Kindle Edition of A Christian Guide to Spirituality Now Available

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

This morning a Kindle Edition of A Christian Guide to Spirituality was released and is available for purchase on

Details about both the paperback and Kindle editions are available at:

For those of you unfamiliar with Kindle Books, you do not need to buy a Kindle to read Kindle books. publishes a number of free Kindle readers.  Personally, I like the Kindle reader for PC, but there is also one for IPhone which I use.

Kindle is preferred by many readers because:

  1. Kindle books are cheaper,
  2. You can make the typeface really big,
  3. It is portable on your phone or computer, and
  4. The entire book is searchable.

Authors that I have read claim that EBook users read more books than anyone else and that they make more money on EBook sales than paperback book sales.

Perhaps you asking why it took me so long to come out with a Kindle version?  The paperback version is rendered in a fixed, Adobe Acrobat format, while Kindle (and other EBooks) are a flexible, *.mobi format.  For the former, I had to learn to use Adobe InDesign to get things done right; for the latter, I had to learn to Scrivener—a popular authoring program (  Needless to say, learning new software does take time.

In addition to the book reviews available on, I recommend that you look at an academic review published this week by Michael A.G. Haykin.

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Anniversary– Celebrates First Year

Anniversary: Celebrates First Year

September marks the first anniversary of the establishment of!  This past year in September, I wrote my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality.  I began blogging after I had a draft in hand, in part, because publishers like authors that blog.  As a lifelong writer, however, I was soon hooked and discovered that blogging could also extend my ministry.

Popular Posts

It is always interesting to see what posts are most popular.  Below is a list of all the posts which were visited at least 20 times during the past year.  Reviews are popular, in part, because authors and publishers often pass them around among their own readers.

Why Graphics?

Why did I include the graphics?  I have learned over the year that the most popular posts are often also the ones with the best graphics.  It is no accident, for example, that the only Bible study lesson (Galatians 2:  Jews and Gentiles) and only sermon (The Problem of Pain) to make the list also had great graphics.

Thank you for being a faithful reader!


Title and Link

Graphic Visits Type
Turansky and Miller: Hope and Guidance for Parents Parenting_review_07162014 62 Review
Vote on a Book Cover for A Christian Guide to Spirituality Available on 59 Survey
Metaxas: Bonhoeffer’s Times and Ours Bonhoeffer_06242014 49 Review
RPC Sharpens Shorts; Gets Buy  Shorts_09302013 37 Review
Results of Book Cover Survey Available on 37 Statistics
Galatians 2: Jews and Gentiles  Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 33 Bible
Detweiler: Taming the Electronic Beast Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 31 Review
Plueddemann Demystified Leadership Across Culture Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 30 Review
Exercise Nuts Live Longer; Live Better YoungerNextYear_10262013 29 Review
Single but not Alone: Soul Virgin Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 26 Review
A New Life in an Old Land by Thomas Smith Tom and Ana Smith 23 Guest
Present Suffering and Future Glory: A Chaplain’s Reflection by Aaron Gordon Aaron Gordon 21 Guest
The Problem of Pain, Psalm 51:10  Art in Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC 21 Sermon
Sabbath Rest as Cultural Firewall by Brueggemann Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 20 Review
Keller Engages Galatians; Speaks Gospel  Keller_12302013 20 Review
Butterfield Journeys from PC to JC  Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 20 Review
Farewell to SlopFest by Pastor Brian Clark SlopFest 2013 20 Guest
Music Therapy by Jessica Hiemstra  Jessica Hiemstra 20 Guest
Maxwell Wins by Learning; Inspires Hope  Learn_11222013 20 Review
Sande Resolves Conflicts; Makes Peace  Peacemaker_01022014 20 Review
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Marriage as a Spiritual Discipline

Maryam and Stephen 1984
Maryam and Stephen 1984

 “An excellent spouse who can find? They are far more precious than jewels.” (Prov 31:10)

 By Stephen W. Hiemstra [1]

How has marriage transformed you? If you are not married, how has your parent’s marriage formed you?

Scripture begins and ends with marriage. In Genesis, we see a couple, Adam and Eve, who are just made for each other! In Revelation, an angel informs us: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev 19:9) Obviously, marriage was God’s idea [2].

As an unconditional promise—until death do us part, marriage is also formative and it provides a paradigm for other covenants and the relationship of church to Christ. This implies that marriage is a spiritual discipline.

The Apostle Paul’s comments on mixed faith marriages highlight marriage’s formative character. Paul reports that the believing spouse renders the whole marriage holy for the children (1 Cor 7:12–14). Paul also sees marriage as a witnessing opportunity. Paul asks: “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Cor 7:16) In other words, Paul clearly sees marriage possessing a sacrificial component. Jesus’ own teaching on divorce and remarriage clearly draws inspiration not from the Law of Moses (which admits exceptions), but rather from God’s work in creation which is eternal [3].

But if marriage is a spiritual discipline, how does it draw us closer to God?

Marriage is formative in our faith for at least three reasons. The first reason is that God instituted marriage and commissioned marriage with a blessing and mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion . . .” (Gen 1:28) God created marriage, blessed it, and said it was good—obeying God always draws us closer to him.

The second reason that marriage is formative is that marriage starts with an unconditional promise. God is the eternal promise keeper. In marriage we imitate our creator. Making and keeping good promises—even when it hurts—transforms us and draws us closer to God.

The third reason is that marriage makes us accountable. Our spouses know us in the biblical (covenantal) way! Our weaknesses vex our spouses and they tell us. We sin less because our spouses make us more aware of our sin—a sanctification process that forms us—even if we are not believers! Part of this process is to learn reconciliation skills by using them on a daily basis.

This list of reasons why marriage is formative is especially interesting because God instituted marriage even before he instituted the nation of Israel or sent his son to die on the cross.

God is not irrational. He knows that the biggest beneficiaries of marriage are our children. And he loves them as much as he loves us. Marriage is not exclusively about our own feelings. This is why other relationships are not marriage and why God places a high priority on marriage. We should too.

Almighty and loving God. We praise you for instituting and blessing our marriages. We thank you for the gift of children and for the way you transform us in our families. In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the wisdom and strength to care for our spouses and our children day by day. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.


[1] Reprinted from NCP Online Monthly, July 2014 (

[2] Keller, Timothy and Kathy Keller. 2011. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton. Page 13

3] Deut 24: 1–4, Matt 19:6–9, and Gen 2:24.

Marriage as a Spiritual Discipline

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Camp Sonrise: Do you know the Master Builder?

Camp Sonrise: Do you know the Master Builder?

Camp SonriseLet the children come to me;

do not hinder them,

for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

(Mark 10:14 ESV)

What is your first memory of church?

One of my first memories of the church growing up was vacation bible school (VBS).  As a young person, I spent most summers until I reached high school living with my grandparents on their farm in Iowa.  Every summer my grandmother helped out with VBS and I was an eager participant.  In my home church today, the most important community outreach efforts are play group (mothers with infants), VBS, and the woman’s group.

Camp SonRise takes VBS to a whole new level.  Already this week, 343 campers and 200 volunteers have signed up.

Camp SonRise

Unlike most VBS programs, Camp SonRise does not meet in the church nor does it focus on church kids.  SonRise meets in the community and focuses on community kids.  It actually meets at Sugarland Elementary School (65 Sugarland Run Drive, Sterling, VA 20164) for an entire week (July 14 – 18th 9:30 a.m.—12:30 p.m.)

Camp SonRise serves children of elementary school age.  Volunteers include high school, college, and adult age groups.

The Routine

Campers break up into groups of about a dozen kids of their own age group.  Everyone gets a tie shirt.  The groups spend 3 hours playing games, singing and dancing, doing crafts, watching live skits, having snacks, and having small group discussions.

Each group has at least two leaders.  Most groups have 3 or 4 leaders with both genders represented.  Because the groups spend the week together, campers and leaders get to know each other and keep track of each other.  Groups assure that no one gets lost or forgotten.  Group leaders carry a flag with the group’s letters.


The goals of SonRise are to assure camper and volunteer safety, having fun, and hearing and discussing the word of God.  Rest rooms and water are available. There is a first aid stand, if the need arises.  Because of the summer heat, the outdoor games involve water sports—mostly getting cool by getting wet.

Camp SonRise is free.  Donations and volunteers come from the businesses and individuals in the community and from community churches.

Riverside Presbyterian Church has sponsored Camp SonRise now for 15 years.

Do You Know the Master Builder?

Although Camp SonRise is fun, it has a serious purpose.  This purpose is reinforced through each of the activities in camp.

The theme of Camp SonRise this year is taken from the creation story in Genesis 1-3.  The lesson for day 1—creation and fall—is discussed in the groups, acted out in the skit, and reinforced in the arts and crafts, music, and dance. The kids will be reading this and other stories from the Beginner’s Bible (Grand Rapids: Zonderkidz, 2005) which includes lots and lots of illustrations.

From my experience these past two summers as a group leader, I can attest to the ability of the kids to understand and remember their lessons.  What I can also tell you is that I know these stories better for having told them to the kids.  One of the hard things about going to seminary is learning to communicate the Bible in everyday English.  Working with the kids, I also learned to loosen up in a way that has come harder as I grow older—for me, SonRise was a great grandparent training opportunity!

Get Involved with SonRise

Please pray for the camp, the campers, and the staff.  Pray for camp safety, for God’s Word to be heard, and for lives to be changed.  Pray also for the VBS programs in your own area.  Especially today, the world needs to hear the Gospel and know the love of God.

If you live near Sterling, Virginia:

  • Join the staff as a volunteer—call 703.444.3528 or email:
  • Sonrise set up and decorations – Join us Saturday July 12, 2014 9:00 AM to noon at Sugarland Elementary
  • Sonrise take down – Join us Friday July 18th at 12:30 PM at Sugarland Elementary

Whether you live near Sterling Virginia or not:

  • Donations – this is a “free” camp, totally run on donations.
  • Check the website for more details about SonRise (

What was your first memory of the church?

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Social Media Enhances Ministry Revisited

Author unknown
Author unknown

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This past September I began blogging for the first time and also became more involved in social media.  In October I wrote a newsletter article which outlined my first impressions on how social media contributes to ministry (  This article looks back over the past 6 months and comments on lessons learned.

My blog,, has an online pastor or Christian ministry theme and I post 4 times weekly:  a prayer on Sundays, a book review on Mondays, a guest post on Wednesday, and a Bible lesson on Fridays in English and Spanish.

Social media starts with the word, social, which implies that your online persona builds on your offline persona.  If you are aloof and detached offline, chances are good that this persona will come across online.  Pastors and churches that post only Bible verses or their own program announcements probably will not be effective in social media.  Social media works best when the conversation is more of a personal dialog.

This personal dialog idea is not all that personal.  Social media is not quite a telephone conversation, but its more participatory than watching television.  Think of it as having the option to pick up the phone but with not quite the same incentive—social media participants enjoy an illusion of intimacy.  Its kind of like having a date with someone on another continent.

A couple of events over the past month illustrated this personal dialog principle.  The first event was when I posted my first online survey.  I asked my followers to vote on 4 book cover ideas (  The survey and the write up of the results ( both broke records for most viewings and for daily traffic on my blog.  The second event was when I posted my first You-Tube video (  Viewings for the video the first day substantially exceeded my daily traffic record set even by the online survey.  People relate to video—it is very personal even if it does not offer real dialog.

I often talk about my posts online in offline conversation.  While some may think this makes for tedious conversation, my reviews frequently speak into the space where chaplains live—grief, anger, exercise, personal boundaries, addiction, singleness, marriage, and so on.  It is easier to talk about a review than to inquire too deeply into people’s pain.  This is an extension of what I used to refer to as my book ministry (

Recently, for example, I spoke with a friend who struggled with intense anger as a young person.  In God’s provision, my review that week was a book on anger (  After we discussed the author’s perspective on anger, we also then discussed my lesson on 1 Corinthians 8 from the previous week (  Because my posts are online, sometimes I need only point to the post in order to offer insights.  The point is that the blog enabled a conversation much deeper than might otherwise have been possible—offline dialog complements online dialog.  The reverse is also common.

People online love to cite statistics.  At this point, I am approaching my 200th posting on the blog.  At last count, 87 people follow my blog; 557 people follow me on Twitter; about 125 follow me on Facebook; about 150 people follow me on LinkedIn; and about 25 people follow me on Google+.  As many as 33 people have visited my blog on a single day.  (For You-Tube, the number is 45).  Visitors have come from 50+ different countries. These numbers are meaningful only in comparison with typical attendance on Sunday mornings at Sunday school or in the pews when I preach.  More meaningful is the insight that I know family members who never attend church yet faithfully read my posts.

The tally on my book cover survey raises an interesting point.  Outside of book cover preferences, in the survey I quizzed people about their background.  At the end of 1 week of voting, 54% of the respondents were under 30 years of age and 29% listed their religious preference as other (not Christian) or not sure.  These results confirmed my suspicion that my blog was reaching people not in the choir on Sundays.

Do you want to change the world?  A good place to start is by learning to talk to people both inside and outside the church.

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Almuerzo Para El Alma

Display_NocheBuena_12242011By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Each Wednesday Trinity Presbyterian Church, in cooperation with Riverside Presbyterian Church and other partners, hosts a luncheon and worship service for day laborers and other needy Hispanic people in Herndon, Virginia. This luncheon has been held weekly now for seven years.

The typical schedule is simple. Around 11:15 a.m. the volunteers gather for prayer. At 11:30 a.m. a van and other cars pick up participants near the local 7-11. Lunch is served. Participants are asked to introduce themselves and say where they are from. Several sets of Latin praise music are played and sung.  A sermon is preached in Spanish (or translated in real-time from English). Everyone is dismissed with prayer. The van and other cars then return participants to the 7-11.

Since July 2013, I have been a weekly volunteer. My role is normally to assist in picking up and dropping participants, hang with the participants during lunch, and watching the worship leader’s kids while he sings and plays. I preached once in September and everyone was graciously attentive to my mumbling in Spanish. The volunteers, including the pastors, are all highly motivated because we know that for many participants this is their only church. Lunch is important but participants come for more than simply the food.

Participants come from many Latin counties, but primarily from Central America—especially El Salvador and Honduras. It is humbling to speak with participants. Most day laborers live a hand-to-mouth existence working only a couple of days each week—enough to survive and occasionally send checks home to their families. Many have been here in the U.S. for over a decade and still speak little or no English and live in virtual obscurity. Conversation focuses on encouraging them to open up and share.

Several observations come out of these conversations. The first observation is that most participants are Christians and their spirituality runs deep. Few are Presbyterians; many are Pentecostals; almost all have a Catholic upbringing. This observation is obvious watching Spanish language television—shows are mostly family oriented; people pray and consult their pastor in times of adversity. The second observation follows from the first. Because most participants are Christians, the number of participants with social problems (addictions, psychiatric issues, etc) is low when compared with a typical food bank or shelter population. The third observation is that the problem of narco-trafficking in Central America has seriously impacted many participants. For example, one regular participant recently had two sons murdered by drug gangs who randomly stop people on the street, exhort money, and shoot people unable to provide cash on demand. The fourth observation is that the recent shutdown in the Federal government has hurt local employment.

Attendance at the luncheon has grown dramatically in recent weeks.  Typically attendance in the summer was15 to 20 guests.  In the fall after the Federal shutdown, attendance doubled and tripled the summer rate.  For Thanksgiving, we had over 80 guests.  For Christmas, we had 280.  While there is normally an uptick in need in the winter, guests that I have spoken to in recent weeks have seen little or no work.

November 15, 2013 marked the 450th anniversary of the publishing of the Heidelberg Catechism. The first question in the catechism[1] remains most meaningful: What is your only comfort in life and in death? The answer begins: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. At Almuerzo para el Alma, we serve body and soul.

Reblogged from NCP Online Monthy (

[1] Faith Alive Christian Resources.  2013. The Heidelberg Catechism.  Online:  Date: 30 August, 2013.

Almuerzo Para El Alma

Also see:

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:

Publisher site:


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Top 10 Posts in 2013

Art by Sharron Beg (
Art by Sharron Beg (

Top Ten Posts in 2013 (Title/Link/Views)

1. RPC Sharpens Shorts; Gets Buy / / 33

2. Exercise Nuts Live Longer; Live Better / / 23

3. JOHN 12: Jesus Messiah / / 13

4. JOHN 14: Jesus’ Farewell Consolation / / 13

5. Graham Shares Gospel; Speaks about Judgment / / 12

6. JOHN 18: The Arrest and Trials of Jesus / / 11

7. Schaefer Works Twitter; Brings Business Sense / / 10

8. JOHN 13: Foot Washing / / 10

9. Prayer Day 1, A Christian Guide to Spirituality / / 10

10. Barnes Interprets Heidelberg; Offers Postmodern Reading / / 10

Happy New Year!

Thank you for your support of this ministry.


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Ebenezers, Benchmarks, and Transitions in 2013

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Art by Sharron Beg
Art by Sharron Beg

How will you remember 2013?

Did you watch the corn grow in 2013 or did God break into your life in ways that will change you forever? The Greeks had two words for time which capture this distinction: chronos time and kairos time.

Chronos time is clock time. It is often associated with the Goya painting of Saturn eating his son—a grotesque reminder that each minute on the watch can only be enjoyed during the minute and then it is gone. In chronos time, the corn grows and we watch.

By contrast, kairos time is decision time. When God steps into our lives from outside of time, we experience His presence as crisis. We are changed forever. We are forced to answer the question—who are you, really? This is the experience of God that we read about in Paul when he says: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2 ESV). In kairos time, we grow and God becomes real.

I will always remember 2013 as the year that I graduated from seminary. For 5 years, I worked towards the goal of graduating seminary before my 60th birthday. I passed that benchmark this month. My diploma now hangs on the wall in my office—a kind of metaphorical Ebenezer (a pile of stones erected to God)[1].

School is a transition with a beginning (how you got admitted), a middle (all the classes, experiences, and uncertainties), and an ending (graduation). Looking back, I am not sure which stage in the transition was most stressful!

Other transitions that I will remember include—seeing family members grow, witnessing my first death, preaching my first emotional sermon (, writing my first book (, developing the social side of social media (e.g., and first appreciation Christmas. Of these, appreciation Christmas was probably the most meaningful.

At the Hiemstra Christmas party this year, we got everyone in a room together and shared. The usual fare was been to share things like—what are you most thankful for? Or, what was your most memorable Christmas memory? However, this year I proposed that we go around the room and take turns being appreciated. When it is your turn, everyone else in the room takes a turn telling you why they appreciate you. People really got into this—we spent about two hours appreciating one another. This exercise only works for groups that really know one another, but for these groups it can be a really healing experience [2]. I will never forget.

Return tomorrow to view my Top 10 Postings in 2013.

Thank you for supporting this online ministry.

Happy New Year!

1/ Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, Till now the LORD has helped us (1Samuel 7:12 ESV).

2/ I owe this idea to my Clinical Pastoral Education instructor, Jan Humphreys (

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