“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Mark [10:45]

BEING THIRD BEHIND GOD AND OUR NEIGHBOR

Gale Sayers, the hall of fame running back and the author of the book I Am Third, believed he was third in his list of life priorities. First God, then his family and neighbors, and finally himself. Gale lives this life even today. A famous person who is well known and any act of being a servant is for all to see.

“Rusty doesn’t serve to garner favor, but he genuinely likes to help others.”

But there are other people that are not famous and serve without the recognition that fame can bring. I know a person like this, Rusty. Rusty serves because he wants to serve others first. Rusty doesn’t serve to garner favor, but he genuinely likes to help others.

Recently, when I was in Asheville North Carolina, Rusty called to see if he could take my wife out for dinner. The problem was we were just sitting down at a local restaurant and getting ready to order. I told Rusty where we were and he came right over. He had been visiting Asheville on a sales call and thought it would be nice to eat dinner with us.

“I have had a great day and wanted to share it with you.”

Rusty, as he always does, entered the restaurant full of his good humor and a happy voice. He sat down and ordered his meal, and informed us it was on him tonight. When we acquired why, he simply said, “I have had a great day and wanted to share it with you.” No other motive, but just to share his joy.

In the past Rusty has always been helpful beyond what anyone could expect. If we told him we had a problem, he had an answer or fixed it for us. He shared his immense knowledge of the woods and the back country of North Carolina with us. There is no problem Rusty can’t fix.

Recently, I heard a story about Rusty from another neighbor, John. John had a statue that was missing a small part. While staying with his neighbor John,  Rusty noticed the broken statue.

The next morning when John got up the statue was fixed. During the night, Rusty had rummaged through some things he found in the house and spent a good part of the evening fixing the statue. This is how Rusty is, he fixes things, he gives great advice and is the first to lend a hand.

My wife, Connie, wanted to learn how to fly fish. I was not a fly fisherman, I cast to reach the hidden pools of the mountain streams. I mentioned this to Rusty, and of course he was going to help my wife learn to fly fish.

“I hear a voice that is in love with God and thankful for whatever he has.”

Over the years, I have gotten to know Rusty. Beyond his always present smile and deep love to serve, he is a very deep and spiritual man. We have had many theological conversations. In everyone I learn something new. But mostly, I hear a voice that is in love with God and thankful for whatever he has.

Rusty views his life of serving others as his duty, a duty he loves and relishes. Rusty will never be famous outside his circle of friends. He will never be on TV. He will never receive global praise. He serves without needing fame.

When I mentioned to Rusty, Gale Sayers view on being third, Rusty replied, “Of course.” I am envious of Rusty because he serves innately through a deeply embedded desire to help. I wonder what a magical world it would be, if we all sought to serve instinctively like Rusty.

“But fame isn’t his chase. He just wants to serve God and his neighbor.”

On the surface, Rusty appears to be just a fun loving good ole boy from North Carolina, but beneath this well-crafted veneer is the soul of a very religious man. His outward charm belies a deeper and faithful view of how to live. We his friends get to experience both. I only wish many others could experience this man. But fame isn’t his chase. He just wants to serve God and his neighbor.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

Parting Thoughts

  • Is there a neighbor we can help today?
  • Why does serving our neighbor bring joy into our lives?
  • When we serve others, why do we serve?

Photo by Samuel Zeller

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

 

 

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands—
O prosper the work of our hands!”

Psalm [90:17]

THE CHINESE BAMBOO TREE

In Asia there is a bamboo tree that grows in a very surprising way. After planting its small seed, the tree takes five years to grow, before it springs forth through the soil. For five long years it spreads out its roots and creates the foundation for a surprisingly and remarkable quick growth spurt. During its sixth year the tree begins to emerge through the soil and grows to almost one hundred feet in six weeks! That’s ten to fifteen feet a week or almost two feet a day. The reason for this extraordinary growth is a well-established root system that has been burrowing in the ground for five long years. No short cuts, just five years of laying a good foundation.

“Success isn’t driven through wanting, but through working hard.”

In my work with clients I often see a reluctance to wait. I see people who want to be successful now. Success isn’t driven through wanting, but through working hard. Sure, there are stories of over-night success, but for most of us it requires a long period of making mistakes and learning what works. The key to success is laying a sustainable foundation.

“Successful people learn that failure is a lesson in how to be successful.”

For those that put in the time, they learn how to get better. Most of their time is fixing what didn’t work. A vast amount of time is spent with failing. Successful people learn that failure is a lesson in how to be successful. They learn the value of quality in all that they do.

“The successful common denominator for those that succeed was they never gave up.”

During the time of incubation in our careers or businesses we will be confronted with dismay and a need to work harder. Henry Ford failed five times before his business took off. Colonel Sanders didn’t become successful until the age of sixty-five. Abraham Lincoln lost most of his runs for political office. The successful common denominator for those that succeed was they never gave up. Successful people know to keep trying.

“Seldom will we know which root of our hard work is the one that springs forth our success.”

Around every corner there is the opportunity to try a little harder. There is a moment when we have to dig deeper. Seldom will we know which root of our hard work is the one that springs forth our success. Like the Bamboo tree it may take many years for us to be successful.

“Through God we receive insight and providential help.”

In today’s verse the Psalmist prays for the Lord to find favor with the work of his hands. Besides working hard to achieve our success, this simple prayer found in Psalm 90 brings God into our work. Through God we receive insight and providential help. A consistent and faithful relationship with God opens our eyes and teaches us how God wants us to succeed.

Never give up on our dreams. If they are honest and faithful dreams, there will be success. Like the Chinese Bamboo tree we have to create strong roots in our work and with God, to succeed. We will never know which extra effort caused our success, but we will know God helped us try harder.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

Parting Thoughts
  • What is your dream?
  • What disappointments have you encountered achieving this dream?
  • What have you learned?
  • What are the next steps?

Photo by Mai Rodriguez

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

 

 

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Psalm [9:10]

THREE VITAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A GREAT BUSINESS PERSON

During my business career as a CFO in organizations such as, Footlocker and Yankee Candle, we seldom used resumes to identify great employees. Instead we used three other determinants to decide who was going to be hired or promoted. We looked for people that were positive, trustworthy and desired competence in their work. Sure it is an unorthodox and counter intuitive approach, but it worked. We put people in jobs that didn’t indicate they could do the job, frequently. We relied exclusively on these three traits. In the end it always worked out. There is also a fourth component to our success and it is relying on God, especially in tough times. Faithful people know how to  maintain these skills during moments of stress. During tough times these people worked with God to gain insight and to steady themselves.

Always Maintain a Positive Attitude

People migrate to others who are upbeat, energetic and happy. These are the people that always seem to have things go their way. These people can make otherwise resistant people want to help. They get things done because their paths are clear and straight. Drama is what they avoid and camaraderie is what they seek. Maintaining a positive attitude opens more doors than grumbling.

Be Trustworthy in Everything

Trustworthy people are the ones we turn to when we have a difficult problem. They are trustworthy in everything; their conversations, work and social interactions. When they say they can do something, we know they will. They don’t let momentary obstacles delay their tasks. They figure out how to meet their commitments. These people treasure being honest and always provide clear facts despite being in a difficult situation. Every conversation with these people leaves us assured we have the facts and answers.

Desire to be Competent in Everything

Competence isn’t created because we are good talkers, but good doers. There may be times we don’t know the technical aspects of our jobs; great employees seek to understand how to improve and spend their days listening to learn. They thirst for knowledge and are careful with ill-informed opinions. While these people may be slow at first, their unquenchable desire to be the best raises them up over time. Competency does come on a resume, but comes through learning and listening openly to others.

Learn to Rely on God

While all these traits are easy to do when things are running smoothly, it is much harder in times of duress. During difficult times it is hard to stay upbeat. When confronted with difficult tasks it is hard to stay assured and confident. It can be hard when pressed to give a different answer then what the facts say. But we have one resource available to help us through the times. Prayers and a close relationship with God will certainly buoy us during these storms. Adhering to the values of God in our responses to duress we protect us and tell us what path to follow. Through God we will receive the right answers to life’s difficult times to help us stay positive, trustworthy and competent.

Why not try these four values out today and don’t forget to pray for guidance.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by rawpixel

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

 

SEVEN WAYS JESUS’S VALUES CREATE SUSTAINABLE AND FAITHFUL SUCCESS

All of us want to be successful in our lives, careers and if we run a business, our business. Much has been talked about regarding the prosperity Gospel, which doesn’t exist. What does exist is a way to be faithful and achieve sustainable success in our lives through using the values expressed by Jesus. There are seven things we can all do to achieve our life goals.

Become Committed to the Values of Jesus

“Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”

John [5:19]

In this famous statement made by Jesus we receive the advice on how we should handle the circumstances of our career’s and lives. Simply put, only do what we know God wants us to do. Without compromise, by adhering to this simple statement we will straighten our paths and create a persona that tells the world who we are and what we stand for. We are the ones who don’t waver from doing good and we are the ones who put others first. But we also create a business and career that is sustainable for a longer term.

Seek to Solve Needs Not Profits

“When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Mark [2:17]

To create a sustainable career or business we should solve needs first and not profits first. Sure, the fastest route to becoming successful is to acquire money or profits. But it isn’t sustainable. It might work in the short term, but over time this strategy will fail. A business or career that is designed to serve will always outpace those who seek personal gain, over the long term. Over time a business or career that thinks only about serving will be recognized as such and will generate a loyal following. In the tough times it is these people or businesses that others will call upon.

Measure Success Differently

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians [4:13]

Think less about how much money we made, but more on the impact we made. How did we help? How did we make life better? Don’t become slaves to our to do lists, but focusing on  what God wants is what counts. At the end of each day there will be noticeable differences that we made. Over time, making an impact will become a habit.

Run Our Career’s and Businesses Ethically

“Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,”

Colossians [3:23]

Simply put, whatever we do in our careers or business, we should always follow the ways of God. Sure, this might mean we lose a sale or a job we wanted. Certainly, there will be times when our results are lower than our expectation. But in the long run, we will become remembered as trustworthy and reliable. When tough assignments or jobs are needed to be completed, we will be at the forefront of the mind for those who need help. We will build a legacy of trustworthy and ethical behavior.

Treat Failures as Lessons

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians [4:13]

In our lives we will all stumble. Failure is inevitable. Our perspective should not be to become dismayed, but to learn from failure. The greatest lessons in business are not learned from success, but from failure. Our failures are investments in our future successes. The greatest asset we have in failure is what we learned. With our hearts pointed to God, we will have trust in the future and the lessons of the past.

Seek to Serve and Not be served

“Just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Matthew [20:28]

In all interactions we should first look to help. Whether it is with our customers or fellow employees, our first concern should be are we helpful. We take burdens away when we help and move further away from becoming a burden. Our customers and compatriots will index to coming to us, because they know we will help. We become valued not only because we can do our job, but most importantly because they know we care. Resisting the first impulse to avoid getting involved improves how others think of us.

Have a Heart for God

“Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

In all that we do, we should point our hearts to God and the ways of God. There will be tests that arise along the way, but they are momentary obstacles to our overall success. When our hearts are pointed with pureness to seek God, obstacles begin to melt. God does not desire our perfection in all things, God desires a closer relationship with us.

While these tenets may not bring about grand material gains, following these seven simple principles will provide a straighter path to sustainable success. We will not be tossed to and fro when following these simple principles. Instead we will have straighter paths and a sustainable future.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez

 

 

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (2) And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. (3) Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. (4) All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”

Acts 2:1-4

 

“I was enthralled by this plain spoken cowboy, and his words about the Holy Spirit.”

OUR LIFE COACH, THE HOLY SPIRIT

Recently I was on the “Zeb at the Ranch” radio show and became inspired by one specific listener. Zeb broadcasts his show throughout Southern Idaho and has a large faithful following. This particular listener, called in to ask me a question. His question was part seeking an answer and a mini sermonette on the Holy Spirit. As the caller was talking for a lengthy time, I could sense Zeb was getting anxious. But I was enthralled by this plain spoken cowboy, and his words about the Holy Spirit.

One particular comment he made stated that he was frustrated that people don’t make their morning plans with the Holy Spirit in mind. His long winded point was that we were given this wonderful being to guide us in prayer, to walk with us throughout the day, but few of his Christian friends consulted with the Spirit in making their plans!

“What he conveyed was that we have both within us and with us every moment of our day, the guiding force of God in the form of the Holy Spirit; a force we should mobilize in our lives.”

While Zeb was frustrated with his overly long question/sermonette, I was amazed. After sitting in theology classrooms for the better part of the last seven years, I had never heard a better explanation of the value of the Holy Spirit. What he conveyed was that we have both within us and with us every moment of our day, the guiding force of God in the form of the Holy Spirit; a force we could mobilize to help us with our lives.

“His point was, we should bring the Holy Spirit into our daily lives.”

Plainspoken and exactly on point! How many of us consult with the Spirit when we make our daily plans? How many of us search with the Spirit to resolve difficult issues? How many know that the Spirit is one of the three parts of the Trinity that is God? We often speak about God the creator or Jesus, but the Spirit is usually left in the back. The cowboy’s point was bring the Spirit into our lives.

In the book of Acts on the final day of the Pentecost, the Spirit descended, as promised earlier by Jesus. The purpose was to be both with us and within us. Many times when we pray we feel our prayers change subtly from what we first desired. Events in our lives will occur that could only be those unusual things of God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. On the fiftieth day after the resurrection the Spirit descended for humankind, the day now called the Pentecost.

So why not listen to this rambling cowpoke from southern Idaho. Shouldn’t we try to ask the Holy Spirit to not only approve our plans, but also help create our plans.? I am sure we should. Maybe for me that day I was getting a new lesson in life from the Spirit through a plain spoken cowboy from southern Idaho.

Praise the Spirit who helps with all things!

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez

 

 

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

(John [4:24])

TRUTHFUL PRAYER STRENGTHENS OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD

Our prayers are our way of talking with God through Jesus. They are our way of creating and growing a stronger personal relationship with God. Over time it becomes a deep mutual partnership in our lives. As with any relationship, we must approach it with complete honesty. For this relationship to become strong, a high degree of mutuality and truth must be present. The relationship with God is sacred. Jesus tells us, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John [4:24])

“Being truthful strengthens our partnership with God.”

If we want to have reliable relationships, it must come from a spirit of being truthful. So, it is with God as well. When we communicate with God, our goal should be of taking responsibility for our actions and to be truthful. Being truthful strengthens our partnership with God. Our mirror is then always pointed to ourselves. However, when we simply deflect difficult conversations back to God, we are not really searching for the truth, we are searching for an easier way out of difficulty.

When we pray, truthful admissions help our prayers. When we only point our problems back to God, we disrupt the relationship. Sure, God wants to hear our anguish, joys, and concerns, but God also wants us to be a partner. God has plans for us that require our active involvement.

“Our Prayers are our direct line to God through Jesus.”

Prayer life is the essential part of building faith. It requires daily persistence, patience and truthfulness. No one’s faith can be built without these ingredients. Prayer that is Biblically based will be fundamentally sound. Our Prayers are our direct line to God through Jesus. We will see answers, not in only in human terms, but through miraculous events that are so extraordinary and personal, we know they are from God. We will move from seeing things as random, to an answer from God. Through a productive prayer life our faith is strengthened, and we are healed through our continuous dialogue with God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Davide Cantelli

 

 

“Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”

—John [5:19]–20

FAITH THAT OVERCOMES ALL ODDS

Jesus has returned to his current home in Capernaum. A great crowd gathered in and around the house. So many, that even the front door was blocked. At the same time, four friends had heard about Jesus’ arrival and picked up their paralyzed friend to take him to Jesus. They arrived too late to get into the house and found every entrance blocked. They knew in their hearts there had to be a way to bring their friend to Jesus. They persistently studied the house and began to debate the best method.

After some discussion, they decided to go to the roof of the house and create a hole, which would allow them to lower their friend into the house. They climbed to the top of the roof and began to remove parts of the roof just above Jesus. When they had removed enough material to make a hole, they lowered their friend into the house. Immediately, Jesus saw the man and looked up to see the faces of his four friends expectantly looking back at him. Jesus saw in their faces a persistent faith of trust and hope. He immediately said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)

Upon hearing this, the religious leaders in the crowd began to question the authority Jesus had taken in forgiving the man. Jesus responded by saying, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?” To demonstrate his divine authority, Jesus says to the paralyzed friend of the four, “Stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” Immediately, the man stood up and went home. (Mark 2:8–12)

 

“A simple act driven by their hearts and full of compassion, was rewarded by Jesus, who saw in their faces a trusting faith.”

Four friends knew in their faith-filled hearts that Jesus could help their friend. When blocked, they responded with a faithful ingenuity and found a way. A way that changed the course of a life. A simple act driven by their hearts and full of compassion, was rewarded by Jesus, who saw in their faces a trusting and persistent faith.

“Our hearts sense when our neighbors are in need, and when we reach out we can change the course of their lives.”

There are those times in our lives when we must lift up our neighbors, when they cannot lift themselves. Maybe through providing a meal, or a ride, perhaps a prayer that is filled with a deep sense of compassion for our neighbor. Our hearts sense when our neighbors are in need, and when we reach out, we can change the course of their lives. Our compassion for others and a persistent and trusting faith create a powerful healing.

These are among those times in our lives when we cross over to the threshold of believing and knowing that the solution requires a persistent faith. A faith that relies on and trusts beyond what we physically see, to what is unseen. They are times when we know that the next step requires an unusual persistence in our efforts. Obstacles may seem too high, but our faith drives us to carry on. We know our efforts may result in our momentary suffering. It is in this spot, that we should not give up but should persevere.

The apostle Paul describes this persistent faith and how it generates hope, in Romans 5:3–5: “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” In this brief statement, Paul describes the process of building a persistent faith. A faith that requires us to share with God the results we hope for; not to sit back and wait for our hopeful outcomes, but to work persistently with God. We then have the firmness of a faith that is sure that our honorable efforts, regardless of the hurdles we face, will be answered.

The four men were successful in getting their friend healed because they were sure their persistent efforts of compassion would be answered. They worked around the obstacles that stood in front of them and pressed on. Jesus, seeing this, healed their friend.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

“Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”

—John [5:19]–20

WHAT OUGHT WE TO DO?

Each day we have to make decisions with multiple paths we can take, some right and some wrong. At these crossroads we are confronted with which path we ought to take. In the world of ethics, the critical word is “ought.” Essentially, when we are confronted with a difficult situation, our mind asks us, What ought I do? It can be a simple question, like Should I hold the door for the other person? Should I stop and help a person in distress, even though I have a lot of errands to run? Or on a different scale, we are confronted with Should I tell my boss or the CEO that what my company is doing is wrong? I see a manufacturing defect that no one will notice, should I tell someone? Each day we are confronted with these questions repeatedly. Each day we must make these personal decisions. Each day our lives are a class on ethics. What ought we to do?

“Being bold in our faith leads us to do what God would have us do.”

Beyond the ethics of doing the right thing, we must also show faith by having the courage to do the right thing. If we truly believe and have faith in the unseen, then we will not hesitate to do those “right” things, even if doing so might put us at some personal risk. Being bold in our faith leads us to do what God would have us do. A faith that if we choose a path for the right reasons, we have done “what we ought to do.”

When we bring Jesus into our thought process, ethics turn into Christian ethics. We then begin to ask, “What would Jesus do?” Sounds simple, but it is not. Competing with what Jesus would do is our natural selves. We need to pay our bills. We need to earn a living in order to do that. We want our worldly needs satisfied. Sometimes these needs will conflict with what Jesus would have us do.

I know a woman named Beth, who was homeless and fighting hard to regain her footing, so she could raise her child in a home like she saw other mothers do. She worked at a local Dunkin’ Donuts in a job that sometimes had her scraping gum off the bottom of the tables. Her boss was abusive and ranted at her throughout her shift. Each day she went back to her shelter with a little more money to get her freedom. On the Christmas Eve of her one-year journey in homelessness she left work and found a woman in the parking lot who was in need. It was a dark, rainy night, and the woman had not recently eaten and was rummaging in the trash bin behind the store. With what she had earned in tips that day, Beth took the woman into Dunkin’ Donuts and bought her a meal. She sat with the woman and listened to her story. On that rainy Christmas Eve, she drove back to her shelter wondering if she had done enough for the woman.

Beth eventually got an apartment and left her job, to work at a better place. The next fall she was able to put her child on a school bus for her first day of school. She was able to go to a job where she was respected. She continued to wonder if she had done enough on that Christmas Eve.

“We should walk on our path of faith, to explore the length and breadth of our inheritance. An inheritance that will lead us to the right answer.”

Deciding what we ought to do seems complicated, but Jesus gives us a simple blueprint when he says, “but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” Regardless of our natural circumstances, Jesus tells us to act in a manner that we envision how God would act. He asks us to act without fear of loss, but through our hearts. We should not overly ponder the event, but to let our knowledge of God through our heart tell us what we “ought” to do. We should walk on our path of faith, to explore the length and breadth of our inheritance. An inheritance that will lead us to the right answer.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

— Acts [2:46]–47

 

HOW DO CHRISTIAN BUSINESS PEOPLE DEVELOP BELONGING?

Everyone wants to belong to something that is good. It is part of the human condition to want to be a member of a group that has meaning. We search for this in book clubs, in the companies we work for, in our neighborhoods, and within the church. When we belong to a group that is good, we anticipate the meet-ups, we immerse ourselves in helping the other members, and we care. We want to be part of something that important.

When we recruit people to work at our companies, we try to convince them that we are a good group. We have them meet others in our company. We work hard to get them to feel they belong.

Belonging turns into believing. Believing in the principles of the group. Believing in our company. Believing in our book club. Believing in our Christian faith. Believing comes over time; belonging comes first.

“Jesus is not a condemning Lord. Rather Jesus gives life and enriches our lives.”

Many Christian evangelists skip over the belonging part in the process of helping a person to live his or her life through Christ. They espouse the notion of “believe or be doomed.”  Jesus is not a condemning Lord. Rather Jesus  gives life and enriches our lives. Jesus frequently says the word “with.” He strives to bring us into relationship. Jesus knows we are on a journey to find faith together. And the groups that we belong to are there to help us with this journey.

Today’s verse discusses the fellowship of the first-century Christian life. These events occurred shortly after Easter and the passage describes the sense of belonging to the early Christian community. The verse describes a happy, generous, and well-respected group. They were filled with goodwill and had the goodwill of others. Who wouldn’t want to belong to this group? 

“With the help of Jesus, we help others to believe.”

From this small early Christian community grew a group that is today the largest in our world. As Christians we all evangelize; in the way we live, in the way we act, and in the way we talk. With the help of Jesus, we help others to believe. And creating a sense of belonging is the first step.

Creating a sense of belonging in others starts with universal acceptance and affirmation of their humanity. Making others feel welcomed starts with listening. Followed by our own commitment to Christian values that is shown not through words, but by action. By listening we give people a voice. BY walking through our lives with a rigorous adherence to the words of Christ we create a model to follow. Doing both creates in others a sense of belonging. ]

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

How do we make other people feel welcomed?

Do we let them explore our values at their own pace?

What voice will they have after they join? 

 

 

“ One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

— John [9:25]

 

THE “AMAZING” STORY OF JOHN NEWTON’S JOURNEY TO WRITING AMAZING GRACE

John Newton, the former slave ship captain, wrote the famous Christian hymn “Amazing Grace.” Included in the lyrics is the verse from John [9:25], “Was blind, but now I see.” However, John Newton’s past was very checkered. He was known for extraordinarily bad language. One sea captain considered his vocabulary the worst of any seaman he had encountered. He frequently was disobedient and  even was forced to spend time as a slave in Sierra Leone. In spite of his life’s circumstances he continued to be drawn to the sea. Because he was an extraordinarily good seaman, his faults were often overlooked. He endured a number of close calls at sea, where his ships were either close to sinking or in such bad weather that men were washed overboard. Even though he had turned away from God, during these difficult moments he would still cry out, “God have mercy.”

It was through these moments that Newton began to turn to a different life. He became associated with the early Methodist movement in England and became well known to John Wesley. Wesley encouraged him to write and become a pastor. Later he became a rector at a small Anglican church. While at this church he helped write hymns. Included with these hymns was the song “Amazing Grace.” Later in his life,Newton became an avowed abolitionist and was a good friend of William Wilberforce, the person largely responsible for ending the slave trade in England. 

“Overtime, the continued proximity to death and a restless heart forced him deeper into his relationship with Christ.”

John’s conversion occurred over a number of years. He would come close to turning his life around and then fall back. Overtime, the continued proximity to death and a restless heart forced him deeper into his relationship with Christ. And then it became inevitable and it eventually took hold. It was at this point that he was no longer blind, but could see. The words to “Amazing Grace” were many years off, but he could see. 

“Jesus’s healing of the blind man symbolizes our own moment of seeing and giving in to having a relationship with God.”

Today’s verse is about a blind man Jesus healed. The local religious elite, seeking to discredit Jesus, were questioning the blind man, whose sight had been restored. Today’s verse is the blind man’s answer to his questioners. Jesus’s healing of the blind man symbolizes our own moment of seeing and giving in to having a relationship with God. Like Newton we fight back and sometimes have to endure a great deal of hardship before we see. We struggle at times to pursue this relationship with God. Sometimes we are in and at other times we are out. But God persists through Jesus to bring our sight back. We get close and fall back.

Then at some moment the events of our lives tip over our resistance and we are now no longer blind. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

How is our story similar to John Newton’s?

What holds us back from accepting Jesus?

When do we see?