”

Bill Johnson, who worked for me and was in charge of our communications network, was ready. I called him by cell phone and asked him what his plans were for recovery. Bill informed me that he had already put his plan in place and by eight the next morning we would have full communications online again. This was classic Bill. He constantly surprised all of us with his ingenuity and thoughtfulness. Regardless of the situation, Bill was always prepared and dressed for action. As he had told me, the next morning our multibillion-dollar business was running normally.

“Jesus tell us, always be dressed for action and have our lamps lit. We never know what each day will bring.”

Jesus tells us to be prepared for anything. Jesus tell us, always be dressed for action and have our lamps lit. We never know what each day will bring. It could be joy or unique sorrow. But if we are to react well, preparation must be a lifelong commitment. Whether in our business, personal, or spiritual life, this should be how we think, live, and pray. We never know when an important event will occur. Each day is a day of possibility. Each day a sharp turn can occur. Jesus asks us to be prepared.

Two years later, the Northeast was hit with a major electrical outage. With it our corporate headquarters went dark. We had many people stranded in our building who couldn’t go home. We needed power to keep them safe. I called Bill again. He replied, “My guys are reversing the power on the phone system and you can run the building off the battery.” It didn’t surprise me this time that Bill had the answer.

As always he was prepared.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Are we prepared spiritually?

What events have been sharp turns in our lives and were we prepared?

How do we prepare on a daily basis?

“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?

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companions of fools suffer harm.”

– Proverbs 13:20

OLD, BUT WISE FRIENDS

I met Tony Marone very early in my career. While only a year older than me, he possessed the wisdom of someone decades older. At the company where we worked, he was considered a rock star and was often promoted by leadership. Everybody liked Tony, myself included. I worked hard to gain his friendship and over time we became very good friends.

At a casual lunch, I once told him how impressed I was by the fact he had so many people that liked and respected him. He stunned me by replying, “Bruce, I have a lot of acquaintances, but few friends.” I was quick to refute, “It’s not true, everyone wants to know you.” He went on to explain, “Sure they do, but as soon as a cold wind blows most will be gone. If you can count on one hand the friends who will be with you in tough times and give you honest advice, consider yourself lucky.”

Tony’s words seemed dire. I was still young and impressionable. I thought to myself, How can this be true?

Tony was a street wise Catholic from a tough neighborhood. Most of what he got in life he earned on his own. He didn’t go to a top college or have great mentors. His lessons came directly from the streets of New York City. He learned how to survive in a tough environment, quickly figuring out who to trust and who not to trust. He also learned how to influence others. He was always positive and avoided making enemies. But most importantly, he learned to sift through advice and only follow the words of wise people.

THE BOOK OF PROVERBS

The book of Proverbs is one of the “Wisdom Books” in the Bible. It contains the words of advice that God wants us to hear. The thirty-one chapters take only an hour or so to read and are void of long discourses and extensive theology. They contain simple lessons with simple words. Proverbs 13:20 is an example of the practical lessons hidden away in this Old Testament book.

Eventually, we all learn to better discern between the ill-advised and wise counsel we receive. When we need counsel from a wise friend like Tony, we can look to Proverbs. When we read the verses openly and have a desire to learn, they become our friend and trusted advisor. Memorizing Bible verses allows the words to become our anchor during life’s most ferocious winds.

“Memorizing Bible verses allows the words to become our anchor during life’s most ferocious winds.”

ADVICE FROM AN OLD AND WISE FRIEND WHO CARED

Tony went on to have a successful life. He became a CEO of a regional retailer and later started his own business. When the cold November winds of my life blew, I could always call Tony to get his kind and honest advice. It was not always what I hoped to hear; but it was always what I needed to hear.

I learned what Tony meant about good friends as my life unfolded. I would get a lot of advice—some was well-intentioned but lacked candor. Others advice was self-serving and not in my best interest. Then there was other advice that was simply off the mark completely. Tony was a wise friend, whose counsel always demonstrated that he cared about my well-being. I miss Tony, he died a few years ago. But I will always remember his words.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How do we know whether a person’s advice is good?

How often do we read the wisdom book called Proverbs?

How many friends do we have that will tell us the truth?

More importantly, who can consider us as among that list – their wise friend, the ‘Tony’ of their life?