Transformed by Christmas

December 17, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Delighting in the Christmas story is the good fight of faith. Do you believe that? Let me explain what we aim for when we celebrate the Christmas story using an unconventional “Christmas” verse. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” First, “beholding the glory of the Lord” is delighting in the Christmas story. In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul is explaining the superiority of the new covenant in Christ over the old covenant administered at Sinai by Moses. The old covenant “came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face” (v. 7). The old covenant at Sinai revealed the glory of God. When Paul speaks about the “glory of God (or the Lord)” he is speaking about the goodness and majesty and excellence of God. In the old covenant, God’s holiness and mercy were revealed to the people of Israel. ... Keep Reading

Is that Prophecy Really About Jesus?

December 10, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

During the season of Advent we hear many Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled in the birth of Christ. Some, like Micah 5:2 (“O Bethlehem…from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel”), are explicit in their connection with Jesus. Others are not so explicit. If you ever looked up these prophecies in their OT context you might even scratch your head and wonder how that particular prophecy speaks to Jesus. Let me highlight one such prophecy. Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 when he explains the significance of Mary’s pregnancy. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.’” (1:22). Clearly, a virgin birth can only refer to the birth of Jesus! ... Keep Reading

Mary’s Magnificent Magnificat

December 3, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Every time I read Mary’s Magnificat, her song of praise found in Luke 1:46-55, I marvel. This is a beautiful song of praise for God’s mercy and might. With no direct quotations, at least 35 different Old Testament passages are alluded to in Mary’s song. She’s weaves together prominent OT themes, such as God’s covenant faithfulness, his enduring steadfast love, the exaltation of the humble, judgment on the proud, and God’s service to his people as the Divine Warrior. Mary’s song is so magnificent on so many levels that some biblical scholars question whether Mary even composed or sang such a song. Thankfully, other scholars have demonstrated convincingly that Mary is the original speaker of these words.[1] Why would anyone doubt that Mary spoke these words? What makes this song so amazing? ... Keep Reading

Give Thanks In All Circumstances

November 26, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Do you want to know God’s will for you in this craziest of crazy years? Paul simply states God’s will for you in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Wait… “in all circumstances”?!? Paul certainly did not have 2020 in mind when he wrote this, right? Of course, Paul was not thinking about 2020, or any other crazy year in the past 2,000 years. But God had all these years, and circumstances, in mind when he directed Paul to write this command. God’s will for us this year is to give thanks in all circumstances, no matter how hard, challenging, or disappointing those circumstances are. One of the reasons God desires for us to give thanks in all circumstances is that the lack of gratitude is dangerous. In describing the downward spiral of depravity and rejecting God in Romans 1, Paul says it starts with not honoring God as God nor giving thanks to him (Rom. 1:21). The lack of gratitude leads to the rejection of God. So, for what can we give thanks in “all circumstances”? What is good enough, sufficient, to captivate our attention in the midst of the most difficult circumstances so that we have reason to give thanks? Let’s let Scripture answer that question.... Keep Reading

Too Good to Be True?

November 19, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

John’s gospel is chock-full of glorious promises. Ponder some of these: “the right to become children of God” 1:12 “should not perish but have eternal life” 3:16 “will never be thirsty again” 4:14 “has passed from death to life” 5:24 “shall not hunger…shall never thirst” 6:35 “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” 7:38 “will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” 8:12 We could keep going, but this suffices to illustrate how wonderful the promise of the Gospel is. Whoever believes in Jesus, receives him, follows him, will “have life and have it abundantly” (10:10). Perhaps you feel, at times, a dissonance when you hear such glorious promises. You believe in Jesus and you long for the promises, but you see in your own life and in the world emptiness and disappointment. Why is this? Are the promises of Jesus empty? Are they too good to be true? ... Keep Reading

Condemnation Versus Correction

November 13, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

When the scribes and Pharisees caught an adulterous woman, they wanted Jesus to condemn her to death. Jesus says to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Without undermining God’s holiness nor the intention of the law, Jesus confronts the sinful attitude of condemnation. At this point, some may say, “Wait! What about confronting someone in their sin? We can’t just let sin run rampant, can we?” This person would be correct. As much as condemnation has no place among Christians, so also condonation has no place among Christians. We do not condemn; but we also do not condone. So, what’s the path forward? ... Keep Reading

Textual Criticism 101

November 5, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This Sunday we come to a text in the Gospel of John whose authenticity has been questioned. Your Bible probably has a statement when you come to John 7:53 like, “The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53-8:11.” This is the account, well-loved by many, of the woman caught in adultery. What does this statement mean and how does it impact how we consider this portion of John’s Gospel? Let me begin with a brief primer on textual criticism. Textual Criticism is the science of analyzing manuscript copies of ancient texts in order to discern what the original manuscript said and what may be variants from the original. For most ancient texts (e.g. Iliad by Homer), we do not have the author’s original manuscript; we have only copies. This is true for all of the books of the Bible. Between many of the copies, there are minor, and sometimes major, variants in the text. Brandon Crowe, professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, explains what textual criticism means for the Bible: “[It] means thinking critically about manuscripts and variations in the biblical texts found in those manuscripts, in order to identify the original reading of the Bible.” What criteria does a textual critic use to “identify the original reading of the Bible”? There are both internal and external criteria used in the process. Internally, textual critics look at vocabulary and grammatical structures. They look for consistency with other portions of the author’s writings. Externally, textual critics look for both historical and geographical attestation to a reading. Just like the game Telephone, copies of the original are subject to more variations the farther (timewise) they are from the original. So older copies are more trustworthy. Geographically, a reading is more trustworthy if multiple locations producing copies agree on the reading.... Keep Reading

Do You Thirst?

October 29, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Jesus makes one of the most beautiful invitations of the Gospels in John 7:37. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” This invitation is comparable to Jesus’ in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus appeals to the “thirsty” and the “heavy laden” to come to him. These invitations are sweet and savored by those who are well acquainted with their thirst and burdens. We have to ask, therefore, what does Jesus mean by “thirsts”? On a natural level, we understand what it means to thirst. One day while on vacation, my family did some hiking in Joshua Tree National Park. As we approached the park, we were confronted with many signs warning that there was no drinking water in the park; we needed to have all the water for our day with us. We stopped and purchased water bottles, at extorted prices, before entering. We were thankful, though, as a long day hiking in the hot sun left us thirsty. Our bodies felt the need for water. ... Keep Reading

Grace for the Battle

October 22, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Every year, I preach several sermons in January on the means of grace. The means of grace are God’s appointed avenues to bring his grace into our lives. The primary means of grace are God’s word (preached, memorized, studied, meditated upon, etc.), prayer, and the sacraments. Question 85 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism clarifies why the means of grace are so important. It asks and answers: What does God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin? To escape the wrath and curse of God, due to us for sin, God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption. We are saved by faith, but our faith is never alone. We are called to make “diligent use” of the means of grace. These feed our faith. And, by these means, God passes along “to us the benefits of redemption,” like peace, hope, reconciliation, comfort, power, etc. The means of grace are the gateway God gives to us to enjoy all that he has for us in Jesus. ... Keep Reading

You Will Vote for a Sinner

October 15, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

I don’t like election seasons. The rhetoric is filled with everything that Paul calls believers to put away: bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice (Eph. 4:31). Political tensions seem to be a breeding ground for the works of the flesh: rivalries, dissensions, divisions (Gal. 5:19-20). Even Christians seem to forget that we are called to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). And then there is the anxiety that is enflamed by the rhetoric we hear around the election. That which is a blessing to our nation, the process of democracy, becomes a source of turmoil. In spite of the fact that I dislike the election season, I do plan to vote, and I encourage you to vote. We have the privilege to use our votes to allow biblical values to shape and influence our nation, even if we find ourselves increasingly in the minority. As you go to the voting booth, let me encourage you to keep in mind the following: ... Keep Reading

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