Family Prayer

Maryam and Stephen Wedding 1984
Wedding 1984

Family Prayer

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Our heavenly Father,

Thank you for our families,

the ones who raise and care for us when we are small and weak

and cannot care for ourselves.

Break the power of evil words and weak DNA to hurt our family.

Cast out sin and the power of evil to influence them.

Bless our parents, our siblings, our aunts and uncles, and grandparents

with faith and wisdom and your Holy Spirit

that their example may reflect Christ’s teaching to the whole community.

Through the power of your Holy Spirit,

may their lips always profess thanks and lift up the good around them

and may we care for our families even more dearly than they cared for us.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Also see:

Prayer for Father’s Day

Prayer for Moms

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

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JOHN 13: Foot Washing

By Stephen W. HiemstraOld_shoes_10192013

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35 ESV).

What does it mean to be a disciple?

In John’s Gospel, Jesus performs a sign and then explains it.  Here the sign is dramatic—Jesus assumes the role of a slave and washes the feet of the disciples.  He then gives them a commandment:  love one another (v 34).  Both the sign and the commandment are equally dramatic.

John uses the word commandment four times in his Gospel.  In the first two uses, Jesus responds commands from and to God the Father:  but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment– what to say and what to speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life (John 12:49-50).  The third and fourth commandments are the same: love one another (v 34 and John 15:12).   Washing feet—an attitude of service—is the sign that goes with the love commandment.  Love is the only commandment in John’s Gospel.

The idea that Jesus commanded us to love one another is not in dispute.  In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus commands us to love God and our neighbor.  On these two statements of love hang the law and the prophets.  In other words, the double love command summarizes the entire Old Testament.  Similar statements can be found in the writings of Paul, James, and Peter.

Still, the foot washing sign raises some interesting comparisons.  For example, Jesus is not the first foot-washer that we meet in John Gospel—that honor goes to Mary in chapter 12.  Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair.  In chapter 12 Judas objects to Mary’s foot washing; in chapter 13 Peter objects.  Was Jesus so impressed with Mary’s service that he required it of his disciples?  Were the disciples so unhappy with the idea of radical servanthood that they betrayed Jesus?

The other interesting comparison is between foot washing and communion.  John’s Gospel is the only Gospel account to discuss foot washing at the last supper and he neglects to mention communion which is the focus of other accounts (Luke 22:13-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).  By contrast, John’s miracle of the feeding of five thousand where Jesus says–I am the bread of life (John 6:35 ESV)—has the sacramental feeling of communion.

Here John appears to have provided us a radical model of discipleship which substitutes a model of discipleship focused on service both in intimate moments (the last supper) and in public moments (the feeding of the five thousand).  This reading suggests that John’s communion is an outsider’s communion (the feeding of the five thousand) rather than an insider’s communion (disciples only) because it fits his model of discipleship better.

One further comparison is worth mentioning.  The foot washing incident in Luke 7:36-50 involves an unnamed woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with ointment.  In that incident, it is Jesus’ host, a Pharisee, who objects to the foot washing.

Jesus’ lesson on foot washing is a hard teaching–a disciple is one who serves; one who loves.  Left to myself, I object.  Do you?

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Juan 13: Lavado de Pies

Por Stephen W. HiemstraOld_shoes_10192013

Este mandamiento nuevo les doy: que se amen los unos a los otros. Así como yo los he amado, también ustedes deben amarse los unos a los otros. De este modo todos sabrán que son mis discípulos, si se aman los unos a los otros (Juan 13:34-35 NVI).

¿Qué significa ser un discípulo?

En el Evangelio de Juan, Jesús hace una señal y luego lo explica. Aquí el signo es dramática–Jesús asume el papel de un esclavo y lava los pies de los discípulos. A continuación, les da un mandamiento: Ámense los unos a los otros (v 34). Tanto el signo y el mandamiento es igualmente dramática.

Juan usa la palabra mandamiento cuatro veces en su Evangelio. En los dos primeros uso, Jesús responde a los comandos de Dios el Padre: el Padre que me envió me ordenó qué decir y cómo decirlo.  Y sé muy bien que su mandato es vida eterna (Juan 12:49-50). El tercer y cuarto mandamientos son la misma: se amen los unos a los otros (v 34 y Juan 15:12). Lavado de pies—un actitud de servicio es el signo que va con el mandamiento del amor. El amor es el único mandamiento en el Evangelio de Juan.

La idea de que Jesús nos manda a amarnos unos a otros no se discute. En Mateo 22:36-40, Jesús nos manda a amar a Dios y al prójimo. En estas dos declaraciones de amor colgar la ley y los profetas. En otras palabras, el comando doble amor resume todo el Antiguo Testamento. Declaraciones similares se pueden encontrar en los escritos de Pablo, Santiago, y Pedro.

Sin embargo, el signo lavamiento de pies plantea algunas comparaciones interesantes. Por ejemplo, Jesús no es la primera lavador de pies que nos encontramos en Juan Evangelio—ese honor va a María en el capítulo 12. María ungió los pies de Jesús con perfume y le secó los pies con sus cabellos. En el capítulo 12 objetos Judas a lavar los pies de María; en el capítulo 13 Peter objetos. ¿Fue Jesús tan impresionado con el servicio de María que requería de sus discípulos? Fueron los discípulos para descontentos con la idea de la servidumbre radical que traicionó a Jesús?

Otra comparación interesante es entre el lavado de los pies y de la comunión. El Evangelio de Juan es el único relato evangélico para discutir lavado de pies en la última cena y no menciona la comunión, que es el foco de otras cuentas (Lucas 22:13-20, 1 Corintios 11:23-29). En cambio, el milagro de la alimentación de los cinco mil, donde Jesús dice de Juan—Yo soy el pan de vida (Juan 6:35)—tiene el sentimiento de la comunión sacramental.

Aquí Juan se nos han proporcionado un modelo de discipulado radical que sustituye a un modelo de discipulado centrado en el servicio, tanto en los momentos íntimos (la última cena) y en los momentos públicos (la alimentación de los cinco mil). Esta lectura sugiere que la comunión de Juan es la comunión de un extraño (la alimentación de los cinco mil) en lugar de la comunión de un iniciado (sólo discípulos) porque se ajusta a su modelo de discipulado mejor.

Una comparación adicional vale la pena mencionar. El incidente lavado de pies en Lucas 7:36-50 implica una mujer anónima que unge los pies de Jesús con perfume. En ese incidente, es anfitrión de Jesús, un fariseo, que se opone al lavado de los pies.

Lección de Jesús sobre el lavatorio de los pies es una enseñanza difícil—un discípulo es aquel que hace servicio; uno que ama. Izquierda a mí mismo, me opongo. ¿Se opone?

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JOHN 12: Jesus Messiah

By Stephen W. HiemstraCandle_perfume_rose_10172013

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 ESV).

What kind of Messiah is Jesus?

Messiah is a Hebrew word that means anointed one.  John is the only New Testament author to use it and he equates it with the Greek word, Christ (John 1:41; 4:25).  Three offices were anointed:  prophets, priests, and kings.  Two events in John 12 point specifically to the interpretation that Jesus is a Messianic king:  his anointing by Mary (vv 1-8) and his entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (vv 12-19).  Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet and Jesus’ choice of a donkey to ride into Jerusalem both point to humility—Jesus is a king coming in peace.

It is interesting that both events—the anointing and the entry into Jerusalem—appear in all four Gospel accounts.  But the Gospels disagree on  details of the anointing. John’s account, for example, is the only one to place Lazarus at the event and to name, Mary, as the woman anointing Jesus.  Mark and Matthew have Jesus anointed on the head; Luke and John have Jesus’ feet anointed.

All four Gospels have Jesus anointed by a woman—this is a shocking event for a Jewish king. The expectation is that a king is anointed by a prophet.  For example,  the Prophet Samuel anoints both King Saul and King David (1 Samuel 10:1, 16:13).

John 12 marks a transition from Jesus’ ministry into his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. The ESV translation suggests these divisions:  Mary anoints Jesus at Bethany (vv 1-8), the plot to kill Lazarus (vv 9-10), the triumphal entry (vv 12-19), some Greeks seek Jesus (vv 20-26), the Son of Man must be lifted up (vv 27-36), the unbelief of the people (vv 37-43), and Jesus came to save the world (vv 44-50).

The nature of Jesus’ messianic role clearly divides people in John 12.  Judas Iscariot disagrees with Jesus about the perfume used to anoint Jesus supposedly because of the cost.  But female anointment must also have weighed on his mind (vv 4-8)—Jews had trouble seeing Jesus as messiah.  The crowd that gathered at Bethany is clearly interested as much in Lazarus as in Jesus (v 9).  Lazarus must have  reminded them of 1 Kings 17:23 when Elijah raised a young man from the dead—a comparison suggesting a prophetic messiah.  By contrast, the crowd that gathered the morning waved palm branches and chanted words from Psalm 118:25 (hosanna means save us in Hebrew) suggesting that they expected a kingly messiah (v 13).

The appearance of gentiles (Greeks) in verses 20-26 curiously moves Jesus to remark:  The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (v 23).  Jesus frequently mentions sheep in John’s Gospel, but in Matthew’s Gospel he twice says that:  I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24 also 10:6).  As Jesus enters Jerusalem, his mission to the lost sheep of Israel is drawing to a close.

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Social Media Enhances Ministry

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sharron Beg
Art by Sharron Beg

The Capital Christian Writers club ( meets bi-monthly in Fairfax, VA.  The September meeting focused on creating a blog.  While I came to the meeting to network, I left the meeting convinced that blogging would simplify online ministry.

I also left experiencing a bit of fear.

Yes. I have had a website forever.  Yes. I have different accounts—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—but I was clueless about how to use these accounts in ministry.  I opened a Facebook account when I started seminary and was invited to join a group online.  I opened a Twitter account just before the PCUSA’s General Assembly last year.  I have no clue how or when I opened the LinkedIn account.  The fear arose because I did not want to become famous online for reasons that only my kids would understand!

So I bought some books and started reading.  First, I set up a free blog on  Second, I registered a web address to look a bit more sophisticated:  This acronym is short for To Deuteron Pneuma or The Second Wind in English.  Third, I matched my Twitter account address to the blog (@T2Pneuma).  And, fourth, I also opened a matching Gmail email account:  The basic idea is to create a simple online identity that can serve as a personal, brand image in cyberspace.

A blog offers several advantages over a website.  The first advantage is that it is requires no programming and automates most features.   My website ( is built from scratch in Microsoft Word and offers no bells and whistles.  A second advantage is that a blog displays recent articles up front and that allows you to time when articles are posted.  A third advantage is that the blog allows readers to subscribe (or following) to the blog and receive an automatic email when you update the blog.  A final advantage  is that  blog keeps basic statistics on how many people visit the blog and which articles they read.  (My website service also keeps such statistics, but they are kept on a separate website).  Having traffic statistics is a big selling point with publishers. also makes it easy to link with other social media.  When I post an article to the blog, the blog can automatically generate a small blurb with a link and post it in my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.  Facebook speaks primarily to your family and close friends; Twitter speaks directly to the under thirty crowd on the cell-phone; LinkedIn speaks into your office crowd presenting an evangelism opportunity not usually open during business hours.

All these features offer hope that I can migrate my email mailing lists to the blog over the coming weeks.

So what is my writing project?  My book is entitled:  A Christian Guide to Spirituality.  It consists of 50 apologetic devotionals focused on the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostle’s Creed.  Learn more by visiting–—and clicking on the menu title called:  Guide.  The book is currently under review and I am looking for a publisher.


To subscribe to my blog (, pull it up in your browser.  At the bottom right corner, you will see a button entitled:  FOLLOW.  Click it and enter your email address in the box.  My blog will send an email to you at that address.  Be sure to confirm that email when it arrives.

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JOHN 11: Raising of Lazarus

By Stephen W. Hiemstra Jumping

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25-26 ESV).

One big anxiety that amputees experience is that lost body parts embody their identity in ways that must now change. The pain is particularly acute when the body part is associated with a beloved activity. Our hearts go out, for example, to the runner that loses a leg or the brilliant researcher who develops Alzheimer’s disease.  Our body is part of our identity.

God knows who we are and feels our pain—to be human is to be whole in body, mind, and spirit.

Jesus raised the widow’s son out of compassion (Luke 7:13) and he wept before raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:35).  How compassionate would Jesus have been if he had raised the widow’s son from the dead only to have the son live on as a paraplegic?  Or if Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but left him mentally handicapped?

During my time as a chaplain intern, I knew a dear woman who had been resuscitated after her heart stopped for eight minutes.  The resuscitation left her afflicted with dementia and forced to live in a lock-down, Alzheimer’s unit.  The affliction left her family guilt ridden and torn over their decision to resuscitate her.

The point of this story is that resuscitation leaves scars.  Scripture reports that the widow’s son and Lazarus were returned to health without scars.  Consequently, Jesus did not resuscitate them; he re-created them as only God can.

Resurrection is an act of grace—bodily resurrection completes the compassion.

Jesus was bodily resurrected.  When the resurrected Christ appeared before the disciples in Jerusalem, he was hungry; the disciples gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it (Luke 24:41-43).  Furthermore, Christ’s compassion for his own disciples, who had deserted him, suggesting that Jesus did not harbor the deep emotional scars that might normally accompany the trauma that he experienced (John 21:17).

Consider the alternative.  What if Jesus had been raised only spiritually, how long would he continue to empathize with fleshly humans?  Or what if Jesus harbored some grievous handicap or emotional scares?  Would he still have pity on the rest of us?  Would we really want to stand before such a scarred and potentially vengeful judge?

Bodily resurrection is re-creation, not resuscitation.  It gives us hope because our judge is healthy and whole—still human—and he still loves us.

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Juan 11: Aumento de Lazarus

Por Stephen W. HiemstraJumping

Yo soy la resurrección y la vida. El que cree en mí vivirá, aunque muera; y todo el que vive y cree en mí no morirá jamás (Juan 11:25-26 NVI).

Una gran ansiedad que experimentan amputados es que las partes del cuerpo perdidas encarnan su identidad de manera que ahora deben cambiar. El dolor es particularmente agudo cuando la parte del cuerpo está asociada con una actividad amada. Nuestros corazones están, por ejemplo, para el corredor que pierde una pierna o el brillante investigador que desarrolla la enfermedad de Alzheimer. Nuestro cuerpo es parte de nuestra identidad.

Dios sabe lo que somos y siente nuestro dolor—ser humano es ser todo en cuerpo, mente y espíritu.

Jesús resucitó al hijo de la viuda de la compasión (Lucas 7:13), y lloró antes de levantar a Lázaro de entre los muertos (Juan 11:35). Cómo compasivo Jesús habría sido si se hubiera levantado el hijo de la viuda de la muerte sólo para que el hijo vive con un parapléjico? O si Jesús resucitó a Lázaro de entre los muertos, pero lo dejó discapacitado mental?

Durante mi tiempo como pasante capellán, conocí a una mujer querida que había sido resucitado después de que su corazón se detuvo durante ocho minutos. La reanimación le provocó la demencia y la obligó a vivir en una unidad de Alzheimer bloqueado. La aflicción dejó su culpabilidad familiar montado y desgarrado sobre su decisión de resucitarla.

El punto de esta historia es que la reanimación deja cicatrices. Informa de la Escritura que el hijo de la viuda y Lázaro fueron devueltos a la salud sin cicatrices. Por lo tanto, Jesús no resucitar ellos, él los vuelve a crear como sólo Dios puede.

La resurrección es un hecho de la resurrección de gracia corporal completa la compasión.

Jesús resucitó corporalmente. Cuando el Cristo resucitado apareció ante los discípulos en Jerusalén, tuvo hambre, y los discípulos le dieron un pedazo de pescado asado y lo comió (Lucas 24:41-43). Por otra parte, la compasión de Cristo por sus discípulos, que lo había abandonado, lo que sugiere que Jesús no albergan las profundas cicatrices emocionales que normalmente acompañan el trauma que experimentó (Juan 21:17).

Considere la posibilidad de la alternativa. ¿Qué pasaría si Jesús había resucitado sólo espiritualmente, ¿cuánto tiempo se seguirá para empatizar con los seres humanos carnales? ¿O qué si Jesús albergaba alguna discapacidad grave o sobresaltos emocionales? ¿Seguiría ten piedad de todos nosotros? ¿Seríamos realmente quiere estar delante de un juez como cicatrices y potencialmente vengativo?

Resurrección corporal es re – creación, no reanimación. Nos da esperanza porque nuestro juez es sano y entero sigue siendo humano, y todavía nos ama.

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Gabriel Models Virtue; Speaks Worlds

Stephen Gabriel.  2011.  Speaking to the Heart:  A Father’s Guide to Growth in Gabriel_10012013Virtue.  Falls Church:  Moorings Press.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Virtue.  That to which we hold ourselves accountable to.  Or not.  If your forehead were a billboard, what objectives would be written there?  Stephen Gabriel’s book, Speaking to the Heart, is a book that I wish that I might have written at a younger age.

Speaking to the Heart is a book for fathers written by a father (11).  Gabriel’s focus on virtues arises from the desire to be an intentional father who can assist his children in navigating the turbulence of life (12).  For those of us uncomfortable with the subject of virtues, Gabriel advises—pay attention to your discomfort because it points in the direction of wisdom (14).

The book is organized around 20 virtues starting with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love (charity).  These 20 chapters are introduced with an introduction and followed with a conclusion.  Each of the 20 chapters begins with a scripture passage and a famous quote.  The virtue is then defined in a single page.  This definition is then followed by a two page discussion entitled:  “Considerations for Growth in the Virtue of XXX”.

Chapter 7, for example, focuses on temperance.  The scripture passage is 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 which begins:  “All the fighters at the games go into strict training…”  He then cites Robert Burton:  “Temperance is a bridle of gold.”  Gabriel writes:  “Temperance is evidenced by a sense of moderation and restraint in the exercise of our appetites.”  First among the considerations for growth cited is:  “I reflect on how I seek my happiness and fulfillment”.  Another gem is:  “I am more attentive to the people I am with than to the food and drink.”

Gabriel’s Speaking to the Heart oozes authenticity.  What gives the book authenticity is not the author’s professional background, expertise in ethics, or ability to turn a phrase. Gabriel is not an obvious candidate to take up the pen here. Gabriel’s authenticity arises because he promises publically to model virtue as a father and outlines what that looks like.  In a postmodern world devoid of adults, that takes guts.  You want to be a good parent?  Model virtue.

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RPC Sharpens Shorts; Gets Buy

Roy Peter Clark.  2013.  How To Write Short:  Word Craft for Fast Times.  New York:  Little, Brown, and Company.Shorts_09302013

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

So. You are a boomer with a manuscript in hand terrified of having to promote a book in a new world of blogs and tweets.  What do you do?  Start by reading Roy Peter Clark’s new book, How to Write Short.

Clark writes his advice in 35 short reflections organized into two sections:  “How to Write Short” and “How to Write Short with a Purpose”.  He caps these sections off with an epilog: “A Few Final Words–441 to Be Exact”.

Clark’s first reflection focuses on getting you to open your eyes.  In a world inundated with data in the form of writing, images, and sounds, what catches your attention?  Coyly, Clark paraphrases the line from Sixth Sense.  Not, “I see dead people”, but “I see short writing”(15).  Clark collects shorts like other people collect sidewalk pennies.  In reviewing the sparse style of these shorts, he draws attention to the backstory that makes them interesting.  Shorts sparkle because they remind you of something.  A “grace note”, Clark adds, increases the sparkle by reframing the sparkle in a new, interesting way.  Or it may just offer a jolt (17-21).

I did not expect a writing book to be a page turner.  I did not expect How to Write Short would get me to look at my long writing differently.  I do expect that I will be referring back to this book in my book’s next edit. Yeah!

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JOHN 9: Sin and Darkness; Healing and Light

By Stephen W. Hiemstralighthouse copy

Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped (Isaiah 35:4-5 ESV).

What does it mean to be the light of the world?

Jesus declared–I am the light of the world—in John 8:12 after breaking up a kangaroo court accusing a woman caught in adultery.  Now, Jesus repeats this assertion (John 9:4) just before he heals a man blind from birth.

Chapter nine is distinctive, in part, because of the sequence of dialogs, including:  Jesus’ discussion with the disciples (vv 1-5), Jesus heals the blind man (vv 6-7), neighbors question the man (vv 8-12), the Pharisees question the man (vv 13-17), the Pharisees question the man’s parents (vv 18-23), the Pharisees question the man a second time (vv 24-34), Jesus seeks the man and speaks with him (vv 35-39), and the Pharisees question Jesus (vv 40-41).

What is so astounding from this chapter is the transition that takes place in the man formerly blind.  He starts out completely dependent on the grace of strangers when Jesus heals him.   He is not only blind; he is invisible—his neighbors do not recognize him after he receives his sight (vv 8-9).  He knows Jesus only by name (v 11).  As he repeats the story of his healing, he becomes more and more sophisticated in his understanding of what happened.  In the end, he lectures the Pharisees on the theology of his own healing (vv 30-33).  When Jesus speaks to him a second time, the man becomes a believer (v 38).  In effect, the man healed of blindness becomes a model disciple.

By contrast, the disciples ask whether the blindness was the result of sin either of the man or his parents (v 2).  Meanwhile, the Pharisees seem embarrassed the man is healed.  First, they examine the man and his parents to see if the man was previously blind.  Then, when the evidence of the healing becomes irrefutable, they attack Jesus for having healed on the Sabbath (vv 14, 16).  When the man explains the theological meaning of his healing to the Pharisees, they then turn their attack on the man himself and throw him out (v 34).  In effect, the Pharisees modeled spiritual blindness—refusing to recognize the reality of the healing—which was inconsistent with their world view.

The healing itself in verses 7 and 8 is interesting.  The man’s eyes are covered with mud which recalls God’s creation of Adam (Genesis 2:7).  The man is then sent to the Pool of Siloam—the same source provided water for the Feast of the Tabernacles.  This exercise of washing recalls the story of Naaman who was cured of leprosy after being sent to wash in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:10).  In both cases, healing occurred in response to obedience, not because of the water.  Faith in the sender was required.

The formerly blind man’s faith started with reflection on the obvious:  Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see (v 25).  The resolution of the tension in this statement resulted in faith.

Where has Christ worked miracles in your life?  What was your response?

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