Prayer Day 9: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Available on Amazon.com
Available on Amazon.com

God of all wonders. We praise you for Mary’s faithfulness and Jesus’ miraculous birth. Bridge the gaps of holiness, time, and space between us. Open our minds to the miracles that we experience daily but neglect to think about. Open our hearts to accept your will for our lives. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Dios de todas las maravillosas. Te alabamos por la fidelidad de María y el nacimiento milagroso de Jesús. Puente la brecha de santidad, tiempo, y espacio entre nosotros. Abre nuestra mentes a los milagrosos que experimentamos cotidiana pero se olvidan de considerar. Abre nuestros corazones a aceptar tu voluntad por nuestras vidas. En el nombre del Padre, el Hijo, y el Espíritu Santo, Amén.

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Honor The Name (Third Commandment)

Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” (Exod 20:7; Deut 5:11)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Years ago when I studied in Germany, I had a friend from Belgium who was known only by his last name. When I asked around, not even the department secretary knew his first name. His first name was reserved for family and no one else.

God is also sensitive about his name and how it is used (Ezek 36:20-23).

In Old Testament Hebrew, numerous names for God are given. God’s covenantal name, YHWH, which God gave to Moses from the burning bush (Exod 3:14), is sacred for Jews. When Jews encounter YHWH in scripture, they normally substitute Adonai, which means Lord. Most translators honor this tradition. By contrast, the generic name for God in Hebrew is Elohim which is, for example, the word for God used in Genesis 1:1.

The treatment of God’s name is an extension of the holiness of God. Holy means both being set apart and the idea of sacredness. The Tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem, was constructed to observe three levels of increasing holiness: the courtyard for Jews, the Holy Place for priests, and the Holy of Holies for the high priest—but only on the Day of Atonement (Exod 30:10). The Ark of the Covenant resided in the Holy of Holies.

Although the Jewish sacrifice system ended with the destruction of the temple in AD 70, God’s name is still holy. The Apostle Paul, for example, wrote:

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:8-11)

Therefore, the commandment not to profane the name of God is one to be taken seriously. The author of Proverbs writes: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov 1:7) We honor God by refraining from vulgar language and refusing to make empty promises leveraged on God’s name.

But honoring God’s name is more than merely not using bad language. Our conduct should bring honor to God—our actions must be consistent with the faith we profess (Jas 2:17).

One of the greatest rewards in heaven is simply to bear the name (Rev 22:4). Why not start now?

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Praise the Name

Art by Narsis Hiemstra
Art by Narsis Hiemstra

“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matt 6:9)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Lord’s Prayer reminds us to honor God’s name in keeping with the Third Commandment—do not take the Lord’s name in vain—because all the other commandments are leveraged on it (Exod 20:7).

Why keep the other commandments, if we dishonor God’s name?

The practical implications of honoring God arise because we are created in God’s image. Because we are created in the image of God, human life has intrinsic value—value in itself that does not change with life events. Because life has intrinsic value, we cannot accept discrimination, injustice, abuse, mistreatment of prisoners, weapons of mass destruction, euthanasia, abortion, designer babies, and a host of other detestable practices. Our human rights—a measure reflecting intrinsic value—exist because we are created in the image of a Holy God.

Our capitalist society focuses, not on intrinsic values, but on market values. Market values change with circumstances—they are volatile. Your value as a person implicitly depends on your productivity. If you are young, old, or unable to work, then you are a dependent—a burden on working people. The focus on market values inherently disrespects God’s image. When God is not honored; neither are we.

The strong influence of market values on our self-image explains, in part, is why depression rates tend to be highest among population groups—like the young adults and the senior citizens—who are unable to work. The rate of depression, suicide, anxiety disorders, addictions, and divorce appear to be correlated, in part, with changing job prospects.

When God’s name is dishonored, we also become more prone to idolatry (Rom 1:21-23). Why worship the God of the Bible, when my income and status in society depends more on my family legacy, education, and hard work? So I naturally run to all sorts of substitutes for God that work, like insurance, to manage the ups and downs of life. Alternatively, I can obsess about the security of my home, my spouse, and my children.

The implications of honoring the name of God come together in the debate over euthanasia—the right to die. If my self-image and my dignity in society are both increasingly subjected to the same market values, then I will surrender myself to assisted suicide precisely when I need support from my family. And, of course, they will agree because I have become a burden both financially and emotionally. Consequently, euthanasia is evil masquerading as compassion. We are created in the image of a holy God who declares that life is good and sacred (Gen 1:31).

Give glory to God. Honor the Name above all names. You are created in God’s image.

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