sunflower field

“And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.”

— Matthew 9:10

WHERE DO WE GET OUR INFORMATION AND JESUS

We are in the midst of a populist revolution. It is occurring in the worlds of politics, the marketplace, and our daily lives. Everyday people are changing the landscape of politics, both in the USA and the world. Companies that didn’t exist a few years ago are growing explosively. We can change a company’s direction with favorable reviews we post online. What is driving this democratization is our access to information and our ability to affect information. The Internet has allowed us to reach outside our own private sphere and state our opinions to a larger audience. The common person is emerging as a driving force for all aspects of our world.

“What and how we believe was modeled by Jesus, two thousand years ago.”

But we are at a crossroads. What do we do with all this information? Who do we listen to? Are we influencers or followers? The avalanche of information has transformed journalism into editorializing versus news reporting. We sift out what we agree with and ignore the rest.  Greater divides are being created within our society. Our religious elite assert what we should believe. What and how we believe was modeled by Jesus, two thousand years ago.

“Jesus knows that among the common people resides the majority of humankind.”

In today’s verse we notice Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. In the ancient Judean world, the tax collectors were considered the thugs of the marketplace. Sinners ate with Jesus because they wanted instruction and guidance. The religious elite of this period frowned upon these dinners. They felt pure and righteous. Sinners were welcomed by Jesus because they had made an honest assessment of their spiritual state. They knew they were not accepted by the elite. They were tired of being told about their sin; they wanted a voice. Jesus knows that among the common people resides the majority of humankind.

“With the voice of the Holy Spirit we talk directly to God when we read the Bible.”

When we consider the original twelve apostles, we notice that none are from the religious elite. They are fishermen, a tax collector, a Zealot; they are from the masses. They were given the chance to be influencers. Jesus picked ordinary people because they knew the unvarnished life. They knew the details of everyday living. They knew the struggle of paying bills and tending flocks. In effect, Jesus “democratized” God for us. Today, Jesus is still with us in the Bible. Our direct source of information. Reading the Bible removes the requirement of listening to what others tell us to think. With the voice of the Holy Spirit we talk directly to God when we read the Bible. The information we most need is there.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What is a “red lettered” Bible?

Where do we get our Christian information?

Whom do we discuss the Bible with?

ocean scene

“Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

— John 2:16

DO YOU USE GOD OR DOES GOD USE YOU?

Strive Masiyiwa is one of the leading African industrialists. In the 1980s, while still in his twenties, he started a telecom company in Zimbabwe with seventy-five dollars. Over time the company grew and became a force in his country, until the president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, issued an order that would effectively bankrupt Strive’s company. He went on to fight the ruling and win, while at the brink of bankruptcy. In 1998 the company, now called Econet Wireless, had its first cellphone subscriber. Econet has gone on to operate in twenty countries and was a key driver in bringing cellphone service to Africa.

During the recent Ebola outbreak, he set up funding sources to help fight the deadly disease. Amid all of this he reads the Bible every day.

What we should know about Strive is that he is a born again Christian. Each year he funds the education of forty thousand orphans. He has provided one hundred thousand scholarships. Strive is one of the ten members of the African Progress Panel that advocates for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. He is a member of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s initiative called the “The Giving Pledge.” During the recent Ebola outbreak, he set up funding sources to help fight the deadly disease. Amid all of this he reads the Bible every day.

Beyond the ethics of using God to take advantage of people, there was a defilement of the sacred. A dangerous game of commerce.

Jesus said today’s words when he discovered that the local merchants were using the great temple of Jerusalem as an ancient shopping mall. Beyond that, the merchants were taking advantage of those worshipping in the temple, by overcharging on items they needed for worship. Travelers would need to convert their foreign coins into the local currency, but were charged inflated rates. People would need to buy doves for worship, but were charged above market prices. The merchants had a ready-made market. God’s market. Beyond the ethics of using God to take advantage of people, there was a defilement of the sacred. A dangerous game of commerce.  

Jesus wants us to make a living by having God in our lives, but cautions us not to make a living at God’s expense.

Jesus wasn’t angry because of the commerce, Jesus was angry because merchants were taking advantage of people who were living out their faith. Certainly, Jesus knew people had to make a living. In fact, over 80 percent of his parables relate to the marketplace in some manner. It was how they were earning their livelihood that Jesus was railing against. On one hand we have Strive Masiyiwa, who became wealthy and gives back to God’s people. On the other hand, we have merchants using God to make money and take advantage of God’s people. Jesus wants us to make a living by having God in our lives, but cautions us not to make a living at God’s expense.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How do we make a living with God in our lives?

What is Jesus’s perspective on earning a living?

“The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’”

—Luke 24:5

REFRAMING OUR LIVES

In the business book Who Moved My Cheese? there are four characters: two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two humans, Hem and Haw. Each day the four went to a cheese pile and ate. Over time the pile dwindled and eventually disappeared. Hem and Haw, while noticing the pile was dwindling, did little to find more cheese. Sniff and Scurry set out and found a new cheese station. As time moved on, Hem and Haw became terrified, and resorted to anger, denial, and blaming to account for their situation. They debated and discussed their next moves, but couldn’t get themselves to move.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Over time, as hunger became a real issue, they eventually started looking for a new pile. The process was laborious and tedious. They debated endlessly their various options. Eventually, Hem found the pile that Sniff and Scurry had told them about, called Cheese Station N. As their mindset began to change, Hem and Haw created quotes like “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” and “When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.” Slowly, over time, they began to reframe their view of life and to recognize the need to constantly look at things differently.

“The Angels reminded the women that Jesus had told them that on the third day he would arise.”

The women had arrived at the tomb of Jesus and found his body missing. Two angels suddenly appeared and the women were terrified. They had been looking for a body and it was gone! All they had known was in disarray. Where had the body gone? The angels gave them a clue, that Jesus was among the living and not the dead. He had risen. The Angels reminded the women that Jesus had told them that on the third day he would arise. They had heard this directly from Jesus, but hadn’t understood him. When he had spoken to them, what he said didn’t fit with what they had previously experienced. It was too hard to comprehend. But now they saw it and remembered his words.

“When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.”

Life is like this a lot. Change is inevitable. Those of us who can reframe the events of life quickly, move quickly. While others of us remain terrified of change. We stay rooted in the past and take on a cynical view of the change. We hem and haw about why we have to change. We resist, but change is inevitable. The more we resist, the greater our fear. The story of the risen Jesus changes this paradigm. It invites us to embrace change. As Haw said, “When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.” This is true with both the Resurrection and the smaller events of our lives. The Resurrection is a reframing of our relationship with God. A God for the living and not the dead. A hopeful future with Jesus. In the smaller events of our lives, this is true as well. When we reframe our circumstances, we reframe our actions. Many times it is fear that holds us back. Moving past this fear reframes our future.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What is our biggest fear?

How does a different perspective help with our fear?

Is our fear real?

“And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still looking sad.”

— Luke 24:17

QUESTIONS CREATE RECEPTIVITY

A client of mine was struggling to find employment. He was doing a great job getting interviews, but was failing in the interview process. Through conversations about what happened in each of the interviews, we determined that he wasn’t connecting with the interviewers. He was talking without creating receptivity. When asked a question by the interviewer that only required a short answer, he would belabor the point he was making. Further, he seldom asked the interviewer questions about his or her business. When he did, he was in a rush to state his next point. In talking about this, my client expressed that it was a lifelong problem and he knew he had to fix this issue.

“In asking questions, we give people a chance to talk and way to be affirmed.”

My client wasn’t creating receptivity. He forgot two key principles in all conversations. The first is that all people want to be heard. The second, that  people like people who care about them. One of the best ways to recognize these principles is to ask questions and listen. In asking questions, we give people a chance to talk and way to be affirmed. We are also expressing interest in them and their company. When we express our interest in them, they in turn will become receptive to our points of view. We learn very little when we just talk. We begin the process of shutting the other person down when we talk too much. The person feels like he or she has limited value. In turn, the interview will end politely and no further communication will occur.  

“By allowing the two men to talk, Jesus gave them the space to piece the events together. He allowed them to reconnect with him.”

Jesus meets two of his former disciples on their walk to Emmaus and asks them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They aren’t able to recognize him, because of their state of mourning from Jesus’s perceived death on the cross. Jesus uses questions to bring them to a point of recognition. He listens patiently. Later in the conversation, he continues to ask questions by saying, “What things?”  Jesus continues to draw them out. He listens to them. By the time they get to Emmaus, Jesus has created a bond that compels the unseeing men to ask him to dinner. When they break bread at the meal, they recognize that it was Jesus they were talking with on the road. By allowing the two men to talk, Jesus gave them the space to piece the events together. He allowed them to reconnect with him. Jesus said very little, just a few questions and a statement, but it was all that was needed.

“Asking questions and letting others talk affirms them and in turn affirms us.”

When we engage in conversation, whether general conversation or in an interview, there are always at least two people present. Many of us want to make our points, to tell our side of the story. We want to be heard and accepted. So does the other person. Exercises I gave my client were to have four to five questions ready, and to answer questions crisply and ensure that the interviewer had the appropriate amount of time to speak. Asking questions and letting others talk affirms them and in turn affirms us.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do we dominate conversations?

Is there more value in listening or talking?

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?

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?