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What is the Greatest Virtue?

March 11, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis argued that the greatest sin is pride. He wrote, “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” If pride is the greatest sin, what is the greatest virtue? In the current cultural moment, there are cries for all sorts of virtues, most of them biblical. Courage. Kindness. Justice. Self-sacrifice. Equality. Tolerance. Charity. Chasity/Purity. Honesty/Truth-speaking. Once again in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis speaks about the four “Cardinal Virtues:” prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. All of these are commendable virtues. We can find Scripture passages that commend and command the pursuit of these virtues.... Keep Reading

Poisonous Unbelief

March 4, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In John 8 we see some of the sharpest clashes between Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jews. The Jews take offense at what Jesus is offering and claiming about himself. Jesus does not mince words when he says, “You are of your father the devil” (v. 44). The Jews come back and accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan and having a demon (v. 48). How could the Jews respond with so much vile bitterness against Jesus? In this chapter alone, Jesus offers the light of life (v. 12), freedom from the bondage to sin (v. 32), and eternal life (v. 51). Such gloriously good promises! And yet, the chapter ends with the Jews picking up stones to kill Jesus. I believe John portrays the Jews as he does in his gospel because he wants to warn his readers. The warning is this: Unbelief is poisonous. To the extent that we do not trust in Jesus for who he is and what he offers, our hearts, minds, and lives are poisoned by unbelief. We see this on display in John’s gospel. ... Keep Reading

Truly, truly, I say to you…

February 25, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Twenty-five times in the Gospel of John we hear from the lips of Jesus this introductory statement, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” It’s unique to John that the word “truly” is repeated; the other Gospel writers record only one “truly.” What does this phrase mean? Why does Jesus use it? Simply put, the phrase means, “I am solemnly telling you the truth.” The word “truly” is the Greek word amen. When we use this word at the end of a prayer, it is an expression of faith, appealing to God, “Let it be so.” When Jesus uses “amen” at the beginning of a statement (and in the Bible, he is the only one who does so), it is an assertion that he is making a solemn declaration. Jesus wants his hearers to listen carefully to the statement he is about to make. This doesn’t invalidate other teachings of Jesus; it adds weight to the present statement. The purpose for Jesus using this solemn assertion varies for the context. ... Keep Reading

Ongoing Racial Tensions

February 18, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Tuesday, February 23 marks the one-year anniversary of when Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot. While details of what happened that day were not made public until May, Arbery’s death sparked a contentious year in our nation over the state of race relations. There were the deaths of Breanna Taylor and George Floyd, followed by a summer of protesting and rioting. Headlines for these events competed with the news of the worldwide pandemic. How should the Church respond? Since the mid 90s, when I began formal ministry training, I have been engaged in and following discussions on racial reconciliation. This has been something Christians have been wrestling with for decades and even centuries. Several truths have been emphasized by those seeking to be faithful to the gospel and Scripture: ... Keep Reading

Disciples and Discipleship

February 11, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

When I was in the eighth grade, my youth pastor assigned me to my first discipleship group. Along with two other middle school boys, we met with a young man from our church who volunteered time with the youth ministry. We worked our way through the Navigator study, Growing in Christ. Our leader gave us notebooks to write down prayer requests and track our Bible reading. For the first time of my life, I began to develop a daily habit of Bible reading and prayer. Whenever I think of discipleship, I think of that group experience. Someone more mature in their walk with Christ helped me grow in my understanding and enjoyment of what God has done for me through Jesus. He encouraged my habits in spiritual disciplines. He prayed for me. He answered questions as they came up. And we made some fun memories together. Discipleship within the context of the church is when we help one another grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. ... Keep Reading

Marks of a True Disciple of Jesus

February 4, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are interested in being a faithful disciple of Jesus. Making “disciples” is the mission of the church. Before any believer was called a “Christian” he was called a disciple. Therefore, identifying a “true disciple” is vital to our faith. Are you a true disciple? Do you know how to “make disciples”? In John 8:31-32, Jesus gives us a clear picture of what a true disciple looks like. He says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I identify seven marks of a true disciple in Jesus’ words; the first four expand on the meaning of the word “abide.” ... Keep Reading

Freedom!

January 28, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

That single word invokes all sorts of ideas, memories, dreams, and, even, pain. Perhaps your mind recalls an epic scene from Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, where William Wallace loses his life in an effort to gain freedom for Scotland. Or you hear the words “Let freedom ring…” from Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech. Or you sympathize with those who are still fighting for freedom. But does Jesus come to mind when you think of freedom? In all four Gospels, there is only one place where Jesus speaks about freedom. In fact, his words on freedom are some of the most important for our understanding. We hear from Jesus in John 8, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v. 31-32, 34-36). ... Keep Reading

Abide

January 21, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

One of the most important commands in the Gospel of John is “abide.” It comes in John 15:4, where Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you,” where he speaks about our relationship with him as branches to a vine. But John 15 is not the first time Jesus speaks about this all-important activity for his followers. In John 6:56, Jesus says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Jesus is speaking about the spiritual reality of utterly depending on his sacrifice on the cross for our salvation. When we “feed” on his sacrifice, we abide in him. This reveals the spiritual significance of communion. Eating and drinking the symbolic bread and cup is an act of faith feeding on the sacrifice of Christ. Communion is a means of abiding in Christ. In John 8:31, Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Jesus is providing a litmus test of true faith for the crowd of Jews listening to his teaching. The true disciples of Christ abide in his word. ... Keep Reading

Use the Law Lawfully

January 14, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This Sunday is the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day, a national holiday. Both days highlight the battle for values. Will our nation value all human life, including the lives of the unborn? Will our nation value equality among all humans, regardless of skin color? What we value drives how we live. As Christians, such values are clearly spelled out in Scripture. We look to God, the source of life and standard of holiness, to lay out the values by which we ought to live. One such place to find direction from God for our values is the Ten Commandments. In these prohibitions, we have a window into the heart of God, what he esteems as valuable and worthwhile. This Sunday, I will preach on the Ten Commandments, explaining how they ought to shape our values as we think about current, cultural debates. In preparation for Sunday, I want to draw attention to the three uses of God’s moral law. John Calvin was the first to write about these three uses in his Institutes of the 16th century. Our doctrinal standard, the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, adapts what Calvin wrote and rearranges the order. The three uses help us understand how to listen to and apply God’s law. Let me highlight these uses, following Calvin’s order. ... Keep Reading

Peace!

January 7, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Once again, we have been reminded this week we live in a sinful and broken world. The storming of and rioting at the Capitol Building yesterday grieves and confounds and discourages us. As followers of Christ, whose citizenship is in heaven, we are guided by a different set of values. Our King has laid out those values in what have come to be known as the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12). As I reflect on this list again, the seventh value stands out to me: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (v. 9). Notice that our identity in relationship with God is not contingent on our ethnicity, political persuasion, education level, socio-economic status, or gender. Jesus directly links our identity as “sons of God” to our moral ability to be “peacemakers.” This Beatitude encourages us to ponder the wealth of biblical teaching on peace. Let’s consider what the Bible has to say about peace. ... Keep Reading

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