Clean Heart: Monday Monologues (podcast) July 13, 2020

Stephen_W_Hiemstra_20200125b
Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on clean heart. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Clean Heart: Monday Monologues (podcast) July 13, 2020

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: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

Continue Reading

A Right Spirit and Clean Heart

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101

Create in me a clean heart, O God, 

and renew a right spirit within me. 

Cast me not away from your presence, 

and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 

(Ps 51:10-11)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When we think of the word, “holy”, we usually think of moral purity, but another definition is: “pertaining to being dedicated or consecrated to [set apart to] the service of God” (BDAG 61). The same word for holy in Greek also means saint, as well as morally pure and separate.

Moral purity and separation are fundamental ideas in the Old Testament understanding of God, as seen in Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) Two acts of separation occur in creation: non-being is separated from being (Gen 1:1a) and the heavens and the earth are separated from one another (Gen 1:1b). Other separations—darkness and light, morning and evening, dry land and water, male and female—follow in the creation account which God declares to be good.

Contemporary attacks on the goodness of God often start by declaring these separations arbitrary and capricious, especially as they pertain to gender. The argument goes that if these separations are arbitrary, they are also discriminatory, hence not good. Therefore, the Bible teaches discrimination and cannot be considered normative for postmodern Christians.

Good separations, often referred to today as boundaries, need to be clear and concrete. In the Ten Commandments (Exod 20), the law sets forth voluntary boundaries defining who is and is not part of the household of God. This covenant between the people of Israel and God begins with a reminder of the benefits of the covenant: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exod 20:2) The point here is that you were once slaves, but I set you free—you owe me.

A Christian interpretation of this passage takes a different twist. The Apostle Paul talks about being a slave to sin (Rom 7:14). Today we talk about slaves to an addiction, being slaves to fear, or slaves to other passions. God offers us the freedom to escape such bondage, if we seek him. 

The covenantal benefits (blessings) and strictures (curses) were laid out in greater detail in Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy, which means the second book of the law, needed to repeat the covenant for a new generation because God cursed their parents (who had lived in Egypt) for their lack of faith to die in the desert (Deut 1:20–37). Here we first read about the benefits:

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field…. (Deut 28:1-3)

Later in parallel fashion, we read about the strictures:

But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field… (Deut 28:15–16)

These blessings and curses are cited again in Psalm 1: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers… (Ps 1:1)

Reminding people, especially leaders, of these blessings and curses was the primary responsibility of an Old Testament prophet. Those that kept their covenantal obligations were considered righteous under the law (Phil 3:6).

If God considered Job righteous, then why did Job end up suffering? (Job 1:1)

One response to the question of suffering is that Job’s faithfulness was tested by evil circumstances (Job 1:9) and confirmed to be true (Job 42:1-7). Another response is that suffering is a consequence of foolishness (Prov 1:7). The best response is that sin brings suffering, is part of our nature, and God’s intervention is required to overcome it, as we read:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another… (Job 19:25-27)

This theodicy of Job reveals God’s glory and his love for us in providing us a redeemer.

The possibility of a redeemer is prophesied by Moses (Deut 18:15) and expresses God’s forgiveness (Exod 34:7). In praying for God’s forgiveness, King David expressed most clearly God’s intervention in our moral condition, cited above in Psalm 51. David recognized that divine intervention was required for a human relationship with a holy and transcendent God. To be human means to be unholy and mortal, not holy and immortal (transcendent), like God.

Later, God intervened through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to atone for our sin (1 Cor 15:3–10). In Christ and through the Holy Spirit, we can live in obedience to God (set free from the law) and can come before God in prayer and worship.

A Right Spirit and Clean Heart

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

 

Continue Reading

Heros and Children in the Faith: Confession of Sin

wedding-002Heros and Children in the Faith: Confession of Sin

Trinity Presbyterian Church, Herndon, Virginia Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Also, El Shadai in DC, Manassas, Virginia, March 2, 2017.

Welcome

Welcome. My name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a volunteer pastor and a Christian author.

Introduction

Today is Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent, which starts the 40 days before Easter. Because Christ died for our sins, traditionally Lent is a time of reflection over our sins and also over the spiritual disciplines.

The text for today, Psalm 32, focuses on the theme of confession of sin, which can be both bad things we do and good things that we fail to do. Iniquity, the good things that we fail to do, are normally the sins most painful.

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Holy Father. Thank you for your presences among us this morning. We give special thanks that your word still moves our hearts and stimulates our minds. Make your presence especially clear in this moment and this place. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our eyes and give us ears to hear. In the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Text

The scripture for today comes from Psalm 32:1-5. Hear the word of the Lord:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Ps 32:1-5 ESV)

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Context

What should I confess? (2X)

During this past year, I wrote a memoir of my spiritual life of some 300 pages. This was the story of my youth, relationships, growing up, education, and professional life. In the middle of this life, I experienced many interesting things and also committed sins of various kinds. Many times the deepest pains of life came when I could not do good when the opportunity arose. This type of sin is described in the Bible as iniquity and, as North Americans, this is the sin that many times screams the loudest.

For example, as a young man of twenty-seven years, I was unable to accept the opportunity to be a missionary in Latin American because I did not have sufficient faith in God and paid too much attention to my personal life—I simply was not ready. In another context, I could not provide emotional support to a friend of mine after she was abused by her own mother because of alcoholism—I wanted to help but did not have the necessary emotional resources. In both cases, I was not obligated to do anything, but the opportunity to do something better in Christ was lost.

Many times iniquity is the most painful sin because we do not have the capacity to do good things when life requires a hero in the faith and we are still babies in the faith. For this reason, Lent also has a focus on the spiritual disciplines which help us to grow more capacity to do good things in Christ.

What do you need to confess? (2X)

Analysis

Psalm 32 was written by King David after his adultery with Bathsheba and his murdering of her husband, Uria the Hittite in 2 Samuel 11 and the disclosure of the Prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12. His confession is recorded in Psalm 51. But, in Psalm 32 described the experience of David with his confession.

So what did David Say?

In verse 1, David said that it is a blessing to be forgiving. But there is also an interesting sentence: “Whose sin is covered.” This is interesting because the sacrificial system did not cover intention sin, only unintentional sin.[1] God forgave David only because he prayed and his pardon was before the cross of Christ! Psalm 51 is a very important prayer.

What else did David say?

Dave uses different words for sin. Three words are most interesting: sin, transgression, and iniquity. Sin was taken from the word in Hebrew  (‎חֲטָאָֽה) which means to miss an objective like the archer whose arrows fall short of the target. Transgression (פֶּ֗שַׁע) means to break a law. Iniquity (עָוֹ֑ן) means to do something bad or fail to do something good. David’s sins—adultery and murder—were both transgressions of the Ten Commandments.

What elso can we learn from this Psalm?

In verses three and four, David spoke of his depression and guilt for trying to hide his transgressions. But even King David was subject to God’s Law and needed his forgiveness. And we see that his confession resulted in forgiveness and the blessing of God.

What do you need to confess? (2X)

Conclusions

In the context of the church universal, confession is a subjec that Roman Catholics manage better than Protestants perhaps because of their focus today on the spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, Biblical studies, meditation, and confession of sin. Confession, like forgiveness, makes room in our lives for relationships in the community of faith and makes room in the life for better relationships with God.

In the community of faith, confession means that our relationships in the community are more important than our personal guilt. In a competitive world this act of confession is immediately obvious and totally contra-cultural.

Confession is also very important in our relationship with God. Our lives in Christ grow because confession is the beginning of realization that we are not holy like God and we need him.

Consequently, the pain of confession appears in our lives like a sweet sacrifice before a Holy God and as a sign that community in Christ is possible in this time and this place.

What do you need to confess? (2X)

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray.

Holy Father:

Thank you for your love and for giving us the opportunity to confess our sins and be forgiven by means of the cross of Jesus. In the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to forgive the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ and also the sins of persons that we see every day. In the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] David recognized himself that he had this problem:  “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.” (Ps 51:16 ESV)

Continue Reading

Who is God to You?

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Crucifixion
The Crucifixion

Trinity Presbyterian Church, Herndon, Virginia, February 18, 2015 (translated from Spanish)

Introduction

Good morning. Welcome to the Luncheon for the Soul here at Trinity Presbyterian Church.

My name is Stephen Hiemstra.  I am a volunteer from Centreville Presbyterian Church.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent.  Lent begins 40 days before Easter.  Traditionally, Lent is a time of reflection over our sins because Christ died for our sins on the cross.  For this reason, our text today, Psalm 51, focuses on this theme.

Scripture lesson:  Psalm 51

Invocation

Let’s pray.

Almighty father, beloved Son, Spirit of Truth.  Thank you for the peace and healing that we experience in your presence.  We are grateful for the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, who made this reality possible.  Open our eyes to your presence here among us this morning.  In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Me

Who is God to you? (2X)

A few years back I had a supervisor who needed to tell me bad news.  He did not want me to continue working on my favorite project.  He told me one, two, three times..  Each time I only heard good news.  It was necessary for he to tell me–NO, NO, NO–another time rather directly because my ears only heard the opposite–YES, YES, YES.

Many times we hear and see only the things we want to.  The challenge is that we need to change the focus of our activities to grow, to transform our lives.

We

Who is God to you? (2X)

In the story of Moses and the burning bush, God told Moses exactly the pain that he felt in his own heart.  What did he say?  God told him:  return to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to:  “Let my people go” (2X) (Exodus 5:1). Why?  Because Moses wanted to rescue his people from slavery to the Egyptians but he was afraid even to say the words.  For this reason, God sent Moses back to Egypt to accomplish the very thing in his own heart.  And to help Moses deal with his fear, God promised:  “I will be with you!” (2X) (Exodus 3:12)

Aren’t we just like Moses?  Don’t we wait until God tells us and until then we are too afraid to act?

What challenge in your heart is God reminding you to face and solve? (2X)

God

Perhaps your challenge is that you can hear, but you cannot see (2X).  Perhaps, your concept of God is too small.  This is a common challenge, as we find today in the story of King David.

David had a problem.  He slept with a married woman, Bathsheba.  When she became pregnant, he murdered her husband, Uriah the Hittite, by sending him to the front lines in the battle with the Amonites (2 Sam 11:5).  In his own words, David: deserved death (2 Sam 12:5).  Therefore, David’s problem was that his sin was intentional and he could not obtain forgiveness under the law of Moses.  What could he do? (2X)

Before Christ, the penalty for sin under the law was death.  A limited pardon was possible through offering a sacrifice.  But animal sacrifices only covered unintentional sin.  David correctly understood that his sin would deserve death.  Someone needed to die.  The prophet Nathan offered David a pardon, but he also prophesied that David and Bathsheba’s first son would die (2 Sam 12:14).  In this way, the law would be satisfied (2X).

But, David was not satisfied that the law properly represented the compassion and love of God.  He prayed to the Lord for his son for 7 days (2 Sam 12:18).  Psalm 51 summarizes David’s prayer to God and his argument with God for why the law was not consistent God’s own compassion and love.

Let’s read a few verses from Psalm 51 again.  Listen en them for the arguments that David makes with God.

Verse 1:  “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1 ESV)

In other words, forgive me Lord for reason of your love and goodness.  Note that he does not say for reason of my love and my goodness.  Compassion is an attribute of God that arises directly from his identity.  Which attributes of God are most important to you? (2X)

Verse 3:  “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3 ESV)

David admits his sins.  Forgiveness always requires confession (2X).

Verse 4:   “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:4 ESV)

Uriah the Hittite was murdered, but the murder transgressed the law of God.  Clearly, we see that all of our relationships include 3 persons–us, our neighbor and God (2X).  There is always 3 parties in each one of our conversations.

Verse 5:  “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5 ESV)

In other words, I have always been a sinner.  Sin is an attribute of human beings.  Forgiveness requires divine intervention.  We can never be good like God.  For this reason, every human being requires the sacrifice and forgiveness (expiation) of Jesus Christ.

It is interesting that in this prayer of David, some thousand years before Christ, we see Christ’s work and justification.

You

Who is God to you? (2X)

In these weeks before Easter, reflect on the story of David and his use of God’s attributes in Psalm 51.  Because we are created in the image of God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, these attributes can also become our attributes.

Who is God to you?

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Heavenly father.  Thank you for the work of Christ.  Purify us every day.  Never leave us alone; do not take your Holy Spirit from us.  In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Continue Reading