Monday Monologue, Trinity in Creation, April 9, 2018 (Podcast)

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a prayer for church workers and a reflection on the Trinity as seen in the Creation accounts of the Book of Genesis.

To listen, click on the link below.

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

 Monday Monologue, Trinity in Creation, April 9, 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/Holy_Week_2018

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Monday Monologue, Sermon, April 2, 2018 (Podcast)

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a sermon, Slave of Christ given originally in Spanish.

To listen, click on the link below.

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

Monday Monologue, Sermon, April 2, 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/Holy_Week_2018

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Slave of Christ

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sermon delivered in Spanish at El Shadai, Manassas, Virginia, March 22, 2018.

Prelude

Good evening. For those who do not know me, my name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a volunteer pastor and Christian author. My wife, Maryam, and I live in Centreville, VA and we have three grown children.

Today we continue our study of collaborators of the Gospel. I will be discussing the question: In what sense are we slaves of Christ. (2X)

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Almighty Father,

We give praise that you created us in your image and love us as your children. We especially present in this time and this place. In the power of your Holy Spirit, bless our praise and work here in Georgetown South. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Scripture

Today’s scripture less comes from the Book of Genesis 1:26-27. Here the word of the Lord:

Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27 ESV)

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

Allow me to begin with a bit of history from my own walk with the Lord.

My son, Reza, was born in August 1992 while I worked as a bank examiner with the Farm Credit Administration in McLean, Virginia. I normally traveled with the examination team four nights a week. For this reason and to facilitate breast feeding, my wife moved Reza’s crib into our bedroom

One Saturday night in October at 2 in the morning, Reza went into convulsions. As a ten-week old baby, it was not very obvious or very loud, but Maryam knew immediately that somethings was not right and we called 9-11 for emergency assistance. Reza was taken to Fair Oaks Hospital and then transferred to Fairfax Hospital. For the entire day, we did not know what had happened, but by Sunday evening they discovered that he had been born with only one kidney and that kidney’s duct had folded over on itself. He needed emergency surgery to correct the problem and was moved again to Georgetown University Hospital.

Alone with my son before terrifying surgery, I was stressed out and emotional. For the first time in my life, I began to negotiate with God for the life of my son. I prayed to God: do not take my son; take me. (2X)

Ten years later, my son was healthy and God reminded me of the promise in my prayer. At that point, I began to seek a seminary. When I say that I am a slave of Christ, I have both personal and biblical reasons. As someone bought and paid for with acts of grace and mercy, I am a slave of Christ. (2X)

Today’s Scripture

In the ancient world there were two types of kings. A local king, who ruled a small kingdom, and a king of kings who possessed a much larger kingdom. In effect, a king of kings had many kingdoms each established through conquest and delegated to his subordinates, who had local kingdoms.

In today’s text we see this same model of kings. Returning to the Garden of Eden, we see God creating us in his image and giving us dominion—

over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27 ESV)

In this passage, God was described as a King of kings, who established a new kingdom in creation for his subordinates, Adam and Eve.

So why do we care? (2X)

We care because since the beginning we were created as servants of God and as slaves totally dependent on our creator and king of kings, God. Since the beginning, we were slaves of God. (2X)

Servants and Slaves

From the beginning, we were not content to be servants or slaves of God. Immediately after creation, Adam and Eve want a promotion and following the suggestion of Satan eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17 ESV). This act was directly against the will of God, constituted an alliance with Satan, and was an act of rebellion against the kingdom of God.

The title, slave of God, appears the first time in the Book of Joshua 1:1-2:

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.  (Jos. 1:1-2 ESV)

In these two verses, it reads in the Hebrew “slave of the Lord”, but most of the time it is translated in English and Spanish as servant of the Lord.

This same interpretative tension exists in the translation of Paul when he uses this same title in Romans 1:1:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom 1:1 ESV)

In this case as well, the original Greek reads slave of Christ, but in English and Spanish the translation reads servant of Christ. This translation is politically correct. But because we are bought and paid for with the blood of Christ, the better translation is slave of Christ, as the Greek says. We are slaves of Christ. (2X)

Servant or Slave?

The older folks here probably remember a hymn:[1] Nothing but the Blood of Jesus, which makes the point found in Hebrews 9:13-14:

“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:13-14 ESV)

We were bought and paid for with the death of Christ on the cross. Thus, we are slaves of Christ. (2X)

Application

In summary, we are slaves of Christ. But why is this important?

When our identities are in Christ before other things we have new priorities. First, life is much easier. We are not slaves of our spouses, families, work, or any other things that a hard life can take from us. Neither are we slaves of fear, emotional pain, addictions, unmentionable sins, or any other chain of Satan. We have liberty in Christ to live within God’s will and are not slaves of any other person.

For example, our marriages are still important, just not ultimately important. In fact, it is much easier to respect our spouses when they are our love and not our masters. The same is true of our kids, parents, and other people. We are equal under Christ and are responsible to love one another as we love ourselves, as the Apostle Paul taught (Eph 6:1-9). Love is more precious because it can never be obligatory.

There are at least three other reasons why we want to accept this title of slave of Christ.

First, the first commandment says:You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exod 20:3 ESV) Note that it does not say no other gods, except for your love, your work, your favorite sports team, and other things.

Second, if we have something other than God as our first priority, bad things can happen. A workaholic without work, for example, is a good candidate for suicide, as we witness every day in this rich society.

Third, God loves us more than anyone else. It would be foolish to disrespect this love. We are slaves of Christ by the grace of God.

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Heavenly father,

Thank you for the forgiveness that Easter brought with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thank you that in Christ we are slaves of your love and kings in your creation. In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us the strength to live in your truth this day and every day. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aGJwAENQuk.

Slave of Christ

Also see:

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer 

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/Lent-2018

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Esclavo de Cristo

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

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sermón compartó a la iglesia El Shadai, Manassas, Virginia, 22 de marzo, 2018.

Preludio

Buenos tardes. Para aquellos que no me conocen, me llama Stephen W. Hiemstra. Soy pastor voluntario y autor cristiano. Mi esposa, Maryam, y yo vivimos in Centreville, Virginia y tenemos tres hijos crecidos.

Hoy día continuamos nuestro estudio sobre colaboradores en el evangelio. Voy a discutir la pregunta: ¿En cual sentido somos esclavos de Cristo? (2X)

Oración

Vamos a orar.

Padre Todopoderoso,

Alabamos que creaste nos en tu imagen y ama nos como tus niños. Sea especialmente presente con nosotros en este tiempo y este lugar. En el poder de tu Espíritu Santo, bendice nuestra alabanza y trabajo aquí en tu pueblo Georgetown South. En el precioso nombre de Jesucristo, Amen.

Escritura

El texto de hoy viene del libro de Génesis 1:26-27. Escucha a la palabra de Dios

y dijo: «Hagamos al ser humano a nuestra imagen y semejanza. Que tenga dominio sobre los peces del mar, y sobre las aves del cielo; sobre los animales domésticos, sobre los animales salvajes, y sobre todos los reptiles que se arrastran por el suelo.» Y Dios creó al ser humano a su imagen; lo creó a imagen de Dios. Hombre y mujer los creó (Gen 1:26-27 NVI)

La palabra del Señor. Gracias a Dios.

Introducción

Permítanme a empezar con una historia importante en me propio camino con el señor.

Mi hijo, Reza, fue nacido en agosto de 1992 cuando yo trabajaba como examinar de bancos con la Administración de Crédito Agrícola en McLean, Virginia. Normalmente viajaba con el equipo de examinación por cuarto noches cada semana. Por esta razón y para facilitar la lactancia, mi esposa muevo la cuna de Reza en nuestra sala por la noche.

Una noche de sábado en octubre a las dos de la mañana, Reza entró en convulsiones. Como bebé de diez semanas, no fue muy obvio o muy ruidoso, pero Maryam supo inmediatamente que algo andaba mal y llamamos al 911 para servicios de emergencia. Reza fue al hospital de Fair Oaks y fue movido al hospital de Fairfax. Por un día completo, no supimos que paso, pero por la tarde de domingo aprendimos que él fue nacido con solamente un riñón y el conducto de este riñón fue bloqueado. Él necesitaría una operación de emergencia y fue movido otra vez, este tiempo al hospital del Universario de Georgetown.

A solas con mi hijo antes de cirugía aterradora, fui muy estresado y emocional. Para la prima vez en mi vida, empecé de negociar con Dios para la vida de mi hijo. Pide al senior: no toma mi hijo; tómame. (2X)

Diez años después, mi hijo fue saludable y Dios recuérdeme de la promesa en mi oración y empecé a buscar un seminario. Cuando yo digo que soy un esclavo de Cristo, tengo razones tanto personales como bíblico. Como alguien compró y pagó por las acciones de gracias y misericordia de Dios, soy esclavo de Cristo. (2X)

Escritura de Hoy

n el mundo primitivo hubo dos tipos de reyes. Un rey locale, quien tuvo un reino pequeño y un rey de reyes quien tenia un reino más grande. En efecto, un rey de reyes tenia muchos reinos todos establecido por conquista y delegado para sus subordinantes, quienes fueron reyes locales.
En nuestro texto de hoy vemos lo mismo modelo de reyes. Retórnanos al Jardín de Edén donde Dios nos creó en su imagen y darnos dominio—
«… sobre los peces del mar, y sobre las aves del cielo; sobre los animales domésticos, sobre los animales salvajes, y sobre todos los reptiles que se arrastran por el suelo.» (Gen 1:26-27)

En este pasaje, Dios fue describió como un rey de reyes, quien estableció un nuevo reino en la creación para sus subordinantes, Adán y Eva.

¿Por qué nos importa? (2X)

Porque desde hace el principio fuimos creado como sirvientes de Dios y como esclavos dependiente totalmente a nuestro creador y rey de reyes, Dios.

Desde hace el principio, fuimos esclavos de Dios. (2X)

Sirviente y Esclavo

Desde el principio, no fuimos contento a ser sirvientes o esclavos de Dios. Inmediatamente después la creación Adán y Eva querían
una promoción y siguiente la sugestión de Satán comieron la fruta del “árbol del conocimiento del bien y del mal” (Gen 2:17 NVI). Este acto fue directamente contra de la voluntad de Dios, constituyó una alianza con Satán, y fue un acto de rebelión contra el reino de Dios.

Este titulo, esclavo de Dios, aparece la primera vez en el libro de Joshua 1:1-2:

Después de la muerte de Moisés, siervo del SEÑOR, Dios le dijo a Josué hijo de Nun, asistente de Moisés: «Mi siervo Moisés ha muerto. Por eso tú y todo este pueblo deberán prepararse para cruzar el río Jordán y entrar a la tierra que les daré a ustedes los israelitas. (Jos 1:1-2 NVI)

En estos dos versículos, se dice en el hebreo “esclavo del Señor”, pero se traduce en español y ingles también como siervo del Senior.

La misma tensión existe en la traducción de Pablo cuando use de este titulo en Romanos 1:1:

Pablo, siervo de Cristo Jesús, llamado a ser apóstol, apartado para anunciar el evangelio de Dios, (Rom 1:1 NVI)

En este caso también, el griego original dice esclavo de Cristo, pero en español como en ingles la traducción dice sirviente de Cristo. Esta traducción es políticamente correcta. Pero por razón de fuimos compró y pagó por la sangre de Cristo, la traducción mejor es esclavo de Cristo como el griego dice. Somos esclavos de Cristo. (2X)

¿Sirviente o Esclavos?

Ancianos entre nosotros recuerdan un himno,[1] Solo de Jesús, La Sangre, que hace la punta de Hebreos 9:13-14:

La sangre de machos cabríos y de toros, y las cenizas de una novilla rociadas sobre personas impuras, las santifican de modo que quedan limpias por fuera. Si esto es así, ¡cuánto más la sangre de Cristo, quien por medio del Espíritu eterno se ofreció sin mancha a Dios, purificará nuestra conciencia de las obras que conducen a la muerte, a fin de que sirvamos al Dios viviente! (Heb 9:13-14 NVI)

Fuimos compró y pagó por la muerte de Cristo por la cruz. Entonces, somos esclavos de Cristo. (2X)

Aplicación

En fin, somos esclavos de Cristo. Pero ¿que significa es?

Cuando nuestra identidad es en Cristo ante otras cosas tenemos nuevas prioridades. Primero, la vida es más fácil. No somos esclavos de nuestras cónyuges, familias, trabajos, o cualquiera otra cosa que una dura vida pueda tomar de nosotros. Tenemos libertad en Cristo a vivir dentro la voluntad de Dios y no ser esclavos de cualquiera otra persona.

Por ejemplo, nuestro matrimonio es todavía importante, pero ni últimamente importante. De hecho, eso es mas fácil a respeto tu cónyuge, cuando ella es tu amor y no es “la Señora”. Lo mismo con tus hijos, padres, y otras personas. Somos igual bajo Cristo y responsables a amar el uno del otro como nos amamos a nosotros mismos, como el Apóstalo Pablo ensenó (Eph 6:1-9). El amor es precioso por razón que nunca es obligatorio.

Hay al menos de tres otras razones para que queremos aceptar este titulo de esclavos de Cristo.

Primero, el primer mandamiento lo dice: “No tengas otros dioses además de mí” (Exod 20:3 NVI). Notan que no dice no dioses, excusando tu amor, tu trabajo, tu deporte favorito, y otras cosas.

Segundo, si tenemos una cosa otra al Dios como nuestra primera prioridad, males cosas pueden pasar. Un trabajador obsesivo sin trabajo, por ejemplo, es un candidato numero uno para suicidio, como vemos cada día en esta rica sociedad.

Tercero, Dios ámanos más que cualquiera otra persona. (2X) Es una tontería no respetar este amor.

Somos esclavos de Cristo, gracias a Dios.

Oración

Oramos.

Padre nuestro en el cielo,

Gracias por tu perdón que viene por Pascua en la muerte y resurrección de Cristo. Gracias que en Cristo somos esclavos de tu amor y reyes en tu creación. En el poder de tu Espíritu Santo, danos el esfuerzo para vivir en tu realidad este día y cada día. En el preciso nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLU_u0Ss4Vc. http://www.himnos-cristianos.com/pdf/que-me-puede-dar-perdon.pdf.

Esclavo de Cristo

Also see:

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer 

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/Lent-2018

Continue Reading

Beginning and Ending Prayer

Table SettingBeginning and Ending Prayer

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

We praise you for creating us, male and female, in your image, not for our glory, but yours in the beginning (Gen 1:27).

In humility, we confess that we have not always preferred to live in your light or to be good (Gen 1:3-4).

We give thanks that in creating heaven and earth you made your presence abundantly clear (Romans 1:19-20)

and that we might escape perdition through the death and resurrection of your son (1 Cor 15:3-4).

We beg you that we might choose the light and honor your son through the power of your Holy Spirit (John 14:6).

Through Jesus Christ, who is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end (Rev 1:8), Amen.

 

Also see:

Prayer for Shalom 

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/2fEPbBK

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Living into the Image

Doug_and_Christine_08272016bLiving into the Image

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Service for Recommitment of Vows for Christine Nousheen Hiemstra and Douglas Warren Ferrer,

Centreville, Virginia, September 4, 2016

A quiet little secret in this postmodern age is often overlooked by those of us who seldom read our Bibles: marriage is God’s idea, not ours. Marriage was not enacted by an act of Congress or decreed by the Supreme Court; marriage was not invented by some church committee way or some really popular saint way back when. Marriage was God’s idea which we know because the Bible begins and ends with a wedding.[1]

How do we know? (2X)

The short answer comes in verse 27 of the first chapter of Genesis:

“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 ESV)

In other words, God created us together in his image and, in case there is any misunderstanding, this image couple was given a mission-statement in the next verse:

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28 ESV).

The vows are then repeated in chapter 2 where we read:

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2:23-24 ESV)

So after the wedding ceremony is over, Adam and Eve are a couple on their own, not living with mom and dad in stark contrast with the custom in pagan societies of the ancient world.[2]

But what does it mean to be created in the image of God? (2X)

The answer to this question is found in our second reading from the Book of Exodus. The context for this verse is that after God gives Moses the Ten Commandments (and after Moses broke the first set of tablets), he says to him directly:

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

Much like Congress after passing legislation will publish a “conference report” explaining how to interpret the new law, God reveals his character in five key words as a tool for interpreting the Ten Commandments. These five character traits are repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments in different forms, which is the Bible’s way of saying stop and pay attention here. Let’s take a moment to reflect on each of these five traits, as they give insight into God’s prescription for marriage.

The first of these traits is: mercy. Mercy is what you ask the judge for right after you have just admitted that you are guilty. Mercy is unwarranted and undeserved forgiveness.

Christine, offer mercy to Doug when he screws up; Doug, extend mercy to Christine when she has just done it again. When you offer mercy to one another, you honor God and make love possible.

The second of these traits is: compassion. Compassion comes from the Latin expression, with passion, in the sense of having passion out of understanding for someone else. A great example of compassion was going around on social media earlier this year—a policeman was called to grocery store to arrest a woman for shoplifting. She explained that she stole food to give her kids a meal and, instead of arresting her, the policeman bought her a cart load of groceries and drove her home.

Doug, take time to understand Christine when she screws up. Christine, walk alongside Doug when he does not seem to be himself. Understand each other before you criticize each other. Remember the policeman’s heart.

The third of these traits is: patience—be slow to anger. The Hebrew used here literally says:  be long nostrilled!  In other words, take a deep breath; listen; and count to ten before responding when something is not quite what you were expecting. Patience is so under-practiced in our “I WANT IT NOW” generation.  Be a rebel: practice patience!

The fourth trait is two Hebrew words, rav hesed (‎רַב־חֶ֥סֶד), which does not translate well into English. It literally means “great love”, but the context suggests something other than “abounding in steadfast love”. God has just given Moses the Ten Commandments—kind of like a superpower promising a military alliance to a small country in a dangerous neck of the woods. Love here means that you keep your promises—especially when it hurts. I call this “covenantal love”.

In my case, I told Maryam when we were married that I did not believe in divorce. I told myself that I would not let anything come between us in our marriage—not our friends, not our families, not even my own ego. Keeping our marriage vows was the priority over everything, short of my faith in God. For me, that is covenantal love.

The final trait is translated faithfulness. The Hebrew word, emeth (אֱמֶֽת), also means truth.  When the Apostle John says that: “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ESV), he is making an allusion to this very same verse in Exodus and, by inference, is making a divinity claim in reference to Jesus.

Faithfulness and truth go hand-in-hand, yet truth should only (2X) be told in a context of grace, otherwise it will simply not be heard.

Doug, Christine—be truthful with one another, but speak truth only out of love.

In closing, bear the image of God in your life with one another. Practice mercy and compassion, be patient with one another, honor your vows, and speak truth only in the context of love. Bear God’s image and draw closer to God and to one another as you do so. Amen and Amen.

[1] Keller, Timothy and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. (New York: Dutton, 2011), page 13.

[2] The Bible ends after the Second Coming with the wedding feast of the people of God. (Rev 21:2, 9; Rev 22:17)

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The Daily Work Roster

ShipOfFools_web_10042015

The Daily Work Roster

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Before a young person can go off and conquer the world, they must be potty trained, learn to walk and talk, and be able to take care of themselves. One of the rites of passage along the way is summer camp. The camp to end all camps, if you are a Boy Scout, is Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.

Philmont is not just any camp. Philmont Scout Ranch consists of 214 square miles of almost pristine wilderness—mountains and ranchland and woods—in the northern New Mexico donated over the period from 1938 to 1942 to the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) by oil tycoon Waite Phillips. In the confines of the ranch are authentic gold mines, outlaw hideouts, Apache and Ute Indian heritage sites, a B-24 crash site, dinosaur excavation sites, and hunting lodges previously employed by America’s rich and famous. Wildlife include scorpions, tarantulas, freshwater fish, eagles, rattlesnakes, deer, elk, coyote, antelope, mountain lion, buffalo, beaver, wild turkey, and bear.[1] You get the idea—Philmont is a super camp.

As I was to learn, Philmont tests the Scout Motto, “Be Prepared,” as well as any camp. Gathering firewood by myself one evening, I was reminded why walking alone in the woods was a really bad idea—only about a hundred yards from our campsite I found a deer carcass freshly torn into bloody pieces.  During our eleven days at Philmont in July 1968, we had many other challenges.  We saddled Harlan’s burros, rode horses, shot skeet, forded the Cimarron River, repelled down Cimarroncito’s rock ledges, contended with midnight bear raids, and walked 500 feet into the Cyphers gold mine (and turned the lights out). We sought to be real men and do manly stuff, and Philmont obliged.

But many times Philmont’s greatest challenges were problems that we brought with us. I should know. As duly elected crew leader, I was responsible for coordinating daily schedules. Tents needed to put up and taken down; firewood needed to be gathered; water acquired and often purified; and meals cooked. We had an experienced group of scouts and these activities went like clockwork during our shakedown backpacking trip near Catoctin Mountain in Maryland. Five days into Philmont and the clockwork started breaking down—volunteers started malingering and open rebellion soon followed. Too late, the crew leader had to draw up a work roster on scarce paper and my leadership credibility crumbled.

Things got worse.

Several years earlier at Ocean City, Maryland I injured my back riding waves with an inner tube mattress on the beach. On a good wave, my mattress got too far in front of a large wave and I plunged head first over the wave. I landed on my face and the wave threw my legs over my back. I was paralyzed for several minutes unable to get up and nearly drowned before slowly crawling out of the water on my stomach. No one saw me; no one came running. This back injury has haunted me ever since.

At Philmont, after several days of backpacking my back gave out and it was all that I could do just to walk. My pain was so intense that the adults debated helicoptering me out. I became a liability for the team and the guys resented having to slow down for me. Worse, we hiked each day with a deadline—afternoon rain was avoidable only once tents were pitched; if we were late in making camp, freezing rain soaked us and our gear. Even though several of the scouts were family friends, the stress of the long days, the rigorous backpacking, and the skimpy trail meals at Philmont brought out the worst in people—for the remainder of the trip I was harshly ridiculed at every turn.

At Philmont, my dreams of western adventure and my concepts of self-sufficiency morphed into a struggle to survive. Nothing about my background and nothing I could do made up for a weakened back and the mundane challenges of eleven days on the trail. My dependence on the team and their respect for me hung on conditions outside my control.

Still, life went on and several highlights of the trip were yet to come.

One such highlight came when we returned to camp headquarters and discovered the Tooth Of Time Traders commissary. There on sale at the commissary we found the belts, belt buckles, jackets, and patches that proved that allowed us to brag about our Philmont experiences when we returned home.

In the commissary, for example, I bought a coveted copy of Robert Baden-Powell’s book, Scouting for Boys (1908), which began the scouting movement in Great Britain. In the military, Powell distinguished himself as a general during the Second Boer War in South Africa (1899).[2] When his military days were over, he noticed that young men were growing up undisciplined and unprepared for the vigor of adult life. Powell saw this problem limiting Britain’s military preparedness and he envisioned the Boy Scouts as a solution. Later, I gifted this book to my Scoutmaster (and early mentor) when he retired after many years of scouting service.

Another highlight was our visit on the bus trip home to the Koshare Indian Museum in La Junta, Colorado. The museum featured many Indian handicrafts and, as we were told, the Koshare Indians were, in fact, Boy Scout troop 232 which focuses on studying Indian dances and customs.[3] The troop danced for us in traditional Indian attire and explained to us that Koshare means clown or “delight-maker” in the Hopi Indian language.  And delighted we were.

[1] http://www.scouting.org/Philmont.aspx.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Baden-Powell,_1st_Baron_Baden-Powell.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koshare_Indian_Museum_and_Dancers.

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Benner Cares Spiritually Through Dialogue—Part 1

Benner_review_08072015David G. Benner. 1998.  Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel. Grand Rapids: Baker Books. (Goto part 2)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One distinctive of biblical faith is that each human being is created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). One practical implication of this image doctrine is that when you speak with someone, it is like speaking to God himself.  In fact, many times God speaks to us through the people around us. A second practical implication is that each and every human has intrinsic value in the eyes of God[1].  Between the hint of the divine and this intrinsic value, everyone has an interesting story to tell—if one takes the time to listen.

In his book, Care of Souls, David Benner implicitly understands and accepts the doctrine of the image.  He writes:

“Care refers to actions that are designed to support the well-being of something or someone. Cure refers to actions that are designed to restore well-being that has been lost.” (21)

One only cares for something of value.  In this case, we are talking about souls which he defines as:

“soul as referring to the whole person, including the body, but with particular focus on the inner world of thinking, feeling, and willing.” (22)

This is the Hebrew understanding of soul (nefesh or נַפְשִׁ֖י) which is quite distinct from the Greek understanding from Plato which divided a person into body and soul[1], which were truly divided (11).

This body and soul unity is important in Benner’s thinking especially when he delves into the distinction between the conscious and non-conscious parts of our inner life.  He writes:

“Caring for souls is caring for people in ways that not only acknowledge them as persons but also engage and address them in the deepest and most profoundly human aspects of their lives.  This is the reason for the priority of the spiritual and psychological aspects of the person’s inner world in soul care.” (23)

While the cure of souls focuses on remedy for sin; care of souls focuses on the need for spiritual growth (28).

Benner sees 4 elements in care of souls:

  1. Healing—“helping others overcome some impairment and move towards wholeness”,
  2. Sustaining—“acts of caring designed to help a hurting person endure and transcend” a challenging situation,
  3. Reconciling—“efforts to reestablish broken relationships”, and
  4. Guiding—“helping people make wise choices and thereby grow in spiritual maturity” (31-32)

I used to use the analogy of two soccer players working with each other to succeed in their game play and taking care of each other.

Benner offers 6 helpful principles (he calls them conclusions) defining soul care. “Christian soul care”…

  1. “is something that we do for each other, not to ourselves.”
  2. “operates within a moral context.”
  3. “is concerned about community not just individuals.”
  4. “is normally provided through the medium of dialogue within the context of a relationship.”
  5. “does not focus on some narrow spiritual aspect of personality but addresses the whole person.”
  6. “is much too important to be restricted to the clergy or any other single group of people.”

 This last point is important—the idea of Christian friends is fundamental in Christian discipling. In fact, the first book by Benner that I read and reviewed was focused on this point[2].

Another key point is that the focus in care of souls is on dialogue between equals before God.  Benner distinguishes 4 types of interpersonal discourse:

  1. Debate“a civilized form of combat…has a focus and implicit rules that encourage participants to stick to the understood topic”. (134)
  2. Discussion“involves the advocacy of ideas and positions with resulting winners and losers” .(134)
  3. Conversation“involve the exchange not just of facts and arguments but also of feelings, values, and construals” but not to the extent and with the mutual trust required for a dialogue. (135)
  4. Dialogue“shared inquiry that is designed to increase awareness, understanding, and insight” among mutually trusting individuals. (131)

This focus on dialogue distinguishes soul care from psychiatric care where true dialogue is not possible, in part, because the talking is more of doctor-patient conversation between two parties that are inherently not equal. Dialogue is the preferred discourse in soul care because healing, sustaining, reconciling, and guiding are able to take place only when trust is present.

Dr. David Benner works and lives in Canada.  He describes himself as: “an internationally known depth psychologist, wisdom teacher, transformational coach, and author whose life’s work has been directed toward helping people walk the human path in a deeply spiritual way and the spiritual path in a deeply human way.”  He has held numerous faculty positions and written about 30 books [4].

Benner writes in 11 chapters divided into 2 parts.  These chapters are:

Part 1:  Understanding Soul Care

  1. What is Soul Care?
  2. The Rise of Therapeutic Soul Care
  3. The Boundaries of the Soul
  4. Psychology and Spirituality
  5. Christian Spirituality

Part 2:  Giving and Receiving Soul Care

  1. The Psychospiritual Focus and Soul Care
  2. Dialogue in Soul Care
  3. Dreams, the Unconscious, and the Language of the Soul
  4. Forms of Christian Soul Care
  5. Challenges of Christian Soul Care
  6. Receiving Soul Care

These chapters are preceded by acknowledgments and an introduction.  They are followed by notes and a topical index.

David Benner’s Care of Souls is a transformative text.  Although some of these ideas here appear elsewhere, many of the discussions are uniquely Benner. For example, Benner goes a lot further than many authors in offering a theological underpinning to soul care, integrates the therapeutic ideas better than other authors into his care, and spends more time in explaining the usefulness and uniqueness of dialogue.  I highly recommend this book to pastors, other Christian care givers, and Christians who want to be spiritually sensitive in their ministry.

In part 1 of this review, I have given an overview of Benner’s book.  In part 2, I will dig deeper into some of his more interesting ideas.

Question: Do you think that soul care is possible outside of a therapeutic relationship?  Why or why not?

 

[1] This intrinsic value provides the philosophical foundation for human rights. In the absence of this theological doctrine, the secular interest in human rights is a philosophical orphan easily forgotten.

[2] Or body, mind, and soul.

[3] See (Benner 2003) Also see review:  Benner Points to God (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-u3)

[4] www.DrDavidGBenner.ca

REFERENCES

Benner, David G. 2003.  Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction.  Downers Grove:  IVP Books.

 

 

 

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Prayer Day 40: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Espera verano 2015
Espera verano 2015

Loving Father. You clothe the birds that neither spin or reap (Matt 6:26). You send the rain and the sunshine on the just and the unjust without discrimination (Matt 5:45). You make the day and the night to bless us with activities and with sleep (Gen 1:5). We cast our obsessions and addictions at your feet. In the power of your Holy Spirit, heal our relationships and soften our hearts that we might grow more like you with each passing day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Padre Amoroso, vistes las aves que ni siegan ni recogen (Mt. 6:25-26). Envías el sol y la lluvia sobre justos e injustos sin discriminación (Mt. 5:5). Haces el día y la noche para bendecirnos con actividades y sueños (Gén. 1:5). Lanzamos nuestras obsesiones y adicciones a Tus pies. En el poder del Espíritu Santo, sana nuestras relaciones y suaviza nuestros corazones para que podamos crecer más como Tú cada día. En el nombre de Jesús oramos. Amén.

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Who is God?

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

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. (Ps 19:1–3)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I was young, I wanted to be a pilot. I learned to read a map, work with a compass, and navigate by the stars in pursuit of my goal. The idea that God would use a star to guide the wise men to the baby Jesus fascinated me. Equally fascinating is how God reveals himself to us in the creation story. The Bible starts telling us that: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) What do these simple words tell us about God?

The phrase—in the beginning—tells us that God is eternal. If creation has a beginning, then it must also have an end. This implies that creation is not eternal, but the God who created it must be. If our eternal God created time, both the beginning and the end, then everything God created belongs to God. Just as the potter is master over the pottery he makes, God is sovereign over creation (Jer 18:4–8). God did not win creation in an arm-wrestling match or buy it online or find it on the street, he created it—God is a worker[1].

God’s sovereignty is reinforced in the second half of the sentence when it says: God created the heavens and the earth. Here heaven and earth form a poetic construction called a merism. A merism is a literary device that can be compared to defining a line segment by referring to its end points. The expression—heaven and earth—therefore means that God created everything[2]. Because he created everything, he is sovereign over creation; and sovereignty implies ownership[3].

So, from the first sentence in the Bible we know that God is eternal and he is sovereign. We also know that he is holy. Why? Are heaven and earth equal? No. Heaven is God’s residence. From the story of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush (Exod 3:5), we learn that any place where God is becomes holy in the sense of being set apart or sacred. Because God resides in heaven, it must be holy. Earth is not. Still, God created both and is sovereign over both (Rev 4:11).

Genesis paints two other important pictures of God.

The first picture arises in Genesis 1:2; here the breath, or spirit of God, is pictured like a bird hovering over the waters[4]. Hovering requires time and effort suggesting ongoing participation in and care for creation. The Bible speaks exhaustively about God providing for us—God’s provision. Breath translates as Holy Spirit in the original languages of the Bible—both Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament)[5].

The second picture appears in Genesis 2, which retells the story of creation in more personal terms. As a potter works with clay (Isa 64:8), God forms Adam and puts him in a garden. Then, he talks to Adam and directs him to give the animals names. And when Adam gets lonely, God creates Eve from Adam’s rib or side—a place close to his heart.

Genesis 1 and 2, accordingly, paint three pictures of God: 1. God as a mighty creator; 2. God who meticulously attends to his creation; and 3. God who walks with us like a friend. While the Trinity is not fully articulated in scripture until the New Testament, God’s self-disclosure as the Trinity appears from the beginning (Chan 1998, 41).

The Lord’s Prayer casts a new perspective on Genesis 1:1 when Jesus says: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Because we are created in God’s image, we want our home to modeled after God’s.

[1] Hugh Whelchel (2012,7).

[2] Heaven and earth can also be interpreted as proxies for God’s attributes of transcendence and immanence (Jer 23:23–24; Dyck 2014, 99).

[3] God’s eternal nature is also defined with a merism: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)

[4] This bird (avian) image appears again in the baptismal accounts of Jesus. For example, in Matthew 3:16 we read: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.”

[5]Breath itself is necessary for life—part of God’s provision.

 

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