Prayer for the Fallen

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Merciful Father,

All glory and power are yours,because you created and sustain our good universe.There is none like you and we praise your name.  

We confess that we are unworthy to stand before you because of our sin and unable to stand before because you stand outside time and space where we reside.  

We thank you for our redemption in Jesus Christ who not only bridged the gap between us in time and space, but also covered our sins bridging the gap between us and your holy nature.  

In the power of your Holy Spirit, aid us in our reconciliation with one another and open the hearts of those around us to your perfect love.  In the glorious name of Jesus, Amen.

Prayer for the Fallen

Also see:

Prayer for Healthy Limits 

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

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Christian Distinctives

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Living in ChristBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the most important roles that Christian leaders play is distinguishing orthodox Christian beliefs from beliefs from other religions. If our spirituality is practiced theology, then right action follows primarily from right beliefs.

Let me focus on two deviations from orthodox Christian belief. First, why do Christians believe in original sin? Second, why does Christ provide the exclusive path to God’s salvation?

Original Sin

Original sin describes the action of Adam and Eve in breaking God’s command not to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17; 3:6). As a consequence of this first act of disobedience to God, God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. A holy God cannot tolerate the presence of unholy human beings.

Ever since, humanity has been tainted by this sin. Because of the doctrine of original sin, Christians are seldom surprised by sinful behavior and the existence of evil and considerable effort has been made over time to promote moral behavior, avoiding sin and embracing godliness.

Recently, some have questioned the doctrine of sin arguing that humanity is basically good and teaching morality is unnecessary because it only induces guilt among those taught.

An important implication of this new teaching is that basically good people have no need of salvation from sin or reconciliation with God. Thus, Jesus cannot have died for our sins, as the New Testament teaches (e.g. 1 Cor 15), and need not have been divine, because no divine intervention was necessary to reconcile us with God. Jesus may be a great teacher or prophet, but is not the son of God.

Thus, original sin, as taught in scripture, is a key to understanding our need for salvation and Christ’s work on the cross to bridge the gap between a holy God and unholy human beings. Unfortunately, those who believe we are basically good cannot be saved because they do not believe salvation is necessary.

The Exclusivity of Christ

Holiness is not the only gap that needs to be bridged between us and God. God creating the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1), which means that God created time and space—attributes of the created universe. Like carpenters must be separated from the book shelve that they built, God stands outside the universe that he created.

Standing apart from the universe is what theologians refer to as transcendence. God’s transcendence implies that we cannot approach God because we are locked inside time and space. Existentially we cannot reach out to God; he must reach out to us. As Christians, we believe that God reached out to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, who is both God and man—a necessary attribute to bridge the existential gap between us and God (Heb 7).

The creation account in Genesis thus eliminates the possibility that the pantheists are correct, that God is in every living and inanimate things, because God stands apart from his creation. Also eliminated is the Jainist notion of multiple paths up the mountain to God—God’s transcendence implies there are not paths up the mountain—God must come down. Christ is also not just another avatar (an incarnation of of Visnu bridging the gap between God and humanity) because his sacrifice on the cross bridged the gap between God and humanity for once and for all—there is no need for God to reach out a second time.

Moving On

Orthodox Christianity grew up in the polytheistic environment of the first century, distinguished itself from many other religions, and thrived to become the one and only truly world religion. Christian leaders today need to understand this history in order to witness in the postmodern world where communication and borders are relatively porous. Fear of other religions stems primarily from ignorance of the strengths of our own faith in Jesus Christ.

Christian Distinctives

Also See:

Value Of Life

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

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Chesterton Mystifies and Alludes

Chesterton ReviewGilbert K. Chesterton. 2018. The Man Who Was Thursday (Orig Pub: 1908). Overland Park, KS: Digireads.com Publisher

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

No one understands life’s minutiae like a novelist. It is one thing to experience a trifle; it is another to describe it and the emotions conveyed therein with a minimum of words. The reader thus inherits the author’s inner life’s ruminations and is then free to explore another. The more spirited the writer, the greater the inheritance.

Introduction

Gilbert K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday sets the stage for his tale with a curious mixture of personal and grandiose observations:

“A cloud was on the mind of men, and wailing went the weather, year, sick cloud upon the soul when we were boys together. Science announced nonentity and art admired decay; The world was old and ended: but you and I were gay [happy].”(1)

This odd description appears either primordial or simple gibberish. If primordial, our minds run to the creation account:The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” (Gen 1:2 ESV) Yet, the object being described is not the earth, but the “minds of men”and we are immediately told that the world is old, not new, as might be true during creation. What is new is that “we were boys together.” Enigmatically, science shows no interest and art is only interested in decay. But “you and I”read on happily perhaps more out of curiosity than out of comprehension.

Still, we soon catch an allusion—“Blessed are they who did not see, but being blind believed”—to Jesus’ words to doubting Thomas (John 20:29) that comes across as a promise to readers that we will soon understand what it all means.

Poetic Duel

The second scene sprints from one end of creation to the other:

“This particular evening, if it is remembered for nothing else, will be remembered in that place for its strange sunset. It looked like the end of the world.” (5)

In this strange end time saga, we are introduced to two poets:

“For a long time the red-haired revolutionary had reigned without a rival; it was upon the night of the sunset that his solitude suddenly ended. The new poet, who introduced himself by the name of Gabriel Syme was a very mild-looking mortal, with a fair, pointed beard and faint, yellow hair. But an impression grew that he was less meek than he looked. He signaled his entrance by differing with the established poet. Geogory, upon the whole nature of poetry. He said that he (Syme) was a poet of law, a poet of order; nay, he said, he was a poet of respectability. So all the Saffron Parkers looked at him as if he had that moment fallen out of that impossible sky. In fact, Mr. Lucian Gregory, the anarchic poet, connected the two events.”(6)

The two poets now contend for supremacy, one representing chaos while the other order, suggesting tension between the primordial muck and the created order introduced by God (Gen 1:1-2). Syme pokes fun at Lucian, describing his anarchy as dull, vomitus, and revolting (7). Lucian is irritated and invites Syme to visit his lair, scene three, where he proves himself to be a real anarchist, not just an angry poet. Further on we learn that his name, Lucian, is aptly chosen.

Assessment

Gilbert K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday is on the surface a quick, page-turning mystery novella set in early twentieth-century London, but on deeper inquiry proves to be a metaphysical allegory filled with biblical allusions. It got me thinking; you might also find it fascinating.

Chesterton Mystifies and Alludes

Also See:

Top 10 Book Reviews Over the Past 12 Months

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Creation Living: Monday Monologues, September 30, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Creation Living.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below:

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Creation Living: Monday Monologues, September 30, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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

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A Steward’s Prayer

Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, Lancaster PA
Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, Lancaster PA

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Father of All Creation:

We praise and honor you for you created and sustain us even when we are forgetful and negligent of our stewardship duties.

Forgive our neglect of the created world that we live in and depend on for our very lives.

We thank you for life and your Holy Spirit that sustains us and grants us every good and precious gift for existence and ministry.

We beg your patience with us.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, send us gentle reminders of our obligations to those around us and to your beautify earth. Sustain the freshness of our air and the cleanliness of our water. May our dispositions remain as temperate as your weather. Grant us shelter from the inevitable storms of life and may we extend your Gospel to all who would listen.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

A Steward’s Prayer

Also see:

Prayer for Healthy Limits 

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Creation Living

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Living in ChristBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

How does creation fit into your spirituality? 

Myself, when I am anxious at the end of the day, I retire with a good book to my front porch to enjoy a cool breeze, listen to the birds, and watch the sun set through the trees. Here God’s presence comforts me.

Spiritual Roots to Ecological Sensitivity

One of my earliest and most enduring influences was Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. He begins:

“When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner to civilized life again.” (Thoreau 1960, 1)

He goes on to explain:

“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce to its lowest terms…” (Thoreau 1960, 62-63)

The idea of a Spartan existence, which he immediately related to reformed spirituality paraphrasing the Westminster Shorter Catechism, always had a special appeal to me:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. (PCUSA). 1999, 7.001)

Exposed to the Genesis account of the Garden of Eden and to Thoreau, I have always implicitly associated creation with spirituality.⁠1 However, it took a recent reading of Holt (2017, 31) to remind me of my own spiritual roots in this regard.

Genesis describes the earth as God’s creation (Gen 1:1) over which the Holy Spirit hovers (Gen 1:2). We are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and given the mandate to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28). Later, God created the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:8) and put man into it to “keep it” (Gen 2:15). Reluctant gardeners, perhaps, Adam and Eve sin (Gen 3:6) and are driven out of the garden (Gen 3:24). It is therefore correct to say that original sin not only separated us from communion with God, it introduced tension into our relationship with creation and our intended stewardship role.

The Apostle Paul speaks of this tension, writing:

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:22-23)

In the hours immediately before his arrest, Jesus retired to the Garden at Gethsemane to pray. Some have interpreted this retreat to Gethsemane as a kind of return to Eden.

Ecological Anxiety

In recent years anxiety about the fragility of our earth’s environment has reached a fever pitch. Where nineteenth century anxiety focused on limits to the quantity of food available to feed a growing population, recent concerns about global warming might be described as prophecy of an ecological Armageddon. How should Christians respond to these concerns?

Few scientists question that the earth is warming. The opening of Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans which was  icebound in the nineteenth century, reminds us that global warming is taking place. Less certain is the question: what can be done about it? In my experience as a Washington economist, the more heated the debate, the less obvious the solution.

What is Our Mandate?

Because the science and politics of global warming are not easily discerned, I do not profess to have all the answers or the ability to direct a solution. My personal limitations, however, do not relinquish me of responsibly as a steward of creation. As Christians we should refuse to play the victim or the villain or to claim that we are powerless in any endeavor. We can do a number of things:

  • We can pray for the Holy Spirit to sustain us and our planet.
  • We can inform ourselves and others about ecological matters.
  • We can reduce our consumption of energy and products known to create environmental hazards.

Following Thoreau, we can live a Spartan lifestyle as a spiritual discipline, mindful of God’s provision and thankful for his protection. Waste not; want not.

References

Holt, Bradley P. 2017. Thirsty for God: A Brief History of Christian Spirituality. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Meadows, Donella, H. Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III (MMRB) . 1975. The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York: Universe Books Publishers.

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). 1999. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—Part I: Book of Confessions. Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly.

Thoreau, Henry David. 1960. Walden and Civil Disobedience (Orig pub 1854). Edited by Sherman Paul. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Footnotes

1 I went on to earn a doctorate in agricultural economics, possessed as it were of a strong desire to deal with the world food problem following the 1970s concern for limited resources and limits to growth (MMRB 1975). This background does not make me an environmentalist, but it gave a deep appreciation for our role as stewards of creation.

Creation Living

Also See:

Value Of Life

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

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Schaefer’s Shane: Best Western Yet

Schaefer's Shane: Best Western YetJack Schaefer. 2013. Shane (Orig Pub 1948). New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

I grew up loving films and books about the old West. In the 1960s shows like the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers enjoyed a dedicated following because they embodied the ideals of self-sufficiency, development of character, and manhood that most boys aspired to. Often these stories featured corporate villains whose greed and corrupting influence on local police needed to be exposed by individuals with unwavering character and a steady draw.

Introduction

Jack Schaefer’s western novella, Shane,starts simply with a touch of mystery: “He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89.” (1) We immediately ask: who is this “he,” where is “our valley,” and, by the way, what century are we talking about?

This first, declarative sentence accordingly has the flavor of a series of questions prompting interest. The second sentence introduces the narrator who introduces himself as a kid and indirectly describes himself in the first person as between four and five feet tall: “barely topping the backboard of father’s old chuckwagon.” We know from this description that this story takes place in 1889, not 1989, when horses and chuckwagons were more common.

The second paragraph talks about “clear Wyoming air” that places this story on the frontier when many adult men were veterans of the Civil War and shortly after most Indian wars were over. The third paragraph shows our horseman taking a fork in the road choosing between a road leading to “Luke Fletcher’s big spread”and one leading to where “homesteaders”had staked their claims. Choosing the latter foreshadows later tension between the two.

Fastidiousness

The remainder of the first scene introduces our horseman, Shane, to our narrator, Robert MacPherson Starrett (Bob) and to his parents Joe and Marian Starrett (6-7). Along the way, we learn that Shane and the Starretts share the common virtue of fastidiousness about all that they do, which we learn from the dialogue offering introductions:

My name’s Starrett, said father. Joe Starrett. This here, waving at me, is Robert MacPherson Starrett. Too much name for a boy. I make it Bob.  

The stranger nodded again. Call me Shane, he said. Then to me: Bob it is, You were watching me for quite a spell coming up the road.  

It was not a question. It was a simple statement. Yes… I stammered. Yes. I was.  

Right, he said. I like that. A man who watches what’s going on around him will make his mark.

This fastidious watchfulness sets each of our characters apart from everyone else around them and instinctively draws them together. This watchfulness is like in the story of Gideon who selects an elite team of soldiers based how they drink water from a stream—like a dog lapping it up—so that they would remain aware of their surroundings (Judg 6:5-7).

Tension

Shane is drawn to the Starretts because of their common fastidiousness and willingness to take him on as a hand even though he claims no expertise in farming.

Schaefer introduces inner tension into our understanding of Shane in sharing his relationship with his gun. Bob observes that unlike other men who considered a gun a token of virility: “Share carried no gun.” Yet, Shane owns a beautiful, well-balanced, “single-action Colt” with an ivory grip that he keeps wrapped up in his saddle-roll (52-53). Shane never displays his gun, even in the face of obvious threats.

Bob’s discovery of the gun hints at Shane’s background as a gunfighter and foreshadows later tension between farmer Joe Starrett and rancher Luke Fletcher, but for now we are left to wonder why Shane is so evasive about his past and so thankful for Joe’s willingness to teach him farming. Is Shane ashamed of his past?

Christ Figure

Shane’s inner tension gets pressed several times when he is goaded into fights that he wins through seer tenacity. When he breaks the arm of young man Chris, one Fletcher’s men, in a fight, he is truly sorry and tells one of the townsmen:

“Take good care of him. He has the makings of a good man.” (87)

Later in confronting a gunfighter hired by Fletcher, Shane takes up his gun, seeks him out, and shoots him and Fletcher both, a fight not his own that leaves him wounded and forced, in his mind, to leave town. His sacrifice, not unlike the American self-image during the Second World War, gives this reluctant gunslinger the appearance of a Christ figure, something seldom seen in more recent fiction.

Assessment

As a young man, I remember watching a movie, Shane (1953), drawn from Jack Schaefer’s 1948 book, Shane. The movie won a number of awards and nominations.[1]Unlike most of today’s police shows and space adventures that feature adult themes, Schaefer wrote targeting adolescent boys who today are mostly forgotten in the effort to sexualize youth and be inclusive. I loved reading Shane and found it a reminder of all that is good and decent about America, something we seemed to have forgotten or no longer believe.

Footnotes

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shane_(film).

Schaefer’s Shane: Best Western Yet

Also See:

Top 10 Book Reviews Over the Past 12 Months

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

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Family and Spirituality: Monday Monologues, September 23, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a sermon on Family and Spirituality (Español).

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below:

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Family and Spirituality: Monday Monologues, September 23, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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

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Invocation

Flowers_Georgetown_South_20190711

Heavenly Father,

All praise and honor be to you for you give us family with whom we can share our joys and sorrow and who give life meaning.

Forgive us when we let our families down and focus more on ourselves than those around us.

Thanks for family meals, vacations together, and all the support that our families offer.

Draw us now to yourself. In the power of the Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illumine our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen

Invocation

Also see:

Prayer for Healthy Limits 

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Family and Spirituality

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sermon given in Spanish at la Iglesia El Shadai DC, Manassas, VA, September 15, 2019.

Prelude

Good afternoon. Welcome to la iglesia El Shadai DC. For those that do not know me, my name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a Christian author and volunteer pastor.

This afternoon we continue our study of the family in Christ. This past week we reflected on Deuteronomy 6:7  and the necessity to teach our kids God’s commandments. Today we consider the relationship between our spirituality and the family.

Invocation

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father,

All praise and honor be to you for you give us family with whom we can share our joys and sorrow and who give life meaning.

Forgive us when we let our families down and focus more on ourselves than those around us.

Thanks for family meals, vacations together, and all the support that our families offer.

Draw us now to yourself. In the power of the Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illumine our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen

Scripture

The text of the day comes in three different verses. Hear the word of God:

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27 ESV)

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exod. 20:12 ESV)

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4 ESV)

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

In what way is the family an important part of our spirituality?

In my last book, Simple Faith (2019, 52-53), I wrote:

What is an infant’s template for thinking about God? In an infant world, mom is the early model of God’s immanence because she brings him into the world and cares for him. Dad’s role as progenitor and provider is less obvious and serves as an early model of God’s transcendence.

Babies see their parents as their first vision of God and it is only with the passage of time that we as young people believe in God directly. For this reason, we have many responsibilities as parents to present a template of God graciously and clearly for our children, as Pastor Julio described this past week.

The Connection with Spirituality

Let’s return to our question of the day.In what way is the family an important part of our spirituality?

Our first verse is the key to this question, as we read:

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27 ESV)

Normally today we focus on the relationship between male and female in this verse because of our obsession with sexuality, but this focus distracts from the larger picture here.

Every person, man or woman, young or old, small or big, is created in the image of God, including those in our families (2X).

Our spirituality begins with the work of God in creation and is sustained by the Holy Spirit up to this minute in the teaching of scripture. Consequently, our relationships in the family are important in our spirituality as one of the first things because our families are the first neighbors in the Christian life and we are equal under God as the Apostle Paul wrote:

“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.” (Gal. 3:28 ESV)

Message

The importance of the family in scripture is obvious because the Bible begins with the marriage of Adam and Eve (Gen 2:22-24), and ends with the wedding feast of the Lamb of God and his church (Rev 19:7-9). But in daily life the blessings of family and its spirituality are most obvious to those that don’t have them (2X).

Our other scriptures of the day are a testimony of this image of God theology. The fifth commandment says:

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exod. 20:12 ESV)

The Bible repeats this commandment eight times[2]which indicates its importance. The Apostle Paul reminds us that this commandment includes a promise: 

 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Eph. 6:3 ESV)

In the context of Exodus, this commandment points to the Promised Land, but a good relationship with parents is a blessing for every family.

The last part of the family that is frequently forgotten are the kids:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4 ESV)

As we learned this past week, we need to teach our kids especially two things: discipline and instruction of the Lord. The discipline is important because life has many temptations and distractions against which we need God’s protection and guidance.

Something more difficult arises when we need to teach our kids things that we ourselves never learned. In this situation, we need to learn for ourselves before teaching our kids or, better, we need to learn alongside of them. In my case, ministry to my kids taught me the necessity to do more for the church. In other words, God called me by means of my own kids.

Final Words

In what way is the family an important part of our spirituality? God creates us together as a family and together we learn the way of faith. Amen.

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray.

Dearest father,

Thank you for the blessing of family.

Teach us your ways day by day in our relationships together.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us words of grace and hands for service for those closest to us. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen

Footnotes

[1] Exod 20:12, Deut 5:16, Matt 15:4, 19:19, Mark 7:10, 10:19, Luke 18:20, y Eph 6:2.

References

Hiemstra, Stephen W. 2019. Simple Faith: Something to Live For. Centreville: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC.

Family and Spirituality

Also see:

Prayer for Healthy Limits 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/TakingCare_2019

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