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Forgiveness is Hard

September 7, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Forgiveness is hard. Just this week I have interacted with two different people who are dealing with broken family relationships. The other party refuses to be reconciled. What does forgiveness look like in these scenarios? And then there are the heinous sins like murder, abuse, and racism. Wouldn’t forgiveness just empower the perpetrator to cause more harm? Must we forgive when reconciliation of the relationship is unlikely or even impossible? Does not forgiveness undercut the pursuit of justice? These are the sort of questions and scenarios I am wrestling with as I prepare to preach on Ephesians 4:31-5:2 this Sunday. In particular, Ephesians 4:32 states, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We are commanded to forgive one another, just as God has forgiven us in Christ. How do we obey this command in the most difficult situations? ... Keep Reading

More and More for Oak Hills, Part 3

August 31, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Over the last few weeks we have been considering Paul’s unique command in 1 Thessalonians 4 to “do more and more.” He links this command to three actions: pleasing God (faith), holiness (literally, our walk), and love for one another. We have already discussed faith and holiness; let’s consider the command to love one another “more and more.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, Paul writes, “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more.” While he commends the Thessalonians for their love, Paul also calls them to a higher standard, “more and more.” What does “more and more” love for one another look like? The command to love is all over the New Testament. Jesus commends the Old Testament command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” as the second great commandment. Then, in his Farewell Discourse, he tells his disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (Jn. 13:34). The disciples pick up this command and make it central in their ethical teaching for the early church. Paul says in Romans 12:9, “Let love be genuine,” and then in 13:8, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.” Peter speaks about love in the context of the growth in holiness, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Pet. 1:22). Of course, John has some of the starkest teaching about love for one another. He writes in 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”... Keep Reading

More and More for Oak Hills, Part 2

August 24, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

We return to Paul’s unique exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 4. In verse 1 and 10 he commands the church to “do more and more.” This is directly applied to how they “ought to walk and to please God” (v. 1) and to “love one another” (v. 9), but it has implications for how we think about the work and mission of the church. As followers of Christ, there is nothing new to add to or replace the gospel. We are called to dig deeper and deeper (i.e. more and more) into the glorious truths of the gospel and let them shape our thinking, our values, and our actions more and more. Last week we looked at how we ought to grow more and more in our faith. As the writer to the Hebrews says, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). We please God more and more with ever deepening delight and rest in him. This week, let’s look at what Paul calls our “walk.” It is one of Paul’s favorite words to describe the day-to-day practical living of Christians. When saw him use this word in the pivotal verse of Ephesians, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:1). Like Ephesians 4, Paul goes on in 1 Thessalonians 4 to give explicit instruction on what constitutes a worthy walk. ... Keep Reading

More and More for Oak Hills, Part 1

August 17, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica has always fascinated me. Part of my fascination is the story of Paul coming to Thessalonica in Acts 17 and being chased away after only three Sabbaths of ministry. Part is the incredible conversion story of the Thessalonians, of which Paul says, “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thes. 1:9). Part is Paul’s description of his ministry philosophy, of which he says, “being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (2:8). And part is Paul’s instruction for the church on what’s next. For this, he says nothing new is next; just keep doing what you already have been doing. This instruction on what’s next comes in 1 Thessalonians 4. Paul uses a unique phrase in this section. The ESV translates this phrase as “do so more and more” (v. 1 & 10). These are the only two places in the whole New Testament we find this phrase. Consider how Paul uses this phrase as bookends of his instruction: “Finally then, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more… Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do this more and more.” ... Keep Reading

Sharing the Gospel With an Apatheist

August 10, 2023 | by: John Lee | 0 Comments

Have you ever tried to share the gospel with someone to only be met with a response similar to “eh, I don’t really care about that”? If you have, you are not alone! In fact, this is an ever-increasing response when sharing the gospel with someone today. When looking at statistics, more and more people are identifying as the “religious nones”. This means that we are meeting more and more people who couldn’t care less about the gospel. A term that is beginning to take root in describing such people is “apatheism” – a combination of “apathy” and “theism”. Unlike the atheist who is passionate in their belief that there is no God or the agnostic who is passionate in their belief that no one can really know who this God is (if he does exist), the “apatheist” is passionate with indifference to the things of God. So, how do we begin to share the gospel with our apatheistic friends who simply seem like they couldn’t care less? ... Keep Reading

Gracious Speech

August 3, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

I love finding parallels between the words of Jesus and the writings of Paul. There are some in the Christian world who believe that Jesus and Paul are at odds with one another, thus creating a divide in their Bibles and among other Christians. Either you are a Jesus-Christian or a Paul-Christian. But Paul and Jesus are on the same page time after time. They teach the same gospel, the same theology, the same ethics, albeit using different logic and language. One such place where Paul and Jesus agree is in our speech. Jesus says in Matthew 12:33-34, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Jesus says that our speech reveals our inner nature and what fills our hearts. Paul says the same thing in Colossians. Paul adds, though, direction for how to “make the tree good.” Paul says in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Let me break this verse down so we can begin to see the parallels with Jesus’ teaching. ... Keep Reading

Words that Build Up

July 27, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In Ephesians 4:29, the apostle Paul commands, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” As I prepare to preach on this verse on Sunday, I have been thinking about what sort of speech builds up another and how we each can gro... Keep Reading

To Share or Not to Share?

July 20, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In Paul’s ethical teaching for the Christian community, we come to his treatment of the 8th commandment in Ephesians 4:28. He says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” We will be digging into this verse on Sunday, but I wanted to use this space to think about what the Bible teaches on sharing. As an alternative to stealing, Paul commends the readiness to share. The concept of sharing one’s goods is commanded by God. In Leviticus 19:9-10, God says, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” This comes in a string of commands that impact our interactions with others. God concludes this series of verses with the catch-all command, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). There are several principles undergirding the command to not consume all the production of our hands (or the wages we earn). First, God reminds the Israelites that they had been “strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:34). This principle emphasizes that we can never presume to think we are better than others. We enjoy provisions and comfort only as a gift of God’s grace. Second, God reminds the Israelites that their bountiful harvests are gifts from him (see Deut. 6:10-15). In fact, he warns them to “take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (v. 12). This principle emphasizes that all things we enjoy, even the wages of our labors, are gifts from the Lord. Third, God calls his people to love their neighbors as themselves. This principle emphasizes the Golden Rule, which states that we should do to others as we would have them do to us (Matt. 7:12). If we are in need, we would want our “neighbors” to be open to sharing with us.... Keep Reading

Purity and Peace

July 13, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Recently at Oak Hills we have had several children make their public profession of faith. As part of this public profession, the children affirm their agreement with our church membership vows. These vows not only affirm one’s belief in the gospel, but also one’s commitment to the local church. Foundational to church membership is the belief that Christ, as the head of the church, has called his people into covenant relationship with one another. The fifth vow all members affirm is, “Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to study its purity and peace?” The first part of the vow acknowledges that Christ has established the leadership of the church for the shepherding care of his people. The second half of the vow acknowledges that one must diligently work to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The diligence is implied in the word “study.” This word does not merely mean to learn something, but also to pursue something. Members promise to make the purity and peace of the church a top priority. So what contributes to the purity and peace of the church? ... Keep Reading

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

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