Praise the Name

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matt 6:9)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Lord’s Prayer reminds us to honor God’s name in keeping with the Third Commandment—do not take the Lord’s name in vain—because all the other commandments are leveraged on it (Exod 20:7).

Why keep the other commandments, if we dishonor God’s name?

The practical implications of honoring God arise because we are created in God’s image. Because we are created in the image of God, human life has intrinsic value—value in itself that does not change with life events. Because life has intrinsic value, we cannot accept discrimination, injustice, abuse, mistreatment of prisoners, weapons of mass destruction, euthanasia, abortion, designer babies, and a host of other detestable practices. Our human rights—a measure reflecting intrinsic value—exist because we are created in the image of a Holy God.

Our capitalist society focuses, not on intrinsic values, but on market values. Market values change with circumstances—they are volatile. Your value as a person implicitly depends on your productivity. If you are young, old, or unable to work, then you are a dependent—a burden on working people. The focus on market values inherently disrespects God’s image. When God is not honored; neither are we.

The strong influence of market values on our self-image explains, in part, is why depression rates tend to be highest among population groups—like the young adults and the senior citizens—who are unable to work. The rate of depression, suicide, anxiety disorders, addictions, and divorce appear to be correlated, in part, with changing job prospects.

When God’s name is dishonored, we also become more prone to idolatry (Rom 1:21-23). Why worship the God of the Bible, when my income and status in society depends more on my family legacy, education, and hard work? So I naturally run to all sorts of substitutes for God that work, like insurance, to manage the ups and downs of life. Alternatively, I can obsess about the security of my home, my spouse, and my children.

The implications of honoring the name of God come together in the debate over euthanasia—the right to die. If my self-image and my dignity in society are both increasingly subjected to the same market values, then I will surrender myself to assisted suicide precisely when I need support from my family. And, of course, they will agree because I have become a burden both financially and emotionally. Consequently, euthanasia is evil masquerading as compassion. We are created in the image of a holy God who declares that life is good and sacred (Gen 1:31).

Give glory to God. Honor the Name above all names. You are created in God’s image.

Praise the Name

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

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

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Prayer Day 22

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Available on Amazon.com

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father.

Thank you for making yourself available to us in the person of Jesus Christ and through the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Root out the pride in us; give us listening ears; sanctify our prayer, our lives, and our worship.

Guide us in our parenting and family relations.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer Day 22

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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Our Heavenly Father

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven . . . (Matt 6:7-9)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The first phrase in the Lord’s Prayer is: “Our Father”.

We come before God as a community under a sovereign God. Addressing God as father focuses primarily on God’s sovereignty, not God’s gender [1]. God is a benevolent sovereign who desires relational intimacy with his children. He is not a buddy god or a needy god that can be manipulated. Rather, we depend on God for everyday bread—not the other way around.

Our Human Fathers

For human fathers who are not good role models, scripture reminds us that God is a father to the fatherless (Ps 68:5). Scripture is not just “turning a phrase” here. One consequence of slavery in Egypt and later in Babylon was illegitimacy, which kept many Jewish children from ever meeting their fathers. The word, orphan, is used in over fifty verses in scripture—eleven times in the book of Deuteronomy alone. Jesus himself assures us: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) Our Heavenly Father’s love for us, His children, inspires our human fathers, not the other way around.

Christian Spirituality

Christian spirituality has a communal character—it is not my spirituality; it is our spirituality. In baptism, for example, we are presented to God and to the church. In communion, we remember our baptism and celebrate our covenantal relationship with God and with one another. We can enjoy solitude with God while recognizing the vital role our community of faith has in shaping our relationship with God. In turn, we know God better as we love one another.

The communal aspect of God’s intimacy implies that our spirituality is not focused just on warm, fuzzy feelings. Ours is not a consumer spirituality. Great panoramas, great music, great poetry, great architecture, and great intellectual achievements all point to God, but our spirituality is inherently relational. We are most likely to see God’s face in the faces of those around us.

Cain and Abel

Jesus’ stories and parables drive this point home:

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt 5:23-24)

Our spiritual identity is in a sovereign God and in right relationships with His people. The two are inexplicably bound together.

Doctrine of the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity reinforces this point. Every conversation is three-way. It is always you, me, and God. God is above us, between us, and within us. In God’s transcendence, God is all powerful and in control. Through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God shares our pain and provides us a role model. In the Holy Spirit’s presence, God comforts and guides us. We are in relationship with God in three persons. Our identity is defined uniquely and independently in relation to each person in the Trinity (Miner 2007, 112).

But why is the Lord’s Prayer addressed to heaven? The obvious answer is that heaven is God’s home address. Another obvious answer is that heaven clarifies which father we are talking about!

Notice that almost all the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer center on God, not us. Do we listen for God’s voice? Are we approaching our sovereign God in appropriate humility?

[1] The image of God as our father makes a statement about His character. God is spirit; being neither male or female.

References

Miner, Maureen. 2007. “Back to the basics in attachment to God: Revisiting theory in light of theology.” Journal of Psychology and Theology, 35(2), 112–22.

Our Heavenly Father

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Other ways to engage online:

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

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

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Prayer Day 21

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty God, beloved Son, Holy Spirit.

Thank you for allowing us to enter into your presence to pray and for being present in our daily lives.

Illuminate our minds; consecrate our hearts.

Help us to be fully present with each other and with you in prayer.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer Day 21

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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What is Your Attitude in Prayer?

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

“And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Lord’s Prayer radically changed the disciples’ attitudes about prayer.

To understand how much attitudes had to change, think about how a first century Jew would view Jesus’ prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer, we, metaphorically, enter the city of Jerusalem; go through ritual purification to the outer courts of the temple, step into the Holy place, and pull back the veil of the Holy of Holies. Then, at the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, we put on the ephod [1] of the high priest and begin to pray, not to YHWH, but to Daddy! Talk about radical!

If this metaphor for prayer seems far-fetched, consider Paul’s last trip to Jerusalem. Paul arrived in the city in the company of fellow believers (gentiles), probably Greeks from Corinth (1 Cor 16:3). When he entered the temple a riot broke out as Jews who had seen him in the city accused Paul of bringing a gentile into the temple. Paul escaped with his life from this riot only because the Roman guards rescued him (Acts 21:26-32). This story underscores the point that it was unthinkable, to a Jew, that anyone could enter God’s presence—especially in the Temple—without proper cleansing, preparation, and authority.

What is your attitude in prayer? Are you reverent or cavalier in approaching God? Although the temple veil was torn when Christ died on the cross [2], God is still holy and we can approach the mercy seat only by the invitation of Christ. Respecting God’s boundaries is an important step in approaching prayer. “Be holy because I am holy” (Lev 11:44) says the Lord God.

[1] A ceremonial garment worn by the high priest described in Exod 28.

[2] The splitting of the temple veil is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matt 27:51; Mark 15:38; and Luke 23:45). Roman armies destroyed the temple during a Jewish uprising in AD 70.

What is Your Attitude in Prayer?

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

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

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Prayer Day 20

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Holy and Compassionate Father.

We praise you for creating us in your image.

We praise you for the gift of eternal life and for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us strength for each day.

Forgive our sin; heal our hearts; reconcile us with you and with each other.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer Day 20

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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

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Everlasting Life

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

What is eternal life?

Our life in Christ is a journey which begins sinful and finite, but progresses towards holy and eternal.  The progress towards eternal life requires both spiritual restoration and bodily healing.

We normally think of God’s eternal nature before his holiness. This first aspect of eternal life is quantitative—overcoming death to live eternally with God. However, this line of thinking is backwards: death is the penalty for sin. In other words, sin causes death. God’s forgiveness in Christ removes the sin, removes the penalty of death, and makes eternal life possible.

Unfortunately, sin not only triggers a death penalty; it pollutes us and damages our relationships. For example, the Apostle Paul’s conversion included God’s forgiveness, but Paul’s ravaging of the church was not easily forgotten (Acts 8:2). Likewise, the murderer who is forgiven has his guilt removed, but the life taken has not been restored and his broken relationships remain broken.

Consequently, the second aspect of eternal life is qualitative—removing sin’s pollution and reconciling our relationships through Christ. The Apostle John writes: “this is eternal life that they may know you the one, true God and the one who you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3; my translation). We are a new creation in Christ and reconciled to Him, but reconciliation has two parts. The first part is reconciliation with God and it is completed with the work of Christ. The second part is reconciliation with brothers and sisters against whom we sinned (2 Cor 5:17-20). This final stage in reconciliation, which can only be completed with and through the power of the Holy Spirit, requires both sanctification of the individual and participation of the church. This is also area where the spiritual disciplines can focus most productively.

Eternal life, accordingly, begins with the work of Christ (justification and reconciliation with God), but continues in the work of the church (reconciliation with those we have sinned against). The Good News is that in Christ and through the Holy Spirit God’s work in us will be complete.

[1] Because of original sin, we are cut off from God at birth by sin and destined to die because of sin’s penalty—death. In Christ, we see the image of a holy and eternal God. Christ both affects our moral improvement (sinful to holy) and bodily healing (mortal to immortal)..

[2] John 3:36; Rom 10:9-10.

Everlasting Life

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

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

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Prayer Day 19

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

God of all compassion. We praise you for sharing yourself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth who in life served as a role model for sinners, in death ransomed us from the power of sin, and in resurrection left us with the hope of glory.

Bind our wounds; heal our scars; raise us from death.

Grant us awareness of your presence so that we also can be fully present to those around us.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, make us whole people.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer Day 19

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Resurrection of the Body

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

One big anxiety that amputees experience is that lost body parts embody their identity in ways that must now change. The pain is particularly acute when the body part is associated with a beloved activity. Our hearts go out, for example, to the runner who loses a leg or the brilliant researcher who develops Alzheimer’s disease. Our body is part of our identity.

God knows who we are and feels our pain—to be human is to be whole in body, mind, and spirit.

Jesus raised the widow’s son out of compassion (Luke 7:13) and he wept before raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:35). How compassionate would Jesus have been if he had raised the widow’s son from the dead only to have the son live on as a paraplegic? Or if Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but left him mentally handicapped?

During my time as a chaplain intern, I knew a dear woman who had been resuscitated after her heart stopped for eight minutes. The resuscitation left her afflicted with dementia and forced to live in a lock-down, Alzheimer’s unit. The affliction left her family guilt ridden and torn over their decision to resuscitate her.

Resuscitation leaves scars. Scripture reports that the widow’s son and Lazarus were returned to health without scars. Consequently, Jesus did not resuscitate them; he re-created them as only God can. Meredith Kline (2006, 220–21) uses the term re-creation in reference to the flood narrative and sees this idea already present in 2 Pet 3:5-7. In other words, Noah was a second Adam even before Christ..

Resurrection is an act of grace—bodily resurrection completes the compassion.

Jesus was bodily resurrected. When the resurrected Christ appeared before the disciples in Jerusalem, he asked for something to eat; the disciples gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it (Luke 24:41-43). Furthermore, Christ’s compassion for his own disciples, who had deserted him, reveals that Jesus, in his perfection, did not harbor the deep emotional scars that might normally accompany the trauma that he experienced (John 21:17).

Consider the alternative. What if Jesus had been raised only spiritually, how long would he continue to empathize with us? Or what if Jesus harbored grievous handicaps or emotional scares? Would he still have pity on the rest of us? Would we really want to stand before such a scarred and potentially vengeful judge?

Christ’s resurrection was a re-creation, not resuscitation, event. Christ’s resurrection gives us hope because our judge is healthy and whole. He is still human and he harbors no grievances.

References

Kline, Meredith G. 2006. Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Convenental Worldview. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Resurrection of the Body

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Other ways to engage online:

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

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Prayer Day 18

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Loving Father. Beloved Son. Forgiving Spirit.

We praise you for your love and forgiveness.

Redeem us from our sin; empower our lives with new meaning.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us new status as children of God and allow us to enter your work of reconciliation.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer Day 18

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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