Prayer Day 22

Available on Amazon.com
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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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

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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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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

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

 

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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

Other ways to engage online:

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

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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

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

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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

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Forgiveness of Sins

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Why is forgiveness a sign of God’s presence?

Scripture attests to God’s overwhelming love for us and willingness to forgive our sins. Even after God discovers the sin of Adam and Eve, he does not immediately impose a death sentence on them, as previously warned; instead, he outfits them with clothes like a mother preparing her first grader for school Gen 2:17; Gen 3:21. God imposed a consequence for sin on Adam and Eve, but also left them with a “positive conclusion” so that they might learn from their mistake and not be embittered (Turansky and Miller (2013, 130–131).. Similarly after Cain murders Abel, God offers Cain grace, protecting him from revenge (Gen 4:15).

The link between God’s love and forgiveness allows the psalmist to write:

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. (Ps 103:2-4)

So if God’s forgiveness was already well-attested in the Old Testament, why did Jesus need to die on the cross?

Part of the answer is to observe that God’s forgiveness of Adam, Eve, and Cain was providentially incomplete. All three were still cursed; all three still left the presence of God. Christ’s work on the cross was comprehensive, a re-creation event, as the Apostle Paul writes:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor 5:17-19)

Christ reconciled us with God so we should reconcile with one another. With Adam, Eve, and Cain, none of this happens.

Some psychologists look at forgiveness as a reframing event. Reframing occurs when new meaning is attached to a negative experience. For example, psychoanalyst Victor Frankl, when confined to a concentration camp during the Second World War, focused his mind on preparing the lectures that he would give after the war on his camp experience. In reframing his persecution, Frankl was able to survive the camp when others gave up hope and died (Rosen 1982, 141). Reframing falls short of forgiveness because it focuses solely on the individual, neglecting the relationship among individuals and with God.

When God forgives our sin, in a sense we reframe our self-image from rebel to child of God. The greater the sin forgiven, the deeper the transformation enabled. Forgiveness releases us from death row condemnation and allows us to be reconciled with God, those we sin against, and all of creation. When we then forgive others, we become ambassadors for Christ in this magnificent reconciliation project (2 Cor 5:20).

References

Rosen, Sidney [Editor]. 1982. My Voice will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Turansky, Scott and Joanne Miller. 2013. The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Forgiveness of Sins

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 17

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Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Loving Father, Beloved Son, Compassionate Spirit,

We praise you for your example of unity in holiness.

Set us apart in holiness; draw us together.

Encourage us to use our spiritual gifts for the common good and to rejoice when others do too.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer Day 17

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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

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