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)

 

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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Remember The Sabbath?

Growing up, and until recently, I saw no point in the fourth commandment. All nine of the other commandments made sense to me, but I didn’t get this business about doing no work on every seventh day. It seemed like a throw-in to me, or worse: like the Israelites were sentenced to endure a weekly “time out” period. What was the point? “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner dwelling in your town. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11) God rested on the seventh day and, because He did, so should we? To me, this commandment didn’t rise to the same level of seriousness as the others and so habitually breaking it seemed like no big...
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King Saul: A Picture of Sin

King Saul got a raw deal; or so I thought the first time I read his story (and the 2nd and 3rd times too).  God made Saul king — the first king of Israel — and then voided his kingship.  Why?  It’s true, Saul disobeyed God’s instructions but he wasn’t unique in that regard.  Other kings, like David, disobeyed God and didn’t have their kingship voided.  What did Saul do that was so wrong? Good questions! God called me to re-read Saul’s story.  He showed me that Saul is a picture of sin, and that Saul’s story serves as a warning to me, and others, who arrive at this decision fork:  will I rely upon God’s Word or upon my own wisdom? In this re-reading, God suggested to my mind that Saul’s character was a picture of my character.  Needless to say, that got my attention.  (But I’m getting ahead of myself…) The Hebrew spelling of “saul” means two different things.  The Israelites pronounced his name “sha’ul,” which means “asked for” or “prayed for.” But, in another context, the term is pronounced sheol, which means “grave,” “pit,” or “abode of the dead.”  This double meaning is dramatic irony, to use a literary term...
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What God Showed Abraham (and me) – Part 2

« Click to go back to Part 1 of “What God Showed Abraham (and me)” — In that moment, I felt overwhelmed by my feelings of love and pain and joy. How much greater were such feelings in Him! I sensed that my emotions were like a tea cup compared to the ocean of emotion God feels. While my feelings are like His, His are on a much grander scale. Yes. I made you in my image.  Now look again at Abraham’s story from my perspective. Again, this wasn’t a voice inside my head; rather, it came all at once as fully articulated understanding. I re-read the story, this time paying closer attention to details. Abraham took his son to Mt. Moriah. I looked it up and, in Hebrew, Moriah means “God’s ordained place” or, more literally, “the place where God shows.” What did I show? Look more deeply. In Genesis 22:4, the verse begins, “On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place…” On the third day! Was that number significant? I recalled that Jesus arose on the third day after being crucified; Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days; there was the...
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