Called Again: Of Bovine and Boxers by Reid Satterfield

Reid, April, and Emma Jane Satterfield
Reid, April, and Emma Jane Satterfield

Called Again: Of Bovine and Boxers by Reid Satterfield

This morning’s guest blogger, Reid Satterfield, writes about a learning experience as a missionary in Uganda.  Reid hails from Charlotte, NC.

Reflection on Cows

One evening—when we still lived in Northwest Uganda—April and I were awakened by the sound of footfalls just outside of our bedroom window.  Alarmed, I jumped out of bed, grabbed a tire iron, and rushed to our front door.  At that moment I was aware that the source of the noise was on the other side of the door.  Bracing for the worst, I opened the door to—of all things—the rear-end of a cow.  Peering around his hindquarters, I could see him munching on our grass, oblivious to me and to the fact that he’d just desecrated my doorstep and—nearly—my feet.  Agitated, I traded the tire iron for a walking stick and laid into that mangy cow.

As the cow galloped away, I returned to bed, satisfied he would not return and grateful for the ebony walking stick—a gift from an elder of a nearby clan.  Sadly, I enjoyed my satisfaction only a moment.  Within minutes the cow had returned and, again, I had to chase him out of my yard.  This cycle was repeated.  The third time he returned I was so angry that I ran outside, stick in hand, and chased that cow for about 100 meters.

Unexpected Outcome

When I came to my senses, I found myself in overgrowth—where recently I’d had a Wild Kingdom experience with rats and a large black mamba (an aggressive and highly poisonous snake)—wearing only boxer shorts and flip-flops. Chastened, I returned home to a rather amused wife and with another “teachable moment” to ponder.

Following Christ is not always glamorous…it can be downright degrading.  But, these little humiliations that we endure in Christ highlight an oft-overlooked truth that self-regard and humility do not go together.  Following Christ is a “downwardly mobile” pathway [1]. To serve Christ is to count yourself as the least among many; to serve Christ is to put other people’s needs ahead of your own.

So brothers and sisters, accept life’s many humiliations as Christ’s provision for the journey; a journey from self-regard to humility. 

The Apostle Paul’s Words to the Church at Philippi

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).

Biography

I grew up in Hampstead, NC, a small fishing community located in the southeast corner of the state.  Here I spent endless hours outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping, and exploring the salt marshes of the barrier islands. Through conversation and commitment, my mother and father introduced me to Jesus Christ.

During my last two years at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, I committed myself to a life of following Christ and got involved with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF; www.intervarsity.org).  Here I developed an inner joy in being discipled and discipling others. My wife, April, and I met in IVCF and we ached to serve Christ in overseas missions. When we married in June of 1996, we were already on our way becoming missionaries.

Mission to Uganda

April and I were missionaries with the African Inland Mission (www.aimint.org) from 1998 to 2001.  Our daughter, Emma Jane, was born  in northwestern Uganda in August of 2000.  Working among the Aringa people, an unreached tribe along the Congo and Sudan borders, our dream was to share Christ’s love with people previously familiar only with famine, war, and exile.  We loved our little mud-brick house in the bush and planned to make it our life’s work.

In January 2001, rebel troops ambushed, shot, and left for dead a friend and I.  We survived miraculously, but my wounds forced us to return to the states in February.  A year later I entered Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (www.GordonConwell.edu) in Charlotte, NC and later (2004-2012) coordinated of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building for the Charlotte and Jacksonville campuses.

St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission

Today, I serve as the Coordinator of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation at St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission (http://StPatricksMission.org). I also serve as a certified lecturer for Perspectives, a nationwide organization that provides churches with educational resources for engaging in world missions and provide spiritual direction to various leaders in and around the Charlotte Metro area.

[1]  Henri Nouwen.  2007. The Selfless Way of Christ:  Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life.  Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books. (www.HenriNouwen.org)

 

Also see:

Reid Satterfield Commencement Address at GCTS 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Nouwen: Be Mastered by the Holy Spirit

Henri Nouwen, The Selfless Way of Christ
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Nouwen: Be Mastered by the Holy Spirit

Henri Nouwen.  2007.  The Selfless Way of Christ:  Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

My first ministry as an adult in the early 1980s was a summer program for high school and college age students.  As my kids began graduating and taking up life as adults, I noticed a disturbing trend.  The majority of them—those not disciplined enough to stay in school to earn a professional degree—had to leave Northern Virginia because the cost of living was simply too high. I coined the phrase, downward mobility, to describe the generational schism this dilemma caused.

Introduction

Until I heard about Henri Nouwen’s book, The Selfless Way of Christ:  Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life, I had never heard anyone else use my phrase—downward mobility.  For Nouwen, downward mobility is conscious decision to resist the idolatry of a lifestyle focused on upward mobility (27) and simply to imitate Christ (38).  Nouwen writes:  The Holy Spirit leads us on the downward way, not to cause us to suffer or to subject us to pain and humiliation, but rather to help us to see God present in the midst of our struggles (47).  The Apostle Paul summed it up this way:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV).

At one point, my church used this last sentence (I can do all things through him who strengthens me) as a tie-shirt slogan for our Vacation Bible School camp.  These words are powerful encouragement for those of us traveling the downward way.

Leadership Temptations

Satan tempts us daily to return to the path of upward mobility.  Following Luke 4, Nouwen (49) sees Satan’s three primary temptations in ministry as:

  1. The temptation to be relevant (turn stones into bread);
  2. The temptation to be spectacular (throw yourself off the temple); and
  3. The temptation to be powerful (rule as king) [1].

Relevance

This first temptation can be the source of a lot of pain.  Nouwen (50) observes:  Doctors can heal; lawyers can defend; bankers can finance; social workers can restructure; but what can you [as Christian,  minister, or pastor] do?  Our natural tendency is to fix things; not to trust in God’s transforming power.

Draw Attention to Ourselves

The second temptation is to focus on ourselves and serve our own needs for attention and acceptance.  Here we need to make space for God in our own lives so that he can use us to be present in the lives of the people around us (58).  Nouwen commends a life of intimate communion with God through the disciplines of solitude, silence, and prayer (59).  If our ministry is not about God, it will ultimately become tiresome and pointless.

Power

The third temptation is to be powerful.  Nouwen observes that:  Power can take many forms:  money, connections, fame, intellectual ability, skills (61).  We want to be in control.  To be a servant of Christ, Nouwen reminds us, is to be a [humble] friend of Christ (65).

Discipline

Nouwen observes that the tension between our vocation as Christians and these temptations is a lifelong challenge (69).  Discipline is required but:  The discipline of  the Christian disciple is not to master anything [like an athlete, student, or professional] but rather to be mastered by the Spirit (70).  Nouwen highlights these 3 disciplines:

  1. The discipline of the church;
  2. The discipline of the book; and
  3. The discipline of the heart (71).

Church

For Nouwen, a Catholic priest, the discipline of the church is to re-enact, to be, and to celebrate the Christ event.  Liturgical discipline focuses on the Christ event—God breaking into human history (73).  We must create time and space in our lives for God.  In this sense, the church is our spiritual director (74).

Scripture

The discipline of the book is for Nouwen necessarily an act not just of reading but of mediating on scripture.  The phrase, Christ is the word of God, is not just high rhetoric; Christ is the word become flesh (77-78).  We must chew the word (78).  The angel tells the Apostle John:  take and eat (Revelation 10:9).  It must become part of us.  Otherwise, the mere words of scripture will become an instrument of Satan (82).

Prayer

For Nouwen, the discipline of the heart is personal prayer (82). The discipline of prayer leads us unromantically, ceremonially to the heart of God (87). This is not about rewards, personal acclaim, helpful projects, or even inner peace (83); this not about personal revelations or sensations (89). Time with God strips all of this away. In prayer, our questions over time morph into our answers (87).

The point of each of these disciplines is, of course, to walk the path of downward mobility to preserver in resisting temptation.

Assessment

I return to Nouwen’s writing periodically as a personal reminder to make time and space for the Holy Spirit in my busy life.  Reminders are imperative for me.  The fact that Nouwen abandoned a comfortable life as a Harvard academic in 1986 to work with special needs individuals in a D’Arche community gives his advice on downward mobility unique credibility.  Spirituality is not a hobby-horse of convenience; it is a life commitment.  I commend this book to your own reading and mediation.

[1] Also see:  Henri Nouwen.  1989.  In the Name of Jesus:  Reflections on Christian Leadership.  New York:  Crossroads Book.

 

 

Also see:

Nouwen: Make Space for Self, Others, and God 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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1 Corinthians 4: Fools for Christ

Albrecht Dürer, Ship of Fools, 1494
Albrecht Dürer, Ship of Fools, 1494

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23 ESV).

Are you a good example?

When I finished my doctorate in 1985, a friend gave me a reprint of a woodcut by Albrecht Dürer called, Ship of Fools (1494), which hangs in my home office. At the time, I worked for the government and the woodcut seemed to be a parody of my office life. Later, in reading a book written on the history of insanity[1], I found reference to my woodcut. In the Middle Ages in Europe, the insane were set adrift on ships—presumably for their own good! Today, we let them wander the streets (and, periodically lock them up for a few days if they misbehave)—presumably to enjoy their legal rights!

The Apostle Paul writes: We are fools for Christ’s sake…To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless … (vv 10-11).  Which of us have been homeless for the Gospel?  Which of us, fools for Christ?

Paul applies different titles to the Christian:  helpers and trustees (v 1); apostles, death-row inmates, and spectacles (in other words, gladiators; v 9); fools, weaklings, fashion-challenged, disreputable, and street people (vv 10-11); blue-collar types, the reviled, the persecuted, the slandered, human garbage, and scum (vv 12-13); and beloved children (v 14).  Do you suppose that Paul was having a bad-hair day?

Paul was making the point that the behavior of the Corinthians was inconsistent with the evangelists, especially Paul, who had brought them to Christ.  He writes, for example: We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute (v 10).  Jesus himself said:  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27 ESV).  Clearly, the Corinthians were out of sync with Gospel teaching.  Are we any different?

One of the hardest admonitions is simply to be a good example.  Without even defining what it means to be good, people run away.  How many athletes and other celebrities haven’t uttered the words:  I am no role model—as if they could wish being a role model away!

What does Jesus say to the disciples?  Follow me! (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17; Luke 5:27; John 1:43).  Consequently, when Paul (v 16) writes—imitate me—he is not bragging; he is simply reframing Christ’s own words.

Are you a good example?  Am I?

Footnotes

[1]The premise of the book was that the treatment of the insane is a mirror on society.  Michael Foucault. 1988.  Madness and Civilization:  A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason.  New York:  Vintage Books.

Questions

  1. How was your week?Did anything special happen?
  2. What questions or thoughts do you have about 1 Corinthians 3?
  3. How does Paul describe the company of the apostles? (v 1)
  4. What is required? (v 2)
  5. What is the nature and significance of judgment according to Paul? What does he call it? (vv 3-5)
  6. What is the limit that Paul imposes on himself and those he is teaching and why? (v 6)
  7. What limits boasting? What is the source of our gifts? (v 7)
  8. Does Paul seem ironic?Sarcastic? Depressed? (v 8)
  9. What is the problem with apostle? Why last of all?  What is a spectacle? To whom? (v 9)
  10. What comparison pairs does Paul offer? (vv 10-13)
  11. Why does Paul write?(v 14)
  12. What is the difference between a guide and a parent? (v 15)
  13. In what way are we to imitate Paul? (v 16)
  14. Who is Timothy and why did Paul send him? (v 17)
  15. What is Paul’s point about talk and power? What is the point of his planned trip? (vv 18-21)

1 Corinthians 4: Fools for Christ

First Corinthians 3

First Corinthians 5

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1 Corintios 4: Locos por Cristo

Albrecht Dürer, Ship of Fools, 1494
Albrecht Dürer, Ship of Fools, 1494

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Si alguien quiere ser mi discípulo, que se niegue a sí mismo, lleve su cruz cada día y me siga (Lucas 9:23 NVI)

¿Eres un buen ejemplo?

Cuando terminé mi doctorado en 1985, un amigo me dio una reimpresión de un grabado de Alberto Durero llamado, barco de los locos (1494), que cuelga en mi oficina en casa. En ese momento, yo trabajaba para el gobierno y la xilografía parecía ser una parodia de mi vida en la oficina. Más tarde, en la lectura de un libro escrito sobre la historia de la locura, me encontré con referencia a mi xilografía[1]. En la Edad Media en Europa, los locos estaban a la deriva en barcos—presumiblemente por su propio bien! Hoy en día, dejamos vagar por las calles (y, bloquean periódicamente ellos durante unos días si se portan mal)–presumiblemente para disfrutar de sus derechos legales!

El Apostol Pablo escribe: ¡Por causa de Cristo, nosotros somos los ignorantes …

Hasta el momento pasamos hambre … (vv 10-11). ¿Cuál de nosotros ha estado sin hogar por el Evangelio? ¿Quién de nosotros, necios por Cristo?

Pablo aplica diferentes títulos para el cristiano: ayudantes y administradores (v 1), apóstoles, los condenados a muerte, y los espectáculos (en otras palabras, los gladiadores; v 9); tontos, débiles, desafió la moda, de mala reputación, y la gente de la calle (vv 10-11), los tipos de cuello azul, el denostado, los perseguidos, los calumniados, basura humana, y la espuma (vv 12-13), y amados hijos (v 14). ¿Pensáis que Pablo estaba teniendo un día malo?

Pablo estaba haciendo el punto de que el comportamiento de los corintios era incompatible con los evangelistas, especialmente Pablo, que los había sacado a Cristo. Escribe, por ejemplo: ¡Por causa de Cristo, nosotros somos los ignorantes; ustedes, en Cristo, son los inteligentes! ¡Los débiles somos nosotros; los fuertes son ustedes! ¡A ustedes se les estima; a nosotros se nos desprecia! (v 10). Jesús mismo dijo: Y el que no carga su cruz y me sigue, no puede ser mi discípulo (Lucas 14:27 NVI). Es evidente que los corintios estaban fuera de sincronía con la enseñanza del Evangelio. ¿Somos diferentes?

Una de las advertencias más duras es simplemente ser un buen ejemplo. Sin ni siquiera intentar definir lo que significa ser bueno, la gente huye de la idea. ¿Cuántos atletas y otras celebridades no han pronunciado las palabras: Yo no soy modelo a seguir–como si pudieran desear ser un modelo de distancia!

¿Qué dice Jesús a sus discípulos ? ¡Sígueme! (Mateo 4:19; Marcos 1:17; Lucas 5:27; Juan 1:43). En consecuencia, cuando Paul (v 16) escribe–imitar me–no es alardear, sino que simplemente se reencuadre propias palabras de Cristo.

¿Eres un buen ejemplo? ¿Soy yo?

[1] La premisa del libro es que el tratamiento de los enfermos mentales es un espejo de la sociedad.  Michael Foucault. 1988.  Madness and Civilization:  A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason.  New York:  Vintage Books.

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My Life as a College Student by Frank Hiemstra

Photo of Frank Hiemstra
Frank Hiemstra

Our guest blogger this morning is Frank Hiemstra from Centreville, VA.

My Life as a College Student

When I came to college, I wanted thrill and adventure.  I thought I could fulfill these desires by partying, getting good grades, getting girls … getting mine.  Things worked that way for a while, but I was never satisfied.

All that changed in the fall of freshman year.  I met Jesus Christ and found a fulfillment that does not go away. God told me clearly that He loves me and that I have a purpose in life–to glorify and enjoy Him.  And knowing my past, if He can love me, He can love anyone.

And now, wrapping up senior year, I see that Christ uses 4 things to shape me:

  1. In time spent alone with Him, He tells me He loves me.
  2. In my local Church, He builds me up.
  3. In my community of friends and believers, He encourages me. And
  4. In ministry, I get to tell the world how much Jesus loves them.

First, there is nothing like spending intimate, quality time with God.  Here, God builds me up; His Spirit gives me real life; and He shares His promises:

  1. That He loves me unconditionally,
  2. That I have eternal life,
  3. That He has plans for me,
  4. That He will never forsake me.

College students often believe that they are too busy to spend time with the Lord.  That is a lie.  College is a time for the Creator of the world to tell us why He made us and fill us up with His Spirit.  Reading the Bible is not just another thing to check off our list; it brings us life and the energy to overcome each new day’s challenges.

Second, every Sunday my friends and I go to Jefferson Park Baptist Church (http://jpbc.org).  Church gets me out of the college bubble and I get to see real people:  families with kids; adults with jobs. What a blessing–it’s the best part of my week!  These are people who have experienced the same pressures and temptations of college life with friends, wild parties, and grades that I am experiencing.  Having been through it, they are able to offer me valuable wisdom and advice.

Third, every night I come home to a house of college guys seeking God just like me.  Not only are these dudes fun–joking around, throwing dance parties, and playing Super Smash Bros on N64–they are also committed to Christ and they push me towards Him.  They hold me accountable; listen to me; and walk alongside me as I follow Christ.  God never wants us to be alone.  I love how we get to do it together.

Lastly, sharing the Good News with others and being God’s hands and feet on earth is a great privilege.  I volunteer as a Young Life leader at Charlottesville High School (www.ccs.k12.va.us/schools/chs).  With Young Life, I build relationships with high school students and share Jesus’ unconditional love.  Last fall, a friend met Jesus and his life changed forever right before my eyes–it was just like when I met Jesus for the first time.  This experience enriched my own relationship with Christ and it convinced me that leading Young Life is the best thing that I’ve done in college.

Do you want thrills?  There is no greater thrill in college than experiencing the God of the universe show up in your life.

Biography

Frank is a senior studying electronic engineering at University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA.  Frank volunteers as a leader with Young Life (http://Charlottesville.YoungLife.org).  In his free time, he plays basketball, Spades, and the game board–Settlers of Catan.  Frank is a graduate of Chantilly High School.

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Transitions: Bridges linking the Past to the Future

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

William Bridge.  2003.  Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change.  Cambridge:  Da Capo Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Early in my government career I noticed that new political appointees did not immediately affect the course of my work.  Rather, their views typically took a year or more to filter down through the bureaucracy into my job description.  During this period, objective research could be published without reference to the positions they expressed on Capitol Hill. After that, the freedom of response disappeared.

William Bridges (www.WMBridges.com) would describe my observation on research in government service as a type of transition.  Bridges describes a transition as a 3-stage, psychological process in an organizational setting.  These stages are:

  1. Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had;
  2. Going through an in-between time when the old is gone, but the new isn’t fully operational; and
  3. Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning (3-5)

He calls the first stage an “ending”, the second “the neutral zone”, and the last a “new beginning” (5).  While Bridges focuses on organizational behavior, like my story about government research, the idea of a transition nicely describes individual experiences, like a hospital visit, going to college, and a host of other stressful experiences in life.

Bridge’s first stage—an ending—is unexpected.  We expect the first stage to be a discussion of how leadership lays out new objectives.  Bridge’s observes:  Before can begin something new, you have to end what used to be (23).   Endings involve losses which need to be recognized, assessed, and celebrated before we can move on (25-27).  All losses need to be grieved and grieving takes time (28).

At one point, I remember a manager informing me that a very successful project that I had been doing for about 7 years was over and I needed to start something new—it would have been easier to have been run over by a truck.  The sense of loss was real; the pain was immediate; the project had defined my identity for so long that I could not imagine not doing it.

Bridges suggests both making a list of losses and compensating the losers so that they have less incentive to sabotage the proposed change (30-31).  In one office where I worked, for example, displaced managers were given dream assignments in Europe as compensation for trading a staff for a desk.

Bridge’s second stage—the neutral zone—is both a stressful period and a time of innovation.  Supervisors become impatient; staff develops anxiety attacks; signals are mixed and confusing; new lines of communication open up (40-42).  At one point, my career was dead in the water as we entered a period of reorganization; after I volunteered to help out the reorganization team, things turned around.  Later, I was offered a better position in other unit and ended up with a promotion.

Bridges observed that it was during the 40 years in the desert that the Nation of Israel was born—it took Moses maybe 40 days to get the people of Israel out of Egypt, but it took him 40 years to get Egypt out of the people (43).

The neutral zone is not a highly productive period, but it is a created time.  It is a time to build infrastructure—new roles, new policies and procedures, new teams (45-46).  After being admitted to college, you have to take an awful lot of classes before you complete your degree and graduate.  College classes are a great symbol of the neutral zone.

Bridge’s third stage—the new beginning—is also a new identity.  This is when the new organizational charts go up on the wall (57).  Bridges talks about the marathon effect where thousands of runners are involved.  Front runners take off like rabbits; middle runners run more slowly behind; and the weekend runners bring up the rear so far behind that they cannot even hear the starting gun (65).  The point is that not everyone in an organization transitions at the same speed.

Bridges offers 4 rules for transitioning:

  1. Offer a consistent message;
  2. Celebrate milestones marking small successes;
  3. Develop symbols of the new identity; and
  4. Take time to celebrate arriving at the new destination (69-72).

Following Skakespeare, Bridges describes organizational life in 7 stages:

  1. Dreaming the dream;
  2. Launching the venture;
  3. Getting organized;
  4. Making it;
  5. Institutionalizing;
  6. Ossifying; and
  7. Dying (77-82).

The hope, of course, is that leadership can anticipate these stages and reinvent the organization repeatedly to avoid the later stages.

Bridge’s idea of a transition has been enormously helpful throughout my career both as an economist and a pastor.  Understanding where an organization is during a transition guides how to navigate in one’s career and how not to be sidelined.  The same can be side for individuals caught up in the important transitions of life—growing up, going to school, marriage, growing older, and so on.  Managing Transitions is a book to read and apply—over and over.

Transitions: Bridges linking the Past to the Future

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Prayer Day 20: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Available on Amazon.com
Available on Amazon.com

Heavenly Father. We praise you for hope in the future and for the gift of patience. We praise you for the vision of Eden, the new kingdom of heaven, where our present world will pass away and a new world will replace it. For in Christ we know the end of the story. You are our rock and our salvation. To you and you alone be the glory. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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1 Corinthians 3: Infants in Christ

Stephen W. Hiemstra (1955)
Stephen W. Hiemstra (1955)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3 ESV).

We really want to be in control.  From a very young age, we do not want to depend on other people, to be told what to do, or to answer to anyone.  We take seriously the Declaration of Independence when it reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (July 4, 1776).

Not only do we want the freedom to deny the control of other people and other nations, we want to deny the restrictions placed on us by God himself.  Rather than a sign of maturity, this control fetish is a sign of childishness—children always imitate their parents wanting to do adult things before they are ready.

For the Corinthians, childishness had two prominent features.  They considered themselves to be very spiritual people (v 1) and they divided themselves into political parties (v 4).  The Apostle Paul responded by offering them a lesson in Christian leadership.

Christian leadership, according to Paul, consists in building on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ (v 11), serving God as we are assigned (v 5), and compensated according to quality of the work done (VV 8,13-14). Paul writes:  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth (V 6). In this agricultural motif, the farmer does not know how the seeds grow; farming consists only in fostering the growth of healthy seeds. Paul’s point is that God is responsible for growth—follow Jesus, not his servants.

Paul’s lesson clearly applies to us today.

Don’t we consider ourselves spiritual?  Paul talks about the wisdom of this age (v 18).  Hays (49-50) notes that spiritual elitism can take the form of spiritual gifts, scholarly knowledge, doctrinal correctness, moral uprightness, or political correctness[1].  When we do not consider ourselves spiritual elites, we can, of course, simply support our favorite pastor, denomination, or author who expresses our elitist preferences. Is it any wonder that schisms in the church appeal over and over through the ages and frequently find root in a selective reading of scripture itself?

Paul sees this tendency towards spiritual elitism in the Corinthians (vv 18-20) and cites the Prophet Job:

He [God] frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.  He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end (Job 5:12-13 ESV).

Paul ends this section with another admonishment about boasting saying:  For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future– all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (vv 21-23)

As the church, we collectively are God’s temple [2] and under his watchful eye (vv 16-17).

Footnotes

[1]Hays, Richard B.  2011.  Interpretation:  A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching—First Corinthians (Orig pub 1997).  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press.

[2]ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν, οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς (1Corinthians 3:17 BNT).  Translated is:  for God’s temple is holy, and you all are [that temple].

Questions

  1. How was your week? Did anything special happen?
  2. What questions or thoughts do you have about 1 Corinthians 2?
  3. What does it mean to be spiritual (πνευματικοῖς)?How about worldly (or fleshly; σαρκίνοις)? What is an infant (νηπίοις) in Christ? (vv1,3)
  4. What would you say that the milk teachings of the church are as opposed to the solid food teachings?(v2)
  5. What particular problem does Paul focus on? (vv3-5)
  6. What does Paul say about this problem?
  7. What is important in leadership? (vv6-11)
  8. How is a leader measured or tested?(vv12-15)
  9. What does Paul say about the temple? What is confusing about this statement in English but not Spanish (vv16-17)
  10. What wisdom is Paul talking about? What does he say? (vv18-20)
  11. What does Paul say about boasting? (vv21-23)

1 Corinthians 3: Infants in Christ

First Corinthians 2

First Corinthians 4

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1 Corintios 3: Bebés en Cristo

Stephen W. Hiemstra (1955)
Stephen W. Hiemstra (1955)

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

De veras te aseguro que quien no nazca de nuevo no puede ver el reino de Dios —dijo Jesús (Juan 3:3 NVI).

Tenemos muchas ganas de estar en control. Desde una edad muy joven, no queremos depender de otras personas, que le digan qué hacer, o dar explicaciones a nadie. Nos tomamos muy en serio la Declaración de Independencia, cuando se lee:

Sostenemos que estas verdades son evidentes: que todos los hombres [y las mujeres] son creados iguales, que son dotados por su Creador con ciertos derechos inalienables, que entre éstos están la Vida, la Libertad y la búsqueda de la Felicidad (4 de julio 1776).

No sólo queremos la libertad para negar el control de otras personas y otras naciones, queremos negar las restricciones impuestas a nosotros por Dios mismo. En lugar de un signo de madurez, este fetiche de control es una muestra de infantilismo—niños siempre imitan a sus padres con ganas de hacer cosas de adultos antes de estar listos.

Para los Corintios, infantilismo tenía dos características prominentes. Ellos consideran a sí mismos como personas muy espirituales (v 1), y se dividieron en partidos políticos (v 4). El apóstol Pablo responde al ofrecerles una lección de liderazgo cristiano.

Liderazgo cristiano, según Pablo, consiste en la construcción de los cimientos puestos por Jesucristo (v 11), sirviendo a Dios como nos asignan (v 5), y compensados ​​de acuerdo a la calidad del trabajo realizado (VV 8, 13-14). Pablo escribe:  Yo sembré, Apolos regó, pero Dios ha dado el crecimiento (V 6). En este tema agrícola, el agricultor no sabe cómo crecen las semillas; agricultura consiste sólo en promover el crecimiento de semillas sanas. El punto de Pablo es que Dios es responsable del crecimiento de seguir a Jesús, no a sus siervos.

Lección de Pablo se aplica claramente a nosotros hoy.

¿Acaso no nos consideramos espiritual? Pablo habla de la sabiduría de este mundo (v 18). Hays (49-50) señala que el elitismo espiritual puede tomar la forma de los dones espirituales, conocimiento académico, corrección doctrinal, la rectitud moral, o la corrección política [1]. Cuando nosotros no nos consideramos elites espirituales, podemos, por supuesto, sólo tiene que apoyar a nuestro pastor, denominación o autor que expresa nuestras preferencias favorito. No es de extrañar que los cismas en la Iglesia apelan una y otra vez a través de los siglos y con frecuencia se encuentran en la raíz de una lectura selectiva de la misma Escritura?

Pablo ve esta tendencia hacia el elitismo espiritual en los Corintios (vv 18-20) y cita del Job:

Él deshace las maquinaciones de los astutos, para que no prospere la obra de sus manos. Él atrapa a los astutos en su astucia, y desbarata los planes de los malvados (Job 5:12-13 NVI).

Pablo termino esta sección con otra advertencia acerca de que cuenta con dicho:  Por lo tanto, ¡que nadie base su orgullo en el hombre! Al fin y al cabo, todo es de ustedes, ya sea Pablo, o Apolos, o Cefas, o el universo, o la vida, o la muerte, o lo presente o lo por venir; todo es de ustedes, y ustedes son de Cristo, y Cristo es de Dios. (vv 21-23)

Como la iglesia, colectivamente somos el templo de Dios [2] y bajo su atenta mirada (vv 16-17).


[1] Hays, Richard B.  2011.  Interpretation:  A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching—First Corinthians (Orig pub 1997).  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press.

[2] ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν, οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς (1Corinthians 3:17 BNT).  Translated is:  for God’s temple is holy, and you all are [that temple].

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