Prayer for Congruity

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

Merciful father,

How long must I wait to see your face more clearly?

To feel your hand on my shoulder and know that I have served you well?

My soul longs to hear your voice over the chaos of life

and to sense your passion over creation.

Be especially present in this time and place.

Open hearts and minds in this dismal land.

Save us from the stupor of a life lived poorly and out of harmony with your will for us.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant me strength for the day;  grace for those I meet; and peace,

the peace that passes all understanding.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Congruity

Also see:

Tennant Highlights Five Gifts

Giving Thanks 

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/Transcendence_2018

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28. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webFather of Creation, Beloved Son, Spirit of Truth,
Bind our wayward hearts with your law; sing to us of your love. Gather our confused thoughts in your grace; center them on your truth. Separate us from evil influences, harsh temptations, and trials we cannot bear. Walk with us when the sun fails to shine, the rain draws near, and our paths become unclear.Sit with us while storms rage, our strength weakens, and our health flees. Guide us when our friends are distant and our troubles are ever near. Grant us strength for the day; grace for those we meet; and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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27. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webHoly and Eternal Father,
We praise you for your mercy and grace through Jesus Christ who died for our sins before we were even born. We confess that you and you alone are holy. From our mother’s womb we have tried your patience and even now come to you with blood stained hands. Forgive us in our rebellion against your covenant and against your son. In the power of your Holy Spirit, cleanse our hearts and minds that we might become fit stewards of your mercy and grace to those among us who have not heard the good news or have rejected it on account of our sin and folly. Draw us to yourself today across the gaps that separate us that we might have new life in you, this day, and forever more. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

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25. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webMerciful Father, Beloved Son, Ever-present Spirit,
We praise you, Lord, for your mercy, grace, patience, love, and faithfulness, for healing us of our afflictions, forgiving our sin, and your presence in our life, for in you is faith, hope, and love that we find nowhere else. We confess that you and you alone are God, yet we have made idols of machines, institutions, and our own pet theories. We have not followed the example of your son, Jesus Christ,
and have set our own desires above our families, friends, and even your church. Forgive our sin; overlook our transgressions; and heal us of our iniquity—that we might be whole again and restored to your presence. We give thanks for the many blessings that you have freely given us: our families, our health, our work, and even life itself. We ask you now to bless us that we might bless others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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24. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webMerciful God,
I praise you for the gift of your law and your provision of grace through Jesus Christ that we might approach you in prayer through the Holy Spirit and know who you are through the revelation of scripture and the life of Jesus Christ. You are the God of mercy and grace, who is slow to anger, abounding in love, and faithful. There is none like you; may I ever model myself on your immutable character remembering your law, ever-mindful of your grace, and with the support of your church. May I be quick to share your mercy, grace, and love with those around me in thought, word, and deed through the power of your Holy Spirit, and in Jesus’s name, Amen.

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5. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webAlmighty Father, Beloved Son, Holy Spirit,
We praise you for being willfully present in our lives—present when we are paying attention and present when we are not. We confess our need for holiness—let your example shine through us. We confess the need to be reconciled with those that pain us and those we pain. We confess that we are too often attracted more to culture and less to you. We thank you for the witness of your son, Jesus Christ, and many spiritual gifts showered on us by your Holy Spirit. Grant us strength for the day, grace for those we meet along the way, and peace when peace seems distant.  In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

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Prayer Day 38: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Espera verano 2015
Espera verano 2015

Gracious God. Thank you for lavishing your love and generosity on us. Grant us generous hearts and helping hands that we might reflect your image. May our security be in You, not our possessions. In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Dios misericordioso, gracias por prodigar Tu amor y generosidad sobre nosotros. Concédenos corazones generosos y las manos que ayuden para que podamos reflejar Tu imagen. Permite que nuestra seguridad esté en ti, no en nuestras posesiones. En el nombre del Padre, del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo. Amén.

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God’s Core Values

Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra“The LORD passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exod. 34:6-7 ESV)

God’s Core Values

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

What exactly are God’s core values?

God’s core values are given in Exodus 34:6 immediately following the giving of the Ten Commandments. We know that these values are fundamental for God because they are repeated all most word for word in Psalm 86:15 and 103:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2. Interestingly, in the second giving of the law in Deuteronomy 4:31, only mercy is mentioned.

Focus on Mercy

The emphasis in most of these passages on mercy and the de-emphasis in some passages on faithfulness (or truth) suggests that God is soft-hearted. Exodus 34:6 mentions mercy (רַחוּם), gracious (חַנּ֑וּן), slow to anger (אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם) or patient, abounding in love (חֶ֥סֶד) and faithfulness (truth) (אֱמֶֽת). Psalm 86:15 repeats all five words in the Hebrew in the same order. Psalm 103 repeats the first four values [1], but drops faithfulness. Joel 2:13 repeats the first five words, but substitutes “relents over disaster” for faithfulness. Jonah 4:2 likewise substitutes “relents over disaster” for faithfulness and swaps grace and mercy.

Interpreting the Ten Commandments

The giving of the core values right after the giving of the law is not an accident. Core values provide guidance on how to interpret law especially when conflicts arise. Law has the benefit of being concrete and establishes specific principles—this is the field of theology (the study of the nature of God). But in application circumstances are often messy and bring these principles into conflict—this is the field of ethics (the study of right and wrong action). As Christians, because we know God through the Bible and His Holy Spirit, we know the mind of God—we know his character.  Exodus 34:6 speaks directly to this question of God’s character.

Story of Jonah

The classic story of the mind of God is found in the Book of Jonah. God called on Jonah to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. But Jonah hated the Ninevites and caught the next boat out of town going the opposite direction (Jonah. 1:2-3). Why? Because he knew God’s character. When he finally went to Nineveh and preached as God had called him, the people of Nineveh turned from their sin and begged God to forgive them (Jonah 3:9-10). Jonah responded in anger:

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (Jonah 4:1-2 ESV)

What did Jonah say? In prayer he cited God’s core values as a reason for running away from his assignment to preach to the Ninevites. Why? Because he hated the Ninevites so much that he did not want God to forgive them.

Jonah’s Bad Example

God’s mercy is first among his core values. When we refuse to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our neighbors, we become like Jonah selfishly trying to keep God’s mercy to ourselves. This refusal puts us in tension both with God and with our neighbors. We are in tension with God because, in effect, we deny God’s mercy and our own identity as ones created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). We are in tension with our neighbors because we have denied them God’s mercy and, potentially, their eternal salvation.  Who are the Ninevites in your life?

Jesus reminds us with a promise: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7 ESV)

Aren’t you glad that God’s core values are actually immutable character traits—part of his identity and not of a New Year’s resolution?

 

[1] Slow to anger is expressed with another expression—long nostriled (אֶ֖רֶךְ אַפַּ֣יִם)—implying the same thing—patient.

Also see:

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Prayer Day 26: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Available on Amazon.com
Available on Amazon.com

Gracious God. Give us the humility to pray for our daily needs. Walk with us during every step we take. Help us to be satisfied in all circumstances and to recognize your presence also in abundance. May we follow your example and be generous with those around us. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Dios Misericordioso. Danos la humildad para orar por nuestras necesidades diarias. Camina con nosotros durante cada paso que tomamos. Ayudanos a estar satisfechos en cada circunstancia y a reconocer tu presencia también en abundancia. Que sigamos tu ejemplo y semos generosos con los que nos rodean. En el nombre del Padre, del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo, Amén.

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Bonhoeffer’s Nachfolge: Following After Christ

NachFolge_07022014Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 1995. The Cost of Discipleship (Orig Pub 1937).  Translated by R. H. Fuller and Irmgard Booth.  New York: Simon & Schuster—A Touchstone Book [1].

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Who do you follow after?

Belief follows obedience (57).  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship was the first book of theology (other than the Bible) that I remember reading as a young person [2].  It was a tough read in eleventh grade, but I remember one thing:  grace is not cheap.

Bonhoeffer wrote:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living, and incarnate (44-45).

The Apostle Paul put it this way:  we were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The title in German is Nachfolge which means follow after.  It is often translated simply as disciple.

Americans are mostly unaware that Adolf Hitler became the democratically elected chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933 (Metaxas 2012, 138).  It was later that he seized the title of Führer, which means leader in German.  Bonhoeffer distinguished himself as an early opponent to National Socialism and spoke in a radio broadcast about the limits of leadership only two days after Hitler’s election.  Bonhoeffer said:  A good leader serves others and leads others to maturity (Metaxas 2012, 142).

Nachfolge was written in the years that followed (1933-1937) as a rebuttal to the false leadership embodied in the idea of führer.  The disciple stands under God’s authority which the Führer denies.  Still, Bonhoeffer was a leader in the Confessing Church.  Nachfolge is quietly addressed to the Confessing Church (e.g. 53), which stood apart from Hitler’s Reichkirche (official German Church) [3], and is not addressed to society more generally.  In standing in opposition to the führer principle, Bonhoeffer needed to define Christian leadership.  He wrote:  Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer (91).  Bonhoeffer was very aware that Jesus also lived during trying times and was also persecuted by corrupt religious leaders.

Although Nachfolge is often interpreted through the lens of cheap grace and discipleship, these topics consume less than a third of the book (5 of 32 chapters).  Nachfolge reads like a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.  It divides into 4 parts:

  1. Grace and Discipleship;
  2. The Sermon on the Mount;
  3. The Messengers; and
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Life of Discipleship (9-10).

The Touchstone edition includes a forward by Bishop G.K.A. Bell who knew Bonhoeffer personally and worked with him (in England) to coordinate the opposition to Adolf Hitler during the Second World War.  It also includes a memoir by Gerhard Leibholz, a Jewish attorney who was also Bonhoeffer’s brother-in-law.  Let me turn to summarize these 4 parts briefly.

Grace and Discipleship (35-101).  The problem posed by cheap grace arises because God offers grace to the sinner, not the sin.  Cheap grace whitewashes sin and insults God’s mercy.  Bonhoeffer wrote:  Costly grace was turned in cheap grace without discipleship (50).  This is to confess Christ as savior, but not as Lord.  Worse, it inoculates the aspiring Christian against true faith (54).  By contrast, the disciple is called by Christ (63) and adheres to Christ (59).

Bonhoeffer wrote that only those who obey can believe (70).  In other words, for Bonhoeffer there is no such thing as a seeker Christian—we are called or not—and suffering is the badge of a true disciple (91).  Suffering and rejection mark Christ as the true Messiah; the disciple shares in his master’s fate (87).  Bonhoeffer famously wrote:  When Christ calls a man, bids him come and die (89).  We gain our identity as individuals through Christ’s call (94).

The Sermon on the Mount (103-197) [4].  If Bonhoeffer had been an individual opposed to Adolf Hitler, then he could have ended his book with Part 1–Grace and Discipleship and escaped from Hitler’s Germany to spend the war working as a professor in the United States. In fact, in 1939 his escape was arranged for him in the United States where he spent 26 days mulling this alternative over.  But Bonhoeffer was not an individualist; he could not cut and run.  Instead, he returned to Germany to face his true calling (Metaxas 2012, 321-346).  The remainder of the Nachfolge addresses the role of the disciple at work and in the community [5].

Bonhoeffer begins his analysis of the Beatitudes by laying out the participants:  Jesus, the multitudes, and the disciples.  Bonhoeffer wrote:

Yet there will be enmity between them right to the bitter end.  All the wrath of God’s people against him [Jesus] and his Word will fall on his disciples; his rejection will be theirs (106).

Therefore, Jesus blesses his disciples (106) calling them salt and light.  The problem of the church, our church, is the failure to be salt and light (118).  The touchstone of the church, in Bonhoeffer’s words:  simple surrender and obedience, not interpreting it or applying it, but doing and obeying it (197).

The Messengers (199-221) [6].  Jesus’ disciples function as under-shepherds to Jesus, in part, because bad shepherds lord generally over the flock (202).  In Matthew 9:36, Jesus cites:

So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. (Ezekiel 34:5 ESV)

The remainder of this chapter in Ezekiel focuses on the attributes of bad shepherds.  In this context, the disciples function as evangelists who are charged to proclaim the kingdom of heaven and confirm their message by performing signs—miracles, exorcisms, and raising the dead (Matthew 10:7-8; 207).  They are to depend on hospitality being accredited as disciples by their poverty (209) and by their suffering (215).  As under-shepherds, they are also to expect opposition from the bad shepherds.

The Church of Jesus Christ and the Life of Discipleship (223-304). As the called out ones of Christ (271), how do we understand our call?  Bonhoeffer writes:  There was no other way for them [the disciples] to know Christ, but by his plain word (226).  Consequently, Bonhoeffer sees child baptism as an abuse of the sacrament because baptism cannot be repeated and no faith is present (235).  More generally, the church becomes visible through the preaching of the Word, baptism, and communion (251).  Radical transformation of the church takes place as we all stand equally before the radical call of Christ (256-258).  Restoration of the divine image is impossible for us but becomes possible when God becomes like the image of man as He does in Jesus Christ (299).

Bonhoeffer’s Nachfolge poses a challenging question to the church.  How does the church be the church in the midst of obvious persecution?  Before the Gestapo began hauling dissenting pastors off to concentration camps and drafted others into the Machtwehr (army), the Nazi worked to co-opt the church into a vision of the church cast by Nazi dogma and political needs. The Theological Declaration of Barmen 1934 (Die Barmer Theologische Erklärung) helped articulate the framework of the Confessing Church and met the most egregious Nazi efforts in forming the Reichskirche, but more was needed.  In some sense, Nachfolge was Bonhoeffer’s efforts to explain to himself what God required of him.

Who do we follow after?  We are to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1; 304).

REFERENCES

Metaxas, Eric. 2010.  Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy—A Righteous Gentile versus the Third Reich.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson.

[1] http://imprints.simonandschuster.biz/touchstone.

[2] When I entered seminary, I read it again; now having graduated from seminary this is my third reading.  This is the only book, other than the Bible, that I have ever read three times.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Reich_Church.

[4] The Sermon the Mount is found in both the Gospel of Luke (Luke 6:20-49) and the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 5-7).

[5] The remainder of Nachfolge is in some sense the beginning of a journey on the road to another book, Life Together, which chronicles Bonhoeffer’s work with an underground seminary in Hitler’s Germany. Life Together was completed in Göttingen, Germany (a university town where I also studied) in 1938 (Metaxas 2012, 312).

[6] This chapter focuses on Matthew 9:35-10:42 (199).

 

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