“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

Photo by Jony Ariadi on Unsplash

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

– Matthew 4:23

A LIFE-AFFIRMING ELIXIR

We sometimes spend too much time in our inner castles. Many times in my counseling work, I will confront despair. A client will say, “Why don’t they want me?” or “I had a bad week.” When I probe why people feel this way, I often detect that they have spent most of the week by themselves, reflecting or doing self-analysis. It is hard to be alone, and sometimes we are alone even when we are with people. My clients will confess that they didn’t get much done on their “to do” list, which drove them further into themselves, over analyzing and being overly self-critical.

Jesus would sometimes go off to silent places to pray and meditate. Away from everyone. However, he preferred to be among the people. His ministry was dining with other people, walking to distant towns, curing the sick, or helping an individual with insight. It is moments like these moments that remind us most of Jesus. His ministry was an outward expression to others.

“When we walk among people, we receive an elixir.”

When we walk among people, we receive an elixir. An affirmation of ourselves. When we look someone in the eye and ask “How is your day?” we are affirming that person. An inner moment of joy occurs that tells the person he or she is good and worthy. When we ask and then listen, we hear stories about life. We get to know other people. They can share their dreams and worries with us. They are affirmed because we listened. For a moment they have a voice. We gave them a voice. And the sense of our own joy increases also. Our outward interest in other people provides us energy for our own tasks. When we are with others and listen, we receive.

“God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another.”

People like people who like people. I often say this in my sessions. At first it may appear to be self-serving. But if we are sincere about it, we can create a mutual bond. When Jesus walked among humankind, he knew his mission. To heal, and proclaim the good news, but also simply to be with humankind. Our inner castles are good places to rest and pray, but we can only stay for a while. God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another. Through outward expressions we find healing. Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. HartmanAre we sincere when we say good morning?

Do we ask or do we state?

What is the value of questions?

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

(Matthew 16:18)

JESUS AND THE ART OF DELEGATION

When Jesus delegated, he also picked great leaders, like the apostle Peter. After the Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples and Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter assumed the leadership of the growing sect, called “the Way.” In Peter’s inaugural speech he reinforced Jesus’s purpose, a message that both enthralled and comforted the crowd. After this message was delivered to a large crowd on his first day as leader, three thousand people converted to the Way. Each day more and more people joined, and Peter did a tremendous job recruiting and training this rapidly growing flock.

But wasn’t this the same Peter who abandoned Jesus numerous times? the same man who seemed never able to grasp Jesus’s message when Jesus walked the earth? the apostle who cowered in fear with the others during the dark three days of the Passion? In fact, as Jesus had predicted, Peter denied knowing him three times before the cock crowed in the early morning on the day of the Crucifixion.

Jesus saw this greatness in Peter when it wasn’t obvious.

Now Peter was the leader, the person convincing the masses of the rightness of Jesus’s way. A new way to live. A new way to thrive in the marketplace. Jesus saw this greatness in Peter when it wasn’t obvious.

A few years earlier, Jesus has said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Now Peter finally understood why Jesus had called him “the Rock.”

Jesus had seen something in Peter. He changed his name from Simon to Peter. He announced that Peter would be the man to carry on his message. Yes, Jesus correctly predicted that Peter would deny him three times. He knew this, and still selected him.

“Jesus knew that Peter was human like the rest of us, but special like few.”

Jesus spent time teaching Peter in spite of a multitude of missteps on Peter’s part. He showed him how to move about the countryside. Peter learned that he could walk on water with faith. He learned that a few loaves of bread could feed thousands. Even though Peter failed many times, when it was his time, Jesus knew that Peter would be there. Jesus knew that Peter was human like the rest of us, but special like few. Jesus had delegated the mission of God to the right person.

*From page 108 and 109 in Jesus & CO.  Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

praying to God

“No slave can serve two masters: for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

— Luke 16:13

WHOM DO WE SERVE?

John Tyson, CEO of Tyson Foods, has hired more than one hundred chaplains for his workforce. The chaplains deal with family issues, drug and alcohol addiction, and faith issues. The company employees regularly serve meals to those affected by disaster, under a program called “Meals That Matter.” The company has won the International Spirit at Work Award. Not all the employees are Christian, but all are accepted.

“What convinced the board to promote John was his deep faith.”

When John was younger, he dealt with his own demons. He suffered from alcoholism and was far off his path. Through his Christian faith he recovered. However, when his father was set to turn the company over to John, the board of directors had very serious concerns. Through a number of conversations, John was able to convince them of his worthiness. What convinced the board to promote John was his deep faith. He was made CEO and in 2000 implemented the chaplain program at Tyson Foods.

“Jesus points out the pitfalls of being self-interested in the workplace.”

Today’s verse is from the parable of the Dishonest Manager. In this parable Jesus points out the pitfalls of being self-interested in the workplace. The pitfalls of not serving God and your company first. It is a parable not about whether being rich is good or bad, but about whom we serve. When we work, do we keep Jesus’s tenet of “Love your God and Love your neighbor” foremost? Or do we dive deeper into our own ambitions? When we work, do we think about benefiting our customers? Do we think about fair play with our employees and other employees? Where are our hearts and whom do we serve is the critical question.

“When we serve God and our neighbor, we begin to do what we ought to do.”

The temptation to serve ourselves and money is persistent. It pervades the workplace in each day, hour, and minute. We are constantly beset with the choice of serving money or something greater. Serving money and ourselves may have significant short-term gains, but will usually end poorly. When we serve God and our neighbor, we begin to do what we ought to do.

Jesus is clear we can’t serve both. The decisions we make are always choices between one or the other. When we decide our path, we decide on wealth or God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What are examples in our work life of a choice between two different goals?

How do we handle these choices?

Are we willing to forgo short-term gains for the benefit of others?

“Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

— Matthew 26:27–28

SECOND CHANCES

David Steward’s lowest point came when his car was repossessed from the parking lot of the company he owned. His business was $3.5 million in debt. Quite a fall for the person who at one time had been FedEx’s number one salesperson. David had left FedEx a few years earlier to start his own business called World Wide Technologies. And here he was with no car, a failing business, and a dark future.

An African-American, David grew up in a heavily segregated part of Missouri. Through sheer will and determination he went on to college. He found his way onto the school’s basketball team, in spite of his high school coach saying he wasn’t cut out for basketball. When he graduated, he sent out over four hundred résumés before landing a job. He had spent most of his life overcoming obstacles others had put in front of him.

And here he was in one of life’s most difficult spots. He had fought hard to get ahead and now it was all crumbling around him. Through prayer and by turning to the Lord, he discovered he had made one mistake during his miraculous life. After leading a life that rose above his circumstances, he had built his business on a bad foundation. He viewed his customers, vendors, and employees as instruments for his success. They were there to serve him. In effect he had begun chasing net worth and not self-worth.

“Through prayer he asked for a second chance.”

Through prayer he asked for a second chance. He changed his life and business model to one of serving his customers, employees, and vendors. He changed his businesses purpose to one of providing great service. Almost overnight his business changed. Today it is one of the largest privately held businesses in America.

“We have all been given a second chance.”

In one of Jesus’s final times with the twelve, he reveals his purpose. At the Last Supper he tells them that he has come to forgive their sins and ours, through his death and resurrection. We have all been given a second chance.

But there is more to this story. While we have been given a second chance, if we continue to make the same mistakes we will still end up in the same place, requiring forgiveness again. Change on our part is required to lead a different life. Perhaps a breaking of old habits or an acceptance of a new course in life.

Many people confuse the meaning of the word “repentance.” Repentance isn’t just admitting to ourselves and Jesus that we were wrong. It also means we are sincerely willing to change.

Repentance in Greek means just that: “a sincere desire to change.” Through this genuine desire to change, the gift of forgiveness becomes real.

Through prayer, David acknowledged that he needed to change. Instead of thinking internally about himself, he had to learn to think about others first. He had to become external with others, putting them first. His focus became self-worth and not net worth.

Forgiveness is the gift of a second chance, but it’s only valuable when we change.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How hard is it to change and admit we need a new direction?

What prevents us from changing: pride, habit, or letting go?

Where do we need change in our lives to make forgiveness become real?

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

– Matthew 4:23

A LIFE-AFFIRMING ELIXIR

We sometimes spend too much time in our inner castles. Many times in my counseling work, I will confront despair. A client will say, “Why don’t they want me?” or “I had a bad week.” When I probe why people feel this way, I often detect that they have spent most of the week by themselves, reflecting or doing self-analysis. It is hard to be alone, and sometimes we are alone even when we are with people. My clients will confess that they didn’t get much done on their “to do” list, which drove them further into themselves, over analyzing and being overly self-critical.

Jesus would sometimes go off to silent places to pray and meditate. Away from everyone. However, he preferred to be among the people. His ministry was dining with other people, walking to distant towns, curing the sick, or helping an individual with insight. It is moments like these moments that remind us most of Jesus. His ministry was an outward expression to others.

“When we walk among people, we receive an elixir.”

When we walk among people, we receive an elixir. An affirmation of ourselves. When we look someone in the eye and ask “How is your day?” we are affirming that person. An inner moment of joy occurs that tells the person he or she is good and worthy. When we ask and then listen, we hear stories about life. We get to know other people. They can share their dreams and worries with us. They are affirmed because we listened. For a moment they have a voice. We gave them a voice. And the sense of our own joy increases also. Our outward interest in other people provides us energy for our own tasks. When we are with others and listen, we receive.

“God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another.”

People like people who like people. I often say this in my sessions. At first it may appear to be self-serving. But if we are sincere about it, we can create a mutual bond. When Jesus walked among humankind, he knew his mission. To heal, and proclaim the good news, but also simply to be with humankind. Our inner castles are good places to rest and pray, but we can only stay for a while. God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another. Through outward expressions we find healing. Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. HartmanAre we sincere when we say good morning?

Do we ask or do we state?

What is the value of questions?