people connected

“Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

— Luke 20:38

GOD OF THE LIVING

Daniel Ornellas, a worship leader for a church in South Africa, tells a story of the youngest of his three daughters, Frankie. On any road trip where Frankie was having a hard time, Daniel’s wife would play on her phone, “Spirit of the Living God.” For the most part it would soothe Frankie. Over time it became a family worship song and lullaby. It drew the family closer.

The second stanza of “Spirit of the Living God” frames the meaning.

                                                          When you come in the room
                                                   When you do what only you can do
                                                             It changes us, it changes
                                                      What we see and what we seek

The spirit of the living God changes us. It makes us look into different places and through different lenses. We become able to see what we should see. For Frankie, it is a soothing of the soul. For others, a new direction.

“Jesus implores us to seek God out in our lives, whether we’re a family on a trip or a person looking for meaning in day-to-day life.”

This profound message from Jesus in today’s verse, extends God’s presence beyond just salvation. Jesus implores us to seek God out in our lives, whether we’re a family on a trip or a person looking for meaning in day-to-day life. It creates a different point of view. A point of view that is less worldly and more spiritual. It helps us to see that the latest fashion trend pales in comparison to the living God. It reframes our lives.

When we let the spirit of the living God in, it begins to slowly seep into our vision. We begin to see things differently. It acts like a powerful vapor that over time creates differences. We begin to be kinder to strangers. We begin to hold doors, even when we don’t have to. We begin to not get frustrated while standing in line.

“When we begin to see events of lives connected to God, the random events of our lives become connected.”

When we begin to see events of lives connected to God. The random events of our lives become connected. We begin to connect the events of our lives to God and become thankful for God’s presence. We become more aware of the answers to our prayers.

We begin to know Emmanuel, “God is with us.”

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What song brings God to your surface?

How does the spirit of the song open your soul?

How does the song soothe you?  

time passes

“Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer”; but you have made it a den of robbers.’”

— Luke 19:46

OUR TEMPLE

Jesus was near the end of his earthly ministry when he and his disciples entered the great temple of Jerusalem. He spotted money changers exchanging coins for visitors who needed them to make their Passover offerings. Similarly, he saw merchants selling doves for many times the going price. These merchants and money changers had descended on the great temple  to take advantage of the many visitors there during this period of Passover. In turn, they handed over to Caiaphas and others who controlled the temple part of the excessive profits.

“In one quick act, Jesus changed the paradigm and the temple rulers were exposed.”

With the help of his disciples, Jesus overturned the tables and drove the merchants out, thus setting up the deciding event when the religious elite began planning his demise. Things had changed. Jesus saw that over time the great temple of Jerusalem had disintegrated into nothing more than a get rich quick scheme. In one quick act, Jesus changed the paradigm and the temple rulers were exposed. The masses had known they were being duped, but they had no power. Their faith required them to buy shekels for their donations and livestock for their sacrifices.

In our own lives we see this as well, a situation we know is bad, but that we have to live with. We feel it is beyond our control. Sometimes we feel that we have to go along to get along.

“Our act of giving in can have a terrible price. It is at this point we need to cleanse our temples.”

Sometimes we receive a benefit that we know we shouldn’t and continue. Over time things get worse and our compromises lead us farther down the trail, until there is a crisis. Our act of giving in can have a terrible price. It is at this point we need to cleanse our temples. We need to change the paradigm.

“When we embrace Jesus’ ways and look back, as time passes, we will see a different point of view.”

What are these habits we have fallen into, that we know compromise us? Is it gossiping about a neighbor? Is it overeating? Is it looking the other way when we shouldn’t? Is it our own enabling behaviors? It could be many things. They start slowly. Over time, we let them creep in, and soon we are part of the problem. It is at this point that we need a dramatic change. A turning over of the tables. A clear and decisive move. We have to give up the benefit we receive and potentially lose friends in order to get our temple in order, to get on a different path, one we know we should be on. When we embrace Jesus and look back, as time passes, we will see a different point of view. One that is clearer and not colored with compromises.

Our temples will have been restored.

 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What behaviors or actions do we have that need cleansing?

How do we radically shift away?

How far do we have to go?

above the clouds

“If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

— Luke 11:36

BEING FULL OF LIGHT

An upcoming young executive came to me and stated, “I don’t like working with Jack, he is so slimy.” Later in the conversation I noticed her also complaining about how dumb our customers behaved. I noticed that she mostly turned her emotions to the negative aspects of her job. She ignored how fast she was learning her job, that sales in her area were up, and that people were impressed with her work ethic and insights. She indexed to darkness.

“On her current trajectory she would eventually flame out from the stress of her job.”

Many of us get annoyed when we encounter situations that make our job harder. I quickly noticed that I had to start re-framing the young executive’s point of view. Pointing out the positives and minimizing the negatives. On her current trajectory she would eventually flame out from the stress of her job. Sure, we can all see the negative in the workplace; it is harder to stay focused on the positive. Life is like that.

“Jesus wants us to be a beacon of light for others.”

In today’s verse, Jesus implores us to focus on that which is good. He is insisting that we fill our whole body with light. He wants us to avoid the darker sides of life. This is a practical re-framing by Jesus of what we focus on. Problems become opportunities to overcome. Difficult people,  become people to win over by shining example. Gossip, something to be redirected to accentuate the positive. Jesus wants us to avoid the natural tendency to be fearful, frustrated, or anxious. Jesus wants us to be a beacon of light for others. By doing this we emerge vibrant and satisfied. We avoid the burnout caused by negativity.

“Looking at life dimly burdens us and penetrates our soul.”

This approach invigorates us and sends our spirit higher. But it requires discipline in avoiding darkness, which shows up in what we read, say, and view. When we watch uplifting videos on YouTube or read passages of inspiration, it re-frames how we see life. Looking at life dimly burdens us and penetrates our soul.

Today let us ask God to show us things of brightness.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What do we read or watch, is it positive or negative?

Do we engage in gossip?

Can we see the brightness in other people?

walking reflection

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

— John 4:24

WHICH WAY DOES OUR MIRROR POINT?

One of my clients was debating about starting a partnership and was seeking an opinion. From hearing about his potential partner from my client, I told him I believed it would be a fruitful relationship. The potential partner was smart, had good experience, and would help with the initial required working capital. However, while these are great starting points, they are not the final answer. The answer lies in which way his mirror points. In other words, when you engage in a conversation, does what you say come right back to you or are your partner’s responses thought through? Will differences of opinion with this partner end up right back in your lap? Does the other person take a shared accountability for the relationship or just turn the mirror back?

“Everything always starts out well in partnerships, but the inevitable disagreements will arise. It is this part of the partnership that determines success.”

All partnerships will have disagreements. Marriages, friendships, and business arrangements are all partnerships. Everything always starts out well in partnerships, but the inevitable disagreements will arise. It is this part of the partnership that determines success. When we have a partner who takes our input, reflects on our point of view, and responds with logical conclusions, we feel that we have a voice, even if our partner doesn’t agree with everything we say. But when our concerns are just pointed back to us, we don’t feel like we have a voice. We ask for a conversation and we get back criticism. The conversation has generally ended at the point that the mirror is turned back. The conversation becomes one of deflection, not resolution. When this happens, the truth gets buried and the trust bank gets a withdrawal.

“When we communicate with God in the back of our minds, it is easy to be truthful.”

Jesus points this out in the Book of John. If we want to have truth in our relationships, it must come from a spirit of being truthful. When we communicate with God in the back of our minds, it is easy to be truthful. This strengthens our partnerships. Our mirror is then always pointed to ourselves. When we deflect difficult conversations back to the other person, we aren’t searching for the truth, we are searching for our way.

As my client and I discussed his potential partner’s mirroring ability, he came to the conclusion that his partner had his mirror pointed the right way. In their past, conversations had been mutual. Disagreements were resolved without getting personal. They focused on the issue and not the person. There was an interchange searching for the truth. His partner usually responded by first telling my client what he agreed with and then where he was concerned. In turn he would ask my client for his thoughts. This process would go back and forth until they reached an agreement. Both parties had a spirit of searching for the truth. Neither had a mirror of deflection.

“Any work that is meant to help others and gives glory to God has sacred value.”

Hard work is important. It is better than plans that are left undone. But hard work whose purpose is to help someone else is more meaningful. It makes our businesses stronger. Our customers will notice this subtle difference. The attitude seeps into our work and becomes the light of that work. Hard work that is done with thought of giving glory to God inspires us to not miss any detail. It makes our work more sacred. It makes us try harder. We are doing our work  in a holy manner. Any work that is meant to help others and through our efforts give glory to God has sacred value. Like John’s samples, it serves to inspire.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Who do we work for?

Do we work harder when our work is for someone else and for God?

mountains

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

— Matthew 5:16

HARD WORK THAT INSPIRES

I had just completed my book proposal and sent it off to my agent. I was proud of my hard work and was sure that this was going to be an easy path. John, my agent, is a kind man and very thoughtful. But his response back was not what I had expected; he felt I had to work harder. The e-mail was enlightening and revealing. It stated: “Excellent work, but here are some sample proposals you might want to look at.” I opened up the Word files and looked at the samples. At once, I saw why mine fell short. In the samples, I saw a little more depth, a little more work, and a better product. But I had been so sure that mine was perfect. That all my hard work was the best it could be. I hadn’t considered the reader. My work didn’t inspire, it was just okay.

“They reminded me that the goal wasn’t just to work hard. It was to consider my customer and to give glory to God.”

After a few moments of self-pity, I began to think. How kind of John to send me a present. I am sure he felt I had worked hard, but the samples showed me I could work harder. The samples shed light on where I could improve. They moved me from self-pity to being inspired. They gave me confidence. They reminded me that the goal wasn’t just to work hard. It was to consider my customer and to give glory to God. Using the samples, I rewrote the proposal with a different attitude. Not an attitude to prove I was the best and could work hard, but an attitude that my work was to be complete. To remember that my job was to inform and be accurate. To remember that the work wasn’t for my glory, but for God’s. With this new attitude, I completed a second proposal. The one that eventually got accepted by my publisher.

“Jesus reminds us that when we work, our goal is to inspire others and to give glory to God. That our work is sacred.”

Today’s passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’s introductory sermon on living a faithful life. Jesus reminds us that when we work, our goal is to inspire others and to give glory to God. That our work is sacred. That our work isn’t to show how good we are, but to be a shining example for others. He wants us to be great, but with a different purpose than our thinking too highly of ourselves. We work for two reasons. The first is to inspire and help others. The second is to honor and give glory to God. I have found that when I take this attitude, my work goes smoother. It seeps into my effort. Others see that this is my goal. It makes what I do be received with acceptance.

“Any work that is meant to help others and gives glory to God has sacred value.”

Hard work is important. It is better than plans that are left undone. But hard work whose purpose is to help someone else is more meaningful. It makes our businesses stronger. Our customers will notice this subtle difference. The attitude seeps into our work and becomes the light of that work. Hard work that is done with thought of giving glory to God inspires us to not miss any detail. It makes our work more sacred. It makes us try harder. We are doing our work  in a holy manner. Any work that is meant to help others and through our efforts give glory to God has sacred value. Like John’s samples, it serves to inspire.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Who do we work for?

Do we work harder when our work is for someone else and for God?

Pasadena United Methodist

“Peace be with you.”

– Luke 24:36

THE PEACE OF CHRIST

C.S. Lewis, the great English writer of the twentieth century, had spent his late teens and early twenties angry at God. As he stated, “I was angry with God for not existing.” An atheist for an extended period of time, he continually wrestled with God. He found the church boring and religion a chore. His belief was that if God existed, he would not have designed a world “so frail and faulty as we see.”

One of my favorite things about going to church is the “passing of the peace.” When we lived in Pasadena, California, we went to the Sierra Madre Methodist Church. We had selected the church because of its openness and its pastor. The pastor, Richard Lashure, was a former engineer. Rich had left the engineering world to pursue a path in ministry. Richard encouraged those attending church each week to “pass the peace”.

“We would greet each other by saying, “Peace be with you.” It was community time.”

When it came time for the congregation to pass the peace, he would allow it to go on for many minutes. We would greet each other by saying, “Peace be with you.” It was community time. A time to reconnect with our neighbors. It was a time when, for those moments, life was settled. We were removed from the world, but with each other. When the local bishop came to our church to participate in worship, he would remark, “That is the longest and sincerest passing of the peace I have witnessed.”

“The words, “The peace of Christ be with you” symbolize our deep commitment of faith. A commitment to our Christian beliefs.”

Later in life, when we were at another church, one of the congregants would say, “The peace of Christ be with you.” Each Sunday, I sought him out just to hear him say those words. In turn, I began to say them to others. The words “The peace of Christ be with you” symbolize a deep commitment of faith. A commitment to our Christian beliefs. An affirmation of the holiness of the passing of the peace. This deeper expression extended for me a more powerful meaning to the passing of the peace.

Jesus made this statement of “Peace be with you” after he rose. He made it to a group of people who were struggling with the events of his crucifixion. They were huddled in a small house, terrified and startled. Both by the recent events and by Jesus’s sudden reappearance. With these words, their terror slowly turned to joy. Jesus had risen. The events of the previous days began to make sense. They were alive again. They felt blessed. The word began to spread.

“The passing of the peace is not just a greeting we share at each service. It is also a blessing we share with each other. We are praying for each other. “

The passing of the peace is not just a greeting we share at each service. It is also a blessing we share with each other. We are praying for each other. We are asking God to give peace to others. We also share in the initial moments of Jesus’s post-Resurrection ministry. He no longer was, but is. We cross over the threshold of our everyday world into a world of royal priesthood. We are empowered at least for that moment to be Christians.

The peace of Christ be with you.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How deeply we do express our peace?

How comfortable are we in expressing “Peace be with you”?

camel crossing

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

— John 3:3(NRSV)

BEING BORN FROM ABOVE

C.S. Lewis, the great English writer of the twentieth century, had spent his late teens and early twenties angry at God. As he stated, “I was angry with God for not existing.” An atheist for an extended period of time, he continually wrestled with God. He found the church boring and religion a chore. His belief was that if God existed, he would not have designed a world “so frail and faulty as we see.”

Lewis was a member of the Oxford University community, surrounded by people like Yeats and Tolkien. He wrote his own conversion story, where it states: “You must picture me alone in Magdelen , night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him who I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” The searching had ended. Encouraged by his friends, like Tolkien, he was changed and reborn.

“The acceptance of God comes from something done within us through the compelling force of God.”

Nicodemus, a leader of the ruling class, came to Jesus late at night to talk about faith. As a member of the ruling class, Nicodemus went at night so that his associates wouldn’t know about the visit. Jesus changed the paradigm for Nicodemus, by talking about being born from above. What Jesus was talking about was starting over, being different, desiring to be different, and accepting God. The acceptance of God comes from something done within us through the compelling force of God. This new birth is from God, unmerited but generously given. Jesus asks us to accept it, without benefit, this new way, this committed heart.

“Many nights during World War II, C.S Lewis spoke to the people of London on the radio to soothe their hearts, while bombs rained down.”

Both Nicodemus and C. S. Lewis went on to become strong Christians. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity and was instrumental in helping the English people during the bombing of London in World War II. Many nights during World War II, C.S Lewis spoke to the people of London on the radio to soothe their hearts, while bombs rained down. Nicodemus came out of the closet and acknowledged Jesus publically. He was at the Crucifixion and worked with Joseph of Arimathea to provide the burial tomb and spices.

“God pursues us. We fall and fail, but God’s chase is never ending.”

Life gets in the way of God, as it did with Lewis and Nicodemus.  God pursues us. We fall and fail, but God’s chase is never ending. Once we give in to our gift, we are quickly whisked to life as another being. We are still “frail and faulty,” but our lives have changed.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How does God pursue us?

What has been our journey in faith?

Why does God love us?

Jesus and the marketplace

“Are you a teacher of Israel. And yet you do not understand these things?”

– John 3:10 (NRSV)

CHRIST IS CHRIST

I had just received my grades from my last semester, and one of the notes from my professor,  said, “Good luck with your fledgling ministry.” The professor knew that I was involved in marketplace ministry and he thought this was a revolutionary idea. In relating this to my wife, she quickly picked up on the professor missing the point. She stated three truths, “People need to pay their bills. They need to work to pay their bills. People want a faith life.” There it was in three simple sentences. Almost everyone has to work at some time in the marketplace. In fact, at any one point in time over half of our population is in the workforce to pay their bills. This is where people are for a good deal of their lives.

Jesus went where the people worked and it was not a “fledgling ministry.”

Jesus was a marketplace worker and minister, prior to his three-year ministry. He was a carpenter. In the early Judean marketplace, they were considered artisans’. Of the forty-nine parables, more than forty relate to the marketplace. Of his one hundred and thirty-two public appearances, well over one hundred were associated with the marketplace. His ministry was where the people worked. He dined with tax collectors, helped farmers, instructed day workers and had fisherman as his Apostles. Jesus went where the people worked and it was not a “fledgling ministry.”

Jesus came to change the way the world thought about God.

In Today’s  verse, Jesus is continuing his discussion with Nicodemus, who is still struggling with the concepts Jesus was explaining. Jesus challenged this great religious leader, by asking him how he couldn’t understand. But Nicodemus was surrounded by religious and academic leaders daily. They concocted ways of thinking about God that supported their relevance. Under this onslaught of theories and doctrine, that were designed to support the self-interest of the religious elite, Nicodemus was weakened. To maintain his position, he had to somewhat agree with the religious elite of the first century.  He had arrived to talk with Jesus late that night, under the burden of theories designed to support the existing power structure. Jesus knew Nicodemus wanted the real truth and began to instruct him on the real ways of God. This was Jesus’s purpose, not just with Nicodemus, but for all humankind. Jesus came to change the way the world thought about God.

But the most obvious truth remains, Christ is Christ, not a theory.

The simple truth is people work to live.  Jesus knew this and that is where he ministered. None of his twelve Apostles were from the religious elite. Jesus knew where the action was and where to be. Jesus didn’t use fancy doctrine or overly complex theories. He used simple words and stories. His ministry was where God’s people worked. Jesus’s ministry wasn’t a “Fledgling Ministry.” Over the last two thousand years theologians have discussed and analyzed every facet of his existence. Many difficult to read books have been published and careers enhanced by being able to speak eloquently about Jesus. But the most obvious truth remains, Christ is Christ, not a theory.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Can we see Jesus in the marketplace?

What does the Bible tell us about who he met with?

Why did Jesus pick twelve everyday people to be His Apostles?

Nativity Scene

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

– John 3:16 (NRSV)

JESUS, GOD’S CHRISTMAS GIFT TO HUMANKIND

For many of us we have seen the people holding up signs that say, “John 3:16”. We have seen it at the World Series, at the Masters, at All Star games and on street corners. Long held as the principle statement of Jesus’s purpose. For some this message has been associated with crazy people and for some as an enduring statement of their faith. It is both a controversial and revealing statement. But many things have been missed in this statement.

“When we look at this statement with this revelation, it expands who Jesus is to us. He is God.”

Jesus is making this statement about himself. This wasn’t a pronouncement by a well-known leader or religious scholar. This verse was said by Jesus. When we look deeper into the statement, we see that the word Son is capitalized. In the Bible, we always see the word God Capitalized. In fact, any reference in the Bible that refers to God is always capitalized. Son is capitalized in this statement and Jesus is referring to himself as God. Jesus, is making a bold statement that he is God. When we look at this statement with this revelation, it expands who Jesus is to us. He is God.

“Through Jesus, God has revealed God.”

Jesus is God. Through Jesus in human form, God is revealing God to the world. Revealing God’s values and expectations. Revealing God’s purpose and God’s purpose for humankind. A revelation that God is with all humankind. A generous gift for all humankind,  whom have been created in the image of God. A revealing of the values that God wants us to live by. A revealing of our purpose, to love God and love our neighbor. A revealing that through believing in the Son of God we will have eternal life. This revelation extends beyond just a life of eternity. It extends to a way of life that when followed provides eternal peace. It reveals a life of confidence that our lives and our purpose matter. Through Jesus, God has revealed God.

“Jesus is God; and is God’s Christmas gift for humankind.”

This simple statement said by Jesus reveals who He was. A wonderful Christmas present for all of humankind . Many of us Christians spin off into different directions when we try to describe Jesus. We have our theories and we have our arguments. Some think he was a great teacher and he was. Some think he was the “Lamb of God” and he was. Scholars spend years describing a single aspect of Christ. Theories are developed. Jesus is all these things we labor to describe. Jesus is God; and is God’s Christmas gift for humankind.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Who is Jesus to you?

Why was God revealing God to us through Jesus?

snow covered morning

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and by my works I will show you my faith.”

— James 2:18

FAITH AND WORK

I love the snow. As I was getting ready to shovel for the last time the driveway of the house we had just sold, I thought about why I loved shoveling in the dark of an early morning. It is a time when I can be alone in my mind. The systematic process of shoveling snow inspires my thoughts. The stillness of the morning, surrounded by a moment of pure white. I am bundled up and warm and I know my driveway well. I know where to start and how to finish. This rhythm allows me to reflect on God. I connect the events of my life and silently both pray and am thankful.

“I ask, is this the way Jesus would want me to do it?”

I am glad to do this task that helps my family. When they wake up, the cars are clean and they can safely go about their day. Both my parental and husbandly instincts are satisfied. I take pride in making everything just right. I work hard to do the best job. I ask, is this the way Jesus would want me to do it? And when I finish, I rest and look at my good work. I make the sign of the cross and move toward the house. My work is done.

“Through faith we receive the grace of God. It manifests itself in our good works for others.”

Buried deep in the New Testament is this seldom read verse. We venture into the Gospels. Talk about the mighty writings of Paul. We recite and memorize the Psalms. But this little verse contains both the assurance of faith and its outcome. Through faith we receive the grace of God.  It manifests itself in our good works for others. This grace is bestowed upon us from God without merit. But with this grace and faith we work, and our works become a reflection of this faith and grace.

Over the centuries many wars have been fought over whether it is through grace that we are saved or through works. Martin Luther believed that it is only through grace. This became one of the major tenets of the great Protestant revolt. But others will say it is only from our works. However, two things are clear. We are given unmerited grace, and our faith inspires our works.

“While none of us will always be completely faithful and none of us will always do good work, we are saved by the good work of God through grace.”

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How strong is our faith?

How does this faith manifest itself in our work?

Are we always faithful and do we always perform good work?

What does grace mean?