This series is designed to help you master money. As Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Yet, as we’ve all experienced, sometimes our money controls us more than we control our money. Our happiness, hopes, and dreams are easily wrapped up in money and things. But King Jesus shows us a better way where money can actually help give, not take away, life and joy.Read More
Smith Hopkins | May 14, 2019
In this series we are exploring the intersection of evangelism and the mission of the church. The second step in our mission is to love one another. In this post we look at the intersection of a loving church and evangelism.
What has love to do with evangelism? In this post I want to share two foundational points, and then to test them in a Corinthian case study.Read More
This reading plan is aimed to help you see the heart of the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy has much to say about the heart of God and the heart of man.Read More
WHAT HAS COMMUNITY TO DO WITH EVANGELISM?
In this series we are exploring the intersection of evangelism and the mission of the church. The second step in our mission is to love one another. In the next three posts we will be exploring dimensions of what this entails. First up: community.Read More
Smith Hopkins | April 15, 2019
What has holiness to do with evangelism?
In this series we are exploring the intersection of evangelism and the mission of the church at Oliver Creek by reflecting on sections of 1 Corinthians. The first part of our mission is to glorify God in holiness*.Read More
Smith Hopkins | April 11, 2019
Do you remember the line from Inigo Montoyo in The Princess Bride? "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I think that about evangelism.Read More
Reflect on the Word this month with this reading plan based on ‘the Son of Man’ in the Gospels.Read More
Are you ready for battle? Here’s a reading plan to help you consider how to put on the armor of God to fight the spiritual war before us.
Make 15 minutes a day to go deeper.Read More
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