bringing jesus to life

Clarence Jordan And Bringing Jesus to Life

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John [1:14]

In 1942 Clarence Jordan and his wife, Florence, moved to a four hundred acre farm in Americus Georgia. Clarence had just received his Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and finished four years as a missionary. They called their farm Koinonia. The Greek word meaning fellowship. A name they used to identify their purpose and strongly connected to the first Christians portrayed in the Books of Acts. A Christian commune committed to sharing their resources and money.

To sustain their farm and community, they began raising peanuts. Clarence also had a degree in agriculture, which proved to be also valuable in creating an economically sustainable community. But Clarence did something very different than prevailing societal norms. He hired and recruited black and white to help maintain and live on the farm. Taking vastly underpaid sharecroppers and giving them a chance to earn a living wage for their efforts.  Long troubled by the racial and economic injustice of his region, he insisted on treating all people equally.

Well, this led to a substantial amount of backlash and Koinonia became viewed as a threat. There were bombings, boycotts and Clarence himself was dismissed as a Southern Baptist minister.

The FBI investigated the farm as a communist stronghold. For a few years, life was tough for those living on the farm. Cleverly, to work around the boycott, the farm shipped their peanuts to other parts of the country. And used the slogan, Help us ship the nuts out of Georgia. And it worked, the farm stayed self-sufficient.

Now an interesting turn in both Koinonia and Clarence’s vision occurred in 1965. Millard and Linda Fuller visited the farm, intending only staying for a few hours,  instead, they moved on the farm. Milliard by the age of twenty-nine had become a self-made millionaire and was looking for a different path in life and found it at Koinonia.

The Fullers brought new energy to the farm and created a home building initiative for those who could not afford new housing. After getting this initiative started, the Fullers wanted to take what they had learned to Africa. And so they did.

They went to the Democratic Republic of Congo and successfully started a home building initiative. There they learned more methods to helping people have safe and sound housing.

During this time, Clarence died in 1969. He was buried in an unmarked grave on the farm. But his legacy and methods continued. Leading one resident to say, He be gone now, but his footprint is still here.

Millard and Linda returned to the farm in 1976. Armed with what they learned overseas and seeing the work they had started earlier on the farm of building homes was still growing. They decided to set up a new organization, an international organization, to expand what they had learned and started.

And this new organization grew quickly throughout the United States and internationally. Today this organization still exists. Over the last forty-four years has built over one million homes and helped well over ten million people. All from the vision of one man and other loyal Christians. Recently they built a new headquarters in Americus Georgia in honor of Clarence Jordan.

The name of this organization is called Habitat for Humanity. Surprised? Well, many think this was Jimmy Carter’s idea. It wasn’t, but Jimmy and his wife Rosalyn became great ambassadors for Habitat and helped make it a much larger organization. Dedicating a substantial amount of time post-presidency to working with Habitat for Humanity.

On a side note, older readers may remember the name, Hamilton Jordan. He was Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff during his presidency. The son of Clarence Jordan.

While many deserve a lot of credit for the work of Habitat for Humanity, it was Clarence Jordan who created the environment and his commitment to Christian values that led the rise of one of the world’s most recognizeable organizations.

When Clarence started Koinonia farms, he believed the cause of poverty was spiritual and economic injustice. His life goal was to create a way to solve both, which explains why he was both a scientifically trained farmer and held a Doctorate in Theology. With a simple goal to help the sharecroppers of Georgia.

He wanted to bring the lessons of Jesus to life amidst the poverty and racism of the rural south. A unique way to bring the lessons of the Gospel into a real world practice. It reminds me of one of my favorite verses in the Gospels, from John [1:14]; where it says, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

And that’s what Clarence did, he brought Jesus the Word to life in Georgia. Not just because he was the guiding light of Habitat for Humanity, but also he radically changed the life of the poor rural sharecropper in the south.

Giving up a life of material abundance his parents had, he turned instead to giving his life for the downtrodden. He was well ahead of the commune times of the 60’s and 70’s, in his vision. He had no earthly model to follow, but the example in Acts, where early Christians lived in fellowship. Tending to the poor both spiritually and economically.

To the citizens of the nearby towns, his supposed radical approach was threatening. So radical the FBI investigated and looked for dangerous societal practices. When all any of them could have just read the first few chapters of Acts, to see where the idea came from.

No, Clarence’s idea of bringing Jesus’s lessons to life wasn’t radical or subversive. It was one man’s bringing the message of the Gospels back to earth. What was radical was Clarence’s complete commitment to bringing the words of Jesus to life and sacrificing his own wealth to help others.

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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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What Is the Value of a Homemade Cross?

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2

As I was putting on a sweater to go out recently, I accidentally broke the string to my cross and it fell off. Naturally driven to overthink, I wondered what it meant? Was it a message or something else? I never take off my cross and keep it on regardless of what I do. The string has broken before, I repaired it a few times. But this time there would be no repairing, the string had been repaired too many times.

The origin of my cross is that it was homemade and created for me by a good friend, Key, who lives in North Carolina. Connie and I had helped her with a few things. So she made the cross out of bronze and green wire. And then used string in place of a chain.

I was delighted when she gave it to me and promptly put it around my neck. Putting my old cross on the corner of my desk. Key is a sweet woman, with a rough exterior at times. What she has in life, she has fought hard to achieve. Not always understood by her neighbors, but once you get to know her and she trusts you, she becomes very open and kind.

She knew the cross would be very important to me, and with her limited resources this was what she could do for me in repayment.

So there I was, frustrated that this treasured item, that was symbolic of my faith and a dear friendship, was beyond repair. Connie, my wife, always knew what to do. Go to Hobby Lobby and find a similar piece of string, but perhaps a little sturdier.

Along the way we passed jewelry stores, making me wonder, if this cross, a symbol of faith and friendship, shouldn’t have something a little more ornate than just a piece of string. I saw chains for $150, but Connie kept on marching to Hobby Lobby.

We went into Hobby Lobby and looked around, not really quite finding what we were looking for. Then we met Wendy. Wendy is one of those salespeople you meet in a craft store. Handy and not afraid of tedious details, like a string for a cross.

Wendy studied the cross and gave us a roll of nylon string that matched the bronze background of the cross. Telling us if we spent the $2 it cost, she would put it on for us free of charge.

So, we did, but then she did something very unusual. She took the nylon string and made a sailor’s knot so that it could expand when put on or taken it off. A clever trick that only a craft salesperson or a Navy vet could do! Another piece of lore that is attached to my cross.

So why is all this important? Sure I could have bought a sterling silver chain. But this cross isn’t fancy. It’s very plain and homey. It needed something simple. Its real value is in what it represents.

Like our Lord, who was born in a barn. During his lifetime, never had more than sandals and a rough tunic. His crown was made of thorns. And his cross was two pieces of wood and some nails. Simple and not distracting from the real value of his life.

His life’s meaning meant so much more than material things. Even though he was God, he lived simply. His richness was in his service to humankind. He didn’t need shiny things to prove his worth.

For some an elegant and shiny cross could mean something different. Perhaps a way to show the Lord the respect that they have for the sacrifice that is represented by the cross. And they would be right.

For others, perhaps it is a reflection of their Christian values. A powerful acclamation to the world that they are a Christian. And they would be right.

For some like myself, it is both a recognition of the spiritual value of the cross and that is connected to a friendship or an important event.

But what is most important is the recognition of the statement the cross makes. A statement of outward commitment and faith in Jesus.

Let me explain. When I was serving a church, whose congregation was made up of mostly homeless people, we provided breakfast for free on Sunday morning.

Naturally, the church had limited resources and funding the breakfast was out of the question. So we visited the main street restaurants to look for donations. When I visited them, I looked for a cross. Perhaps hanging on the wall or near the cash register. Each time I saw the cross, I knew they would help. And they did.

With the help of these donations and volunteers, we were able to feed fifty or so people every Sunday. All connected by the cross.

The value of the cross isn’t what you paid for this great Christian replica. It is in what it stands for and a reflection of what we believe. It is so much more than just a piece of jewelry, regardless of its price.

Most importantly, It is a reminder of what Jesus did on his own cross for humankind.

An individual’s own cross is always very personal. Each cross having its own story of how it was acquired. Each cross has a special life connection with the person wearing the cross. A connection to Jesus and a person or set of events that led to its acquisition, creating special memories and stories.

And like our own faith and connection with Jesus, different person by person.

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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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jesus and the cross

Jesus and the Cross

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John [19:28]-30

For Christians, the most important historical event is the death of Jesus. So, we may ask the question, Did it really happen? Well, the answer is a very strong yes! Of all the events that are portrayed in the four Gospels; Jesus’s baptism and crucifixion, according to historians are the two most certain events that occurred.

There has been extensive research done by both Biblical and non-Biblical scholars around Jesus and His death. All have come to the conclusion that it happened. Famed Biblical scholar and historian John Dominic Crossan, states; The crucifixion of Jesus is as certain as any historical fact can be.

But is this the right way to approach this central event of Jesus’s life. It is nice to know. And we certainly can start our own process of discovery of the Risen Christ knowing this is certain. But Jesus and his death is far more than a checking of the facts. Jesus’s death isn’t just a one-dimensional historical exercise. For me, it’s more about knowing the purpose of the crucifixion and how it relates to the 21st-century believer.

Likewise, we can turn to the meta-physical aspect of His death as something we may also try to understand. He did die to save us from sin. In this death, Jesus erased of all aspects of our failings. Jesus also created Himself as our mediator with God. Because Jesus died to absorb our sins, we are freed. Released to be able to speak to and receive the grace of God through Jesus.

And how exactly does this work? God is pure and untarnished and while most of our acts as humans are to do good. Not all are. Which means that if we go directly to God, meta-physically we tarnish God. Hence, the need for Jesus as our go-between, and the value of the cross. This is why when we pray, we say, In Jesus’s name.

The Apostle Paul explains this in Romans [3:24], and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Now that’s the metaphysical argument and explanation of the value of the crucifixion. But even knowing this doesn’t fully explain how we experience and know the value of the crucifixion.

Both knowing history and the meta-physical justification won’t get us there. If we stay just with this knowledge, we become passive Christians.

Now earlier I mentioned that most acts of humanity are good. There are very many who would and always do disagree with me. Some say, that humanity is totally depraved. Some will say, I have a very rose-colored lens about the state of the human condition. But total depravity is not what I have seen or experienced. I have seen far more good than bad. I believe there is good in all people. But even the resolution of this argument is a dead-ended path to the purpose of the cross. For even if there is one act of evil in a lifetime, it still requires the cross.

Which means that now philosophy can’t assure us of the purpose of Jesus and the cross.

Knowing the history, meta-physics nor philosophy will fully get us to have faith in Jesus and the cross. It might get us close, but not over the line.

It only comes from answering the inevitable knock by Jesus on our faith door. A compelling call by Jesus to know Him. This doesn’t come from the study of history, the metaphysical or philosophy. It comes from our own and very unique relationship with Jesus.

A relationship which requires our complete yes to having this relationship. A movement from the tangible to the not tangible. A surrendering of ourselves and wants. A yearning to desire Jesus.

Jesus is always ready for this relationship and died for this connection with us. When we cross over to this side of being with Jesus, history won’t matter. Nor will philosophy or meta-physics matter. We will just know why the death on the cross was necessary.

And this is faith. This is the crossing over. This is the moment we believe all. It is a moment that the world dims and we see everything differently.

It doesn’t mean we are better people; it means we are faithful people. It means our hearts desire both good and Jesus.

It doesn’t mean we will never fail, because we will. It doesn’t mean we won’t have cringeful moments, we will. It doesn’t mean we won’t let people down through our mistakes, we will. It means we know we have another chance to correct a wrong because Jesus died on the cross. It means we will continue to try to be better, because our heart is now inflamed by Jesus to be better.

I can always prove that Jesus existed and died on a cross and I have plenty of places to go to prove he died on a cross.

I can always explain the meta-physics to the most astute scholars of logic.

I can always philosophically discuss the inherent sin in humankind.

But none of this is remotely as valuable as truly knowing Jesus in our heart. This is the place we should search. This the place Jesus wants us to go.

In all of humankind dwells the Spirit of God. A Spirit that we release from bondage when we accept Jesus in our heart. A Spirit that is constantly trying to get to the surface of our being. A Spirit that will give us the knowledge about Jesus that we need. A Spirit not interested in what we know but desirous of us knowing Jesus.

Jesus is only real when we let Jesus into our hearts.

Have a Blessed Easter!

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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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fishing boat

 Fishing Boats and Trusting God

 Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

A few years back, I had just gotten a new boat in which to fish. And I really didn’t know much about boats or fishing from a boat. I mean virtually nothing. So a friend of mine invited me to go out fishing with his friend, Art. I accepted the invite, knowing this would be a great opportunity to learn about boating and fishing.

The appointed time to meet was [5:30] AM. When I arrived at the dock to meet Art and Mike, the wind was blowing pretty hard. The lake we were going out on was big and wide, which meant the waves would be high.

Art was a fisherman and guide by trade, so the wind didn’t bother him. But it sure bothered me. In the boat, we went and as soon as got in, I put on my life jacket! Once we got out of the harbor, the waves really picked up. The boat would rise up and then crash down, splashing all of us in the boat.

I noticed Art was unconcerned but kept making small adjustments to the steering wheel. I went up front to ask him how things were going. His answer, as typical of a native Mainer, was fine.

After a few minutes, I asked him if the lake was rough. Again he answered with one word, yes.

So I finally asked the question I silently had been wondering; are we okay out here?

This time I got more than a one-word answer; Yes, I am steering into each wave, I have slowed the boat and put the prop way down.

So there it was three simple clues as to why the boat remained steady on course. Sure we were going up and down with water spray hitting us. But he was right we were fine.

For the new boater like myself, he gave three clues about why everything was fine.

First, he steered into the waves, hitting each one head-on, which prevented the boat from rocking side to side and potentially getting swamped.

Secondly, he slowed the boat down, which made the back of the boat lower in the water and the front higher, helping the boat make its way over the top of the waves.

Finally, by putting the prop way down, it also forced the boat to be higher in the oncoming waves, adding more stability.

Three simple things that changed a rough boating trip into a sure and safe way to get to a protected harbor to fish.

As a side note, I like fishing, but I don’t like to catch fish. Rather, I enjoy the early morning birds, coffee and being with friends on a lake. My goal isn’t to catch fish, but to enjoy everything else that is associated with fishing.

This experience reminded me of God’s conversation with Joshua before he crossed over to the promised land. God promised Joshua everything that he had promised Moses. But added in the requirements, to be strong and courageous. And to remember God would be with him wherever he went.

Moses has spent the previous forty years wandering with the Israelites in the desert. But the people had not been strong and courageous. In response, God prevented most of the Israelites from entering the promised land.

Despite all Moses had done, he was not allowed to enter the promised land and died on a mountain overlooking the place God was sending him. Now Moses did receive his heavenly reward, but not his earthly reward. In fact, only a few who started on the journey to escape the Pharaoh forty years earlier made it into the promised land. It was their descendants who got to enter.

Along the way, the Israelites had complained mightily and were fearful. Despite everything God had shown them, they never crossed over from being afraid to courageous. They had let fear prevent them from having a good life in the promised land. They chose fear and not God.

Joshua had remained steady in his faith and had stayed courageous. And he was now the hand-picked leader to take the remnants and descendants of the original group into the promised land.

Before Joshua left to enter the promised land, God said;  Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. A reminder that when you walk with God, all your trust should be placed in God. To not let your fears swamp your belief and trust in God.

Sure enough, when they did cross over to the promised land, they were met with seemingly overwhelming situations at every turn. Each time God told them what to do to survive. And each time they did. They were strong and courageous.

Now I am not saying that Art, the boat owner was God, but as I watched him gracefully move the boat through seemingly impossible waves, I gained courage. Eventually, able to relax and finish my coffee.

We did arrive at a protected harbor. The trees blocked the wind and the waves died off. Art took us to the mouth of a river, where the fish entered and departed. Art and Mike caught fish, I did not. Instead, I saw a blue heron gracefully lift up out of the water. Caught a glimpse of hawks circling to find food. Mostly I enjoyed being with two skilled fishermen from Maine.

Especially in this difficult time, we should also remember who is guiding our boat, God! We may not always know why things will work out, but we should always be brave and courageous. This is what God asks of us and to follow his ways.

Our human fears will prevent us from having the life God wants for us. Causing us to be tepid in our steps and never able to fully cross over to God’s plan for our lives.

We will make it to the promised land of our lives and get through the Coronavirus, all we have to do is keep the bow of our boat pointed into the waves, slow down, put the prop down; and most importantly trust God.

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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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Jorrel “Joey” Diaz, A Different Way to Serve America

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

Matthew [20:28]

Jorrel or known as Joey had skipped school and was with his foster brother. He was a freshman in high school and considering dropping out of high school. As they were roaming the streets of the South Bronx a nearby gunfight broke out. Unfortunately, his foster brother was accidentally hit and killed. For a person so young, he witnessed the death of his only real friend and family member. But it was also a moment that Joey chose to change the direction of his life.

Joey was born into an unstable household and was sent to live with his grandparents. At the age of eight, both his grandparents died, and Joey was placed in foster care, joining a house of eight children. School was hard and life was tough, leading up to the day of the fatal shooting of his foster brother. Prior to this he had stopped going to school and was ready to drop out and pursue a life on the streets.

The death caused him to rethink his life’s journey and he rededicated his efforts in school. Becoming a model student, he was able to enter a very prestigious college; Trinity in Hartford Connecticut. In 2013 he earned his degree, with a major in Education and Urban Studies.

After school, he entered AmeriCorps and was assigned to the East Harlem school district. His job was to help students stay in school and stay on track. After his first year, he agreed to stay on and became a Senior Member and today still serves in the same school district.

So what is AmeriCorps? Well, it is a way to serve your country without enlisting in the military or the Peace Corp. Their assignments are in the poorer parts of our country. Many youth choose this path after college to serve their country. Most just for a year.

But unlike the Military, it is quasi-unpaid service. They receive a  meager living allowance and medical insurance. After completing their one year service they can receive a five thousand scholarship for future education or the same amount to forgive a portion of their student loan.

Many work far more than the required forty hours a week and have very limited resources to do their jobs. Even if you include their medical benefits and scholarship they make far less than minimum wage.

The resourceful members procure donations to do their job. Perhaps if you assigned to making sure children in disadvantaged school districts get the proper amount of nutrition every day, you can find businesses that will donate food. Or perhaps get the school district to let the children take home excess food to ensure they get three meals a day. Being resourceful with little is something that these people learn.

Or if you like Joey, skillfully become an advocate for youth, as they navigate the world of scarcity and neglect. Keeping them on track to go to college. Then continue to work with youth after they enter college, to stay in college. Without this help, the college graduation rate of these students is less than twenty-five percent. Not because they are not bad students, rather they are pulled here and there by financial turmoil; or disruptive living and family life conditions. Joey’s job is to keep them in school.

But Joey serves at far less pay than many of his peers who graduated from a prestigious school like Trinity. Joey certainly could have gotten a much higher paying job than working for AmeriCorps. And like others who chose this course; his reward is not material, but in serving our country.

Many who serve in our military, also serve their country. Their service is far better known and the resources they receive are greater. Their service is still notable and worthy. Those who serve in AmeriCorps receive far less recognition and pay. And more should be known about these people who serve just as valiantly.

Jesus says in Matthew [20:28], For the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many. Many times we hear Jesus referred to as the Son of God, but Jesus more commonly referred to himself as the Son of man. His goal was to serve and not be served.

This is the spirit of AmeriCorps workers. A surrendering of themselves to help others. Joey’s motivation, driven by the horrible experience of seeing a loved one gunned down, was also to serve. To make the world better for others that walked that same path.

So this is a radically different thought. Why not include AmeriCorps veterans in the celebration of Veterans Day. Shouldn’t it still be appropriate to say to these unknown warriors, thank you for your service? After all, like our wonderfully patriotic armed forces servants, they have also lived to serve and not be served. Both groups are driven by a noble desire to not put themselves first.

When we think of the greatness of our country, service is one of those things that makes up the American ethos.

In very many ways these wonderful people live into Jesus’s statement of serving and not being served.

So, Thank you for your service; Jorell “Joey” Diaz.

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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

2nd corinthians

2nd Corinthians: A Look at The Human Side of Paul


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2nd Corinthians [5:18]

Before we get too far in, I should explain that there were at least three letters written by Paul, with some help from Timothy, to the Corinthians. Perhaps even four. You could point out that there are only two in the New Testament, and that is correct. But it appears that the missing two are in both 1st Corinthians and 2nd Corinthians. So while this might seem a bit odd, it happened in other books of the New Testament as well, notably Philippians.

While many will speculate why did this happen, I think that is the wrong way to look at these books, especially 2nd Corinthians. What the combining of these letters did was to create for us a very human Paul,  who appears both saddened and joyful, in 2nd Corinthians. To me, this is the bigger story of 2nd Corinthians.

But for those who are curious, here are the four letters in order of authorship.

  • Warning Letter; written to the Corinthians to caution them about sexual Immorality; referenced in chapter 5:9 of 1st
  • Actual 1st Corinthians
  • Letter of Tears; written pre 2nd Corinthians, but referenced in Chapters 2:3-4 and it appears to be included in Chapters 10-13 of 2nd
  • 2nd Corinthians

The reason this is important, is we get the full range of Paul’s emotions. After the writing of 1st Corinthians, which was intended to get the church back on track, more drama arose.  Paul visited the church in Corinth, prior to the writing of 2nd Corinthians, to resolve these new issues.  In this book, he referred to this as his painful visit. Spurred on by outsiders, his Apostleship and teachings were challenged, leaving him hurt and dismayed. Prompting him to write the letter of tears; which in part is included in chapters 10-13 of 2nd Corinthians.

However, the Corinthians moved forward after Paul’s visit in a far more positive manner, prompting the writing of 2nd Corinthians. Joy springs from many of the pages in this book. For example, Paul declares in Chapter 7:4, I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

Amazing words of support, written from Paul’s heart because the crisis of the Corinthian church has passed.

Another side of Paul we see in this letter is the hurt feelings he had when his Apostleship was questioned. He goes to great pains to justify his position as an Apostle. For example in Chapter 12; he gives great detail about a time he was in heaven. He was with God and Jesus; hearing many things that he could not utter. Not really knowing if he was there in body or out of body. But certainly, he had gone to heaven, whether in spirit or body. A most remarkable disclosure on Paul’s part. A very personal time that he shares with the Corinthians.

During this visit, he asked Jesus to remove a thorn that Satan had put in his side. Jesus refused by saying, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Paul accepts this answer, by saying, when I am weak I am strong. In other words, humility comes in our weakness, making us stronger Christians. As a note, this is part of the section, (Chapter 10-13) which was included from the letter of tears.

Knowing this background will help the reader navigate 2nd Corinthians, by understanding the historical and literary content of the letter.

There is also a deeper message, that shines through in this letter. A message that when we are born again, we are new creations. Paul says, Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

As new creations, we are asked to turn our eyes away from the world and towards our new life in Christ. Paul explains this throughout the Book, but a great example is at the beginning of chapter 5, where Paul says; For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God. This theme is of not worrying about our calamities on earth, instead of knowing that serving Jesus is our source of joy and our eternal home is in heaven. This is repeated a number of times throughout the book. And typical of Paul he repeats in various ways to make sure we don’t miss it.

Billy Graham once said I am only traveling through this world, heaven is my home. While I certainly never got to discuss this Billy Graham, I am certain he is right and he derived this quote from 2nd Corinthians!

Paul also mentions in chapter 5 that we are reconciled with God through Christ. That Christ’s ministry to humankind included this reconciliation. Through the death on the cross, our sins are forgiven, and Christ becomes our mediator with God. This is an important subplot of the book, as well as in most of Paul’s writings, particularly in Romans.

Paul’s point is that our sins were washed away on the cross and our faith in Jesus justifies us with God. For instance, when we pray, at the end, we say In Jesus’s name we pray. This concept is what Paul is getting at.

Paul stresses as well, that we will at times endure, affliction, pain, calamities, and hardships. He encourages us to still; be pure, patient, kind, courageous, be truthful in speech; and to walk by faith and not by sight, during these times.

2nd Corinthians is a letter that was written from a sense of pride and joy in the Corinthian church. Having endured many missteps on their journey, they had, at last, began to move forward in a positive direction.

Typical of Paul and his writing, he once again in helping and writing to a church from two thousand years earlier, created a masterpiece for followers of the 21st century to follow.

A message to stand firm in our beliefs as new creations. A message that lets us know that our earthly home here is temporary, a permanent place exists in heaven for those who walk by faith and not sight.

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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

our ministry

A Closer Walk With God

“Indeed, our lives are guided by faith, not by sight.”

2 Corinthians 5:7

One day last week, three very good friends asked me to explain my ministry or what are you trying to achieve. Now when I get the same feeling or question three or more times in a day, I know God is up to something. So I thought about this question harder.

This has been a persistent question, directed at me for the better part of ten years. A good question, that at first, I couldn’t answer. Always goal-driven, I tried to search for my answer in numbers and results. I even have tried various ministry assignments to help with this discovery. Never fully getting the answer to this question.

During my seven or so years in Theological school, I was always the outlier who couldn’t fully explain what I felt I was called to do for Jesus. Every attempt I tried never seemed right. I have given sermons, counseled the poor in spirit and fed the poor. All noble and worthy ministries, but I never felt this was what God called me to do.

But at least I knew better than to just blurt something out to satisfy others. But this day I was able to clearly tell these three friends what my ministry was.

As an outgrowth from my doctoral thesis, I set up a digital media company to test delivering messages to the world at large. Certainly not a local or tangible ministry. But a ministry in the ether of the internet.

I never really intended this to be my life’s ministry nor did I know this is where I would find my place with God.

Over time and through a lot of missteps I had arrived, like a wanderer in the woods not knowing where he was going, but still never lost. Along the way, I never knew that this was where God was taking me,  but now know this was where God was leading me. Through observation of events, that were connected to my prayers, in hindsight, I can now see clearly the path behind me and in front of me.

What continued to pop up in front of me was writing and dispersing information about God. So what is interesting that to do this, my two areas of significant weakness, writing and anything at all to do with technology, have become my platform.

Over time, I have gotten better at both, but nowhere proficient enough to be called a professional. When others glide through their tasks, I struggle.

But what I have noticed, is even though I struggle, I am glad for the morning, to start a new day. A clear sign that I am doing is what I am supposed to be doing. Wanting to get up early and being excited you can do your work, is called passion. That I have.

Another area of weakness is being overly sensitive. When you put yourself out in the world every day. Criticism flies at you every day. I have been called satan, a white supremacist, charlatan, and many other names. So again I have had to adjust. Not to take these very isolated comments personally. But to evaluate why the comments were made and not get angry.

But here I am, not quite sure how I got here. Every week, over one hundred thousand people read what I write. Sixty thousand people follow what I have to say. And each week, close to another thousand join.

I am now a regular contributor on thirty radio shows and this spring will appear on television.

So what is it that I do, simply help people have a closer walk with God. That’s it and no more. Every message I send and every word I speak on the radio is designed to nudge people closer to God. Something I have to get better at every day.

Every Instagram image is designed to make people think deeper about their relationship with God. Every tweet is to help move people towards God, even if it is only an inch. Each radio appearance is focused on the same.

There is nothing fancy here.

My friend Steve on his radio show exclaimed, what you have accomplished is amazing! And perhaps he is right. But for myself and the two people who work with me, don’t think about the numbers. We focus on this simple task of helping people have a closer walk with God.

Don’t get me wrong we look at our numbers weekly, every Tuesday morning at [8:45]. Not to see how good we are, but how we can get better. We ponder how can we make better Instagram posts or tweets. We think about how to spread the message further, not for our glory, but for that of helping God.

For traditional ministers, it’s hard for them to understand this work. Their work is noble and strongly needed, mine is not traditional. But with so much of America unchurched, this is who we reach.

There is a gap that has grown in America, between those who attend church and believe in God and don’t. In fact, the same percentage of American’s still believe in God today as did one hundred years ago, even with church attendance down by fifty percent. Today seventy percent of Americans believe in Jesus, but only twenty percent go to church. This is the place we try to go.

And we see our results, not in numbers, but in responses. People write to us a say, I needed that reminder today. Or they say, Brother, thank you! I read your messages every day. We also get a lot of Amen’s every day as well, hundreds a week.

Not all agree with my messages, some more traditional ministers think I am too liberal or that I view the Bible with too much of a metaphorical view. Others will say I am too conservative. And this is where I want to be, not left or right. Encouraging people to have their own special relationship with God.

So we work every day, not with a focus on results, but on helping people take more steps in their faith. We work not by sight, but by faith.

So I tell everyone who asks, what do you do? My reply is anything that helps people have a closer walk with God.

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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

do everything through god

Do Everything Through God; The Simple Message of Philippians

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians [4:13]

The Apostle Paul sits in a Roman prison, after completing his three missionary journeys. During this imprisonment he wrote three letters to the Philippians. Now you might ask, I thought there was only one letter written to the church in Philippi. Well, there were actually three and the book of Philippians we read in the Bible is a combination of all three. While all three letters were written by Paul, skillful editing by an unknown scribe many centuries ago created this great letter out of three. A wonderfully positive and uplifting book in the Bible that I highly recommend for all.

And what makes this letter most remarkable, are the optimistic and encouraging sentiments, written while Paul was sitting in Jail!. A letter of thanksgiving written to the Philippians for their financial support and their positive growth as new Christians.

Imagine ourselves, sitting in a jail in the first century, uncertain of our future and then crafting the letters that make up one of the most uplifting books in the New testament. And that is the point of Philippians, no matter how dire our circumstances, we can be optimistic because of our faith in God. Or as Paul says,  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Not only that, amazingly Paul was still ministering and creating disciples. Late in this book ([4:22]), Paul mentions his work with Caesar’s servants. Yes, while in jail, Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, continued his work of creating new followers. More amazing is that it was not just any people, but people who had originally committed their lives to Caesar became servants to the Lord.

Imagine ourselves sitting in a jail and not knowing our future; would we have given up our worries to continue working for the Lord? What drove Paul to continue his work despite his imprisonment, was his personal relationship with Jesus. No matter how dire things in the past became, he always survived and had success. Which in turn reinforced in him, everything would be alright. For more than twenty years he had been thrown in prison, beaten, chased out of towns, denied and wandered the Roman empire. Yet, none of these events defeated him. Each event created more confidence that Jesus was with him. As Jesus is with us. When you read Philippians this mindset will pop out at you.

Paul explains his mindset in chapter 4, where he says; “ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Now we must remember, Paul had also accomplished a lot, despite his trials. The churches he established were growing and everywhere Christianity was growing. Green shoots of faith were sprouting up throughout the Roman Empire. All because of Paul’s commitment and faith in Jesus.

So when Paul says he has learned the secret, at first we might say it was his faith in Jesus and that Jesus was always with him. Well, all this is true, but it is far deeper than just that.

Paul had learned that being in continuous prayer and communication with the Lord is extraordinarily important. At every step of his journey, he measured his thoughts with that of Jesus’s teachings. Constantly observing how each action he took resulted in a God-like outcome.

Paul had also learned that to serve Jesus, he must also act. Not be passive, but very engaged. To be very positive and energetic, and put our worries away. Act with confidence that when we follow Christ, all will be right.

For each of us, this is the example we should follow in our own lives. When we pray and ask for guidance, we will get an answer. Then it is up to us to stick to the plan like Paul did.

This all sounds simple, but three things will get in the way. First is worry. When we get our answer, it will always be bigger than we expected. So big, we will wonder if we can accomplish the task. We will also have to give something up to attain what we have asked for. A surrendering of something important. Letting go of a lifelong fear, or perhaps fear of scarcity, or ending a treasured routine.

Our worries if not fully addressed internally will limit our ability to be a good partner with God. The bigger the plan, the bigger the worry. For each person, their personal hurdle to following God’s plan is different, but letting go of the past and our worries is a critical step.

The second thing will be people who will tell you God’s plan is not possible. Not that they don’t mean well, they probably do. Likely their concern is about us stretching too far and failing. Sometimes it will be good advice and sometimes protective advice. Each encounter will require analysis. A simple exercise to know which advice is correct is to evaluate if the advice is Godly.

The third item is to remember God isn’t a Genie! In our partnership with God, we don’t simply ask and then receive. We have to put in the work. Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. And God is looking for quality, not quantity. Which means don’t just do the work as an obligation, but do the work with passion. And we must test all that we do against the word of God.

If you don’t feel the passion, you aren’t ready or are headed in the wrong direction. That feeling of desiring to get right to work is a good sign that we have passion for God’s plan. When you work with God on your plan, you have to be a passionate partner.

And this is the point of the letter to the Philippians. The secret Paul is talking about is how to handle the ups and downs of life. To have faith and stay the course. Plus, to remember; we can do all things through him who strengthens us. Our fears and circumstances are never as high as what God wants for us.

In closing, I highly recommend reading this wonderfully optimistic book, Philippians. It will take less than 30 minutes. And this reading should inspire you to leave your comfort zone, knowing God is with and next to you.

Maybe today is the day you reach for yours and God’s higher purpose for your life.

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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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Choose God Over Fear

Choose God Over Fear

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ

Philippians 3:7-8

Over the last few days, I have talked with my daughters via Facetime. We all have an iPhone. Facetime is a video feature that comes with an iPhone, which makes talking via video so much easier than in the past. Essentially, replacing voice with both video and audio. A real blessing!

As well, Connie and I have noticed we are talking to both sets of our parents more and certainly our brothers and sisters. Most of the conversation is about how are you doing? Essentially checking in to see how each other is faring during the Coronavirus crisis.

We recently talked to a friend, we saw and heard the same things happening to them. Their adult children have moved in for a while because they are working from home and are escaping New York city where the virus has escalated.

Connie and I have created new routines with most things around us closed. Every day we play cribbage at four in the afternoon. Each day we take long walks. And recently, we started running up five flights of stairs in our apartment building. Ever competitive, to see if we can beat our last time.

In more quiet times we have taken on new hobbies. Connie has started replaying the guitar and is learning to crochet. I have picked back up my love for two-dimensional art. Buying a ruler, drawing pencils and a sketchpad.

Everywhere in our neighborhood, we see people also taking long walks. During these walks, we have met Archie, a one-year-old dog, fully on energy and love. His owner takes him out five times a day. He is now the mayor of our neighborhood, spreading joy from person to person.

Archie arrived during a tough time for his owner. A woman who had lost her husband. She tells us that Archie has helped her with her grief.

The Coronavirus has certainly changed lives. And these are certainly tough times. We can’t help but worry about those around us who have lost jobs. We don’t have many sick people in Asheville, so the disease is far distant. But we worry about the health care workers and their patients.

We know retirees who have lost a significant amount of their savings, and we also worry about them.

Certainly, we can’t go every place we would like to go. Movies are out. No more dining out and having a cold beer from the tap. All our places to go are closed.

But the calls from and to family have made me think, what have I really lost? It seems to me that it is more what have I gained?

I have gotten to see Mischa, my daughter’s new puppy, bounce around. I have gotten to see Dave’s homemade corned beef. I have talked with my dad more than any time from the recent past. His polite voice, always a hallmark, has steadied my thoughts.

I have gotten to hear my father-in-law chide me about my favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. He is a life-long Indians fan.

Through cribbage, Connie and I have a daily competitive battle. Watching each other get better, all to learn how to beat each other. Our latest time running up the stairs has become a source of competition.

In times of stress, we have turned to prayer. Which soothes our anxiety and reminds us that through faith we have gained a lot. Instead of focusing on the virus, we focus on trusting God.

While we have our concerns about the virus and where is the stock market going, we love this new life we have gained.

I recently had a friend tell me how he was dealing with the virus and its impact. He said; Refuse to feed the fear that comes to steal your peace and joy. Rather dwell in the knowledge that every person is so important to the Father that he knows the number of hairs on our head, and every tear we shed. Place your trust in Him.

And that is where we should be. Our fears are real and so isn’t the virus and the heavy financial toil it is taking. But we stand at a crossroad, do we have faith and see the good in life or let fear drown our faith and joy.

I can declare, that the virus will go away and life will become normal. Maybe in weeks or perhaps months, but it will subside. Tomorrow will replace today and the steps we take today will decide what tomorrow looks like. We shouldn’t let fear strip our ability to make wise choices. Choices that will help us tomorrow.

Like calling my father frequently. I will always cherish the voice of my father. A voice of reason and politeness. A voice that steadied my ship so many times in life. He is bravely fighting the debilitating effect of Alzheimer’s. My moments with him are coming to an end. Instead of fear, I choose to hear his voice. I choose the voices of my children. I choose to race my wife up the stairs and to win that game of cribbage. These are moments of joy and not of fear.

I choose God over fear.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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