And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. 

1st Corinthians [13:13] 

Within Catholic theology, there are three theological virtues; Faith, Hope, and Love. These virtues are considered divine and are gifts freely bestowed upon all of us through the grace of God. I recently discussed these three virtues with a Catholic friend and their impact on our perspective on life. He informed me that for Catholics, these three are holy virtues. Thus, sending me to research how and why these three virtues are considered sacred.

As a Methodist most of my adult life, this might seem odd to my fellow Methodists to study Catholicism. However, It really isn’t; as Methodists, one of our fundamental tenets is to explore God all we can. So with that thought in mind, I wanted to learn more.  

It seems that Thomas Aquinas developed this thought, using 1 Corinthians [13:13], where it says, And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. Aquinas explains that these three theological virtues are infused in us by God. Further, we come to know these virtues through our interactions with God. In effect, our choice to activate these virtues puts us in concert with God. 

It seems to me that a life without Faith, Hope, and Love would be a dark and dreary existence. A life of depression without any sunrise on the horizon and the absence of Jesus. Yet, I know people who lead this life. They are not entirely devoid of these three qualities; instead, they tend to see darkness and not light. For some, this perspective is a habit. For others, it was caused by an underlying set of events that causes sustained grief. And even sometimes caused by their environment.  

While not all causes of leading a dreary life can be remedied without outside help, most can. Simply choosing to redirect our thinking to Jesus and these God-given virtues will fix and help our perspective on life.  

For instance, Faith is belief in the unseen. We completely surrender ourselves to following Jesus, even when it’s not explicitly apparent our faith will help. A mindset of not being overly pragmatic about outcomes and changing our perspective from knowing tangibly and precisely what the future holds to being reassured that somehow Jesus is involved.  

Hope is simply knowing good will occur because Jesus exists in our lives. The opposite of Hope is despair. A state where nothing seems to go right. Like Faith, Hope is also a matter of perspective. We can choose to follow the course of hopelessness or believe the valley we are in will eventually end. Many times difficult trials are periods of divine preparation. A time of our growing and becoming prepared for our next challenge. The more we meet these challenges, the greater our growth. In turn, we don’t see the valleys of life despondently but as opportunities to rise up through a hopeful perspective.  

The Apostle Paul declares the greatest of the three virtues is Love. Love is a choice we make, and all have the capacity to love through the grace of God. When we do things without Love, we miss opportunities to lift up other people. Our acts, while honorable, have less value. Love is an act of giving without the desire for a reward: a conscious act to desire a benefit for the other person. Any action done with love is aligned with Jesus.  

Perspective is a matter of our free will. We all can choose to embrace, Faith, Hope, and Love. When we do, we open our hearts to Jesus and activate these three gifts from God. Instead of thorns, we will see roses. Life will become lighter. For some, this is a mighty challenge because of life circumstances. But for most of us, it is simply a matter of redirecting our thoughts to see good and trust Jesus. 

Love your neighbor as yourself 

Matthew [22:39] 

In an age where pronouns are hotly debated and discussed, the pronoun WE seldom comes up. Yet in our lives and especially our business lives, WE is most important. Almost everything we do in business and life is related to combining our efforts with someone else, whether a customer, friend, co-worker, subordinate, or supervisor.  

Every effort in these exchanges requires a sense of goodwill towards those with whom we work. Goodwill towards the other person we associate with is a vital part of being successful. However, goodwill is also a surrendering of our individual needs to a team effort of accomplishment—surrendering what we want to a combined effort of collaboration of team goals.  

While we may accomplish something by ourselves or dictate the actions to someone else, our efforts will always be less without the genuine commitment from and to those with whom we work.  

I have a friend with whom I work, named Bill, who consistently demonstrates this attitude. When we work together, he is very concerned about doing his part. For example, recently, we collaborated on editing and preparing my next book. Bill was apprehensive about making sure he knew my deadlines and what his requirements were.  

As I laid out our goals, Bill added action steps that would make a better product. Not pushy or insistent, constantly probing to look for a better way. When Bill was sure he had the project understood and the timelines right, he agreed to proceed. I knew he would hit his timeline from working with Bill in the past, and the results would be far better than I expected.  

Bill called a few days before the deadline and asked if we were still on track to meet to discuss his work. The day before our meeting, Bill sent me his work to review. When I reviewed the material Bill sent, I was elated. Not only had he achieved what was expected, but many other things were also added that made the project so much better than if I had done the work myself. I remember sitting at my desk, amazed at what Bill had done.  

Later, when we met, Bill laid out how he accomplished his task. Telling me, he had found a person who was better than him at consolidating words, which made the book more concise and readable. He relayed how he had spent a few nights checking references and citations to make sure they were accurate. A process typically done when the project was completed. In our conversation, I could actually feel his total commitment to living up to his personal standards.  

Bill had complied with all the standards required by the pronoun WE. Working with Bill is always refreshing because he adds value and makes projects far better than what I usually envisioned. Bill’s commitment to WE inspires me to do the same with him. His commitment to WE sets a standard for whom and how I work with other people. 

Bill is a very committed Christian, and long ago, he surrendered to Jesus. Knowing all that he accomplished was through the grace of Christ. In turn, this surrendering moved himself from to WE. And there are few Bible verses more important to Bill than love your neighbor as thyself. In all of Bill’s work and our relationship, he exhibits this trait.  

Bill lives this commandment not only as his duty but through his heart. We all know these people in our lives. When something needs to get done, they are always early in showing up. They add value in surprising ways. They surrender their needs for the overall good, and their reward is only with a job well done.  

It seems to me, we need more Bill’s in our business and personal lives. In a time of discussion about pronouns and which are best, I think we would all be better at what we do if We were our first thought. Try it out with your next engagement and watch the results become better than what we thought.  

Work as if working for the Lord Christ.

Colossians [3:23]-24

Recently I received an email promotion that said I had won a free airline ticket. Immediately I opened the email to see how I had won a free airline ticket. Suspicious, I scoured the fine print and discovered I really hadn’t won a ticket. It was just a request to read more about the company and had a minimal chance of winning the ticket. In return, I would have to fill out a lengthy form, which asked for things like a phone number, my address, and email address. Quickly, I deleted the email and thought to myself, why be so deceptive?

It probably seemed like a good idea to the company, hoping to land new customers. In reality, it likely turned off a lot of potential buyers. Why not just send an email that explained the benefits of doing business with the company. Or better yet, provide excellent customer service to the loyal customers and let word of mouth generate more sales.

Too often, we receive these suspicious emails, which do nothing more than clutter up our email. It makes me wonder, How would Jesus want businesses to create raving fans? I am pretty sure Jesus would want these businesses to take a different approach. He would like them to treat their customers as they wanted to be treated. Jesus would ask them to hire people committed to providing great customer service. These businesses should also produce a product as if they are working for the Lord. And finally, always be truthful. Four simple but essential business practices to attract lifelong customers and, in the process, create raving fans.

The Golden Rule

In Matthew [7:12], Jesus says, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. This is wise advice. Before we put any marketing effort to work, we should ask ourselves, Is this the way we want to be treated? If our answer is no, then we shouldn’t. Deceptive methods in marketing will never produce raving fans of our business. Instead, our reputation will be sullied.

Loyal customers who are raving fans will create a firm foundation for any business. Not only that, they will provide repeat business and attract other customers. We should never forget that most purchases from new customers come from the reviews of the existing customers. Yes, Jesus is giving us wise customer service advice with the Golden Rule.

Hire Great People and Pay Them Well

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells the story of a manager who had to leave for a while. The manager gave his three employees tasks to perform while he was gone. Two of the employees did their job and doubled their efforts. When the manager came back and saw the bounty created, he gave them a raise and more responsibility.

I am sure all current business managers would want these two people working in their company. These workers are the type of people who will also treat customers in the same manner by going the extra mile to make sure the customer is satisfied. Over time having workers like this changes culture and helps sales.

Continually seeking great employees and treating them well will always produce excellent results. And managers should be quick to reward, and these rewards will reinforce what is required.

Produce Products As If They Are For the Lord

Having the right attitude and the right employees is very important. Equally important is to produce quality products. Jesus has a simple mindset to accomplish this facet of business, work as if working for the Lord Christ. (Colossians [3:23]-24) What a great perspective! Simply work and produce products you would proud to give to Jesus.

All flaws in production would be attended to immediately. Saving money at the customer’s expense by not addressing product quality is a flawed strategy. Companies that employ this attitude will have people meet to collaborate to make sure everything has been properly thought through.

The company would quickly become a place that desires to create raving fans. A commitment to excellent customer service will replace a penny-wise, dollar foolish mindset. In turn, the company will become far more sustainable than one which cuts corners.

Never Deceive Customers or Employees

In business, there is always the temptation to stretch further than you should in generating sales or a better outcome. Perhaps the pressure of making sure you hit a certain sales number to make the month-end goals. We have all witnessed this in our business careers. And perhaps in the short term, these efforts produce the immediate desired results.

However, lurking in the future is a payback moment that will often be greater than short-term gains. Customers will sometimes complain about the deception. But most will avoid the confrontation and silently begin moving away. It will show up in reviews posted on the internet. Soon, the once-strong sales base will become weak.

Maintaining a strong sense of Christian ethics will help avoid this dilemma. It may sound corny, but if all our actions are connected to the often-used phrase; What would Jesus do, short-term decisions will be replaced with longer-term choices.

Customers are the life-blood of every business. Serving these customers well will ensure a great future for any company. Every company’s goals should start with making their customers raving fans. It doesn’t happen with deceitful marketing efforts. It happens with a company’s commitment to excellence, great employees, truthfulness, and empathy for the customer. We only need to turn to the lessons of Jesus to create an environment that, in turn, makes raving fans.

“. . . 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]

SERIOUS AND FOCUSED ON BEING A SERVANT

I remember him from early in my career. Don was the CEO’s chief assistant. I also remember that he never used the power of his title to accomplish his tasks. When he came to a meeting to discuss an item, he was focused and serious. Don’s goal was resolution: How could he help? Over time he was sought out by all of us for help. He was calm, insightful, and asked good questions. He knew his role, to help the company. Seldom was the solution about him; his only concern was solving the problem.

Don helped us get many things done. His contacts and relationships could broker many solutions. His reputation transcended the title he owned. His day was spent going from meeting to meeting. Sometimes one-on-one meetings, sometimes large meetings. Don waited to hear everyone’s point of view. His solutions came in the form of questions. He would say things like “What would you think if we did this?’” or “How about trying that?” Don could go anyplace in the company and be well received.

“Jesus knew his role, to help humankind and ultimately to pay the highest price for humankind.”

Notice in today’s verse that Jesus refers to himself as the son of man, not the boss of man. This perspective of servitude opened many doors for Jesus. Jesus knew his role, to help humankind and ultimately to pay the highest price for humankind. All of his activities were serious and focused on this goal. Throughout his short period of service, three years, he touched many. He performed miracles. He healed the sick and comforted the poor. Overtime, his reputation grew and became sought out by others. Jesus developed a great reputation.

His reputation was so good, Jesus could borrow a donkey for entry into Jerusalem. For his final staff meeting called the Last Supper, he was able to secure a room at no charge. In fact, his burial tomb was given to him by a rich merchant. His actions of service got many things done and, as with Don, allowed him to go into many places.

“When we serve, where are our hearts?”

When we serve, where are our hearts? Are they set to help or express our desires? Do we have a clear view of our true role and do we stay focused on that role? When we do, doors open up. Not all will agree with us, but all will welcome us. In the marketplace, producing honorable results should be our primary goal. Each of us has a role to play in this, and when we stay within that role we succeed. The hardest part is remembering we are a servant in our roles.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 


PARTING THOUGHTS

When we work, does it have to be our way?

How do each of us serve in our work?

How do we search for the common good?

 

Jesus in silence

“Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’”

— Luke [17:19]

USING FAITH TO GO ON OUR WAY

It is easy to say, “Get up and dust yourself off.” Many of us have heard this encouragement. But it isn’t so easy to do. Perhaps we have had a major financial setback or are struggling with a relationship. In those silent moments by ourselves, we twist and we turn, searching for answers. We head down various mental paths and look in each corner. Perhaps we cry out and silently yell it’s not fair. And it probably isn’t. It is true we should just get up and dust ourselves off and go on. But it isn’t that easy for everyone.

Faith is like that. Sometimes it’s easy to go into the building of faith and hit the elevator for the top floor and just arrive. But other times in our lives we have to investigate every room in the building of faith. To find out what’s there and see if it helps us. We have to walk up each stair and see what’s on the next floor. With the spirit of Christ in us, we know the answer is on the top floor, but we have to press back our doubts by exploring. Others may say, “Just have faith.” But these journeys help us have faith. They allow us to cross off what doesn’t work. They allow us to let our heart catch up with our intellectual knowledge. 

Our faith will make us well. But we have to first move to that place where we can get up and be on our way.

Jesus says, “Move on. Your faith has made you well.” Jesus has to say that, because it is right. Our faith will make us well. But we have to first move to that place where we can get up and be on our way. It is at this point where we have to decide that our progress must be forward. Our investigation has to propel us to a conclusion. It is faith that we can hang on to after we have investigated every floor, but the investigation process itself can be revealing and strengthen our faith. It is when this strengthening has occurred that we can truly get up and be on our way. 

“The journey in the inner building of our self with Jesus will reveal and teach us to have faith.”

With Jesus in our hearts, we can have confidence that our journey will be well. Regardless of our inner investigation, all paths will lead back to faith. All thoughts of ill will will disappear. All thoughts of self-pity will wither away. We will return. The journey in the inner building of our self with Jesus will reveal and teach us to have faith. Jesus will be with us on this journey regardless of our despair. And when we are done, we will be able to get up and be on our way. 

Have faith!

 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 


PARTING THOUGHTS

What do we do when we fall down?

How do we restore our faith?

How long should it take?

 

 

“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

 

 

“. . . 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]

SERIOUS AND FOCUSED ON BEING A SERVANT

I remember him from early in my career. Don was the CEO’s chief assistant. I also remember that he never used the power of his title to accomplish his tasks. When he came to a meeting to discuss an item, he was focused and serious. Don’s goal was resolution: How could he help? Over time he was sought out by all of us for help. He was calm, insightful, and asked good questions. He knew his role, to help the company. Seldom was the solution about him; his only concern was solving the problem.

Don helped us get many things done. His contacts and relationships could broker many solutions. His reputation transcended the title he owned. His day was spent going from meeting to meeting. Sometimes one-on-one meetings, sometimes large meetings. Don waited to hear everyone’s point of view. His solutions came in the form of questions. He would say things like “What would you think if we did this?’” or “How about trying that?” Don could go anyplace in the company and be well received.

“Jesus knew his role, to help humankind and ultimately to pay the highest price for humankind.”

Notice in today’s verse that Jesus refers to himself as the son of man, not the boss of man. This perspective of servitude opened many doors for Jesus. Jesus knew his role, to help humankind and ultimately to pay the highest price for humankind. All of his activities were serious and focused on this goal. Throughout his short period of service, three years, he touched many. He performed miracles. He healed the sick and comforted the poor. Overtime, his reputation grew and became sought out by others. Jesus developed a great reputation.

His reputation was so good, Jesus could borrow a donkey for entry into Jerusalem. For his final staff meeting called the Last Supper, he was able to secure a room at no charge. In fact, his burial tomb was given to him by a rich merchant. His actions of service got many things done and, as with Don, allowed him to go into many places.

“When we serve, where are our hearts?”

When we serve, where are our hearts? Are they set to help or express our desires? Do we have a clear view of our true role and do we stay focused on that role? When we do, doors open up. Not all will agree with us, but all will welcome us. In the marketplace, producing honorable results should be our primary goal. Each of us has a role to play in this, and when we stay within that role we succeed. The hardest part is remembering we are a servant in our roles.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

When we work, does it have to be our way?

How do each of us serve in our work?

How do we search for the common good?