Sin Again or Rejoice Again

May 30, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Last week we spent some time reflecting on the “Cycle of the Judges,” a pattern repeated throughout the OT book of Judges. At the heart of this pattern is the return to sin. There are parallels between this cycle we find in Judges and our own lives. We “forget” like the Israelites of the OT and fall into patterns that cause us to drift away from the Lord. We need his continual renewing ministry of the Word and Sacrament. One of the most convicting words in this “Cycle of Judges” is the word “again.” It is used frequently in the repeated phrase, “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (4:1). Bible scholar, Dale Ralph Davis, reflects on the use of this word: “It tells us something about sin. It is difficult to be creative in sin; there’s a certain monotony about it; most all of it has been done before; it is simply that we do the same thing again (v. 1). Sin is a boring routine, not a fresh excitement. The fast lane becomes an old rut. Evil never lends itself to originality. Hence these are two problems: the slavery and staleness of sin” (Judges: Such a Great Salvation, p. 72). This is a fascinating insight, which impacts our wrestling with personal sin. ... Keep Reading

The Cycle of Judges for Us

May 23, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

The Old Testament book of Judges is well-known for what is called “The Cycle of the Judges.” This cycle refers to a pattern of events, introduced in chapter 2, that occurs over and over again throughout the book. There are five steps in the cycle: Israel turns away from serving God. God allows a foreign nation to rise up and oppress Israel. The Israelites, typically after an extended period of time, cry out for help. God empowers a judge to rise up and rescue Israel from the oppressor. The land experiences a period of rest, typically during the lifetime of the judge. This cycle repeats in the book of Judges nearly a dozen times. It’s easy to “judge” Israel for this repeated cycle of defeat. You would think that the people would have learned their lesson after two or three times through the cycle. Doesn’t behavior modification theory have something to say about this (okay, okay… I admit, it’s been nearly twenty years since I had psychology; my memory is a little foggy)? If we are honest, though, don’t we fall into similar cycles and patterns, even with sin? ... Keep Reading

A Graduation Charge for the Rest of Us

May 16, 2019 | by: Stephen Sprague | 0 Comments

This Sunday I had the opportunity to give a charge to our high school graduates of 2019 (Way to go guys/gals!). It’s the second time that I’ve had the privilege of giving such a charge during my time at Oak Hills. While I was grateful for the opportunity and I don’t regret anything that I said, if I had the chance to speak a little longer I probably would have spent a little more time looking at Paul's words from Philippians 1:21 and following; words for the Philippian church, words for our graduating seniors and words for the rest of us. “…More necessary on your account.” Paul, in his letter to the Philippians writes, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again” (Phil 1:21-26). The first verse, verse 21, is one of the very first passages of scripture that I committed to memory as a young Christian. This was in large part due to how epic it was. It is an expression of hope and of commitment in and to the Gospel that is summarized so powerfully and so simply. Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this passage however is not necessarily Paul’s profound soundbite, but Paul’s motivation to live for Christ in this life ... Keep Reading

Passing on the Faith

May 9, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

A tragedy is recorded in Judges 2:10. It’s the tragedy that every believing parent and grandparent dreads. “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” The faith was not passed on to the children. The Old Testament is full of stories of children not following in the faith foot-steps of their parents. Aaron with his sons, Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3). Eli and his sons (1 Sam. 2:22-25). Solomon with his son, Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:1-15). Hezekiah with his son, Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-3). Josiah and his boys, Jehoahaz and Eliakim (2 Kings 23:31-35). God-fearing parents with children who reject God and his ways. It’s a heart-breaking tragedy.... Keep Reading

Wrestling With the Old Testament

May 2, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Sometimes the Old Testament is not easy to read. Not only are we separated by the millenia and the cultural differences, but also some activity and practices of the Israelites seem so foreign, even repulsive, to our Western sensibilities. If God is the “same yesterday, today, and forever,” how can he direct his people to do things in the OT that seem so contrary to his ways in the New Testament? Perhaps the best example of this is God’s command to “drive out” the inhabitants of the Promised Land. He says in Exodus 23:23-24, “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.” We read of how God fulfills this in Joshua and Judges. How should we make sense of this apparent genocide, ethnic-cleansing? ... Keep Reading

The Ministry of Witnesses

April 25, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

The Bible reading plan I am using this year has me reading through the book of Acts repeatedly (with readings in other portions of the Bible). I have not been perfect in reading every day, but I already have read through Acts a couple times. One of the things that has struck me, is the emphasis on the disciples’ call to be “witnesses.” It starts in what many consider to be the theme verse of the book, when Jesus says, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (1:8). Peter embraces this calling immediately when they chose someone to take Judas’ place among the Twelve, “one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (1:22). ... Keep Reading

Idolatry and Our Salvation

April 18, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

I have been reflecting this week on a quote from Tim Keller that we printed in our bulletin this last Sunday. Keller writes: In his “A Treatise on Good Works,” an exposition of the Ten Commandments, Martin Luther said something that changed my life. He said the first law of the Old Testament law... Keep Reading

Living in a State of Grace

April 11, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

We have been talking about the power of sin at Oak Hills lately. It’s not a popular subject. Talking about sin is out of vogue for many churches, let alone talking about the power of sin. The reality is that if we do not mindfully fight sin, it will eat us away. The writer of Hebrews calls us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” by laying aside “sin which clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1). While the image here implies a simple process of taking off extra clothing for the race, sin is not so easy to lay aside. Sin clings in that it brings corruption to our whole nature, i.e. our minds, our hearts, and our wills. In and of ourselves, we cannot lay aside “sin which clings.” The Westminster Confession of Faith provides a clear statement of this desperate state of people in sin: ... Keep Reading

The Gospels Teach Us to Slow Down for Easter

April 4, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

If you have ever studied the life of Jesus, you probably have learned that the “public ministry” of Jesus occurred over a three-year period of time. Bible scholars calculate this number using the Gospel of John’s mention of the annual Passover Feast. So, from the baptism of Jesus to his death and resurrection takes about three years. When you press a little further into this three-year period, we discover that Jesus spent most of that time near his childhood home of Nazareth, which was near the Sea of Galilee. Jesus used this time to teach and to work powerful miracles. About one year before his crucifixion, Jesus traveled to his furthest northern destination, Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16, Mark 8, Luke 9). It was in this region that Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus also began at this point to speak openly about going to Jerusalem, suffering at the hands of the scribes and chief priests, dying, and rising again from the dead. The disciples didn’t know what to make of this talk. ... Keep Reading

Benefits for Praying

March 28, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

At our second Prayer Summit this past Sunday, I posed these two questions: What are the pros and cons for praying alone? What are the pros and cons for praying with groups of believers? Megan Hill, in her book Praying Together, uses three chapters to speak about the benefits (or fruits) of praying with other believers. She explains how praying with others cultivates deeper love for these people. Praying with others also serves as an excellent means for discipleship, as we are trained by others’ prayers. Finally, Hill highlights one particular answer to corporate prayer: revival. Throughout the history of the church, God has blessed the church with revival when a group of people were praying together. ... Keep Reading

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