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Own Your Darkness

December 2, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Light and darkness are a significant motif during the Advent season. We hear in Isaiah 9:2, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." This verse communicates the great hope that the birth of Christ brings to those who have struggled with the darkness of this world and sin. The darkness illustrates a wide range of afflictions people experience: relational brokenness, oppression, sickness, death, natural disasters, emotional brokenness, and on and on. The light illustrates the hope that Christ restores all things, bringing an end to all sin, injustice, physical illness, and on and on. There is an “already but not yet” dynamic to this hope-filled promise of light in darkness. Christ’s first Advent breaks into the darkness and conquers the power of darkness. The “light of life” has already come into the hearts and lives of those who follow Christ (John 8:12). But darkness still pervades our lives. And so we long for and eagerly await the second Advent of Christ. This is the hope we sing of when we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” When we think about the darkness that pervades our lives, we often think of outside sources (at least I do). The darkness comes from oppressive ideologies, godless people, or a broken world system. All of these are true sources of darkness in this world, but when we think of darkness coming only from outside sources, we let inner darkness drown out the hope of light Jesus brings. ... Keep Reading

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

November 25, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Psalm 100 is short enough to memorize in one week but packed enough to fill your mind and heart with God’s goodness for a lifetime. Read this familiar Psalm again: 1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. ... Keep Reading

The Holy Spirit is God

November 18, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In the last two Sundays, we have been considering the words of Jesus about the Holy Spirit in John 16. Jesus says, “It is to your advantage that I go away” (v. 7). The “advantage” Jesus is speaking about is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our attention these past two Sundays has been on the work of the Spirit. He convicts, guides, and glorifies, all activity that blesses us by deepening our faith and enjoyment in Christ our Savior. There is one other dynamic about the Holy Spirit that Jesus mentions, which highlights the advantage we have when we receive the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God. Now, Jesus does not explicitly state, “The Holy Spirit is God himself and he will be with you.” But he does not hide the fact that he believes the Spirit is God himself and he wants us to receive him as such. How so? In the word, “declare.” In the span of three verses, Jesus says the Spirit will “declare” things that are to come and what is his (v. 13-15). Perhaps to our normal Bible reading ears, the use of this word doesn’t register as unique or important. We have seen, however, throughout John’s writing of his gospel that the Old Testament scriptures have shaped his understanding of the life of Christ. John has demonstrated multiple times that Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT expectation for the coming Messiah. We know that John has the prophet Isaiah on his mind as he is writing, quoting Isaiah in John 12:37-43. Compare with me, then, these verses from Isaiah with what Jesus says about the Spirit in John 16:13-15. ... Keep Reading

Is Abortion a Justice Issue?

November 11, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is part 13 of a multi-part series reviewing Thaddeus J. Williams’ book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice. This book is published at a critical time when many in our nation, including Christians, wrestle with the concept of justice. Williams starts with the clear biblical command that Christians must “do justice” (Micah 6:8) and “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Not everything labeled “justice,” however, is necessarily biblical justice. Therefore, Williams poses twelve questions to help Christians discern true, biblical justice, while calling us to do true justice. I commend this book if you want to dig deeper and be more faithful in seeking justice. I have finished the summaries and reviews of the twelve questions Williams poses to help Christians think about justice from a biblical viewpoint. These are the twelve main chapters of his book. Williams includes, however, seven appendices where he addresses some issues with more specificity, such as racism, poverty, socialism, and sexuality. I do not plan to write about his appendices. I have come to appreciate, though, Williams’ thoughtful and biblical analysis on these topics. I do want to highlight his appendix on abortion. While I have not explicitly preached much on abortion at Oak Hills, I have implicitly addressed the issue by frequently affirming the biblical truth about the sanctity of all human life, beginning at conception. I know our members are divided about how abortion should be addressed politically. My desire is that we would be united around the biblical call to justice for the least of these. ... Keep Reading

The Standpoint Question

November 4, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is part 12 of a multi-part series reviewing Thaddeus J. Williams’ book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice. This book is published at a critical time when many in our nation, including Christians, wrestle with the concept of justice. Williams starts with the clear biblical command that Christians must “do justice” (Micah 6:8) and “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Not everything labeled “justice,” however, is necessarily biblical justice. Therefore, Williams poses twelve questions to help Christians discern true, biblical justice, while calling us to do true justice. I commend this book if you want to dig deeper and be more faithful in seeking justice. The twelfth question Williams poses is the “Standpoint Question.” He asks, “Does our vision of social justice turn the quest for truth into an identity game” (p. 151). One of the key components of Critical Theory is to elevate one’s external identity markers as more important than logic, evidence, or even Scripture in the evaluation of one’s claims. For example, James Cone, known as the father of modern black liberation theology, says, “If there is one brutal fact that centuries of white oppression have taught blacks, it is that whites are incapable of making any valid judgments about human existence” (p. 155). In Cone’s estimation, and Cone has significant influence on the current cultural conversation about racial justice, “we can process ideas as true or false based purely on melanin rather than merit” (p. 154). With that sort of vision of social justice, Cone’s claims end up being unfalsifiable. Williams explains, “If no amount of logic, evidence, experience, or Scripture could possibly change our outlook, then our beliefs are unfalsifiable” (p. 151). In fact, one professor with this vision of social justice says, “We are inflicting harm asking for evidence… to ask for evidence of racism is racism with a capital R” (p. 153). This vision of social justice “shifts our focus from ‘isms’ to ‘ists,’ from ideas to people, from evidence to people’s external identity markers” (p. 153). Williams argues this is attractive to people because it presents a simple solution to complex issues. We can quickly dismiss and judge people based upon external identity markers. ... Keep Reading

The Suffering Question

October 28, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is part 11 of a multi-part series reviewing Thaddeus J. Williams’ book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice. This book is published at a critical time when many in our nation, including Christians, wrestle with the concept of justice. Williams starts with the clear biblical command that Christians must “do justice” (Micah 6:8) and “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Not everything labeled “justice,” however, is necessarily biblical justice. Therefore, Williams poses twelve questions to help Christians discern true, biblical justice, while calling us to do true justice. I commend this book if you want to dig deeper and be more faithful in seeking justice. The eleventh question Williams poses is the “Suffering Question.” He asks, “Does our vision of social justice turn the ‘lived experience’ of hurting people into more pain?” (p. 139). The phrase “lived experience” has become prevalent in conversations about social justice in the past few years. It speaks about the experiences of oppression that some have endured. These “lived experiences” are taken authoritatively and “must, in turn, become the foundations on which we rebuild everything from public policy and school curriculum to theological systems and church ministry. Questioning the narratives of the oppressed and the policies or theologies derived from them makes you the oppressor” (p. 139). Williams ack... Keep Reading

The Tunnel Vision Question

October 21, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is part 10 of a multi-part series reviewing Thaddeus J. Williams’ book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice. This book is published at a critical time when many in our nation, including Christians, wrestle with the concept of justice. Williams starts with the clear biblical command that Christians must “do justice” (Micah 6:8) and “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Not everything labeled “justice,” however, is necessarily biblical justice. Therefore, Williams poses twelve questions to help Christians discern true, biblical justice, while calling us to do true justice. I commend this book if you want to dig deeper and be more faithful in seeking justice. The tenth question Williams poses is the “Tunnel Vision Question.” He asks, “Does our vision of social justice make one way of seeing something the only way of seeing everything?” (p. 127). This question seeks to push us to think about how we see and interpret the world around us. Williams uses the analogy of a computer operating system. Everyone has a “mental operating system,” a set of foundational beliefs that shade how we think about and respond to daily events. Other authors may call this one’s worldview. A worldview is formed by the answers and convictions one has for four fundamental questions: 1. What are we made for? 2. What has fundamentally gone wrong? 3. What will fix or remedy this situation? 4. What does perfect society (or heaven) look like? Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration. Our answers to these questions shape how we interpret the world and influence our choices.... Keep Reading

The Gospel Question

October 14, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is part 9 of a multi-part series reviewing Thaddeus J. Williams’ book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice. This book is published at a critical time when many in our nation, including Christians, wrestle with the concept of justice. Williams starts with the clear biblical command that Christians must “do justice” (Micah 6:8) and “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Not everything labeled “justice,” however, is necessarily biblical justice. Therefore, Williams poses twelve questions to help Christians discern true, biblical justice, while calling us to do true justice. I commend this book if you want to dig deeper and be more faithful in seeking justice. The ninth question Williams poses is the “Gospel Question.” He asks, “Does our vision of social justice distort the best news in history?” (p. 110). In this chapter, Williams tackles how the gospel and justice relate to one another. It is common to hear Christians say, “Justice is a gospel issue.” While justice is a biblical imperative, it is dangerous to not keep clear distinctions between the gospel and commands like “do justice.” Williams quotes C. S. Lewis, “Every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made… You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first” (p. 110). Williams applies this principle to social justice: “If we make social justice our first thing, we will lose not only the real first thing – the gospel – we will lose social justice too” (p. 111). To help clarify this distinction, Williams explains how a command like “do justice” is not of the gospel, but from the gospel (a result from gospel transformation). The gospel is a declaration of the good news of what God has done for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel is indicative, meaning that it is a statement of facts, which we receive and rest in. Commands, or imperatives, have no bearing on the gospel. “A gospel with additional requirements is not good news… There is a qualitative difference between fighting the injustice of slavery to become saved versus fighting the injustice of slavery because you are saved… I am arguing that making the imperative to work against such injustices either identical to or part of the gospel is to lose the gospel” (p. 113). ... Keep Reading

The Color Question

October 7, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is part 8 of a multi-part series reviewing Thaddeus J. Williams’ book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice. This book is published at a critical time when many in our nation, including Christians, wrestle with the concept of justice. Williams starts with the clear biblical command that Christians must “do justice” (Micah 6:8) and “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Not everything labeled “justice,” however, is necessarily biblical justice. Therefore, Williams poses twelve questions to help Christians discern true, biblical justice, while calling us to do true justice. I commend this book if you want to dig deeper and be more faithful in seeking justice. The eighth question Williams poses is the “Color Question.” He asks, “Does our vision of social justice promote racial strife?” (p. 92). Williams confronts head-on some of the prevailing perspectives about racial justice. This perspective “singles out a physical feature that God gave some people and not others. It then uses that feature not as a physical descriptor but as a mark of evil” (p. 106). This approach to racial justice leads one “public theologian” to declare “whiteness is wicked” at a Christian conference (p. 101). Williams is careful enough to ask what is meant by “whiteness.” “If we use whiteness to mean the devastating idea crafted by sinners that paler skin justifies treating darker skinned people like anything less than divine image-bearers, then, yes, that is an evil idea” (p. 101). Yet, as Williams points out, the meaning “is all too easily muddled.” ... Keep Reading

October: Elder Appreciation Month

September 30, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

I am taking a break this week from my ongoing review of Thaddeus Williams’ Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth, in order express appreciation and thanksgiving for the elders of Oak Hills. Let’s make October “Elder Appreciation Month.” We have a team of elders at Oak Hills who have faithfully and sacrificially served our congregation for years through many ups and downs, not to mention the difficult challenges of the last eighteen months. Paul says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17). The writer of Hebrews calls us to “Let them [keep watch over your souls] with joy and not with groaning” (Heb. 13:17). So, in the spirit of these apostolic exhortations, let’s honor our elders. In their training to serve on the session, our elders are required to read Timothy Witmer’s The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church. Witmer summarizes the responsibilities of the elders in four categories: feed the sheep, lead the sheep, know the sheep, and protect the sheep. We use these four categories to structure our session meetings. ... Keep Reading

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