21 Nov

Links we recommend 11/21/14

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In three parts, Gerry Breshears identifies several lessons to be learned from the sad situation at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

Prayer in the Facebook Age


Here are some eye-opening and thought-provoking remarks on prayer and social-media.

Mothering in the Internet Age

Continuing the theme of our technological age, Betsy Childs thinks about Titus 2 and the overabundance of advice in today’s world.

Choose Hospitality over Entertaining
In this post, Jen Wilkin compares and contrasts entertaining with hospitality. “Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.”

Evangelism: It’s Too Complicated

Here is some simple, yet true and pointed, advice about evangelism and hospitality.

Russell Moore Speaks on Gospel and Marriage at Vatican

Earlier this week a worldwide group of religious leaders gathered at the Vatican in Rome to discuss the topic of marriage and family. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission addressed the group, offering an evangelical perspective on gender and marriage. At the bottom of the page is a link to the transcript of Moore’s whole speech.

19 Nov

Truly Dying with Dignity

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Written by: Thomas Slawson

On Saturday, November 1st Brittany Maynard swallowed a concoction of medicines prescribed by her doctor and died shortly thereafter. She was twenty-nine.
By now, most people have heard her story. She was diagnosed with a stage IV aggressive brain tumor earlier this year, and doctors said it would take her life in about six months. Learning of Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law, which allows certain terminally ill patients to receive life-ending medications with the assistance of their doctor, she moved from California to Oregon to die.
Since her passing I have wanted to write down my thoughts from a Christian perspective and have found it extremely difficult to do. Not because there’s nothing to say on the matter, but because, quite honestly, there’s too much say. And not only that, but how it is said is also critical. I could fairly easily rattle off a list of five points as to why assisted suicide is wrong, but the hard part is not sounding like a cold-hearted insensitive jerk while doing so. 
Before Brittany took her own life she had made her intentions publicly known, and this caused quite a stir. Many came out in support of her decision, while others were highly critical. Others compassionately and loving encouraged her to not go through with it. Then it was done. So the question now is, what do we as Christians make of it?
After about five or six separate attempts at writing something, each resulting in me hitting the delete key, I took some time to try and see the issue through the eyes of someone facing a painful terminal illness. In reading about Brittany’s story I remembered that one of the things that initially prompted her decision was watching the movie How to Die in Oregon. I found it on Netflix and watched it. It was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve watched. I won’t take the time here to recap the whole thing, but the movie follows several Oregonians as they plan and carry out their own deaths in the face of terminal illnesses. They spend their last days of “good” health doing their favorite things, visiting friends and family and then, finally, they gather in a room while someone mixes the meds in a glass of water. They say their goodbyes and drink the solution. Within about ten minutes they fall into a coma and die. 
Part of me can totally understand the reason. These people were in pain. They faced the prospect of losing all of their normal everyday functions of life. They didn’t want to face the final, excruciating days of death that their respective diseases would bring, nor did they want their families to have to face it also. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. Given the choice between getting hit by a bus or dying of brain cancer, I’d take the bus just about any day. 
But other than the fact that they were all dying, there was another common thread between them: They believed that at some point their circumstances would no longer have worth or value, and it would be at that point that death would be the best option. 
So why should this matter to believers? Some might even argue, “Why wouldn’t a Christian want to ‘die with dignity’ if he or she is faced with a terminal illness? He or she gets to go to heaven!” But there’s a bigger picture here. For the believer there’s so much more to terminal cancer than simply getting sick and dying. 

Suffering in and of Itself is NOT good.
Let me be clear. Suffering, pain, death, cancer, etc. are NOT good things by themselves. They are bad things. They are not part of the original intention of God’s good creation. They are unnatural, and exist because of the fall that left our world, our lives, and all of creation broken and marred. God’s warning to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:17 was that if they ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree that they would “surely die.” They ate, and since that time all humanity has faced the prospect of death and the suffering that comes with it.


But God sovereignly USES and ordains suffering for good.
Here’s the bigger picture. God is not the source of evil. We live in a sinful world, and the suffering and evil we face is because of the fall. Yet God in his sovereignty is working all things together for good, and to accomplish his purposes (Rom 8:28).
There are numerous stories in Scripture that could be noted here. The evil plots of Joseph’s brothers that led to his enslavement and false imprisonment, ultimately resulted in him being in a place to save his entire family from starvation (Genesis 37–47; see 50:20). But probably the clearest example is that of Christ himself. In Luke 22:3 it records that “Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot who was one of the twelve.” The act of betrayal by Judas, as prompted by Satan, resulted in the arrest and crucifixion of Christ. Make no mistake, this was an evil act. Jesus himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus was not excited about the prospect of the suffering that awaited him on the cross. Yet it is through this evil and suffering that God accomplished his purpose of salvation through Christ’s shed blood.
There IS real value in suffering.


It is valuable for the one who is suffering.

It has been said before that this life is the only opportunity we have to identify with Christ in his suffering. Our suffering and pain do not save us, but through them we have the opportunity to draw closer to him in the process. John Piper says it well:
Satan’s and God’s designs in our cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy our love for Christ. God designs to deepen our love for Christ. Cancer does not win if we die. It wins if we fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean us off the breast of the world and feast us on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help us say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8) and to know that therefore, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).” John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Cancer, pg. 10.


It is valuable for those around the sufferer.

Suffering can often open doors of opportunity into the lives of others that simply wouldn’t be there otherwise. Brittany Maynard spent her last six months of life fighting for and promoting physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. How much more valuable would it have been for her to use her voice to proclaim the eternally life-changing power of the gospel? 

For the believer, every breath, even those that are heavy, labored and painful, may utter the goodness of Christ to a listening ear. Even when speech or even any physical communication is no longer possible, the very existence of life itself testifies to the amazing work of God’s creation. God will not let the death of one of his saints be wasted.
There is hope.
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.“ For the believer there is a real hope. A hope of eternal life in Christ. A hope of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4).

Christians may hope in this truth, that there is a day coming when the very effects of the fall will be completely and utterly removed and all of creation will be restored to a state of sinless perfection. 
If you are interested in further reading on this topic, Randy Alcorn and John Piper have also weighed in. Click on the links to read their thoughts. 

17 Nov

11/16/14 Sermon

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Typically, each Monday we will be posting the previous Sunday’s sermon. Here is the sermon from yesterday.

Sunday, November 16, 2014
Preaching: Vergil Brown
Sermon Series: Wisdom for Navigating Life
Title: “Wisdom and Friendship”
Proverbs

You can also access the sermon HERE.

14 Nov

Links we recommend 11/14/14

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The Case for Idolatry: Why Evangelical Christians Can Worship Idols

This is a tongue-in-cheek post addressing the way some issues are being discussed these days.
Here’s a video with three well-known pastors discussing a common argument used in debates.
In this post Barnabas Piper encourages us to use the word “gospel” thoughtfully.
This piece on the Desiring God website frankly challenges us to deal with sin, confident in God’s grace to overcome it.
Randy Alcorn recently spoke at Good Shepherd Community Church on the joy of giving. The page linked to here includes the videos of all three sessions.
This 9Marks article provides four helpful categories related to cultural opposition. 
12 Nov

GBC Core Values: Part Two

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Written by: Josh Mathews

The five Core Values of Gresham Bible Church are:

Knowing God deeply in his word

Praying fervently for God’s purposes in the world

Making God known by spreading the gospel locally and globally

Fostering unity and building up the body through genuine community

Expressing a growing love for Jesus in a life of worship

In the first post in this series we introduced these core values and looked more closely at the first one, Knowing God deeply in his word. In today’s post we’ll consider Core Value number 2, Praying fervently for God’s purposes in the world.



Core Value #2: Praying fervently for God’s purposes in the world.

At GBC we want to be a church body that is increasingly characterized by prayer. There are several reasons prayer is an important part of the Christian life and the life of the church.

First, Scripture instructs us to pray. In Luke 18 Jesus tells a parable of a widow who repeatedly and persistently pleaded with her city’s judge to give her justice against her adversary. After ignoring her request at first, the judge eventually gave in to her requests. Luke tells us that Jesus used this parable to teach his disciples “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Many other verses instruct us to pray; for example, Rom 12:12, Eph 6:18, Phil 4:6, Col 4:2, 1 Thess 5:17.


Prayer is important because the Bible commands us to pray.
Prayer acknowledges our dependence on God. We don’t control our lives and the circumstances we are facing. That is why we pray. In 1 Chronicles 14 we find a clear example of one of Judah’s kings, Asa, relying on the Lord and praying. A massive army from Ethiopia has come out against Judah, and Asa and his army are drastically overmatched. Asa cries out to the Lord, praying,

“Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude.”

 And the Lord delivers them from their enemy.
Prayer is important because it is a contrite confession of need and dependence on God.
Prayer is an expression of faith in who God is, a recognition of  his character. When we pray it means we believe that God is powerful and able to answer our prayers, that he is wise to know what is best, and that he is loving and good to care for us and do what is best for his glory and for our good (Rom 8:28). In Asa’s prayer, before he asks for help and voices his reliance on the Lord, he begins his prayer with this declaration about God’s character:

“O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.”  
Prayer is important because it is a trusting acknowledgement of God’s character.



Prayer is a means by which the Lord accomplish his purposes, in our lives, in the church, and in the world. In Acts the early church is repeatedly described as devoted to prayer (e.g. 1:14; 2:42; 6:4). These fervent prayers are what the Lord uses to empower the rapid and miraculous expansion of the church and God’s kingdom throughout the rest of Acts.

In his book, Power through Prayer, E. M. Bounds says this:

“What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer.”  
Prayer is important because God uses it to work in and through his people in the world.

There are many other things we could say about the importance of prayer. I’ll conclude this post with one point of clarification and a few practical ways we might make prayer more prominent in our lives.

When we pray, our prayers should include more than just requests. We tend to think of prayer as asking God to help us or give us something. However, the prayers we see throughout Scripture include praise, thanksgiving, and confession, along with supplication, or request. The Psalms provide numerous examples of all these different aspects of prayer. David often cries out to God to deliver him from his enemies. Yet, surrounding these requests and pleas for help, the psalms are filled with praise and thanksgiving for who God is and what he’s done for his people, along with confession of sin as well. And in Paul’s letters, his prayers typically begin with thankfulness for the good things the Lord is accomplishing.

So what kinds of things can we be doing? How, practically, can we grow, individually and corporately as a church, in the area of prayer?

Come to prayer meeting on Sunday mornings at 9:30. A group of us meet for prayer every Sunday morning in the room on the end of the west hall at Dexter McCarty.

Have a plan for prayer. The prayer bookmarks, which are available on the information table, are a good tool for this. On one side of the bookmark is a brief template for prayer based on the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6, along with a few references to other passages on prayer. The other side gives space to write out a plan, listing certain things or people to pray for on each day.

Use the church directory. It is a good tool for praying systematically for others in the church. Also, there are some tools in the front of the directory that give good examples for how to pray. One benefit of these examples is that they emphasize praying for people’s spiritual health, which helps us avoid the tendency to pray only for physical needs for people.

Set aside time to pray with your spouse, with a Christian friend, or as a family. Like Bible reading, it’s helpful to make a habit of praying. And praying with other believers helps with consistency, and it cultivates Christ-centered relationship.

Pray together with your small group. Some groups share requests and pray for each other throughout the week. Others set aside a chunk of time to pray during small group itself. Some do a combination of these two. One way or another, seek to make prayer a part of your small groups.

Come to prayer meeting on Sunday mornings at 9:30.

07 Nov

Links we recommend 11/7/14

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4 Ways to Lovingly Discipline Your Children

In light of last week’s sermon on Wisdom and Family, this post touches on some practical advice for loving discipline. It’s written by Sarah Eggerichs, whose husband, Emerson, wrote the book Love and Respect.


3 Low Cost/High Impact Family Traditions

Kimberly Thornbury suggests a few practical traditions for this time of year.

5 Common Small Group Myths (And the Truth to Help Transform Your Group)

This post gives us some good things to think about related to small groups.

9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible
In this post Bronwyn Lea offers good advice for reading the Bible carefully and purposefully.

Here are some great points about our need to be involved in the local church.
05 Nov

God’s Strange Method of Pursuit

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Written by: Dan Stump

I remember back to my dating days. I am not what you would
call a romantic. Poetry doesn’t naturally flow out of me. But when it came time
to win the heart of a girl, I would do whatever it took. When I desired a deep relationship,
love letters and chick flicks were no problem.

Often we think of God wooing us in this same way. There is
definitely some biblical imagery of a God who pours out His love in this way.
That is why I was so surprised as I read Amos 4:6-11. It expanded
my view of how God deals with us. His love is so much more complex than we
think.

Israel had wandered. She was like a girl playing the field.
If you were a girl with many suitors you would expect each of them to pile on
the gifts and compliments. God does the exact opposite here. He starts by
depriving them of food. Next he withholds water. Soon he is destroying their
crops, vineyards, fig and olive trees. Are we surprised that Israel isn’t
returning to Him? Don’t try this in your next relationship!
After that he kills off their horses, sends disease, and has
their young men killed. Finally he overthrows them like He did Sodom and
Gomorrah. Not exactly the way I would expect to be pursued.
The repeated refrain from God is, “Yet you did not return to me.” I took your food, yet you did not
return to me. I took your water yet you did not return to me. I destroyed your
crops, killed your livestock, had your young men killed, and overthrew you
completely, yet you did not return to me.

“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your
cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,”
declares the LORD.

“I also withheld the rain from you when there
were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send
no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it
did not rain would wither; so two or three cities would wander to another city
to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me,”
declares the LORD.

 “I
struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your
fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to
me,” declares the LORD.

“I sent among you a pestilence after the manner
of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses,
and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not
return to me,” declares the LORD.
“I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew
Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you
did not return to me,” declares the LORD. (Amos 4:6-11 ESV)

God was sending them harmful things in order that they might
recognize their waywardness and repent. As things got tough, they were supposed
to cry out to God for help. Instead they continued in their stubborn wandering
ways.
Do we view times of trial as sent from God? Do we see
suffering as an opportunity to turn to Him? Or is our view of God so small that
we think He would never do something like this; never treat us this way? Does
our theology have room for God to love us by sending disease?
03 Nov

11/2/14 Sermon

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Typically, each Monday we will be posting the previous Sunday’s sermon. Here is the sermon from yesterday.

Sunday, November 2, 2014
Preaching: Vergil Brown
Sermon Series: Wisdom for Navigating Life
Title: “Wisdom and Family”
Proverbs

You can also access the sermon HERE.

31 Oct

Links we recommend 10/31/14

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Lord, Help Me to Pray
Here is a powerful prayer on prayer, from the book Prone to Wander, which is a collection of prayers inspired by the classic prayer book The Valley of Vision

Glory Reorientation

This post continues a series by Paul Tripp in which he examines Revelation 19:6-8 and what he calls the “best worship service ever.”

John Piper addresses the terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life here in Oregon. 

Today being October 31st, here are three posts that give helpful perspective on Halloween and Reformation Day.

What is Reformation Day All about?

Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses: What You May Not Know and Why They Matter Today

The Connection between Halloween and Reformation Day

29 Oct

GBC Core Values: Part One

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Written by: Josh Mathews

The five Core Values of Gresham Bible Church are:
Knowing God deeply in his word

Praying fervently for God’s purposes in the world

Making God known by spreading the gospel locally and globally

Fostering unity and building up the body through genuine community

Expressing a growing love for Jesus in a life of worship

This blog post is the first in a series of posts outlining these values.


 There are distinctive traits that characterize our church more specifically—things like simplicity (mere church, not a lot of programs or large financial commitments) and a heart for justice (diversity, care for the unborn, adoption and foster care). You can take a look at more of these distinctive marks HERE

And you’ve probably also heard us talk about Growing, Giving, and Going, which are the three expectations in which all members of GBC agree to participate.

Those distinctives and membership expectations matter, but the Core Values are more fundamental. They identify the principles we consider to be most important in the life of our church. What we do flows from what we value most highly. That’s what these Core Values are. These are the five things we believe are essential to what God calls us to do and to be as his church.

And we want to think about these and be reminded of them often. That’s why they are on the church website, on the front of the bulletin, and up on the screen on Sunday mornings. That’s why they;ll be addressed in upcoming sermons, and why we’re dedicating a series of blog posts to talking about them.

As we go over them one by one, we’re going to think a little more about what they mean for us as a church. The hope is that this will help us think more also about how we can apply them—how we can work at valuing these things more highly, in our homes, in our communities, and in our church.

Core Value #1: Knowing God deeply in his word 

While all five values are at the core of our church, this one is first for a reason. Generally speaking, our deepest desire is that all we do would flow from who God is. We believe strongly that, in order to know how we ought to conduct ourselves as God’s people, we must grow in our knowledge of who God is. This is a value we work hard to uphold, and we do so in several ways. Here are a few of them:
Our preaching is expository: We strive to have the main point of our sermons, preached on Sunday mornings, derive from the main point of the biblical passage.

We encourage involvement in regular Bible reading: This happens through the GBC Bible read through and other avenues.

We make every effort to allow Scripture to guide our decisions: Though the Bible doesn’t speak to every issue specifically, we seek the Lord’s revelation of himself and his wisdom as it relates to finances, staff, leadership, and all aspects of ministry.

Our Children’s Ministry curriculum has a strong biblical emphasis: We want our kids, and our youth once we begin a Student Ministry, to develop biblical literacy, and to learn the importance of knowing God through his word from a young age. 

We are called “Gresham BIBLE Church” for a reason. We believe that in Jesus we have the ultimate revelation of who God is. He is the incarnate Living Word of God. And we believe the Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, are the primary means by which we know Jesus. The Bible is the written word of God, graciously given for our benefit.

There is much more we could say about Core Value number one, but I’ll just add one point of clarification. 
To be clear, when we talk about knowing God, we’re not just referring to an intellectual or academic knowledge. While theology and biblical understanding are important, the kind of knowledge we value highly is much more than that. We don’t value simply knowing about God. It is a relational knowledge we desire – an intimate knowledge of God, characterized by life filled with and guided by the Holy Spirit, bearing the fruit of righteousness, and continuing in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. It’s not just head knowledge, it’s heart knowledge, and it leads to holiness and worship. It’s a knowledge that grows out of love and manifests itself in a godly wisdom that applies to all aspects of life.
We want our church to be a church that knows God deeply through his word.

Please feel free to comment below, on this post and the others in this series. We would love to hear from you. How have you seen this Core Value demonstrated in our church? How have you personally contributed to this value, or how could you make it more of a priority in your life?

27 Oct

10/26/14 Sermon

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Typically, each Monday we will be posting the previous Sunday’s sermon. Here is the sermon from yesterday.

Sunday, October 26, 2014
Preaching: Vergil Brown
Sermon Series: Wisdom for Navigating Life
Title: “Two Paths”
Passage: Proverbs 8–9

You can also access the sermon HERE.

24 Oct

Links we recommend – 10/24/14

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Plan for Prayer
John Piper exhorts Christians to be deliberate in our approach to prayer. 

Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian?

The author of this insightful post challenges our thinking on music and worship.

4 Things That Happen When You Study Leviticus More Than 10 Years
This article give some benefits of reading and studying often overlooked Old Testament books like Leviticus.

Here are two articles on male and female value and roles. The authors of both articles represent the same basic understanding on these issues as we do at Gresham Bible Church.

It’s a Genesis-to-Revelation Issue
In this post a husband and wife (both seminary professors) talk about the Bible’s overarching view of gender roles.

Jesus, Women, and Ministry
Coming from the same general perspective on the roles of women and men, this author highlights the value Jesus placed on women and how counter-cultural that was in his time.

As with all posts on our blog, feel free to share comments below.

23 Oct

Truth, Lies, and Lions: Christians and Depression

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Written by: Lynsey Bock

Following the tragic suicide of Robin Williams back in August, the usually taboo topics of depression and suicide suddenly became fodder for the best and worst of Internet commentary. Many contemplated the answer to a question that haunts all whose lives are touched by depression and suicide: “How did this happen?”

Some considered Williams a victim of the disease of depression: a tragic casualty in the battle against mental illness. 


Others, including one infamous Christian blogger, ultimately attributed the comedian’s demise to a bad decision. Many commenters even went so far as to suggest that depression (and ultimately, suicide) is just a symptom of unconfessed sin, an ailing spiritual life, and a lack of faith. 

For a few of us, the “how” wasn’t even a question. We didn’t need to wonder, because we already knew. We know what it’s like to feel so hopeless that the thought of living has lost its appeal. Although the graceless speculations of a vocal minority may indicate otherwise, Christians are not immune to the bog of depression, and being depressed doesn’t make you a “bad” Christian.

Christians who grapple with depression are in good company with some big names from the Bible, including Job, Elijah, Jonah, Solomon, and David. Every one of these men grappled with hopelessness, and a few even to the point of suicidal thoughts:

Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live (Jonah 4:3). 

Contemporary examples of Christian leaders fighting against depression abound as well, such as: Mother Teresa, Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, and John Piper, among others. 
Piper in particular has written on the subject of depression many times. In his book When the Darkness Will Not Lift, he establishes that depression may develop due to a variety of considerations, including: “sin,… Satanic assault,… distressing circumstances, or … hereditary or other physical causes.”  Sin is just one of several factors that may cause or worsen depression.
Although a guilty conscience struggling under the weight of unconfessed sin may become trapped under the weight of depression, sin is not the absolute cause of all depression, and depression itself is not necessarily sin. As Piper says in his book Future Grace, “The first shock waves of the bomb are not sin. The real danger is yielding to them. Giving in. Putting up no spiritual fight. And the root of that surrender is unbelief — a failure to fight for faith in future grace. A failure to cherish all that God promises to be for us in Jesus.” While depression itself is not sin, it does leave us woefully vulnerable to it. 

For the Christian, depression is a systematic attack by Satan that exploits the believer’s weaknesses and takes their focus off Christ and puts it onto a warped interpretation of their circumstances. During my own battles with depression, I have struggled to decipher truth from fiction. My mind has been filled with hateful thoughts that I could not fend off: You’re a failure. No one wants to be around you. You’re a disappointment to everyone. No one cares what happens to you. Why do you even bother anymore? 

Thoughts like these are straight from the pit of Hell. They are Satan’s attacks. God’s Word warns us to be wary of his deceitfulness:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). 

He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

When we know that a fellow Christian is becoming overwhelmed by Satan’s lies, it’s not our job to speculate about why that person has succumbed. Instead, it is our job to take a stand with our struggling brothers and sisters in Christ and help fend off the lion; we must help protect God’s family from all attacks.

So, what are the weapons that we have to fight this battle?

Fellowship: Depression festers in isolation. People who are depressed will naturally withdraw from those around them because of shame or fear. If you know or suspect that someone you care about is depressed, reach out to them and be near to them. Whether that means offering a sympathetic ear, or merely sitting in silence, God can use your presence to provide comfort in a trying time.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

Prayer: A depressed Christian may feel so discouraged that they aren’t able to pray for themselves. They may feel that God doesn’t want to hear from them, or that their prayers won’t make a difference. Your prayers can help guard them when they are unable to ask for protection for themselves. Pray for this person independently and with them when you spend time together. For many people, just knowing that someone cares enough to pray with them and for them will be a strong encouragement. 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16). 

Truth: As it was in my case, depressed individuals may have a difficult time distinguishing truths from Satan’s lies. Take every opportunity you can to encourage them with God’s Word. Shower them with God’s promises, even if they are unable to fully appreciate them at the time. Be lovingly persistent, and continue to be faithful in prayer.

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth (John 17:17).

By responding to depressed believers with fellowship, prayer, and God’s Word, we can help them to embrace the freedom that has been granted to them in Christ: 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

In the future, should you encounter a fellow believer bogged down by depression, I hope that your first question won’t be, “How did this happen?” Instead, ask this: 

“How do I help?’

Related Reading:

4 Myths Christians Need to Stop Believing About Depression” By Debra K Fileta of Relevant Magazine
What the Church & Christians Need to Know About Suicide & Mental Health” by Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience
Robin Williams’ Death an Opportunity to Look at Depression in the Scriptures” by Matt Lawrenz of Bible Gateway

20 Oct

10/19/14 Sermon

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Typically, each Monday we will be posting the previous Sunday’s sermon. Here is the sermon from yesterday.

Sunday, October 19, 2014
Preaching: Vergil Brown
Sermon Series: Wisdom for Navigating Life
Title: “Wise Sex”
Passage: Proverbs 5–7

You can also access the sermon HERE.

17 Oct

Links we recommend – 10/17/14

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Value Clarification
This Paul Tripp post offers some good insight about aligning our values with the Lord’s.

7 Things Your Church Needs from You
Here are some things for Christians to do that will help make our churches better and stronger. 

Five Ways to Lead Your Wife
Here’s a helpful take on leadership and what it should look like in a marriage.

Houston We Have a Constitution
Russell Moore responds to the lunacy taking place in Houston.

Being Ordinary
An interview with Michael Horton talking about his new book Ordinary.

15 Oct

A Worshiper’s Response to a Sermon on Deut. 6:1–9

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Written by: Carrie Dahl

A few weeks back I had the privilege of hearing Josh Mathews preach from Deuteronomy 6:1–9. It was an excellent sermon encouraging the body to make the word of God central in our lives by reading it, thinking about it, memorizing it and teaching it to our children. After coming out of a fairly “dry” summer as far as consistent Bible-reading goes, it was exactly the sermon I needed to hear. My priorities needed to be rearranged, and the sermon definitely helped my heart to elevate God’s word into top priority category.
There was just one problem with my heart on Sunday as I listened to the treasure of God’s word being preached. 

As Josh unfolded his sermon, my sinful heart started to take the truth Josh was preaching and make it about me. As Josh preached about reading God’s word to our kids, my initial feeling was guilt. I started to imagine my new life (beginning Monday) where I woke before 6 am to prepare a hot meal of eggs and waffles; I would then open my Bible and gently and fervently read the word to my children and help to turn their sweet little hearts to Jesus, a mug of coffee in hand, of course. 

In this imagined scenario, I already had my hair done, makeup on and was dressed for the day. Picture a scene from Norman Rockwell minus the heels, apron and pearls (even my imagination is not THAT good). My children were eating their hot breakfast while eagerly asking questions and soaking in all the truth I was heaping upon them. 

Insert record-scratch sound right about here…. 
Oh yeah, reality….
Even before the sermon was over, I remembered a blog post I had read and reposted a few days earlier. The blog was titled, “Dear Mom Who’s Trying” and was written mainly to moms who constantly feel like a failure as they heap unrealistic expectations on themselves and their children. The blog post wrote about the many ways moms set themselves up for failure by trying to change themselves and their lives by just trying harder. It’s not only women who struggle with this issue, it’s everyone, it’s our human-nature. It’s our default mode, if you will. 

I looked around the congregation during the sermon and wondered how many people were feeling guilty even though Josh very clearly spoke graciously and without any condemnation, several times acknowledging the difficulty in leading lives devoted to God’s Word. Our default mode is to make it about ourselves. After the initial feelings of guilt and failure, we then pull ourselves up by our boot straps and silently start making plans for how we will make ourselves better. Thankfully, I remembered the main verse from the blog post before the sermon was over. 

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

I had to laugh at how often I forget this very, very important truth. If I am trying to improve myself by being a better wife, mother, friend, etc., if I try, try, try in my own strength, running on empty then, yes, I will always feel like a failure. Or maybe you aren’t like me, with all my displaced self-confidence and zeal to be better. Maybe you stopped listening halfway through the sermon knowing Bible-reading is just one more thing you’ve already failed at and why bother starting when you’ll just fail again after one week. Both these attitudes are rooted in the flesh and not relying on God to complete the good work in us (Philippians 1:6).
In the above mentioned blog post, Ruth Simons writes: 

“Today, if you feel defeated before even trying…or if you feel confident and on top of your game….consider if the on/off switch to your bravery is fueled by might and power…your own. Dear friend, if it is, you are in for a roller-coaster. You are strapping in for a ride that can only take you high on self, or low on self-loathing.”

We need Jesus. We need him every day, all the time, which ironically brings us full circle. How do we know Him, how do we rely on Him, love Him, make Him first in our life? Well, the best way to know Him is through His Word! 

Now before we start imagining ourselves as champion Bible-readers, let’s pray and ask God to help us to walk in His Spirit. Pray He will give you a desire to know Him, and pray He will help you to read your Bible, not turning it into a task to check off. Ask Him to show you ways you can set up a routine or accountability. 

Knowing I had a very dry summer, I decided to join the Good Shepherd Women’s Ministry Bible study. I recognize I’m not prioritizing the Bible without accountability so I’m seeking help in the form of a group Bible study. There are many ways to make the Bible a priority in your life and it will look different for all of us. Learn to rest in the fact that God’s mercies are new every morning. Every day we have a fresh start and another opportunity to know God. 

And may I just share a very small victory with you? Yes, a victory on the Monday after the sermon. I did read the Bible to my kids this morning! I read a paragraph of John, in the clothes I wore the day before, not wearing makeup, while my kids shoveled down cereal. It was about 4 minutes of Bible and my kids were barely interested. Will I read to them every morning? Probably not, but I am thankful for the sermon on Deuteronomy 6:1–9, and I’m thankful God used it to change my heart toward Him and His Word. I will continue to pray the Lord will help me to read the Bible to my kids and myself. 
So, take a deep breath, brothers and sisters. It’s not about you and improving yourself. It’s about Him. The guilt, the list of to-do’s, the dreams of bettering yourself in your own “might and power” are NOT from Him, they are from your flesh. But the beauty of walking in the Spirit and abiding with Christ is that He does better us! He empowers us to become more like Him. When we stray into “try harder” mode, He gently leads us back and shows us He is the way. He loves us, and He longs for us to walk with Him in freedom and joy!
13 Oct

10/12/14 Sermon

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Typically, each Monday we will be posting the previous Sunday’s sermon. Here is the sermon from yesterday.

Sunday, October 12, 2014
Preaching: Eric Knox
Guest Speaker
Passage: Galatians 4:12–20

You can also access the sermon HERE.

10 Oct

Links we recommend – 10/10/14

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How to Wed Scripture and Song in Corporate Worship
We have been starting our Sunday morning service lately by reading Scripture aloud together as a call to worship. This article talks about joining the Bible with singing.

22 Problems with Multi-Site Churches
This piece from 9Marks ministry addresses some of the drawbacks to churches meeting at multiple campuses. 

6 Great Reasons to Study Doctrine
Doctrine is teaching of God or teaching about God. This article gives some reasons to value, study, and know doctrine. 

Turning Bad into Best
Taking Romans 8:28 as his starting point, Randy Alcorn encourages us to trust the Lord to use even seemingly bad things for his good and for our good.

4 Ways G. K. Chesterton Engaged His Culture and Why He Still Matters Today
In this post by Trevin Wax he shows how Chesterton provided a good model for cultural engagement.

09 Oct

My Journey into Calvinism: Part One

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Written by: Dan Stump

Have you heard the term “Calvinism” before? I remember the first time I ever heard it. I was at a family gathering and overheard the last part of a conversation between a few relatives. I couldn’t tell exactly what they were talking about, but I sensed one relative wasn’t a fan of whatever this Calvinism was. I was in my late teens at this time and decided to explore it. 
This will be the first in a series of posts where I want to share a bit of my exploration with you. Perhaps you have heard the term thrown around but don’t really know much about it. Maybe you have strong feelings about it one way or the other. 

I want to write about my story and explain the theological distinctives of Calvinism, which I hope will both inform, and bring clarity to what these doctrines are.

When I began to look into Calvinism, named after the 16th century theologian John Calvin, I was far from a fan. In fact, I remember searching out all of the counter arguments against it. Since I was uncomfortable with these ideas, I wanted to know all the reasons why they were wrong. The problem for me was, as I read the counter arguments, I didn’t think they were all that compelling. The doctrines of Calvinism had definitely shifted my understanding of God, and I didn’t like that. It had pushed me out of my comfort zone in the way that I saw and interacted with God. But what if I wasn’t sold on the alternative? I decided to try my best to give an honest look at Calvinism. Is it what the Bible taught? If I felt it lined up with the Bible, I would wrestle with it, even if it was hard or out of my comfort zone. 
What happened next was about an 8 year journey. It didn’t take long for me to see it in the Bible. Words like “election” and “predestination” had never really been explained to me. I was left to decide what they meant, and now I realized my understanding of these terms was quite a ways off. The problem was, even though I now believed these doctrines to be true and biblical, they had rocked my entire belief system. How I viewed God and related to him was different. How could I love a God who only chose some people to go to Heaven? I now understood the doctrines, (sometimes referred to as the Doctrines of Grace, and also known through the acronym TULIP, which we will explore in future posts) but I still didn’t like them. One thing I had done though is decide to wrestle with whatever I uncovered and believed to be true. It was time to wrestle.
It was probably 3-4 of years of struggle, where I would continue to press on and try to learn as much as I could. I didn’t feel particularly close to the Lord, but didn’t want to use that as an excuse to neglect what I now believed to be the truth. Over this time period I moved from believing these things to be true but not liking them, to slowly over time becoming okay with them. They were like a shirt given to you as a gift that you would never have chosen for yourself, but you still keep it in the rotation, and it grows on you. The closeness to the Lord was returning and I felt like I knew Him better, but I still hoped for more.
There was no specific moment that changed things for me. I continued just plugging away, reading the word, and walking with Jesus. But somehow I moved from being okay with the Doctrines of Grace, to loving them. The gifted shirt had become my favorite. It was a long struggle, which at times didn’t feel worth it, but in the end was the best thing. I wasn’t believing things without reason. I had grappled with ideas that I didn’t care for to start with, became convinced they were true, and had grown to love them. There was no “Aha!” moment. There was just a slow and steady plodding until I realized that these doctrines had become dear to me. I couldn’t imagine life without them.
Over a handful of posts, I want to unpack what these doctrines are. In the end you may not agree with them. You may see things differently than I do. That’s okay. Many dedicated Christians who love Jesus and his word, understand the Bible differently. We are all on the same team. I want you to come to this with an open mind and eager for the truth. The great G. K. Chesterton said,

“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”


If you come with an open mind, and are convinced that this is the truth of the Bible, grab hold and wrestle with these truths for as long as it takes for them to settle in your heart. I think you’ll be glad you did.
07 Oct

A Black and White Issue?

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Written by: Dave Martin 

The American Civil War ended a century and a half ago, yet we remain a nation deeply divided over race. What’s more, the church of Jesus Christ is one of our society’s most segregated institutions—segregated not just in physical terms, but in terms of attitudes and perspectives. 

When another young black man is killed by a white police officer, the contrasting reactions are predictable from white Americans and African Americans. Sadly, the reactions of Christian whites and Christian blacks mirror those of the culture in general. 


How can this be? Doesn’t the Gospel do away with racial alienation and make us all one in Christ? If the Gospel is not the answer, then there is no answer. However, the Gospel does not appear to be the answer in this situation.

Pastor Bob Bixby sums up the awkward tension succinctly in his thought-provoking article, “The Gospel in Black and White: A Missiological Perspective on Ferguson” (http://redeemerfremont.com/app/blog/home/1651089):

Why is the common ground so elusive? Why is it that sincere Christians, white and black, instinctively analyze a crisis like Ferguson along color lines when they both love the same Lord? Many white Christians sincerely wonder how any sincere black Christian can take offense at their calls for delayed judgment “until all the facts are out” while seemingly ignoring the alleged bad behavior of the victim that put him into conflict with a police officer in the first place. And many black Christians wonder how any sincere white Christian cannot see the obvious problem of prejudice and white-on-black abuse of authority that exacerbates tension and escalates any confrontation between black youth and white authority in ways that are manifestly unfair. And so the churches meet separately. The whites pray for the officer who is a “good man” who risks his life daily to fight for crime. The blacks pray for the family of the victim who is a “good boy” who was unjustly and prematurely cut down by white privilege. While neither side will go out into the streets and throw Molotov cocktails at each other because they are law-abiding Christians, their sympathies which are visceral and spiritual come together like the repulsive force between two north pole magnets. In other words, it is in crises like Ferguson that a repulsive force of seemingly opposing sympathies is most felt between white and black Christians.

I have been on a personal journey for the past several years, seeking to understand God’s will for the unity of the body of Christ in the midst of the most diverse society in history. I do believe that the Gospel is both a vertical reconciling force between us and God and a horizontal reconciling force that smashes all barriers alienating humans from each other. In a multiethnic culture we should expect that reconciliation to produce multiethnic churches that amaze the world with their deep, genuine, Christ-centered unity. 

In trying to educate myself, I’ve read many books (ask me for summaries) and articles on multiethnic ministry, attended a number of conferences, seminars, and workgroups, and engaged in conversations about the issues. Recently I’ve read a number of Christian African American blogs representing a spectrum of opinions on the Ferguson situation. I don’t have a lot of answers, but here are a few things to think about:

As a white Christian, my silence is deafening to many black Christians when a Trayvon Martin or a Michael Brown is killed. African Americans, as a minority culture that has suffered the injustice and humiliation of slavery and Jim Crow, have a collective consciousness that is affected whenever an unarmed young black man is gunned down by a white law officer, regardless of the “facts” of the case. It’s another tragedy that’s happened to “one of us,” and when whites show no empathy or compassion, or smugly say “Let’s wait for the facts to come out,” it’s seen as devaluing black life.

We whites like to think that we are not racist because we bear no malice toward blacks, and that’s true. But having a black friend does not mean that you understand black culture, and if you are not willing to do the hard work of understanding the culture, you will not be able to bridge that racial divide—the barrier will remain. Minorities are more or less forced to understand the majority culture, but those in the majority culture have no need or motivation to understand minority cultures, so most of the time we don’t make the effort. But we Christians, of all people, should be motivated! Didn’t Jesus make the supreme effort to come and immerse Himself in our alien culture out of love? 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 is just one example of how Paul gave up his cultural privileges and perspectives for the sake of the Gospel. 

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

The vision of a multiracial, multiethnic church is a heavenly vision! Many churches are on this road. Take a look at this video of multiethnic baptism celebration—I dare you not to get a lump in your throat and feel homesick for Heaven: http://www.churchleaders.com/worship/worship-videos/162452-baptism-celebration-at-transformation-church.html.

This barely broaches the subject, but I hope others of you will chime in. Let me emphasize that when I speak of “whites” or “blacks” I’m not denying the uniqueness of individuals or suggesting that there is a “typical” white American Christian or African American Christian. I’m simply using these terms in the same way that results of opinion polls and surveys are reported.