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

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webOh dear Lord,
I give thanks that you are ever near to me—not too proud to linger with your servant and call me friend. Bless me with your spirit of humility and generosity—generous in time, generous in friendship, and generous in sharing yourself. Keep me safe from bad company; keep me safe from pious arrogance; keep me safe from my own sinful heart. Let me always be ever near to you, now and always, through the power of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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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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2 Corinthians 6: Accredited in Christ

Celtic Cross
Celtic Cross

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry… (2 Corinthians 6:3 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Having a bit of Irish in me, seminary introduced me for the first time to the story of Saint Patrick.  Up to that point, I associated Saint Patrick primarily with green beer.  In fact, Saint Patrick is credited by some with saving the Christian faith.  However, Saint Patrick did not start out as a saint.  Born into an aristocratic British family in the late fourth century AD, at the age of 16 he was kidnapped by Celtic pirates and sold into slavery.  For six years he worked herding cattle living as a slave in the Irish wilderness.  There he learned humility being forced to depend on God; learned to speak the Celtic language; and learned to love the Celtic people.  Patrick began to pray for the Irish to reconcile with God.  In response to a dream, he escaped his master and returned to England where he studied to become a priest.  He was later commissioned as bishop and returned to Ireland as an evangelist.  Patrick and his colleagues were so successful in starting churches in Ireland that they later turned their attention to the continent of Europe and began the process of revitalizing the church there [1].  Patrick’s walk with the Lord, like that of Joseph, began in adversity and a life of hardship [2].

The Apostle begins his discourse in chapter 6 with Biblical citation from the Prophet Isaiah:

Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ (Isaiah 49:8-9 ESV)

The phrase “time of favor” translates the Greek word, kairos (καιρός), which means decision time or time of crisis [3].  In order to bring the unsaved to the point of the day of salvation, Paul is willing to undergo all manners of hardships—great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger—and personal disciplines—by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love (vv 4-6) to accredit himself with the unsaved.

Why? Paul’s appeal is to the Christians of the Corinthian church.

Keeping Paul’s audience in mind, he then goes on to admonish these Christians to separate themselves from the idolaters who remain among them.  Paul is not asking them to separate themselves from all unbelievers (that would make evangelism rather difficult), but rather:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 ESV) [4]

Idolatry was a particular problem for the Corinth church because the religions of the day practiced temple prostitution and embraced syncretism—recognizing and practicing multiple religions.  This placed them in direct violation of the Second Commandment—do not practice idolatry (Exodus 20:4).  Paul asks:  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (v 16).  Idolatry and syncretism are important problems today, in part, because modern and postmodern religious movements masquerade as lifestyles, entertainment, political movements, and fads whose religious elements are subtle—they function as religions kind of like an SUV functions as a car even though its legal (or regulatory) treatment is different.

Paul is therefore placing his lifestyle of obedience and hardship in contrast with the lifestyle of opulence and sin practiced by his opponents in the Corinthian church.  Consequently, when I wear a Celtic cross, I am reminded not only of the Presbyterian Church but also the humility of Saint Patrick that helped bring it into being.

[1] George G. Hunter III. 2000. The Celtic Way of Evangelism:  How Christianity can Reach the West…Again. Nashville:  Abingdon Press.  Pages13-25.  Also see:  Philip Freeman.  2004.  Saint Patrict of Ireland:  A Biography.  New York:  Simon & Schuster (PhilipFreemanBooks.com).

[2] Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt (Genesis 39).

[3] καιρός (BDAG, 3857) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology.

[4] David E. Garland. 1999.  The New American Commentary:  2 Corinthians.  Nashville:  B&H Publishing. Pages 330-340.

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Prayer Day 23: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Available on Amazon.com
Available on Amazon.com

God of all compassion. You are the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. We praise you for your example of humility. We thank you for your sacrifice. Help us to confess our sins and forgive those who sin against us. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illumine our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Called Again: Of Bovine and Boxers by Reid Satterfield

Reid, April, and Emma Jane Satterfield
Reid, April, and Emma Jane Satterfield

Called Again: Of Bovine and Boxers by Reid Satterfield

This morning’s guest blogger, Reid Satterfield, writes about a learning experience as a missionary in Uganda.  Reid hails from Charlotte, NC.

Reflection on Cows

One evening—when we still lived in Northwest Uganda—April and I were awakened by the sound of footfalls just outside of our bedroom window.  Alarmed, I jumped out of bed, grabbed a tire iron, and rushed to our front door.  At that moment I was aware that the source of the noise was on the other side of the door.  Bracing for the worst, I opened the door to—of all things—the rear-end of a cow.  Peering around his hindquarters, I could see him munching on our grass, oblivious to me and to the fact that he’d just desecrated my doorstep and—nearly—my feet.  Agitated, I traded the tire iron for a walking stick and laid into that mangy cow.

As the cow galloped away, I returned to bed, satisfied he would not return and grateful for the ebony walking stick—a gift from an elder of a nearby clan.  Sadly, I enjoyed my satisfaction only a moment.  Within minutes the cow had returned and, again, I had to chase him out of my yard.  This cycle was repeated.  The third time he returned I was so angry that I ran outside, stick in hand, and chased that cow for about 100 meters.

Unexpected Outcome

When I came to my senses, I found myself in overgrowth—where recently I’d had a Wild Kingdom experience with rats and a large black mamba (an aggressive and highly poisonous snake)—wearing only boxer shorts and flip-flops. Chastened, I returned home to a rather amused wife and with another “teachable moment” to ponder.

Following Christ is not always glamorous…it can be downright degrading.  But, these little humiliations that we endure in Christ highlight an oft-overlooked truth that self-regard and humility do not go together.  Following Christ is a “downwardly mobile” pathway [1]. To serve Christ is to count yourself as the least among many; to serve Christ is to put other people’s needs ahead of your own.

So brothers and sisters, accept life’s many humiliations as Christ’s provision for the journey; a journey from self-regard to humility. 

The Apostle Paul’s Words to the Church at Philippi

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).

Biography

I grew up in Hampstead, NC, a small fishing community located in the southeast corner of the state.  Here I spent endless hours outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping, and exploring the salt marshes of the barrier islands. Through conversation and commitment, my mother and father introduced me to Jesus Christ.

During my last two years at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, I committed myself to a life of following Christ and got involved with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF; www.intervarsity.org).  Here I developed an inner joy in being discipled and discipling others. My wife, April, and I met in IVCF and we ached to serve Christ in overseas missions. When we married in June of 1996, we were already on our way becoming missionaries.

Mission to Uganda

April and I were missionaries with the African Inland Mission (www.aimint.org) from 1998 to 2001.  Our daughter, Emma Jane, was born  in northwestern Uganda in August of 2000.  Working among the Aringa people, an unreached tribe along the Congo and Sudan borders, our dream was to share Christ’s love with people previously familiar only with famine, war, and exile.  We loved our little mud-brick house in the bush and planned to make it our life’s work.

In January 2001, rebel troops ambushed, shot, and left for dead a friend and I.  We survived miraculously, but my wounds forced us to return to the states in February.  A year later I entered Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (www.GordonConwell.edu) in Charlotte, NC and later (2004-2012) coordinated of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building for the Charlotte and Jacksonville campuses.

St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission

Today, I serve as the Coordinator of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation at St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission (http://StPatricksMission.org). I also serve as a certified lecturer for Perspectives, a nationwide organization that provides churches with educational resources for engaging in world missions and provide spiritual direction to various leaders in and around the Charlotte Metro area.

[1]  Henri Nouwen.  2007. The Selfless Way of Christ:  Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life.  Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books. (www.HenriNouwen.org)

 

Also see:

Reid Satterfield Commencement Address at GCTS 

Books, Films, and Ministry

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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