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15 Oct

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


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


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


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


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?


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” (

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:

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.

06 Oct

10/5/14 Sermon


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

Sunday, October 5, 2014
Preaching: Vergil Brown
Sermon Series: Wisdom for Navigating Life
Title: “Get Wisdom”
Passage: Proverbs 2-4

Audio only

You can also access the sermon HERE.

04 Oct

Links we recommend – 10/3/14


Each week on Friday we’ll post a few links to things we recommend around the internet. Here are a few for this week.

How the News Makes Us Dumb
In this post on The Gospel Coalition site, Kevin DeYoung suggests that the massive quantity of news we can access is not necessarily a good thing.

Traditional Sexuality, Radical Community
This article addresses homosexuality and helps us think about sexuality from the perspective of church and community.

Biblical Theme: Messiah
This latest video from some local guys working on The Bible Project gives an overview of the biblical theme of Messiah.

10 Historical Myths about World Christianity
A history professor from the University of Edinburgh presents what he perceives as the top ten historical myths about World Christianity.

Small Groups and the Transformed Life
In this article from Christianity Today Ed Stetzer lists and discusses some key elements of small groups that encourage life change.

There’s More to the End Times Than Being Left Behind
In light of the upcoming release of another Left Behind movie, this article urges Christians to guard against divisiveness on secondary matters like the rapture.

03 Oct

GBC blog – launch


We are starting a Gresham Bible Church blog!

At GBC we consider the preaching of the Bible as central to all we do. This GBC blog is meant to supplement Sunday sermons. It’s another avenue to inform and encourage, and hopefully it will stimulate reflection, discussion, and discipleship. 

We’ll post on various topics, including sermon supplements, current issues, devotional reflections, book reviews, read-through related thoughts, and others things.

While this is a public blog, the intended audience is the GBC church body. There will be various contributors writing posts, as well as links to other articles, posts, and sites around the web. This variety means the blog will reflect an array of perspectives, ideas, and opinions. That being said, we’ll do our best to ensure the content remains faithful to Scripture and representative of our church’s vision and values.

We’ll try to keep a consistent flow of posts coming, so check in regularly. Later today, and regularly on Fridays, there will be a post with links to other things around the web that we recommend.