Election for Salvation

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sermon given in Spanish the July 28, 2019 at El Shadai DC, Manassas, Virginia.

Prelude

Let’s begin.

Welcome to El Shadai DC. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a Christian author and volunteer pastor.

This afternoon we continue our study of the assurance of salvation in Christ. In our first week, we talked about John 10 and the nature of eternal life. The following week we looked at Daniel 3 and the salvation of God provided to Sadrac, Mesac y Abednego from the burning furnace. This last week we learned that we are clay in the hands of the potter as described by the Prophet Jeremias in chapter 18.

Today we consider the question: what indicates that our relationship with God is secure? Who has been elected for salvation by God and how do we know? We learn that we are blessed to be a blessing to others.

Invocation

Let’s pray.

Almighty God:

All praise and honor be to you because you have loved us sufficiently to send your son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and offer us eternal life.

We confess that your standard for love is too high for us because we are by nature sinners.

Draw us to yourself. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illumine our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Scripture

The text for today comes from Genesis 12:1-3. Listen for the word of God:

“Now the LORD said to Abram, Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  (Gen 12:1-3 ESV)

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

What does a good relationship look like? (2X)

Normally human life presents challenges small and great. There are quiet days and days with a lot of background noise. There is always something to do for someone. The idea that a relationship exists only when the sun shines, as many people believe, is childish.

In my case, early in my marriage, we had challenges in work and medical challenges. My wife was an immigrant educated as an engineer and for many years she could not work in her field because of her immigration status. She came from Iran and during the 1980s, as now, there were many political problems between the Iran and the U.S. As a consequence, Maryam worked for many years in a woman’s shop and later began teaching in the public schools because they were desperate for math and chemistry teachers. After our three children were born, she had breast cancer twice.

In the middle of all this and my own challenges at work, our relationship was tested and proven. Poverty and health problems were sufficient to destroy the marriages of people we knew. The ups and downs of life require a relationship that is both strong and flexible. One needs to share common goals and have patience to achieve them. It is the same with our faith. (2X). For this reason, we often describe faith as a journey, one that lasts a lifetime. (2X)

Context

In our text of the day, God talks with Abram. He asks Abram to make a trip leaving his country, tribe, and family. In other words, leaving every source of security in the ancient world. The situation for Abram is analogous to that of Hispanics today here in the U.S.

Interestingly, the Lord does not immediate say where to go, but we know from the previous chapter that his father, Terah, was traveling with the family to Canaan. Terah died in Haran halfway to Canaan. Genesis does not say a single word about Terah’s relationship with God, but we know that Abram continued with the same objective traveling to Canaan.

In general, we know also that frequently God speaks to us through other people, including those that do not know him. (2X) When was the last time that God spoke to you? Were other people directly or indirectly a part of this conversation?

Message

Our text of the day is known as the first covenant between God and Abram. In a covenant, both parties want something. God commanded Abram to travel to Canaan. For his part, God offered Abram a blessing:

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse,”

Who wouldn’t want this blessing?

The last part of this blessing is important:”and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  (2X) Here is our key to election. Our salvation becomes obvious when we bless others. There is no such thing as a Holy huddle far removed from the world. The church is blessed when it blesses the world in the name of Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing to others.

This is much like Pastor Julio has reminded us many times. Here at El Shadai DC we love God and other people. (2X) This is the sign of our own salvation when we do it.

It is like the Apostle John wrote:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
 
Because we are created in the image of God, whatever we see God doing, we should do too.

Amen.

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray.

Dearest father

Thank you for you blessing, especially the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Walk with us today and everyday as we share your blessings with others that we meet daily in our families, work, and neighborhoods.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us words of grace and hands for service for the people who do not know you.

In the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Election for Salvation

Also See:

Value Of Life

Other ways to engage online:

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

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/HotWeather_2019

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Assurance of Salvation in Jesus Christ

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sermon given in Spanish at El Shadai DC, in Manassas, VA July 7, 2019.

Prelude

Good afternoon. Welcome to El Shadai DC. For those who do not know me, I am Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a Christian author. I live with my wife in Centreville, Virginia.

This afternoon we begin a new sermon series on the assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ. In a world with so much uncertainty, only Jesus Christ does not change or let us down. Today we are going to start with the passage most famous for this subject, John 10, and I will focus on the nature of eternal life.

Invocation

Let’s pray.

Merciful father.

All praise and honor is yours for you hear our prayers, comfort us in our afflictions, and give us life eternal.

We confess that we not worthy of your affections and we thank you for teaching us to love.

Draw us now to yourself. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illuminate our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Scripture

Today’s text comes from John 10:27-30. Here the word of the Lord:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:27-30 ESV)

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

Who knows someone who accepts no responsibility for themselves and is a constant pain in the neck? Unfortunately, for every one of us a different face comes into view. Normally, when I see someone who annoys me, I tell my kids: there goes another person who Christ died for (2X). This is a private joke in my family that gets frequently repeated.

This joke points to a image of Christ that is the opposite of a person who lacks fiber and is, as they say, a free spirit. By contrast, a shepherd is someone who lives with the sheep in the field and protects them from coyotes, wolves, and lions with only a rod and staff. This is respectable work, but it is also dirty and dangerous. It is an image of physical and emotional strength and is our picture of a natural leader.

Who is the perfect image of a shepherd in your life? (2X)

The First Sentence: Intimate

In the first sentence of our text of the day Jesus uses the image of a good shepherd to demonstrate that our relation with him is intimate. He simply says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Those that are saved listen and follow like sheep. This sentence is interesting because it is laconic—Jesus uses a minimum of words to describe deeply profound concepts—laconic.

In the middle of this sentence is an unexpected phrase: I know them. We expect: they know me. In context, we expect: My sheep hear my voice, and they know me, and they follow me. By means of this unexpected phrase, Jesus makes an important point.

Here we encounter unexpected familiarity—our heavenly shepherd knows us personally. God knows us sufficiently well to call us by name. This inference is credible because in real life, good shepherds call their sheep by name.

The Second Sentence: Secure

In the second sentence of today’s text, Jesus promises eternal life and explains that our relationship with him is secure. He says: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” It is impossible to understand this security without understanding first eternal life. Permit me to focus the rest of my time on this concept of eternal life.

Eternal Life

In his first letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul uses his famous metaphor of the body of Christ. (2X) Listen for the word of God:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. (1 Cor 12:12-14)

Here Paul is speaking about the nature of the church, but a second interpretation is possible.

In Christian thought, we frequently speak about the soul that today we refer to as our identity. In Hebrew thought, this word soul implies the body, mind, spirit, and the people that we are in relationship with. (2X) When we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit enters our life which is the means by which we come into relationship with God. Our souls change forever. Much like we become the body of Christ (as the church is described), we also become united with God, who is eternal.

Being one with God implies that our identity is now held in common with other believers from the past, present, and future. Because God is eternal, being one with God implies that our identity is also eternal. It is also complete because God knows us just as much internally as externally whereas our family and friends only know us from external things (2X).

Example

For those not accustomed to this notion of a shared identity and the soul, what happens to your identity when your mind becomes taken over by a disease such as Alzheimer’s? Do you stop being a person? Do you lose your identity because you no longer remember who you are? No way. When you encounter a person with Alzheimer’s, their identity is retained by the people around them who care for them, order their favorite meals, and tell their stories to other people.

It’s no different when we die. When we die, our identity is retained not only by the many people who have known us, but, in the case of Christians, by the Holy Spirit, who is eternal. God who created us from dust can easily re-create us complete with our identity, our souls, because we have a complete relationship with God.

Parting Words

In this explanation of eternal life, our relationship with God determines if we experience the assurance of salvation or not. When Jesus said: “no one will snatch them out of my hand.” It is clear that no one can interfere in our relationship with God. But, we must accept Christ into our hearts and give him priority in our lives every day. Everything else has been made possible by the blood of Jesus. (2X)

Amen.

Final Prayer

Let’s pray.

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 loner than any stress in this life. In the previous name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Assurance of Salvation in Christ Jesus.

Also See:

Value Of Life

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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A God Who Listens

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

A sermon given in Spanish at El Shadai DC, Georgetown South, Manassas, Virginia, April 28, 2019 (Spanish link).

Prelude

Good afternoon. Welcome to El Shadai DC. For those that do not know me, my name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a Christian author and live with my wife in Centreville, Virginia. We have three grown children.

This afternoon we continue our series studying heaven on earth. Because we are created in the image of God, we want to do all those things that we see God doing. As the Bible says, we serve a God who listens. Follow a suggestion from Pastor Julio, I will focus on the example of the life of my father—the other Stephen Hiemstra as I often introduce him.

Invocation

Holy Father,

All praise and honor are yours, because you hear our prayers, comfort us in our afflictions, and rescue us from death itself. 

We confess that we are unworthy of your affections and we thank you for teaching us to love.

Draw us now to yourself. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illumine our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service. In Jesus’ precios name, Amen

Scripture Reading

Today’s Reading comes from the Book of Exodus 22:21-27. Hear the word of the Lord:

You shall not wrong a sojourner 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….And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

 The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

I often tell the joke that when we speak to God, secular people call that prayer, but when God speaks to us, they call it psychosis.

While Christians are accustomed to God listening, one of the most astonishing attributes of God is that he listens to us! (2X)  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. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. (Jdg. 3:7-10 ESV)

In this passage we see a model known as the Deuteronomic Cycle, which has four parts: the people sin, they fall under subjugation, they cry out to the Lord, and God proves a savior (Deut 30:1-3).

Crying out to the Lord may sound like a strange prayer, but the point is that God listens to people who suffer, even when it is well-deserved. As the Apostle Paul writes: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:8 ESV)

This example of the Deuteronomic Cycle that we see in the Book of Judges is especially interesting because we also read: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdg 17:6 ESV) This time was in many ways similar to our own and we know that maltreatment of immigrants, widows, and orphans can evoke the wrath of God (2X).

History of my Family

This passage has a special meaning for my family because my father devoted his entire professional career to nutrition and food programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). My father worked as an economist in program like food stamps, the school lunch program. And women, infant, and children (WIC). My father was known as the father of the WIC program because he helped set it up. The primary beneficiaries of these program were immigrants (minorities), widows (single moms), and orphans (disadvantaged kids).

These days my father is eighty-eight years old, he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and lives with my mother in McLean. Virginia. In 2016, I published his memoir with the title: My Travels Through Life[1]before writing my own memoir to introduce other people to my father and to learn more myself about his story.

The Hiemstra family came to the United States in 1853 from Holland and the family spoke Dutch for about 100 years in the house and in church. My grandfather refused to teach my father and his brothers Dutch because he wanted them to think of themselves as Americans and because he believed that the Dutch in Holland gave up believing in God.

My father grew up in poverty on a small farm in southern Iowa. Up until the Second World War my grandfather worked the fields with horses and the house had no running water or an indoor bathroom. My father and his brothers attended a small country school. Much later my father graduated from Iowa State University as one of the first in the family to attend college.

My father was a brilliant student, he studied hard, and paid for his studies by joining Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). After graduation, the Air Force sent my dad to serve in Korea. Much later he completed his studies at the University of California at Berkeley. He received his doctoral degree in 1960 and the family moved to Virginia where dad began working for USDA.

Although we did not have a lot of money when I was growing up, our necessities were met, we had our faith, and we had each other. In every town we lived in, we found another church willing to receive us.

For many years in USDA my father traveled to set up new food stamp programs. He spent, for example, a lot of time in Puerto Rico where today two our of three persons received food stamps. When I began my graduate studies much later in Puerto Rico, I got to meet many of my dad’s collogues on the island.

A couple of years ago. I learned that as a yo9ung man my grandfather aspired to becoming a pastor, but he did not have the money to finance his studies so he went into farming. My father continued the tradition of working in agriculture while my uncle John became a pastor. In my case, I was an agricultural economist early in my career and later went o seminary completing both of my grandfather’s ambitions. As a young person, I was close to my grandfather but I did not know about his ambitions until after his death.  

Final Words

Finally, when I published my father’s memoir I was surprised that he did not say much about the impact of his faith on his career. He was a man of few words. But all through the years he always attended church on Sundays and supported the church with special interest in world missions. As a family, we are much blessed by his example.

We worship a God who listens to our cries for mercy and also listens to the aspirations of our hearts. As Prophet Jeremiah wrote: 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”(2X; Jer. 29:11-12 ESV)

This promise is real today as always in the life of those who receive it as in the case of my family.

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Holy father,

Thank you for your forgiveness and your presence in our everyday lives. In the power of the Holy Spirit, grant us the strength to listen more intensively to those around us every day. In the previous name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


[1]Stephen J. Hiemstra. 2016. My Travels Through Life. Centreville, Virginia: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC (Amazon.com).

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Joy in Salvation

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

Sermon given in Lenten Service, 7:00 p.m. April 3, 2019 at Centreville Presbyterian Church, Centreville, Virginia.

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prelude

Good evening. Welcome to the CPC Lenten series on the Hallel Psalms. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. Since graduating from seminary in 2013, I have been a Christian author and volunteer in Hispanic ministry.

This evening we focus on Psalm 116, a thanksgiving psalm that celebrates our personal salvation in the midst of a dangerous world.

Scripture

Psalm 116:1-4

Invocation

Let’s begin with prayer.

Merciful father,

All praise and honor are yours, because you hear our prayers, comfort us in our afflictions, and rescue us from death itself.  

We confess that we are unworthy of your affections and we thank you for teaching us to love. 

Draw us now to yourself. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illumine our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Story

What brings you joy? (2X)

In 2012 I worked at Providence Hospital as a chaplain intern and requested assignment to the Alzheimer’s unit in Carroll Manor. There I met a man who I will call Albert.

Albert spent his days wandering up and down the halls in the lock-down unit.  Albert would come up to you and attempt to talk, but could only blather incoherently, which disturbed him greatly. Other patients could talk; Albert could only blather.

One Friday afternoon, I recruited some patients to attend Happy Hour. Happy Hour was mostly a punch and cookie affair, but they often invited musicians to entertain the guests. 

So being the trouble-maker that I am, I recruited about a dozen patients, including Albert, and headed for the door. As I punched us out, a nurse ran up to me.

Steve, Steve. Where are you going? 

We’re going to Happy Hour.

But you can only take three patients.

So, I recruited several reluctant nurses and headed again towards the door.

Again, the nurse approached me. Wait a minute—you can’t take Albert. He will wander off.

I will keep a special eye on Albert!

So finally, with my dozen patients and the reluctant nurses I took the elevator up to Happy Hour.

Well, we had a blast. The jazz saxophonist playing that afternoon was just wonderful. My patients all got up and started dancing to the music, including Albert. Alzheimer’s patients, unlike other seniors, always have fun because they have forgotten what it means to be shy and embarrassed.

Before we were done, Albert had danced with at least three different women and he came back to the unit speaking in complete sentences. (2X) His awakening lasted another six weeks that I know about. His joy at hearing Jazz music again healed him of his former blathering, which I took as a bonified miracle. IT REALLY WAS A MIRACLE.

Well, if a little joy can bring the absent-minded Alzheimer’s patient back to earth, how much more can the joy of salvation in Jesus Christ change human lives, our lives?

Text

What brings joy to our psalmist this evening?

The first four verses of Psalm 116 tell his story—

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. 2Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” (Slide 1)

Verse one here explains his joy—“I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.” Actually, English translations insert the word, LORD, which does not appear in the original Hebrew or in the Septuagint Greek. The Hebrew simply reads: I have loved because he has heard my voice…We hear an echo of the original Hebrew in John’s first letter: “We love because he first loved us.”(1 John 4:19)

Moving on to verse two, the psalmist reiterates the importance of being heard and takes a vow: “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” This vow is interesting because if you pray or sing this psalm, as is the custom, you also repeat this vow.

How many of us haven’t repeated this vow? I certainly have. My call story began back in 1992 when I cried out to the Lord in Georgetown University hospital over my ten-week-old son, Reza, as he waited for risky emergency surgery for a blocked kidney. God heard my prayer. The surgery succeeded; today my son works as an engineer in Phoenix and here I am as a testimony to answered prayer.

Why is listening so important to the psalmist? Verse three reiterates the answer three times: The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.” In other words,death had surrounded me; hell had opened its doors to pull me in; and I was terrified. The repetition assures us that the psalmist’s vow in verse two is not to be taken lightly.

Verse four then closes the loop by returning to the second half of verse one. Verse one talks of “pleas for mercy, while verse four cites the psalmist’s actual prayer: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!”

So what brings joy to the psalmist? The Lord rescued him from death.  Commentators believe Psalm 116 is a crib notes version of Psalm 18 where King David recounts his own brush with death. Even more bone-crushing details can be found in 2 Samuel 22.

Reflection

Let me pivot at this point to reflect on the backstory to Psalm 116. In this respect, let me draw your attention to the pattern in Psalm 116 that relates to the promise of Moses in Deuteronomy 30. 

Hear the word of the Lord:

“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) (Slide 2)

This passage in Deuteronomy is known as the Deuteronomic cycle. The cycle can be summarized as committing sin, earning the curse, crying out to the Lord, and, then, being redeemed. This cycle appears repeatedly in the Book of Judges.

Probably the most familiar example in Judges is the story of Gideon. The cycle starts with sin and the resulting curse. In Judges 6:1 we read:

“The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD gave them into the hand of Midian seven years.”(Jdg 6:1) (Slide 3)

After being persecuted by the Midianites, the people cry out to the Lord in verse 6 and the Lord sends an angel to call on Gideon, who is busy hiding wheat from the Midianites in a winepress (verse 11). 

Gideon then assembles an elite team of three hundred men to fight against the army of the Midianites described as too numerous to number, like locusts ravaging the land. Responding to a vision in a dream, this team woke the Midianites in the middle of the night with trumpets and torches (2X). Frightened in the night, the Midianites began slaughtering each other in the dark (Jdg 7:22). 

In this manner, the Lord freed the Israelite people from the oppression of the Midianites and brought them the joy of salvation.

Summarizing

Interestingly, the Deuteronomic cycle usually applies to the Nation of Israel as a whole and brought salvation from oppression. Following the pattern established in Psalm 18, however, Psalm 116 applies salvation to the individual rather than to the nation (2X).[1]

Note that the Deuteronomic cycle starts with the commission of sin—the curses of Deuteronomy are a consequence of disobeying the Mosaic covenant.[2]Thus, the cycle can once again be summarized as committing sin, earning the curse, crying out to the Lord, and, then, being redeemed.

Our redemption in Christ follows this same pattern. We sin; we get into trouble; we ask for forgiveness; Christ offers us redemption. 

The key to understanding this parallel is to see sin as a form of oppression (2X). We all experience besetting sins—addictions small and great–that we cannot shake on our own. If gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, it is also a besetting sin that can destroy our self-esteem, ruin our health, and undermine our relationships. Just like the Midianites oppressed Israel, we can be oppressed by besetting sins and we need to cry out to the Lord for our forgiveness and salvation.

Thus, Psalm 116’s personalized the Deuteronomic cycle and directly anticipated the New Testament and our salvation in Christ. In fact, if Jesus and the disciples sang Psalm 116 after the Last Supper, they took this very same vow and, in the resurrection, Jesus experienced God’s deliverance, as the Apostle Paul described in his letter to the Colossians:

“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”(Col. 1:18-19)

What brings you joy?

Closing

Let’s pray.

Merciful Father,

Thank you for listening to us, forgiving our sin, rescuing us in perilous times, and bringing joy to our lives. Be with us now as we return to our homes and daily work. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

References

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

Groseclose, Win. 2015. The Egyptian Hallel Psalms: An Exposition of Psalms 113-118—Observations: Practical, Exegetical, and Theological. New Sewickley Township, PA (Review)

Tucker, W. Dennis Jr. and Jamie A. Grant. 2018. The NIV Application Commentary: Psalms, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Wenham, Gordon J. 2012. Psalms as Torah: Reading Biblical Song Ethically. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. (Review Part 1, Part 2)


[1]While in the Old Testament salvation focused on the Exodus from Egypt, in the Testament salvation focused on the return of the exiles from Babylon. Judea was a Babylonian vassal nation that had rebelled so the New Testament focus on salvation from the sin of rebellion, which was an analogy to the original sin in Genesis where Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s rule by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

[2]In the New Testament, the only citation of Psalm 116 appears in a context of persecution in 2 Corinthians 4:13.

Also see:

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to connect:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Transcendence_2018

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The Spiritual Discipline of Work

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Preached in Spanish at Luncheon for the Soul, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Herndon, VA. February 27, 2019


Introduction

Good morning. Welcome to Luncheon for the Soul. My name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. My wife, Maryam, and I live in Centreville, Virginia and we have three grown children. I am a Christian author and volunteer pastor.
 
Today’s theme is the spiritual discipline of work

Invocation

Let’s pray.

Holy father. Draw us to yourself this morning. Open our hearts; illumine our minds; and strengthen our hands in your service. In the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Scripture

Today’s scripture reading comes from Colossians 3:23-24. Hear the word of the Lord:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:23-24 ESV)

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Story

What was your favorite job and what activity was totally horrible?

In my work as an economist, many times I have said that about one in three years were good. Two years in three were bad because of changes in management or conflicts among managers in the middle of a project. When priorities change in the middle of a project, it is impossible for the project to be a success from the perspective of leadership. It does not matter that the work was extraordinarily good because the office was constantly stressed out and promotion was nearly impossible over many years.

For this reason, today’s scripture reading is particularly meaningful to me. We work for the Lord and not for men.

What was your favorite job y what activity was totally horrible?

Lesson

Every time there is pain or stress in our lives, we have a decision: are we going to turn to God and give it over to Him or are we going to turn into the pain and we feel sorry for ourselves? This second alternative is sometimes known as idolatry.

The gravity of the sin of idolatry is obvious because our faith, time, energy, and money point to the things that we really worship (Giglio 2003, 113). The center of these activities may be in our work—in or out of the church; in or out of the home. Work can many times be a source of stress, fear, and anxiety.

Jesus understands (2X). At one point, he described a scene of lilies and kings. Afterwards, he advised:

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”(Luke 12:29-31 ESV)

In other words, work is important, but the Kingdom of God is more important.

As God designed it, work has dignity. The Bible begins showing a God who works—he creates (Welchel 2012, 7). God’s only son worked with his hands as a carpenter. Thus, when we work with our hands work also has dignity. Remember that almost all of the disciples worked as fishermen—do you think that they return home smelling like lilies? One of the most radicals things that Jesus did was to eat and drink with working people (Mt 11:19).[1]

Paul’s attitude about work was significant for two reasons. First, our work for human bosses is also work for God (Col 3:23-24). Second, many times we work for brothers and sisters in Christ—the family of God. Would you want to disrespect your family? (Phlm 1:16 ESV)

One of the most influential writers of the church historically was a veteran who worked in a kitchen. He did not write very much, but he dedicated his work daily to God in prayer. Brother Lawrence (1982, 23) wrote:

“We should offer our work to Him before we begin and thank Him afterwards for the privilege of having done it for His sake.”

He simply applied the advice of Paul to “pray without ceasing”(1 Thess 5:17) and the spiritual giants of his day beat a path to his door.

One method for spotting prospective idolatry is to ask about your identity. When you are introduced to a new neighbor or maybe someone at a party, how does your spouse introduce you? Is it by your marital status, favorite sports team or profession?

What keeps you busy? (2X)

Prayer

Let’s close with a Word of prayer.

Loving father, we praise you for giving us useful work to do. We praise you for equipping us for work in your church. Thank you for giving us new eyes to see our work, our bosses, and our responsibilities. The harvest is ready. Prepare us to assist the laborers. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1]This citation comes from the parable of the brats, one of my favorites (Matt 11:16-19).

References

Giglio, Louie. 2003. The Air I Breathe.Colorado Springs: Multnomah Press.

Lawrence, Brother. 1982. The Practice of the Presence of God(Orig Pub 1691). New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.

Whelchel, Hugh. 2012. How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.

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Monday Monologues: Sermon on Being Fully Present, August 6, 2018 (podcast)

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I give a sermon on Being Fully Present. (Originally given in Spanish: Presencia Completa).

To listen, click on the link below.

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

Monday Monologues: Being Fully Present, August 6, 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/Sabath_2018

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Fully Present

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

A sermon presented in Spanish at El Shadai church in Manassas, Virginia, August 2, 2018.

Prelude

Good evening. Thank you for coming.

This evening we begin a study of Christian service. Because we are created in the image of God, we want to do all the things that we see in God. Therefore, just as God is always present in our lives, we need to be fully present in the lives of those around us.

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Merciful God,

We praise you for creating us in your image and loving us as your children. Be especially present with us at this time and in this place. In the power of your Holy Spirit, bless our praise and give us the strength to be fully present in the lives of our families and the other persons around us. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

Scripture

The scripture for today comes from the Book of Mark 10:46-52. Hear the word of the Lord:

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46-52 ESV)

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life? (2X)

One answer is to listen actively to the stories of a person, something quite rare in our postmodern, too active, and narcissistic life.

One Saturday, when I was a Chaplain in Providence Hospital in Northeast Washington, there was a lot of noise in the emergency department. There were people in every room and every gurney. The staff was running in every direction and patients were screaming and crying. In the middle of this chaos, there was one man who was especially noisy and bothering the other patients.

As I came to see what was going on, a nurse came and asked him for a urine sample. In the middle of the room, he unzipped his pants and gave her a urine sample on the spot. Immediately afterwards, he returned to his

gurney and began again to cry loudly. He had an athletic build, a hint of a mustache, and was about forty years old. It was obvious that he was drunk.

“Good afternoon,” I said. “I am from pastoral care. Do you have a minute to talk?”

“Sure.”

“How come you are so sad this afternoon?”

“My brother died at the age of forty of alcohol abuse, just like my father.”

“When did your brother die?”

 ¨Five years ago.¨ (2X) ¨So, now you are forty and you think that you also are going to die?¨ I asked speculating.

¨Yes. Today is my birthday.¨

After the revelation of this emotional anniversary, we hugged and began to identify alternatives for dealing with his addiction to alcohol. I remember this visit not only because of all the drama, but because another chaplain before me had could not establish a connection with this patient and failed to have a serious discussion. The connection in this case began when I realized that this patient was experiencing a type of story known as an emotional anniversary.

Today’s scripture

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life? (2X)

The story of Jesus and the bind man, Bartimaeus, includes at least two surprising elements.

The first surprise is that Jesus stopped and talked to Bartimaeus.What celebrity stops to talk to a random person? Jesus did. (2X) The first step in being fully present in the life of anyone is to stop and talk to them. Do you talk to the invisible people in this life who no one else notices? (2X)

The second surprise is that Jesus asks Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” Note that Jesus does not assume that he knows the answer to this question. He offers Bartimaeus respect as an adult and does not view him through his disability as a blind man. (2X)

Bartimaeus’ answer is also interesting. His request to receive healing from his blindness indicates that he has faith. By contrast, “a man lamb from birth” in Acts 3 asked the Apostles Peter and John only for alms (Acts 3:2-3). I believe that the Bible records Bartimaeus’ name because his faith surprised Peter and the other disciples. For us, Bartimaeus’ request seems perhaps obvious because Jesus and this story are just too familiar.

What do we learn from these verses? We need to stop and talk to the invisible people around us and listen carefully to what they say. (2X)

More Discussion

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life? (2X)

In my pastoral training to be fully present meant for the most part to listen to someone actively. Look directly into their eyes and let them tell their story. Only ask questions of clarification occasionally.

If these directions seem easy, they are not. The objective of active listen is to understand the emotional content of the story. (2X)

Author, John Savage, recommends to listen especially for the type of story being told. This story within the story reveals the emotional content that is being communicated.

In the story of the patient in the hospital, the story within the story was an anniversary—in his family the men died at the age of forty due to alcoholism. An anniversary is a story connected to a date on the calendar. Perhaps someone important died or had an serious accident on a particular date. In the story of the patient, the date was a birthday. The most famous date at the time of Jesus was the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt which they celebrated as Passover each year.

Savage (1996, 95) indicates four other types of stories.

1.    A “I know a man who” story. In this case, the person under discussin is normally the person speaking because the subject matter is too sensitive. In the Bible, we read:

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.”(2 Cor 12:2)2.

2. A transition story has three parts—the past, the present, and the future. A hospital visit is normally a transition story. University studies are also a transition with three parts.

A transition obvious in the Bible is the story of the Exodus when the people of Israel left the land of Egypt, went into the desert for forty years, and afterwards entered the Promised Land (Bridge 2003, 43). It is interesting that the people of Israel learned to depend on God during their time in the desert.

3.    A story from the past with current meaning. This is the typical story from the Bible, but this type of story gets special mention in the context of the Lord’s Supper where we read:

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”(Luke 22:19)

4.    A reinvestment story. This is a story like economist becomes pastor. That was then; this is now. In the Bible we see this type of story in the conversion of Paul from a persecutor of the church into an evangelist for Christ.

Finally, after we hear one of the five types of stories being described, the next step is to ask a question to clarify. In my story from the hospital, I asked:

“Okay, now you turned forty years old and think that you are going to die too?” I asked speculating.

The answer to this question will indicate if you have been listening sufficiently well.

Summary

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life?

Every one of us can stop and listen more closely to those around us following the example of Jesus with Bartimaeus

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Holy Father,

Thank you for your forgiveness and presence in our daily lives. In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us strength to listen more closely each day to the people around us. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen

Reference

Bridge, William. 2003.  Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change.  Cambridge:  Da Capo Press.

Savage, John.  1996.  Listening & Caring Skills:  A Guide for Groups and Leaders.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press.

Also see:

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to connect:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Sabath_2018

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Sermon: More Caught than Taught

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sermon presented in Spanish at El Shadai, Manassas, Virginia, June 21, 2018. (Sermón: Más Atrapado Que Enseñado)

Prelude

Good evening. For those who do not know me, my name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a volunteer pastor and Christian author. My wife, Maryam, and I live in Centreville, Virginia and we have three grown children.

Today we continue our study about co-workers in evangelism. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. And as Christians we know that we can best bless others when we share the Gospel through our daily lives.

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Almighty Father:

We praise you for creating us in your image and loving us as your children. Be especially present with us in this time and place. In the power of your Holy Spirit, bless our praise and send your Holy Spirit ahead of us as we extend your light in the Georgetown South Community. In the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Scripture

Today’s scripture lesson comes from the Book of Genesis 12:1-3. Hear the word of the Lord:

“Now the LORD said to Abram, Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3 ESV)

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

Which of you have had mysterious problems with your computer or, perhaps, your telephone?

This past week as I was writing this sermon, my system began, without any input on my part, to use a different keyboard, the international standard, ISO, when in the USA the ANSI standard is normally used. After three or four hours of research, I could not correct the problem. It is difficult to change the default configuration of this system because at this point I am not an expert in this field.

Because we have complex personalities, we also have default configurations. (2X) It is difficult to change them, even when we do not want to accept our default configurations. Our default configurations consist of our daily habits and hopefully of our Sunday habits (Smith).

In the writing of the Apostle Paul, this is the difference between the new person in Christ and the old person of the fleshly nature. (2 Cor 5:17) Our default configuration is exactly the same concept as Paul’s old person of nature. This was the source of much pain for Paul, as he wrote: Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Rom 7:20 ESV) But, our hope arise because we were created in the image of God and want to become like God in Jesus Christ, our role model.

Today’s Scripture

We are blessed to bless others (2X, McDonald)

We discover this concept of blessings in the covenant of Abram and God in Genesis 12:1-3. This covenant is interesting because Abram needed to leave his family, his tribe, and his country—all the sources of security—at a time when the world was very dangerous. And for the most part, Abram never experienced the promises of God during his life. (2X) He traveled around the Promised Land, observed it, and was buried there. It is like being promised a barbecue to receive only the sweet aroma of it. Yet, “he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6 ESV) We receive the same promises of God through Abram and we need to bless others, exactly the same as Abram.

How do we know this? We know it because we are created in the image of God and Christ has told us: As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (2X; John 20:21 ESV)

We are blessed to bless others (2X)

More Observations

For many years it has been said that Christianity is more caught than taught (2X). At lease three stories make this point.

The first story concerns the first letter of Peter, where the most famously quoted verse is: always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15 ESV) The thing is that the rest of the book focuses on lifestyle evangelism, as it says.

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Pet 2:12 ESV)

Works like hospitality speak directly to the heart without words. As you know, works speak louder than words alone. (2X)

The second story arose in the fourth century when we see that Saint Patrick was famous as the first successful evangelist in Ireland. His success was not anticipated because Patrick, as a teenager sixteen year old, was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold as a slave in Ireland. For the next six years he worked as a slave caring for his master’s cattle in the Irish wilderness. Later, he escaped and traveled abroad to study to become a priest. Much later, he returned to Ireland as the church’s first missionary bishop and evangelized the Irish out of love for them. His love of the Irish was obvious and his evangelism focused on offering hospitality. In the end, Patrick and his companions planted more than 700 churches in Ireland (Hunter 2000, 13-23).

The third story is more recent. In the city of Rio de Janeiro  there are many young people caught up in the gangs of the drug culture. In Brazil they call young people with mixed blood (blacks and Indians) as the “killable people.” Many of them die from the violence, but those that survive and are incarcerated by the police also don’t have much hope. In the jails, the police do not feed them or offer medical care. For the most part, the gangs control daily life in the prisons. In this hellish world, there are few visitors, not even Christians, but those that come are mostly Pentecostals who provide food, medicine, and worship services. As a consequence, the gangs respect the Pentevcostals, providing security for their services and allowing young people who really come to Christ to leave the gangs (2X; Johnson)—the only option other than a body bag.

As we have seen, hospitality can be more than just food. In these stories, it can be a faith journey.

Summary

Finally, we are blessed to be a blessing to others. Because our blessing is Christ Jesus, when we share the evangelism in our daily life, we bless others most effectively. After all, the Gospel is more caught than taught.

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Holy Father,

Thank you for your forgiveness and your presence in our daily lives. In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us strength for life and the wisdom to share your living Gospel. In the precious name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

References

Hunter, George G. III. 2000. The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Johnson, Andrew. 2017. If I Give My Soul: Faith Behind Bars in Rio de Janeiro. New York: Oxford. (Review)

Suzanne McDonald. 2010. Re-Imaging Election: Divine Election as Representing God to Others & Others to God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. (Review)

Smith, James K. A. 2016. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, Grand Rapids: Brazos Press. (review part 1;  part 2 ).

Sermon: More Caught than Taught

Also see:

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to connect:

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

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Transcendence_2018

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Slave of Christ

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sermon delivered in Spanish at El Shadai, Manassas, Virginia, March 22, 2018.

Prelude

Good evening. For those who do not know me, my name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a volunteer pastor and Christian author. My wife, Maryam, and I live in Centreville, VA and we have three grown children.

Today we continue our study of collaborators of the Gospel. I will be discussing the question: In what sense are we slaves of Christ. (2X)

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Almighty Father,

We give praise that you created us in your image and love us as your children. We especially present in this time and this place. In the power of your Holy Spirit, bless our praise and work here in Georgetown South. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Scripture

Today’s scripture less comes from the Book of Genesis 1:26-27. Here the word of the Lord:

Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27 ESV)

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

Allow me to begin with a bit of history from my own walk with the Lord.

My son, Reza, was born in August 1992 while I worked as a bank examiner with the Farm Credit Administration in McLean, Virginia. I normally traveled with the examination team four nights a week. For this reason and to facilitate breast feeding, my wife moved Reza’s crib into our bedroom

One Saturday night in October at 2 in the morning, Reza went into convulsions. As a ten-week old baby, it was not very obvious or very loud, but Maryam knew immediately that somethings was not right and we called 9-11 for emergency assistance. Reza was taken to Fair Oaks Hospital and then transferred to Fairfax Hospital. For the entire day, we did not know what had happened, but by Sunday evening they discovered that he had been born with only one kidney and that kidney’s duct had folded over on itself. He needed emergency surgery to correct the problem and was moved again to Georgetown University Hospital.

Alone with my son before terrifying surgery, I was stressed out and emotional. For the first time in my life, I began to negotiate with God for the life of my son. I prayed to God: do not take my son; take me. (2X)

Ten years later, my son was healthy and God reminded me of the promise in my prayer. At that point, I began to seek a seminary. When I say that I am a slave of Christ, I have both personal and biblical reasons. As someone bought and paid for with acts of grace and mercy, I am a slave of Christ. (2X)

Today’s Scripture

In the ancient world there were two types of kings. A local king, who ruled a small kingdom, and a king of kings who possessed a much larger kingdom. In effect, a king of kings had many kingdoms each established through conquest and delegated to his subordinates, who had local kingdoms.

In today’s text we see this same model of kings. Returning to the Garden of Eden, we see God creating us in his image and giving us dominion—

over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27 ESV)

In this passage, God was described as a King of kings, who established a new kingdom in creation for his subordinates, Adam and Eve.

So why do we care? (2X)

We care because since the beginning we were created as servants of God and as slaves totally dependent on our creator and king of kings, God. Since the beginning, we were slaves of God. (2X)

Servants and Slaves

From the beginning, we were not content to be servants or slaves of God. Immediately after creation, Adam and Eve want a promotion and following the suggestion of Satan eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17 ESV). This act was directly against the will of God, constituted an alliance with Satan, and was an act of rebellion against the kingdom of God.

The title, slave of God, appears the first time in the Book of Joshua 1:1-2:

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.  (Jos. 1:1-2 ESV)

In these two verses, it reads in the Hebrew “slave of the Lord”, but most of the time it is translated in English and Spanish as servant of the Lord.

This same interpretative tension exists in the translation of Paul when he uses this same title in Romans 1:1:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom 1:1 ESV)

In this case as well, the original Greek reads slave of Christ, but in English and Spanish the translation reads servant of Christ. This translation is politically correct. But because we are bought and paid for with the blood of Christ, the better translation is slave of Christ, as the Greek says. We are slaves of Christ. (2X)

Servant or Slave?

The older folks here probably remember a hymn:[1] Nothing but the Blood of Jesus, which makes the point found in Hebrews 9:13-14:

“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:13-14 ESV)

We were bought and paid for with the death of Christ on the cross. Thus, we are slaves of Christ. (2X)

Application

In summary, we are slaves of Christ. But why is this important?

When our identities are in Christ before other things we have new priorities. First, life is much easier. We are not slaves of our spouses, families, work, or any other things that a hard life can take from us. Neither are we slaves of fear, emotional pain, addictions, unmentionable sins, or any other chain of Satan. We have liberty in Christ to live within God’s will and are not slaves of any other person.

For example, our marriages are still important, just not ultimately important. In fact, it is much easier to respect our spouses when they are our love and not our masters. The same is true of our kids, parents, and other people. We are equal under Christ and are responsible to love one another as we love ourselves, as the Apostle Paul taught (Eph 6:1-9). Love is more precious because it can never be obligatory.

There are at least three other reasons why we want to accept this title of slave of Christ.

First, the first commandment says:You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exod 20:3 ESV) Note that it does not say no other gods, except for your love, your work, your favorite sports team, and other things.

Second, if we have something other than God as our first priority, bad things can happen. A workaholic without work, for example, is a good candidate for suicide, as we witness every day in this rich society.

Third, God loves us more than anyone else. It would be foolish to disrespect this love. We are slaves of Christ by the grace of God.

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Heavenly father,

Thank you for the forgiveness that Easter brought with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thank you that in Christ we are slaves of your love and kings in your creation. In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us the strength to live in your truth this day and every day. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aGJwAENQuk.

Slave of Christ

Also see:

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer 

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/Lent-2018

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How do Christians Connect with God?

Photo of Stephen W. Hiemstra
Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Mubarak Mosque, Chantilly, Virginia on Religious Founders’ Day, October 15, 2017

Background

Good afternoon. My name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a volunteer pastor and a Christian writer. My volunteer work focuses on Hispanic ministry and I write about Christian spirituality. My wife, Maryam, hails from Iran and considers herself a Muslim. We have been married 33 years and have three grown children.

My comments today will focus on how Christians connect with God. Because today we are celebrating Religious Founders’ Day, I take the inspiration for my talk from a sermon by the Apostle Peter that he gave on the day that the Christian church was founded, which we call Pentecost.

Invocation

Please join me in a word of prayer.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 ESV) In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Introduction

How do Christians connect with God? (2X)

Let me start by asking, what do secular people think about connecting with God?

Basically, they say that if you talk to God, that’s prayer, but if God talks to you, that’s psychosis. While pastor’s often tell this story as a light-hearted joke, psychologist Sigmund Freud described God’s existence as an illusion.[1] Karl Marx believed that religion (that is, God’s existence) was the opiate of the masses.[2] In other words, if you believe in God, Freud tells us you must be nuts and Marx tells us that you must be on drugs.

In my recent memoir, Called Along the Way, published this last month, I write that anyone in this secular age who takes God seriously must be considered a brother or sister in the faith. In this spirit, I would like to thank the Mubarak Mosque for the invitation to speak this afternoon to address this important topic.

Scripture

How do Christians connect with God? (2X)

The basic path to connecting with God is outlined by the Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost. Hear Peter’s words:

“And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 ESV)

Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome about 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, some 2,000 years ago:

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Roman 10:9 ESV)

Rome at the time of Paul’s writing was the capital of the Western world much like Washington DC is today.

Because most of you here today are not Christians, you may be asking yourself why Peter and Paul are so adamant about two things mentioned in these two passages: confession of sins and belief in Jesus Christ (2X).

Transcendent and Holy

To understand the focus here, you need to understand the Christian understanding of God. Christians believe in a personal God who is both transcendent and Holy (2X).

God’s transcendence arises because he created the known universe. The first verse of the Bible in the Book of Genesis says:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 ESV)

As creator, God had to exist before the universe that he created and he had to have been set apart from it. Time, as we know it, is part of the created universe. Consequently, God stands outside of time and space (2X). Because we exist inside time and space, we cannot approach God on our own. He has to reveal himself to us (2X).

Likewise, we cannot approach a Holy God, because we are sinful beings, not Holy beings. Our sin separates us from a Holy God.

To summarize, we cannot approach God on our own because he transcends time and space and because he is holy. Only God can initiate connection with unholy, created beings such as we are. There is no path up the mountain to God; God must come down (2X). As Christians, we believe that God came down in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, whose coming was prophesied from the earliest days of scripture. For example, the Prophet Job wrote (slide 5):

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27 NIV)

The Book of Job is thought by some to have been written by Moses before any other book in the Bible and before he returned to Egypt, which makes the anticipation of a redeemer all the more stunning. Moses himself lived about 1,500 years before Christ.

God’s Self-Revelation

So who is this transcendent God that loves us enough to initiate connection with us in spite of our sin?

Later, after giving Moses the Ten Commandments for a second time on Mount Sinai, God reveals himself to Moses with these words:

“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, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV)

Notice that God describes himself first as merciful. As Christians, we believe that God love is shown to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because God himself has provided the ultimate sacrifice of his son on the cross, Christians do not need to offer animal sacrifices—in Christ, our debt to God for sin has already been paid. This is real mercy, real love.

Listen to the confession given by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [that is Peter’s nickname], then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinth 15:3-6 ESV)

Jesus, as the perfect son of God, is the bridge that God has given us to connect with himself through the Holy Spirit, as Peter said on the Day of Pentecost:

“And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 ESV)

Through the Holy Spirit, we are able to pray to God with the assurance that we will be heard; we are able to read the Bible with the confidence that God will speak to us; and we are able to live our daily lives knowing that God walks with us each step of the way. In this way, as Christians we are always connected with God in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Will you pray with me?

Oh dear Lord, thank you for the gift of your presence through the person of Jesus. Forgive our sin and draw us closer to you day by day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Presentation

Before I turn over the podium, let me read a few words from the acknowledgment section of my book, Life in Tension.

“In the fall of 2014, I was invited to speak at a local mosque about my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality. Speaking at a mosque was new to me and anticipating this visit I spent three days fasting and praying for guidance. Instead of guidance on the mosque visit, God inspired me to write this book.” (xvii)

The reference here is to the Mubarak Mosque where we now stand. Consequently, I would like to present you with a copy of the book, Life in Tension. Thank you.

[1] Sigmund Freud. 1961. The Future of an Illusion. Translated by James Strachey. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

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

How do Christians Connect with God?

Also see:

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer 

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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