Assurance Prayer

Grass

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father, Good Shepherd, Holy Spirit,

All honor and glory are yours because you love us and value our lives more than anyone else.

We confess that we do not deserve this attention and love.

Thank you for the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us a faith that will persist longer than any stress in this life.

In the previous name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Assurance Prayer

Also see:

Prayer for Healthy Limits 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Pentecost_2019

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Monday Monologues: God’s Ethical Image, June 4, 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 congruity and a reflection on God’s Ethical Image.

To listen, click on the link below.

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

Monday Monologues: God’s Ethical Image, June 4, 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 at: http://bit.ly/Transcendence_2018

 

 

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Kinnaman and Lyon Research Faithful Living, Part 2

Kinnaman and L:yons, Good Faith

Kinnaman and Lyon Research Faithful Living, Part 2

David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. 2016. Good Faith: Being A Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme.[1] Grand Rapids: BakerBooks. (Goto part 1; goto part 3)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The notion that Christianity is irrelevant and extreme feels odd, having grown up at a time when things were different. In the course of one generation, the consensus about how the world worked and our place in it changed dramatically, not only on the street but in the church. Snap, one morning you wake up and, after the coffee kicks in, you realize that the “invasion of the body snatchers”[2] occurred while you slept and pod people now control everything. What do you do now?

In their book, Good Faith, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons divide their argument into three sections:

  1. Understanding Our Times.
  2. Living Good Faith.
  3. The Church and Our Future (7-8).

Part one of this review focused on the first section (the invasion of the space aliens above). In the next review (part three), I will address the third section. In this review (part two), I will focus on this second section.

Living Good Faith.

Kinnaman and Lyons offer an interesting contrast involving six principles, which illustrates why Christian faith feels so out of sync today.

Cultural principle 1:

“To find yourself, look within yourself.” (57)

Christian principle 1:

“To find yourself, discover the truth outside yourself in Jesus.” (60)

Cultural principle 2:

“People should not criticize someone else’s life choices.” (57)

Christian principle 2:   “Loving others does not always mean staying silent.” (60)

Cultural principle 3:

“To be fulfilled in life, pursue the things that you desire most.” (57)

Christian principle 3: “Joy is found not in pursuing our own desires but in giving of ourselves to bless others” (60)

Cultural principle 4:

“Enjoying yourself is the highest goal of life.” (57)

Christian principle 4: “The highest goal of life is giving glory to God.” (60)

Cultural principle 5:  

 “People can believe whatever they want as long as those beliefs don’t affect society.” (57)

Christian principle 5: “God gives people the freedom to believe whatever they want, but those beliefs always affect society.” (60)

Cultural principle 6:   

“Any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is fine.” (57)

Christian principle 6: “God designed boundaries for sex and sexuality in order for humans to flourish.” (60)

The scariest part of this observation is that many Christians have bought into the cultural principles, first articulated by Roman philosopher Lucretius one hundred years before Christ, and abandoned the Christian ones (59, 62). People forget that the church has been struggling with pagan philosophies from the very beginning.

How do we live the good faith?

Kinnaman and Lyons write:

 “The secret recipe for good faith boils down to this: how well you love, what you believe, and how you live.” (72)

Double Love Command

This is an old recipe for dealing with an old problem and should come as no surprise to those who spend time with their Bible. The authors point to Matthew 22:37-39, which cites the double love command: Love God; love your neighbor. But most people ignore (or misinterpret) the next verse:

“On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:40 ESV)

“The Law” is a rabbinic reference to the Books of the Law (of Moses), which are the first five books of the Bible. “The Prophets” is a rabbinic reference to all the other books of the Old Testament. If you understand what Jesus is saying, then what you believe is not up for grabs—you cannot just interpret love anyway you want. The Old Testament context for love is found in Exodus 34:6 where God provides an interpretative key to the giving of the Ten Commandments:

Interpretative Key to Ten Commandments

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

In this context, love (וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד; rav hesed) is better translated as “covenantal love”—keeping your promises. Keeping your promises is another way of saying living them out, as Jesus’ younger brother James famously says:  “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas 2:17 ESV)

Consequently, Kinnaman and Lyons’ secret recipe for good faith is no secret to practicing Christians, who naturally spend a lot of time with their Bible.

Assessment

In their new book, Good Faith, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons explore the perceptions that Christian faith is both irrelevant and extreme, employing empirical studies and data to make their case. Their analysis bears examination and discussion by practicing Christians, seminary students, pastors, and researchers.

Footnotes

[1] https://www.barna.com, @BarnaGroup, www.GoodFaithBook.org, @DavidKinnaman, http://QIdeas.org, @GabeLyons

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_the_Body_Snatchers.

 

Also see:

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/2wVZtbb

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Stanley: Sex is Easy—Not Easy are Relationships; Be the Right Person

Stanley_LSD_03032015Andy Stanley. 2014. The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Life has become increasingly complicated in the new millennium, in part, because American culture has thrown out “the rule book”. Some blame the pill; some blame the feminists; some blame the media.  Whoever you blame, the irony is that the emotional and financial costs of broken relationships have never been higher.

In his new book, The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating, Andy Stanley writes:

“I’m not all that interested in why things are the way they are.  I’m more interested in helping you navigate the way things are. My purpose in writing is to increase your relational satisfaction” (14).

Fair enough. But then Stanley then offers a rather rare insight:

“I’ve met with many struggling married couples who would describe themselves as having ‘marriage problems.’ But in all my years I’ve never talked to a married couple that actually had a marriage problem. What I have discovered is that people with problems get married and their problems collide. What was manageable as a single person eventually becomes unmanageable within the context of marriage” (20).

Wow.  Instead of looking for that perfect person to solve all your problems, Stanley says—hey, look in the mirror![1]

Andy Stanley is a pastor who does not sound or write like a pastor. He describes himself as a communicator, author, and pastor and founder of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. His book is written in 10 chapters, including:

  1. The Right Person Myth;
  2. Commitment is Overrated;
  3. Becoming the Right Person;
  4. So Becoming;
  5. Love Is;
  6. Gentleman’s Club;
  7. The Way Forward;
  8. The Talk;
  9. Designer Sex; and
  10. If I were You (7-8).

These chapters are preceded by acknowledgments and an introduction.  They are followed by conclusions, notes, and a small group discussion guide.  A DVD video study is also available.

This is a book filled with a lot of wisdom.  For example, Stanley’s discussion of 1 Corinthians 13 in chapter 5 is priceless—he describes it as your list of suggestions on becoming the person that you would want to meet (76).  One item on this list is patience:  Love is patient (1 Cor 13:4). Stanley notes that impatience is an emotion, not a decision, and patience does not come naturally.  We all have a natural pace and get angry when others don’t go along.  Stanley explains that love means deferring to someone else’s pace—in time, space, and margin—just as much as they need (79).

Summarizing all the wisdom would be hard. The cliff notes version of Stanley’s advice is found in chapter 10 which he describes as the “hard sell”.

Stanley knows his audience.  He starts this chapter by repeating a challenge that he made earlier: “Beginning today, take a year off from all romantic and sexual pursuits” (170). This is the hard sell part. Bad habits take two weeks to break;  psychiatrists tell us that addictions are forever—abstinence is the only prescription that truly works.  Bad sexual habits fall somewhere in-between a bad habit and an addiction.  While this might sound like a high price to pay for moral clarity, but the life you save may be your own[2].

Stanley suggests that you spend this year off doing some important things…working to become yourself the kind of person that you would want to meet.  He suggests 5 things:

  1. Address your past—face up to your issues;
  2. Break some bad habits (substance abuse, bad attitudes, poor fashion choices…);
  3. Set some standards—how far is too far?
  4. Get out of Debt—don’t expect to dump debt on a potential spouse; and
  5. Go (back) to church—hang out in the right place (172).

Remember the mirror mentioned earlier?  You cannot change someone else but you can change yourself and become someone that your Mr/Ms perfect might actually want to meet.

This is not a preachy book, but it is an in-your-face book.  Although my wife, Maryam, and I have been married for 30 years, I was already 30 when I got married.  In other words, I was single for a long time—it seemed like forever at the time.  Reading Stanley’s book back then would have saved me a lot of pain.  In today’s social context where learning how to engage in healthy relationships can no longer be learned by osmosis and errors are costly, how does one intentionally learn the lessons needed?

Buy and read this book. Single or not, you will be glad you did.

 

[1] Stanley writes:  “ever purchase something from a big box retailer and open the box to find a card that reads something along these lines?  If this product is defective or a piece is missing, do not return to the place of purchase.  Instead, contact us at 1-800-ITS-YOUR-FAULT.” (59)

[2] The leading cause of suicide among young people is a broken relationship.

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

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webGod of All Compassion and Mercy,
Forgive me, Lord, for the sins of my youth where I fell short of the plans you had for me. When in your great compassion you were kind to me and patient,teaching me your law and demonstrating your grace. Forgive me, Lord, for the transgressions of my youth when I disobeyed your law when in your mercy you looked the other way and disregarded my attitude, teaching me forbearance and gentle persuasion.
Forgive me, Lord, for the iniquity of my youth when I failed to help those around me. When in your everlasting love you sent your son to die to me, atoning for my sin, my transgressions, and my iniquity so that I might grow to be a man mindful of compassion, mercy, and love that were modeled for me all the days of my life through the power of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

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Chapman: Knowing Love’s Expression Can Heal

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

Gary Chapman.  2010.  The 5 Love Languages:  The Secret to Love that Lasts.  Chicago:  Northfield Publishing.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

According to the U.S. Census, the share of children born to unwed mothers rose from 27 percent in 1990 to 40 percent in 2007, with the rate more than doubling among white women over this period [1]. This one statistic implies that in our generation the prospects for children in the U.S. have plummeted. Think more poverty. Think more drug use. Think more suicides. Marriage is not just a romantic idea. Broken marriages are probably the most important social problem of our time.

Gary Chapman gets it.  In his book, The 5 Love Languages, he writes:  Keeping love alive in our marriages is serious business (13).  Relational and emotional sophistication is especially important in a society where

  1. Time is measured in milliseconds;
  2. Families are mobile and both spouses work; and
  3. Community ties are weak

because little or no backup exists.  In this context, if husband and wife fail to commute their love concretely and in a way that meet each other’s needs (fills their “love tank”; 20), then the marriage comes under stress.

Chapman observes that the period of “falling in love” lasts about 2 years (30). This implies a learning period that permits couples to learn about each other and sort out their relationship.  In Chapman’s experience as a marriage counselor, he observed that in healthy marriages couples expressed love in 5 distinct languages:

  • Words of Affirmation;
  • Quality Time;
  • Receiving Gifts;
  • Acts of Service; and
  • Physical Touch (18).

This observation is complicated by two further observations:

  1. We are all by nature egocentric and
  2. Couples seldom communicate love in the same language (15; 32).

When couples fail to learn to communicate love in their partner’s love language, both partners begin to feel that their emotional needs are not being met (the love tank empties) and they feel neglected.

A key challenge in many troubled marriages is learning to identify your partner’s primary love language and communicate love in that language (124).  Chapman sees 3 clues in discovering your primary love language:

  1. What actions or inactions of your spouse are most hurtful?
  2. What things do you most often request of your spouse?
  3. How do you try to express your love to your spouse? (128)

Areas of sensitivity, requests, and expressions of love all point to your primary love language.  Because we are not all alike, expressing love the way we hope to receive it may come across to your spouse like speaking Chinese to an English speaker (15).

How can we love someone that we hate? (151)  At this point, Chapman turns to his faith citing Jesus:  But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:27-28 ESV). While quoting scripture is fairly common, Chapman builds on it. He suggests:  try a little experiment—identify your spouse’s top 2 love languages and work for 6 months to offer them love through them without reacting to their comments or offering criticism.  Then, see what happens (153-162).  What do you have to loose?

Chapman is an interesting read. He peppers his advice with stories of couples experiencing the problem under discussion.  He also talks about his own challenges in marriage. Throughout this book I found myself applying his advice as I read along. Perhaps, you will too.

[1] U.S. Census Bureau. Economics and Statistics Administration. U.S. Department of Commerce. Statistical Abstract of the United States. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2011.

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Prayer Day 50: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Disponible en Amazon.com
Disponible en Amazon.com

Loving Father. Thank you for forgiving us and accepting us back as sons and daughters. Grant us teachable hearts, discerning minds, and strength for each new day. In the power of your Holy Spirit, reveal to us the stumbling blocks that impede our progress as faithful servants. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Padre Amoroso, gracias por perdonar y aceptarnos como hijos e hijas de nuevo. Concédenos corazones enseñables, mentes con discernimiento, y fuerza para cada día nuevo. En el poder del Espíritu Santo, muéstranos las piedras de tropiezo que impiden nuestro progreso como siervos fieles. En el precioso nombre de Jesús oramos. Amén.

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