Surprising Priorities

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For we do not have a high priest 

who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, 

but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, 

yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When Christ enters our lives, we begin the journey from our natural selves to the person that God created us to be. This journey transforms our self-image, our faith, and our relationships as we exchange acts of the flesh for fruits of the spirit (Gal 5:19–23). These transformations can be joyful as we grow in personal knowledge, in faith and in relationships; they can also involve painful losses because fundamental change is inherently difficult and losses must be individually grieved.

The change required in the journey of faith is often compared in the Bible with the challenges in marriage (e.g. Matt 9:15) The newly wed is almost always joyous at the initiation of marriage. Yet, the journey from me to we in the first years of marriage can also be challenging because old relationships with our parents, siblings, and spouses must transform into new ones.

The joys and challenges of marriage over those first few years inform the tensions we experience within ourselves, with God, and with others over a lifetime. The first three Beatitudes focus on tension with one’s self (humility, mourning, and meekness). The second three Beatitudes focus on tension with God (zeal, mercy, and holiness). The last three Beatitudes focus on tension with others (peacemaking, persecution, and being reviled).

What is most striking about the Beatitudes is that they reveal that Jesus honors humility, mourning, mercy, and peacemaking much more than we do.

Jesus honors the poor in spirit, the humble, which does not come naturally to us. We prefer naturally to build physical strength, self-esteem, assertiveness, and influence over others. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit are we able to grow in humility and to see it mature into the character trait of meekness.

Jesus honors mourning. We do not naturally mourn over the sin in our lives and mourning is the only emotion among the Beatitudes. Other emotions are closer to our hearts and we seek comfort, not transformation. Yet, it is when we pour out our hearts in mourning that we turn to God. This may be why the Apostle Paul admonishes us to:  “Gócense con los que se gozan y lloren con los que lloran.” (Rom 12:15)

Jesus honors mercy. Mercy is one of God’s core values (Exod 34:6) and it lies at the heart of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. We see God’s love primarily through the lens of His mercy. Mercy is hard for us to ask for and even harder to give which is why we see the hand of God at work in the simple act of forgiveness.

Jesus honors peacemaking—shalom. Shalom forces us to step outside our comfort zone perhaps more than any other Beatitude. It is because by extending peace in all of our relationships we deny ourselves and emulate Christ. Peacemakers must abdicate their privileges, take up the cross daily, dwell in solidarity with all people, and practice sacrificial hospitality.

Jesus’ priorities are clearly not our own and they explain Jesus’ focus on our transformation, not just in the next life, but in this one. How we live and how we die matters in the kingdom of God. We know this, not only because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (Phil 3:10-11), but also because Stephen and ten of the twelve apostles followed Jesus’ example and became martyrs for the faith.

Jesus’ example poses a paradox when he admonishes us to treat persecution as a teachable and redemptive moment: “amen a sus enemigos y oren por los que los persiguen.” (Matt 5:44) The power of love is revealed when it is unexpected and unearned. We see this power in Christ’s words on the cross: “Padre, perdónalos, porque no saben lo que hacen.” (Luke 23:34) It is through Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross that we are reconciled with God and experience the depths of his love.

Jesus’ priorities are not naturally our own, but he admonishes us to embrace the Beatitudes and the creative tension that they engender.

Surprising Priorities

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Prioridades Sorprendentes

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Porque no tenemos un Sumo Sacerdote que no pueda compadecerse de nuestras flaquezas, 

sino Uno que ha sido tentado en todo como nosotros, pero sin pecado. 

(Heb 4:15)

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Cuando Cristo entra en nuestras vidas, comenzamos el viaje desde nuestro ser natural hasta la persona que Dios nos creó para ser. Este viaje transforma nuestra autoimagen, nuestra fe, y nuestras relaciones al intercambiar los actos de la carne por los frutos del espíritu (Gal 5:19–23). Estas transformaciones pueden ser alegres a medida que crecemos en conocimiento personal, en fe y en relaciones; también pueden implicar pérdidas dolorosas porque el cambio fundamental es intrínsecamente difícil y las pérdidas deben sufrir individualmente.

Los cambios requieren en el viaje de fe se comparan frecuentemente en la Biblia con los desafíos en el matrimonio (e.g. Matt 9:15).  El recién casado es casi siempre alegre al inicio del matrimonio. Sin embargo, el viaje de mí a nosotros en los primeros años de matrimonio también puede ser un desafío porque las viejas relaciones con nuestros padres, hermanos y cónyuges deben transformarse en nuevas.

Las alegrías y los desafíos del matrimonio durante esos primeros años informan las tensiones que experimentamos dentro de nosotros mismos, con Dios y con los demás a lo largo de la vida. Las primeras tres Bienaventuranzas se centran en la tensión con uno mismo (humildad, duelo y mansedumbre). Las segundas tres Bienaventuranzas se centran en la tensión con Dios (celo, misericordia, y santidad). Las últimas tres Bienaventuranzas se centran en la tensión con los demás (hacer paz, persecución, ser vilipendiado).

Lo más sorprendente de las Bienaventuranzas es que revelan que Jesús honra la humildad, el duelo, la misericordia y la hacer de la paz mucho más que nosotros.

Jesús honra los pobres en espíritu, a los humildes, lo cual no viene naturalmente por nosotros. Preferimos naturalmente desarrollar fuerza física, autoestima, asertividad e influencia sobre los demás. Solo a través del poder del Espíritu Santo podemos crecer en humildad y verlo madurar en el rasgo de carácter de la mansedumbre.

Jesús honra el luto. Naturalmente, no lloramos por el pecado en nuestras vidas y el duelo es la única emoción entre las Bienaventuranzas. Otras emociones están más cerca de nuestros corazones y buscamos consuelo, no transformación. Sin embargo, es cuando derramamos nuestros corazones en duelo que recurrimos a Dios. Eso es tal vez la razón que el apóstol Pablo nos exhorta a: “Gócense con los que se gozan y lloren con los que lloran.” (Rom 12:15)

Jesús honra la misericordia. La misericordia es uno de los valores centrales de Dios (Exod 34:6) y se encuentra en el corazón de la obra expiatoria de Cristo en la cruz. Vemos el amor de Dios principalmente a través del lente de su misericordia. Es difícil para nosotros pedir misericordia y aún más difícil de dar, por eso vemos la mano de Dios obrando en el simple acto de perdón.

Jesús honra los pacificadores—shalom. Shalom nos obliga a salir de nuestra zona de confort tal vez más que cualquier otra bienaventuranza. Es porque al extender la paz en todas nuestras relaciones nos negamos a nosotros mismos y emulamos a Cristo. Los pacificadores deben abdicar de sus privilegios, tomar la cruz todos los días, vivir en solidaridad con todas las personas y practicar la hospitalidad sacrificial.

Las prioridades de Jesús claramente no son nuestras y explican el enfoque de Jesús en nuestra transformación, no solo en la próxima vida, sino en esta. Cómo vivimos y cómo morimos importa en el reino de Dios. Lo sabemos, no solo porque de la vida, muerte, y resurrección (Phil 3:10-11), pero también porque Esteban y diez de los doce de los apóstoles siguieron el ejemplo de Jesús y se convirtieron en mártires por la fe.

El ejemplo de Jesús plantea una paradoja cuando nos exhorta a tratar la persecución como un momento de enseñanza y redentor: “amen a sus enemigos y oren por los que los persiguen.” (Matt 5:44) El poder del amor se revela cuando es inesperado y no se gana. Vemos este poder en las palabras de Cristo en la cruz: “Padre, perdónalos, porque no saben lo que hacen.” (Luke 23:34) Es a través del sacrificio expiatorio de Cristo en a la cruz que nos reconciliamos con Dios y experimentamos las profundidades de su amor.

Las prioridades de Cristo no son naturalmente nuestras, pero nos exhorta a abrazar las Bienaventuranzas y la tensión creativa que engandan.

Prioridades Sorprendente

Ver también:

Gospel as Divine Template

Otras formas de participar en línea:

Sitio del autor: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Sitio del editor: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Boletín informativo: https://bit.ly/Plow_2020

 

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Lowry Preaches the Gospel

Lowry_review_20200620bEugene L. Lowry. 2001. The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon as Narrative Art Form

(Orig pub 1980). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

In Greek, John’s Gospel begins: Εν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος (John 1:1 BNT). The English translation reads: in the beginning was the word. By contrast, Spanish follows the Vulgate and translates λόγος, not as a noun, but as a verb: in the beginning was the verb. This translation is generally interesting because Hebrew is a verb-based language which makes it easier to tell a story.  It is specifically interesting because Jerome observes John’s choice of Εν ἀρχῇ mirrors Genesis 1:1 reminding his reader of the creation account.  Creative work requires creative words–action verbs, not passive nouns.

In The Homiletical Plot, Eugene Lowry likewise sees a sermon as a narrative event rather than as a content transmittal (12, 90-91). The narrative event discovers content and meaning rather than merely reporting it. Lowry explains: the sermon is a bridging event in time, moving from itch to scratch, from issue to answer, from conflict to resolution, from ambiguity to closure born of the gospel (118).  Motion, not information, drives the sermon.

For Lowry, the sermon does not so much tell a story as adopt a narrative structure. He outlines this structure in five moves: (1) upsetting the equilibrium, (2) analyzing the discrepancy, (3) disclosing the clue to resolution, (4) experiencing the gospel, and (5) anticipating the consequences (26). Lowry’s craft is displayed in how well he unpacks these five moves.

In the first move of the sermon, for example, the preacher upsets the equilibrium by introducing dramatic tension, conflict, or ambiguity. Lowry’s illustrates this move with the dilemma presented in the film High Noon (1952). In the film, tension arises as the marshal has promised his pacifist fiancée to retire only to discover that a band of desperados just released from prison have vowed to take revenge on his town.  Here is the dilemma:  if the marshal retires with his fiancée, he is a coward; if he stays, he breaks his promise (57).  The backstory on the film is that only a decade earlier a pacifist America had sat on the sidelines in the early stages of World War II.  Just like the film helped Americans relive their dilemma, Lowry’s sermon strives to help the congregation feel the tension.

Eugene Lowry is the William K. McEvaney Emeritus Professor of Preaching at Saint Paul School of Theology of Kansas City. This printing commemorates the 20th anniversary of the publication of The Homiletical Plot. The forward is written by Fred Craddock, another well-known homiletics professor and author. The book itself divides into three sections—the sermon as narrative, the stages of the homiletical plot, and other considerations. These sections are preceded by an introduction and followed by an afterword which reflects on how things might have changed over preceding 20 years.

Lowry’s The Homiletical Plot is a short book and a good read. Why is an average Christian interested in reading a preaching (homiletics) text?  Because the Word of God is meant to be read out loud, the gospel itself lies within the ambiguity and tension of the narrative event.  That makes homiletics a key to biblical interpretation. Consequently, Lowry’s book is more than just another preaching text and is worthy of careful reading.

Lowry Preaches the Gospel

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Lethargy: Monday Monologues (podcast) October 19, 2020

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Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on spiritual lethargy. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Lethargy: Monday Monologues (podcast) October 19, 2020

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Prayer for the Holy Spirit

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Lord Most High,

Forgive us for sins known and unknown, transgressions flaunted, and iniquities seen and unseen.

Give us penitent hearts that repent, make amends, and seek justice, not just quiet absolution.

Transform our lives, Oh Lord, that we might become fit stewards of grace.

Let us put on the full righteousness of Christ as knights suiting up for battle that we might extend your kingdom into hearts yet unrepentant and minds shielded from grace.

May our lives always speak louder than our words and our words speak only of you.

May we not squelch your Holy Spirit, but give your spirit full reign centered on you and you alone.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for the Holy Spirit

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

 

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Oración para el Espíritu Santo

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Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Señor Altísimo,

Perdónanos por los pecados conocidos y desconocidos, las transgresiones alardeadas y las iniquidades vistas y no vistas.

Danos corazones penitentes que se arrepientan, hagan las paces y busquen justicia, no solo la absolución silenciosa.

Transforma nuestras vidas, oh Señor, para que podamos convertirnos en mayordomos aptos de la gracia.

Pongámonos en la plena justicia de Cristo como caballeros que se preparan para la batalla para que podamos extender su reino a los corazones sin arrepentirse y las mentes protegidas de la gracia.

Que nuestras vidas siempre hablen más fuerte que nuestras palabras y nuestras palabras solo hablen de tí.

No podemos sofocar tu Espíritu Santo, sino darle a tu espíritu un reinado completo centrado en tí y solo en tí.

En el nombre de Jesús, Amén.

Oración para el Espíritu Santo

Ver también:

Gospel as Divine Template

Otras formas de participar en línea:

Sitio del autor: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Sitio del editor: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Boletín informativo: https://bit.ly/Plow_2020

 

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Persecution and Spiritual Lethargy

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But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. 

Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 

always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you 

for a reason for the hope that is in you; 

yet do it with gentleness and respect.

(1 Pet 3:14–15)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Being reviled is painful and triggers a Gethsemane moment with a choice—do we turn upward to God or inward into our pain? When we turn to God, our spiritual life blossoms and the church grows; but when we turn to our pain, individually or corporately, then our spiritual life suffers terribly because being reviled is seldom an isolated, one-time event.

Persecution in the modern and postmodern eras has taken on a whole new level of sophistication. The open slander of the Christian faith perpetrated by Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche in the nineteenth century placed church leaders on the philosophical defensive throughout the twentieth century (Plantinga 2000, 167). More recently, the media and other large corporations have actively promoted lifestyles inconsistent with the Christian faith—causal sex, abortion, stores open on Sunday—and caused internal questioning of the faith among believers. What greater suffering could a parent experience, for example, then to see their children fall away from the faith and fall into every manner of sin and deprivation? Today’s lions may appear only on television, but they are perfectly capable of consuming our faith.

This persistent, low-grade persecution can result in spiritual lethargy which affects all three movements of the spirit—within us, with God, and with others. These can be described as loneliness (within us), illusion (with God), and hostility (with others). Let us turn briefly to examine each of these aspects of spiritual lethargy, starting with loneliness.

Loneliness

Evangelist Charles Finney (1982, 74–76) cited six consequences of squelching the Holy Spirit in our lives:

1. Darkness of mind—the truth makes no useful impression,

2. Coldness towards religion,

3. Holding various errors in religion,

4. Disbelief,

5. Delusion regarding one’s spiritual state, and

6. Attempts to justify wrongdoing.

Cited on this list are each of the tensions—with ourselves (1, 2, 3, 5), with God (4), and with others (6)—suggesting different aspects of spiritual lethargy and fertile ground for church conflict.

Illusion

Allusions to persecution fill the New Testament, but they are frequently left out in public readings of scripture leaving the impression that the postmodern church no longer faces persecution and that sin is not intrinsic to the human condition, not part of the context of daily life. Lacking a basic awareness of persecution and sin, the postmodern church struggles less with the emerging persecution evident in our culture and more with the residual context of spiritual lethargy of past decades.

The annual number of Christian martyrs in 2015 has been estimated to have been 90,000 people. This is a decline from 377,000 in 1970s in the heyday of world communism, but still about three times the number (34,400) in 1900 (IBMR 2015, 29). Communism is an atheist philosophy and remains widely influential in secular circles even today. Over time, communist nations have been fairly open in their persecution of Christians who are often accused of representing a foreign influence.

An important indicator of spiritual lethargy is a lack of interest in prayer. Prayer is difficult in the absence of faith which is obvious when the words spoken take precedence over the relationship that we have with God. In the absence of a relationship with God, prayer seems like happy thoughts or a type of poetic expression rather than communication with a close friend, confidant, mentor, or father. When we are in relationship with God, our prayers are structured, in part, by the nature of that relationship—a kind of personal theology or spirituality.

Another indicator of spiritual lethargy is the tendency to read scripture out of context or in view of our own personal agendas. One passage often cited out of context is: “always be[ing] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). This hopeful snippet is often used to argue apologetically for the faith, but contains three important weaknesses. The first weakness is that the snippet ignores the context of persecution, an important reason that First Peter is one of the favorite books of persecuted churches (McKnight 1996, 35). The second weakness is that Peter’s admonition to speak “with gentleness and respect” is frequently glossed over by apologists anxious for debate. The final weakness is that the focus on offering a verbal defense ignores the Apostle Peter’s own emphasis which was on lifestyle evangelism—living out the faith. Consequently, highlighting only 1 Peter 3:15, which mentions offering a verbal defense of the Gospel, distorts the appeal, attitude, and main point of Peter’s letter, which is to inform Christian life in a world of persecution.

Hostility

In a world of persecution, we expect conflict with others over our faith because of the work and power of the Holy Spirit, as we read: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The power of the Holy Spirit normally acts in us to become witnesses, unless we give in to fear and squelch the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

Fear of taking risks can squelch the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as Barthel and Edling (2012, 101) note:

When individuals or groups are motivated by fear of the opinion of other people (what others personally think about them) more than the fear of God, their hearts grow cold to the Spirit of God. Lacking God-consciousness, there is no restraining the motivation of the heart; only worldly passions and popularity with the crowd control. This is common in church conflicts. Defensiveness, self-righteousness, and pride rule the day when people give in to the fear of man.

While we frequently pray for protection—evidence of fear, the early church prayed for boldness in their witness (Acts 4:29–31).

Spiritual lethargy, the opposite of boldness, can also quench the power of the Holy Spirit, as Apostle John observed in the church of Laodicea: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Rev 3:15-16) Spiritual lethargy is widely viewed as a postmodern problem where evangelism is neglected, churches battle over music and decorations, and biblical illiteracy is a problem even among aspiring seminary students.

Church conflicts start with inattention to God’s priorities, a corporate dimension of spiritual lethargy. Barthel and Edling (2012, 89) observe churches in conflict coming to their senses when leaders are reminded of the need to remain God-centered and to reframe conflict around well-chosen questions for reflection. Centering worship and our spiritual formation in Christ is therefore an important starting point in reducing and averting church conflict, because the underlying problem is spiritual, not the conflict itself.

The good news about spiritual lethargy is that God is sovereign and the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of Christians everywhere to bring about spiritual revival. This is as God promised the people of Israel (Deut 30:2–3) and the Apostle Peter preached, citing the Prophet Joel (Joel 2:28–29), on the day of Pentecost:

 And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17–18)

While some have become hamstrung with fruitless activities, others have been empowered through Christ’s Holy Spirit to work for the reconciliation of the world with Himself (2 Cor 5:17–20).

References

Barthel, Tara Klena and David V. Edling. 2012. Redeeming Church Conflicts: Turning Crisis into Compassion and Care. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks.

Finney, Charles. 1982. The Spirit-Filled Life (Orig pub 1845-61). New Kensington: Whitaker House.

Persecution and Spiritual Lethargy

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Persecución y Letargo Espiritual

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 Pero aun si sufren por causa de la justicia, dichosos son. 

Y no tengan miedo por temor a ellos ni se turben,

  sino santifiquen a Cristo como Señor en sus corazones, 

estando siempre preparados para presentar defensa

 ante todo el que les demande razón de la esperanza que hay en ustedes.

 Pero háganlo con mansedumbre y reverencia.

 (1 Pet 3:14-15)

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Ser vilipendiado es doloroso y desencadena un momento de Getsemani con una elección—¿Nos volvemos hacia a Dios o nos volvemos hacia nuestra dolor? Cuando nos volvemos hacia a Dios, nuestra vida espiritual florece y la iglesia crece, pero cuando recurrimos a nuestro dolor, individual o colectivamente, nuestra vida espiritual sufre terriblemente porque ser vilipendiado rara vez es un evento aislado y único.

La persecución en las épocas moderna y posmoderna ha adquirido un nivel completamente nuevo de sofisticación. La calumnia abierta de la fe cristiana perpetrada por Marx, Freud y Nietzsche en el siglo diecinueve colocó a los líderes de la iglesia en la defensiva filosófica durante todo el siglo veinte. (Plantinga 2000, 167) Más recientemente, los medios de comunicación y otras grandes corporaciones han promovido activamente estilos de vida inconsistentes con la fe cristiana—sexo causal, aborto, tiendas abiertas el domingo—y han provocado cuestionamientos internos de la fe entre los creyentes. ¿Qué mayor sufrimiento podría experimentar los padres, por ejemplo, al ver a sus hijos alejarse de la fe y caer en todo tipo de pecado y privación? Los leones de hoy pueden aparecer solo en el televisor, pero son perfectamente capaces de consumir nuestra fe.

Esta persecución persistente de bajo grado puede resultar en letargo espiritual que afecta los tres movimientos del espíritu dentro de nosotros, con Dios y con los demás. Estos se puede describirse como soledad (dentro de nosotros), ilusión (con Dios), and hostilidad (con otros). Pasemos brevemente a examiner cada uno de estos aspectos de letargo espiritual, empezando  de soledad.

Soledad 

Evaneglista Charles Finney (1982, 74–76) citó seis consecuencias de silenciar al Espíritu Santo en nuestras vidas:⁠1

1. Oscuridad mental—la verdad no da una impresión útil,

2. Frialdad hacia la religión,

3. Sosteniendo varios errores en la religión,

4. Incredulidad,

5. Delirio con respecto del estado espiritualidad, y

6. Intentos de justificar maldad.

En esta lista se citan cada una de las tensiones, con nosotros mismos (1, 2, 3, 5), con Dios (4) y con los demás (6), que sugieren diferentes aspectos del letargo espiritual y terreno fértil para el conflicto de la iglesia.

Ilusión

Las alusiones a la persecución llenan el Nuevo Testamento, pero con frecuencia se dejan de lado en las lecturas públicas de las Escrituras, dejando la impresión de que la iglesia posmoderna ya no se enfrenta a la persecución y que el pecado no es intrínseco a la condición humana, no forma parte del contexto de la vida cotidiana. Al carecer de una conciencia básica de persecución y pecado, la iglesia posmoderna lucha menos con la persecución emergente evidente en nuestra cultura y más con el contexto residual de letargo espiritual de las últimas décadas.

Se estima que el número anual de mártires cristianos en 2015 fue de 90,000 personas. Esta es una disminución de 377,000 en la década de 1970 en el apogeo del comunismo mundial, pero todavía alrededor de tres veces el número (34,400) en 1900 (IBMR 2015, 29). El comunismo es una filosofía atea y sigue siendo muy influyente en los círculos seculares, incluso hoy en día. Con el tiempo, las naciones comunistas han sido bastante abiertas en su persecución de los cristianos quienes a menudo son acusados ​​de representar una influencia extranjera.

Un indicador importante del letargo espiritual es la falta de interés en la oración. La oración es difícil en ausencia de fe, lo que es obvio cuando las palabras pronunciadas tienen precedencia sobre la relación que tenemos con Dios. En ausencia de una relación con Dios, la oración parece pensamientos felices o un tipo de expresión poética en lugar de comunicación con un amigo cercano, confidente, mentor, o padre. Cuando estamos en relación con Dios, nuestras oraciones están estructuradas, en parte, por la naturaleza de esa relación, una especie de teología o espiritualidad personal.

Otro indicador de letargo espiritual es la tendencia a leer las Escrituras fuera de contexto o en vista de nuestras propias agendas personales. Un pasaje que a menudo se cita fuera de contexto es: “estando siempre preparados para presentar defensa ante todo el que les demande razón de la esperanza que hay en ustedes.” (1 Pet 3:15). 

Este fragmento de esperanza a menudo se usa para argumentar disculpándose por la fe, pero contiene tres debilidades importantes. La primera debilidad es que el fragmento ignora el contexto de persecución, una razón importante por la que el Libro Primero de Pedro es uno de los libros favoritos de las iglesias perseguidas (McKnight 1996, 35). La segunda debilidad es que la admonición de Pedro de hablar “con mansedumbre y reverencia” es frecuentemente ignorada por los apologistas ansiosos por el debate. La debilidad final es que el enfoque en ofrecer una defensa verbal ignora el propio énfasis del apóstol Pedro que estaba en el evangelismo del estilo de vida—vivir la fe. En consecuencia, destacando solo 1 Peter 3:15, que menciona ofrecer una defensa verbal del evangelio, distorsiona la atracción, actitud, y punto principal de la carta de Pedro, lo que es a informer la vida cristiana en un mundo de persecución.

Hostilidad

En un mundo de persecución, esperamos conflicto con los demás sobre nuestra fe debido a la obra y poder del Espíritu Santo, como leemos: “pero recibirán poder cuando el Espíritu Santo venga sobre ustedes; y serán Mis testigos en Jerusalén, en toda Judea y Samaria, y hasta los confines de la tierra.” (Acts 1:8) El poder del Espíritu Santo normalmente actúa en nosotros para convertirnos en testigos, a menos que cedamos al miedo y sofoquemos la obra del Espíritu Santo en nuestras vidas.

El miedo a correr puede sofocar el poder del Espíritu Santo en nuestras vidas, como señalan Barthel and Edling (2012, 101)⁠2:

Cuando los individuos o grupos están motivados por el miedo a la opinión de otras personas (lo que otros piensan personalmente de ellos) más que el temor de Dios, sus corazones se enfrían al Espíritu de Dios. Al carecer de la conciencia de Dios, no hay restricción para la motivación del corazón; solo pasiones mundiales y popularidad con el control de multitudes. Esto es común en los conflictos de la iglesia. La actitud defensiva, autorectidad, y orgullo gobiernan el dia cuando personas ceden ante el miedo de personas.

Mientras oramos frecuentemente por protección, evidencia de temor, la iglesia primitiva oró por audaz en su testimonio (Acts 4:29–31).

El letargo espiritual, lo opuesto a la audacia, también puede apagar el poder del Espíritu Santo, como observó el apóstol Juan en la iglesia de Laodicea: “Yo conozco tus obras, que ni eres frío ni caliente. ¡Ojalá fueras frío o caliente! Así, puesto que eres tibio, y no frío ni caliente, te vomitaré de mi boca.” (Rev 3:15–16) El letargo espiritual es ampliamente visto como un problema posmoderno en el que se descuida el evangelismo, las iglesias luchan por la música y las decoraciones, y el analfabetismo bíblico es un problema incluso entre los aspirantes a estudiantes de seminario.

Los conflictos de la iglesia comienzan con la falta de atención a las prioridades de Dios, una dimensión corporativa del letargo espiritual. Barthel y Edling (2012, 89) observan que las iglesias en conflicto volven a sus sentidos cuando los líderes recuerdan la necesidad de permanecer centrados en Dios y replantear el conflicto en torno a preguntas bien elegidas para su reflexión. Centrar la adoración y nuestra formación espiritual en Cristo es, por lo tanto, un punto de partida importante para reducir y evitar el conflicto de la iglesia, porque el problema subyacente es espiritual, no el conflicto en sí.

Las buenas noticias sobre letargo espiritual es que Dios es soberano y el Espíritu Santo trabaja en los corazones y las mentes de los cristianos en todas partes para lograr el avivamiento espiritual. Esto es lo que Dios prometió al pueblo de Israel (Deut 30: 2–3) y el apóstol Pedro predicó, citando al profeta Joel (Joel 2: 28–29), el día de Pentecostés:

Y sucedera en los últimos dias, dice Dios, que derramare de mi espíritu sobre toda carne; y sus hijos y sus hijas profetizaran, sus jóvenes veran visiones, y sus ancianos soñaran sueños; y aun sobre mis siervas derramare de mi espíritu en esos días, y profetizaran. (Acts 2:17–18)

Mientras que algunos se han visto afectados por actividades infructuosas, otros han sido empoderados por el Espíritu Santo de Cristo para trabajar por la reconciliación del mundo consigo mismo (2 Cor 5:17–20).

Notas

1 Evangelist Charles Finney (1982, 74–76) cited six consequences of squelching the Holy Spirit in our lives:

1. Darkness of mind—the truth makes no useful impression,

2. Coldness towards religion,

3. Holding various errors in religion,

4. Disbelief,

5. Delusion regarding one’s spiritual state, and

6. Attempts to justify wrongdoing.

2 Barthel and Edling (2012, 101) write:

When individuals or groups are motivated by fear of the opinion of other people (what others personally think about them) more than the fear of God, their hearts grow cold to the Spirit of God. Lacking God-consciousness, there is no restraining the motivation of the heart; only world passions and popularity with the crowd control. This is common in church conflicts. Defensiveness, self-righteousness, and pride rule the day when people give in to the fear of man.

Referencias

Barthel, Tara Klena and David V. Edling. 2012. Redeeming Church Conflicts: Turning Crisis into Compassion and Care. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks.

Finney, Charles. 1982. The Spirit-Filled Life (Orig pub 1845-61). New Kensington: Whitaker House.

Persecución y Letargo Espiritual

Ver también:

Gospel as Divine Template

Otras formas de participar en línea:

Sitio del autor: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Sitio del editor: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Boletín informativo: https://bit.ly/Plow_2020

 

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Bell: Plot a Good Novel

Bell_review_20200716

James Scott Bell.  2004.  Plot and Structure:  Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish.  Cincinnati:  Writer’s Digest Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Stories spice up sermons.  The pastor’s name, the sermon text, or the admonition may be a bit hazy Sunday afternoon, but you probably remember the stories told.  Stories help us make sense of life and they give it meaning. So what is a story?

Introduction

The heart of a story is its plot, according to writer James Scott Bell in his book, Plot and StructurePlot is the power grid that makes it [the story] happen (6) and connects the readers with the text by answering questions, such as:

  • What is this story about?
  • Is anything happening?
  • Why should I keep reading?
  • Why should I care? (7).

Bell focuses on writing a commercial novel where plot is especially important.  Literary, stream-of-consciousness, and experimental novels place less emphasis on plot, but plot sells the commercial novel (7).

Elements of Plot

Bell advises that plot consists of 4 basic elements:

  • Lead.  A story must be about someone.  The main character is the lead.
  • Objective.  The leading character needs an objective:  a desire or want.
  • Confrontation.  The leading character encounters opposition and outside forces that frustrate obtaining the lead’s goal.
  • Knockout.  All good stories need a knockout ending.

Bell’s book focuses on these 4 components of plot or the LOCK (lead, objective, confrontation, and knockout) system (10-13). Plot takes place in the context of characters, dialog, settings, and scenes (17-20).  Bell reminds us of Alfred Hitchcock’s axiom:  a good story is life with the dull parts taken out (20).

Organization

Bell writes his book in 14 chapters:

  1. What’s a Plot, Anyway?
  2. Structure:  What Holds Your Plot Together.
  3. How to Explode with Plot Ideas.
  4. Beginning Strong.
  5. Middles.
  6. Endings.
  7. Scenes.
  8. Complex Plots.
  9. The Characters Arc in Plot.
  10. Plotting Systems.
  11. Revising Your Plot.
  12. Plot Patterns.
  13. Common Plot Problems and Cures.
  14. Tips and Tools for Plot and Structures.

Before the chapters is an introduction entitled:  Putting the Big Lie to Sleep where he addresses the myth that writers are born, not made.  After the chapters are 2 appendices which give authors a to-do checklist and a format for writing your “Back Cover Copy”.

Outline or Not?

Interestingly, Bell divides the fiction writers’ world into “outline people (OP)” and “no outline people (NOP)”, a division that he admittedly straddles (152).  He honors this division, for example, in his chapter 10 on plotting systems where he offers advice to both camps on how to strengthen the weaknesses of both.  He states:  be true to yourself, but try a little of the other guy’s method (154).  For both camps, he advises:  use the LOCK system and write your back cover copy (155).  For NOPS, he advises:

  1. Set yourself a writing quota.
  2. Begin your writing day by rereading what you wrote the day before.
  3. One day per week, record your plot journey (156-158).

For OPS, he advises use of an index card system to record scenes and LOCK elements (158-69).

Anthropology

Bell’s anthropology is insightful. Bell characterizes identity as a target built around the core self. The rings around the core self are:  beliefs, values, dominant attitudes, and opinions. Changes affecting inner circles spill over requiring changes in outer circles. Outer circles are accordingly easier to change than inner circles (143).  Changes in Ebenezer Scrooge’s character, for example, require visits from three ghosts—the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future—who remind Scrooge of his true self and how the years have chipped away at it (142-148).  The redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge brings tears to our eyes because each of us have likewise taken that journey.

Assessment

Bell is an engaging writer who offers a lot of examples from movies and novels to make his points.  Movies like Casablanca, A Christmas Carol, and Gone with the Wind offer excellent examples because most readers are already familiar with the plots and major scenes.  These examples make Plot and Structure a surprising page-turner which I suspect most authors (and wannabe authors) will enjoy.

Bell: Plot a Good Novel

Also see:

Brooks Structures Story, Part 1 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

 

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