Barb and I will be answering that question on Sunday. We are looking forward to sharing with you the important work that Oak Hill is a part of in reaching the Fulbe people of Chad. You will get a chance to see our missionaries at work, as well as meet the people of Chad. I will just tell you now – you should sit closer to the front than the back on Sunday so you can the faces of people God loves more clearly!
On Sunday you will also be given another opportunity to support an exciting Overflowing Hope project. Here is a little teaser – you are going to be a part of starting a new business in Chad that will directly provide income to our Chadian Missionary families to the Fulbe. Come and hear more on Sunday!
The text for this first Sunday in Lent includes this wonderful promise from God that we celebrated many times as we walked with the people of Chad.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
See you on Sunday!
I am older today than I was yesterday. That is just the way it is. I am pretty sure that first sentence did not make you feel enlightened. Today I am one day closer to the end of my days here on earth and the beginning of my days seeing Jesus face to face.
On any given day I can feel quite different about the fact that I am getting older and there is a finite number of days in this life. Some days I love this current life and some days I look forward to the next. There are days that I thoroughly enjoy and there are days that I will enjoy when they are in the rearview mirror. There are those days where people bless me in so many ways and then there are those days that people – well, they don’t bless me very much.
Can you relate to these mixed feelings? Why is this the case? I think the primary theological reason for this is seen in our text for this upcoming Sunday’s message. Paul describes it this way in I Corinthians 15.
21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
My days are mixed because I am currently living during the “in between time.” I live my life in the reality of sin and death – the world’s and my own. It is quite easy for me to see that I am not living in heaven quite yet. But I am also living in the truth that Jesus has defeated sin and death. He rose from the dead for me.
So, now my days are a combination of these two realities – the death of Adam that affects me and the defeat of death by Jesus that can always affect me in a greater way. The question for me and for you is, will Adam’s mistake or Jesus’ solution affect me more? Most of you know that Jesus is the solution to conquer death when we breathe our last. But do you know that Jesus has also won the battle in such a way that He can also give us the power that conquers the junk that can wreck any given day right now?
In John 10:10 we see that Jesus has come that we might have life and have it to the full! This is for all of eternity, but it is also for today. When difficulties, loneliness, fear, pride and all kinds of mistakes enter our lives – Jesus has a response. It is joy, peace, hope and love that moves in and conquers all the junk; the stuff I create and the stuff that is a part of being in this world. The power of the resurrection is for each of those days where I am getting older and the day at the very end that is really a new beginning.
Today is Valentine’s day. The purpose of this holiday is to appreciate the shape of hearts, the color pink along with purchasing flowers, candy and cards to stimulate our economy. I just feel good about being a part of something so significant. A few of you are probably thinking how blessed Barb is to be the wife of such a romantic guy right now.
Here is another scenario. I notice the gas light come on as I am driving to an out of town meeting, so I promptly pull into the closest Holiday Gas Station. I immediately check the oil and wash the windows. I notice the front passenger side tire is low. I fill it to 35 psi, so all is good with that. I go in and grab a cup of dark roast coffee and a banana for breakfast. I’m all set now, so I hop back in the car and head off to my meeting in Fergus Falls. All is going well for the first 30 miles but then suddenly the car starts sputtering. What could possibly be wrong? I put air in that tire after all!
Right about now you are probably wondering, what in the world is with this guy? How could he be so slow and clueless to miss the main point? Most of us can relate to a time or two in our lives where we look back and wonder how we could have missed the thing that mattered most. We can remember a time we were distracted and completely missed the thing that should have been focused upon. This isn’t such a big deal in many areas of our lives, but then there are those things that are so essential that everything will be “out of whack” if we don’t have it in its proper place.
The Apostle Paul directs us to one of these areas if we are going to be a follower of Jesus. We can appreciate that Jesus was the greatest teacher that ever lived and that he performed some awesome miracles. Along with that, we can appreciate how much he cared for people and confronted injustice. This would all be worth our time to notice, but if this was all we saw in Jesus, we would have missed the main point. Paul wants to make sure Jesus is understood in all His glory.
Our text for this Sunday’s message comes from I Corinthians 15. We will be looking at the first 20 verses of the chapter. Paul wants to make sure that the church in Corinth and Oak Hill understand the most significant thing about Jesus.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…
13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Here is the bottom line. The main thing about Jesus is that He rose again after being dead. This means that Jesus is more powerful than death and that it has no power over Him. That is something to be amazed by, but it is even better than that. Jesus made very clear - His life, death and resurrection were for us. He conquered all sin and death! This means that His invitation to you today is to follow Him all the way into the grave and then out the other side into eternal life.
The main point of Jesus then is to follow Him in all the days of your life, until you breathe your last breath. Then keep following Him on the other side of the grave. Because of Jesus, you have nothing to fear!
Let’s live in Jesus’ main point,
Most of you know that Barb and I just returned from visiting Chad, Africa. We spent time with our North American Missionaries as well as our Chadian Missionaries. It was truly a blessing to be with them and see first hand how they are bringing the Gospel to unreached people groups. At Oak Hill we are connecting to them in very intentional and deliberate ways that matter!
One expected reality of this trip became very apparent as soon as we landed at the airport in Chad. I am the alien, the non-citizen, the one that looks and sounds different. As warm and welcoming as the Chadian people were – I am a guest and I have a lot to learn if I am going to “fit in.” Suddenly, I didn’t understand what was being said by 99% of the people 99% of the time. This situation connects nicely to our text for this upcoming Sunday. Here are a couple verses from I Corinthians 14 that show us what is needed to bring the Gospel to everyone, whether Fulbe or Minnesotan.
10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
Barb and I were so blessed to see the power of the Gospel spoken in the language of the people. I had the opportunity to watch villages of people hear about Jesus as Savior for the very fist time. It was so humbling to see their receptivity and openness that came through the power of the Word, combined with wells and real caring people speaking the message in their language.
This is Dan Venberg and Pastor Malloum sharing the Gospel In a village with a well that used to take a four hour trip to get water.
I watched kids being taught in the name of Jesus in sacrificial ways by loving teachers. I ate, visited and prayed with our Chadian pastor / missionaries that are choosing the difficult path because they have been called to do this significant work of bringing the Gospel into the villages with the language of the people. I watched Dan and Sonja Narvesen immersing themselves in a new language and a new culture because they are “striving to excel in building up the church.” I could go on and on, but I will leave it there for today.
I want to bring this text back to your personal context today. Part of our congregational calling is to bring the Gospel to the Fulbe people, but another part is to translate it so that your neighbor or friend understands it as well. The work of translating in our context often comes first through listening and loving.
This is the Sunday in the Church Year where we typically celebrate the Baptism of Jesus and we will do that at Oak Hill as I share a message on Romans 6:1-11. For a good portion of my life I had no concept of why this event was worthy of a celebration. But now I truly find it an absolutely mind-boggling event. Let’s take a look.
First off, I would like to remind you that elements of Jesus’ Baptism were clearly referred to in the Old Testament. For instance, we have the prophet Isaiah in chapter 40 declaring the message that John the Baptizer would be delivering when Jesus went out to meet him in the wilderness. We read from Luke 3:
3 He [John] went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
We are told that crowds were going out to hear John and to receive a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Therein lies the reason why Jesus being baptized is so interesting and important. John himself recognized how unexpected and mind-blowing it would be for the Messiah to be baptized by him since he possessed no sinfulness at all. John said it like this in Luke 3:16, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
But Jesus was baptized by John. When Jesus did this, He transformed baptism into a place where we become united to Jesus. God tells us in Romans 6:1-11 that because of what Jesus did by humbling Himself into our baptism we are now “baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus.”
Therefore, I am amazed and thankful that the Father’s declaration at Jesus baptism now includes us because that is simply what Scripture says in Galatians 3:26-27, "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
Here is the reason why Jesus’ Baptism is so clearly something I should celebrate. The Heavenly Father, along with the Holy Spirit plainly stated the position of Jesus which now includes us by God’s promise that we are mysteriously united with Jesus by grace through faith. We continue reading in Luke 3:21-22, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
You are so deeply connected with Jesus that you can rest in God Almighty assuring you personally, “You are my Child, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” It is simply a gift from God to you.
Now, that is something to celebrate!
I love a good mystery. Most of my reading that is not related to theology or history will be along the lines of “whodunit.” I love the twists and turns along with figuring out what is a clue and what is a misdirection. When I was a kid, I started out with Encyclopedia Brown, then graduated to the Hardy Boys in upper elementary. Early in our marriage, Barb and I both enjoyed reading the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
As a child I liked solving puzzles and even the word problems in math that some kids seemed to hate. It all came together in my mind as a mystery to be solved. I couldn’t get enough of finding the hidden object pictures in the Highlights magazine or word search puzzles. As I got older, I would buy logic puzzle magazines and wouldn’t pass up sudokus that would come my way. I have always likes solving things – even in my jobs through the years, I have enjoyed being a problem solver. There is a sense of accomplishment when the “mystery” is solved as far as I am concerned.
This week we enter the season of Epiphany in the Church year. Epiphany means that something is revealed or shown and therefore, understood in a new way or to a greater degree. God’s Word is the revelation of God’s salvation movement in history. From Genesis through Revelation God is showing Himself, His heart and His plan to save us and set us free. The Bible is clear that the key to understanding Scripture is that Jesus is the completed revelation. This means that all the prophecies ultimately find their fulfillment in Jesus and that all our needs are met in Jesus, our savior and lord.
So, during this season of God shedding light on our darkened world we will have a Sunday morning message series called The Mystery Unveiled. The title comes from our text for this Sunday which is Ephesians 3:1-12, but it will also flow out of our texts for the next couple of months.
8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
I invite you to come prepared during this season of Epiphany to once again encounter the answer to all life’s mysteries. Come with a sense of awe and expectancy that God Almighty wants to reveal Himself to you. In Jesus, God pulls back the veil of darkness that can so often overwhelm us. As Jesus is understood, we find joy, peace and life itself.
Looking forward to seeing you Sunday!
Enjoying God’s Mysterious and Wonderful Ways,
How was 2018 for you?
I know that some of you had an exciting year and I know others of you would say it was tough for various reasons. I know that for myself, I am once again reminded how little I actually control. At this stage of my life, if I have paid any attention at all to the last 53 years, I had better come to grips with that reality.
I believe that once I stop trying to control everything in my world it becomes easier to trust God. He has called me to live by faith and follow Him. When I was younger, I tended to think God needed to “show me His will” through special revelation or divine intervention for me to know I was on the right path. Now a days, as an older and more mature person [don’t check the maturity growth with Barb] I find God has revealed all I need for daily guidance in His Word. This week’s Scripture Passage for Sunday’s message is one of those fantastic passages to guide my life and yours.
Paul is writing to the congregation in Colossae and to us when he speaks of new life connected to Jesus.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
So, Oak Hill family as we enter this New Year, I pray that you rest in Paul’s words for us in 2019. We are “all dressed up in Jesus” and set for all that comes our way. This includes the tough times as well as the joy filled moments. Our God has made us His own so that we get to live like His own – forgiven and covered in grace. Below is a picture of a wonderful plaque that Kaylee Dorn made for me that sits in my office. I invite you to live in its’ truth for you today and every day because of what Jesus has done for you!
Sometimes I just don’t like to be told. I am very well aware of this tendency and no one has to deal with it more than my wonderful wife. Barb will ask me to do some little task and I need to confess to you, I don’t like it at times. Now, if I had done that very same task, at the very same time, in the very same way but without being told, I would just get after it. What is the deal with that?
I absolutely love my wife and I want to serve her. I am not expected to do an excessive number of chores around the house. I believe that I should do these things simply because Barb asked, and I can easily take out the garbage or vacuum or…whatever she needs me to do. With that being said, what is the deal with the little “control monster” that keeps popping up in my soul?
From my perspective, this is one of the most obvious ways that I see the extent of my sinful nature and my desire to live my life on my terms. It is here that I see the deep reality of my sinful nature. Can you relate to this at all? I can honestly say that I do like to serve and give, but I guess I also need to admit that even this is tainted by my tendency toward selfishness. I am very glad I have a Savior!
The reason I brought up this fault of mine is to deal with a common human problem that comes to light in our text for this Sunday. Paul is writing to the Philippians and he brings up the topic of being joyful in chapter four. I am confident that most of us believe joy is good thing. We want it all the time, don’t we? The answer that question may be: Well, yes I do want a lot of joy, but sometimes joy just doesn’t make sense and then there are other times I just flat out don’t feel like being joyful. Then along comes Paul, like Barb, and says, “Now, do it now, be joyful now!”
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Give me a break Paul!
The Greek word for joy is deeply connected with grace. God has told us that joy is a spiritual fruit. That means it is a gift from God. Joy is a declared reality [not primarily a feeling] that has the power to show up in odd places – it actually has the power to show up in all places, at all times. But for me, it doesn’t always show up and Paul’s words seem to beat me up at times more than bless me. Why is that? It is because I am not the Savior. I need to be reminded that I only follow the Savior, and this is a spot where it can be very hard to follow. It is as simple as that.
Dear Lord of Joy,
I do believe it is a universal truth that Joy can triumph in every situation in my life. In the earthly life of Jesus, it always did triumph, even at the Cross. With me, I need to confess it isn’t always the case --- but I want the joy in my life to show up more and more like it perfectly did for Jesus. Almighty God, thank you for giving me grace along with joy. I believe Joy can always be present. Lord, forgive me where my unbelief or discontentment wells up and joy is absent. Empower your Joy to show up more and more in my life! AMEN!
Last week I was nailed with the flu for a few days. It wasn’t pleasant for several reasons that I won’t go into here. I will simply say that I am very glad it is over. I am pretty sure that all of you who have ever had even a light case of the flu don’t look forward to it returning. If you do – well, you may need to visit a doctor for a reason other than the flu then!
One other thing I really hate about being sick is missing out on things. Last week I was unable to get together with people in a number of settings. Some were regular weekly gatherings, some were special events like a birthday gathering and others were one on one meetings. I appreciate a little down time as much as the next guy, but too much forced alone time is really a drag. God made me to go through life with you and I feel a bit off when I am not able to connect with you.
Our God has a lot of really good ideas. One of them is that people are to love each other. That means to go through life together. It also means that as we consider our Advent series, Joy Unleashed we are to realize that joy is meant to be celebrated in community. The Apostle Paul knew God created us like this and it constantly shows up in his writings. For instance, our text for this Sunday’s message is Philippians 1:1-11 where he says this:
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
We are to find joy in each other!
Far too often, we go through life just occasionally bumping into each other rather than looking at each other as partners in the Gospel. This partnership Paul is talking about means that we find the greatest depth of connection at the point that matters most. When the love and sacrifice of Jesus unites us, all other differences find their proper weight and place. In fact, we may find that the very differences in each other that we struggle with are the differences that make us capable to accomplish things we never could with a group of people just like me.
From creation God made us to go through this journey together. When sin entered our world, it brought a natural division into our relationships instead of joy filled connections. But with the Advent and arrival of Jesus we once again can be overwhelmed with joy in all our relationships. God has given us this power. Let’s claim it and live it this year!
The source of true joy has come, and His name is Jesus. This is the joy that has the power to change everything. Let’s be united in praying that Oak Hill’s partnership in the Gospel would guide our community’s relationships and mission.
I have always loved the season of Advent. It wasn’t that I was so in tune with its’ Church year meaning. I just loved the season leading up to Christmas.
As a child, the anticipation of Christmas was a truly magical time. People seemed to be naturally filled with niceness and smiles. We would also plan into our days to watch as many of those Claymation Christmas shows as we possible. Remember when they were only available to view one time each year? I can still see downtown Anoka all lit up when we would go to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Then there was Dietrich’s Toy Store on Main Street filled with all the dreams any little boy could imagine – Lincoln Logs, Model Cars and all those new-fangled electronic toys.
Barb and I were just talking yesterday about this glorious childhood sense of excitement as we drove into our neighborhood and enjoyed the bright lights of the season. It truly wasn’t so much about receiving gifts as it was about an overall sense of joy and expectation. In other words, it was about Advent even though we didn’t know it!
The season of Advent, which comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit," begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is the beginning of the Church year for many Christians. This year at Oak Hill we will be following the Church year too with seasonal themes beginning with Advent Epistle texts.
During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.
This year we are calling our Advent series Joy Unleashed. As we gather before Christmas our prayer is that you will be filled with hope, peace and the joy of Jesus. God desires, no matter our age, that we would be filled with a sense of amazement that the Savior has come. The Light of the World has come; He is able to shine brightly in our lives and our souls.
May Joy Be Unleashed in us and through us!
Pastor Nick Mundis