The Law is Good

July 6, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

The psalmist declares, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (119:97). Have you ever read that, or similar declarations in the psalms, and thought, “The law? How can anyone love ‘the law’?” Our relationship with “the law” is deeply impacted by our understanding of the purpose of the law. We do not see the law as good, as something to love or delight in, because we do not understand the good purposes of the law. In our sermon series on Sunday mornings through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we are about to walk through a series of commands. These commands echo the Ten Commandments. Paul frequently in his writings appeals to the Old Testament law as a guide and content for Christian living and ethics. He said in Romans 7:12, “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” In order to hear rightly Paul’s commands in Ephesians, to hear them with delight and love, we must understand clearly the purpose of the law. Thankfully, we stand in a rich tradition that has wrestled with these very questions. The Reformers aimed to clearly articulate the relationship between the law and the gospel. When the Westminster Assembly gathered about 100 years after the Reformation, some clear ideas of the purpose of the law had been codified. Questions 95, 96, & 97 in the Larger Catechism provide an excellent summary of the three uses, or purposes, of the law. ... Keep Reading

Truth is a Big Deal

June 29, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Among Christians, it almost goes without saying, truth is a big deal. If we are not careful, however, what should be a given may easily become overlooked. As I prepare to preach on Ephesians 4:17-24 this Sunday, my attention has been grabbed by Paul’s use of the word truth. Let me share what Paul writes about truth and why it is such a big deal for Christians. Ephesians 4 is not the first time Paul speaks about truth. He calls the gospel, “the word of truth” in 1:13. This implies that the message of our sin and Jesus’ sacrificial, atoning death is foundational truth. This is the truth that provides salvation and reconciles us to the heavenly Father. The next time Paul uses the Greek word for truth, aletheia, is in 4:21. But he uses a connate word (uses the same root) in 4:15 when he writes, “speaking the truth in love.” The word is aletheuo, which simply means to speak the truth. As part of the body serving one another to help the body grow, we must speak the truth to one another. What catches my attention this week is Paul’s use of the word truth three times in the cluster of verses between 4:21 and 4:25. In 4:21 he says “the truth is in Jesus.” In 4:24 Paul writes (translating the Greek literally, word by word), “put on the new self which has been created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth.” The ESV has “true righteousness and holiness” for that last phrase. And then in 4:25, Paul commands, “speak the truth,” using the normal Greek verb for speaking and the noun “truth.” ... Keep Reading

Walking in the Light

June 22, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This week is SummerLink, our Presbytery’s annual summer camp for youth. We have ten churches in the Heartland Presbytery. Staff, volunteers, and youth come together from these churches for this fun-in-the-sun week. This year the group is at YouthFront Camp in La Cygne, KS. I have had the privilege of giving the messages each evening. The theme for camp has been “Walking in the Light.” The phrase comes from 1 John 1:7, but the metaphor is all over Scripture. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12). The psalmist calls the Word a “light to my feet” (119:105). Paul calls believers “children of light” (Eph. 5:8). Light is used as a metaphor for God’s holiness, revelation, the coming of Christ, salvation, our holiness, and the eternal presence of God. “Walking in the light” is a comprehensive phrase to speak about our relationship with God. The apostle John, however, adds an interesting twist in 1 John 1:7. Consider what he writes, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” If the “light” is associated with God, his holiness, salvation, and his presence, why does John state that if we walk in the light, “we have fellowship with one another”? What does walking in the light have to do with fellowship with one another? I have three thoughts. ... Keep Reading


June 15, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

There are two main passages in the Bible that speak about the unity of God’s people. One is Ephesians 4:1-6, which we have considered in recent sermons at Oak Hills. The apostle Paul commands the church to walk in a manner worthy of her calling, which includes being eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Paul grounds this command in the fundamental unity of God. The three persons of the Trinity are united in their saving work of us and in their formation of the single people of God, called the church. Our calling to maintain the unity is undergirded by God’s work to create the unity. The second passage in the Bible addressing unity is found in John 17, which is called Jesus’ high priestly prayer. In the same night he would be betrayed by Judas, Jesus offers up this magnificent prayer recorded by John. In addition to praise, it contains six petitions. First, that the Son would be glorified by the Father in his sacrificial death (v. 1). Second, that the Father would keep the disciples in the security of his name (v. 11). Third, that the Father would protect the disciples from the Evil One (v. 15). Fourth, that the Father would sanctify the disciples in the truth (v. 17). Fifth, that the disciples may be one (v. 21). And sixth, that the disciples would be where Christ is (v. 24). The fifth petition comes in verse 21 where Jesus prays, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” When Jesus makes the comparison (“just as”) of the unity of believers with the unity of the Father and Son, he helps us understand the nature of Christian unity. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus gives testimony that he and the Father are united in mission (see 5:30; 10:30; 14:10 & 17:4). They were working together to accomplish the same goal, which, of course, was the redemption of the elect. ... Keep Reading

What is in a Benediction?

June 8, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This week we are hosting Joyplosion at Oak Hills. It is our annual program for kids where we teach about the goodness of God’s grace and share with the kids fun and unique activities. It is one of my most favorite events we host at Oak Hills for multiple reasons. First, I love when the church serves and loves our covenant children. Second, I love that families from the community participate by entrusting their kids to our care. Third, I love watching our volunteers share their gifts, talents, and passions with the kids. It is only three nights, but it is jammed packed with all kinds of goodness. And I know that both kids and volunteers are worn out by the end of the third night. This year our theme verse has been Numbers 6:24-26. These verses contain what is known as the Aaronic blessing. Perhaps you recognize them as one of the benedictions we use to close our worship service. Let me quote these words here, including the verses before and after the benediction: The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” What do we learn about benedictions from these verses? ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 12

June 1, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is the final article of the series, in which I have sought to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. In the last section of the book, titled “Specialized Praying in Community,” Miller addresses three specifics tied to prayer. First, he considers the biblical commands to “be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). Second, he explains how prayer is vital in the battle against besetting sins. Third, he encourages the discipline of fasting in connection with prayer. Let’s consider these in turn. There are multiple places in his letters where the apostle Paul commands “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). Miller contends, “Christians usually run Paul’s exhortations to be constant in prayer through our grid of Western individualism and assume that the need for constancy applies to each of us separately…The idea is all of you, together, in your communities, be constant in prayer” (p. 229). If a church community is to cultivate a culture of prayer, there needs to be an inclination to turn to prayer in all circumstances, not only at designated times of prayer.... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 11

May 25, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. Last week we considered Miller’s teaching about not becoming bogged down with problems in our prayers. He calls his readers to aim for resurrection hope in their prayers, which often does not include relief from physical problems. As with any sensitive topic, the discussion of praying for problems requires careful wisdom and balance. I believe Miller hits this balanced note with his next chapter, titled “Becoming Real in Prayer.” Authenticity has become a trending word in church circles. Nobody wants to be accused of being inauthentic, or worse, hypocritical. In our prayers, there is no advantage to hide our weaknesses. God invites us to acknowledge our weaknesses in order to rest in his all-sufficient grace and power (2 Cor. 12:9). So, the previous chapter’s warning about becoming bogged down focusing on problems is not an invitation to fake it. The balance is to be open and honest about our problems, while looking and praying for the resurrection work of the Spirit in our lives. ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 10

May 18, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. Continuing his discussion about “The Art of Praying Together,” Miller gives some more practical guidance for helping a church become a praying church. In addition to starting small and prioritizing time to pray together (last week), Miller commends restoring prayer to Sunday morning and aiming for resurrection hope when praying for problems. Let me highlight some of his points. Miller states, “In general the death of Wednesday prayer meeting has been accompanied by a weakening of Sunday morning prayer as well” (p. 188). In other words, as the value of prayer is diminished in the weekly worship gathering, the value of prayer will be diminished throughout the life of the church. For instruction and encouragement, Miller draws attention to the practices of the early church. He writes, “The early church believed that corporate prayer joined them to divine power” (p. 189). He then gives some practical points on how a church might elevate the place of prayer in a Sunday worship service (I am happy to say that some of his suggestions are practiced at Oak Hills). He concludes, “When Sunday morning includes time for extended prayer, it fosters a culture of prayer” (p. 190). ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 9

May 11, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. Part 4, of five parts, of Miller’s book is titled, “The Art of Praying Together.” In this section, he provides direction for how individual members of the church can help their church become a praying community. He opens with the question, “How do you even start to help your church value praying together?” His first answer, of course, is simple: “by praying” (p. 169). Miller explains, “All great movements of the kingdom begin low and slow, with hidden pray-ers who keep showing up to pray. Who pray when they don’t feel like it. Who pray when there is no change. Who pray when they are discouraged. They are continual in prayer, and then they slowly attract other pray-ers to join them” (p. 170). He presents Anna from Luke 2 as an example of a “hidden pray-er.” She was eighty-four years old when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple. Luke 2:37 describes her devotion to prayer, “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 8

May 4, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. In a very practical and insightful chapter, Miller addresses the pitfalls of prayer. Jesus highlights in the Sermon on the Mount that there are pitfalls when we engage in prayer. He warns to not be like the hypocrites who pray to be seen (Matt. 6:5-6). He warns against heaping up empty phrases (6:7-8). He warns against putting on a dramatic show to be seen by others (6:16-18). Miller follows Jesus’ lead, and other Scripture passages, to provide five pitfalls to avoid when praying. Avoid Over-Spiritualizing We over-spiritualize our prayers when we use different language or vocabulary than our normal speech. For example, we might think we need to pray using King James language, employing “thees” and “thous.” The problem is that this language is often fake, not reflecting our hearts. Miller comments, “Too often our public prayers are for show and pious effect. They don’t come from the heart. That creates cynicism, which mocks the good. The bottom line is that when pietism does bad, it gets cheesy… Be real. Be yourself. Be careful of a ‘prayer language’ when talking to God. Let prayer be part of the warp and woof of your life” (p. 157). ... Keep Reading

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