Mt Oak Blog

Mt Oak has its own blog that features articles from our pastor and other lay persons in our congregation.  Come and read those articles (and feel free to leave a comment)

 

Growing Older Well

Years ago I was conversing with a retired woman who had graciously agreed to take over the church’s ministry to seniors.  She was explaining to me her goals and frustrations when she made a complaint I did not expect.  She said that the problem with our ministry to seniors was that the “older seniors” only wanted programs which allowed them to come to church, sit down and watch.  She and her husband wanted to walk places and do things. One of the great privileges of being a pastor (or a member of a church) is that we have the opportunity to form meaningful relationships with people of all ages and situations.  Sooner or later, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, will all wander into the church.  Unfortunately, however, we do not value everyone equally.  This is particularly evident in the ways that many churches view seniors. To be certain, seniors are almost always welcome at almost every church.  We are happy to see older members.  If occasionally they complain too much they more than make up for it with their loyalty, their service and their tithes.  That said, churches will spend considerable time and energy designing...
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What is Advent all About?

Every year people look forward to the Christmas season but every year the Christmas season inspires a series of complaints. Some complain that the stores break out their Christmas declarations too early; oblivious to the fact that without the Christmas season many brick and mortar establishments would go out of business. Others (granted only a precious few) complain that Starbucks coffee cups fail to adequately express the real meaning of Christmas.  I think that these gripers have a point.  After all Mary and Joseph surely drank their coffee from goblets engraved with Micah’s words about Bethlehem.  Perhaps most amusing of all, there are ministers of the Gospel who have been trained to complain that their congregations want to sing Christmas carols in December.  These preachers are scandalized by what they view as a spiritual faux pas as if they didn’t understand that if God actually would meet us as a baby in a small-town stable, he probably is not too upset that we want to sing about it a month early. None of this makes sense – or maybe it does. Maybe the real problem is that whether we are Christian, atheist or something in between, we all want Christmas...
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Words for a Hurting Nation

Our nation is in a great deal of pain right now.  In many ways it doesn’t seem right to complain because we are not fighting a major war, nor are we suffering from famine or plague.  Even the horrific storms we suffered in late summer are something that we tell ourselves bring out the best in Americans.  Life is good but nevertheless we are in pain. The greatest source of our pain is an old wound that has never really healed.  Slavery was our original sin and the injuries that were and are caused by that sin have lingered long after 620,000 soldiers and one president had to die in a war that was fought because of sin’s infection.  I know that it is easy for white people to say that no one who is alive has ever been a slave, but as a white man I have listened to enough honest, pained stories to know that it takes more than bullets and laws to heal the aftereffects of hatred and injustice. That said the pain of sin is not felt by only one race.  I have many white friends who grew up despising racism but have grown cynical because...
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Where Will You Pitch Your Tent?

Those who know my wife and me won’t be at all surprised by this story.  We took our kids camping with another family one weekend a few years ago, but we didn’t plan well ahead of time.  We didn’t book our campsite ahead of time, didn’t check the weather, and didn’t check our tent for holes.  So of course we got stuck in the last available campsite on low, swampy ground.  And of course it rained…hard.  And of course our tent leaked.  We had a river running thru the center of our tent and everyone’s sleeping bags got soaked!  Looking back on it, it was a funny scene but, at the time, we were all miserable!  In short, we were unwise in where we pitched our tent. Abram, on the other hand, was not unwise.  He pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai. (Genesis 12:8)  That used to be the type of trivial detail I would just gloss over in the Bible.  But on a recent re-read of it, God said:  Stop. I want to show you the place I showed Abram. God called Abram to leave the comfort of his home and homeland to go on a spiritual journey...
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A Man After God’s Own Heart (Part 3 of 3)

In Revelation, Jesus tells His disciple John that He holds the “key of David.”  What does He mean?  Specifically, Jesus said, “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.  What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Revelation 3:7) What is the key of David?  What door does it open? To understand the answers to these questions, we must understand the covenant God made with David:  “…the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son. … my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:11-16) Here,...
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A Man After God’s Own Heart (Part 2 of 3)

The greatest enemy David ever faced was himself, and with the greatest risk of failure, because it was a battle that the Lord would not fight for him.  The Lord said David was a man after His own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14)  I marveled at this scripture because David committed sins that were, in my view, far worse than Saul’s. You know the story.  David beheld Bathsheba bathing and fell in love with her.  He fell in lust, to be more precise.  He had her brought to him that night and slept with her.  David knew she was another man’s wife; and he knew he was guilty of breaking God’s law.  There would be no way to hide his sin because, a short time later, David learned that Bathsheba was pregnant with his child.  He decided to “fix” the problem by having her husband, Uriah, brought home from the war.  David assumed that, naturally, Uriah would sleep with his wife and so everyone would assume Uriah was the father of Bathsheba’s baby.  Problem solved, right…? Wrong.  The problem wasn’t solved because Uriah wouldn’t return home to be with his wife.  When David asked him why, Uriah replied: “The ark and Israel and Judah...
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A Man After God’s Own Heart (Part 1 of 3)

The prophet Samuel told King Saul that his kingship wouldn’t endure and that the Lord had selected a man after His own heart to be Israel’s next king. (1 Samuel 13:14)  Samuel was referring to David, the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, in the tribe of Ephraim, whom Samuel hadn’t even met yet.  In Hebrew, David’s name means “beloved.”  Why did God select David to be the next king?  In my view, David committed sins that were despicable and far worse than Saul’s.  So how was David’s heart like God’s?  Why was David deserving of a kingship that would endure whereas Saul was not? In a word, love.  David truly loved the Lord and as a young man, in faith, he placed his relationship with God above of all other priorities in his life.  In this regard, he was a fractal image of Jesus Christ — many events in David’s story were symbolic foreshadows of the story of the Messiah.  For example, when David first appears in the Bible, we’re made aware that he was an unlikely choice to be king.  He was physically smaller and more humble in appearance than his brothers.  Indeed, Samuel was surprised God chose David,...
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Saul: A Picture of Salvation

It struck me as odd that Jesus Himself came back to deal with Saul of Tarsus.  After all, Jesus had completed His mission on the cross, He had proven Himself resurrected to His followers, He had given them their instructions on what to do next as His disciples, and He had ascended into heaven right before their eyes.  So that’s a wrap, right?  Wrong.  Jesus returned again a short time later to confront Saul.  Why? And why Saul?  Why not confront any of the other Pharisees who persecuted Jesus and His followers?  Indeed, why not confront the whole assembly all at once?  Or, if Saul was so important, why didn’t Jesus deal with him during His lifetime, or perhaps in the days after His resurrection?  Why go to the trouble of coming back specifically to confront Saul?  Was it merely an “I forgot” on Jesus’ to do list? I doubt it.  I’ve learned that these types of “anomalies” are there to attract our attention.  There is a rhythm in the repeating patterns of the history recorded in The Bible and God uses the beat, and irregularities in the beat, to get our attention.  He wants us to prayerfully bring our questions to...
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