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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

Truth is a Big Deal

June 29, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Among Christians, it almost goes without saying, truth is a big deal. If we are not careful, however, what should be a given may easily become overlooked. As I prepare to preach on Ephesians 4:17-24 this Sunday, my attention has been grabbed by Paul’s use of the word truth. Let me share what Paul writes about truth and why it is such a big deal for Christians. Ephesians 4 is not the first time Paul speaks about truth. He calls the gospel, “the word of truth” in 1:13. This implies that the message of our sin and Jesus’ sacrificial, atoning death is foundational truth. This is the truth that provides salvation and reconciles us to the heavenly Father. The next time Paul uses the Greek word for truth, aletheia, is in 4:21. But he uses a connate word (uses the same root) in 4:15 when he writes, “speaking the truth in love.” The word is aletheuo, which simply means to speak the truth. As part of the body serving one another to help the body grow, we must speak the truth to one another. What catches my attention this week is Paul’s use of the word truth three times in the cluster of verses between 4:21 and 4:25. In 4:21 he says “the truth is in Jesus.” In 4:24 Paul writes (translating the Greek literally, word by word), “put on the new self which has been created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth.” The ESV has “true righteousness and holiness” for that last phrase. And then in 4:25, Paul commands, “speak the truth,” using the normal Greek verb for speaking and the noun “truth.” ... Keep Reading

Walking in the Light

June 22, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This week is SummerLink, our Presbytery’s annual summer camp for youth. We have ten churches in the Heartland Presbytery. Staff, volunteers, and youth come together from these churches for this fun-in-the-sun week. This year the group is at YouthFront Camp in La Cygne, KS. I have had the privilege of giving the messages each evening. The theme for camp has been “Walking in the Light.” The phrase comes from 1 John 1:7, but the metaphor is all over Scripture. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12). The psalmist calls the Word a “light to my feet” (119:105). Paul calls believers “children of light” (Eph. 5:8). Light is used as a metaphor for God’s holiness, revelation, the coming of Christ, salvation, our holiness, and the eternal presence of God. “Walking in the light” is a comprehensive phrase to speak about our relationship with God. The apostle John, however, adds an interesting twist in 1 John 1:7. Consider what he writes, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” If the “light” is associated with God, his holiness, salvation, and his presence, why does John state that if we walk in the light, “we have fellowship with one another”? What does walking in the light have to do with fellowship with one another? I have three thoughts. ... Keep Reading

Unity

June 15, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

There are two main passages in the Bible that speak about the unity of God’s people. One is Ephesians 4:1-6, which we have considered in recent sermons at Oak Hills. The apostle Paul commands the church to walk in a manner worthy of her calling, which includes being eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Paul grounds this command in the fundamental unity of God. The three persons of the Trinity are united in their saving work of us and in their formation of the single people of God, called the church. Our calling to maintain the unity is undergirded by God’s work to create the unity. The second passage in the Bible addressing unity is found in John 17, which is called Jesus’ high priestly prayer. In the same night he would be betrayed by Judas, Jesus offers up this magnificent prayer recorded by John. In addition to praise, it contains six petitions. First, that the Son would be glorified by the Father in his sacrificial death (v. 1). Second, that the Father would keep the disciples in the security of his name (v. 11). Third, that the Father would protect the disciples from the Evil One (v. 15). Fourth, that the Father would sanctify the disciples in the truth (v. 17). Fifth, that the disciples may be one (v. 21). And sixth, that the disciples would be where Christ is (v. 24). The fifth petition comes in verse 21 where Jesus prays, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” When Jesus makes the comparison (“just as”) of the unity of believers with the unity of the Father and Son, he helps us understand the nature of Christian unity. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus gives testimony that he and the Father are united in mission (see 5:30; 10:30; 14:10 & 17:4). They were working together to accomplish the same goal, which, of course, was the redemption of the elect. ... Keep Reading

What is in a Benediction?

June 8, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This week we are hosting Joyplosion at Oak Hills. It is our annual program for kids where we teach about the goodness of God’s grace and share with the kids fun and unique activities. It is one of my most favorite events we host at Oak Hills for multiple reasons. First, I love when the church serves and loves our covenant children. Second, I love that families from the community participate by entrusting their kids to our care. Third, I love watching our volunteers share their gifts, talents, and passions with the kids. It is only three nights, but it is jammed packed with all kinds of goodness. And I know that both kids and volunteers are worn out by the end of the third night. This year our theme verse has been Numbers 6:24-26. These verses contain what is known as the Aaronic blessing. Perhaps you recognize them as one of the benedictions we use to close our worship service. Let me quote these words here, including the verses before and after the benediction: The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” What do we learn about benedictions from these verses? ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 12

June 1, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is the final article of the series, in which I have sought 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 the last section of the book, titled “Specialized Praying in Community,” Miller addresses three specifics tied to prayer. First, he considers the biblical commands to “be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). Second, he explains how prayer is vital in the battle against besetting sins. Third, he encourages the discipline of fasting in connection with prayer. Let’s consider these in turn. There are multiple places in his letters where the apostle Paul commands “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). Miller contends, “Christians usually run Paul’s exhortations to be constant in prayer through our grid of Western individualism and assume that the need for constancy applies to each of us separately…The idea is all of you, together, in your communities, be constant in prayer” (p. 229). If a church community is to cultivate a culture of prayer, there needs to be an inclination to turn to prayer in all circumstances, not only at designated times of prayer.... Keep Reading

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