More Humility: Monday Monologues, Podcast on March 9, 2020

Stephen_W_Hiemstra_20200125b
Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on humility. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

More Humility: Monday Monologues, Podcast on March 9, 2020

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/Lent_2020

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Prayer for Humility

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Humble Father, Loving Son, Ever-present Spirit,

We praise you for your mercy shown through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Walk with us day by day and grant us a humble spirit that we might enjoy your blessing, forgiveness, and healing.

Keep us focused on your mission, not our own.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Humility

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2020  

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Humility: Monday Monologues, Podcast on March 2, 2020

Stephen_W_Hiemstra_20200125b
Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on humility. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Humility: Monday Monologues, Podcast on March 2, 2020

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/Lent_2020  

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Be Humble, Be Salt and Light

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101You are the salt of the earth, 

but if salt has lost its taste, 

how shall its saltiness be restored? 

It is no longer good for anything 

except to be thrown out 

and trampled under people’s feet. 

(Matt 5:13)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Beatitudes introduce the Sermon on the Mount, where themes in the Beatitudes get expanded and anticipate Jesus’ life and ministry. Some of these same themes are highlighted, for example, on the night of Jesus’ arrest. From the Beatitudes to the sermon to the cross, Jesus’ primary theme is humble witness.

Context of the Sermon

The centrality of Christian witness in Jesus’ teaching is immediate and obvious, starting in the verse after the Ninth Beatitude where Jesus teaches about salt. Salt is a gregarious because its usefulness comes only in combination with food—no one eats salt by itself. Salt is used to enhance the flavor of foods and to preserve them. Metaphorically, “the disciple is to the people of the earth what salt is to food.” The disciple, who refuses to be salt, is useless and stands under judgment—”good only to be thrown out and trampled” (Guelich 1982, 126–127).

The centrality of witness is reinforced with a second metaphor about light (Matt 5:14-16). Clearly for Matthew the tension between the disciple and the world is real, ongoing, and at the core of the mission. At the same point Luke’s account is a discussion of enemy-love (Luke 6:27–28), because without enemy-love no one can witness.

Witness is also a key to Isaiah 61:1:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound . . . (Isa 61:1)

The Messiah is anointed to “to bring good news to the poor” (‎לְבַשֵּׂר עֲנָוִים; “lebaser anavim”), a clear reference to witness. Notice that the Hebrew expression is only two words: the word for poor (“anavim”) which can mean “poor, afflicted, humble, meek” (BDB 7238)  and the word for “bring good news” (“lebaser”). If humble witness describes the Messiah and his job description, then the expression is unambiguous and applies to  Jesus (Schnabel 2004, 3).

Context of the Final Hours

On the night when Jesus knows that he will be arrested and his last minutes are precious, he undertakes two conspicuous acts of humility: he washes the disciples feet at the Last Super (John 13:4-5) and he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:39).

The Gospel of John records that Jesus knew that he would soon be betrayed and die (John 13:1–3) and, while a condemned man is normally withdrawn, paralyzed with fear, and bitter, Jesus calmly begins an object-lesson about humility:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him . . . If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (John 13:3, 4, 14)

Slaves washed most feet in the first century because most people walked barefoot (or wore only sandals) and shared the roads with work animals (who often fouled them), which made dirty, stinky feet the norm. As far as we know, none of the disciples were slaves or owned slaves, but accepting a task reserved for slaves would not have been a popular object-lesson. Peter objected at first, but when he later understood the message about humility, he let Jesus wash his feet (John 13:8–9).

Foot washing is not recorded in Luke, but Luke records Jesus’ teaching about humility:

And He said to them, The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called Benefactors. But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. (Luke 22:25-26)

The importance of humility in Christian leadership and service is clear in Luke without mentioning foot washing. While foot washing demonstrated humility before his disciples, humility before God was demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39) Jesus repeats this prayer three times in Matthew, underscoring the importance of this prayer (Matt 26:42–44).

Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane displays piety, courage, and humility. It also highlights the importance of pain and suffering in sanctification. In suffering, do we turn to God like Jesus or turn into our pain? When we turn to God in spite of pain, we demonstrate our faith and our identity draws more closely to Christ.

REFERENCES

Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius (BDB). 1905. Hebrew-English Lexicon, unabridged.

Guelich, Robert. 1982. The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding. Dallas: Word Publishing.

Schnabel, Eckhard J. 2004. Early Christian Mission. Vol 1: Jesus and the Twelve. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press

Be Humble, Be Salt and Light

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2020  

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Mission Statement

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101Do not think that I have come to 

abolish the Law or the Prophets; 

I have not come to abolish them 

but to fulfill them. 

(Matt 5:17) 

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus offers an interpretative key that explains how to understand both his ministry on earth and his words in the Beatitudes. When Jesus said that he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, he means that he came to fulfill all of Old Testament scripture. In Jewish thinking, the term “law” brings to mind the first five books in the Old Testament—the Books of the Law (or the Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The term “prophets” loosely refers to the remainder of the Old Testament. The implication is that Jesus’ own words have meaning in the context of scripture because they extend it.

The Books of the Law

The Hebrew word for poor in spirit (לְבַשֵּׂר עֲנָוִים; “lebaser anavim”) also translates as: poor, afflicted, humble, or meek (BDB, 7237). In the singular   (“ana”) appears in the Books of the Law only in Numbers 12:3 which reads: “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” (Num 12:3). Only Moses is described as meek and Moses’ relationship with God is described as exceeding that of a typical Old Testament prophet (Num 12:6-8).

“Ana” invites two important observations. First, being poor in spirit draws us closer to God—Moses close. God spoke to Moses directly, face to face, not in riddles or dreams (Num 12:6–8) which is intimacy with God rarely seen scripture since Abraham, who was described as a friend of God (Jas 2:23).

Second, if Jesus spoke Hebrew in delivering the Sermon on the Mount, then the first three Beatitudes could have been expressed in the same word, “ana”, which would be an emphatic statement of humility. The blessing associated with poor in spirit was to receive the kingdom of heaven while the blessing for meek was to inherit the earth. Taken together, being poor in spirit (or meek) in God’s eye gets you both heaven and earth, reminding us of creation (Gen 1:1) and meaning: everything.

The Books of the Prophet

“Ana” also appears in Isaiah 61:1–3, cited earlier. While the Books of the Prophet make many references to the poor, Isaiah 61 is quoted almost verbatim in Jesus’ call sermon in Luke 4:18–19 and stands out for at least two other reasons. The first reason is that the word, anointed, marks this passage as a messianic prophecy. While priests, prophets, and kings were all anointed as messiahs in the Old Testament, God himself does the anointing here. The second reason is that the phrase, “broken-hearted” (Isa 61:1), is a better analogy to “poor in spirit” than “poor” and it provides another reason to prefer “poor in spirit” over simply “poor” in interpreting this Beatitude.

Fulfillment

Jesus’ interpretative key is the verb, fulfill (πληρόω; “plero”), which generally translates as:

to bring to a designed end, fulfill a prophecy, an obligation, a promise, a law, a request, a purpose, a desire, a hope, a duty, a fate, a destiny (BDAG 5981, 4b).

In Matthew 5:17, fulfill is set in opposition to the verb, “destroy”, which is usually rendered as abolish. This verbal opposition is helpful because it underscores the dynamic element in fulfill—one abolishes something static simply by replacing it with a new item. Fulfilment clearly has an expectational element (or forward drift—τέλος in Greek). To fulfill the law is, not to replace it, but to extend it.

This idea of extending the law was new which is perhaps why Matthew offered more explanation and uses the word, fulfill, more than the other Gospel writers. In Jesus’ day, for example, Rabbi’s preached from the Law using the Prophets to interpret its meaning. This tradition might lead someone to say, perhaps, that the law had been “fulfilled” by correctly complying with it. However, the Gospel of Matthew sees prophecy fulfilled in the sense of living it out or taking the next  step rather than the merely honoring the boundaries of existing law (Guelich 1982, 163).

In the Law and the Prophets, we find Jesus anchored in God’s creation and promises. In the word, fulfill, we find Jesus focused on the future giving Jesus’ mission both continuity and purpose.

REFERENCES

BibleWorks. 2011. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, LLC. <BibleWorks v.9>. Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius (BDB). 1905. Hebrew-English Lexicon, unabridged. Guelich, Robert. 1982. The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding. Dallas: Word Publishing.

Mission Statement

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2020  

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Relational Ethics

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Living in Christ

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Humility is one of the Christ’s defining characteristics, which we know from the first three Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew. In these Beatitudes, Jesus focuses on tension within ourselves and honors disciples who live humbly, mourn their fallen state, and embody a spirit of meekness. Such disciples will receive heaven and  earth,  a merism⁠1 meaning everything (Matt 5:3-5). While we normally talk about humility in individualistic terms, the biblical context for humility comes in relationships with our families, churches, and communities.

The Christian Family

In Christ, we honor each individual regardless of status or age as being created in the image of God. The Apostle Paul’s writing is particularly clear on this point. He writes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) No ethic group is better than any other; no economic class is better than any other; and no gender is better than any other. But Paul goes further in his household codes:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:1-4)

He is essentially saying that because we are all created in the image of God, no age group is better than any other. Neither a new born nor a senior standing at the gates of heaven is better than one another. Christians are to value life stages equally, honor the stage you are in, and not cling to any particular stage as if it were intrinsically preferred. 

In this sense, Christianity is a holistic faith that values maturity and embraces each stage of life with equal joy. This makes particular sense in a Christian context because our faith is rooted in history. Creation is the beginning and the second coming of Christ will be its end. Knowing the end is in Christ, we can journey through life in Christ meeting the challenges of each stage in life without fear.

Family Function

Consider the problem of raising children. Research by Stinnett and Beam (1999, 10) reports six characteristics of strong families:

  1. Commitment—these families promote each other’s welfare and happiness and value unity.
  2. Appreciation and Affection—strong families care about each other.
  3. Positive Communication—strong families communicate well and spend a lot of time doing it together.
  4. Time Together—Strong families spend a lot of quality time together.
  5. Spiritual Well-being—whether or not they attend religious services, strong families have a sense of a greater good or power in life.
  6. Ability to Cope with Stress and Crisis—strong families see crises as a growth opportunity.

Here we see humility being worked out in a family context. A key point in unifying these different models of behavior as it pertains to raising children is that adults are present and fully attentive to the children. 

The Family as an Emotional Unit

Family systems theory focuses on “the family as an emotional unit” rather than on particular individuals (Gilbert 2006, 3). This focus runs counter to most counseling approaches which assume the clinical model where the individual is treated as autonomous. Problems with their origin outside the individual obviously cannot be solved by treating the individual alone but that is the common practice. Family systems theory is often applied to other emotional units, like offices, churches, and groups, where relationships are intense and span many years.

The emotional unit is sometimes compared to the plumbing system in your house. If the water pressure rises to the breaking point, the leak will show up in the weakest link in the system. For families, the weakest link is usually a child so when parents quarrel continuously, it is often a child that starts acting out (nail biting, bed-wetting, fighting in school, teenage troubles, etc). If the child is sent to a therapist alone, the problem is not resolved, but when the parents stop quarreling, the child often stops acting out (Friedman 1985, 21).

Families matter more than normal (individualistic) intuition suggests. A death in the family may leave one person with chronic migraine headaches; another may develop back pain or experience a heart attack; a third may exhibit psychiatric dysfunction. While pastors and chaplains may not be surprised by this observation, standard medical and counseling training and practices focuses almost exclusively on the individual.

Humility as Emotional Maturity

Humility is not shyness and is not a natural trait—it is a learned trait that often comes with emotional maturity. It can also often healing within emotional units because anxiety is infectious ( Gilbert 2006, 7).

Anxiety transmission is more rapid and intense in tightly “fused” groups where individual are relatively close and unprocessed emotions run wild, so to speak ( Gilbert 2006, 21). Anxiety transmission is less rapid and intense in groups with individuals who are “differentiated” where individuals are able to separate feelings from thinking and emotions are less readily shared (Gilbert 2006, 33). Gilbert’s grandfather, who farms, attempts to be a “calming presence” when he is working with his cattle; otherwise when spooked, cattle will stampede (Gilbert 2006, 22).

Friedman (1985, 27-31) describes differentiation as the capacity to be an “I” while remaining connected. Differentiation increases the shock-absorbing capacity of the system by loosening the integration. The ideal here is to remain engaged in the system but in an non-reactive manner—a non-anxious presence. Great self-differentiation offers the opportunity for the entire system to change by reducing the automatic resistance to change posed by homeostasis (a tendency to resist change).  Family leaders (including pastors in church families) who develop greater self-differentiation can accordingly bring healing in the face of challenges in dysfunctional organizations.

1 Another famous merism is:  “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)

References

Friedman, Edwin H. 1985. Generation to Generation:  Family Process in Church and Synagogue.  New York:  Gilford Press.

Gilbert, Roberta M. 2006. The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory:  A New Way of Thinking about the Individual and the Group. Front Royal (VA):  Leading Systems Press.0

Stinnett, Nick and Nancy  Stinnett,  Joe Beam, and Alice Beam (Stinnett and Beam). 1999. Fantastic Families: 6 Proven Steps to Building a Strong Family. New York: Howard Books.

Relational Ethics

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Prayer for Leaders

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Christine's WeddingBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty God,

All praise and honor are yours

for you have led us

out of the wilderness of life and

into the Promised Land.

Your salvation begins here and now, and extends into eternity.

We have unfortunately not often accepted your leadership.

We have strayed from the path of life into the jungle of our own desires and

sought refuge in a thousand idols.

Forgive our militant stubbornness, murderous pride, and unlimited insolence.

Thank you for your patience, unrelenting guidance, and your many spiritual gifts.

By the power of your Holy Spirit,

save us from ourselves–our thin skin, laziness, and pride–and

raise up Godly leaders in our land.

who will turn to you in their pain and follow your lead.

Teach us humility before we destroy ourselves.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen

Prayer for Leaders

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

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

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

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webLoving Father,
We give thanks for the life and death of Jesus who lived a humble life and bore our sins on the cross. Help us to practice humbleness and hospitality with all people. Help us to put on Christ’s righteousness and defend your honor, not ours. Help us to pay our taxes, to turn the other cheek, to treat our enemies with love and respect, to go the extra mile seeing it as a ministry opportunity, to judge the actions but not the intentions of those around us.  Help us to end racial and ethic inequality and practice gender and economic equality in all we do. In the power of your Holy Spirit,  may conflict and bickering and gossip end with your sacrifice.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webAlmighty Father,

We give thanks for the gift of faith and the call into ministry which reaches out to our family, friends, and beyond. Guard our hearts in times of weakness, hardship, and temptation. Keep our mind sharp that we offer you our praise with clarity, coherence, and dedication, not tainted by vain desires, cultural confusion, or subtle idolatries. Grant us a spirit of meekness, a spirit of humility seated deeply in our character—not loosely held, superficially worn, or overshadowed by cherished sins. Place in us hearts eager to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. Give us the strength to provide a sacrificial hospitality to those around us. In the face of suffering, make your Holy Spirit especially visible that we would not fail in our ministry due to temptations to be relevant, powerful, or spectacular in the eyes of those in our care. In the strong name of Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Savior. Amen.

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

Cover for Prayers of a Life in Tension

16. Prayers of a Life in Tension

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Amazing Lord,

Teach me to be like you—to love your grace like Christ and to love your laws like Moses and to have confidence in your compassion, meekness, and strength. For there is none like you: glorious and loving and yet truly humble. For you and you alone are Holy—creator of all that is, that was, and that will ever be; creator of heart and mind.  Help me to build on the work of Christ—to comfort the afflicted, to aid the poor, and to offer gentleness and hospitality in place of worldly crudeness and war. Grant me the strength to learn and to apply what I learn; grant me eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that is open to prayer. In the power of your Holy Spirit, teach me to be like you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Also see:

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

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

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