“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

Matthew 5:44-45

REVEREND WANG ARRESTED FOR PREACHING IN CHINA

Communist nations are atheist and in general are against any formal religious gathering. While the aggression against Christians has become more subdued over the past few decades, through events like the fall of the Iron Curtain. However, China’s recent movement to an open society and a more open view of religious practices has stalled and appears to be regressing.

Today there 100 million Christians in China, many attend an in-home church to avoid government interference. However, this Christmas, the Government in China has stepped up its efforts to control religious practices. Earlier this month, 60 police raided a church taking artifacts and questioned those attending.

Of particular interest is Pastor Wang Yi, who was arrested with his wife on December 9th. He sits in jail today with the potential of having a fifteen year prison sentence. His crime was no more than being more open than other pastors by actually having a formal church.

Prior to his arrest he suspected that there could be an incident where he would be detained. Knowing this he drafted a letter to his congregation to be released if he was arrested. He was and the letter was distributed. In his letter he said, “I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use nonviolent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God.”

During the next few days, the congregation gathered to protest the arrest and held a church service at a nearby park. 60 of the protesters were arrested as well. Many of the congregation have had police come to their homes and been asked to sign a document declaring they have left their faith and taken their children out of the church run school.

After years of a slow movement by the Chinese government to religious tolerance, a return to practices from a few decades ago has started to prevail. The new President Xi has begun to push this agenda harder. Besides Reverend Wang, the Catholic church has been at odds with President Xi over the disappearance of Bishop Zhuang Jianjian, whose whereabouts is still unknown.

But it goes deeper than just the persecution of Christians, China is moving back to a society similar to one from George Orwell’s book, 1984. President Xi appears to be trying to create a controlled society similar to what existed in the fifties. We see this in a number of recent incidences. Their lack of agreement that charging tariffs on other countries imports is wrong, while they refuse to have tariffs charged on what they export.

They have been persistent in stealing other countries technology. President Xi himself ended the term limit for his presidency, setting himself up to be a life time ruler. These are dangerous times for a country that had up to recent past created a chance for its citizens to move up the socioeconomic ladder. Previously it was possible for their citizens, through hard work and ingenuity to better their lives. Chinese citizens had been given the freedom of travel and private ownership. With President Xi, there appears to be a different direction from the recent past.

Like most despotic activities from the past, they center on the person in charge and their ability to control its citizens. Inevitably, Christianity and other religious beliefs are attacked during these descents into despotism.

While President Xi can try to eliminate religious practices, the only result will be a movement that will reside hidden from those who try to control religious practices. The movement will go deeper underground. History is littered with these movements. In Nazi Germany, where they gained control of the national Lutheran church and silent approval from the Catholic church, religious activity didn’t disappear it became clandestine. In fact it created the forming of the Confessing church. In ancient Rome, before the acceptance of Christianity, the church literally went underground. Into the catacombs under the city. During the Cold War, the church in the affected eastern bloc countries still met and practiced their beliefs.

The lesson is that many that try to control religion don’t see that Christ does not go away. Our beliefs don’t die because a despot say they must. We are all free in our minds and in our beliefs, no state can control God’s connection to the hearts of the masses.

As Reverend Wang stated, our resistance is one of non-violence, but also of firmness. Many have walked before Reverend Wang and provided the example of civil disobedience. Our prayers today are for his safe return. Perhaps he will become a martyr like those from the past and for that we pray for his peace.

I write this article today to ensure his story is heard by a few more and maybe our collective voices of those who write to support Reverend Wang will help. Perhaps as a group we can start pushing the wheel of religious freedom a little further along.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”

Revelations 3:20

SEVEN NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS IDEAS FOR OUR FAITH

Every year we all make New Year resolutions. We want to exercise more or perhaps lose some weight. Essentially, we want to change in some way. Sometimes it’s big changes and sometimes small. The start of anything that makes us better is always a good thing. Staying the same not only will produce the same results, but in many cases we will go backwards.

So it is with our faith lives. Our faith should be nourished every day. Without this added attention, our faith will dim and the ways of the world will take up a bigger piece of our thoughts. Here are seven simple things we can all do to help our faith this new year. Any one of these will move us forward as Christians.

Read the Bible Everyday

Most Christians have a Bible, why not set aside 15 minutes a day to read the Bible. For instance, at a normal reading pace, if we read the Bible for 15 minutes a day, by the end of the year we will have read the Bible from cover! When we are done, we will be changed.

Sure there are hard parts, but there is also a richness in the difficult sections. Perhaps start with the New testament or even just the Gospels. After a week or so, it will become part of our daily routine. The hardest part is starting and continuing. But we will be surprised how important it becomes after just a week or two.

Go to Church More Frequently

Life is busy and our priorities can be overwhelming. Fitting in going to church every Sunday can be a difficult task. Perhaps our current church isn’t meeting our needs or our schedule. Perhaps Sunday morning comes up to quickly. Perhaps we need to find a church that better suits our lives. But going to church helps us, even in small ways.

Going to church helps our faith lives. There is more to church than just the sermon. There is fellowship with other Christians. It is a wonderful time to think about our upcoming week and how we can bring God into our lives.

Listening closely to the prayers being said and thinking about the words being expressed, will add to our faith. Likewise songs lift our souls, but also included in the songs are important statements that are similar to prayers.

God will speak to us when we are in church, maybe through the sermon or through a song. Or even a person we meet. I can honestly say, that each time I go to church, something new and surprising happens that helps my faith life.

Make Prayer a Part or Our Daily Routine

For some of us the best time to spend a few minutes praying, is in the morning. For others it may be at night. Regardless of the time and place, a short conversation with God through Jesus becomes a haven when it becomes part of our life routine.

Prayer is an important part of our faith lives, it is through our very personal conversation that we begin to see the connection between our prayer life and God’s answers. God will answer, our only task after we have prayed is to watch and observe. In the observation we will see God’s answer.

There are three types of prayers. The first is when we go to God with a request. The second is when we ask for help for someone else. The third and final is a prayer of thankfulness. Perhaps in each prayer, we can use all three types. The only caveats to daily prayer is consistency and being in a quiet place.

Read the Verse of the Day

Many Christian websites have a verse of the day. Some of my favorites are www.biblegateway.com and www.christianitytoday.com. Both have verses of the day. I particularly like going to Bible Gateway, as the first thing you see is the verse of the day. Many times, I will note how it applies to me or a situation I am familiar with.

Christianity Today, has daily newsletters that will can be sent directly to our emails. There are many sites that doing something similar. Over time, it will become part of our daily routine.

Join a Bible Study Group

Most churches have a Bible study group. If not, your local pastor can lead us to some in our communities. Most Study groups have a theme, like Christian mothers or Christian business people. It might take a few visits to a different groups before we find the right one, but there is one for all of us.

Bible study groups are a great place to be with people that share common life circumstances. Hearing others views is important as each person has a unique perspective. Many times I will hear a comment or statement about a verse that changes how I think. But we also share lives at Bible studies, we get to know other Christians and their lives. Not every Bible study group will fit, but there is one out there for us as individuals.

Join a Helping Based Organization

In every community there is an organization that helps those in need. Initially, it may just be volunteering your time. Perhaps later it can be serving on a committee. But in every community there are ways to help others. Most communities have a hospice program or a tutoring program. Certainly every community has a food bank or clothing center.

Spending time helping others, fulfills the second commandment of Jesus, by loving our neighbor. Surprisingly when we help others, we help ourselves.

Each Day Make a Difference in a Person’s Life

This is perhaps both the easiest and hardest one to accomplish. When we go to a store, say “Thank you” to the person waiting on us. Practice holding the door for someone else. Let other cars go in front of us when we are in a traffic jam. Essentially, slowing ourselves down helps others. Sure it might be inconvenient, but is the second or two we lose really that important?

Lend a hand to someone who is struggling, even when we are busy. Perhaps spend a few more moments listening to their story. Listening is our easiest gift to give.

These seven things can all be accomplished or perhaps one at a time. But in some way they all push us to be closer to God. In some way they affect how we treat others and strengthen our faith. Some can be hard to start, but after a few weeks, we find ourselves with a new routine.

This New Year, besides our normal resolutions, why not add a few resolutions that strengthen our faith lives. Jesus is waiting for us to answer his knock on our life’s door.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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

Matthew 6:21

IS JESUS BAD FOR BUSINESS?

In at least half of my radio interviews I am asked, “Does Christianity and business work together?” The reason I am asked this question is, in our current society the prevailing feeling of mixing our faith with our business lives is out of step. Fundamentally and practically this concept of not mixing business and our faith is in error. Jesus and his values are strongly related to running a successful business.

First, let’s consider the reality of most lives. We all have bills to pay. To pay these bills most of us have to work. In fact, most people spend more than half of their awake hours working. The vast group of humanity has to and needs to work. But are they to leave their faith at home? Making them part time Christians. A difficult proposition for those who desire a personal relationship with God. Working is a necessity and so is a strong faith life, and they should be connected.

Second, there are businesses that are faith based and they thrive. Consider Chick-fil-a, a wildly successful business. While we can disagree with some of their positions on faith, they are Christian based and follow their beliefs. If you compare Chick-Fil-a to other fast food restaurants they exceed all in productivity and profits on a store by store basis. What makes this more remarkable is that they are only open six days a week versus seven for their competitors. They are closed on Sunday, every store.

Their customer reviews exceed those of other fast food places and their employees are always the happiest. Their lines are long every lunch time, but people will wait.

Many of the small businesses I meet that are Christian based, likewise have similar results. Their employees are courteous and congenial. The customer reviews are high.

What makes them successful, isn’t the pursuit of money, but the way they pursue paying their bills and earning profits. They think long term and not short term. They think about how they treat their customers and are not satisfied until the rankings are high. They think about making quality products. They create a great work environment for their employees. Jesus’ values are present in all these thoughts.

I know of a firm that has grown substantially over the last few years, that doesn’t embody these values. But warning clouds are on their horizon. Through skillful high pressure sales tactics they have amassed a large number of customers. But less than one percent of these customers are satisfied. When I discussed this with their management, I was met with surprise. They responded by saying, “But we are making lots of money.” True for the time being.

Looking at their reviews on line, a tidal wave of complaints is growing. It has become so large that it will swamp their business. They invest most of their activity in selling and making money;  little in satisfying their customer. Certainly, opposite of Christian values. Like all businesses with this direction, they will enjoy a period of success and inevitably fail.

In my book Jesus &Co.I talk about this disconnect between the ethical values and purpose of companies. Those that are inwardly motivated to generate profits through any means, typically stumble. Ethics and especially Christian ethics will solidify a company for the long term and help them avoid the disasters caused by short term thinking.

The reason short term thinking companies stumble;  is they serve to make money now and not to produce a great long term product. They use high pressure sales tactics to acquire customers and do little to satisfy. For the time being their money is growing, but it will soon dry up.

Jesus, who himself was a business person, makes a profound business statement when he says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” An insightful strategic thought. If we chase money as our only goal we will be captivated by that goal and ignore the real purpose of our company.

Customers shop where they are respected and employees work where they are cared about. Our goals should be long term and not in the short term pursuit of money.

Many of the Parables of Jesus center around this concept of fair play in business. More than half talk about how to exist in business ethically and sustainably.

The values of Jesus are always long term. They speak to fair dealing. They embody how to treat our customers and employees. They are always about fair play and decency. What employer wouldn’t want these values as part of their operating culture?

How do we as individuals bring these values into the workplace if we work in a non-Christian business. Simply act in a manner that is pleasing to our Lord. We don’t have to stand on the lunch table and declare we are Christian. We only have to bring the values to our behavior. Overtime our bosses and compatriots will notice that we are the ones who seek long term sustainable solutions. We are the ones who defend our customers right to a quality product. We become the person, people turn to for moral advice.

The goals of all businesses should be on achieving long term goals and not short term victories. Short term victories wane and long term success sustains.

We don’t need to declare we are Christian in the work place to be Christian. We need to act in a Christian manner that inspires others. Words don’t change people, actions do.

A business purely based on money will not survive in the long run, a business that has the long term values of Jesus will.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14

DOES A BAD STOCK MARKET CHANGE OUR FAITH?

Over the last few weeks I have talked with a number of friends who have grown despondent over the size of their savings. Which have become significantly reduced by another round of stock losses. In some cases dropping more than ten percent in a month. Their normally happy disposition has become subdued by the knowledge of what they have saved is less than what they expected. They now worry about their future and ability to be free to pursue life.

Many are stuck watching the stock market hoping for a change, only to be left with a weakened sense of hope. They are glued to CNBC looking for hope or some clue that it is almost done going down. Optimism has flown from their minds, replaced with dread.

Panic and fear have set in. But the stock market is cyclical and never permanently sits still. It mostly goes up, but at times it goes down. Since that last major shudder to the stock market in 2008, the market has rebounded by over 300%. Each down is replaced by a higher up. But sitting in this moment of down it is hard to believe it will go up. They have no control of the cycle and that makes it worse.

Today, eighty percent of the stock market trades are made by computers. Guided by algorithms that are unaware of the emotional effect of their computer generated decisions. Large behemoths that are insensitive to the human emotions they create. There is no sensitivity to the human drama that they create.

A worldly function that impacts our outlook and faith. But should it? Should we put our sense of well-being on a petulant and uncaring machine. Eventually, the market will return to where it was, like it has so many times before. But for the moment this is a period of anxiety.

Like all anxieties that we can not control, our task is to not change our view of life. It is not the time to lose faith. We may have to cutback a little, but has our life really changed? Does it mean we become more miserly with our charity? Does it mean that our hopefulness needs to be abated?

Jesus answered these questions, while talking to the Samaritan person at the well. He simply said, when we allow the things of this world control us, we will thirst again. When we put our faith in his Living Water we will never thirst. The Living Water replaces gloom with a hopeful Christian attitude of joy.

It is a hard road to cross, what should we thirst for? It is hard when we see what we work for is diminished. It is hard when our human efforts don’t bear fruit, despite our earnestness.

What we can control is our faith. A faith that does not worry. Faith in Jesus gives us a future. The past is only history and doesn’t define the future.

Valleys are a part of life that are followed by mountain tops. It is here in these valleys our faith is refined and we become better prepared for the next valley.

Maybe it’s not the stock market that makes us despondent. Perhaps it’s a lost job opportunity. Perhaps the loss of a close friend. Many things in life are out of our control. Through Jesus what we can control is a spirit of optimism. A faith that believes all will be right. It is not being defeated that defines us, it is whether we get up and try again that defines us.

Turning our eyes to Jesus, dims the a world that can be wildly unresponsive. Drinking the Living Water of our faith calms our thirst and worries.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace

SILENT NIGHT AND WHY IT SOOTHES OUR SOULS

Exactly two hundred years ago in 1818 on Christmas Eve, at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria, disaster struck. Mice had chewed on the wires of the organ bellows and created mayhem. Ruining the church organ on Christmas eve. Forcing the Reverend of the church, Joseph Mohr, to scramble to find music for the evenings worship service.

Not to be undone by a few mice, Reverend Mohr quickly gathered his wits and decided he would create a new song. A song that could be played on a guitar. A song that would become the hallmark of Christmas Eve, throughout the world.

In his study, Mohr quickly penned the lyrics to Silent Night. He then asked famed composer Franz Gruber to create the melody for the song. In moments of haste, the most famous of all Christmas songs was created. By two resourceful people under duress.

Over the years, the original manuscript was lost and the identity of the original writer was unknown. In 1995, the original manuscript was found and Reverend Mohr was credited with writing the words. Franz Gruber went on to a successful career as a composer and musician.

Since that time, the song has been translated into three hundred languages. As well as, its simple melody has been made to fit music for one player or an entire orchestra. Today, many performing artists have recorded the song, from Kelly Clarkson to the Temptations. If you go to YouTube you will find pages of renditions.

A simple set of lyrics combined with a soulful melody, created in haste, that is now the staple of all Candlelight services on Christmas Eve throughout the world. No denomination claims it as its hymn, it is just a universal statement of the purpose of Christmas for the whole world.

A reflection of the true spirit of Christmas. A song praising the arrival of God in human form. A song of peace and calm, with a melody that transcends language and cultural barriers.

A song sung by the whole world, from Austria to Africa and North America. A song that unifies our purpose and our world. For the brief moments we are present when Silent Night is sung at church with lit candles, we are mentally transported to feeling close to God and those with us.

A song that doesn’t require money or extraordinary efforts of our daily lives to be at peace. It only requires a heart of hope and expectancy for our future. A quiet time when we are surrounded by other people expressing their joy in the birth of Jesus. A peaceful and joy filled time amongst all the worries of the world.

This Christmas eve, why not visit a local church and attend the Christmas eve celebration. The service will end with the lighting of candles in the dark, symbolizing the lighting of the world with the arrival of our Lord, Jesus. Accompanied by the singing of Silent Night.

In a few brief moments the Spirit of Christmas will arrive.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Freely you have received; freely give.”

—Matthew 10:8 (NIV)

THE DEEPER STORY BEHIND WHY WE GIVE

A friend of mine, Tom Locke, runs an extraordinarily successful organization called the Texas Methodist Foundation, based in Austin Texas. Tom is a premier networker and is very open about his faith. It is not uncommon to get a call from Tom where his only objective is to stay connected. An unusual trait in our busy world. Tom starts every conversation with, “How are you doing?” A sincere question with a desired interest in hearing your answer. Gracious and giving in all that he does, Tom is an advocate for God. In the meals I have had with Tom, he asks that we pray. When Tom makes this request, it lifts my spirits and heartens my soul. Also, Tom frequently expresses his gratitude to God for the wonderful life he has been given. He is an earnest man with a sense of responsibility to his work, that those of us who know him greatly admire. He leads a blessed life, with a wonderful wife, children and grandchildren.

Tom has run the Texas Methodist Foundation for decades. Over that period, it has grown from having a few million in assets to close to a billion dollars in assets. It lends money to churches, helps the poor and provides leadership training for the church. Tom has been able to blend his faithful life with great business acumen. Tom will quickly tell you that it is not because of him that his organization has thrived, it is because of the many people who work with him. It is true that Tom has surrounded himself with extraordinary people, however, he has also created an environment where they can excel and express their own faithful desires. Tom attracts good people because he gives.

“When was the first time you gave in your life?”

One of Tom’s jobs is fund raising to support the many giving programs of the Texas Methodist Foundation. His approach to this effort is highly unusual. First, he asks one question to everyone he meets, “When was the first time you gave in your life?” This demonstrates his sincere interest in knowing the story, and also to learn more about the individual.

In these answers, he finds very deep and personal stories about faithful Christians. He finds a deepness of gratitude that will bring many to tears when they tell Tom why they first gave. A cleansing that occurs as people reflect on all they have received. He discovers that they give because they have received from God. To most, it is an overwhelming response of gratitude at both knowing God exists and a very intense appreciation of what they have been given.

Tom does not ask this question to stir up the emotion that lies beneath the surface but is always amazed at its intensity. Many of these conversations become a therapeutic response to his simple question. As Tom and I talked about why this happens, we are both amazed at the strong current of emotion that exists when people are in a safe environment to discuss their faith. I saw this same emotion in many of my interviews for this book. A drawing out of the gratitude that simmers beneath the exterior of all who believe.

As I reflected on therapeutic responses received, I went back to Genesis 1:27 where it states, So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” As we are made in the image of God, one of the wonderful attributes acquired is that of generosity. A desire to give and to help injected in each of us from our birth. When we give, we act in the spirit of God. We live into our image of God and whenever we give, we satisfy this spirit of generosity. We are left with a joy that is directly connected to our birthright of being made in the image of God. Tom’s questions draw this sense of joy to the surface and invokes the strong human emotion that is directly connected to our desire to have a God-like sense of compassion. We are in this moment connected to God.

Tom gives us a beacon of responsibility to our Lord that inspires each of us to give freely.

Tom continues to work as hard today as he did yesterday. Each day Tom is driven by his sense of responsibility to his organization’s wonderful mission of serving God and his desire to help. Tom has many friends who trust him because he cares first and asks second. He inspires us because he gives each of us space to be creative and express ourselves. In addition, Tom gives us a beacon of responsibility to our Lord that inspires each of us to give freely.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“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?