Gospel Prayer

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Merciful Father,

For your guidance in life’s choices, your grace, and infinite mercy, we praise and glorify in your name. There is none like you and you have given access to yourself in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Forgive our perpetual failings, for we fail ourselves and you daily under law and can only be justified through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Thank you for his example and for the many blessings that you have lavished on us through loving family and friends. Let us never forget.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, extend faith to our loved ones in spite of themselves and in spite of our weaknesses in witness.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Gospel 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/Thanks_2019

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Chapter 9 of Revelation: The Paradox of the Cross

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died….So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live (Num 21:5-9).

Judgment is not pretty—especially when it is deserved and avoidable.

Revelations 9 begins with the release of Satan from the abyss. V. 1 alludes to Jesus’ statement when the seventy-two disciples report by from their missionary trip: saying, Lord, even the demons subject to us in your name! And he [Jesus] said to them, I saw Satan are fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:17-18). Satan believes that he has won with Calvary’s cross, but he is defeated with resurrection on Easter morning. This is the paradox of the cross.

So what is the point of these horrible judgments? Our text provides two clues.

The first clue comes in the three references to scorpions (Revelations 9: 3, 5, and 10). The scorpion references are a reminder of the story of the fiery serpents in Numbers 21 cited above. When the Israelite people grumbled against God or, in other words, refused to believe in God, God sent fiery serpents among them. Of course, they deserved their fate, but God instructed Moses to construct a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. Those looking at the snake were saved. (In other words, if you see fiery serpents or scorpions, then the appropriate response is repentance). This story anticipates the cross of Christ.

The second clue comes in Revelations 9:20- 21. Those who repent avoid all these torments. What are they to repent of? They are to repent of worshiping demons and idols and of murder, sorcery, immorality, and theft—at least four of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.

So what is the point of these horrible judgments? In Jesus, it is never too late turn to God and repent.

Questions

1. What image comes to mind when trumpets are blown in the bible? (Exodus 19:19; Joshua 6:1-4). How many times is the trumpet blown in Revelations 8 and 9?
2. Read Luke 10:17-18. What is the image of the star fallen from heaven to earth (Rev 9:1 ESV) bring to mind?
3. What is the point of these judgments?
4. What does the image of the smoke of a great furnace (Rev 9:2) remind you of? (Genesis 19:28)
5. What does the image of the scorpions bring to mind? (Numbers 21:5-9)
6. What is repented of? (Read Exodus 20).

Chapter 9 of Revelation: The Paradox of the Cross

Also see:

Chapter 8 of Revelation: Deja Vu 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

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/2fEPbBK

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Love Prayer

IrisBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly father,

We praise you for the mercy that you showed us in sending Jesus Christ to die on a cross for us and our salvation.

For in your mercy, we have seen your love—

sacrificial love that carried a price; covenantal love that kept a promise;

divine love that bridged the gaps between the eternal and mortal and between the holy and the unclean.

Have pity on us, a pitiable people—

people who wink at eternity for a night on the town;

people who spurn holiness for a penny’s entertainment.

Thank you for the love of Christ.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

help us to grow into it and share it with those around us.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Love Prayer

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To Postmodern and Back

ShipOfFools_web_07292016“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies,
dissensions, and quarrels about the law,
for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
(Tit 3:9-11)

To Postmodern and Back

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The influence of postmodernism on each of us is pervasive and ongoing because it provides the context within which we perceive our world. Yet, as a young person I identified with postmodernism as a movement with origins in the 1960s and liberal opposition to the Vietnam War. As an emotional influence, I started to realize that I was mistaken when I drove along the Berlin Wall in 1978 and noted the crosses marking where someone had been shot to death attempting to escape the “workers’ paradise” in East Germany. At that point, I realized that America stood for human rights not found anywhere else in the world, especially the communist countries of Eastern Europe.

The contrast between the U.S. attitude about human rights and that of the communists could not have been greater. The U.S. Constitution, which had been modeled after the governance system of the Presbyterian Church, recognized the Bible’s teaching that:

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

In God’s eyes, human life has intrinsic value because humans are created in the image of God. This Christian teaching is hardwired into the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. attitude about human rights. For the communists, who were officially atheistic following Marx, human rights consisted of only the rights conferred by the state and God had nothing to do with it.

The source of rights matters because people attempting to flee from communist rule were considered enemies of the state who had no rights and, if they were not shot, they were sent to work camps never to be heard from again. So, the crosses on the Berlin Wall evoked a strong and very basic emotional reaction in me. Rights conferred by the state can be rescinded by the state; rights conferred by God are eternal.

Later, traveling with my family through East Germany on the autobahn to Berlin reinforced this point; when I attempted to speak with an East German family in a restaurant, they were so frightened by prospect of visiting with an American that they shook visibly with fear. I returned from my year in Germany with a new attitude about America and a profound skepticism of any political movement influenced by leftist thought.

My emotional transition in Germany did not immediately influence other aspects of my thinking. After Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, and women’s right legislation in the 1960s, I came to believe that the world was fundamentally different from the world that my parents had grown up in, a view reinforced by popular culture—particularly music and the arts. This idea that the world had changed influenced especially my attitude in my studies as a economist. I thought—why do I need to learn all these old ideas because everything is now different? Naive as that idea seems to me now, at the time it was a huge influence.

As I proceeded in my doctoral studies, I began to realize that the world was not so fundamentally changed as I had assumed. Logic was still logic; English was still English; mathematics was still mathematics. Old ideas, especially about religion and human sexuality, were not suddenly null and void. In fact, in the context of a rapidly changing world, many ideas were being questioned that were really quite important. My having dismissed so many really important ideas was not only naive; it set me back in my studies and stunted my relational development. Intellectual flexibility (pragmatism) was good; ethical relativism was not so good.

At a very basic level, I started to notice, especially in my work as an economist, how many people did not do their homework in approaching problem solving and research. The assumption that the world had fundamentally changed in the postmodern era prompted a new kind of subjectivism that was highly destructive of good relationships among people and of quality research in economics—if everything is relative, why can’t the world just revolve among me? Faith in God works quite differently because God’s view may not be like my own and, if I am to evangelize my neighbor, I need desperately to understand my neighbor’s point of view. In a godless, secular society, no such objectivity is required.

In a very real sense, those crosses on the Berlin Wall reminded me of the one cross that really matters.

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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 Corinthians 2: Boast in the Lord

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

The Problem of Boasting

We love to show off.  We boast about our strength, our intelligence, our courage, our beauty, our mojo, our spouses, our kids, our cool friends, our cars, our houses, our wealth, our power, our accomplishments—even our ability to speak foreign languages!  Is it any wonder that nations run over their neighbors doing the same thing?

So what does the Apostle Paul do?  Paul says to the Corinthians:  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthian 2:2 ESV).  Who could be weaker than a man publicly stripped, beaten, pierced, and hung out to dry in the hot sun?  In admitting our weaknesses—dealing with our issues—we make room for God and other people in our lives (Isaiah 29:13-14).  Why?  …In admitting our weaknesses, we vanquish pride.

The Prophet Jeremiah writes:  Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)

Theological Implications

Theologian Richard Hays (36-39) [1] sees 6 implications of Paul’s teaching in our passage:

  1. Focus on the cross;
  2. Confront human boasting;
  3. Wisdom, in Paul’s context, is interpreted via the cross;
  4. Focusing on the cross creates a counter-cultural world;
  5. The social composition of the church should be a sign of God’s election of the foolish, the weak, the low, and the despised; and
  6. This passage directly applies Old Testament teachings (Isaiah 29:13-14, Jeremiah 9:23-24, and 1 Samuel 2:1-10) to the Corinthian (and our) church.

Do we worship with people that look just like us?  Do we focus on the music and pastoral performance?  Do we pat each other on the back constantly?  Do we search for the mysteries of the faith rather than the plain truth of Christ’s example?

Nature and Spirit

Paul makes an interesting comparison (vv 14-15) between the natural person (ψυχικὸς)[2] and the spiritual person (πνευματικῶς). The natural person rejects Christ’s teaching in the cross as foolishness; the spiritual person judges all things (v 15) against this standard.

How?  Because we have the mind of Christ (νοῦν Χριστοῦ; v 16).  Taking up our cross to follow Christ (Matthew 16:24) grants us the ability to remove the speck from our eyes (Matthew 7:1-5) and judge without hypocrisy.

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] The word in the Greek is psycho!!!

Questions

  1. How was your week?Did anything special happen?
  2. What questions or thoughts do you have about 1 Corinthians 1?
  3. Why does Paul make such a big deal about his lack of speaking ability? Who does this remind you of?  (vv 1-2; Also:  Exodus 4:10-13)
  4. Who does our weakness make room for? (vv 3-5)
  5. What kind of wisdom is Paul referring to? (vv 4-7)
  6. What is the secret and hidden wisdom of God? (σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην; v 7)
  7. How and to whom are these mysteries revealed? (vv 11-13)
  8. Who are the two people that Paul compares? (vv 14-15)
  9. What is the mind of God? What is it good for?  Who has it? (v 16)

1 Corinthians 2: Boast in the Lord

First Corinthians 1

First Corinthians 3

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