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The Church as Our Mother

May 9, 2024 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

While various attempts were made in the 19th century to create a day to honor mothers, Mother’s Day as we know it didn’t begin in earnest until the early 20th century. Anna Jarvis initiated the celebration of mothers in 1908 and promoted it until President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday in 1914. Within ten years, however, Jarvis began to campaign against the holiday because she felt it became too commercialized. When she died in 1948, Jarvis regretted what became of Mother’s Day. The Christian church celebrated a form of mother’s day long before our modern Mother’s Day experience. Mothering Day was the fourth Sunday of Lent (the six week period before Easter), a day when Christians were encouraged to visit their “mother” church, where they first came to faith and grew up. Consequently, many Christians would be reunited with their birth mothers on this day. The focus of the day was not on their physical mothers, however, but on their spiritual mothers, the church. The 3rd century church father, Cyprian of Carthage, said, “you cannot have God for your Father unless you have the church for your Mother.” Augustine communicated a similar sentiment and the reformer John Calvin expanded on the metaphor of the church as our spiritual mother. Calvin writes in his Institutes:... Keep Reading

Visible Love for One Another

May 2, 2024 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In 1970 Francis Schaeffer first published his little booklet, The Mark of the Christian. In this short writing, Schaeffer unpacks and applies the distinguishing mark of the Christian. This mark is by Jesus in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Schaeffer explains that “the final apologetic” to confirm the message of the gospel for a watching world “is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians” (cf. John 17:21). Christians’ love for one another in the church is a compelling testimony to the goodness of the gospel. “The church is to be a loving church in a dying culture.” Schaeffer goes on to ask the question of how this mark, love for one another in the church, becomes visible to a watching world. He offers two practical, tangible actions we can do in order to show love to fellow Christians. First, we must be willing to apologize to one another. Schaeffer says, “When I have made a mistake and when I have failed to love my Christian brother, I go to him and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ That is first.” It should go without saying that we inevitably hurt one another. Bitter words get spoken. Acts of kindness are withheld. Vengeful actions are taken. In all of these, fellowship with a brother or sister in Christ is broken. The only “way of renewed fellowship” is the simple apology and asking for forgiveness. ... Keep Reading

Can you recall a time when you were simply drawn to someone or something? What drew you to that person or thing? Daniel Strange, author of Making Faith Magnetic, helpfully leans on the wisdom of J.H. Bavinck (20th Century Dutch Reformed missionary and theologian) and what he has developed as the five magnetic points to which humans are repeatedly drawn. These five magnetic points get at the fundamental questions and longings that humans throughout the ages and cultures have and continue to seek answers to. Strange has taken Bavinck’s work on this and adapted it to our modern context and how these magnetic points find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ. These are five magnetic points that we do well to be looking for as we continually seek to share the hope of Christ with those around us. Magnetic Point 1: Totality – Is there a way to connect? This magnetic point gets at a core longing that we all have for connection. It is easy to feel small, insignificant, and merely like a speck as we exist in a universe so vast. Yet, when we connect with something or someone bigger than ourselves, there is a significance that we often experience, know, and crave after. We love to belong. We crave connection, we can feel abandoned when it goes missing, and we find ourselves craving after it again and again. So, is it possible to belong and be connected to someone or something in such a way that lasts? ... Keep Reading

Original Sin: It’s Not My Fault, Right?

April 18, 2024 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

One of the most difficult biblical doctrines to understand and accept is the imputation of sin, or original sin. “Imputation” means to credit to one’s account, as if it is one’s own. The Westminster Confession of Faith 6.3 says, “[Adam and Eve] being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.” Why should Adam’s sin of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil be counted as my own sin? Why should I receive the guilt, death, and corrupted nature for that sin? The key passage to answer these questions is Romans 5:12-21. Paul begins in verse 12 to draw out a comparison between Adam and Christ, but gets sidetracked for a few verses. He says in verse 12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” The first two phrases of this verse are pretty clear: 1. Sin was introduced into the world of humans through Adam. We know this as the story of the Fall in Genesis 3: 2. Death enters into the world of humans through sin. Once again, we know this truth as the consequence of sin when God warned Adam in Genesis 2:17. The third phrase is the hang up. “So death spread to all men [i.e. all humans] because all sinned.” The guilt and corruption of sin has spread to all people, “because all sinned.” In what way did all sin?... Keep Reading

Knowing Sin: Must We?

April 11, 2024 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This Sunday at Oak Hills in our sermon series on Genesis we come to chapter 3, the well-known account of the Fall of man. For many who have grown up in the church, this story is familiar, and, maybe, even uninteresting. And yet, it is foundational to our understanding of humanity, the brokenness of the world, God’s justice and grace, and, ultimately, salvation. As we begin several sermons on Genesis 3, I want to answer the question: why should I care to know more about sin and the origins of sin? Pastor and theologian Mark Jones wrote a book titled, “Knowing Sin: Seeing a Neglected Doctrine through the Eyes of the Puritans.” He opens by saying, “Other than knowing God, your greatest advocate, nothing else in this world is more important than knowing sin, your greatest enemy… Christians should know that a proper understanding of grace requires a thorough grasp of sin. A distorted, weak view of sin will lead to a disfigured, anemic, and unproductive theology” (p. 13). Taking the queue from Mark Jones, let me highlight four benefits from studying sin. The Study of Sin Deepens Our Humility. Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” And Isaiah 64:6 says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Growing in our understanding of how sin works and how sin is destructive brings us to our knees. When we think too little of our sin, we tend to think too highly of ourselves. This leads to all sorts of trouble: self-reliance, denial of God, self-righteousness, arrogance towards others, and more. The old Proverbs is essential to keep in mind as we study sin, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5; cf. Prov. 3:34). Mark Jones applies this principle in saying, “My sin is my biggest problem, because it is my sin. I must hate it and deal with it if I would ever properly address the sin of others in true grace” (p. 79). ... Keep Reading

This article is a more personal article for the church family of Oak Hills. I want to let my church family know that I have requested of the elders a sabbatical for this summer. The elders have approved my request with the plans I presented. I want to share those plans with you. First, let me answer the question, “Why?” Why did I request a sabbatical? Or why should a pastor take a sabbatical? This August marks my thirteen-year anniversary of serving Oak Hills as her pastor. These years have been filled with my ups and downs, highs and lows. It is widely known that pastoral ministry is one of the most taxing and stressful callings to fill. The hours are long and irregular. The tasks are far beyond any human ability to fulfill. The cares and needs of people weigh on one’s heart. Throw in a pandemic and growing political turmoil, and these past few years have been even more challenging. Through all these circumstances, however, God has been gracious to me. I know many of you pray for me on a regular basis. God has used your prayers to sustain me. While it is only by God’s grace that one can serve any length of time in pastoral ministry, it is wise and beneficial for a pastor to take periodic, extended periods of time away from regular pastoral duties for personal growth, reenergizing, and refocusing. Such time away only strengthens a pastor’s walk with the Lord and his ministry with the church. Like many churches, we have a sabbatical policy that allows our pastors to request a sabbatical once every seven years. I began to put a sabbatical request into action early in 2020. And then the pandemic hit. I did take a few weeks that year to work on my doctoral dissertation, but a true, full sabbatical was not an option during that crisis. Now, with Pastor John fully settled in his ministry at Oak Hills, this seems like an appropriate time to request this sabbatical. ... Keep Reading

This is the nineth in a series of reflections on Jesus’ teaching about money and wealth in the Gospels. Randy Alcorn, writing in The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving, says, “15 percent of everything Christ said relates to this topic – more than his teachings on heaven and hell combined” (p. 9). How does Jesus want us to think about money? How does the Gospel affect our attitude toward the use of money? Join me on this multi-week exploration of what Jesus teaches about money. Throughout this series we have been considering Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on money. While money tends to be a very private matter for most people, both Jesus and Paul speak very directly about money. They emphasize the same principles: 1. Money can easily become the treasure of one’s heart because of the false promises of satisfaction; 2. When money becomes the treasure of one’s heart, it is poisonous to one’s relationship with God; 3. Treasuring God is the antidote to the poison of loving money, as God is the only one who truly satisfies the longings of the heart; 4. Giving away money is not only an indicator of a new heart treasure, but also is a means to wean the heart from loving money; and 5. God promises reward for being generous. Let’s conclude this series by asking how, then, shall we give? We all appreciate practical pointers to help us put into practice biblical principles. The apostle Paul gives the most direct instruction about giving in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” There are three practices to glean from these verses. ... Keep Reading

This is the eighth in a series of reflections on Jesus’ teaching about money and wealth in the Gospels. Randy Alcorn, writing in The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving, says, “15 percent of everything Christ said relates to this topic – more than his teachings on heaven and hell combined” (p. 9). How does Jesus want us to think about money? How does the Gospel affect our attitude toward the use of money? Join me on this multi-week exploration of what Jesus teaches about money. We have moved on from what Jesus teaches about money and wealth to the apostle Paul…sort of. Last week we looked at Paul’s teaching on the “love of money” in 1 Timothy 6. Paul reinforces what Jesus taught in the Gospels: 1. Money easily becomes a treasure of the heart (“love of money”); 2. Money as treasure is poisonous to one’s relationship with God (“root of evil”); 3. The antidote is treasuring God above money and all things (“hope in God”); 4. Giving away money is not only an indicator of a new heart treasure, but also is a means to wean the heart from loving money; 5. Thus, reward for being generous is promised. In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul expands this teaching on giving even further. For Paul, giving is not optional or even second-tier Christian living, but essential to the Christian faith. Let’s start by considering how Paul broaches the subject in 2 Corinthians 8. ... Keep Reading

This is the seventh in a series of reflections on Jesus’ teaching about money and wealth in the Gospels. Randy Alcorn, writing in The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving, says, “15 percent of everything Christ said relates to this topic – more than his teachings on heaven and hell combined” (p. 9). How does Jesus want us to think about money? How does the Gospel affect our attitude toward the use of money? Join me on this multi-week exploration of what Jesus teaches about money. Even in the 1st century, money was a big deal. The wealth and convenience we enjoy in 21st century America, however, by far outweighs the wealth enjoyed in the 1st century. That’s why Jesus’ perspective and teaching on money and wealth is all the more important for our spiritual health in relationship with God. We need to heed his warnings about the poisonous treasuring of money. The apostle Paul reinforces Jesus’ teaching on wealth in his first letter to Timothy. Perhaps you are even familiar with Paul’s famous saying in 6:10, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Many are quick to point out that it is the love of money that is the root of evil, not money itself, perhaps seeking to assuage any conviction about having wealth. What does Paul mean by the love of money and how does his teaching compare with Jesus’? The love of money is the opposite of contentment. In 1 Timothy 6 Paul is commending contentment as a companion to godliness: “godliness with contentment is great gain…if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (v. 6, 8). Then he contrasts contentment with the “desire to be rich” (v. 9). This desire is harmful and destructive. Why? Because it strikes at the very heart of our being. Wealth becomes the treasure of the heart. That’s what Paul means by “the love of money.” This is on par with Jesus’ teaching that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). ... Keep Reading

This is the sixth in a series of reflections on Jesus’ teaching about money and wealth in the Gospels. Randy Alcorn, writing in The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving, says, “15 percent of everything Christ said relates to this topic – more than his teachings on heaven and hell combined” (p. 9). How does Jesus want us to think about money? How does the Gospel affect our attitude toward the use of money? Join me on this multi-week exploration of what Jesus teaches about money. So far, in our reflections about money, we have considered primarily Jesus’ attitude or perspective about money. 1. Money has the power to become a consuming, idolatrous treasure of the heart; 2. As such it is poisonous to one’s relationship with God; 3. Therefore, when one comes to find God as the greater treasure, one’s attitude toward money changes; 4. In the end, money becomes a tool to magnify the worth of God. How does Jesus commend money as a tool to magnify the worth of God? By giving it away! One of the prominent commands of Jesus regarding our money and wealth is the command to give it away. He commanded the rich young ruler to give his wealth away (Matt. 19:21). In another context, Jesus gives the same command to all his disciples: “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy” (Lk. 12:33). Not only does Jesus command that we give away wealth, but he also commends those who do. Zacchaeus was commended for committing to give away his wealth (Lk. 19:8-9). But it wasn’t only those who were wealthy that Jesus commends. Consider this story of a poor widow: ... Keep Reading

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