“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

— John 4:10

THE GIFT OF LIVING WATER

One of the most insightful stories in the Gospel about how Jesus helps broken people occurs in chapter four in the Gospel of John. It is the story of a slow but patient evangelism by Jesus that lifts up the lowest of the low to become the first mass evangelist for Christ in the Bible.

Jesus is sitting alone at a well in Samaria, Jacob’s well. It is noontime and a woman approaches the well. Jesus asks her for a drink. To us in the twenty-first century, this could be a story about a man in his thirties who is tired from walking long miles. He meets a woman who has a bucket that can give him water. Seems simple enough, but it is not. It is a story with many twists and turns. It is a story of Jesus’ approach to humankind. It is a story that resembles Jesus’ internal conversation with us. A story that must be pulled apart. A story with a surprising ending.

The woman Jesus meets at the well is from Samaria and has had a very hard life. We know this from three clues that we are given at the beginning of the story. First, she is a Samaritan. The Samaritans were considered social outcasts by the dominant Jewish population. Second, she is a woman. In the first century, women had very few rights and society was heavily tilted toward men. In fact, women were in some corners considered the property of their husbands. Finally, this woman is drawing water at noontime, the hottest part of the day in the Middle East. Most women would draw their family’s water in the cool of the morning. It was also a community gathering time. This woman came alone, potentially because the other women of her community had rejected her. She lived a lonely and lowly life, an outcast for being a Samaritan and a woman, and then rejected also by her own people. Yet here she was, the lowest of society, unknowingly meeting with Jesus.

Jesus begins their dialogue with an innocent request: “Give me a drink.” Stunned, because a Jew is asking a Samaritan woman to do him a favor, she asks, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus ignores this question and proceeds to invite her into a conversation that is both revealing and designed to draw her deeper. He brings up “living water.” His purpose is not to discuss the socioeconomic status in the Judean world. He has a mission for this woman. A mission that he could not spring on her immediately. He has a simple path of getting her to be accepting. A path that will lead to marvelous things. But Jesus is patient and knows to move slowly.

Imagine that we are this woman. We are used to people shutting us down, because of gender, social status, and our past. It has been a hot climb to the well to get water for the day. Here sits a single man of the dominant culture asking for water. Would we think, what does he really want? Would we be suspicious? Would we be afraid? Would we bow our heads and humbly hand him water? Instead, this woman asks a simple question, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”. A question of amazement. With this question, she reveals herself to be forthright and curious.

Jesus in turn tells her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who this is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

She replies, “Sir you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well, and with his sons and his flock drank from it?” (John 4:11–12) By saying this, the woman proves she is steeped in the history of the Bible and fully aware that Jacob was the great ancestor of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus continues telling her about the “living water,” by saying, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water I will give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13–14)

In this brief interchange, Jesus uses the woman’s daily task of drawing water to tell her about a different way of living. A connection she will understand later. Jesus is not talking just about water, but of faith in God. A way to change her life of being an outcast to being a faith-driven woman. A way to become accepted by God and her neighbor.

The woman asks for the water Jesus is offering, but still does not know this is God talking to her through Jesus. Jesus tells her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” (John 4:16)

She replies, “I have no husband.”

Jesus knew this when he asked her this question to allow for a prophetic statement that would reveal himself to be more than a great prophet. Jesus says, “You are right in saying ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” (John 4:17–18) Stunned that this random man would know all this about her past, the woman now knows that this conversation is bigger than just about water. She replies to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” (John 4: 25) Jesus replies to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” (John 4:26) A clear statement from Jesus that he is the great “I Am” that visited Moses many centuries earlier.

The woman from the well leaves to tell her people that she might have found the Messiah, and she asks the leaders of her community to go back with her to see if this is true. Many from her community believe her because of the story she told and how Jesus knew everything about her. They head back to the well and invite Jesus to spend a few days with them. After a few days of being with Jesus, they proclaim to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard ourselves, and we know this is truly the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

“Like many that have been broken, the woman at the well was healed because she believed and because Jesus saw greatness in her.”

Jesus had made a simple request, “Give me a drink,” which led to the acceptance by an entire community of his message. Jesus did not condemn the woman because of her past life; instead he looked past what she had done, to who she was as a person. A curious person with a forthright attitude. A person trusting in God, who wanted to know him better. Jesus put aside the judgment of her life and went straight at her value to humankind. She had been a broken woman, outcast by her people because of her past, gender, and an unforgiving society, but Jesus knew her differently. He knew that through her, an entire community would come to faith. Like many that have been broken, the woman at the well was healed because she believed and because Jesus saw greatness in her.

Brokenness is a place where many start their journey of faith. A point where we have led a life away from God. At our lowest point, we begin the long march upward to regain the inheritance promised to us all. Our own action of wanting a different life, combined with the forgiving grace of Jesus, heals us and moves us along on the journey of faith. We discover that Jesus does not care about our past but wants to guide our future. When we accept this future through our faith in the unseen, we are healed.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

 

 

“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”

– (Luke 15: 31–32)

CHEERING FOR THE FORGIVEN

Perhaps no story in the Gospel tells the story of redemption from a broken life better than the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In this story, one of the two sons of a wealthy man wandered off to a life opposite of what God and his father would have wanted for him.

The story starts with the youngest son requesting his inheritance early. His father then divided up his wealth and gave the younger son his part. The son traveled to a distant land and for a while, lived a life of luxury and sin. As we could guess, eventually he ran out of money; and unfortunately, his funds ran out at time of great famine in this distant land.

Finding no other work than feeding the pigs on a farm, he took that job, wondering many times why the pigs were fed better than himself. He had hit rock bottom and was alone and destitute in a faraway place. He had no future, no support system; the friends he’d had when he had money were a distant memory.

With what little he had he set off for his father’s house, thinking that if nothing else he could get a job as a hired hand. Then at least, he could be fed and sheltered and would have family close by. He prepared himself for his meeting with his father. He knew he would have to admit that he had sinned and squandered all he had been given. His thoughts were riveted on working hard to re-earn his father’s trust. Over and over in his mind, he reviewed his past and was deeply regretful. He was finally at a place to admit his sinful past, and ready to do whatever he could to regain a better life, even as his father’s hired hand.

As he approached the farm, he is stunned by the reception from his father, who greeted him with open arms and accepted him back fully. A very different reception than he had expected. Out of joy, his father held a lavish party for all to attend to celebrate the return of his son.

His older brother was upset at the extravagant acceptance his father showed to the younger son. Complaining, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” (Luke 15:29–30) All this was true.

His father replied, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15: 31–32)

“We will all get lost at some point.”

The son who had been lost was found, like us. We will all get lost at some point. We will all want a second chance. We all will want to try again. Whether we are rich or poor, we will all fall. Falling is not the end of the story; it is about forgiveness and a heart that wants to change, the story of our faith helping us recover from our own brokenness.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jeff King on Unsplash

 

 

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.”

-(Luke 21:34–35)

EVEN THE MIGHTY WILL BECOME TRAPPED

In 1978, Betty Ford’s family confronted her about her alcoholism and addiction to opiates. In her memoirs she later stated, “I liked alcohol, it made me feel warm. And I loved pills. They took away my tension and pain.” Here was a former first lady admitting her addiction. A former First Lady who was well regarded for her social activism and grace. Despite her power and status, she had been trapped. After her family’s intervention, she entered rehab and emerged into recovery. Behind her life as a social activist, a recovered breast cancer survivor, and an abused wife in her first marriage, was a hidden life of booze and drugs. The pressures of her past and present had driven her into the trap.

Later, she set up the famous Betty Ford Center. In its time, it became the go-to place for addiction recovery. Betty Ford’s public admission of her situation helped over one hundred thousand people take the first steps to recovery, but Betty Ford was more than this. She also inspired women struggling with breast cancer. She fought for women’s rights by lobbying for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1991, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Jesus tells us that all will be confronted. None will escape the battle. Even first ladies of great character.”

Near the end of Jesus’ mission on earth he issues a warning to be on guard, by saying, “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:34–35)

In this verse, Jesus tells us to be on guard against life’s addictions of all kinds. He calls them a trap that arises unexpectedly. Jesus also tells us that all will be confronted. None will escape the battle. Even first ladies of great character. It can become an embarrassing moment in our lives that we try to conceal. In this concealment, we lose the resources of friends who will help. We conceal our addiction and silent lives from God, who will help. We fight alone against a dangerous foe. Our embarrassment prevents resources from coming to our aid. We become trapped. It is inevitable that we all encounter this part of life in one form or another. Our faith development will be challenged, we will have to fight back mightily to retain our faith and ourselves.

How do we win against addiction and life’s traps? Jesus says through prayer and our faith. We should pray for strength to escape these things, but it starts with our first admitting that we are being confronted. We need to extend this recognition into prayer. We need to allow others in on the secret, as Betty Ford was forced to do. Our faith, prayers, friends, and most importantly our recognition of our addictions become our shield. There will be those who judge, but they will have their turn. They will need help in some distant future. We press forward balancing judgment against recovery. Assisting those in recovery is far stronger, judgment is far weaker.

Even one of our country’s most gracious first ladies became entrapped. Sinking into the abyss of brokenness, she found herself alone, hiding her addiction. Through her faith, prayers, family, and friends she recovered. Not only did she recover, she turned her personal tragedy into a beacon of hope for others.

We all will enter this moment in our lives. Hopefully, a temporary test of our faith. When we emerge into recovery, we can renew our lives and begin the task of being a shining light. We become healed.

*

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

 

“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

 

THE DIFFERENT STATES OF OUR EXISTENCE

Famed Scholar Walter Brueggemann says, “Prayer is a great antidote to the illusion that we are self-made.” Brueggemann also describes our prayer life as occurring in three possible life states:

  • A State of Orientation. It is in this state when all is right with the world. The state of our being is thankful, and it is from here where prayers of gratitude are derived.
  • A State or Disorientation. In this state our lives have been disrupted and chaos exists. We are not sure where to turn or how we can move forward. This is a state where prayers of petition occur.
  • A State of Reorientation. It is here where have emerged from the valley of despair and the light of dawn shows up in our life. A place where we see resolution and hope returns. Prayers of praise and thanks occur in this state.

Specifically, Brueggemann associates these states of expression to the largest book in the Bible, the Psalms. The Psalms represent the prayers of our ancestors from the ancient past. A collection of poem-like prayers that extend back as far as Moses and span a period of one thousand years, many attributed to King David. In them are expressions of all three life states. Some include all three states and some only one of the three.

In reading the Book of Psalms and its one hundred fifty chapters, you hear the ancient prayers. If your read only five a day, you can finish this section of the Bible in a month, and there is no better way to supplement our prayer lives than to connect them with Scripture. Through this daily combination, our lives move from being random events to being a connected set of providential circumstances.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

STAYING FOCUSED WHILE PRAYING

In theological school, we all had to take a class on prayer. We would practice each class. Over a few days, I began to hear the term “monkey brain” used by my classmates. My classmates used the term “monkey brain” as the mind, wandering away while we are praying. When I first heard this expression, I was very relieved that my classmates experienced the same drifting of the mind during their prayer time. It happens to all of us, but for a long time I thought it was just me.

In prayer class, thoughts other than our prayers would enter our minds and we had to force ourselves to return to God. The mind’s wandering was always an indication that we had not set ourselves enough apart from the world. We still had not emptied ourselves and were not really engaged in conversation with God. But “monkey brain” happens to all who pray, and when it does, we must return at once to God in an empty state. Sometimes it serves as a quiet reminder of where we are, or an indication that we are not in uninterruptable state. But because prayer is sacred, we must return emptied.

“Fundamental to prayer is a sense of need that we ourselves cannot meet, and faith that God is both able and willing to meet that need.”

Charles L Allen, a mid-twentieth-century author and pastor, describes prayer as follows: “Fundamental to prayer is a sense of need that we ourselves cannot meet, and faith that God is both able and willing to meet that need.” When we search for something to meet our needs, we search in many places. We search at work, in our relationships, and in our readings. The further we search, the more we seem to just miss what we’re looking for. Searching directly for God through prayer will open us to God’s desires for us and when we are patient and faithful, God will reveal the answer we seek.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

VALLEYS OF DESPAIR ARE TIMES OF PREPARATION

With our faith lives, we sometimes enter valleys of despair. It is our time in these valleys of despair that we should see as periods of preparation. Preparation for the next climb with our faith and God’s purpose for us.

After his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, the apostle Paul was forced to spend three years in the Arabian desert. Lonely years of preparation. Utterly alone and wondering if his faith in Jesus was worth the cost. He wanted to help spread the message of the “Good News” quickly but found himself instead alone in Arabia. But God was preparing Paul for a long journey outside of his known world, toward a larger mission of spreading Christianity beyond the confines of Judea. During these three lonely years in the desert, God was preparing Paul for three remarkable journeys that would propel Christianity to become the predominate faith of the known world. In the history of Christianity, few missions were as critical as Paul’s in spreading the “Good News” about Jesus.

Peter Drucker, the famed business advisor, says, “The key to success isn’t what you learn in success, but what you learn in failure.” Consider the following. Winston Churchill was banished from his political party for a decade before he became prime minister. He then led England at a time when they stood alone against the forces of tyranny during World War II. Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was not smart enough. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first television job as an anchor. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper because he lacked imagination! We all know the happy endings these stories have. The key ingredient was not giving up but getting prepared!

In summary, in our own efforts of faith, we can see valleys as a time of preparation. These periods in the valley can be an indication of powerful movements that lay ahead in our lives. A direction God is going to take us.

Most of us want success, peace, health, and a strong connection with God. Having these dreams and ambition are critical to moving forward. Wanting to be a good and faithful person or good at our craft is a great start. With our spiritual life success requires endurance and patience. When Jesus says go through the narrow gate, he is telling us to avoid the easy way. He is telling us to respect what we seek. He is telling us that what we seek is sacred. He’s asking, “Are we willing to put in the time to develop our faith?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

TAKING THE “NARROW GATE”

Our faith is something that must be nurtured and sought after. The world reaches out to us and pulls us away through life’s temptations, setbacks, and imagined responsibilities. At times the world will convince us that God is not with us, that God is just some imaginary human construct. We will begin to blame others for our problems and to seek easier paths. However, it is at exactly this spot that we should turn from our human instincts and dig deeper into our faith.

The recognition of the sovereign nature of God ebbs when we pay too much attention to the ways of the world and give in to despair. When we turn our eyes to God, the ways of the world grow dimmer and our faith becomes brighter. A strong faith is practiced and nurtured, despite our present condition, not because of it. There are few roads that are easy with faith. Jesus explains this, with a call to stay steady with our faith, when he says, “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14)

In life, it is the little things that make a difference. Our faith lives are similar. For instance, great musicians do not move on from their practice until all notes are played correctly. Great painters ignore the clock until every blemish is resolved. Many of us face these types of decisions in our work lives as well. Do we stop to get things right or allow time to force us to sacrifice quality to check off a “to do?” Inevitably creating great music, art or faith takes longer than we expect and there are always a few more things to do than we had expected. But it is in this spot, with our faith where we must decide between quality and quantity. Do we finish our task because time is telling us to move on, or do we dig deeper to resolve those nagging feelings? This spot reminds me of a quote I used many times in my career, “The great enemy of art is time.” Likewise, our faith life can become the victim of the suffocating drumbeat of time. High quality faith requires a focus to go deeper in practicing our faith. How often do we say, “I cannot do any more” or “I do not have the time to nurture my faith” and move on? It is this internal decision that separates great faith from faith that is just an afterthought.

Our faith is in investment of ourselves in combination with God. God is not a genie that solves our problems alone. Our God is a loving God whom desires a relationship with us. Like any relationship, it requires mutual acts of support. There are times when we need more from God than we can give, and God responds. Other times God only needs to stand by and watch us succeed. This continuum of faith varies from moment to moment.

Many of us are pressed for time. Our to-do list piles up if we tarry too long on a project. We are besieged by an endless list of tasks. Jesus suggests we avoid becoming slaves to our to-do lists and to focus instead on what counts, to be concerned about quality. Jesus wants us to trade off the trivial for the important, to avoid distractions and not stop until we find the answer that settles our souls. Jesus wants us to travel life’s narrow gate and, take the hard road. When we do, many times we find our answer around a corner that looks steep and hard. Faith requires a little more patience, with the sure knowledge that it will still all come together. When we take the time and find the right answer, life becomes revealed and we become contented. We no longer feel defeated or harried. We have climbed a long hill. We have put aside the great enemy of faith, time.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

FAITH IS A BELIEF IN THE UNSEEN

The biggest impediment to our faith is ourselves. Not because we are weak, unworthy, or inherently bad, but because we trust too much in what we see, what we have learned, and what we think. Faith is a belief in the unseen. Our human instincts and our own senses can often drive us away from faith. If we cannot see, we think we cannot believe. From almost the day we are physically born our human senses seem to teach us what to trust and believe. Our very physical survival depends on this trust, but at the same time our human senses push us away from believing in the unseen. As we age, we learn to trust only in what we know, touch, feel, see, and surmise, creating a barrier that becomes harder each day for our faith to burst through.

Saint Augustine, one of the church’s early leaders, said, “Our hearts are unquiet until they rest in God.” A powerful statement from a man who in the first half of his life engaged in much debauchery. He was a great lawyer and orator in his early life. His fame was so widespread that he was recruited to go to Rome to teach aspiring students about oratory, reading, and philosophy. Augustine was one of the few in the 4th century, who could read and write at a very high level. During this period of his life he was in constant pursuit of the “truth,” while engaging in a life of sin. He relied on finding this “truth” through earthly means and his own intellect. If he could not use reason to understand what was real, then it was not real. Yet despite his great ability to reason, he kept slipping further away from finding the “truth.”

His mother, Monica, a deeply faithful woman spent a good deal of her life pushing her son to look to God for the “truth.” At each turn Augustine rebuffed her attempts, considering her efforts superstitious. Finally, after many failed attempts at finding the “truth,” and encouraged by his mother, he met with Bishop Ambrose in Milan. Through many meetings with the bishop, Augustine discovered that he had been on the wrong path to real truth. For Augustine, Bishop Ambrose showed that the “truth” resided in the unseen.

In a garden in Milan, sitting alone with his thoughts and in despair over his life’s journey, he heard a child’s voice. He was convinced this was the voice of Jesus, and in this moment, he knelt to accept Jesus as the “truth.” From this moment in his life he went on to become a bishop himself, and ultimately the key figure in firmly propelling the Christian church during the fourth century. After a lifetime of thinking about the “truth,” he discovered that real truth had not ever been that far away; it resided in his heart. A place that does not rationalize but believes. A place where both our joy and our pain reside. It is here our hearts are quieted and where we have faith in the unseen.

One of Jesus’ first acts was to deliver a powerful sermon revealing his mission on earth. This sermon is called the Sermon on the Mount. In it he says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Jesus tells us in this verse to have a pure heart. A heart led to do good. One that avoids the temptation to give in to our fears, desires, and schemes. A heart that reaches outward to our neighbor. A heart that has faith in God. A heart that endures momentary losses and looks to the future. A heart of hope in the unseen. Jesus asks us to not give in to our personal power, but to our hearts and the existing human desire to do good as images of God. It is here we will see God and find our faith.

Augustine found his faith in his heart. He found it by looking not for the seen, but for the unseen. After what seemed to be a lifetime of unquiet, during the remainder of his life his heart became quieted.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

WE YEARN TO KNOW JESUS

Early in the Gospel of John, Jesus was walking on a road and was followed by two men. Sensing their presence, he turned and asked them, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38) It is the same thing we all are looking for. To be with Jesus and have Jesus in our hearts. Those walking with Jesus on the road in ancient Judea wanted to know Jesus. They wanted to have the presence of Christ in their hearts. They wanted a deeper relationship than just knowing Christ existed. Like many of us, they wanted their hearts to be connected to God through Jesus.

Matthew Henry, the famed theological scholar from the 17th century, called this kind of changed experience that of “an awakened soul.” It is a communion between our souls and Christ. It is Christ who begins the conversation, by asking us, “What are you looking for?” When we hear this question deep within our hearts and souls, the process of fully accepting Jesus has begun. The conversation starts, and we begin the journey of leaving other thoughts, focused on our faith.

A faith that Jesus exists and is with us, is what we are looking for. A faith in the unseen that heals us from the troubles of our world. A faith that becomes our refuge when we are left disrupted.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman