May: Addictions Need not Enslave

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

Gerald G. May. 1988.  Addiction & Grace:  Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions.  New York:  HarperOne.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The goodbyes this week to beloved actor and director, Philip Seymour Hoffman (July 23, 1967 – February 2, 2014) place the specter of addiction and death in the public eye. This week it is heroin addiction but the drug of choice changes over time.  In a society that has trouble placing limits on personal freedom (boundaries) of any sort, the pain of addiction bites particularly hard because we all share a bit in the blame.

What is addiction anyway?

In his book, Addiction and Grace, Gerald May (June 12, 1940- April 12, 2005), a Christian psychiatrist specializing in addictions, defined addiction as:

Any compulsive, habitual behavior that limits the freedom of human desire.  It is caused by the attachment, or nailing, of desire to specific objects (24-25).

May notes that true addiction has 5 characteristics:

  1. Tolerance,
  2. Withdrawal symptoms,
  3. Self-deception,
  4. Loss of willpower, and
  5. Distortion of attention (26).

On reading May’s description in 2011, I became aware of my own addiction—stress.  I loved my work too much—it had become an obsession—evidence of tolerance.  Taking time off away from the office was harder on me than the pounding stress—evidence of withdrawal symptoms.  I told myself that I was advancing my career—this was a self-deception.  I could not help myself; I had to work hard—evidence of loss of willpower.  Was I aware of it?  No—I was convinced that other people were the problem in my career advancement.

When I became aware of this addiction, I took it to the Lord in prayer and committed myself to practicing Sabbath rest.  May advises—the only cure for an addiction is to stop the cycle (177).  Not working on Sunday (not even for God) has freed up time for family; other interests; and self-respect.  I continue to feel the urge to work, but with God’s help my stress addiction is over.

What are you addicted to?

Notice that May’s definition of addiction talks about freedom.  May writes:

Free will is given to us for a purpose: so that we may choose freely, without coercion or manipulation, to love God in return, and to love one another in a similarly perfect way…addiction uses up desire…sucking our life energy into specific obsessions and compulsions, leaving less and less energy available for other people and other pursuits.  Spiritually, addiction is a deep-seated form of idolatry [idolatry is anything that substitutes for God] (13).

Psychologists talk about addiction as an attachment disorder.  In order to be free in any sense of the word, we need to be detached from our desires enough to regulate them (14).  This is why the first of the Ten Commandments reads:

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

The other gods here are things that we become addicted to.  What the Bible is saying is that addiction is a form of slavery from which God can free us.  In my experience, freedom is harder than slavery for many people because they are enslaved to their passions—work, bad relationships, substances, expensive toys, compulsive sex, money, and so on.  My stress addiction is a typical case because our minds are rigged to facilitate habit formation—we all have addictions, albeit not all addictions are life-threatening (57).

Addiction and Grace is written in 8 chapters:

  1. Desire:  Addiction and Human Freedom.
  2. Experience: The Qualities of Addiction.
  3. Mind:  The Psychological Nature of Addiction.
  4. Body: The Neurological Nature of Addiction.
  5. Spirit: The Theological Nature of Addiction.
  6. Grace:  The Qualities of Mercy.
  7. Empowerment:  Grace and Will in Overcoming Addiction.

These chapters are preceded by a preface and followed by various notes.

Clearly, I have left out many of the details that May generously supplies.  Anyone struggling with addiction (or who cares about someone who does) will find this book a godsend.  I clearly did.

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Long: Honoring God in Worship

Cover, Thomas Long. Honoring God in Worship
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Long: Honoring God in Worship

Thomas Long. Beyond the Worship Wars:  Building Vital and Faithful Worship. Herndon:  Alban Institute.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Before I attended seminary, I spoke with a pastor who began quizzing me about a worship service that she was planning.  The question totally stumped me.  For me, worship was that mysterio

us experience on Sunday mornings that drew me closer to God (or not).  I had no idea what worship was or how to plan it.  As I studied worship in seminary, Thomas Long’s book, Beyond the Worship Wars, helped reduce the mystery in worship planning.

Long defines worship as: what happens when people become aware that they are in the presence of a living God (18).  But how does a faithful church actually bring people into awareness of God?  Long offers an interesting insight:

Even when Christian worship is at its best, it is much like that Mother’s Day breakfast.  It is always the work of amateurs, people who do this for love, kids in the kitchen overcooking the prayers, half-baking the sermons, and crashing and stumbling through the responses on the way to an act of adoration (vii).

Does the word, humility, come to mind?

Beyond the Worship Wars is written in 10 chapters whose titles are instructive:

  1. Worship wars:  a report from the front lines.
  2. Why do people come to worship?  The presence of mystery,
  3. Why do people come to worship?  A sense of belonging.
  4. All the world’s a stage—and heaven too.
  5. O for a thousand tongues:  the challenge of music.
  6. Tents, temples, and tables:  the space of worship.
  7. Serving in this place:  neighborhoods and mission.
  8. Come to the joyful dance:  memory and celebration.
  9. In the spirit on the Lord’s Day:  Leadership.
  10. Epilog:  Can revitalized worship happen here?

These chapters are preceded by a preface and acknowledgments and followed by notes and a bibliography.

In surveying Long’s chapter titles, is anything in all of creation left out?  This is not an idle question, but more a theological one.  The apostle Paul writes:   And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons and daughters, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).  In writing about the cultural wars, new cultural realities lead Long (2) to observe that:  rare also is the congregation that has not felt some stress, some measure of conflict over all this ferment in worship [and in the world!]

Long (2-9) sees the conflict arising between two groups.  The first group seeks to recover the genuinely biblical worship of the ancient church as represented by interest in Bishop Hippolytus of the third century following Vatican II.  The second group focuses on seeker [1] worship symbolized by the praise music of the Willow Creek Community Church (www.WillowCreek.org) led by Bill Hybels.  While recognizing that the seeker worship is influenced more by our television culture than the Gospel story, Long sees wisdom in looking for a third-way that adopts the best of both worship styles (10-11).

How do we make room for God in worship, regardless of style?

Motivation clearly matters.  Long (26) sees us coming to worship for two fundamental reasons:  the hunger for communion with God [a sense of mystery] and the hunger for human community [a sense of belonging].  Theologians call the first need transcendence (God above us); they call the second immanence (God with us).  When we come to worship, the question of authenticity quickly arises because if our view of God is too transcendent, worship is dry and lifeless.  And if our view of God is too immanent, worship is too worldly.  Hence, true worship involves balancing this tension.

Long (107-110) ends with four insights:

  1. Pastoral leadership is the key to worship renewal.
  2. Whenever worship is renewed, some congregational conflict is inevitable.
  3. To change worship, significant lay involvement is necessary.
  4. Education and publicity help pave the way for worship renewal.

How do we make room for God in worship?  Long points out that the best worship is to some degree learned by heart (86).  This is because when worship is memorized, we are less distracted and more open to God’s presence.

Long’s Book, Beyond the Worship Wars, is a helpful book which I have given as a gift to friends.  Like many of the books published by the Alban Institute (www.alban.org), it is worth a look.

____________

[1] A seeker is someone interested in (seeking) God , but not yet a believer.

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Galatians 4: Slave and Free

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

And because you are sons and daughters, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a child, and if a child, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:6-7).

Aren’t you glad that our relationship with God is not transactional?

What if God were like a Facebook friend who after one “bad hair day” simply unfriended you?  Who would ever be comfortable in their relationship with such a god?  Could you ever really love God knowing that you were constantly being evaluated?  Or, turning the question around, could you ever really love God knowing that your love was purchased with wealth or fame?

Aren’t you glad that our relationship with God is a real relationship?

In Galatians 4, the Apostle Paul describes what it means to be a child of an (unconditional) promise.  When we are promised a gift (like friendship), we need only believe in the promise.  The promise is unconditional.  We do not have to do anything to earn the gift.  That is what the word, gift, implies.  The good news is that God’s grace is a gift.

Law works differently.  Law is a conditional promise.  If you obey the law, then you earn the reward promised under the law.  For example, if you apply to become a U.S. citizen, the law covering citizenship applies.  If you meet the conditions of this law, then you are eligible to become a citizen.  If you do not meet the law’s conditions and you desire the reward of the law, then you are a slave of the law (and your desire) until you meet those conditions.

With this argument concerning conditional (law) and unconditional (grace) promises, Paul is making two points:

  1. Being under law is like kids waiting to be old enough to inherit from their parents (vv 1-3).  Being under law implies immaturity.  Mature adults are under no such restrictions.  What adult would prefer to be a kid again?
  2. Being under gospel implies freedom from law, but it does not imply freedom from relationship.  We are God’s adopted children—children of the promise (vv 5-7, 23-28).  Free people do not behave like slaves because they are in relationship with their parents which includes having an inheritance (v 30).

Paul’s discussion of our freedom in Christ continues into chapter 5.

Paul’s discussion of the relationship between Abraham and his two wives, Hagar and Sarah, has generated a lot of discussion over the years.  Paul argues that being under the Mosaic covenant (the Law of Moses) is like being a slave to law.  Because Hagar was a slave woman, he equates the two (law and Hagar) in his allegory.  This causes heartburn for Jewish interpreters because the Jews were biological descendants of Sarah, not Hagar.

Paul’s argument revolves around God’s covenant with Abraham.  The Jews have not taken to heart the second half of the covenant to Abraham:  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing (Genesis 12:2-3 ESV).  The covenant with Abraham required that Abraham become a blessing (וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה) [to the nations]—which essentially means that the Gospel needs to be told.  The Galatians were like Sarah (and the Jews were not) because they more completely fulfilled Abraham’s covenant obligations.  At a minimum, sharing the love of God has to start with sharing who God is!  Niceness is not enough; obeying the law is not enough (Galatians 5:14).

Our question is:  Are we children of Hagar or of Sarah?

Questions

  1. How was your week? Did anything special happen?
  2. Who attended the Worship Workshop and would like to give a report?
  3. Do you have questions from chapter 3?
  4. According to Paul, how is a child like a slave? (vv 1-3)
  5. What does this analogy have to do with law? (v 3)
  6. What is the role of Christ? (vv 4-7)
  7. What is the “fullness of time” mean? What about “born of a woman”? (v 4)
  8. What is the argument—that was then; this is now—that Paul is making? What transition is he referring to? (vv 8-10)
  9. What is a transition? (beginning, middle, and end)
  10. What is Paul’s fear, as expressed in this rant? (vv 11-20)
  11. What is Paul’s argument here in verse 11?
  12. What is Paul’s analogy to Hagar and Sarah? (vv 22-31)
  13. How is the law like Hagar; how is it not? Why would Jewish interpreters be upset?

Galatians 4: Slave and Free

Also see:

Galatians 5: Healthy Boundaries 

Galatians 3: Law and Gospel 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

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Gálatas 4: Esclavitud y Libertad

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

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Ustedes ya son hijos y hijas. Dios ha enviado a nuestros corazones el Espíritu de su Hijo, que clama: ¡Abba! ¡Padre! Así que ya no eres esclavo sino hijo/a; y como eres hijo/a, Dios te ha hecho también heredero (Galatas 4:6-7).

¿No estás contento de que nuestra relación con Dios no es transaccional?

¿Y si Dios fuera como “Facebook friend” que después de un “mal día” simplemente un-friend a usted? ¿Quién iba a ser cómodo en su relación con un Dios así? ¿Podría alguna vez realmente amar a Dios sabiendo que se estaban evaluando constantemente? O, volviendo a la pregunta alrededor, ¿podría alguna vez realmente amar a Dios sabiendo que su amor fue comprado con la riqueza o la fama?

¿No estás contento de que nuestra relación con Dios es una relación real?

En Gálatas 4, el apóstol Pablo describe lo que significa ser un niño de un (incondicional) promesa. Cuando se nos promete un regalo (como amistad), sólo necesitamos creer en la promesa. La promesa es incondicional. No tenemos que hacer nada para ganar el regalo. Eso es lo que la palabra, regalo, implica. La buena noticia es que la gracia de Dios es un regalo.

Ley funciona de manera diferente. La ley es una promesa condicional. Si obedeces la ley, entonces usted gana la recompensa prometida por la ley. Por ejemplo, si se aplica para convertirse en un ciudadano de los EE.UU. , la ley que cubre la ciudadanía se aplica. Si usted cumple con las condiciones de esta ley, entonces usted es elegible para convertirse en ciudadano. Si usted no cumple con las condiciones de la ley y que desee la recompensa de la ley, entonces usted es un esclavo de la ley (y el deseo) hasta que cumpla con esas condiciones.

Con este argumento relativo a las promesas incondicionales (la gracia) y condicionales (ley), Pablo está haciendo dos puntos:

  1. Estar bajo la ley es como los niños que esperan para ser lo suficientemente mayor como para heredar de sus padres (vv 1-3). Estar bajo la ley implica la inmadurez. Los adultos maduros están bajo no tales restricciones. Lo que los adultos prefieren ser un niño otra vez?
  2. Estar bajo Evangelio implica la libertad de la ley, pero no implica la ausencia de relación. Somos adoptados hijos- hijos de la promesa (vv. 5-7, 23-28) de Dios. La gente libre no se comportan como los esclavos, porque están en relación con sus padre , que incluye tener una herencia (v 30).

La discusión de Pablo de nuestra libertad en Cristo continúa en el capítulo 5.

Discusión de Pablo sobre la relación entre Abraham y sus dos mujeres, Agar y Sara, ha generado una gran polémica en los últimos años. Pablo argumenta que estar bajo el pacto mosaico (la Ley de Moisés) es como ser un esclavo de la ley. Porque Agar era una esclava , que equivale a los dos (la ley y Agar) en su alegoría. Esto hace que la acidez de los intérpretes judíos porque los Judios eran descendientes biológicos de Sarah, no Agar.

El argumento de Pablo gira en torno a la alianza de Dios con Abraham. Los Judios no han tomado en serio la segunda mitad del pacto a Abraham: Haré de ti una nación grande, y te bendeciré; haré famoso tu nombre, y serás una bendición (Génesis 12:2 – 3). El pacto con Abraham exigió que Abraham se convierta en una bendición ( וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה ) [a las naciones] – que esencialmente significa que el Evangelio necesita ser contada. Los gálatas eran como Sarah (y los Judios no eran) porque cumplieron de manera más completa las obligaciones del pacto de Abraham. Como mínimo, compartiendo el amor de Dios tiene que comenzar con el intercambio de quién es Dios! Niceness no es suficiente, la obediencia a la ley no es suficiente (Gálatas 5:14).

Nuestra pregunta es: ¿Somos hijos de Agar o de Sarah?

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Guest Blogger: Jesse D. Colón

Mural in Riverside Presbyterian Church
Mural in Riverside Presbyterian Church

This morning we welcome our first guest blogger, Jesse D. Colón.

Jesse D. Colón Arroyo, is a loud NewYorican who loves God and Music. He studied music in Puerto Rico and served as the Director of Music Ministries for 7 years at the church his parents founded as a mission, “Evangelio de Amor”, alongside his older brother and current pastor, Justin.  He moved to Virginia with his wife and two children in 2011 and now currently serves as a Music Coordinator at Riverside Presbyterian Church in Sterling, Virginia.

Worship

What is worship?  As a music leader in church I found defining this word harder than I thought.  It’s a word used many times to describe a type of service in church and other times referred as the musical section within the order of a service.  But if we adhere to these definitions we’re limiting worship to something that happens a day of the week or an hour within the day. Is worship done with afterwards?  Though many may agree with this perspective, it is my understanding that God has more in mind.

Looking at the word

Oxford Dictionary explains its origin from Old English–“weorthscipe” ‘worthiness, acknowledgment of worth’ (worth-shipping)

This definition could lead us to understand worship as acts of recognition.  Something we say or do to demonstrate that the object of our worship is worthy.  Some people might be okay with leaving it here but this perspective is limited.   It could be made into a checklist of things to do, and as soon as we’re done with the list, one could interpret that we’re done relating with God.  This could not be further from what Scripture teaches us.  Yes. God is worthy, but a single act of recognition is not enough.  As reflected in the Jesus of the gospels, the God I serve is worthy of my time, worthy of my attention, worthy of my affection, worthy of my resources, worthy of my service, and worthy of everything I am or have. Worship is more than just an act but also an attitude, a way of living, and a life surrendered completely and wholly to God.  All the acts of recognition we can come up with are merely reflections of what worship causes in our lives.

What does the Bible say?

The first appearance of the word “worship” in scripture is in Genesis 22:5 when Abraham is about to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering to God.  The Hebrew word used is shachah which literally means to prostrate or bow down.  In Genesis 24:26 we can understand this meaning because it’s very direct in saying: “Then, the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord”.  Interpreting these passages support the perspective that worship is an act of offering up or sacrificing something to God.  But we should ask ourselves: what does God want us to offer or sacrifice? In the passage of Genesis 22, God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac because it was all a test of obedience and trust in God.  1 Samuel 15:22 explains it clearly: “…Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

God wants us. From creation to Moses and the Ten Commandments to Jesus dying on a cross, it’s always been about God reaching out and us reciprocating.

I think this couldn’t be any more clear as when we read: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of Gods mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1). 

What’s more revealing is that worship is what we live for and what makes us human. Thomas G. Long expresses in his book Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship [1]:

“Worshiping God is not simply a good thing to do; it is a necessary thing to do to be human.  The most profound statement that can be made about us is that we need to join with others in bowing before God in worshipful acts of devotion, praise, obedience, thanksgiving and petition.”(17)

A passage that gives light to this statement is Isaiah 43.  This is a beautiful chapter where the prophet is revealing God’s word to the people of Israel and he starts by saying in the first verse:

“But now, this is what the Lord says-he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israeleveryone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:1,7).

Granted that this was written specifically to Israel, if we understand that today we are his children and his people, then here’s what we were made for.  Worship is not something we do on Sunday mornings, but what we were made for–we were created to bring God glory.  This reminds me of a Tim Hughes song called “Living for Your Glory” where there’s a part he sings: “in everything I say and do, let my life honor You, here I am living for Your glory”.

Walking this Path

I don’t know who coined the phrase “We are what we Love”.  However, I think it gives us insight on how we can start to live this life of a worshiper described in Romans 12:1–to feel completely whole and human as God intended us to be from the beginning.  Bob Kauflin expresses in his book Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God [2]: “while it’s simplistic to say worship is Love, it’s a fact that what we love most will determine what we genuinely worship”(25). Kauflin goes on to say:

“For years we’ve read or experienced firsthand the “worship wars”-conflicts over music styles, song selection, and drums. But far too little has been said about the worship wars going inside of us. And they’re much more significant. Each of us has a battle raging within us over what we love most –God or something else.”

The Great Commandment says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 10:27).

No matter what stage or season in life we might find ourselves the life of a worshiper is constantly asking this question:  do I love the Lord my God with all that I am? That is worship.

Worship Workshop

On Saturday February 8, 2014 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Jesse D. Colón (Jesse@RiversideChurch.com) and Noemi Simmons (Noemi@Riversidechurch.com) are hosting a Worship Workshop at Riverside Presbyterian Church (www.RiversideChurch.com).  A continental breakfast and lunch will be served.  If this is interesting to you, please contact Jesse or Noemi for more details.

_________________

[1] Thomas G. Long. 2001.  Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship.  Herdon:  Alban Institute. (www.Alban.org).

[2] Bob Kauflin.  2008. Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God.  Wheaton: Crossway.

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Single but not Alone: Soul Virgin

Soul Virgin
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Doug Rosenau and Michael Todd Wilson.  2006.  Soul Virgins:  Redefining Single Sexuality.  Atlanta:  Sexual Wholeness Resources.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

I feel out of place in church–a single friend at seminary shared with me about a year back [1].  Married couples, especially older people, are uncomfortable having me around because I am 20-something and not married.  It’s like I have some kind of disease.  If that were not bad enough, he continued, I am not sure how to relate with the single women that I meet.

Introduction

I remember experiencing those same feelings when I was single. So when my friend recommended Doug Rosenau and Michael Todd Wilson’s book: I was curious and looked up a copy.

Not surprisingly, the book starts by defining terms.  For example, a soul virgin is: one who continuously seeks to value, celebrate, and protect God’s design for sexuality—body, soul, and spirit—in oneself and others (7).  Clearly, the book assumes that you want to live within the will of God in singleness and that marriage is a goal.  Furthermore, the authors seek to:  help Christian single adults sort through and find better answers about their sexuality—to not just repress or tolerate their sexuality but to redefine and celebrate it (15).  In other words, because God created us as sexual beings, our sexuality has a purpose that extends beyond physically obvious reasons.

Organization

Soul Virgins is thorough book with lots of details about how to deal with sticky situations and topics that one probably has not discussed with one’s parents.  The book divides into 3 parts:

  1. Intimacy with God (6 chapters),
  2. Intimacy with God’s people (5 chapters), and
  3. Intimacy with God’s possible soul mate (4 chapters).

These 3 parts are further divided into 15 chapters.  Before these parts are definitions, acknowledgments, and an introduction.  After these parts are an appendix, notes, and brief statements of where to go for more information.

Word Pictures

The word-pictures provided are worth the ticket of admission.

For example, the authors picture balanced intimacy and sexual wholeness as a wheel with 5 spokes representing the 5 aspects of our intimacy:

  1. Spiritual intimacy
  2. Emotional intimacy
  3. Mental intimacy
  4. Social intimacy and
  5. Physical intimacy (188).

Healthy relationships have boundaries on each aspect of intimacy that, if offended, result in future problems.  For example, I can remember in high school sharing my dreams about having a family someday with a friend on a date—this would be an example of mental intimacy (190-191).  What would have happened if stead of sharing our dreams we had escalated right into physical intimacy and eventually married but disagreed on the question of having a family?  Clearly, the authors’ thoroughness in going through 5 spokes is very helpful in facilitating productive dialog.

Relationship Continuum Bridge

The authors describe another helpful picture as the relationship continuum bridge.  This bridge breaks relationships into three stages:

  1. connecting (friendship and early considering),
  2. coupling (late considering, confirming, and committing), and
  3. covenanting (marriage).

These stages can be pictured as a suspension bridge with two spans (8, 32).  The authors reserve true sex (anything involving body parts hidden by a bikini) for marriage.  Intimacy during the other two stages (connecting and coupling) necessarily involves establishing and respecting boundaries for the 5 spokes of intimacy.  For example, the authors cite a case of a client who wanted to bring his girl-friend to a counseling session after they went out for only 3 weeks—an event too intimate for their relationship at this point (social intimacy spoke).  This invitation was compared to inviting his friend to meet his parents after going out only three weeks (191).

The Authors

The authors know their subject matter.  Doug Rosenau (www.SexualWholenss.com) is a licensed psychologist and Christian sex therapist.  Michael Todd Wilson (www.MichaelToddWilson.com) is a licensed professional counselor and life coach who had never married at the time this book was written.  Both hail from Suwanee, GA.  The primary authors are assisted with particular chapters by Vickie George (marriage and sex counselor) and three never-married singles:  Erica Tan, Anna Maya, and David Hall.

Assessment

Soul Virgins is a helpful book.  I wish that this book had been available when I was single and when I led high school/college groups in graduate school.  Rosenau and Wilson not only discuss the touchy subjects that young people want to know about, they review the Biblical basis for their views. Soul Virgins focuses on providing guidance on relationships.  Singles, parents, and leaders can all benefit from this book.  I know that I did.

Footnotes

[1] I am paraphrasing his comments.

Single but not Alone: Soul Virgin

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2018_Lead

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Galatians 3: Law and Gospel

Law and Grace by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them. Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for the righteous shall live by faith (Galatians 3:10-11 ESV).

The question of the relationship between law and Gospel is one of the hottest debates today; perhaps, this could be said of the entire history of the church.

F.F. Bruce, in his Commentary on Galatians (1982. NIGTC.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans.  147-191), divides chapter 3 of Galatians into 7 sections:

  1. The primacy of faith over law (vv 1-6)
  2. The blessing of Abraham (vv 7-9)
  3. The curse of the law (vv 10-14)
  4. The priority and permanence of the promise (vv 15-18)
  5. The purpose of the law (vv 19-22)
  6. Liberation from the law (vv 23-25) and
  7. Jews and Gentiles one in Christ (vv 26-29).

Every verse is carefully parsed in book after book because the content of these 29 verses seriously affects our attitude about Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the secular society.  Clearly, a one-page reflection cannot address all that is being said here.

For example, we read in verse 2:  Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? (v 2).  Here the Apostle Paul makes the assumption that the Galatians know firsthand the work of the Holy Spirit in their own lives. The inference is that this experiential knowledge of the Holy Spirit is not only evident, but the sole source of eternal salvation. This question alone condemns religions focused on law as insufficient to warrant salvation. Among Christians, this statement would likely identify you as a charismatic. Do you think Paul is a charismatic?

In this same vein, one could argue that verse 28 defines the basis for social progress over the past 2,000 years, but especially in the modern and postmodern eras.  Paul writes:  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Tim Keller, in his study guide (Galatians for You. 2013. Good Book Company. 92-93), observes that Paul has broken down three important barriers:  the cultural barrier (neither Jew nor Greek), the class barrier (neither slave nor free), and gender barrier (neither male nor female).  Do you think Paul is politically correct?

Paul’s comments about who is chosen probably got him in the most trouble. Verse 6 quotes Genesis 15:6: And he [Abraham] believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Abraham is not righteousness of himself, he is counted as righteous. Why?  Because he believed God’s promise of providing him an heir. Why is this remarkable?  Abraham was 100 year old at the time and his wife was 90.  This principle of justification by faith alone expressed here (v 11) and in Romans 3:20-27 was the foundation of the protestant reformation [1].  This is because time and time again parts of the church have erred in adding other requirements, especially cultural requirements, on believers beyond that of faith in Christ.  What cultural add-ons to faith can you identify today?

Does justification by faith alone mean that we can ignore the law?  Certainly not! (v 21). The law of Moses restrains evil, instructs us, and guides us until we come to faith (vv 24-25).

Elsewhere Paul wrote:  But whatever gain I had [under law], I counted as loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7 ESV).

[1]Martin Luther was nearly martyred for his faith at the Diet of Worms; but his own journey of faith began with understanding of this passage (Roland H. Brainton. 1995.  Here I Stand.  New York:  Penguin Group.  49-50, 146-149).

Questions

  1. How was your week? Did anything special happen?
  2. Do you have questions from chapter 2?
  3. Why does Paul call the Galatians foolish? What does Paul mean by foolish?  (See Titus 3:3,9)
  4. What question does Paul ask in verse 2? Why is it interesting? (vv 3-6)
  5. What is Paul’s point about Abraham? (Hint:  Genesis 15:1-6)
  6. Who is considered a child of Abraham? (v 7)
  7. What is the condition of faith that counts for Abraham and us? (vv 8-9)
  8. What is the curse of the law? (v 10; Deuteronomy 27:26, 28:58-59, 30:10)
  9. Was Christ cursed of God? Why? (Deuteronomy 21:23)
  10. Why were the Galatians blessed? (v 14)
  11. What is Paul trying to say about the covenant with Abraham? (v 15)
  12. What is the difference between inheritance by law and inheritance by promise? (vv 18-22)
  13. What is Paul’s point about guardians and law? (vv 23-26)
  14. What is the effect of baptism? (vv 27-29)

 

Galatians 3: Law and Gospel

Also see:

Galatians 4: Slave and Free 

Galatians 2: Jews and Gentiles 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

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Gálatas 3: Ley y Evangelio

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

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Todos los que viven por las obras que demanda la ley están bajo maldición, porque está escrito: Maldito sea quien no practique fielmente todo lo que está escrito en el libro de la ley. Ahora bien, es evidente que por la ley nadie es justificado delante de Dios, porque el justo vivirá por la fe (Galatas 3:10-11 NVI).

La cuestión de la relación entre la ley y el Evangelio es uno de los debates más calientes de hoy, tal vez, esto podría decirse de toda la historia de la iglesia.

F.F. Bruce, en su Commentary on Galatians (1982 NIGTC Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 147-191), divide el capítulo 3 de Gálatas en las 7 secciones:

  1. La primacía de la fe sobre la ley (vv 1-6)
  2. La bendición de Abraham (vv. 7-9)
  3. La maldición de la ley (vv 10-14)
  4. La prioridad y permanencia de la promesa (vv. 15-18)
  5. El propósito de la ley ( vv 19-22)
  6. Liberación de la ley ( vv 23-25) y
  7. Judios y gentiles uno en Cristo (vv 26-29).

Cada verso se analiza detenidamente en un libro tras otro , porque el contenido de estos 29 versículos afecta seriamente nuestra actitud sobre el judaísmo , el cristianismo , el islam y la sociedad secular. Es evidente que un reflejo de una página no puede hacer frente a todo lo que se está diciendo aquí.

Por ejemplo, leemos en el versículo 2: ¿Recibieron el Espíritu por las obras que demanda la ley, o por la fe con que aceptaron el mensaje? (v 2). Aquí el apóstol Pablo hace la suposición de que los gálatas sabemos de primera mano la obra del Espíritu Santo en sus propias vidas. La inferencia es que este conocimiento experimental del Espíritu Santo no sólo es evidente, pero la única fuente de salvación eterna. Esta pregunta solo condena a las religiones centradas en la ley como insuficientes para justificar la salvación. Entre los cristianos, esta declaración probablemente se le identifica como un carismático. ¿Crees que Pablo es un carismático?

En este mismo sentido, se podría argumentar que el versículo 28 define las bases para el progreso social en los últimos 2.000 años, pero especialmente en las épocas moderna y postmoderna. Pablo escribe: Ya no hay judío ni griego, esclavo ni libre, hombre ni mujer, sino que todos ustedes son uno solo en Cristo Jesús. Tim Keller, en su guía de estudio (Galatians for You. 2013. Good Book Company. 92-93), observa que Pablo ha roto tres barreras importantes:  la barrera cultural (a judío o griego), la barrera de clase (ni esclavo ni libre), y la barrera de género (varón ni mujer). ¿Crees que Paul es políticamente correcto?

Los comentarios de Pablo acerca de quién es elegido probablemente le puso en más problemas. El versículo 6 cita Génesis 15:6: Abram creyó al Senor, y el Senor lo reconoció a él como justo. Abraham no es la justicia de sí mismo, se cuenta como justos. ¿Por qué? Porque él creyó en la promesa de que le proporcione un heredero de Dios. ¿Por qué es este notable? Abraham tenía 100 años de edad en ese momento y su mujer tenía 90 años. Este principio de la justificación por la sola fe expresada aquí (v 11), y en Romanos 3:20-27 era el fundamento de la reforma protestante [1]. Esto se debe a que el tiempo y la hora de nuevo partes de la iglesia se han equivocado en la adición de otros requisitos, especialmente los requisitos culturales, a los creyentes más allá de la de la fe en Cristo. ¿Qué complementos culturales de la fe puede identificar?

¿Tiene justificación por la sola fe significa que podamos ignorar la ley? ¡De ninguna manera! (v 21). La ley de Moisés fue dada para frenar el mal, para instruirnos y guiarnos hasta que llegamos a la fe (vv 24-25).

En otro lugar Pablo escribió: Sin embargo, todo aquello que para mí era ganancia [bajo de la ley], ahora lo considero pérdida por causa de Cristo (Filipenses 3:7 NVI).

_____________________

1/  Martín Lutero fue casi martirizado por su fe en la Dieta de Worms, pero su propio camino de fe comienza con la comprensión de este pasaje (Roland H. Brainton. 1995.  Here I Stand.  New York:  Penguin Group.  49-50, 146-149).

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