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Why I Love the Doctrine of Unconditional Election

February 20, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is part two of a five-part series where I explore the goodness of what is commonly known as the Five Points of Calvinism, summarized by the acronym TULIP. Historically, Reformed churches have looked to this acronym as a summary God’s work in our salvation. While we believe the truths are rooted in Scripture, the “five points” often solicit strong reactions. Let’s consider each, seeking to deepen our delight in the God who saves. In my experience, it is easier for people to embrace the truth of total depravity than the truth of unconditional election. We encounter depravity on a daily basis. We are familiar with our hearts. We are broken, sinful people. But when it comes to our choice, we do not want to lose our freedom. The doctrine of unconditional election says that God chooses those who will be saved free of any condition in himself or in us. It says that there is nothing in us that warrants God choosing us. Paul argues for unconditional election in Romans 9:6-13, where he explains that God chose Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau without regard to anything they had done. He anticipates the common objection, “Not fair!” in verse 14. Paul continues in building his case, stating that mercy is not mercy and grace is not grace unless God is free to give them to whomever he chooses.... Keep Reading

Why I Love the Doctrine of Total Depravity

February 13, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is part one of a five-part series where I explore the goodness of what is commonly known as the Five Points of Calvinism, summarized by the acronym TULIP. Historically, Reformed churches have looked to this acronym as a summary God’s work in our salvation. While we believe the truths are rooted in Scripture, the “five points” often solicit strong reactions. Let’s consider each, seeking to deepen our delight in the God who saves. Some have joked that all it takes to come to believe in total depravity is to have a child. Infants and toddlers reveal in their choices and actions that they are born corrupted by sin. But, as confessing Christians, we know that experience is not the infallible authority to dictate doctrine. Scripture alone is our authority and it clearly teaches the depravity of humankind. Romans 3 may be one of the best chapters in the Bible to look to for an understanding of total depravity. Paul is building his argument for salvation by grace alone. At this point in the argument, which began in chapter 1, Paul makes some summary statements that all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, “are under sin” (3:9). He quotes from Psalm 14 to emphasis the pervasiveness of this condition: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (3:10-11). And this depravity is not only a condition, but also affects our ability to do what is right. Paul says, “by works of the law [i.e. by our own ability] no human being will be justified in his sight” (3:20).... Keep Reading

The Autopsy of Rejection

February 6, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

The apostle John uses the prologue of his gospel to introduce several themes that will be developed throughout his writing. One of the more devastating themes is found in verse 11 of his prologue: “he came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Jesus came to the Jews throughout Judea, drawing thousands of followers, but, by and large, most of them did not receive him. They rejected the promised Messiah, the fulfillment of all the Old Testament hopes and promises. I say this is one of the more devastating themes of the gospel of John because it serves as a warning to the church today. Membership in the church, as much as membership among the Jewish people during Jesus’ day, does not guarantee that you will receive Jesus. The Jews believed they were being faithful to God when they cried out “Crucify!” Little did they know that they joined their voices in complete opposition to the saving work of God. Being a member of the “in-crowd” does not save you. We are each called to receive Jesus as our only hope of salvation. ... Keep Reading

Happy God. Happy People.

January 30, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of living in a home where two family members are in conflict. Sometimes these conflicts are minor and get resolved within a timely manner. Other times, these conflicts are deep and may even cause permanent rifts in the family. Either way, it is uncomfortable for the whole family to endure such conflict. I remember one such conflict between my mother and father while we were on vacation. We were camping in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I was only six or seven years old, so I was not aware of why my mom and dad were upset with one another. The tension was thick, and when you share a small space together while camping, it was hard to avoid. My dad ended up taking my brothers and me on a day trip to explore the Smokey Mountain National Park. My mom stayed back at the camper. I did not enjoy that day. I couldn’t help but think about my mom missing out of this experience. I also wondered whether my dad and mom would resolve whatever issue that was pushing them apart. Thankfully, within a day or two, my parents reconciled, and we retraced our trip in the Smokey Mountains with my mom along. ... Keep Reading

On a Treasure Hunt for Paradise

January 23, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

What is Paradise? I proposed this question in my sermon on Sunday as one of three foundational questions which contribute to the formation of a worldview. A worldview is a lens through which we interpret the world around us. Worldviews impact and shape how we respond to circumstances. Jesus answers this question in order to shape the worldview of his disciples. In Matthew 13:44 he says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” In the gospel of Matthew, the “kingdom of heaven” is a right relationship with God through the Messiah-King Jesus. Jesus identifies this right relationship with God to be “treasure.” This is paradise! To be in a right relationship with God through the redeeming work of the Messiah-King! Let me highlight a few observations about what Jesus says regarding the “treasure.” ... Keep Reading

The Battle of Worldviews

January 16, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This weekend is significant for the cultural, political, and moral battles in America. January 19 is the National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, corresponding to the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Ronald Reagan initiated this annual tradition in 1984 stating that in Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court “struck down our laws protecting the lives of unborn children.” Monday, January 20, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday commemorating the life and contributions of the great civil rights leader. Incidentally, Reagan signed this national holiday into law in 1983. Both of these observed days deal with the sanctity of human life. One of the unborn; the other of all ethnicities. Both issues, however, tend to be highly volatile and contentious in the cultural and political scenes. How should Christians navigate these debates? ... Keep Reading

The Unending Riches of Scripture

January 9, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

One of the things I love about Scripture is that it never grows old. You can read through the Bible again and again and still be astonished by new insights. These new insights come in two ways. First, there are new insights by way of new application of old truth. The Good News of Jesus never changes. The unity of Scripture never changes. Our lives change. Our circumstances and experiences change. So, we can come to old, familiar, well-loved passages and still receive “new insight.” These truths impact us afresh because of the current situation we may be enduring. Second, there are new insights by way of greater clarity or understanding of truth. While the Gospel is simple, it is complex in its tying together all the wonders and goodness of our infinite God. We will never plumb the depths of truth in this lifetime, nor in eternity (cf. Eph. 2:7). It is that good. ... Keep Reading

Theological Resources for Children

January 2, 2020 | by: Stephen Sprague | 0 Comments

Theological Resources for Children (and parents too!) We live in a day and age in which there are countless resources for nurturing the faith of our children. One of my passions has been in keeping up (as best I can!) with what is available and sorting through the good and the bad to find the best items out there. One of the things I love about Children’s books is their ability to help simplify and explain some of the more convoluted areas of truth in scripture and to that end I’ve found that several of these books have been just as beneficial for my own faith as it has been for the faith of my children. In this Touchpoint I’d like to recommend a sampling of some of my favorite books that we’ve picked up over the last few years with one or two sentences to summarize the books. I’ve included links to each book as well. I’d encourage you to check them out and if you have any you’d like to share with me ... Keep Reading

Let the Author Lead

December 26, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Occasionally, while reading our Bibles, we come across the author’s purpose statement, why he wrote what he wrote. Luke opens his gospel with one (1:4); the writer of Hebrews makes his explicit in the middle (8:1); and Paul often makes known why he wrote the letters he did (i.e. Rom. 15:24). One of the best known purpose statements comes at the end of John’s gospel: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). When reading such a deep and involved book like the Bible, these purpose statements are highly useful. They are like directional signs on the highway of Bible reading. Let highlight three things to direct our attention to. ... Keep Reading

Getting to Know Handel's Messiah

December 19, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Every Advent, I make it a point to listen to the entirety of Handel’s Messiah at least two or three times. I was a student at Moody Bible Institute the first time I sat through the performance of this oratorio. I was astounded by it then and my appreciation has only grown since. Consider some facts which surround the composition of Messiah. George Frederick Handel was extremely impoverished and nearly bankrupt when he wrote the score in 1741. The German born composer (1685) can to London when he was 27 (1712) and initially grew in fame and wealth writing Italian operas. These fell out of style by the late 1730s and Handel struggled. Charles Jennens was a good friend of Handel’s and a benefactor for his music. Jennens was born into a wealthy, land-owning family. It is Jennens who arranged the libretto for the Messiah (the text, using primarily Scripture). He passed this along to Handel, requesting the musical score.... Keep Reading

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