Links for the Weekend (1/17/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Neither Sin nor Death nor Elections Can Hinder God’s Work in 2020

Benjamin Vrbicek considers the very end of the book of Acts and writes about the spread of the gospel. As we face both personal and national difficulties, this is a great reminder.

God’s name “will be great among the nations”—not because he removes every earthly hindrance, but because no single hindrance we experience is strong enough to impede the gospel’s spread. God wills and works for his gospel to be cherished, and even hell’s gates can’t hinder his church’s advance (Matt. 16:18). 

Should We Trade in Funerals for “Celebrations of Life”?

Rare is the person that likes to think about death. And, as a pastor, Jason Allen has seen how this aversion affects the way many people treat funerals for those they love. He cautions against discarding the opportunity of a distinctly Christian funeral for a light-hearted “celebration of life” service. (This article is written for pastors, but I think we all can benefit from it.)

After all, death is God’s enemy. Paul tells us as much in 1 Corinthians 15:26. But it’s an enemy that has already been defeated by the resurrection of Jesus. What better venue than a funeral to highlight this glorious truth? We shouldn’t aim for “upbeat and lighthearted” when the deep emotional well of Christian hope is available to us. We shouldn’t spend so much time on jokes that we give short shrift to Jesus Christ who, having defeated sin and death, has made a way for the wicked to be forgiven and made righteous.  

Four Lies My Teachers Told Me

This article is framed around lies the author heard on a secular college campus. However, I suspect it is true much more broadly. Think of these lies as those underlying beliefs that most of our unbelieving neighbors hold without questioning them. The first lie that Kaitlin Miller addresses is that “only religion requires faith.”

The question, therefore, is not whether we will have faith, but in what we will put our faith. The question is not even whether we will place our faith in evidence, but rather, on what evidence we will place our faith — empirical evidence alone, or the intersection of historical, logical, moral, and philosophical evidence on which Christianity has always been based.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called 3 Essential Words to Say to Your Child. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

3 Essential Words to Say to Your Child

I slid behind the wheel and felt the familiar pang of spiritual conviction. As we began the short trip to school, I tried to ignore the tap on my shoulder, but I knew what I had to do.

Just twenty minutes earlier, I yelled at my children. This was not a loving, firm correction, but an explosion. They disobeyed, and I lashed out at them, trying to provoke feelings of guilt and shame and smallness. It was terrible and embarrassing. I needed to come clean.

I confessed my sin and asked my daughter for forgiveness, which she gave gladly. Her grace pointed me to the very goodness of God I needed to remember.

The following hours were busy, filled with meetings, classes, advising, and grading. And yet, that four-minute conversation was the most important part of my day.

Seek Their Forgiveness

For their spiritual health and yours, your children need to hear you say those three little words: Please forgive me.

I’ve resisted this, and you have too. I have thought my sin was not that bad, or it wasn’t the right time, or they didn’t notice. If we’re honest, it’s easy to find reasons not to confess your sins to your child. You’re big, they’re small, and they’re not the boss of you.

But these conversations are crucial, both for your child’s spiritual development and for the health of your relationship with them. They’re one of the best ways to spotlight Jesus and glory in the gospel. Each talk may be uncomfortable, but there are at least five reasons we should ask for forgiveness from our children.

  1. Because God commands it. In the Bible, God urges reconciliation and harmony in relationships. We are to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us (Eph 4:32Col 3:13). Real forgiveness presupposes confession from the guilty party, so when you sin against someone else, you should ask for their forgiveness.1 This includes your children.
  2. Because obedience is for everyone. Parents make and enforce the rules at home, so children usually know their offenses. But they see your sin too, especially when you sin against them. Through confession you underline that you are not above the law. God’s standard applies to you, and you don’t measure up. Admitting your sin gives you the chance, as a fellow sinner, to point to Christ.
  3. Because it teaches them how to forgive and seek forgiveness. Give your children a model for these conversations. Confess your sins specifically, without excuses. Describe the pain you have caused. Express your grief over your sin and the relational rift you’ve created. Ask them to forgive you, and thank them when they do.
  4. Because it teaches them grace. You don’t deserve your child’s forgiveness, much less God’s. Remind your child that God forgives his enemies: us!
  5. Because it points to Jesus. God didn’t forgive by putting our sins off to the side; he faced them. He is enraged against sin, but Jesus felt God’s fury in our place. Forgiveness, even the peer-to-peer kind, is costly (see Matt 18), and talking about this cost naturally turns to the gospel.

The Importance of the Heart

When you talk to your children about sin—whether theirs or yours—emphasize the heart. Give your children categories and language to describe the most important part of their relationship to God.

For example, I yelled because I was angry. But I was angry because my child’s disobedience upset my comfort and peace. I reacted in a sinful way because my happiness was more important than honoring God and caring for my children.

Conclusion

Enlist your spouse in your efforts to keep short accounts with your children. They have a better sense of when you need to confess than you do, and they can see your relationships more objectively.

As these conversations become more a part of your family life, your children will trust you more. Hopefully, they will come to a greater awareness of their own sin and the forgiveness and grace that God offers. This is the great aim of parenting.


  1. For much more on this line of thinking regarding forgiveness, check out the book Unpacking Forgiveness.  

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Links for the Weekend (1/10/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Why Bible Reading Can Be Such a Challenge

The Gospel Coalition is running an initiative to read through the Bible in 2020, and this article is a companion to the launch of that project. Don Carson writes about the challenges of reading Scripture and how this reading initiative can help.

The challenge has become increasingly severe in recent years, owing to several factors. All of us must confront the regular sins of laziness or lack of discipline, sins of the flesh, and of the pride of life. But there are additional pressures. The sheer pace of life affords us many excuses for sacrificing the important on the altar of the urgent. The constant sensory input from all sides is gently addictive—we become used to being entertained and diverted, and it is difficult to carve out the space and silence necessary for serious and thoughtful reading of Scripture.

A Good Funeral is a Blessing to the Soul

Often funerals are the occasion of great sadness and grief. But a good, Christ-soaked funeral can also bless and strengthen those who attend. This meditation on a funeral from Adam York is a great testimony of a great funeral.

So, then, what could possibly cause a funeral to be a blessing? Only the gospel. Death is a result of sin, yet God sent his Son to conquer death through his death, burial, and resurrection. Even as death is conquered it still happens in this mortal life until Jesus returns, yet death has been conquered to the point that God can use it to challenge us to live for and magnify his kingdom. God can use a funeral to challenge us to be more like Lula Mae as she was more like Jesus.

5 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor in 2020

Most of us probably know we should be praying for our pastors. But this article gives specific, practical ways to pray. Very helpful. (I promise that neither Pastor Don nor Pastor Phil put me up to this!)

With so much opposition and difficulty within and without, pastors constantly need the people of God to be praying for them. The shepherd needs the prayers of the sheep as much as they need his prayers. He also is one of Christ’s sheep and is susceptible to the same weaknesses.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (1/3/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Seize the Morning

Many people are in a reflective and/or goal-setting mode at the beginning of the year. David Mathis helps us think about how we might make the most of our mornings. (I recognize that the morning may not be a good time for everyone, but many of these principles can apply to any time of day you’d like!)

The Bible never commands the modern “quiet time.” Nor does it specify that we must read our Bibles first thing in the morning. In fact, the concept of Christians having their own copy of the Scriptures for private reading is a fairly recent phenomenon in the history of the church. So, here at the outset of the year, we’re not talking mainly about an obligation but an opportunity.

For Christians, getting our souls within consistent earshot of God’s voice in his word is as basic as sleeping and eating and even breathing. Our fully human Savior himself said, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). If Jesus needed his Father’s revealed words for daily human living, how much more his fallen brothers?

Is Your New Year’s Resolution Biblical?

I love the impulse behind this article. Just because it’s a new year and we want to turn over a new leaf doesn’t mean that’s a good leaf to turn over!

You may think your goal is to lose weight this year. But what’s the goal behind losing weight? Your motive may have to do with self-image, your health, or having the energy to go on an adventure you’ve always dreamed about.

Help! I Want to Read the Bible, but I Find It Boring

It’s hard to find a more honest title than this one! And, if we’re honest, I think many of us feel the same way. Katherine Forster has written some advice that you may find helpful. (This is written by a teenager but certainly not only for teenagers!)

If we’re honest, I think we’ve all been there. It took years before I learned to enjoy and love the word—and that was after I became a Christian. Here are a few things I learned as a young person struggling to find a love for the Scripture. Perhaps they’ll be helpful for you, too—especially if you’re also a teen!

Bible Reading Plans for 2020

I shared this link last year, but it’s worth sharing again. Ligonier Ministries has put together a great list of Bible reading plans for 2020. Check it out and see if anything resonates with you and your Bible reading goals for the year.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (12/27/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

5 Potential (Year-Long) Effects of the Christmas Season

Jason Seville suggests that there are rhythms of the Christmas season that we would be wise to stretch out over the whole calendar year. One of the areas he writes about is hospitality.

At Christmas we buy gifts, bake cookies, send cards, extend meal invites, and throw parties. We get to know fellow church members better, and we welcome strangers. We have people over with the clear intention and purposes of extending Christ’s love.

But hospitality ought to be the Christian’s perennial disposition. We ought to, as Paul wrote, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7). Let’s circle dates in those first 11 months as well. When will we plan a dinner party for a group of coworkers? When will we invite that new couple from church for dinner? When will we randomly bless the widow down the street with a plate of cookies?

God with us

This article in Fathom Magazine is a short, lovely meditation on the life of Jesus.

He enters into our hearts, flames flickering above our heads as he tears down the old, rotting walls of our souls, the structurally unsound, cracked, termite-ridden foundation. He takes his carpenter’s hands and he rebuilds.

Ten Questions for a New Year

The beginning of the year is a great time to prayerfully consider our ways. Is there anything you should add to your life this year? What should be changed or removed from your life? Don Whitney provides some good questions for us to ponder.

The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by making a goal to encourage one person in particular this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t set that goal.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (12/20/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Come, Desire of Nations, Come: An Advent Reflection

Here is a wonderful extended meditation on Haggai 2:7, one of the lesser-used prophecies about the Messiah. Matthew Arbo notes the reference to this verse in the hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and writes about the need for God to shake the nations before the desire of all nations will come.

He is the desire of all nations whether the nations know him or not. He isn’t the desire of just some nations. He is the desire of all nations. The nations desire him irrespective of whether they acknowledge him or not. He is the object of their deepest and highest longing, for the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he rules over the nations (Ps. 22:28). 

Three Things to Remember When Giving Comfort to Grieving People

The holiday season can amplify loneliness and grief. Randy Alcorn gives three helpful things to remember when we have friends who are grieving.

If we don’t know what to say to a friend in crisis, remember that so long as Job’s friends remained quiet, they helped him bear his grief. Later, when they began giving unsolicited advice and rebuke, Job not only had to deal with his suffering, but with his friends’ smug responses, which added to his suffering.  

The Enduring Power of ‘A Christmas Carol’

Eric Metaxas writes at BreakPoint about the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

Dickens’ classic shoots down the idea—prevalent in some Christian circles—that reading novels is a waste of time. They seem to forget that Jesus Himself was a master storyteller. For instance, He didn’t just say, “Come to the aid of those who need help.” Instead, He told a vivid story about a Samaritan who rescues a wounded man.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Sarah Wisniewski called Consider the Sycamore. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Cliff L for his help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (12/13/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Jesus’s Birth through Four Biblical, Literary Forms

Davis Wetherell points to four different types of writing in Scripture and shows how they can all be used to point to Jesus.

We’ll look at prophecy, theology, song of praise, and narrative. By looking at these four literary forms, it is my hope that we will see Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, the inexhaustible object of study, the reason for worship, and the resolution of all conflict.

There Will Most Assuredly Come A Morning

Here’s an article about the death of a young child and the hope that his parents have found in Christ. Our world is full of sadness, but the Resurrection will come.

On a day like today, as I remember the pain of last year, and as Finn’s parents weep and remember, there is a God above who is faithful, who is bringing a morning so bright that all this pain will certainly be in comparison light and momentary. And all those little things we miss today he will restore. In our mourning, in Christ, we can know that there will most assuredly come a morning. The years that the locusts have taken will be ours again, and no one will snatch them from our resurrected hands.

The Voice That Made the World

What does it mean that Jesus is our prophet? This is an important question, but especially so during Advent, when we understand Jesus’s birth as the fulfillment of so much prophecy. Here’s a great explanation.

The voice of the Old Testament prophets was often disregarded and mocked, even by God’s own people. Today, all God’s people hear Jesus’s voice, even as his words are disregarded and mocked in the world. But we can have confidence that all people will ultimately hear the name and voice of Jesus and bow the knee to him (Philippians 2:9–11). Even today, we can hear and submit to the voice of God in the words of Jesus.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (12/6/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

10 Best Advent Albums of the 2010s

I suspect I’m not alone in having a strong association of Advent and Christmas with music. Just in time for the season, Brett McCracken shares his favorite Advent albums of the last decade. There are links to stream the albums; you might just find yourself a nice soundtrack for the next three weeks.

I’ve been encouraged, for example, that in the last few decades there has been a renaissance of Advent–focused Christmas music: music that is theologically rich and, while still joyful, somewhat more somber and serious than pop Christmas radio. This music helps listeners enter into the Advent story in a way that focuses on spiritual contemplation more than tinsel-drenched merriment.

You Can Be Anxious About Nothing

The command from Paul in Philippians to be “anxious about nothing”—well, it can’t really mean nothing, can it? It sometimes feels like stress and anxiety are simply a part of the human experience. Kim Cash Tate wrestles with this command in an article over at Desiring God.

Alternatively, we tell ourselves that “do not be anxious about anything” is for the spiritually mature saint, a verse to aspire to. And since we’re not there yet, we can dismiss this direct command for a while. Moreover, we’re careful not to burden others with it. If a fellow believer is battling anxious thoughts, we think it insensitive to bring this verse to bear on the situation. Better to show sympathy than to risk sounding trite.  

How Can Jesus Be Our Everlasting Father?

Another article here that is Advent-adjacent. David Sunday helps us think about the title “Everlasting Father” for the Messiah in Isaiah 9.

Of all the names attributed to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6, Everlasting Father intrigues me the most because it’s the one I understand the least. How can Jesus the Messiah, the second person of the Godhead, be called Everlasting Father?

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Jesus Did Not Come to Bring Peace on Earth. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Jesus Did Not Come to Bring Peace on Earth

It’s too late for this year. But if you’re looking for a Bible verse for next year’s Christmas card, I have a suggestion.

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

Your card is sure to be a hit, though it may get you disinvited from some parties.

What About the Angels?

In seriousness, this passage in Luke 12 raises some difficult questions. We’re used to reading and singing about “peace on earth” at Christmas. And for good reason!

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13–14)

As we read closely, we see that the angels were praising God and praying as well. They both sought and heralded peace on earth among those with whom God is pleased. So, the angels weren’t declaring an immediate, universal peace with the arrival of Jesus, but they were calling for a peace among his people.

Because the birth of Jesus was a definitive, declarative step in the victory of God, and because this victory brings believers peace with God, peace among God’s people is possible. We can rest in our acceptance by God, our common adopted status as his sons and daughters. We can stop tearing each other down and start building each other up. We can love each other as brothers and sisters.

Not Now But Later

I read that portion of Luke 12 and I think, Why not, Jesus?

Why didn’t Jesus come to bring peace on earth? There’s a deep part of me—maybe it’s within everyone—that cries out for true peace on earth. Now.

But Jesus came to bring division.

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49–53)

Jesus’s “baptism”—likely his crucifixion—will kindle a fire. That fire will bring division based on allegiance and worship, and these fault lines will shoot through households and families.

Sons and daughters of the king will necessarily divide from those outside the kingdom. We love and work and sing and pray and plead for our neighbors, but eventually everyone’s heart follows their treasure.

But among God’s children, there should not be such division: “Peace among those with whom God is pleased.” Though peace will come imperfectly, it should come.

In this aspect as in many others, the church points ahead. We have God’s presence with us now, but we will have it fully in the age to come. We understand dimly now as we look forward to crystal clarity. And we aim now for the peace that will one day extend in all directions, forever.

No Peace for Jesus

We long for that future day without death or pain or any sign of the curse (Rev 22:3). It is coming as surely as the sun rises. But it comes at a cost. We will have peace because Jesus had none.

During his earthly ministry, life for Jesus was chaotic. He had nowhere to stay, no one who understood him, and a growing crowd of accusers. His life ended with betrayal, loneliness, pain, and disgrace.

But most peace comes through conflict. The peace that Jesus secured for us came through the anguish of the cross. God the Father focused his wrath against Jesus, who stood in our place. We can have peace now in part, and we can look forward to perfect peace, because Jesus knew no peace on earth.

Christmas Cheer

The reason for Jesus’s birth doesn’t lend itself to foil-stamped greeting cards. The Incarnation wasn’t about warmly-lit, soft-focused images to make people feel cozy.

But it was about love. It was about peace.

Remember Jesus’s purpose this season. He came to bring peace within the church, division with the world, and a sure hope that sustains us until he returns.

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Links for the Weekend (11/29/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

The Beauty and Burden of Nostalgia

If you’re only going to read one of these articles, make it this one; it’s really good. Jared Wilson writes about the nostalgia that surrounds holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unlike other pieces I’ve read, Wilson doesn’t look down on nostalgia. He writes that it’s a nice place to visit but a bad place to live. He beautifully connects our longings with the future heaven promises. Read it!

It’s okay to long for the Garden. But we cannot go back. We must go forward. And we must see that our longing for the Garden is really a longing for the Garden to come. We can see our Savior in his Gospels teaching and doing great things. But we miss the point of it all if we don’t see that what he inaugurated is yet to be consummated. And indeed, he is coming, and coming quickly.

3 Ways to Teach Scripture to Children

Peter Leithart reflects on many years as a father—and now some years as a grandfather—teaching the Bible to children. His three modes of teaching are time-tested and accompanied by specific examples.

It’s not an accident that the biblical history of maturation starts with a long book of stories. It’s where we begin. Before we learn to talk or walk or do abstract reasoning, we learned stories. Yahweh is the best parent. Before Israel received Torah, the tabernacle, the complexities of the sacrificial system, a land or a monarchy, they got stories, dramatic family stories.

Not Just Me and My Bible

One of the pillars of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura. What’s the difference between this and Solo Scriptura? This article does a good job explaining how we can avoid two opposite errors when reading and interpreting the Bible. (And the article begins with a gripping story of unwashed vegetables!)

Perhaps most significantly, “solo Scriptura” misses out on the inestimable riches God has graciously provided in the body of Christ, his church. It is tempting for Christians to see themselves only as individual members of the church and so to focus exclusively on personal spiritual practices like biblical meditation, prayer, fasting, and the like. While personal spirituality is very much at the heart of the Christian life, it is incomplete if it fails to grasp what membership in his body entails.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here.