Believer’s Prayer

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

I believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead.

Come into my life, help me to renounce and grieve the sin in my life that separates me from God.

Cleanse me of this sin, renew your Holy Spirit within me so that I will not sin any further.

Bring saints and a faithful church into my life to keep me honest with myself and draw me closer to you.

Break any chains that bind me to the past—be they pains or sorrows or grievous temptations, that I might freely welcome God, the Father, into my life, who through Christ Jesus can bridge any gap and heal any affliction, now and always.

In Jesus’ previous name, Amen.

Believer’s Prayer

Also see:

Prayer for Healthy Limits 

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019  

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Prayer to Deepen Faith

Sharron_Beg_winter_trees_01052014
Winter Trees by Sharron Beg (www.threadpaintersart.blogspot.com)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Blessed Lord Jesus:

Cover me with your blood again today that I my mind would not wander and my heart not chase after foolish things.

Forgive my indulgences, the little foxes that trample the vineyard of my soul and consign my spirit to deserts dry and far away.

Thank you for faithful friends and devoted family.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, remind me again of my baptism, the promises made on my behalf as a child, and the fellowship of the saints. Guard my heart and mind during winter’s discontents. Deepen my faith even as I cannot walk the journey of faith without you.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer to Deepen Faith

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/XXXmas_2019  

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Gumbel Answers Faith Questions

Nicky Gumbel.[1]2016. Questions of Life: Alpha. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Books about the fundamentals of the Christian faith fascinate me. No two of these books are remotely similar even though they presumably cover the same topics. The topics remain similar but the manner in which we approach them needs to ring true in different times and places. This makes the Alpha approach remarkable because it appeals to so many different people in different times and places. Nicky Gumbel’s book, Questions of Life, sets forth these objectives:

“This book attempts to answer some of the key questions at the heart of the Christian faith. It is based on Alpha, which is designed for non-churchgoers, those seeking to find out more about Christianity, and those who have recently come to faith in Jesus Christ.”(ix)

Audaciously, Gumbel starts citing his own objections to the Christian faith: it’s boring, untrue, and irrelevant (11-12).

Background and Organization

Nicky Gumbel is an author, founder of Alpha, and an Anglican priest serving in one of the UK’s largest congregations. He studied at Hill House and Eton College, read law at Trinity College, Cambridge, and studied theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Other books by Gumbel include: The Jesus LifestyleSearching Issues, and A Life Worth Living.

Gumbel’s Questions of Life is organized in fifteen chapters preceded by a preface and Foreword, and followed by endnotes. The chapter titles are:

  1. “Is there more to Life than This?
  2. Who is Jesus?
  3. Why Did Jesus Die?
  4. How Can I have Faith?
  5. Why and How Do I Pray?
  6. Why and How Should I Read the Bible?
  7. How Does God Guide Us?
  8. Who is the Holy Spirit?
  9. What Does the Holy Spirit Do?
  10. How Can I Be Filled with the Holy Spirit?
  11. How Can I Resist Evil?
  12. Why and How Should I Tell Others?
  13. Does God Heal Today?
  14. What About the Church?
  15. How Can I Make the Most of the Rest of My Life?”(v)

The chapters follow the Alpha course outline and provide content for small group discussion and sermon presentation. Some chapters include cartoon illustrations.

Alpha Context

The Alpha focus on non-Christians and Christians who do not attend church regularly helps explain the plain-English language, the choice of topics chosen and the large number of stories suitable as sermon illustrations. This audience, sometimes described as seekers, stumble over “churchy” words and misconceptions of the Gospel story. Even among believers it is perhaps rare to participate actively in a small group. 

Every effort is made to avoid placing people in an awkward position. A non-believer may find prayer intimidating or even discussing personal questions about what they believe or do not believe. Small group leaders are accordingly encouraged to giving everyone an opportunity to participate in discussions without being pushy about it or putting people on the spot. The illustration of a circle game of passing a beach ball around is a template for group discussions.

The Anglican origins of Alpha show up in the choice of topics. Among Presbyterians discussions about the Holy Spirit are usually brief—Alpha devotes about four chapters to the Holy Spirit (chapters 7-10)—have generally been skeptical about spiritual healing (chapter 13) and avoid discussions of sin and evil (chapter 1). The Anglican willingness to broach these subjects came as a pleasant surprise.

How and Why Do I Pray?

Gumble’s chapter on prayer provides a good illustration of this book’s contribution. Personal prayer is a Christian distinctive in that many religions suggest prayer, but it is a transcendent God and, for that reason, prayer tends to be formulaic, not spontaneous. Think of Moslem lined up for Friday prayer and reciting Surahs from the Koran. 

Personal prayer is harder because it is a deeply theological activity. I have often said that my prayer book (Everyday Prayers for Everyday People) is my most theological book. Gumble notes that before he came to faith, he recited mostly child formula prayers and mostly prayed in times of crisis (62). Now he focuses on his relationship with his heavenly father (63). While some people find relationships easy, many people today find intimacy generally hard and especially hard in a. lonely, technological society that does not encourage development of social skills. What do you say to your heavenly father when conversation with your earthly friends and relationship is strained and infrequent? Gumbel walks his reader through the Lord’s prayer, petition by petition (63-73).

Assessment

Nicky Gumbel’s book, Questions of Life, is an accessible and helpful book. Small groups may find this book useful even outside of a formal Alpha course. I used it to prepare as an Alpha group leader. I also appreciated the head’s up on sermon material, which helped drill the subject matter in more deeply. Nonbelievers may find this book an excellent way to become familiar with the Christian faith before walking into an unfamiliar church.


[1]https://alpha.org/nicky-gumbel.

Gumbel Answers Faith Questions

Also see:

Thompson: Paul’s Ethics Forms Community

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2019b

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Does Faith Matter? Monday Monologues, January 28, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

In today’s podcast, I will offer a Faith Prayer and talk about the question: Does Faith Matter?

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!

Does Faith Matter? Monday Monologues, January 28, 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/Welcome_NY_2019

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Prayer of Faith

Celtic Cross
Celtic Cross

Heavenly Father,

All praise and honor be to you

author of our faith,

the faith in which we find salvation from our sins and

in which we find peace and joy each and every day.

For while we were yet dead in our sin,

Christ died for our sins (Rom 5:8)

that we might have life eternal.

We confess that we have sinned against our neighbors and against you.

Forgive our sin–

turn our heart of stone into hearts of flesh

that we might forgive the sins of those around us.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

open the eyes of our hearts

that we might grow in faith day by day and

confess to the world that Jesus is Lord in our life.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer of Faith

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/Welcome_NY_2019

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Monday Monologues: A Better Story, October 15, 2018 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I pray for faith and talk about a Better Story.

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!

Monday Monologues: A Better Story, October 15, 2018 (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/2018_Lead

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Prayer of Faith

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Merciful father:

All praise, honor, and glory are yours,

Lord who cares for me–

for my mind is clouded and

my heart betrays me,

but you are ever with me, for me, and uplifting me

even when I am lost and alone,

not even knowing what to confess.

Thank you for your presence

amidst the storms of  daily life and

the torments of spirits that would consume me.

Of all the things that I have experienced

you are the most immediate, most real

and I thank you for it.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

grant me now a full measure of faith

that I might remember my baptism and your resurrection

all the days of my life and

ever confess that you are Lord of my life and

all that is, was, or will ever be.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer of Faith

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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Monday Monologues: Priorities, August 27, 2018 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I pray about the Journey and talk about Priorities.

To listen, click on the link below.

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

Monday Monologues: Priorities, August 27, 2018 (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 at: http://bit.ly/Sabath_2018

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God is My Denominator

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

The postmodern era is rife with religious alternatives. In my hometown of Centreville, Virginia, we have several Hindu temples, several nearby Mosques, and, being near Washington DC, we have many devoutly secular people. It is still true, however, that most Americans still identify themselves as Christians.

Changing Christian Identity

Three out of four Americans have some Christian background, but only two in five Christians actively practice their faith. The good news is that the share of Christians who practice their faith has remained relatively stable over the generations. The decline in the share of nominal Christians, however, normally dominates the headlines. (Kinnamen and Lyon 2016, 27, 224)

Role of Faith

In her book, Anne Graham Lotz (2009, 1-2) recalls a story of a conversation that her mother, Ruth Graham, had with the former head of Scotland Yard. She suggested that he must have handled a lot of the counterfeit money over the years. He responded: “On the contrary, Mrs. Graham, I spend all my time studying the genuine thing. That way, when I see a counterfeit, I can immediately detect it.”

While most discussions of faith focus on its content and outward practice, it is helpful to view faith in terms of priorities. Citing Bruce Leafbald,⁠1 Giglio (2003, 117) defines true worship as: “centering our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on the Lord.” What do we really worship? Giglio (2003, 13) writes: “follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your loyalty … [that] is what you [really] worship.” As the First Commandment reads: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exod 20:3)

If God is truly the first priority in your life, your faith becomes the denominator against which all other activities in life are measured. In money terms, its like the gold standard of the nineteenth century—all prices were measured in terms of the amount of gold required to make a purchase.

Idolatry as a False Priority

The Bible pictures idols as graven images or statutes, as when we read:

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” (Ps 115:3-8)

But this view of idolatry is less helpful than to view idolatry as misplaced priorities. If something other than God is our first priority, then it is like trying to do business with counterfeit money—you may be able to fool a few people but pretty soon it will catch up to you. Idols invariably break.

What happens, for example, if your work is your number one priority and you become unemployed? Or if the spouse that you worship seeks a divorce? When you loose your job or your spouse that has been your idol, then you have lost not only your employment or spouse, but also your god. Idol destruction brings on an “existential crisis” accompanied by anxiety, depression, and potentially suicide, because the denominator that you measured everything else by now needs to be replaced.

Today’s Spiritual Crisis

The spiritual wanderlust that America is experiencing today starts with misplaced priorities—idolatry. Idol crashing creates a spiritual vacuum that may be filled by an infinite number of substitutes, but because we are created in the image of God (Gen 1:27), these idols cannot bring peace. Only God can fill this vacuum.

References

Giglio, Louis. 2003. The Air I Breathe. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Publishers.

Kinnaman, David  and Gabe Lyons. 2016. Good Faith: Being A Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks. 

Lotz, Anne Graham. 2009. Just Give Me Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Footnotes

1 Course entitled: “Introduction to Church Music”, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1983. (Gigilio 2003, 140)

God is My Denominator

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Sabath_2018

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Pascal’s Wager

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple Faith“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; 

fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov 1:7)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

An important atheistic argument for why faith is not rational starts with the observation that the existence of God can neither be logically proven or disproven. Atheists focusing on this observation prefer the term, agnostic, which in Greek means “not knowing,” suggesting that there is insufficient evidence to make a faith decision. 

Priorities Reveal True Beliefs

Contrary to the definition of agnostic, the agnostic is not a neutral observer. Every human being has a set of priorities in which the first priority defines how the rest are interpreted. The number one priority is often to remain in control of one’s own life; alternatively, it is a spouse or other person or something like work. 

For the Christian, the number one priority should be God, as proscribed in the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exod 20:3); if it is not one has committed an act of idolatry. Idolatry is dangerous because, if one uncritically has accepted a number one priority other than God, this idol will invariable break and produce an “existential crisis” that will result in anxiety, depression, even suicide. Why? Because a broken idol deprives one of identity and meaning—one’s god has been smashed. Loss of a spouse or work is hard; the additional loss of one’s god is devastating. This is why the term, existential crisis, is appropriate.

The professed agnostic is accordingly at risk of an unexpected, existential crisis that would normally not affect the Christian. The current epidemic of anxiety, depression, and suicide in Western society should accordingly be seen as a spiritual crisis requiring spiritual, not just psychiatric, intervention.

Personal Experience

As a young person, I experience an important challenge to my faith when the elders of the church dismissed my youth director in my junior year in high school. This youth director had encouraged me to take an active role in the youth group and to take my faith seriously. When she left the church, I bitterly resented her dismissal and became angry at God. My experience with the church had accordingly posed an important barrier to faith as a young adult.

Even in my absence from the church and bitterness at God, I felt his presence. As time passed (about three years), I realized that the bitterness was directed at the leadership of the church who had dismissed my youth director, not at God. Sorting out my own anger permitted me to accept God back into my life and I sought a new church. 

Pascal’s Wager

During the period of my anger with God, atheistic arguments never seemed real to me, even when I repeated them, because I knew God first hand and I knew that I had been blessed when I came to faith. Pascal’s Wager, which was directed at atheists, made perfect sense to me, even when I had turned my back on God.

Pascal used probability theory to argue that the agnostic argument is logically false in that faith is a fair bet (hence the term, Pascal’s wager)—if God exists and you believe, then you win heaven, but if God does not exist and you believe, then you loose nothing. In other words, faith in God has a positive reward even if the probability of God existing cannot be established—just so long as the probability is believed to be a non-zero, positive number.  Betting that God exists is therefore rational from a gambling perspective.

Going back to the agnostic’s assertion that the evidence for God is inconclusive, Pascal’s wager breaks the tie. The preponderance of evidence suggests that living as if God exists provides a net benefit. Ignoring that benefit accordingly reveals a bias against faith.

Pascal’s Wager

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Hebrew_Heart

 

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