Ordinary is not so Ordinary

December 27, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

At Reformed and Presbyterian churches, like Oak Hills, we like to talk about the “ordinary means of grace.” The phrase is adapted from the Westminster Standards, like Question 88 of the Shorter Catechism: “Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption? The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.” The phrase and this question are addressing one of the most important aspects of Christian living. If God has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3), how has he given us “all things” and how do we make use of all these things? The “ordinary means of grace” are the conduit of God extending his powerful grace into our lives. ... Keep Reading

Exploring the Names of Jesus

December 20, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

One of the wonders of Jesus Christ is the vast number of names given to him in the Bible. Jesus, being the infinite Son of God, is far too magnificent to be summarized by one name or title. Like a multi-faceted precious gem, each name gives us a different angle to marvel at the majesty of Christ. During the Christmas season, some of the more obscure names of Christ pop up, especially while singing some of the traditional carols. Hymn writers throughout the ages have loved to celebrate the various Old Testament prophecies of Christ through these Advent carols. Some of the prophecies use a name for the promised Messiah to hint at the coming blessing. The well-loved carol at Oak Hills, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, is one of those carols that highlights some of the more obscure names of Christ. Let’s look at some of the biblical backgrounds to these names and their significance for us today. ... Keep Reading

A Good Contract

December 13, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

“A contract is only as good as the person who signs it.” A friend who runs a business said this in the context of a discussion about God’s covenant in Scripture. Covenant is a vital component in our relationship with God. “Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3) is offered through covenant promises. Those promises are ours in Christ because he fulfills the stipulations of the covenant. He says on the night he was betrayed, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28, cf. Eph. 1:7). As much as our relationship with God is rooted in covenant, my friend’s statement is still true. A contract, or covenant, is only as good as the person who signs it. If God was unfaithful and untrustworthy, we would have no hope of salvation, no matter how many promises God makes. On this side of the Cross, however, we hardly even question about the reliability of God. But what do we do when we come to doubt the trustworthiness of God? What brings assurance? ... Keep Reading

Is that Prophecy Really About Jesus?

December 6, 2018 | 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! When we read Isaiah 7, however, we learn about how king Ahaz feared the imminent attacks from Syria and Ephraim (v. 5-6). The Lord, in his mercy, promises deliverance. And then he gives Ahaz a sign: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (v. 14). The Lord continues to speak of this son and says in verse 16, “Before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.” Certainly God was not telling Ahaz that he needed to wait for the birth of Jesus, over 700 years later, to be delivered from Syria and Ephraim. In fact, we can read the historical account in 2 Kings 16 & 17 how the Assyrian Empire destroys before Syria and Ephraim (Israel), thus fulfilling Isaiah 7:16. But, what about the “virgin”? Could there have been a virgin birth in the time of Ahaz? Perhaps. A more likely explanation, though, is found in the understanding of the broad meaning of the Hebrew word for “virgin.” It could mean a “young woman,” even a newly wed woman. ... Keep Reading

Christmas Through the Eyes of __________________

November 29, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

While I was growing up my pastor did a sermon series during Advent titled “Christmas Through the Eyes of ____________.” Each sermon looked at the birth of Christ through the eyes of a different participant in the event. We heard sermons about the perspectives of Joseph and Mary and Herod and Gabriel and the Shepherds and so on. Our pastor carried on this series over multiple Advents. One of the points that struck me throughout this series was that the coming of Christ had a multi-faceted impact on the people of this world. For some, Christ’s arrival brought joy. For others there was fear or uncertainty or threat. Still others were skeptical. The person of Christ and the celebration of Christmas continues to have this multi-faceted impact on people. Are we aware of this for ourselves and for those we interact with during this season? During this Advent at Oak Hills we will be looking at Christmas Through the Eyes of Jeremiah (yes, I’m stealing the idea from my pastor, although he never did a sermon on Jeremiah). Jeremiah typically is not looked up during the Advent season for “Christmas passages.” People are familiar with Isaiah 7 (“the virgin shall conceive and bear a son”), Isaiah 9 (“for to us a child is born…”), and Micah 5 (“O Bethlehem…from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler”). And we love Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 for the birth narratives. But…Jeremiah? The “Weeping Prophet”? What does he have to do with Christmas? ... Keep Reading

The Marks of Faith

November 22, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

As we have worked our way through Hebrews 11, the great “Hall of Faith,” the author has highlighted various characteristics of faith. Genuine faith is revealed by distinct qualities that emphasize the goodness of God. In the example of Noah, we see that faith reverently fears God (v. 7). Through faith Noah acknowledged and respected the sovereignty of God to pass judgment on the world. He cast himself and his family on the mercy of God by building the ark. In the example of Abraham, we see that faith endures under hardship and trial (v. 8, 17). Abraham’s life was marked by hardship after hardship: without land, without child, without security, and then, when he finally receives a son by miraculous birth, God calls him to sacrifice his son. Only by faith is Abraham able to look beyond the present hardship to the God who can do abundantly more (v. 10, 19).... Keep Reading

How Mighty Are Your Enemies?

November 15, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 18. David opens with these beautiful words and images: “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” (v. 1-3) As I came to read this psalm again this morning, one that I have read hundreds of times and have led Bible studies on, I am astonished once more by the unfathomable riches of the Word of God. A new insight! A new encouragement! This is why reading Scripture never grows old or mundane or stale or boring. Let me share with you how God spoke afresh to me through his Word.... Keep Reading

The Consideration of Faith

November 8, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This past Sunday, as we studied Abraham’s example of faith in Hebrews 11, I highlighted several distinguishing marks of faith. The first mark was faith makes a consideration. We see this in Hebrews 11:19, “[Abraham] considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead.” When Abraham faced the trial of sacrificing his only begotten son, faith led him to make a consideration: what will dictate his response, the circumstances of the trial or the promises of God? Hebrews 11:19 states that Abraham let God’s promises direct his response and actions. This word “considered” is a mathematical term, which can be translated as reckoned, calculated, or accounted. This word is used in the Greek translation of Genesis 15:6, which Paul expounds in Romans 4. “Abraham believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” This is a mathematical, accounting term. Simply by his faith, God credited Abraham positive righteousness. This is the wonder of justification and our salvation.... Keep Reading

Faith Considers the Promises of God

November 1, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

When I first began to serve Oak Hills as pastor in August 2011, I preached a sermon from Hebrews 11:13-16 titled “Where are We Going?” Hebrews 11 is called the great chapter of faith in the Bible. It chronicles the stories of Old Testament saints who demonstrate that faith shaped their lives. Most examples highlight significant trials. I get to preach on this text again this Sunday and I want to ask a different question. The writer of Hebrews makes a summary statement in the middle of the chapter, stating that these people of faith were “seeking a homeland…a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (v. 14, 16). Essential to biblical, God-pleasing faith is this longing and looking for the “better country” God has for us. Faith “sees” beyond present, physical circumstances and seeks what God has promised. ... Keep Reading

What is Faith?

October 25, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

How you define faith is of utmost importance, right? Think about it. The writer of Hebrews says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (11:6). And Paul says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). The importance of faith becomes even more clear when we understand that the verb “believe” (Gr. pisteuo) is just a form of the noun “faith” (Gr. pistis). So we hear John say that he wrote his gospel, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Faith, or believing, is the vital link to eternal life, as Jesus says, “whoever believes in him (God’s only Son) should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16); and again, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (5:24). How you define faith is of utmost importance. Faith is the vital link to eternal life, pleasing God, overcoming sin, and escaping death and judgment. So how do you define faith? ... Keep Reading

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