G328 Prayer

Diane's Painting

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father, Beloved Son, Spirit of Truth,

All honor and glory are yours

light of our world

in whose image we were created.

Thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ,

into the world to reconcile us to you

that we might be reconciled to one another.

Forgive our divisions, our ruminations about the past hurts and

our speed in blaming each other for what we ourselves failed to do.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

bring us together

help us to find unity in your community

where there is no ethnicity, no male or female, no class

to divide us any longer.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

G328 Prayer

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

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

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Prayer for Shalom

cherry_tree_04202016

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6 ESV):

We praise you for your example of shalom in the Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

in communion, in relationship, working together in love to sustain and empower and protect our world.

We thank you that you are ever-present and enabling us to become your sons and daughters in your family, which is the church.

We thank you for the gift of salvation and the hope of resurrection available to us through the death and resurrection of your son, Jesus Christ.

Forgive us for our indifference to the suffering of the people of Syria; open our hearts and to mend our ways.

Forgive us for the intolerance of our society, eager to find fault and oblivious to the truth; open our eyes to our own faults and self-deception.

Forgive us for our injustice of poverty and illness among us in a land of plenty;  soften our hearts and open our hands.

Help us to live into our salvation, live into our sonship and live into  peace that passes all understanding knowing you and knowing that you will come in glory to bring us  even closer to you.

Teach our leaders humility; teach us to follow their leadership; help us to make room for you in our lives and share your peace with those around us.

Grant us peace in our hearts, peace in our relationships, and peace with you that made possible by the forgiveness secured by Jesus on the cross.

In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Shalom

Also see:

Prayer for Peace 

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/2vfisNa

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Prayer Day 48: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Disponible en Amazon.com
Disponible en Amazon.com

Almighty Father. We praise you for who you are and for being worthy of our praise. Draw us to yourself. Reconcile us with our neighbors. May we lay our crowns before you and rest only with you. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts; illumine our minds; strengthen our hands in your service. In the Jesus’ name, Amen.

Padre Todopoderoso, te alabamos por lo que eres y por ser digno de nuestra adoración. Atráenos a ti. Reconcílianos con nuestros vecinos. Que podamos poner nuestras coronas delante de ti y descansar sólo contigo. En el poder del Espíritu Santo, abre nuestros corazones; ilumina nuestras mentes; fortalece nuestras manos en Tu servicio. En el nombre de Jesús oramos. Amén.

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Prince of Peace

Life_in_Tension_web“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and
over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time
forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isa 9:6-7 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Shalom (שָׁלוֹם) as “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace” (BDB 10002) is divine attribute and mostly out of reach in the Old Testament. More typically, conflict was the norm.

In the Books of the Law, conflict between brothers is a theme repeated over and over. After the conflict between Cain and Abel, we see conflict between the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau, over the birthright and inheritance (Gen 25:26-34). Later, Jacob’s sons are so jealous of the favoritism shown to their brother, Joseph, that they sell him into slavery (Gen 37:2-28). This brother’s theme clearly points, like the sublimated violence in our own time, towards an absence of shalom and the need for God.

Interestingly, when Stephen recites the Story of Israel in Acts 7, he lingers over the story of a young Moses attempting to reconcile two of his Hebrew “brothers”, but without success:

“One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, Why do you strike your companion? He answered, Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian? Then Moses was afraid, and thought, Surely the thing is known. When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian.” (Exod 2:11-15 ESV)

In effect, Moses tries emulate God’s reconciliation between Cain and Abel by making peace between his brothers, but his own sin gets in the way and his reconciliation fails—a murderer cannot easily make peace!

In the Books of the Prophets, peace remains out of reach. Two dominant types of conflict emerge.

The first type of conflict is between the Nation of Israel and God. The covenant with Moses, summarized in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and reiterated in Deuteronomy 5, is repeatedly forgotten. Nevertheless, God offers a promise:

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.” (Deut 30:1-3 ESV)

In other words, peace with God will be restored if you obey the commandments. Here is the invitation to pursuing holiness. But the destruction of Israel and the scattering of the people of Israel is also anticipated. God repeatedly sent the prophets to remind people of the covenant and to chasen the Nation of Israel to prevent this from happening.

The second type of conflict was internal to the Nation of Israel. King Solomon may have been a wise man, but he was an opulent ruler who laid a heavy tax burden on the nation. When he died and his son, Rehoboam, became king, the tribes of Israel sent delegates to the king asking him to go easy on the taxes. He asked his father’s advisers and his friends how to respond. His father’s advisers counseled lower taxes; his friends counseled higher taxes. Rehoboam decided to listen to his friends—implicitly rejecting both his father’s advisors and his father’s relationship with God. When he raised taxes, the tribes rebelled and the kingdom was split. Two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, remained loyal to Rehoboam (Judah); the other ten northern tribes rebelled to form a new kingdom (Israel). The leader of the rebellion, Jeroboam, became the king of Israel. Jeroboam was fearful that people visiting Jerusalem for religious worship would eventually return to Rehoboam so he set up alternative worship sites and recast new golden calf idols (1 Kings 12). These actions were later referred as the “sins of Jeroboam” (e.g. 1 Kings 14:16) [1]. The split of the kingdom was eventually followed by the destruction of both kingdoms and exile of many of the people.

The counterweight to conflict in the Old Testament is the emergence of messianic texts, such as Isaiah 9:6-7, that link the Messiah and heaven to the idea of shalom: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. We place a higher value on things, like shalom, that we normally lack. In the Prophet Isaiah’s vision of heaven he sees:

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” (Isa 11:6 ESV)

The outbreak of shalom—an end to predation and the play of a little child—is a sign of God’s mighty work among us.

 

[1] Animosity between the Northern and Southern kingdoms continued until New Testament times when Jews openly discriminated against Samaritans—part of the Northern Kingdom.

REFERENCE

BibleWorks. 2011. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, LLC. <BibleWorks v.9>.

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

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2 Corinthians 5: Be Reconciled with God and with One Another

Maryam_with_flowers_07292014Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)[1]

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Do you long more for heaven or for something else?

When I was a foreign exchange student in Germany, I never missed home more than during Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a uniquely North American holiday when families converge and spend time together.  The foreign student office arranged a dinner party for the Americans on campus, but goose is not a perfect substitute for turkey. So between my incomplete comprehension of German at that point and my absence from the family, my homesickness reached a peak.

As Christians, we experience sin as a similar kind of homesickness.  We groan feeling the particular pain of knowing our sinfulness and separation from God (v 4).  It is much like the point in a fight with your spouse when you know that you screwed up but still have not reconciled.  Or, like Adam and Eve as they are being sent out of the garden (Genesis 3:23).  Or, like the prodigal son as he woke up finding himself slopping pigs in a foreign country (Luke 15:15-17).  And even as we groan, all of creation groans with us (Romans 8:18-23).

But as Christians we are not without hope.  We know the source of our problem.  Our holy fear of God’s judgment marshals us to admit our guilt and reconcile with God.  And not only that.  As the Apostle Paul writes:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.  Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others (vv 10-11).

Absent our knowledge of God, our groaning might lead us deeper into sin. The alcoholic, for example, does not have simply a bodily ailment.  The problem of addiction is inherently a spiritual problem—it is groaning without knowledge of God and of the need for reconciliation.  The bottle is not substitute for knowing the ultimate object of our groaning.  We are homesick for Eden and intimacy with God; yet as addicts, we are unaware.

Paul lived this reality.  He wrote:  For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you (v 13).  We evangelize, not just to save others; we evangelize to save ourselves.  Our holy fear of God means that we feel God’s heart for the fallen and pine for the other objects of God’s holy love—our neighbors.

So in Christ, God gives us new clothes and a new job description—the ministry of reconciliation (v 18). Not only are we marked as God’s chosen as with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21), but also commissioned into His service.

[1] Also: 2 Corinthians 5:10-11.

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2 Corinthians 2: The Path from Discipline to Reconciliation

Artwork by Narsis Hiemstra
Artwork by Narsis Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The notes of the true Kirk [church], therefore, we believe, confess, and avow to be: first, the true preaching of the Word of God … secondly, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus … and lastly, ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God’s Word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed and virtue nourished (Scots Confession, 3.18) [1].

Did you know that the church is not a club, it has its own court system?

In principle, members and church officers of the Presbyterian Church (USA) can be brought up on charges and tried by a church for disobeying church law, as articulated in the Book of Order [2].  In practice, charges are seldom brought.

Two kinds of justice exist in the legal system in the United States:  punitive and restorative justice.  Punitive justice serves to punish the lawbreaker; restorative justice serves to restore the lawbreaker to full community.  The adult justice system focuses on punitive justice while the juvenile justice system focuses on restorative justice.  The Book of Order makes it clear that the purpose of justice within the Presbyterian system is restoration, not punishment.  This is also the lesson that the Apostle Paul gives in chapter 2 of his second letter to the church at Corinth.

Chapter 2 focuses on Paul’s instructions to the church in dealing with a particular person who has caused a problem in the church.   We are not told who the person is or what the problem was—scholars still debate both issues (v 5).  Instead, Paul focuses on how to move forward in restoring this person to full fellowship.

Interestingly, Paul seems to be giving the church in Corinth a “timeout”, giving the church time to work things out themselves.  Paul writes:  For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you (v 1).  Basically, he says that the punishment leveled against the offender is enough (v 6). The offense was against the church and the church dealt with it through, among other things, public shaming (v 7).  Paul refuses to take personal offense (v 5).  Therefore, the punishment was sufficient for the offense and no more punishment is needed.  Instead, Paul writes:  so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. (vv 7-8)  This is a biblical example of forgiveness and restoration.

Harris (2005, 234) sees a 6 step process involved here: offense, punishment, pain and sorrow, repentance, forgiveness, and affirmation [3].

Clearly, this is not the typical scenario in the church today.  What is typical is to hush up controversies and treat them as embarrassments.  Then, after some point the pot boils over and people split the church and leave.

Paul, by affirming the offense and the offender, allows punishment, forgiveness, and restoration.  The offender does not get off free; those offended are required to forgive.  In the end, the community is stronger.

 

[1]Office of the General Assembly.  The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA):  Part I:  Book of Confessions, Louisville, 1999.

[2]Office of the General Assembly.  The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA):  Part II:  Book of Order 2011/2013, Louisville, 2011.

[3] Harris, Murray J. 2005. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians:  A Commentary on the Greek Text.  NIGTC. Grand Rapids:  Eerdman.

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2 Corinthians: Lifting the Veil

The Crucifixion
The Crucifixion

…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV)

How can one be strong in weakness?

At the core of the Apostle Paul’s Second Letter to the Church at Corinth is a paradox. Christ was crucified in weakness, but in his weakness displayed the power of God (13:4).  This same paradox was displayed in Paul’s private pain (12:7-9) and his very public humiliation as he writes:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (4:8-10)

This paradox manifests itself in that when we find ourselves at the end of our rope, we abandon our private idolatries and turn to the living God who is our only real hope.  Paul writes: to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over [our] hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. (3:15-17) Herein lies the paradox, that our own strength (for the Israelites, the law) veils the presence of God in our lives.

Second Corinthians is a very personal and complex letter. For example, Paul provides two separate lists (6:4-10 and 11:23-29) of own afflictions—who brags about being beaten and thrown in prison?  He is writing from Macedonia (9:2) around 56 AD just before his final journey to Jerusalem.  Theological topics addressed include:  the character of God, salvation, the Gospel, the church, the nature of apostleship, Christian ministry, the Christian life, suffering, stewardship, Satan, and eschatology (Harris 2005, 105, 114-125).

The importance of Second Corinthians in the life of the church is underscored by the attention given to even small portions of this letter.  For example, The Confession of 1967 [1] adopted by the Presbyterian Church (USA) emphasizes these verses:

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (5:18-20)

Paul’s emphasis is on reconciling the world to Christ; the Confession expands on this idea to speak about reconciling the church to divergent groups in society.

References

Garland, David E. 1999. 2 Corinthians: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. New American Commentary.  Nashville:  Holman Publishing.

Hafemann, Scott J.  2000. The NIV Application Commentary:  2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Harris, Murray J. 2005. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians:  A Commentary on the Greek Text.  NIGTC. Grand Rapids:  Eerdman.

[1] www.pcusa.org/resource/book-of-confessions

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