Lotz: A Poetic Commentary on John’s Gospel

anne_graham_lotz_review_10172016Anne Graham Lotz.2000. Just Give Me Jesus. Nashville: Word Publishing.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Some stories bear repeating. One story that I have repeated over the years concerned a dinner party where Ruth Graham learned that an older gentleman sitting next to her was the former head of Scotland Yard, the British equivalent of the FBI. Because part of his responsibilities included dealing with counterfeit money, she remarked that he must have spent a lot of time examining counterfeit bills.

“On the contrary, Mrs. Graham, I spent all of my time studying the genuine thing. That way, when I saw a counterfeit, I would immediately detect it.” (3)

The punch line here is that the best apologetic for the Gospel is Jesus himself.  After repeating this story over and over, I felt guilty and decided to buy the book where it appears, Anne Graham Lotz’  Just Give Me Jesus.

Anne Graham Lotz is an author, evangelist, and the founder of AnGel Ministries in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also the daughter of Ruth and Billy Graham. According to her website, “The New York Times named Anne one of the five most influential evangelists of her generation.”[1]

Interestingly, in spite of her obvious talents and family notoriety, Ms Lotz writes with reference to 1 Timothy 2:11-12:[2]

“I believe He [God] has forbidden me to teach or preach from a position of authority over a man…So when I speak, I speak as a woman who is not in authority. Instead, I am a woman who is under authority.” (311)

The term, “under authority”, is a quote from the faithful Centurion, whose slave Jesus healed.[3] This same humility led the Apostle Paul to describe himself numerous times (like Moses[4]) as a slave (δοῦλος) of Christ (e.g. Romans 1:1).[5] Placing herself under authority of Christ means that Ms. Lotz has clearly read her Bible and is above other things an evangelist. Why do I say this? Because her first priority is the Gospel, which she wants to be heard by both women and men. If she ignored or abrogated 1 Tim 2:11-12, as many do today, some men could not hear her words, distracting them from her evangelism.

In reading Lotz’ book, Just Give Me Jesus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is a commentary on the Gospel of John. Lotz’ poetic style steps aside many of the scholarly interests of academic commentators, but she does not tell us directly why she chose John’s Gospel. Instead, she writes:

“While John’s motivation for writing his eyewitness account of the life of Jesus was his overwhelming, passionate love for Christ, his purpose in writing was his love for you.  The desire of his heart was, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (ix)

If one takes on the mind of Christ as an evangelist, then one must take the words of Jesus seriously when he says: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt 5:6 ESV) and the salvation of sinners. John’s passion is contagious.

Lotz’ own poetic style is striking and pervasively utilized throughout the book. For example, in discussing the Jesus’ conversation with the paralytic in John 5:6, she turns to the reader and asks:

“Do you want to get well? Do you truly want that sin to be cleansed?

                                                             that guilt to be removed?

                                                      that habit to be broken?

                                         that anger to be dissolved?

                                that bitterness to be uprooted?

                     that emptiness to be filled?

            that joy to be reconciled?

     that relationship to be restored?

that strength to pick up your responsibilities and start walking by faith? (122)

While some might take Lotz’ poetry to be simply a stylistic device, it serves an important hermeneutical purpose. Lotz’ poetic style serves her well in both offering a “biblical theological” exegesis and “speaking to everyone in the room.” Following Calvin, biblical theology strives to exegete (a scholarly term meaning to explain) a biblical passage taking into account the entire counsel of scripture, starting with the author’s intent.  Scripture should explain scripture; if the author’s intent is unclear, then perhaps another passage of the Bible is clearer. By contrast, “speaking to everyone in the room” is a popular preaching style that strives to understand the perspective of different classes of people or, hermeneutically, how different readers might interpret a particular scripture passage. Lotz’ poetic style allows her a sophisticated exegesis that permits her to explore  the three most important hermeneutical perspectives:  author’s intent, the canon of scripture, and the reader.

A lot more could be said about Lotz’ poetry. It is neither a mere style nor a strictly feminine approach. If one slows down and examines it carefully, it communicates a clear, deep, and diverse perspective. The potential for Lotz to live up to the New York Times claim (cited above) about her influence is clearly present.

In general, the voluminous nature of a commentary makes it hard to review adequately. Let me just say that Anne Graham Lotz’ Just Give Me Jesus is a delightful book to read and ponder. Already this week as I finished the book I have found myself repeating other stories (in addition to the Ruth Graham story above) that she has told. I suspect that you will too.

[1] http://www.annegrahamlotz.org.

[2] “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Tim 2:11-12 ESV)

[3] “But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matt 8:8-10 ESV)

[4]יְהוָ֑ה עֶ֣בֶד (Jos 1:1 WTT). The Hebrew reads: slave of God (YHWH).

[5] In case anyone wonders why I take notice, my own business card reads: Slave of Christ, Husband, Father, Tentmaker, Author, Speaker.

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Kindle has an online promotion until October 31, 2016 for titles in Spanish.

Prayer for Comfort for Those Alone

Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Blessed Lord Jesus,

Comfort those who are alone:

alone with their grief,

alone in their pain,

alone with their anguish,

alone in their poverty,

alone with memories of years past and no one to share them with.

Thank you for the example of someone who cared about lonely people.

Be especially present in the lives of those who are alone today.

Bring new voices, new faces, and helping hands into their lives.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts to those around us.

That we might truly be sons and daughters of one father.

In your name we pray, amen.


Land of BOS

I am the LORD your God, ShipOfFools_web_07292016
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.
(Exod 20:2-3)

Land of BOS

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In January 1993, I applied for a position in the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) which was the office in the U.S. Department of Treasury responsible for national bank supervision.[1] This particular office was called the office of Bank Organization and Structure (BOS) and it oversaw national bank applications for organizational changes (licensing), like new bank charters, conversions from state to national charter, mergers, failures, and opening of new automated teller machines (ATMs). I had a rough idea of BOS’ business function from my work in bank examination in the Farm Credit Administration (FCA), but it did not matter to me. They needed a financial economist and I wanted to get back into economics. My work on the McLean Team in FCA in examinations required more travel than was consistent with my family situation—my son had had surgery the previous October and required follow up surgery in January.

The interview process for this position went quickly. I met with my supervisor and, after that, my second level supervisor took me to lunch. They were pleased to have an economist, like myself, with experience both with computers and with working in examinations. My position involved financial reporting based on a customized licensing database—a network database which required queries in the structured query language (SQL) and the ability to read a data schema. Only one other member of the staff was able to request data from the system and she was not an economist able to interpret the data. Missing from my interview was an opportunity to visit with the staff.

The lack of staff input into the hiring process should have been a red flag. In prior interviews in the Economic Research Service, in USDA, for example, an interviewee might be required to visit with the review committee, managers, and each member of the staff, and to make a presentation to the entire department. This sort of intense vetting process was also typical for many firms and academic departments that hire economists, in part, because of the extensive need for team work. However, FCA also did not require this type of extensive interview so I was off my guard in interviewing at OCC. In fact, I was relieved not to have to deal with a lengthy process, in part, because of the stress at home with my son’s medical situation and having two other kids in diapers.

I started work late in January. The office seemed congenial enough because both my supervisor and his boss were both economists. My opinion was frequently asked in staff meetings and all seemed copacetic as I learned my new position. But everything was not as it seemed.

In early February, my supervisor announced that he was leaving. He was quickly replaced with a professional OCC manager who was not an economist and was new to the group. The staff was icy cold in their interactions with me because my departing boss had brow-beat them for years complaining about their lack of analytical skills. When I was hired and brought those skills to the group, their silent resentment was given a concrete focus—me. The new manager picked up immediately on the staff resentment and offered me no shelter from the storm. I was alone in the group and persona non grata. My new station in life became even more conspicuous when the office was invited to a dinner party at the old supervisor’s home and I found myself there with my wife, Maryam, and shunned the entire evening. Maryam picked up on the tension that evening and came away distraught knowing, as a stay-at-home mom, that our entire livelihood was in jeopardy with nowhere to run. The darkness in my life grew darker still when soon thereafter Maryam was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The emotions associated with breast cancer pillage both husband and wife, but the sympathy and care extended focuses on the wife. Most people close to you offer sympathy and assistance for a few weeks, but after that you are on your own. Others close to you shut down emotionally and withdraw having no reserve to draw on to lend to you. Maryam quickly went through a lumpectomy with radiation and was put on a hormonal treatment tamoxifen. I felt shamed and abused by doctors examining and diagnosing my young wife with no outward appearance of disease and by being robbed of the prospect of having more children. While I did not miss a day of work, at one point I had a bad day in the office only to find my boss threatening to fire me—these were cold, hard days.

Still, I had an unexpected ally at OCC from early in my tenure. The Comptroller of the Currency distinguished himself as being a lawyer who was computer literate and brought a laptop to meetings. This created a big stir in an agency that prided itself on teaching bank examination conducted with nothing other than a legal pad. One morning I helped a man with a brief case and a laptop to get on the elevator. Seeing the laptop, I knew immediately who it was, pushed the button to the top floor, and introduced myself to Eugene Ludwig, the Comptroller of the Currency, for the first time.

After the Comptroller of the Currency himself, I was the second one in the building (in an agency of about three thousand) to request and receive a 486 desktop computer. My computer skills became well-enough known in the office that my second level supervisor asked me to upgrade him to Windows 3.1, while the computer support personnel remained in the MS DOS world, even though new computers came with Windows installed (they un-installed it). This embarrassed them enough that they refused to offer me any technical support. When I requested additional computer memory, they simply dropped the memory cards on my desk and walked away. I ended up loading my own copy of MS Office on my office computer, in part, because the computer support simply refused my request.

Nevertheless, my computer skills continued to open doors. At one point, my second-level supervisor was tasked with organizing a fundamental re-organization of the OCC from top to bottom. Being a pariah in the office, I volunteered to assist with this re-organization and quickly found myself assisting teams from across OCC in process-mapping their business functions. Over the next several months, I constructed roughly 150 process maps covering every single business activity deemed important and worked closely with the rising stars in the agency who would soon form the new senior management structure. Because of these insights and connections, I was soon offered a transfer to the economics department to work for a very ambitious female manager with a data management background and a need for programmers who were comfortable building financial models.

According to Shakespeare, all’s well that ends well. Yet, the scars of those days remain. Maryam cannot shake the memory of family members who remained aloof during her breast cancer episode; I buried myself in my work and, when I was not working, I was adding to my programming skills. After learning Windows programming in C, I went on to become expert in C++, FORTRAN, and assembly. My programming skills gave me the prospect of earning more money as a programmer than as an economist, but I stuck to building financial models where I increasingly became known as a financial engineer.

[1] A national bank is a bank with a federal charter and identified by having a name including the term, national bank or national association (NA). Banks are financial institutions that take deposits and make loans.

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Scott Writes Pro Email Newsletters

email_marketing_review_10032016Eric J. Scott.  2016.  Email Marketing: Tips and Tricks to Increase Credibility. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The first widely circulated, bound book (a codex)[1] was the Greek New Testament; the first major, printed book (circa 1455 AD) was the Guttenberg Bible.[2] In both instances, Christians were early adopters of new technologies and used them to advance their evangelism. For example, the codex was important to missionaries because it was easier to transport than a scroll; the Guttenberg Bible was a priority for protestant reformers because Bible was considered to be the sole authority for the church’s teaching. In today’s environment it is therefore not surprising to see evangelists and churches being quick to exploit email and other social media in promoting the Gospel. But, how is that best done?

In his book, Email Marketing, Eric Scott observes these business values as helping establish credibility in email marketing:

  1. “Precipitate positive change in the world.
  2. Resolve all types of issues…
  3. Be a moral agency.
  4. Generate enthusiasm in employees and clients.
  5. Make things happen. Have a positive outlook…” (2-3)

Supporting these values are internet standards like:

  1. “Customer service—how you treat your clients.
  2. Transactions—the amount of time purchases take or the way they are handled.
  3. Handling of currency—the protocol you follow in case of theft, where you store money, and who is allowed to handle the money.
  4. Client demands—the requests of your customers.
  5. Marketing—the way you advertise your company.
  6. Organizational tasks…” (3)

The drift in all of this is that in an environment where time is precious and expectations are high, many details are involved in establishing the trust of customers. Scott observes: “People these days see everything as black and white. You are either trustworthy or not.” (4) Today’s readers are a tough crowd to please.

Although I have had an email newsletter since my early seminary days (circle 2009), I never really understood how to use the medium properly. When I graduated in 2013, I had three separate lists of supporters who I would write periodically which I merged into a common list and started using MailChimp to manage each month. I established a blog (T2Pneuma.net) with the hope that my email readers would migrate to it, but really few did. Email remains more familiar to people and, because they resisted migrating to the blog, I got into the habit of writing both a monthly newsletter and the blog. Only in the past couple months did I come to realize that I needed to focus more on the newsletter and treat it as central to reaching my most dedicated readers. This realization led me to Scott’s book, which  focuses on email marketing.

Scott’s tips are priceless and it is helpful to think of the book as posing a conversation with you about your email practices. For example, Scott writes: “In your welcome email, make sure you have an about you.” (20) I certainly did not have an “about you” in my welcome email (which I crafted only last week), in part, because I have always written to an audience of friends and family who obviously know me. As I encourage other readers that I do not know me personally to read my newsletter, it is helpful to insert this “about you”, even if ever so brief. In some sense, Scott’s book substitutes for the lack of a consultant able to tell me such things.

Some of my email hang ups arise because my identity as an author is changing. As I have upgraded my internet presence to reflect a “professional author” persona, attitudes about merchandising need to be amended. For example, my newsletter (and my publisher Facebook account) now sport buttons encouraging readers to purchase my books, which Scott certainly encourages (21). However, surprisingly he cautions the newsletter writer to focus on being a friend (24). Friends are helpful; friends are truthful; friends are, in a word, friendly. (25-27) This advice transfers across technologies. Other authors encourage online entrepreneurs to be social on social media, rather than treat social media like another advertising forum.

Scott’s tips are in many ways confirmation of many of the practices that I have evolved myself over the past few years. For example, he cites the “90/10 rule” which reads that 90 percent of your content should be helpful advice and other things while only 10 percent should consist of sales pitches (36). This rule is, in effect, an application of the social part of social media.

Eric Scott’s Email Marketing is a helpful book. The focus on building credibility with your audience is actually critical when you consider how easy it is to unsubscribe from a newsletter—reminders are help. Scott’s book is short and easy to read, but don’t discount its content. Newsletter writers will want to take a look.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutenberg_Bible.

Aparición Especial en Radio Vida Mañana (Special Guest on Radio Vida on Tuesday Evening): Stephen W. Hiemstra

Martinez_family_05212016.pdfMañana es un buen tiempo a visitar a Radio Vida. Voy a hacer una aparición especial y voy a enfocar de aspectos de mi nuevo libro, La Vida en Tensión.

(Tomorrow is a good evening to check out Radio Vida. I will be a special guest and will be talking about aspects of my new book, Life in Tension.)

Please join us.

Listen to Radio Broadcast (Spanish)

Radio Vida VA 97.7 FM los martes a las 8:30 p.m. hasta 9:30 p.m. EST (toca)

(Radio Vida VA 97.7 FM Tuesdays from 8:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. EST (link))


Julio and Ana Martinez
11100 Ravine Drive
Manassas, VA 20111