Saturday, December 30, 2006

Churches for the Weak and Needy

"Occasionally I am asked by young men seeking a church to pastor if I know of a church without any problems. My response to them is, 'If I did, I wouldn't tell you; you'd go there and spoil it.' The point is that there are no perfect churches. Churches struggle because all are made up of imperfect sinning people. The church is not a place for people with no weaknesses; it is a fellowship of those who are aware of their weaknesses and long for the strength and grace of God to fill their lives. It is a kind of hospital for those who know they are sick and needy."

John MacArthur, Revelation: The Christians Ultimate Victory Bible Study

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Career as a Financier to the Developing World

If you happened to read my previous post Make a Loan and Change a Life you learned that I made a small loan to an entrepreneur in Ecuador that sold Bibles and other retail items. I am happy to report that Ariola has made her first payment of $42 out of $250 or 16.8%. Since I was one of ten different lenders lending $25, my portion of her repayment was $4.20. Here's more about Ariola and her business.

Location: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Activity: Retail
Loan Amount: $250.00
Loan Use: Buy bibles, clothing and other miscellaneous products to sell
Loan Repayment Term Range: 6-10 months
Start Date: Nov 25, 2006
Amount Repaid: $42
Partner Rep: Luis Crespo, Esther Vasquez
Partner: MIFEX

Ariola is a saleswoman in her neighborhood. Primarily she sells bibles to the people from her church and her community. She started off with $50 of investment capital and has slowly expanded her businesses. She also sells clothing and other products targeted towards women. In order to make her products affordable to her clients she takes half of the payment at the time of purchase and charges the rest on a weekly or bi-weekly rate. She is eager to receive a loan in order to buy more products for her clients like more bibles, CDs and clothing. She hopes that she can receive the loan before the busy Christmas season begins. This business is a complementary source of income in her household of 6 children. Her husband works as a bricklayer but he does not make enough money to provide for his family on his own.

Go visit if you want to help a developing world entrepreneur.

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Closed My Business. Was I Correct in Discerning God's Will?

In the spring and early summer of 2005, I began wondering if God was asking me to take my interest in spiritual journaling and writing about my faith to a higher level. At the time, I was also very concerned about the impact of globalization on my career designing business software. I began to wonder if God was leading me to start a business "on the side" to both develop my spiritual gift of writing and provide for the financial needs of my family.

In July of 2005, I believed God wanted me to do it. I felt even if my business venture was not a financial success there must be something God wants me to learn from the process. My plan was to provide some inspirational material "for free" but also offer some Christian material available for sale as eBooks for a very nominal fee (eg. $2.95) and take payments using PayPal. I wasn't expecting to make a lot of money but I wasn't risking a lot of money either. I decided I'd rather try and fail than not try and wonder for the rest of my life whether I had missed out on serving God's purpose or missed out on some blessing He had in store for me.

I took a long lunch from work one day and drove down to the county clerk's office and for $20 took out a business license for Caleb's Publishing. The name is a reference to the Old Testament character Caleb who was one of the twelve spies Moses dispatch to scope out the promised land.
Here's what I wrote back then. (Click here for the original.)

About Caleb's Publishing™

Caleb's Publishing™ was founded by Philip Hartman in July 2005 as a "leap of faith." Like many men in their mid-40's I had achieved some success in my profession but began wondering if God had something else in mind. This then became a frequent topic in my prayer life for approximately 1.5 years. Along the way, I was introduced to the idea of combining a business with a personal ministry. I also began regularly keeping a spiritual journal and discovered I really enjoyed writing about matters of faith. What you see is the result of this spiritual journey so far. I don't know where this journey is going to take me, but that is part of the fun!

Incidentally, I highly recommend the book Halftime by Bob Buford to any man who is feeling the same way. Also, visit the website.

I hope to serve the community by:

  • Providing original and thought-provoking material to assist Sunday School teachers, small group discussion leaders, pastors, and anyone seeking a closer relationship with God
  • Giving you the benefit of the many hours I have spent in research over the last several years reading various books, articles, and websites. If something was thought-provoking or convicted me, then I suspect it may have the same impact on you.
  • Encouraging "regular Christians" who feel God may have chosen to use them for His purposes thru their gift of writing.
  • Providing a wider, Internet audience for anyone who has a message or story to tell. I want to publish both unique Christian works and original secular works in fields such as history.

Where did the name of the company and website come from?

I devoted a lot of my spare time in the evenings over the coming months to creating a website, writing, editing some sermon materials I inherited from my father and grandfather, trying to figure out how to show up in search engines like Google, and more. I did learn a lot. I felt good about sharing my faith in this way. I was amazed to find from my website statistics that my little website got visitors from far away places like the UK, Australia, Canada, India, Finland, and more.

However, one thing I was not doing was making money. In hindsight, I have come to understand how much free Christian material is available over the Internet. (Like this blog.)

Without any real fanfare, I officially closed Caleb’s Publishing today as a business entity. The ISP still hasn’t shut the site down even though I never renewed the hosting contract.

Now I must wrestle with whether I was correct in how I discerned God’s will 1.5 years ago. Was he leading me to start the business as I thought? Does it even matter if I didn't make money (espcially if I didn't risk much money)? Was it vanity on my part? Was I right about developing my own writing but wrong about the publishing other people’s writing? Was God trying to teach me something that did not depend on whether the business made money? I guess I’ll never know for sure until I’m in heaven some day. For the moment, I'd like to think I did what He wanted. I took a chance for Him. I got out of my comfort zone. People on the other side of the world did read some of what I wrote. I might have had a positive impact.

God, have I learned the lesson about writing and publishing You wanted to teach me thru Caleb’s Publishing? Did I discern Your will correctly? If not, then I pray that You correct my ways and help me discern Your will properly. If I did, then I pray that You reveal to me what You would have me do to serve You next. Amen.

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Prayer for Michael and the Lost Boys of Sudan

I took my daughter's car to the dealer this morning to get it looked at. Then engine wasn't running quite right and it needed an oil change. I didn't have to work today so I just waited on the repairs in the dealer's customer waiting area. At one point it was just me and a young black man waiting on our vehicles. I remember noticing he was wearing a name tag that said "Michael". I was getting a little bored and I made some lame remark about "I hate waiting like this more than almost anything." He smiled and replied back to me in an accent that sounded foreign and I deduced that he might be here from Africa.

I always like talking to people from other countries an inquired with him "Where are you from?" He replied that he was from Sudan and I suspected immediately he was a refugee from the war there in which Muslims from northern Sudan have been attacking the Christians in southern Sudan. On talking to me a little more he described himself as one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan." (See also the Red Cross article on the Lost Boys of Sudan.)

I didn't know what that meant but I learned that when he was about four years old, his parents sent him away to Kenya where they hoped he'd be safe from the fighting in his own country. I think he said his mother was too sick at the time to travel with him. I didn't learn any details about his father other than he had learned later that his father had been killed in the war. He told me he spent 8 years as a refugee in Kenya before coming to the United States. His last contact with his mother was by telephone from Kenya two years ago.

I felt a little uneasy because I knew my life had been so easy compared to his. Whatever problems I have seemed small in comparison to his.

He told me he is now living in the US under a refugee visa which allows him to work here on a green card. He told me after working here five years, he hopes to apply for US citizenship. He's going to school at a local university to become a nurse.

The customer service representative from the car dealer arrived about that time and he had to go pay for his repairs and I never saw him after that.

God, I want to lift up Michael in prayer tonight. I pray for all the refugees of Sudan and especially for the "Lost Boys of Sudan". Bless them and show them Your provision for their needs. I pray that he will reunited with his mother soon or at least be able to contact her to know how she is and where she is. I pray for an end to the bloodshed in Sudan. I pray that we here never forget the bloodshed and suffering in that part of the world that seems so remote to us. I know that somebody's mothers and fathers and children are fighting just to survive while I am so comfortable. Forgive me when I am too complacent about the needs of my brothers and sisters. Amen.
(March 11, 2008) see the followup at Lost Boy of Sudan to Graduate

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Will Your Blog Be a Legacy to Future Generations?

We all have trials and tribulations in life. Like most of you I suspect, I have often wondered why God allows the bad things to happen to us. As I have matured in my faith I have tried to replace “God, why did you let this happen to me?” with something more like “God, what are you trying to teach me?” and when I’m feeling particularly strong “God, help me serve Your purposes in this rough time even if I don’t understand what that is right now.”

Back in October I was channel surfing and landed upon the History Channel and a show called 'Skeletons on the Sahara'. (Based on the book of the same name.) The show told the story of James Riley, the captain of the merchant ship Commerce which was ship wrecked off the western coast of Africa in 1815.

“In 1815, a Connecticut merchant ship runs aground off the west coast of Africa. Captured by Arab nomads, Captain James Riley and his crew are sold into brutal slavery and marched across the Sahara Desert, where skin boils, lips blacken and men shrivel to less than 90 pounds. Along the way the Americans will encounter everything that could possibly test them, but Riley and his men will also discover ancient cities, secret oases and a culture largely unknown to the modern world.”

I came into the documentary in the middle of the show but I saw a compelling story of how he and his desperate crew surrendered to Muslim desert dwellers who made them slaves. Captain Riley persuades his new slavemaster that he could make a healthy profit if he would only transport them safely to the nearest major city. There a wealthy American or English businessman or diplomat would buy their freedom back. Depending on your point of view this was either a huge gamble or a leap of faith. He had no way to know if this was really true but he staked his life on it. His master told him if it was not true, the slavemaster would slit his throat. When they arrived at their destination, the slavemaster required him to write a note in his own handwriting that he could give to the wealthy Englishman or American he found in the town. The note was full of prayerful references to God and the compassion of the reader.

The story has a happy ending. The Muslim slavemaster finds an English businessman who does indeed purchase the freedom of the Americans, by now only sunburned skeletons of men. Captain Riley made it home to his family.

I’m sure Captain Riley wondered “Why did God let this happen to me?” and his ordeal was certainly worse than anything that you or I are likely to face. What purpose might the suffering of James Riley and his crewman served? Could God have had a greater purpose that they knew nothing about?

You may have never heard of Captain Riley or his ordeal before, but let me give you the name of one person who did. You see Captain Riley wrote a book about his ordeal that was published in 1817. (Click here to see an historic reproduction.) According to one of the historians interviewed in the television documentary, Abraham Lincoln read the book and listed it as one of the most influential books in his life. The harsh description of how theses white men were treated as slaves in the Sahara is credited by some leading Abraham Lincoln to vigorously oppose the slavery of blacks in America.... and Abraham Lincoln was eventually elected President of the Unites States and served during the American Civil War.

Very few of us who try to honor God when things are not going well will eventually influence future Presidents. But.. you just never know. I offer this story also as encouragement to my fellow writers and bloggers. It is unlikely that Captain Riley would have influenced Abraham Lincoln if he had not taken the time to record his ordeal in his book. I hope and pray that the record of my Christian walk that I leave behind will have some positive effect long after my time on this earth is done. You have a story to tell too.

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friends in High Places

Like many bloggers, I have the fantasy of becoming a serious, published author. I picked up a book on Christian writing by Jerry B. Jenkins of Left Behind fame. The book is entitled Writing for the Soul: Instruction and Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life and while reading near the end I came across a story too wonderful and humorous not to share. Jerry Jenkins was telling a story about how he was asked to write an autobiography for Paul Anderson, the world's strongest man. Anderson won the 1956 Olympic gold medal in power lifting and once did a back lift of 6.270 pounds in 1957. Anderson was 5 foot 9 inches and 375 pounds of muscle when Jenkins began talking to him. Anderson ran a boys home and was known for not allowing any swearing. Later Jenkins tells this story:

"The day he drove me back to the airport, we were waiting for my plane and a man with his back to us was frustrated about something and said "Jesus Christ!"

Anderson bristled and stared, and when the man said it again, Paul rushed him from behind, wrapped those tree trunk arms around his waist, and lifted him off the ground. "Where is He?" Paul said. "He's a friend of mine!"

The guy peeked over his should and saw this mountain of a man and said, "Oh, my God!"

Anderson siad, "That's Him! Where is He?"

I thought the guy was going to wet his pants. And I dare say he never swore again without first look over his shoulder."

For those of you who share my published author fantasy, I'm enjoying Jenkin's book.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Intelligent Design for Skeptics

If you know a skeptic who doubts the existence of God, send them to this animated video "The Watchmaker." It does a great job of showing how unlikely it is that creation was all a matter of random chance.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Facing Our Fears

If you have not yet ventured out to the movie theater to see the movie "Facing the Giants" then let me give the movie my personal recommendation. (Click here for a 2 minute video clip.) There are many stories woven together in a powerful way.
  • The story of a football coach who feels like a failure in his career which could apply to anyone struggling with how they make a living.
  • The parents of the football players who plot to have the coach fired even thought he is a "fine man" because they value winning more.
  • The young wife who desperately wants to have children but hasn't after four years of trying
  • The faithful Christian who has been "prayer walking" along the halls of a high school for years asking God to send revival to the students of the school.
  • The teenage boy who routinely disrepects his father.
  • The teenage boy who has always been physically too small and too weak.
  • The father in a wheelchair trying to raise a teenage son into a man by himself

I'd like to point out to other things which struck me.
  • This film was basically produced on faith by a single church that wanted to impact the world at large, Sherwood Baptist in the small town of Albany, Georgia. This is an amazing example of how God can use regular people who want to let God use them in a mighty way for His purposes.
  • My favorite scene is when the current coach of the University of Georgia, Mark Richt, visits the main character in the football team locker room and tells him how many times the Bible says to "have no fear" right before the state championship game. I know I've often been too timid, too hesitant, and in general fallen victim to fear. I wonder how many blessings I've missed out on in life because I've not taken step one on faith when God prompted me to. By the way, click here to read Mark Richt's testimony

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Make a Loan and Change a Life

A few weeks ago I was reading my local newspaper, The Tennessean, and saw an article about the most recent Nobel Prize in Economics. I learned that Muhammad Yunus, who got his Ph.D . from Vanderbilt University here in Nashville in 1971 received the Nobel Prize for his work combating poverty through the use of "microcredit" or "microloans".
Yunus’ concept of microcredit – small loans to poor villagers in Bangladesh to help them buy livestock or fund an enterprise, has grown from $27 he loaned out of his own pocket into the Grameen Bank, which has loaned more than $5.7 billion to 6.61 million borrowers. Despite lack of collateral or signed loan documents, 99 percent of the loans have been paid back. The Grameen Bank provides services in more than 71,000 villages in Bangladesh through 2,226 branches.
Just a few days ago I was channel surfing and stumbled upon a Frontline story Uganda: A Little Goes a Long Way which showed how an organization called
Kiva was using the internet to connect people like me with deserving entrepreneurs in far away places. The response to this TV show was overwhelming as their website was swamped and inaccessible for several days. The website finally came back up and I was able to make my first "microloan" Saturday night. I used my credit card to loan $25 to Ariola Sánchez, a retailer in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Kiva pooled my $25 along with loans from 9 others to fully funded her request for a $250 business loan to purchase an inventory for resale.

Kiva is not a religious organization but I could tell that many of the entrepreneurs who benefit from the loans are Christian. One of the items Ariola sells, for examples, is Bibles. I encourage my readers to visit the Kiva website with their credit card handy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Grace Shown by Ted Haggard's Wife

I was not planning to post anything about the sad and tragic fall of the Rev. Ted Haggard. Frankly, I did not know too much about him, his background, or his ministry and I didn’t want to add to the media buzz over the situation.

I changed my mind, however, when I read words attributed to his wife that absolutely floored me in the way they exhibit the ability to show grace in the toughest of times... and grace is of course what my blog is all about.

If you check out this Fox News story “Evangelist Admits to Sexual Immorality” you will find these words about a letter from Haggard's wife that was shared with his congregation:

In a separate letter, Haggard's wife prompted laughter when she promised to remain with her husband and said church members no longer had to worry about her marriage being so perfect she couldn't relate to them.”

Yes, you read correctly, the words of Ted Haggard’s wife Gayle prompted laughter. I think the congregation laughed in joy that she could at this time of pain make light of the perception (or is it wishful thinking?) that preachers and their wives have perfect marriages that should be envied and serve as some kind of role mode to the rest of us. (Those of us who are preacher's kids know better.) To me, these words speak volumes about her and how powerfully she has allowed God to work in her life at this time.

While I’m on the topic, I would also like to point my readers to another bit of insight on this sad situation. See Gordon MacDonald’s leadership blog “Out of Ur” and his post “The Haggard Truth: Gordon MacDonald on lies all-too-easily believed for some insight on the dangers of fame for Christian leaders and the impact when a Christian leaders falls.

It seems to me that when people become leaders of outsized organizations and movements, when they become famous and their opinions are constantly sought by the media, we ought to begin to become cautious. The very drive that propels some leaders toward extraordinary levels of achievement is a drive that often keeps expanding even after reasonable goals and objectives have been achieved. Like a river that breaks its levy, that drive often strays into areas of excitement and risk that can be dangerous and destructive. Sometimes the drive appears to be unstoppable. This seems to have been the experience of the Older Testament David and his wandering eyes, Uzziah in his boredom, and Solomon with his insatiable hunger for wealth, wives and horses. They seem to have been questing—addictively?—for more thrills or trying to meet deeper personal needs, and the normal ways that satisfy most people became inadequate for them.”


“More than once we’ve seen the truth of a person’s life come out, not all at once, but in a series of disclosures, each an admission of further culpability which had been denied just a day or two before. Perhaps inability to tell the full truth is a sign that one is actually lying to himself and cannot face the full truth of the behavior in his own soul.

But then all sin begins with lies told to oneself. The cardinal lies of a failed leader? I give and give and give in this position; I deserve special privileges—perhaps even the privilege of living above the rules. Or, I have enough charm and enough smooth words that I can talk anything (even my innocence) into reality. Or, so much of my life is lived above the line of holiness that I can be excused this one little faux pas. Or, I have done so much for these people; now it’s their time to do something for me—like forgiving me and giving a second chance."

The Devil must be celebrating big time over his ability to bring down a big-name Christian leader. Speaking of that, I highly recommend everyone read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis for a chilling insight into temptation. My reaction upon reading it was “If I was the Devil, that is exactly what I would do!” It really is worth reading!

The Screwtape Letters

C. S. Lewis

Best Price $3.33
or Buy New

On yet another related topic. Do you believe that the Rev Ted Haggard was a "bad apple" his entire pastorial career? Or.. do you believe that he was at one time living an upright life and being used by God? I don't know any of the people involved but my first reaction is to believe that he was a good man who was not vigilant and was undermined by the temptation of the Devil... just like in The Screwtape Letters. See a previous post of mine "Like a Roaring Lion... Er Shark".

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 20, 2006

Could This Be God's Provision?

Like a lot of Christian men, I struggle with balancing the need to provide financially for my family, the need to be Dad, and the need to be a husband. I recently had to shine a bright spotlight on this issue because my boss asked me to consider moving into a marketing position.

As some background, I am by education an engineer and more recently I've been a consultant on the design of web applications. I have for several years played a role which was about 70% "do the work" and about 30% technical leadership. My marketing efforts have primarily been in the area of helping deliver great results so that our clients keep giving us repeat business. My marketing has been more of an "assist" role to the "real" marketing types. I've had a leadership role, but my employer really held others accountable for a true sales quota.

Then I get asked if I would like to take on a formal marketing role and take on my own "real quota." It doesn't necessarily mean I'll make more money but there is certainly the opportunity to make more money. I also expect that in the new marketing role there would be significantly more job-related stress. I'd be out of my comfort zone. My work hours would be more unpredictable. I would likely have to increase the amount of travel I do as well.

This is not the first time I've been asked. In the past, I thought about it and prayed about it and just never felt like volunteering to "jump into the frying pan" because I was pretty happy doing what I was doing.

For some reason, this time feels different. I recent years I had really come to believe that things happen in life for a reason. Then I had about three different events happen at work in the span of two days which all seemed to point towards accepting a move into marketing. For some unexplained reason this time my reaction was not "wait and see" but more along the lines of "I wonder if I supposed to say 'Yes' this time?"

I must admit I feel like I've been conditioned over the years to say "No". All the Christian men’s publications, Christian men’s organizations (eg. Promise Keepers, Men's Fraternity), and Christian radio shows seem to preach to men to avoid any opportunity that might sacrifice one extra hour a week of family time. The ideal job for a Christian man seems to be not a leadership position, requires no overtime or weekends, and allows you to get off by 4 PM so you can help coach your child's sports team.

There was a time when I bought into this line of thinking 100%. Along the way, I started observing that life doesn't always work out along those nice neat lines.

I had a Christian friend who was in a family business that was being negatively affected by technology. The service his business provided was getting automated over the Internet. His business prospects were declining. His response? He and a partner opened a business that did not require his constant presence on site. It was basically a self-service business where he provided the expensive equipment but the customers provided the labor. He could literally make money while he was asleep.

There is one guy I know who worked for a privately owned business. After a few years, the owner was ready to retire and apparently did not have any children who wanted to take it over. The owner asked him if he wanted to buy the business from him.... and he did.

There is another guy I know who left a good job because he thought his management was starting to expect him to do things which were almost unethical. He went through a long period of unemployment and a sales position. Then God arranged for a new position. Again, the owner is ready to retire and my friend and another employee are trying to buy him out and take over the business.

I know another guy who was practically forced into starting his own business when his boss got into some legal trouble. Because of regulatory and insurance issues, the owner could not be in that type business any more.

I don't think any of these Christian men are lousy husbands or fathers just because they don't have the predictable work hours/be off at 4PM job. From my vantage point as an outsider, God has used these situations in their life to grow them spiritually. They've had to take a lot on faith. They've had to learn to live with no earthly guarantee. I guess now I’m wondering if now it is my appointed time to step out of my comfort zone and grow in some way God has planned for me. Granted, my risk is perhaps smaller than theirs as I’m still an employee vs. the owner but I think the spiritual dimension is much the same.

I wonder also about the potential impact of the career change. I try to tithe regularly so if I take the new job and am successful, would that be God's way of funding his ministry? Would it be a way to help pay for my kid's college? For my children to avoid student loan debt? For my wife to not have to work outside the home? Is there someone that I am supposed to meet in this new position and be an influence in their life as part of God's plan? Is there someone I am to meet who is supposed to influence me as part of God's plan?

On the flip side, if I take this new job will there be new temptations to resist? On my death bed will I regret making the change? Will the stress shorten my lifespan?

God, I pray tonight for Your wisdom. Help me discern whether this opportunity is part of Your provision for me and my family.... or an opportunity to decline. I pray that if I am to accept, that You will enable me to be successful. Remove all barriers to me serving Your purpose even if I don’t understand what that purpose is right now. If this opportunity is not from You, I pray that You make that obvious and protect me from taking the wrong path. In either case, I pray for clarity. Help me know with certainty what You want me to do. Even more than that, use this time in my life to help me trust in You and Your provision. Grow me into the man You need me to be. I pray for Your blessing upon me and my family at this time of decision. Amen.

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Priorities and challenges for the next 50 years

Christianity Today asked 114 leaders from 11 ministry spheres about evangelical priorities for the next 50 years. Check out: What's Next: Evangelism | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Christian Lending Library in India

Back in March 2006 in my post Hungry for Books Overseas, I raised the issue of Christians in far away places where Christianity is not the dominant religion who are hungry for Christian reading material. I mentioned that there is a whole warehouse of books at the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge just lacking the money to ship the books to those English speaking Christians who desire the books. I am sure their are books on your shelf or entire libraries of books from retired pastors that could be put to great use overseas.

The Christian Communication Centre, for example, offers lending libraries to Christians and seekers in many cities in India. Check out the Christian Communication Centre's new blog to see how you can support their efforts. For your information, it costs about $1 per pound to ship a "book bag" by surface (ship) to India. Please contact me by email if you feel lead to support this effort financially.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Certain of What We Do Not See

Hebrews 11:1


1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

1Now faith is the (A)assurance of things (B)hoped for, the conviction of (C)things not seen.
The Message

1-2The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

The Amplified Bible
1NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].
You can get the wall paper image yourself here.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Do You Really Believe In the Rapture?

I got an email from a cousin of mine pointing me to this free video on YouTube depicting what the Rapture might be like. I think it is primarily intended to reach teenage non-believers but I think it also challenges all believers as to whether or not we really believe the Bible is literally true and whether we believe the events of the Second Coming of Christ are really going to happen. Check it out.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Bible vs. Your Cell Phone

I don't know the source of this, but when I got it from a friend in an email, I had to post it for all to see. Maybe we all need to recharge our Biblical batteries.

Bible vs. Cell Phone

I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?

What if we gave it to kids as gifts?

What if we used it as we traveled?

What if we used it in case of an emergency?

What if we upgraded it to get the latest version?
This is something to make you go...hmmm...where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing.
Unlike our cell phone, we don't ever have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Preparation for His Purposes

My blogger friend Donny Prater shares a great lesson for all of us about how God can prepare us for His purposes without us realizing it at the time. See A Man Coming Alive in christ: A Writing Revelation

"Did you ever have a moment of revelation? You know what I mean, it's when out of the blue your mind starts to wander and then, like a bolt of lightening, an idea pops into your head and just clicks"

Sunday, September 03, 2006

God Can Use Your Voice Mail Greeting

A Man Coming Alive in christ: Leave Your Phone On, God Might Call.....

Check out the post above on Donny Prater's "A Man Coming Alive" blog that talks about how God used one man's cell phone voice mail greeting to save one and possibly two lives.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Much Needed Reminder That God Can and Usually Prefers to Use Ordinary People

It appears that according to the Bible our willingness to allow God to lead us and use us is more important than whether others would consider us qualified, talented enough, or whether we have the right credentials.

Read on...

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (New International Version)

26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."[a]

Here is a modern paraphrase that strikes home...

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (The Message)

26-31Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Joy of the Refining Fire

You know how when singing those old hymns with a lot of verses, the verses near the end but not the last verse are often skipped? We sang "How Firm a Foundation, Ye Saints of the Lord" on Sunday morning and included the fith verse. For some reason the last phrase about the dross and the gold in verse five jumped out at me.
Verse 5

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

It had been a while since I thought about the ancient process of separating the dross (impurities) from the valuable metal. Here are some references to “dross” from the NIV:

Psalm 119:119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love
your statutes.

Proverbs 25:4Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the

Isaiah 1:22Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with

Isaiah 1:25I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross
and remove all your impurities.

Ezekiel 22:18"Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to me; all of them
are the copper, tin, iron and lead left inside a furnace. They are but the
dross of silver.

Ezekiel 22:19Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'Because you have all
become dross, I will gather you into Jerusalem.

I was also lead to this portion of the Bible which assures us that we as Christians will suffer trials but through them we’ll be stronger or “refined.”

1 Peter 1:6-8 (New International Version)
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,

Back from a Long Blogging Hiatus

I am hopefully back from a long blogging hiatus.  Things just got a little crazy for a couple of weeks at work and at home.  I spent a lot of extra mental energy at work for a couple of weeks on a special project.  It was fun and I learned a good bit while I was at it but it suffocated my blogging-related brain cells.  I also spent numerous weekend hours braving the June and July heat in Nashville to scratch a couple of items off my “honey do list.”  These items were however only belatedly off the list as I was reminded “if you’d done it earlier in the year it wouldn’t have been so hot.”  Also during this time I have been trying to take better care of myself and get some much needed exercize on weeknights.  Put those three things together and you have very few discretionary hours left for blogging.  Surely, I am not the only blogger to have this problem?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Father's Day Prayer

With Father's Day approaching, I will repeat here a Father's Day prayer I wrote last year and posted on my Caleb's Publishing website. (new as of June 13, 2008 see also Prayer for Fathers Day 2008.)

Father's Day Prayer

by Philip Hartman

Father's Day 2005

God, I thank you on this Father’s Day for all the many blessings you have given me.. Thank You for:

  • Your Son Jesus and the sacrifice He made for me,
  • my wife and my two daughters,
  • for the other family and friends that love and care about me,
  • for my good health and the good health of my family,
  • for my career and Your provision for my family’s financial
  • for today’s special moments like catching a butterfly with
    my 8-yr old,
  • for the love, care, and good example set by my own father when I
    was growing up.

God, I confess that I am not always the best husband and father I should be. I pray for Your forgiveness and grace.

I pray that You will bless me in my role as father. Give me wisdom and patience. Grow me into the father You need me to be for my two daughters. Help me be someone they know will always be there for them.

I pray that You will bless me in my role as husband. Again, I pray for wisdom and patience. Grow me into the man my wife needs me to be. Protect my marriage from evil influences. Grow us together as a couple that will be an example for our daughters and a good Christian witness to those around us.

Help me discern Your will for my life and the life of my family. Where I need to take a stand for You and Your purposes, I pray that You will make Your will obvious and supernaturally enable me to do what You need me to do. Where I need to shut up or back off, I pray that You will
convict me of this and give me peace as I turn it all over to You. Build me up where I am weak. Help me develop the spiritual gifts You have given me for Your service.

I pray that You will bless me in my role as provider. I ask for Your continued blessings on my work life. Help me honor You in all that I do. Help me be a good witness in the workplace. God,
there is much uncertainty in the world right now with many people losing their jobs. Help me trust in Your provision for my family. Where Your provision is where I am already, help me be the best that I can be. When turmoil is coming and a change is needed, I pray that You will
alert me in some way, prepare me for the change, and enable me to make the changes I need to in order to take full advantage of Your provision.

I pray that You will bless my wife in her role as mother of our children. Giver her continued good health, wisdom, energy and patience. Grow her into the mother You need her to be. Give her deep joy from motherhood despite all the hard work.

I pray that you will bless her in her role as my wife. Grow her into the woman You need her to be for me. Strengthen her commitment and resolve to our marriage. Remove all walls that separate us and bring us together intimately in a way that lasts a lifetime.

I pray that you will work mightily in the lives of my two daughters. Use Your Holy Spirit to draw them close to You. Give them a hunger to seek You. I pray that they will grow up happy and healthy. I pray that You will provide friends, teachers, Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, and coaches who will be good influences on them at the very moment they will be tempted. Protect them from peer pressures to stray away from the path You have planned for them. If it is Your will that they should marry, I pray that at this very moment You are preparing a godly young man for them who will love them and remain committed to them always. I also lift up to You the parents of these young men. Help them raise their sons to be great fathers for my future grandchildren if that is part of Your plan as well.

This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus.


Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman and Caleb's Publishing - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Humble Ambition

“I was once considering what the reason was our Lord loved humility in us so much. I suddenly remembered that He is essentially the supreme truth and that humility is just our walking in the truth. For it is a very great truth that we have no good in us; we have only misery and nothingness. He who does not understand this walks in lies. But he who understands this the best is the most pleasing to the Supreme Truth. May God grant us this favor, sisters, never to be without the humbling knowledge of ourselves...

His Majesty seeks and loves courageous souls. But they must be humble in all their ways and have no confidence in themselves ...

...But it is necessary that we should understand what this humility is like. For I believe Satan will try to do great harm. He hinders those who begin to pray from going forward by suggesting to them false notions of humily. He makes them think that it is pride to have spiritual ambitions, desires to imitate the saints, and longings to be like martyrs.”

Saint Teresa of Avila

Love and Joy

“Christ’s love sees us with terrible clarity and sees us whole. Christ’s love so wishes our joy that it is ruthless against everything in us that diminishes our joy. The worst sentence Love can pass is that we behold the suffering which Love has endured for our sake, and that is also our acquittal. The justice and mercy of the judge are ultimately one.”

Frederick Buechner

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Nashville Christian Bloggers Conference ?

Like many bloggers I have an interest in writing and maybe writing a book some day. I got an email a while back about the Tennessee Writers Alliance and their Writers' Conference June 9-10. At the last minute, I decided to attend and see if it was helpful in improving my writing. I was enticed by the fact that the workshop leader for non-fiction (my area of interest) was Ray Waddle and he had published two Christian books, Against the Gran: Unconventional Wisdom from Ecclesiastes and A Turbulent Peace: The Psalms for Our Time. So, I felt like I would not be the only person there interested in faith-based writing.

I must say that enjoyed the conference immensely. I got some good suggestions on how to improve my writing. I also got to meet others who take their writing seriously. (I think there were probably 80-100 people at the conference all together.)

And... I got to meet a real published Christian author who patiently answered several questions I had and gave me some suggestions and encouragement to look at trying to publish some magazine articles. We traded emails afterwards and he took a peak at my blog. In his reply he asked an interesting question, "I wonder how many serious (religious) bloggers there are in Nashville - do they ever get together?"

I did a search on for both the words "Christian" and "Nashville" and found that there are more of us that I thought. So... I'm curious, are any of you Christian bloggers out there within a reasonable distance of Nashville interested in getting together to talk about blogging for our faith, discuss the impact of blogging on your personal walk with God, stories you may have about contacts you've made thru blogging, any success stories you may have, how you've found you reach people in the best way, whether you're making any $$ from your blog, whether you hope to take on larger writing projects like a book or magazine article, etc. If you're interested in a face-to-face meeting please leave a comment or shoot me an email. Also, please pass the word to other bloggers in the geographical area that you might know.

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 05, 2006

My Missing Spiritual Discipline

I’ve had some thoughts recently about how Jesus talked about “when you fast...” as if there was a definate expectation that we would fast.

Matthew 6:16-18 (New International Version)

16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who
is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

I am sure I am not alone when I admit that I’ve never really fasted on a regular basis for the explicit purpose of getting spiritually closer to God. From the verses above it seems that Jesus expected the practice of fasting to be common.

I could try to blame this lack of spiritual discipline on my parents as we did not practice fasting when I was growing up. I could try to blame this lack of spiritual discipline on the various churches I’ve attended since I moved away from home after college. The pastors didn’t preach on fasting. Nobody around me set this positive example. Try as I might, there is no escaping the fact that I am smart enough to read the verses above and get the meaning.

Then there is that uncomfortable detail that I heard Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ talk about fasting on the radio about 8 or 10 years ago. He was calling on Christians to pray for revival in America and fast for 40 days. I even visited his website back then that gave advice on how to fast safely. He still has a lot of information on fasting available on the web. However, I must admit that while I was curious about whether fasting would really bring me closer to God, I wasn’t committed enough to actually try it. I was chicken! I was afraid I’d fail. I was afraid I’d feel worse trying and failing than if I never tried.

Then about 2-3 years ago, I was reminded about fasting again. My pastor announced in a sermon that he had just completed a 40 day fast while praying for our church and his ministry. There he was right in front of me... an imperfect person that I knew on a first name basis who had actually done it. Once again, I failed to have enough faith to act.

A couple of weeks ago, I was surfing around and stumbled across a web page on fasting. I have since lost track of the URL but I remember the author making a point that we should not enter into fasting to get God to do something for us. We can’t create an obligation for God to remove some burden we feel. We should enter fasting for no other reason than to get closer to God.

Then less than a week ago, I was preparing my Sunday School lesson by reading in the Life Truths Leaders Guide and immediately after my lesson was an extra article “Fast As You Flourish in the Lord” by Ed Cox, Director International Prayer Strategy Office, International Mission Board, SBC. I read how he began skipping lunch on Wednesdays to read his Bible and pray. He felt closer and closer to the Lord and wound up soon fasting all day on Wednesdays. The article ends with a call to participate in a “Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelism” on June 4, 2006. I conveniently did write myself a reminder and I am sad to report it slipped my mind completely and today is June 5th already so I missed it.

Then today, I got an “Prime Time with God” email from with the catchy subject line “A New Remnant of Priests.” I thought to myself “What’s that all about?” When I opened the email right there in the upper left corner was a “Recommended Resource” Biblical Studies for Fasting by Dr. Elmer Towns. I found myself clicking on the “Order” button to learn more... but I didn’t turn over my credit card number for the $10.95 book. I’m still chicken and afraid of failure.

God, I pray that if it is no coincidence that my thoughts keep turning to fasting that You will convict me of this and remove all excuses and barriers which prevent me from taking this leap of faith. If this is what I’m supposed to do, then give me a hunger for a closer relationship with You that is stronger than my immediate desire for the next meal or the next visit to the office vending machine. Grant me the proper attitude. Draw me close to You. Grow me into the man You need me to be. Amen.

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 29, 2006

Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!

When was the last time you sang or heard The Star-Spangled Banner? When was the last time you sang or heard verses 2, 3, or 4 of The Star Spangled Banner? On this Memorial Day, I think all people of faith should be reminded of how Francis Scott Key ended The Star-Spangled Banner with thanks and praise to God for rescuing and preserving our nation.

Verse 4 of The Star-Spangled Banner

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand

Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land

Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

For the complete lyrics of all four verses, see

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Devil's in the Details-Scratch that-Weeds

Let me start by saying I am not really the “fire and brimestone” type. My nature really is to focus on forgiveness and grace and trying to discern God’s will for my life and act upon it. However, I was reading in Matthew 13 tonight and felt my eyes had been opened to Matthew in a fresh way. For some reason, I haven’t read the Parable of the Weeds or heard it preached from the pulpit in a long while.

What really jumped out at me is how it clearly refutes the notion of universal salvation that is so popular in these modern times. Too many people, in my opinion, have selectively read the Bible and concluded that there is no Devil and that God loves us all so much that He would never actually condemn anybody to hell. I will admit I have always preferred to look at salvation from the point of view of loving God so much that I want to spend eternity with Him. After tonight's Bible reading, I felt convicted to remind the readers of my humble blog that there really are dire consequences for not having a saving knowlege of Jesus. Here are the verses which contain Jesus’ own words.

Matthew 13:24-48 (New International Version)

The Parable of the Weeds

24 Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

28 " 'An enemy did this,' he replied.
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

29 " 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

...... I skip the Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast in verses 31-35.

The Parable of the Weeds Explained

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."

37 He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Note the sentence “The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.” Doesn’t the phrase “at the end of the age” sound a lot like a reference to the end of the world as we know it as revealed to us in the Book of Revelations? Is there any ambiguity in Jesus’ use of the phrase “weed out”? What word picture comes to mind with the phrase “fiery furnace”?

I was then reminded of another parable Jesus told, The Rich Man and Lazarus. Once again, the words of Jesus himself.

Luke 16:19-31 (New International Version)

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell,[a] where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

25 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

27 "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

29 "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

30 " 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

31 "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

I don’t know about you, but the use of the word “torment” seems pretty clear. It also seems clear from “a great chasm has been fixed” and “nor can anyone cross over from there to us” that once we reach our time of judgement, if we have not already accepted a pardon from Jesus in this life it is then too late.

For those of you who have already accepted Jesus, you may want to check out False Humility and False Love for encouragement to share your faith when the Holy Spirit presents the opportunity to you.

If you stumble upon this post and have not yet accepted Jesus into your life, I pray that the Holy Spirit will work in a mighty way in your life. I pray that you will be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life. I want to tell you that God’s grace is truly free. None of us are “good enough” to earn it. It is simply a gift to all who admit they are sinners, truly repent of their sin, and accept Jesus as Lord of their life. Jesus has already paid your price when He suffered on the cross.

And remember this (my favorite Bible verse)

Romans 10:13 (New International Version)

13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Changing Neighborhoods: The Holy Spirit vs. Demographics ?

My church is facing changing demographics in our neighborhood and declining membership. My church is on the northern side of a major city and up until a few years ago things seemed to be going pretty well, we were growing, and the church was even considering adding on another building.

At some point, the church began losing members. I'm sure we dropped the ball in some areas (shame on us) but we were also fighting an uphill battle against demographic trends beyond our control. Next thing I know, the preacher left for another church and the church began a serious self-examination to address the drop in membership and think about what kind of pulpit leadership our church needed. One step the church took was to hire a statistician from our denomination.

One of the things he did was look at the addresses of our "active" membership and plot them on a map. The results startled me a little. I knew that a lot of people had bought houses north and northeast of the church but I had no idea how pronounced the trend was. He presented some charts similar to the ones below.

On the left is how I theorize the chart would have looked maybe 40 years ago. On the right is a chart roughly representing the current situation. The congregation over the years has moved north and particularly northeast of the church. Only a small percentage live south of the church now.

The statistician went back into the computer databases of addresses looking to see what the geographic spread of addresses was like only 3 years ago and determined that in 3 years there had been a loss of 12% in the members of the congregation living south of the church.

He gave some other comments that really ruined my day. This is not to say I disagree with the data or facts, maybe I just didn't want to hear the message.
  • The people moving into the neighborhoods close to and south of the church are from other socio-economic groups (I assume black and hispanic).
  • What has likely happend to our community is that the children of our "blue hair" members bought homes north and northeast of us. For a while, they drove back to their home church in the old neighborhood.
  • Members who live that far away have a hard time convincing their new neighbors to drive back towards the old neighborhood to go to church.
  • When young adult members' kids get to be school age, their school friends go to a church close by in the new neighborhood .
  • Eventually, the parents join a church closer to their house so their kids can go to church with their school friends.
  • The most promising "thinking outside the box" approach for us to take today is to open a "satelitte" church maybe 20 or 30 miles away to the northeast and link the two locations by video. He cautioned us not to build a new location too close. The unstated assumption was that the satellite would eventually grow into the primary location and we would perhaps abandon the current location.
My reaction was something along the lines "Shouldn't we embrace the new residents and reach out to them in Christian love?"

What do the statistics say?
  • The socio-economic groups moving into our area don't want to come to church with us. They go back to their old neighborhoods to go to church with people like them. Or.. they build their own churches in their new neighborhoods.
  • Only 1 church in 20 that tries to reach out to the new socio-economic group moving into their area is successful getting the new socio-economic group to embrace their church.
Upon this news, I must admit I got knots in my stomach. Could it possibly be God's will that we abandon our neighborhood over the next few years? Could it possibly be God's will that we not try very hard to reach out to the new residents who are different from us? Is it true that we are "gifted" by the Holy Spirit to reach the needs of the people who are moving north and northeast and we should follow the demographic group we are gifted to serve? Am I really as open to new people in my church as I think I am? Or.. would God have us take the 1 out of 20 odds on faith? Am I ready and willing to accept the inevitable changes? Am I as ready to welcome other socio-economic groups as I think I am?

I don't profess to know the answer but I guess I still hold out hope we can reach out to the new residents. The pastor search committe took a survey of what characteristics we thought they should look for in our next pastor. I found myself writing that our next pastor should be bilingual. I hope I really meant it.

God, I lift up my church situation to You in prayer. I pray that You will lead us and help us discern Your will for us. If it is Your will that we reach out to the new residents, I pray that You will enable us to serve You in this way. If it is Your will that we follow our traditional constituency, I pray that You will enable this also. Prepare our hearts in either case to serve You and follow Your will. I pray also for our pastor search committe. I pray that You help them discern Your plan for our church and that You would guide them to recommend the person who would align our church with Your will. Lord, search my soul and show me where I need to grow. Help me align myself with Your will no matter where I am. Bless my community, no matter where they came from or where they're going. Draw them all close to You. Amen.

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

What the Bible Says About Priorities in Life

I've struggled several time in life with what my priorities should be in life and how close my priorities are to God's priorities. There was a verse in today’s Sunday School lesson that really struck a chord with me around this very issue.

Philippians 1:9-11 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

9 And I pray this: that your love (A) will keep on growing (B) in knowledge and every kind of discernment, (C) 10 so that you can determine what really matters (D) and can be pure (E) and blameless (F) in [a] the day of Christ, (G) 11 filled with the fruit (H) of righteousness (I) that [comes] through Jesus Christ, to the glory (J) and praise of God.

This translation uses the phrase “so that you can determine what really matters” and I found myself feeling encouraged to continue to seek God’s priorities. I checked out some other translations as well.

The NIV translates the phrase determine what really matters as “discern what is best”

The NASB translates the same phrase as “approve the things that are excellent”

The Amplified Bible translates this as

“So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences]”

The Message gives verses 9-11 as

“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. “

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Prayers from the Depths

When we are in prosperity, our prayers come from our lips. But when we are in the depths, our prayers come from our heart. Those that are farthest cast down are not farthest from God but are nearest to Him.

Archibald Simpson, Puritan Preacher

Psalm 130:1-5 New American Standard Bible

Hope in the LORD'S Forgiving Love.

A Song of Ascents.

1Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD.
2Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications.
3If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
4But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.
5I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.

Monday, May 01, 2006

US Naval Academy Chapel Altar, Stained Glass, and Pipe Organ

Your ancestor's tax dollars at work, befor the politically correct culture of today.

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Sanctuary of the US Naval Academy Chapel

A view from inside the US Naval Academy Chapel showing the light coming in from the huge dome over the sanctuary.
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US Naval Academy Chapel Dome

The dome of the US Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland as viewed from the side.
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US Naval Academy Chapel

The entrance to the United State Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland. Picture taken in April 2006.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

The culture war's biggest casualties may be Christian joy and hope

The article below is worth your time.....

Top Story
Furrowed Brows Inc.
The culture war's biggest casualties may be Christian joy and hope.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

35 Pre-School Children Spared

In my tornado post 16 days ago, I said that 35 Pre-School children survived the Goodlettsville, Tennessee tornado without a scratch in the children's building of Metro Baptist Church... despite this damage to the adjacent sanctuary building. This picture was taken today, 16 days after the tornado.

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Tornado 16 Days Later #2

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