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Do They Believe?

June 17, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

It is not unusual for me to finish preaching a sermon on Sunday and have more things on my heart and mind that I wanted to address. I wrestle between the desires to dive deeply into the wonders of Scripture, verse by verse, and maintaining a pace that keeps us moving forward through our book of the Bible. This last Sunday was my 47th sermon in the Gospel of John, and we have just hit the halfway mark. At the end of the day, however, my confidence rests not in my ability to map out a sermon schedule but in the efficacy of God’s Word. God ministers among us through His Word, which does not return to him empty (Is. 55:11). Some weeks, I use this space as an opportunity to address something from our sermon text that I left out from the sermon. This last Sunday we were wrestling with the hard truth of the unbelief of the Jews. They become hardened in their unbelief. God does not actively cause anyone’s unbelief, but he withholds his gracious assistance as a form of judgment. Without his help, no one will come to faith in Christ. No one deserves or has the right to God’s assistance. This is humbling, and, I pray, inspiring of worship of Christ. ... Keep Reading

An Explosion of Joy in 2021

June 10, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Joyplosion! Yes, I made up the word. Let me explain why. When I was a child, I learned to cheer for the Chicago Bears from my father. Long before I understood the game of football, I had a team to cheer, because that was who my dad was cheering. When I was eight years old, I began to understand more about the game. And the Bears were winning. A lot. And they won the Super Bowl. I’ve been a fan ever since. Children learn to cheer before they fully understand why we cheer. We teach our children to sing and pray long before they understand why God is so worthy of our praise and trustworthy of our dependence. So, when we pass on the faith to our children, what do we want them to understand first and foremost? What affectional responses will become the foundation of their understanding and experience of the Christian faith? ... Keep Reading

At the beginning of 2020, the elders of Oak Hills laid out five goals for the new year. One was building bridges in the community for creating opportunities to share the gospel. We were looking at becoming more visible in the community through activities like Old Shawnee Days. We want to be more intentional in reaching and serving our neighbors. The pandemic shut down most of our plans with most everything being canceled this last year and stay at home orders in place. With the pandemic fading and most everything reopening again, it is time for us to be proactive and strategic in our “longing to make known the astonishing grace of God.” Through the riches of the gospel God has blessed us abundantly. He calls us to be a conduit of those blessings to a dying world. We have been blessed to be a blessing. Let’s get back on mission. Let me use Colossians 4:2-4 as a means to exhort us for mission. Paul writes: Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison... Keep Reading

After more than a year of stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and social distancing, we need to be reminded that God made us for community. Yes, I understand the science behind how viruses spread and the dangers of covid-19. With the best information at the time, the elders of Oak Hills made decisions to safeguard against the spread of covid. We understand that some are more susceptible to the virus and have needed to take extra precautions. None of this, however, takes away from the truth that God made us for community in the body of Christ. Take into consideration Romans 12:4-5, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Paul goes on to highlight the differing gifts of grace we receive. The point is, just as the individual parts of the human body cannot survive on their own, so also the followers of Christ cannot survive independently of the body of Christ. The phrase “members one of another” speaks to the reality of our interconnectedness. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” God unites us into one body. There is no such thing as a lone-ranger Christian.... Keep Reading

With the CDC’s announcement last week that fully vaccinated people can return to normal, pre-covid activities, it feels like the end of the pandemic is within sight. Yes, more still needs to be done to officially say the pandemic is over. And yes, covid-19 still is a serious disease. But there is tangible progress in the battle that has us thinking ahead to a world “post-covid.” I want to use this space over the next few weeks to think about the implications for the church. One challenge the church faces coming out of covid is the need for unity among believers. This last year has been filled with contentious debates over how to respond to the pandemic, politics, and racial tensions. The devil has been having a field day by exacerbating divisions among believers. The Bible tells us plainly that Satan is waging war against the church (Rev. 12:17; Eph. 6:12). Among his many, faith-destroying tactics, he loves to disrupt the unity Christ has created among believers (Eph. 2:14). ... Keep Reading

One of my aims in writing about the mission of the church these past few weeks is to provide clarity for Oak Hills about our mission. For what is Oak Hills here, in Shawnee? The elders read several years ago What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. It is extremely helpful on this subject and has informed some of my writing these weeks. I want to conclude this series by returning to a distinction made early on, but from another angle. I heard Harry Reader, pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church, say last week, “the mission of the church gathered is narrow; the mission of the church scattered is broad.” Let me unpack that statement. The “church gathered” is another term for what DeYoung and Gilbert call the “church institutional.” Oak Hills Presbyterian Church is one manifestation of the church gathered. We are an entity with a specified confession of faith, form of government, rules of discipline, and directory for worship. Other churches are separate entities with similar guidelines that distinguish who they are and how they operate. ... Keep Reading

It is very clear in Scripture that God cares for the poor and wants his followers to care for the poor. Take for example Proverbs 14:31, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him;” and Galatians 2:10, “Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” In light of God’s heart for the poor, Jesus makes an intriguing statement in John 12:8, “The poor you always have with you.” This is in the context of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet as an act of worship and gratitude for Jesus raising her brother from the dead. John tells us that Judas considered this act to be wasteful, that the perfume could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Matthew tells us that Judas’ attitude was shared by the other disciples as well (Matt. 26:8). Why would Jesus respond this way? Wouldn’t Jesus want to see poverty irradicated? What do we learn from Jesus’ response about the poor always being with us? ... Keep Reading

In the discussion about the mission of the church the topic of justice inevitably comes up. In our current cultural moment, justice is a hot topic. And we know from Scripture that God cares about justice. So, how do these three things intersect? Let’s start with Scripture. The oft-quoted verse about justice is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” In chapter 6, the prophet asks, “with what shall I come before the Lord?” (v. 6). As a means of exhorting Judah, the prophet uses this rhetorical question to call the people of God to covenant faithfulness toward God. God is not pleased with “burnt offerings,” “rivers of oil,” or “my firstborn for my transgression.” As Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah has the same exhortation, God is not pleased with superficial religious activity (see Isaiah 58). God desires his people to be transformed by his covenant love and faithfulness into the sort of people who do justice and are gracious and humble. ... Keep Reading

Last week we considered how the first and second greatest commandments (love God and neighbor) impact the discussion about the mission of the church. Ultimately, the first and second greatest commandments are for the church organic; the church institutional* cannot obey or fulfill these commands for individual Christians. When the church institutional is fulfilling her mission, primarily summarized in the Great Commission, the church organic is equipped and empowered to fulfill her mission. Let’s look more closely at the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It features prominently in a discussion between Jesus and a lawyer in Luke 10:25-37. The lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” (v. 29). Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ point is that the command is not about identifying worthy neighbors to serve but about becoming a loving neighbor to the people you come in contact with. The Samaritan, crossing cultural and ethnic divisions, out of compassion, meets the man’s needs. Jesus concludes by saying, “Go, and do likewise” (v. 37). A few observations about this parable: 1. We do not evaluate who we love and serve based upon ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, educational level, or even morality. Such divisions do not honor God, nor do they fulfill this commandment. 2. Compassion is integral to loving your neighbor. Compassion is seeing the need of another and, out of love, seeking to meet that need. 3. There is a limit in the application of this command, however. We are not obligated, individually or corporately, to meet the needs of every single human in the world. So, how would we know whose needs we are obligated to meet? ... Keep Reading

Often in the discussion around the mission of the church, the greatest and second greatest commandments are mentioned. Jesus draws attention to these two commands as the first and second greatest in Matthew 22:37-39, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Even in our Getting Acquainted with Oak Hills material we mention these commands in the discussion of the mission of the church. We mention the three dynamics of our mission: Upreach (fulfilling the call to love God); Inreach (fulfilling the call to love neighbor); and Outreach (fulfilling the Great Commission). When it comes to the mission of the institutional church, however, the great commandments play a different role than the great commission. Let me try to draw out this difference.... Keep Reading

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