Interpretative Communities: Monday Monologues, August 26, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on interpretative communities.

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!

Interpretative Communities: Monday Monologues, August 26, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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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Guidance Prayer

Stephen W. Hiemstra, First Car, 1975

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Merciful Father,

To you be the glory loving father for you illumine our path and peer beyond ever bend protecting us from unseen black-ice and pot holes and inebriated devils that threaten our very existence.

Forgive our habit of taking your provision for granted and acting as if we are in control.

Thank you for blessings beyond measure, the things and people we take for granted, and the luxury of being your people in a prosperous land.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us eyes that see, ears that hear, and an abiding faith that our foot-steps would remain secure in a volatile time and place.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Guidance Prayer

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/HotWeather_2019

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Interpretative Community

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

The interpretative problem in ethics arises because every observer of an action may potentially explain the event differently. While pastoral training normally includes instruction in biblical interpretation, the ethical problem is seldom openly discussed and formal training, if provided, is handled as an apprentice activity. Biblical interpretation is, in some sense, easier because the interpretative context is fixed and, given enough effort, can usually be described. Ethical interpretation is harder because the context of an action may differ between observers and may be fluid in a society in philosophical transition.

Shooting Example

Let’s return for a moment to our shooting example.

The interpretative problem in ethics is complex enough that even experienced judges can get it wrong and books are written whose plot hangs on the interpretation. Suppose one man shoots another. Immediately, everyone wants to know details of what happened. Consider these questions:

  • Who were the men? 
  • What were their ethnicities? 
  • What was their relationship? 
  • What roles did they play? 
  • What was going on at the time of the shooting?
  • Has this happened before?
  • What was the motivation for the shooting?

Suppose a judge officiates the trial and a jury finds the shooter innocent (or guilty). What happens if the community riots when the decision is announced? In the case of a shooting, emotions may run wild, but every action is potentially subject to a similar conflict in interpretations.

The Church is an Interpretative Community

While the example of a shooting is pretty extreme, it makes the point that ethical interpretation is less a question of philosophy or individual accountability and more a case where the community plays an important role in interpretation. For Christians, the pertinent community is the church, but the church’s interpretative role arises primarily in teaching; the final word in interpreting events rests mostly with the state. When the church abdicates its interpretative role, state both determines and polices morality.

Key Role of the Bible

the Bible is a book written by adults for adults, yet as biblical illiteracy grows it is increasing obvious that the modern church treats the Bible as a book written primarily for kids. No one would actually say such a thing, but actions speak louder than words. Consider these observations:

  • Sunday school attendance is weak, particularly among adults, and books other than the Bible are often featured in small group study.
  • Even when Bible study is offered, video studies take the burden off leaders and participants to engage scripture deeply.
  • Churches often recruit young pastors with little life experience or biblical awareness with the primary entry point to ministry in many churches being youth group leadership.
  • Sermons have grown shorter to keep worship services no longer than an hour, often feature feel-good topics—God is love—rather than serving to teach biblical awareness or interpretation, and seldom ask listeners to do or remember anything.
  • When the Bible is neglected, spiritual disciplines tend to emphasize spiritual experiences rather than opening us up to receive God’s word for our lives and acting on it.

As biblical illiteracy within the church grows, the church increasingly serves as an interpretative community for particular ethnic groups, economic classes, or gender identities.

Interpretative Community

Also See:

Value Of Life

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/HotWeather_2019

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Sarah Bolme: God in the Midst of Marketing, Guest Blogger

Sarah Bolme
Sarah Bolme

Sarah Bolme is the Director of Christian Indie Publishing Association [1]. Through this organization Sarah provides assistance to small publishers and independently published authors marketing books to the Christian marketplace. Sarah is also the author of the award-winning book Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books.

God in the Midst of Marketing

I used to think that Marketing was a dirty word. The word dredged up images of dishonest car salesmen in my mind. A good friend of mine majored in marketing in college. I could not understand why anyone would actually want to make a career out of marketing.

If someone had told me that I would one day teach people marketing principles and practices, I would have laughed. Yet, today, I am engaged in the practice of educating and encouraging authors and publishers in marketing their Christian books. God truly has a sense of humor.

I stumbled into marketing. At least from a human perspective that is the way it seems. In reality, God led me into marketing beginning with a call to publish a set of board books about Jesus for infants and toddlers. From there he continued my path into marketing and eventually to helping others market their Christian books through co-founding and directing Christian Indie Publishing Association, through authoring a marketing book, and through teaching marketing seminars and providing consulting services.

Over the years, I have met numerous Christian authors who fall into one of two camps:

  1. They think that marketing is a secular activity, and therefore they should not engage in it. These authors believe that if God has called them to write and publish a book, then he will supernaturally bring people to the book.
  2. They think that marketing is a prideful activity, and since as Christians we are called to be humble, they should not put themselves forward in such a manner.

In reality, marketing is neither of these things.

Marketing Defined

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines marketing as:

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

A shortened version of this definition that I often use for authors is:

Marketing is any activity that you engage in that draws people’s attention to what you are offering.

Christian authors are not offering themselves to readers. They are offering their writings. Most Christian authors have written something that draws people’s attention to God—who He is and what He offers. In other words, Christian authors are in the business of “making disciples by showing people Jesus and teaching them to observe what Jesus has commanded.”

Marketing in Action

Christian books meet spiritual needs. Good marketing illuminates a need a person has and then shows them how what is being offered meets that need. Jesus, himself, understood this practice. Matthew 11:28-29, records Jesus as saying,

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (CSV).

Here Jesus identifies the need: feeling weary and burdened. Then he offers a solution: his yoke that brings rest to your soul.

God uses people. He uses authors to write words that exhort and encourage others into deeper relationship with Himself. He also uses marketing practices to lead people to Christian books that meet their need for spiritual discipleship and a growing knowledge of God.

Footnote

[1] www.christianpublishers.net.

Also See:

Top 10 Book Reviews Over the Past 12 Months

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/HotWeather_2019  

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Managing Change: Monday Monologues, August 19, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on managing change.

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!

Managing Change: Monday Monologues, August 19, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/HotWeather_2019

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Crisis Prayer

Ten K
Lansing, Michigan, 1983

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

Praise be to you oh Lord for you have covered me with you wings

even as my heart and mind have been weary and body fails me and

the sun’s heat bears down on me days and

cold winds whip about me through the night.

Forgive my weakness though it tears my soul and leaves me an embarrassment to my family and friends.

Thank you for your protection and comforting presence that remind of your goodness and mercy.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant me renewed strength,

that my joints and ligaments may bear my weight

as I strive to run the good race all the days of my life.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Crisis Prayer

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/HotWeather_2019

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Managing Change

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

Probably the most difficult aspect of leadership is managing change. Often pain is involved which provides an important clue that the status quo has been or will soon be disrupted. Pain presents a Gethsemane moment (Matt 26:36) when a decision needs to be made—shall I turned into my pain and initiate negative self-talk or turn to God and give it over to him? The answer to the many times this question comes up defines our character both as Christians and as Christian leaders.

Seeking Guidance

As the Apostle James reminds us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (Jas 1:5) A Gethsemane moment poses a need for pain relief, but the need for guidance is almost always a more pressing concern. Guidance is obviously needed to know how to proceed to solve possible problems, but also to know how to respond to the pain. Left to simmer, pain often turns into negative self-talk, depression, and anger.

Anger can be especially destructive. In copying with anger, Lester (2007, 62) presents a 6 step model:

  1. Recognize anger;
  2. Acknowledge anger;
  3. Calming our bodies;
  4. Understanding why we are threatened;
  5. Evaluating the validity of the threat; and
  6. Communicating anger appropriately.

This list sounds suspiciously like how other authors suggest speakers cope with hostile questions—anger is often suppressed and expressed in a devious manner. Lester notes that anger is often camouflaged as procrastination; actions that frustrate, embarrass or causes others pain; nasty humor; nagging; silence; sexual deviance; and passive-aggressive behavior (Lester 2007, 88-89). It is more productive to seek God’s advice—Lord, why have you brought me to this time and this place?

Tension between Stewardship and Theology 

The problems facing church leaders today seem endless, but one problem stands out: stewardship. Real wages have been flat for most workers in the United States since the early 1980s with most income gains accruing to the top earning ten percent (Desilver 2018). If one combines wage stagnation with declining church attendance, the stewardship problem becomes obvious. In many churches, every funeral is accompanied with a financial crisis.

While most people are familiar with the biblical concept of the tithe, relatively few people understand where it comes from. Historically each Jewish worship service requires at least ten Jewish men to be present—a minion. Jesus traveled with his twelve disciples which meant that everywhere he stopped to speak was an official Jewish worship service. Well, if a Rabbi had a minion and each of them contributed the title, then the Rabbi would enjoy the average standard of living of his minion. In the American church where the average congregant donates one percent of income, it basically takes a membership of one hundred congregants to support a pastor, which implies that an American minion is one hundred congregants.

The stewardship crisis facing American churches also poses a theological crisis because the pastors must keep their minions happy. If the pastor’s job is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable, a balance is obviously easier to maintain with a Jewish minion than an American minion. In other words, because of how churches are financed, the pastor today must be an expert in crowd control in a society focused more on media entertainment than biblical literacy. Maintaining faithful teaching in the midst of this framework is understandably difficult.

Change as Transition

Change seldom happens overnight. This makes it helpful to think of change as a transition with beginning, middle, and ending phases rather than single event. In pastoral care, the typical hospital visit is a transition—something prompted the visit, the patient requires a period of treatment, and, then, what will be different as they leave the hospital? This final question is inherently spiritual, especially when the patient passed through a near-death experience.

The Exodus experience poses the classical biblical transition. It took Moses maybe 40 days to get the people of Israel out of Egypt, but it took him 40 years in the desert to get the Egypt out of the people. Even then, Joshua, not Moses, was the one that led them into the Promised Land (Bridges 2003, 43). Interestingly, it was in the desert where the people of Israel learned to rely on God (Exod 7:16; Card 2005).

Rebooting a Program or Career

Whenever one invests heavily in a project, program, or career, it becomes like human capital, analogous to the purchase a specialized machine, like a harvester for picking only corn (Johnson and Quance 1972). Once this investment is made, it is fixed and cannot be easily changed. When market conditions change, the value of this investment declines and may become worthless. Still, for the manager making the investment, it may be easier pretending markets will come back than owning up to the loss.

Early in my economics career, I invested a lot of time and effort learning Spanish hoping to work in Latin American affairs. By the time I completed my degree, interest in Latin American development had subsided and everyone was taking about West Africa development, where the dominant language in French, not Spanish. Consequently, I found myself studying French, but before long I ended up going into finance where my language skills were pretty much irrelevant. My willingness to learn new things and switch fields paid off handsomely over the years and I retired with a salary about double that of colleagues who had started out with me in international affairs.

Churches are typically much smaller than government agencies, which intensifies the the need to learn new things. In this context, rebooting programs and careers is an ongoing battle. The need to go to the Lord in prayer is important both in knowing what to do and in managing the painful emotions that change can bring.

References

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

Card, Michael. 2005.  A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament. [Also: Experience Guide]. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Desilver, Drew. 2018. “For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades” Pew Research Center. Accessed: 25 July 2019. Online: (https://www.pewresearch.org/staff/drew-desilver) August 7.

Johnson, Glenn L. and C. Leroy Quance [editors]. 1972. The Overproduction Trap in U.S. Agriculture: A Study of Resource Allocation from World War I to the Late 1960’s. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lester, Andrew D. 2007. Anger: Discovering Your Spiritual Ally. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Managing Change

Also See:

Value Of Life

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/HotWeather_2019

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Bridges Practices Godliness

GodlinessJerry Bridges.[1]1996. The Practice of Godliness. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra, Author of Simple Faith and other books available online.

If you are like me, I always confused the words holiness and godliness, thinking that they were synonyms. Apparently, we are not alone. Bridges explains: “This book is a sequel to an earlier book, The Pursuit of Holiness. In Ephesians 4:20-24, Paul urges us to put off our old self and to put on the new self. The Pursuit of Holiness dealt largely with putting off the old self—dealing with sin in our lives. The Practice of Godliness focuses on putting on the new self—growing in Christian character.”(7)

This explanation made perfect sense to me because I read one right after the other.

 What is Godliness?

Bridges describes the Bible as “a book on godliness.” (11) He highlights these verses:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”(Gal 5:22-23 ESV)

Other such lists can be found in Colossians 3:12-16, Ephesians 4:2-3,32, James 3:17, and 2 Peter 1:5-7 (7). I have always associated these lists as practical translations of Exodus 34:6, where God describes his character:

“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,”(Exod 34:6)

Being created in the image of God (Gen 1:27), our utmost desire is to emulate God in all we see him doing, which leads us to godliness because of his own self-disclosure of characteristics.

Rejoice Always

A key aspect of godliness in life and in ministry is the gift of joy. Bridges writes:

“But we are not to sit around waiting for our circumstances to make us joyful. We are commended to be joyful always. (1 Thes 5:16)”

Sometimes we need to give ourselves and others permission to be joyful.

Bridges sees four stumbling blocks to joy: (1) sin, (2) misplaced confidence, (3) God’s disciplining, and (4) trials and tribulations (109-112). He advises another four practices in practicing joy: (1) confess and forsake sin, (2) trust in God, (3) take the long view in life, and (4) give thanks in all circumstances (115-117). If we practice joy, he sees two benefits: (1) God is pleased and (2) we will be strengthened physically, emotionally, and spiritually (117-118).

This is interesting advice because I have prayed for strength daily for several years.

Background and Organization

Jerry Bridges (1929 – 2016) studied at the University of Oklahoma, served in the U.S. Navy, and worked on the staff of The Navigators, an evangelistic Christian group headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.[2] He authored numerous books on the Christian life. Bridges writes in eighteen chapters, each centered on a particular passage of scripture. These chapters are preceded by a foreword and preface, and followed by a postscript.

This is almost the exact same format as Bridge’s other book and, as such, NavPress later issued the two books together with a Bible study as a compendium (2001).

Assessment

Like his earlier book, Jerry Bridges’s book, The Practice of Godliness, is destined to be a Christian classic. The wisdom found in this book has informed my walk with the Lord for almost twenty years. It is easy to read and well worth the effort.

References

Bridges, Jerry. 1996. The Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs: NavPress. (Review)

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Bridges. [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Navigators_(organization).

Bridges Practices Godliness

Also See:

Top 10 Book Reviews Over the Past 12 Months

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/HotWeather_2019

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Oración para Protección

FPCA Avian-Spirit CrossPadre todopoderoso,

 

Toda gloria y honra son tuyos

Porque tu nos amas y protéjanos

En tiempos de mucha incertidumbre como hoy día.

 

Perdónanos por nuestros pecados,

especialmente de la ausencia de nuestras familias.

 

Te agradecimos para tu misericordia y

la salud que hace posible a trabajar aquí

fuera de nuestros hogares y familias,

pero ni fuera de tu protección y gracia.

 

En el poder de tu Espíritu Santo,

sea muy cerca de nosotros este día y cada día.

Bendícenos y este pueblo de fe.

 

En el precioso nombre de Jesucristo, Amen.

Oración para Protección

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Default Settings: Monday Monologues, August 12, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on default settings.

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!

Default Settings: Monday Monologues, August 12, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/HotWeather_2019

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