Prayer Against Entropy

Doldrums, Sand Dune in Ocean City, MarylandBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Merciful Father,

I praise you for your unchanging character,

your immutability in the face of erosion, pain, and death

for your love conquers all foes,

from the sting of war to the impurity of common dust

that brings disease and biting insects and filth.

I confess that I pale in the present of even tiny obstacles

and fear is a constant companion.

Forgive my timidity, my cowardliness as strength fails me.

In the power of your Holy Spirt,

Instill in me your wisdom and strength to face the day

that I might minister to those around me

and grant me courage to live the life that you intended.

In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Prayer Against Entropy

Also see:

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/Sabath_2018

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Collect for a God Who Listens

Stone Fence, Photograph by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Ever attentive father,

We praise you that you  care enough to listen,

that you concern for the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow is foremost (Exod 22:21-27),

even when we focus on our own concerns and play politics with the welfare of others.

We confess that we are cold-blooded and hide behind walls and rules and policies

that we blame on others even as we seek our own benefit before offering relief.

Forgive us our deaf ears; rid us of our addictions; and heal the wounds

that we have needlessly provoked.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us listening ears

that we might learn from your example even as your wrath pours out on us

and that in our learning we might also share in your salvation.

Through Jesus Christ and in his name, Amen.

Collect for a God Who Listens

Also see:

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/Hebrew_Heart

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A God Who Listens

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

I sometimes joke that when we talk to God, secular people call that prayer, but when God talks to us, they call it psychosis. While Christians are accustomed to God answering prayer, one of the most astonishing attributes of God is that he listens. For example, in the Book of Judges we read:

“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand.” (Jdg 3:7-10)

Pattern in Judges

Brueggemann (2016, 59) records this pattern: “(1) doing evil, (2) angering YHWH enough to produce historical subjugation, (3) crying to the Lord in need, and (4) raising up a deliverer.” Crying out to the Lord may seem like a strange prayer, but the point is that God listens to people in their suffering, even when it is well-deserved. As the Apostle Paul writes: ”God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8)

Why does this hearing attribute of God astonish us? Well, if you do not believe that God exists or that he exists but is aloof (only transcendent), then God’s attentiveness comes as a complete surprise—why would an almighty God pay attention to an insignificant, little me? The short answer is that he loves you—enough to die for you—like a parent loves their child because you are created in his image.

Biblical Accountability

God’s willingness to listen also denotes accountability, as we read:

“You shall not wrong a sojourner [immigrant] or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.” (Exod 22:21-27)

Mistreating the immigrant, the widow, the orphan, or the poor can evoke the wrath of a listening and compassionate God. Note the penalty for mistreating widows and orphans—you will die by sword and your wives and children will suffer without you. Thus, we see that ignoring God does not imply that you can do anything that you want.

The pattern in the Book of Judges is especially interesting because we read: Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdg 17:6) This description might equally apply to our own times.

Modern Examples of Accountability?

Modern example of this accountability might be found in the life of Friedrich Nietzsche, who could described as the patron saint of postmodernism. Nietzche, the son of a pastor, philosophied that “God is dead,” which implied that the Christian foundations of Western morality no longer had any relevance (Hendricks 2018). His work served as the philosophical foundation of the Third Reiche in Germany and communism throughout the world. Both atheist regimes brought about enormous suffering particularly through the Second World War, but also through concentration camps and widespread starvation, even as we witness today in North Korea.⁠1 

Could the defeat of Nazi Germany (1945) and the collapse of communism with the fall fo the Berlin Wall (1989) be viewed as the wrath of God being poured out because of the suffering caused? Was Nietzche’s own insanity⁠2 (1889) a random events?

Personally, I think that we serve a God who listens.

References

Brueggemann, Walter. 2016. Money and Possessions. Interpretation series. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Hendricks, Scotty. 2018.  “God Is Dead: What Nietzsche Really Meant.” Online: http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/what-nietzsche-really-meant-by-god-is-dead. Accessed: June 8.

McGrath, Alister. 2004.  The Twilight of Atheism:  The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World.  New York:  DoubleDay.

Footnotes

1 While some see atheism still on the march, Alister McGrath (2004, 1) dates the heyday of atheism from the fall of the Bastille (1789) to the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989).

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche.

A God Who Listens

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

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/Hebrew_Heart

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Prayer for the Innocent

Red RosesBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Merciful father,

Have mercy on innocent young people

who are being gunned down daily in our schools.

Banish the images of horror; of bodies bloodied;

of students running with their hands in the air;

and of stories of what might have been.

Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.

Cast us me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from us. (Ps 51:10-11)

Let us not bend our hearts with electronic fantasies of power

or hide ourselves from those around us.

But in the power of your Holy Spirit,

Be Thou our vision, O Lord of our hearts;
Naught be all else to us, save that Thou art;
Thou our best thought, by day or by night;
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence our light.[1]
In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

[1] https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/ns/345

Prayer for the Innocent

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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Monday Monologue, Authenticity, May 7, 2018 (Podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a prayer of lament and a reflection on authenticity.

To listen, click on the link below.

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

Monday Monologue, Authenticity, May 7, 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/2018_Ascension

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Thanks for the Memories

RosesBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Beloved father:

Thank you for placing godly friends in my life,

who share my pain and feel my sorrows

more than I even recall.

Thank you for giving me  a loving family,

who have always been with me

even when I was sick and irratible and no fun at all to be with.

Thank you for countless blessings,

which I mostly took for granted

like the legs that I walk on, the ears that I hear with, and the eyes that let me see.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

help me to be more thankful,

to share other’s pains,

to be more loving, and

to share the many blessings.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Thanks for the Memories [1]

Also see:

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/Holy_Week_2018

[1] “Thanks for the memories” is an expression frequently associated with comedian Bob Hope whose theme song had that name.

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Confessional Prayer

Road closed
Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

Forgive me for my many sins, iniquities, and trespasses.

For I have fallen short of your goals for my life,

I have failed to do many things that I should have,

and I have broken trust with your gracious laws.

Have mercy on my through the blood of your son, Jesus Christ,

who lived a sinless life yet was crucified on the cross,

that I might find forgiveness through him.

Hear my prayer. Have compassion on me though I am undeserving.

Fill my heart with your Holy Spirit,

that I might be saved and rest with you eternally.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Confessional Prayer

Also see:

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/2jaUhI7

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Self-Care: A Prayer for the Little Things

Doldrums, Sand Dune in Ocean City, MarylandHoly Father,

I praise you for the quiet days, when I am able to practice self-care, my world seems peaceful, and my mind is at ease.

Forgive my selfish inability to focus on the noise around me, other people’s pain, wars around me, and the distress of so many others.

I give thanks that the weight of the world is on your shoulders,

because I cannot bear it—not today, not ever.

For you alone are God and I can never be.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, help me to be faithful servant in the ways that you made me to be.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Self-Care: A Prayer for the Little Things

Also see:

End Prayer Shaming

Prayer for Shalom 

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/2fEPbBK

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Chapter 5 of Revelation: Harp and Bowl

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Do you get excited when you read the Bible?

In May 2013 I had the privilege of attending a prayer service in Charlotte, NC. Normally, I would drive to school on Friday morning, attend Friday evening and all day Saturday, and drive home late Saturday evening so attending a Sunday morning prayer service in Charlotte was a treat for me.

Harp and Bowl Prayer

This prayer service consisted of prayer mixed with music. Some prayer and music was prepared in advance; some was spontaneous. The point was to praise the Lord, to enjoy the His presence, and to linger. This style of worshipful music and prayer is referred to as a Harp and Bowl service (Rev 5:8; also: www.ihopkc.org). The idea apparently originated with King David (Psalm 141:1-2) which perhaps inspired the Apostle Paul’s admonition to pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17).

The outbreak of worship is Revelations 5 arises immediately after the fifth verse:

And he [the Lamb] went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:7-8).

Worthy to Open Scroll

The excitement arises because of the scroll which: no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it (Rev 5:3 ESV). This scroll, which previously was treated as an idolatrous object of worship (Deut 5:8), was suddenly now being opened by someone worthy: the Lamb—ironically referred to as the Lion of Judah (Gen 49:9). This passage obviously refers to Jesus Christ.

The interpretation of this chapter accordingly hangs on one word: scroll—what scroll is it? The Greek word for scroll is βιβλίον normally translated as: Bible. So why do many translations read: scroll?

The First Book (Codex)

In the first century, the very first book (called a codex) ever assembled was the New Testament (NT). The church did not agree on the content of the NT until the fourth century. However, many of the books now contained in the NT were already assembled together in the first century, bounded together on leather pages printed front and back—an innovation.

Christian evangelists developed the book format for three important reasons—it was cheap, transportable, and was easily distinguished from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament—OT) which were traditionally written on multiple scrolls which were neither cheap nor transportable. Consequently, scholars disagree as to whether the Apostle John’s vision referred to the OT (scroll) or the NT (book). The Book of Revelations is one of the last books in NT to have been written so arguments go either way. Theologically, translating βιβλίον as scroll makes sense because John’s point then becomes that the OT is understandable only when viewed through the lens of Christ.

Getting Excited

So in verse 9 we see a party breaking out in heaven: And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev 5:9 ESV).

So if you get excited reading your Bible, consider yourself an angel!

QUESTIONS

  1. Do you have questions from last week? Did any important events happen in your life this week? Do you have any thoughts that you would like to share?
  2. What sort of seals are we talking about here in v 5:1?
  3. What is the image of the Lion of Judah? (Genesis 49:9)
  4. What about the image of the lamb? (Exodus 12:21)
  5. What is the symbolism of the seven horns? What do horns signify? (Daniel 7:7-8)
  6. What is the image of a new song? (Isaiah 42:10; Psalm 40:3)
  7. What about the four living creatures? (Ezekiel 1:5)
  8. What does Amen (ἀμήν) actually mean?

405 ἀμήν
• ἀμήν (LXX occas. for אָמןֵ , usu. transl. by γένοιτο; taken over by Christians; in pap symbol. expressed
by the number 99 [α=1 + μ=40 + η=8 + ν=50; ESchaefer, PIand I 29], but also as ἀμήν [POxy 1058, 5].
Ins: ISyriaW 1918; MvOppenheim-HLucas, ByzZ 14, 1905, p. 34ff, nos. 36, 39, 46, 84)

1. strong affirmation of what is stated
a. as expression of faith let it be so, truly, amen liturgical formula at the end of the liturgy, spoken by the congregation 16:10 p. 137, 19 Ja.; Cyranides p. 124, 18 Ἀμήν· τέλος· ἀμήν· ἀμήν) ἀ. was almost always put at the end of books, but not in the older mss. (and hence v.l.) Mt 28:20; Mk 16:20

Chapter 5 of Revelation: Harp and Bowl

Also see:

Chapter 4 of Revelation: The Times and The Seasons 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2fEPbBK

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Prayer for the Potter

Remembering the Potter by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty God, Father of our Lord, Spirit of Truth:

Why have you formed me, all-knowing potter, the way that you have? (Jer 18:2-7)

In your creative urge, did you have a special use in mind?

Did you mean me for everyday use, something to hold the baked beans

or maybe a casserole or a tuna salad?

Are my colors plain to all who see me even as I am wholely blind?

Did you mean me for a special holiday, stored away in a special place until the season,

only to be displayed on a particular day, highlighted and remembered and cherished?

Am I brightly colored, festive, memorable even if only for a day?

Thank you, Lord, for veiling your purposes from me.

That I may serve you as you see fit, each and every day.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for the Potter

Also see:

Prayer for Healing, Comfort, and Deliverance 

Prayer for Shalom 

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/2wVZtbb

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