Links for the Weekend (4/19/2019)

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

You’re Dead, Start Acting Like It

Chris Thomas exhorts and encourages his readers from the book of Colossians. He tells us (as Paul does) that we’re both dead and alive. Check out the post at For The Church.

Paul’s concern, and what should be our concern as well, is that we’re not acting like dead people should — at least, we’re not acting like dead “Jesus-people” should. We’re still chasing the cheap candy that we thought would nourish our wasting flesh. We’re still enlisting in extra-curricular activities we thought would bolster our chances of winning the game. Paul says, “Quit dancing in the shadows while you disregard the substance.” Deep down we know it; this shadow-game is unfulfilling. The only way out of this shadow theatre is through death. The trouble is, though, we prize life so highly that we don’t want to embrace the grave. But that’s not the way of the gospel. There can be no victorious Sunday without the humiliation of Friday. There is no crown without the cross.

The Brave New World of Bible Reading

How are we influenced by the form our Bible reading takes? Whether we read a print Bible, use a Bible app, or listen to an audio Bible, A. Trevor Sutton argues that we need to slow down and reflect on the technology we’re using.

These affordances provide unique, practical benefits but also powerful, subtler influences. Having your Bible just one tap away from Facebook influences how you experience God’s Word; toggling between an envy-inducing newsfeed and the envy-indicting New Testament creates internal dissonance. Hyperlinking Scripture to the internet can affect your theological understandings, sending you on meandering rabbit trails that can complicate or distort a passage’s meaning. A sea of unfamiliar words on an austere page conveys a certain visual message.

Waiting Time Isn’t Wasted Time

As a people, we’re not great at waiting. But what effect does waiting have on a society? What effect might it have on the church? Ashley Hales has some helpful thoughts to share.

Impatience with waiting is nothing new. From the antsy Israelites who built a golden calf because they were tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, to the biblical cries of lament (“How long, O Lord?”) and calls for justice, to the early church’s and our own longing for the redemption of all things—we are a waiting people. Waiting ultimately reorients our stories: We are not the primary actor on a stage of our own making or choosing. Rather, God is the hero of the story. Will we be content to wait on his work? In these in-between times, what character will be formed in us as individuals and as a culture?


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 (4/12/2019)

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

You Believe the Prosperity Gospel

How’s that for a title?! Jared Wilson is a great writer and this is a great article. I’ve listed it first because if you only have time to read one of these articles, you need to make it this one.

The problem with this, biblically speaking, is that we have numerous examples both in our own lives and in the pages of Scripture of dear saints who were afflicted despite and in their faith. We see in fact that faith is made precisely for the experience of living in a fallen world, where if everything went smoothly and we never hurt, we wouldn’t need reliance on Jesus as much, would we? So when we tell others to trust God in the midst of their suffering, we do well. He is sovereign and he can be trusted to work all things together for our good. But when we tell others to trust God to avoid their struggles, we promise something God himself does not promise.

The Big and Small World of Bible Geography

David Barrett has a guest post at Justin Taylor’s blog about the size of the territory discussed in the Bible. Barrett mentions a paradox he discovered while working on various cartography projects regarding the lands of the Bible: “The world of the Bible was at the same time very small and very large.”

The more I come to understand the world of the Bible, the more I become convinced it was actually not that much different from our own world in some respects. Certainly the world has undergone great changes in technology, communication, and transportation since Bible times, yet at the same time we’re still typically enveloped by a fairly small day-to-day existence.

9 Things You Should Know About Christian Hymns

Joe Carter writes an occasional blog series for The Gospel Coalition all of which begin “9 Things You Should Know About…” In this post, Carter writes about Christian hymns, and he provides some important and fascinating details. He writes about early references to hymns, the relationship between hymns and Psalm singing, and some of the most prolific hymn writers, among other things. It’s good for us to know some of the history of the music we sing every week!

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an essay I wrote, titled How Fast Does a Christian Grow? Check it out!

Thanks to Cliff L and Phil A for helping me round up articles 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. 

How Fast Does a Christian Grow?

Confession time: In graduate school, my therapist was a vacuum cleaner.

I should explain. While pursuing a degree in mathematics, I spent many days working out theories, formulas, and proofs with pen and paper. I spent hours chasing ideas that turned out to be worthless. I recycled a lot.

I was often discouraged on the ride home from campus. Did I make progress today? Did I do anything of value?

Around the same time, I took on the household chore of vacuuming, and I grew to love it. This task counterbalanced my mathematical research. In the apartment, I could see my progress. The stripes on the carpet couldn’t lie: clean carpet here, dirty carpet there. As I listened to the vacuum turn and click, I knew I was contributing.

Our Ideal of Growth

We’d like our Christian growth to be like vacuuming, wouldn’t we? Give me Five Easy Steps or Fifteen Minutes a Day with guaranteed progress on the other side!

It’s no surprise we want definite, quick results. In the West, we can get most goods and services in a flash. Microwave meals, drive-through car washes, next-day shipping, movies streamed to the living room. If you’re willing to pay, you can make it happen.

And we’d like our spiritual progress to be the same: fast, noticeable, predictable. We don’t like to wait, and we resent not being in control.

The Reality of Christian Growth

For most, growing as a Christian is slow and unpredictable.

If you come to Christ as a teenager or adult, some practices might be obvious (if painful) to change. But Christian maturity is more about the heart than it is about behavior. Our trust, hopes, and desires need to change, and good behavior follows.

But our hearts are complicated and mysterious. Imagine being hired to fix up an old house and prepare it for sale. The broken windows, missing siding, and crumbling sidewalk are easy to spot from the driveway. But you don’t see the water damage, the dangerous stairs, or the fire hazards until you walk around inside. Even then you won’t learn about the electrical, plumbing, or termite problems until you open up the walls. By nature, our hearts have many layers, each one focused on self. And every layer needs to be remade.

God transforms us as we walk with him. But it doesn’t come easily. We can’t simply plug a machine into the wall.

How to Measure Your Growth

The precise how of sanctification is a mystery, and people much smarter than I have written volumes on the topic. We know that our growth, like our conversion, is the gift and work of God. We also know that God works through our work to accomplish this (Phil. 2:12–13).

And though we might want to know the details, we don’t need to know them. God is sovereign and we are not. Because of God’s promise, we can have confidence that he will sanctify us and bring his good work in us to completion (Phil. 1:6).

Our growth is much more like a tree than a bubbling science experiment. If you take measurements of a tree over several days or weeks, you’ll be disappointed. When you don’t see growth, you might doubt the tree is alive.

But if you measure a healthy tree from one year to the next, you’ll see what God is doing. You’ll see more fullness, more height, more fruit. And true Christians are all healthy trees—God’s spirit within us guarantees that (Matt 7:15–20).


This article originally ran here.

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Links for the Weekend (4/5/2019)

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

The Secret to Strong Friendships

Personalities, shared interest, even geography—these may help friendships begin, but Kristen Wetherell argues that prayer is what sustains them over time.

But we mustn’t forget that prayer is a powerful act of love and service in itself. In seasons when we feel stretched thin, we may not be able to serve our friends in the ways we’d like—but we can always pray for them. Prayer is one gift we can consistently give.

How to Embrace Your Emotions without Being Ruled by Them

At the Crossway blog, Winston T. Smith helps us understand why God gave us emotions and how we can engage with them.

In a sense, then, the more our hearts and values are aligned with God’s, the more we will experience emotions that reflect God’s perspective on what’s happening in and around us. The more we mature into the image of Christ, the more our encounters with the truly good will engender positive emotions. Likewise, our encounters with the truly bad will engender even more negative emotions.

J. I. Packer on the 6 Things You Should Tell Yourself Every DayT

In an extended recommendation for the classic book Knowing God, Justin Taylor highlights some of J. I. Packer’s writing on spiritual adoption. This article is short and ends with that practical, six-item list promised in the title.

Calling this “the Christian’s secret of a Christian life and of a God-honoring life,” he says that we should take the following truths and “Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as your wait for the bus, any time your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true.”

Hospitality as the Body of Christ

Joel Hart draws on a nice metaphor in this article about hospitality. He contrasts a side-by-side, “treadmill” approach to the Christian life to a way of living life together. He proposes that hospitality can help.

But what if the calling of hospitality – or any other calling of Christian experience – isn’t meant to function like a series of side-by-side treadmills? What if hospitality is a calling that comes to the church as a body that is organically connected and constantly works together?

Thanks to Phil A. 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 (3/29/2019)

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

When Your Arms Are Emptier Than You Expected

Don’t let the title of this article fool you—it’s not just for those experiencing the loss of a child. Brittany Allen looks to the Bible to learn how grief and joy can coexist.

The world says you can only thrive in a season of visible gain and abundance. Furthermore, they might grant us the right to curse God like Job’s wife when trials come our way. But God’s word gives us a different picture of gain and abundant life, and often, it includes grief and trials. In the Bible, thriving often looks a lot like growing. Just as those growing pains caused my legs to ache as a preteen, it’s often painful to feel the changes and stretches within my heart as God sanctifies me through trials.

4 Ways Martin Luther Encourages Pastors to Pray

At 9 Marks, Mark Rogers shares some of what he has learned about prayer from Martin Luther. (This is definitely not just for pastors!)

And yet, though I’ve learned that prayer is a non-negotiable, I’ve also learned that I must fight to stay faithful in prayer. After all, others won’t know if I’m not praying. Nobody will complain if I give up secret prayer every day. Therefore, I need regular encouragement, instruction, and inspiration to keep from sliding into prayerlessness.

Biblical Principles for Ethnic Harmony

I love this post from H.B. Charles. He gives us seven principles from the Bible for ethnic harmony, and he takes us from creation all the way to heaven. Along the way he helps us understand the sin of racism and see the hope that Jesus brings.

Racism is a spiritual battle that can be overcome. But you cannot win spiritual battles with worldly weapons. This is why the hope of overcoming racism cannot truly be found in human effort, worldly philosophies, or even civil rights. The gospel, which reconciles God to sinners, must also reconcile sinners to one another. As a result, the church is the hope of the world.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

Sarah Wisniewski wrote an excellent piece this week entitled Your Kingdom Come: God’s Patience and Ours in Light of Eternity. Check it out!

Thanks to Maggie A and Phil A for helping me round up articles 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 (3/22/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out. (I’m much shorter on time this week, so please bear with the more abbreviated introductions to the links. Thanks!)

A Meditation on Strength and Weakness

Does God prefer weakness or strength? What does the Bible say? Kevin DeYoung points us in some helpful directions.

As Christians we know that weakness is good. But then, the Bible isn’t always down on strength either. So which is it? Should we try to grow, to mature, and to fan into flame the gifts we’ve been given? Or should we boast in all our limitations and failures?

A Playlist of Songs for Lent

At The Rabbit Room, Drew Miller and other writers offer songs for listening during Lent. At this link, you can find a brief thought on each song as well as a link to the playlist on Spotify.

Help! I’m Not Ready to Share My Faith

This episode of The Gospel Coalition’s podcast is a conversation between Don Carson, Matt Smethurst, and Rebecca McLaughlin. They discuss the difference between being ready to evangelize and feeling ready. (It’s only about 16 minutes long.)


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 (3/15/2019)

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

What’s the Purpose (and the Benefit) of Family Devotions?

Tim Challies writes about family devotions with twenty years of perspective. He describes his family’s practice and then reflects on what the benefits have been.

There have been many times over the years when I’ve felt like our habit of family devotions has been trite or simplistic. Though I’ve never been tempted to give up, I’ve often been tempted to add complexity, to measure success by how much knowledge our children have gained by it. But looking back on nearly twenty years of doing this together, I see there are many wonderful benefits to be had through faithful simplicity.

Good Enough in a Never Enough World

I’m surprised that it took me this long to link to Lore Ferguson Wilbert. She’s an insightful and skilled writer, a deep-thinking Christian who helps me think along with her. She mostly writes for women, but I hope her writing gets read by men as well. In this post, Lore writes about how it feels not to be a “pretty girl” and what this means about how God might use her. She also teases a project (a podcast, perhaps?) that is coming in May.

This isn’t to shame women naturally given to beauty, or those with the means to make themselves more so, but is it any wonder women are drawn to quick, easy tropes for what ails them? Is it any wonder we’re still taking the fruit that promises us godlikeness? Biting off bits of it in the form of Instagram images, Pinterest perfect homes, four steps to finding a good husband or having a good marriage, or swallowing the many iterations of diet culture in the form of food restriction? Is it any wonder we’re googling how to make our pores look smaller and have drawers of unused anti-wrinkling creams because each one promises to do it better? I have a smattering of persistent gray hairs on my part that no amount of color covers for long and still I try.

5 Rules to Help You Fail Less Often with Social Media

Justin Taylor calls our attention to the new book The Common Rule (ed. note: I have not read this book) by highlighting five things the author (Justin Whitmel Earley) “has started doing to retain some sanity when it comes to social media.”

How to Be More Public with Your Faith

In this article at The Gospel Coalition, Tim Keller writes about why Christians aren’t as public with their faith now as they were in years past.

Why? There are many factors. First, talking about Christian faith is more complicated. A generation ago you could assume that the vast majority of people believed in a personal God, an afterlife, moral absolutes, the reality of their sin, and had a basic respect for the Bible. Christians routinely assumed the existence of these concepts (or “dots”), and evangelism was mainly connecting the dots to show them their personal need for Jesus. No longer can we assume, however, that any of these basic ideas are common knowledge or, if they are, even acceptable. To talk about faith now entails working to establish basic concepts before Jesus’s gift of salvation can have any meaning.

The Spiritual Discipline of Hanging Out in Cemeteries

Here’s a great article with an excellent title. During Lent there’s one practice that forces Cortland Gatliff (the author) “to remember that my death is nigh, but resurrection is coming.” Read the rest over at Christ and Pop Culture.

Nevertheless, the grim fact remains: We will die, are dying. No amount of vitamin supplements or exercise will change that. What, then, do we actually gain by trying to push death out of our minds? Or perhaps a more important question: what do we lose?

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog I wrote You Are Not a Number. Check it out!

Thanks to Phil A for helping me round up articles 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. 

You Are Not a Number

tape measures

It’s 2019, so we can track and measure almost anything. These numbers we generate are simple, stark, and memorable. They stick with us for days, relentlessly patting us on the back or poking us in the ribs. Numbers are brain worms.

And while we can use numbers to describe aspects of our life, they are snapshots. Numbers cannot capture the most important information about us.

Not a Number

When we fixate on measurements, we usually boil our efforts down to failure or success. This number is too low; that one is finally high enough.

We’re easily consumed, thinking that one good or bad datum paints a complete picture. But we must shake off that thinking like a dog after his mud-puddle bath. Enjoy this freedom: you are not a number.

You are not your salary. You are not the balance in your retirement account. You are not your credit card balance or your credit score. You are not your net worth.

You are not your IQ, your standardized test score, your GPA, or your class rank. You are not the number of degrees you’ve earned.

You are not the number of people that attended your most recent meeting, event, or party.

You are not the number of points on your driver’s license. You are not the number of felonies you’ve committed or warrants out for your arrest. You are not your number of parking or speeding tickets.

You are not the number of miles you’ve run, the weight you can lift, or the calories you’ve burned/consumed. You are not the number of steps you’ve taken, the number of hours you’ve slept, or your body fat percentage. You are not your height, waist size, or dress size. You are not your weight.

You are not your number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers. You are not the size of your address book. You are not the number of emails you sent or received today. You are not the number of likes/shares your social media post received.

You are not the number of books you’ve read, awards you’ve won, or promotions you’ve received. You are not the number of books/articles you’ve published, the number of conference presentations you’ve given, or the number of times your work is cited. You are not the number of people you supervise.

You are not the number of your children, grandchildren, or divorces.

You have a number associated with each measurement on this list. Perhaps this number is known only to you. Whether that number represents success, failure, or something in between, you are not that number.

What Defines Us?

The most important question of our lives is not numerical but categorical: Have you been reconciled with God?

Reconciliation with God only happens through Jesus Christ. You cannot score well enough on any scale to earn God’s approval.

If you don’t know God, perhaps you’ve never thought about reconciling with him. But your sin offends God, and you deserve his wrath. The defining measurement in your life is your distance from God, and it is infinite.

But there is time! Right now, God is calling you. Confess your sins, trust in Jesus, and come into his family. (Watch a video explanation of this good news here, and find a longer, written introduction to Christianity here.)

If you have been reconciled with God, this is your new identity: child of God, beloved in heaven, destined for paradise, protected by the Father, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, welcome before the King. No bad score or sub-par measurement can decrease God’s love for you.

An important number is attached to this new identity: zero. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38,39).

Many numbers can describe our obedience or encourage our perseverance. Let’s instead fix our minds on the truth of God’s faithfulness to his numerous people.


This is a lightly edited version of an article that originally ran here.

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Links for the Weekend (3/8/2019)

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

Praying Past Our Preferred Outcomes

Over at The Gospel Coalition, Nancy Guthrie wrote about prayer requests, suffering, and submitting to God. When we are experiencing pain and sadness, what should our prayers sound like?

What would happen if we allowed Scripture to provide the outcomes we prayed toward? What if we expanded our prayers from praying solely for healing and deliverance and success to praying that God would use the suffering and disappointment and dead ends in our lives to accomplish the purposes he has set forth in Scripture?

5 Pieces of Advice for Discussing Gender Roles with Other Christians

While this article at the Crossway blog is about discussing gender roles, we can apply it much more widely. Abigail Dodds helps us think about discussing sensitive issues with people we care about when there is a possibility of disagreement.

It’s easy to pontificate in an article or to spout off in a blog post or twitter thread or facebook rant, but the most fruitful place to talk about gender roles is in our local churches with the actual brothers and sisters we’re laboring alongside. We should care the most about having meaningful conversations with those closest to us.

Seven Tips on How to Study the Bible with Neighbors

Sometimes we speak of our “neighbors” in a generic way, referring to the people that we encounter or think about each day. Beth Wetherell wants to help us love our actual neighbors, the people that live near us. How can we love our neighbors enough to look at the Scriptures together with them?

But then God drew near and renewed a right spirit within me. He reminded me that I was doing this for him! It was an act of obedience. I was doing this because I had the best news in the world to share. I was doing this because I really liked my neighbors and cared about their eternal state. God had prepared me and equipped me – in his power and strength, I pressed on to the next house until all the invites were delivered.

Thanks to Maggie A and Phil A for their help in tracking down 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 (3/1/2019)

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

When God Says ‘No’

Melissa Kruger helps us think about why God seems not to hear us, or why he seems not to care, when he doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want.

I’ve seen the Lord teach me these very lessons by withholding the things I wanted so much. And, yet, when a new “no” is given, I stumble around in the darkness of my understanding, wondering again what the Lord is doing and why he withholds the yes I believe I so desperately need. It’s tempting to believe the lie that a yes from God confirms his blessing, while a no is a form of punishment or heavenly disapproval. Or perhaps, we wonder, does God even hear our desperate cries?

Is Your Smartphone Making You Unhappy?

At The Good Book Company’s blog, Emily Robertson writes about contentment and the comparisons we tend to make when using (and over-using) our phones. An article like this could read like a ten-minute scold, but Robertson points us to Christ and leaves us with hope instead. I appreciate that!

Comparison is not a modern phenomenon. (The phrase, “all comparisons are odious” was recorded as early as the 15th century. And you don’t have to read very far into the Bible to see the destructive outworkings of envy.) But, arguably, this age-old struggle has been intensified in the 21st century by the rise of personal technology and social media.

Your Fight Against Sin Is Normal

Brian Hedges offers hope for saints who are weary in their fight against sin: the conflict is normal, the battle is winnable, and the war is coming to an end.

Athletes speak of hitting the wall when they experience extreme exhaustion due to depleted reserves of glycogen in the liver and muscles. Many believers feel similar spiritually. If you find yourself in an ongoing cycle of three steps forward, two steps back; if your prayers, resolutions, and frustrated attempts at mortification still leave you struggling with the same old sins; if you are weary in the race set before you and feel ready to quit, you’ve hit the wall.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published Sarah Wisniewski’s article, God Is in the Fish. Check it out!

Thanks to Maggie A for helping me round up articles 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.