Today’s something of a national holiday in our culture. Super Bowl LIII will be played this evening as 100 million Americans tune in around the county. Many of these, of course, are Christians. In fact, several groups from Oliver Creek will be watching together. At the same time, we’re in a preaching series through the letter of 1 Peter at OC called Strangers. Peter argues that we are “strangers in the world.” We’re different, distinct, and maybe a bit weird to the watching world. So when Christians gather to watch the big game, there’s bound to be some strange things. How should Strangers watch the Super Bowl?Read More
Reflecting on the Word is a transformative habit. Here’s a reading plan through the letter of 1 Peter to help guide your reading, meditation, and prayer.
Make 15 minutes a day to go deeper.Read More
Smith Hopkins | April 3, 2018
On April 1, 2018 the elders and ministers announced a new ministry for Oliver Creek. You can listen to the recording and read along to some of the highlights of the announcement. At the end is a link to a survey--we'd like to hear from you!Read More
Smith Hopkins | March 7, 2018
Which is more important, evangelism or justice? What’s the relationship between sharing the word of Christ or sharing the deeds of Christ?
There are some who believe that evangelism is the primary mission of the church (“making disciples”, “sharing the gospel”, “winning souls”, etc.). Do justice if it can be helpful to doing evangelism. On the other hand, there are some who believe that justice is the primary mission of the church (“righteousness”, “social justice”, “helping the poor”, etc.). Most Christians and churches fall in between these two extremes (see the chart below).Read More
Smith Hopkins | February 26, 2018
What do you think are the main contributing factors to poverty around the world and in our country? In what ways should we seek justice for the poor?
Have you noticed that our country is a bit divided over such questions? For many Christians in America today, our answers to these questions fall into existing partisan political lines. There seems to be a clear left / right spectrum in our thinking about justice. I am not convinced that either side is doing justice to the issues of justice at stake.Read More
Smith Hopkins | February 21, 2018
Why is doing justice for the poor and vulnerable difficult for us? Scripture's clarity on doing justice doesn’t always translate into our activity. doesn’t always translate into our activity. Why not? What internal objections do you hear yourself saying?
They aren’t starving, the government gives them enough. He’s got a nicer cell phone than I do!
I have nothing to spare. After all we've done, we just can't do any more.
They got themselves into this mess. We’ve given too much for her to just waste it.
They need more than I can give.
My list could go on. Have you ever thought something similar? But the more I evaluate my objections, the more I realize that my problem with doing justice for the vulnerable is, more than anything and anyone else, a problem with me.Read More
Smith Hopkins | February 14, 2018
How did the early church do justice? What stories or teaching come to mind? “Justice” may not be your typical category for it, but demonstrations of justice in love, generosity, and charity fill the pages of Scripture.
But why? Where did the church get the idea to do justice like that?
In this post I hope to share how the portrait of God’s justice we’ve been exploring in Israel’s law and prophets was carried in to a new people, in a new time, and in a new way by the church of Jesus Christ.Read More
John Bradford | February 7, 2018
“But, that’s the Old Testament!”
Have you ever heard this comment before in reference to an unpopular or strange teaching in the Bible. It’s understandable. It’s difficult to know exactly how certain sections of the Law of Moses should relate to us today. (Am I in trouble for wearing mixed fabric?)
Some though raise a similar concern about justice. After all, many of the memorable passages in the Bible about social justice come from Israel’s prophets like Isaiah, Amos, and Micah. It might be tempting then to leave justice back in the OT. Some would say that God, in the OT, is concerned with land promises, law, and running a nation. In the NT, so the argument goes, Jesus is concerned with grace, forgiveness, and “getting people saved.” In this paradigm, it’s easy to see how justice fits in to old covenant, but harder to see how it fits in the new covenant.
But is this really the story of Scripture? Is the OT about God’s justice while the NT is about Jesus’s gospel of salvation? I think this division is unfortunate. What I think we should see when we look at Scripture is a unity between the ideas of justice and salvation in both testaments. God has always been and always will be concerned with both of these closely related ideas.Read More
Smith Hopkins | January 29, 2018
The Story of God begins with God, the Creator, forming his world. The capstone is his forming of humanity in the image of God. God, the supreme ruler of all that is, shares his rule with humans (“let them rule…let them have dominion,” Gen 1:26-28). God’s rule is mediated through humans. Each human. All humans. As image bearers we are called to rule on his behalf. This is the foundation for our call to justice.
But instead of justice, humans chose sin. We still do. From individuals (Gen 3) to empires (Babylon, Gen 11), sin then magnified and multiplied. God's rescue plan centered on the family of one man, Abraham, whom he called out of Babylon to bless all nations (Gen 12). Abraham’s family, God said, was chosen to fulfill humanity's purpose of reflecting God’s ways to the world. They would reflect him “by doing righteousness and justice” as God does (Gen 18:19). God's people are commissioned to live out God’s justice in and for the world. By the beginning of Exodus, however, the people were victims of extreme injustice. They were slaves in Egypt. But the Lord heard their groaning, remembered his covenant, and entered their story in a great act of redemption. God went to the oppressed and delivered them “with great acts of judgment” (Exod 6:1-6).
These threads—creation, sin, blessing in Abraham’s family, redemption from oppression—inspire Israel to praise God for his justice (read Psalm 146). But God's plan all along was to produce not just people who worship him for his justice but people whose lives reflect and do his justice.
How will God make his people just? One of the primary answers in the OT is the law.Read More
Smith Hopkins | January 23, 2018
Have you ever questioned God’s justice? Of course. Most all of us has or someone very near to our heart has. But why?
In God on Trial, a film set in a Nazi death camp in World War II, a group of Jewish prisoners question God as they await their inevitable deaths. Has God acted in justice? To decide, the captive Jews form a rabbinical court to weigh if God is guilty of breaking his covenant with them. Ultimately, in a climactic scene, they rule, yes, God is guilty. Just then, Nazi officials march into the room, reading aloud the ID numbers of the next to die. A young man whose number is called asks in panic, “What do we do now?” The primary prosecutor in the case against God answers, “Now…now we pray.”
This is the paradox of human experience. We feel intimately the injustice of the world, and we know that the buck stops with God. Is God just or not? But in those very moments where we most poignantly feel the pain of the world, we know that the buck stops with God, and so we fervently pray in response. Is God merciful or not? Prayer captures the full range of human experience.
Feeling injustice and questioning God are parts of our story. I’m comforted that they are frequent parts of the story of God.Read More
Smith Hopkins | January 20, 2018
It’s inevitable: we’re going to disagree about how to do justice. It has been the subject of thousands of years of writing and exploration across nearly every culture of human history. The greats of history—Aristotle, Augustine, and Kant—engaged in the discussion. More recently in our culture, the debate has been democratized—everyone gets a say in their vote, not least on their social media page.
Before we get to what we disagree on, I'd like to offer a shared portrait of biblical justice to serve as something like a baseline for the rest of the conversation. I’d like to unite around a vision of “justice” found in the OT.Read More
Smith Hopkins | January 19, 2018
Have you noticed how often and how easy it is to disagree about matters of justice?Which is odd. After all, we all agree that there should be justice, and we all agree that there are many great injustices in the world. We simply disagree on what justice is and what injustice is. Simple, right?
On second thought, maybe that's not so simple. In fact, we often disagree so sharply about it that we are unable to articulate why we even disagree. When it comes to matters of justice, especially in the public sphere, most of us are content to disengage. Perhaps it's better to agree to disagree.Read More
Smith Hopkins | January 18, 2018
"The arc of the moral universe is long," Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, "but it bends toward justice." I hope the same is true of the arc of my short life.
Growing up I took an interest in matters of justice. Politics were intriguing. Philosophy was riveting. I spent many hours in reading and conversation about justice. I ended up adding a philosophy major in college. During these years, my sense of justice was connected to one central idea: personal responsibility.Read More
Luke Guard | January 17, 2018
In lieu of our classes being cancelled today, we wanted to share a brief devotional thought with you that will hopefully be shared together with your family. Stay warm, be safe, and God bless.
Pull up a chair and a cup of hot cocoa or coffee and sit somewhere in your home where you can look out a window and see the snow on the ground.Read More