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A Praying Church, Part 2

March 16, 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. Why pray? Why is prayer so essential for the Christian and the church? Why do authors like Paul Miller say, “Prayer is the very breath of the church,” as if the church cannot survive without praying? It is to these foundational questions that Miller gives attention in chapters 3 & 4 of his book A Praying Church. He gives a theological answer that carries an urgency. He explains, “We’ll take a closer look at the connection between prayer and how the Spirit of Jesus works in his church” (p. 23). Miller says that every Christian operates with some sort of blueprint for a church. The typical blueprint places some core, essential activities at the center, or foundation, of the church, activities like preaching, worship, mission, and even prayer. The weakness of this blueprint, argues Miller, is that compartmentalizes prayer as just one activity to do. He then explains that a healthy church has the Spirit of Jesus at its core, all activity flows from the Spirit, and prayer is essential because it ties all activity to the empowerment of the Spirit. He writes, “Prayer becomes central because the Spirit, who carries Christ to us, is central. An attentiveness to the Spirit of Jesus is the missing key to the church’s prayerlessness” (p. 24).... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 1

March 9, 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 my mind Paul E. Miller is the prayer guy. My first introduction to the author was through his earlier book, A Praying Life. That book is an excellent tool to encourage Christians in their practice of the spiritual discipline of prayer. So, I was naturally interested to read Miller’s latest book, A Praying Church. This book goes beyond the individual practice of prayer to encouraging and equipping Christians to pray together in their church communities. He writes, “Praying together is not a luxury, nor is it something just for ‘spiritual’ Christians; it’s the very breath of the church. Most of us don’t have the faintest idea of what that means. That’s what I hope to show in this book: how integral prayer is to a Jesus community” (p. 7). Miller opens his book by sharing about three of his prayer meetings, the first with his wife to start the day, the second with his special needs daughter, and third with his ministry staff of seeJesus. He describes these by saying, “The feel of the prayer time is resurrection. We pray boldly and expectantly, not just because that’s what resurrection people do but because we’ve seen God work in so many amazing ways. Prayer fuels prayer” (p. 5-6). He hopes to allure the reader into desiring that same experience by praying with others.... Keep Reading

Words are Powerful

March 2, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

From the beginning of the Bible, when God said, “Let there be light,” words have been powerful. When God made us in his image, we have come to share in his creativeness and ability to create through words. Since the Fall, however, the power of our words tend more to tear down than to build up. James highlights the power of words in chapter 3 of his letter. He first makes the point that, even though words seem inconsequential, they have huge impact. He draws the comparison between a large ship and its rudder with the human tongue, which is the primary instrument of word creation. He writes, “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things” (3:4-5). You and I both know the old children’s rhyme, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me,” is one of the biggest lies told to children. As James explains, words have huge impact on others. From the same mouth we can build up people and we can tear down others. ... Keep Reading

Hypocrisy in the Church

February 23, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Are you a hypocrite? I have never heard of someone openly admitting that he or she was a hypocrite. In some brutally honest moments, I have heard someone say they acted hypocritically in the past. But never have I ever heard someone openly state, “I am a hypocrite.” I imagine that you would not make that statement today. Have you ever called someone a hypocrite? Let’s admit it: we are far more likely to accuse someone of hypocrisy before we would ever admit to being a hypocrite. It is the easy way out from associating with a person or group of people we don’t like. People avoid the church because they believe it is full of hypocrites. What is the truth about hypocrisy? ... Keep Reading

I love adversative conjunctions because, most of the time, they exalt the power and grace of God. There are occasions in Scripture where the writer uses the adversative conjunction to highlight human sinfulness. Psalm 78 is one of those places where the writer does both. Psalm 78 is 72 verses long, so it is too long to include the full text here. The psalm is a recounting of the exodus story and the 40 years of wandering afterwards. The psalmist states that his purpose is to educate the next generation and warn “that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation” (v. 8). The writer uses the adversative conjunction throughout the psalm to emphasize the utter foolishness and irrationality of human sin in contrast with the gracious work of God. The psalmist begins by recounting the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the miraculous provision of water from a rock (v. 9-16). If anyone had a front row seat for such wonderful works, surely he would faithfully follow God, right? That is just the irony emphasized with an adversative conjunction in verse 17. The writer says, “Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.” The people complained and did not trust in God. What would be a “normal” response to such an ungrateful and complaining spirit? You and I would probably cut off the relationship and find people who appreciate the things we give. If it were our children, we would discipline them. But God? Even though he would have been perfectly just to abandon the Israelites in the wilderness, he graciously provided for them. Psalm 78 highlights this in verse 23, “Yet he commands the skies above and opened the doors of heaven…” God provided manna and quail to satisfy the cravings of the people. ... Keep Reading

I love adversative conjunctions because they exalt the power and grace of God by uniting two opposing statements that present seemingly impossible scenarios. Let me highlight a few of my favorites. I preached on this text in our recent Advent sermon series. I love the contrast highlighted by the use of the adversative conjunction. This one, I believe, impacts us in a very relevant way. Let me lay out the context. Micah served as a prophet between 740 and 700 BC. The Jews had been spilt into two nations for nearly 200 years at this point. The northern kingdom of Israel had long endured under the leadership of godless kings. Most prominent was Ahab and his wife Jezebel, who had multiple confrontations with Elijah. In spite of their utterly godless culture, Israel enjoyed stability and prosperity in the mid 8th century BC. The southern kingdom of Judah swayed back and forth under godless and godly kings. Micah began his ministry shortly after king Uzziah died. Uzziah reigned for 52 years in Judah. So both Judah and Israel were enjoying political and economic stability when Micah began his ministry. And yet, Micah opens his prophecy by stating, “Behold, the Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place” (1:3-4). ... Keep Reading

I love adversative conjunctions because they exalt the power and grace of God by uniting two opposing statements that present seemingly impossible scenarios. Let me highlight a few of my favorites. The Upper Room Discourse found in John 13-16 records some precious instructions from Jesus for his disciples right before he is betrayed and crucified. Jesus was aiming to prepare his disciples for life and ministry after his departure in the ascension. The disciples did not fully understand that Jesus was leaving; they didn’t even understand that he would be crucified in a matter of hours. But these last words of Jesus would have been precious for the disciples to recall in the years ahead while they faced the various trials of ministry. The last verse of the Discourse (some include chapter 17 in the Discourse, but that chapter records Jesus’s prayer to his Father; the discourse with the disciples was complete in chapter 16) contains an adversative conjunction that highlights the power and promise of Jesus. As a summarizing statement of what he had said in chapter 15, Jesus says in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.” That is a sobering statement. Jesus does not promise his disciples an easy life in this world, nor does he promise physical health or earthly wealth. He says his disciples will have tribulation. ... Keep Reading

I love adversative conjunctions because they exalt the power and grace of God by uniting two opposing statements that present seemingly impossible scenarios. Let me highlight a few of my favorites. Luther once said, “The epistle to the Romans is the most important document in the New Testament. It is the place in which the gospel is in its purest expression.” Interestingly then, Paul spends nearly three chapters to open his letter to the Romans to build the case that no one can be saved by their own works. The gospel is only good news when we understand our desperate need for salvation. Paul builds that case through Romans 3:20. In order to feel the weight of Paul’s concluding and summarizing statement in Romans 3:20, we need to briefly trace his argument in the first three chapters. He begins in 1:18 stating, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness.” He explains that there is a general revelation of God’s power and divine nature that is evident to all humans. People in their natural state, however, “suppress the truth” and “became futile in their thinking” and worship creation, rather than the Creator (1:18-23). Though they know, through that general revelation, of just condemnation, they practice “all manner of unrighteousness” (1:28-32). ... Keep Reading

I love adversative conjunctions because they exalt the power and grace of God by uniting two opposing statements that present seemingly impossible scenarios. Let me highlight a few of my favorites. Most would agree that the apostle Paul was an incredible minister for the gospel. Through his ministry, the gospel spread far throughout the Roman Empire. Much of the New Testament was penned by Paul. Some of our most beloved verses on the gospel and God’s grace come from Paul. In all of this success, however, Paul remained humble. We get a window into the source of his humility, and the power behind his ministry, through an adversative conjunction found in 1 Corinthians 15:10. We need to start with verse 9, where Paul states, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” He is speaking about the resurrection appearances of Christ. He mentions in verse 8 that Christ appeared to him as the last appearance. ... Keep Reading

Why Do I Love Adversative Conjunctions?

January 12, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

I admit that I say some goofy things in my sermons. Sometimes it is because I struggle to pronounce words correctly (I inherited this struggle from my dad; it’s in the tongue). Sometimes it is because I get excited about the truths of Scripture and my mouth runs faster than my brain. Sometimes it is because I want to help people remember what I am saying. It is for this last reason that I have said things like, “I love adversative conjunctions!” Adversative conjunctions are those connecting words that unite two opposing statements. Some common examples are but, though, and however. In Scripture they often unite two opposing statements that present seemingly impossible scenarios. Take for example Ephesians 2. Paul says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked… but God made us alive together with Christ…” (v. 1, 4-5). We were dead, but God made us alive. The Bible is full of these contrasts, especially in Paul’s writings. My love for grammar in the study of Scripture is not merely an interest in grammar. My love for grammar is rooted in the belief that God has revealed truth about himself and his ways through the inspiration of not only the words but also the grammar of the Bible. This attention on the inspiration of grammar began in seminary while I studied biblical exegesis with John Piper. This paragraph caught, and has held, my attention: ... Keep Reading

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