Links for the Weekend (1/1/2021)

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

3 Questions For Setting God-Centered Goals

We all know the beginning of the year is a common time to set goals and resolutions. But, if we’re not careful, our goals can be terribly self-centered. Paul Worcester writes with advice on glorifying God with our goals.

If I’m not careful, I can gravitate toward goals that have the subtle motivation of glorifying myself. Fitness, finances, and fans can all be tools to glorify God. But if those things become ends in themselves, I am in danger of idolatry.

How Do I Become Passionate About Bible Reading?

John Piper answers this question on an episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast. I appreciate how Piper communicates how God uses his word in our lives.

But what I want to do in the next few minutes, at the beginning of the year here, is not persuade people of a particular plan, but to give the profound biblical truth and reality that ongoing feeding upon the word of God day by day is built into God’s way of saving you. In other words, we’re not putting icing on the cake of Christianity when we talk about Bible reading. We’re talking about the cake of God’s spiritual plan to preserve you and bring you safely to heaven with all the necessary holiness that the Spirit creates only by the word of God.

2020 Bashing

It’s easy and common to complain about how terrible 2020 was. Lisa LaGeorge has written an encouragement for us as we head into 2021—God is in control and he is good. She includes some helpful quotes from Corrie Ten Boom in her article.

Your God has planned 2020. There is nothing outside of His control, and He knows what is best. That change in the rhythm of life? The reduction in travel? The impact of the virus? All wrapped up in His goodness and work.


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 (12/18/2020)

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

Is Christmas a Pagan Rip-off?

Kevin DeYoung addresses the idea that Christmas is a copycat of a pagan holiday. Though this is a longstanding and accepted argument, DeYoung says that it’s just not true.

Unlike Easter, which developed as a Christian holiday much earlier, there is no mention of birth celebrations from the earliest church fathers. Christian writers like Irenaeus (130-200) and Tertullian (160-225) say nothing about a festival in honor of Christ’s birth, and Origen (165-264) even mocks Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries as pagan practices. This is a pretty good indication that Christmas was not yet on the ecclesiastical calendar (or at least not widespread), and that if it were, it would not have been tied to a similar Roman holiday.

Advent I: The Face of God

Brad East has written a nice Advent meditation on the face of God over at Mere Orthodoxy.

Advent is the season when the church remembers—which is to say, is reminded by the Spirit—that as the people of the Messiah, we are defined not by possession but by dispossession, not by having but by hoping, not by leisurely resting but by eagerly waiting. We are waiting on the Lord, whose command is simple: “Keep awake” (Mark 13:37). Waiting is wakefulness, and wakefulness is watchfulness: like the disciples in the Garden, we are tired, weighed down by the weakness of the flesh, but still we must keep watch and be alert as we await the Lord’s return, relying on his Spirit, who ever is willing (cf. Mark 14:32-42).

Liturgy for a Pandemic Christmas

To quote a part of this would be to ruin the whole, so I will just urge you to read this lovely poem written by Jessica Merzdorf at Fathom Magazine about Jesus coming for (and identifying with) his people.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called A Contrast of Kings at Christmas. 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. 

A Contrast of Kings at Christmas

Secular Christmas scenes are full of snow, wreaths, lights, and cookies. The roaring fires and flannel pajamas that appear on so many cards paint the holiday as one of coziness and warmth.

While there’s nothing wrong with these seasonal elements, none of them capture the biblical reality. Christmas is the time to rejoice in the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus.

But even in the Bible, Jesus’s birth was not an occasion for universal joy. While there was great celebration, the Christmas narratives are also serious, dark, and cautionary.

Herod the King

The second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel offers a stark contrast. Right from the beginning, we read that in the days of Herod the king the wise men came looking for the king of the Jews. This contrast seems intentional, as Matthew refers to Herod as “king” a total of three times (Matt 2:1, 3, 9).

While the wise men traveled a great distance to worship this new king (Matt 2:2), they went to Herod only for information. The wise men rejoiced when approaching the house where Jesus was, and they brought extravagant gifts, falling down in worship. Since God warned them away, the wise men didn’t even speak to Herod again.

Herod was “troubled” by this talk of a new king (Matt 2:3). The Jewish religious leaders reported that prophesies pointed to Bethlehem as the birthplace of a “ruler” who would “shepherd” the people of Israel (Matt 2:6). This was not good news for Herod.

Jesus the Child

The contrast between Herod and Jesus is heightened by the difference in their ages. Herod was an adult; Jesus had just been born. In fact, Jesus is referred to as a “child” nine times in this chapter.

Given the difference in physical ability and political power between Jesus and Herod, it seems bizarre that Herod was threatened by this baby. But Herod was so enraged when the wise men did not report back to him that he ordered the death of all male children in and around Bethlehem under two years old.

We should pause here and note the violence and devastation that Herod caused. His fear and his lust for power proved to be a murderous cocktail. These deaths were unspeakably cruel, selfish, and senseless, and they must have left Bethlehem residents horrified and empty with grief.

While Herod took drastic, human steps to eliminate Jesus, Matthew’s text shows us the supernatural elements used to honor and protect Jesus. The star that the wise men followed (“his star” in Matt 2:2) appeared both before and after their visit to Jerusalem (Matt 2:9–10) and led them directly to Jesus. Additionally, God acted through dreams to warn the wise men (Matt 2:12) and to direct Joseph and his young family (Matt 2:13, 19, 22).

Finally, notice the role of prophecy in this chapter. In his birth in Bethlehem (Matt 2:5–6), his exile to Egypt (Matt 2:17), and his settling in Nazareth (Matt 2:23), Jesus fulfilled what the prophets had spoken. On the other hand, the prophecy that Herod fulfilled was one of tears and lamentation (Matt 2:17–18).

Worship Christ, the Newborn King

Jesus was declared a king at his birth. And the contrast between Jesus and all other kings continued through his earthly life and beyond.

Because Jesus is the great, high king, he is a threat to all who hold power. God demands (and deserves) our undiluted worship, and this is a problem for anyone who craves any glory that belongs to God.

This is a warning to all in authority: Worship Jesus as the high king willingly while you can. One day every knee will bow, whether willingly or not (Phil 2:9–11). Your power is delegated power and should be used to help those around you to flourish.

And for everyone, this is a call to worship Jesus. He is no mere human king; he is the Lord of all. And as Lord, he shows himself to be vastly superior to Herod.

Though he is powerful and his authority is absolute, he is merciful and gentle. We have all grasped for power; we have all neglected and rejected proper worship. But king Jesus offers love and forgiveness for those who turn to him.

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Links for the Weekend (12/11/2020)

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

The Surprising Ministry of Encouragement

“Gospel doctrine creates gospel culture.” Ray Ortlund writes that encouragement is essential to this gospel culture that the best churches cultivate.

Encouragement is what the gospel feels like as it moves from one believer to another. The ministry of encouragement, therefore, isn’t optional or just for people with a knack for it. Real encouragement has authority over us all. It deserves nothing less than to set the predominant tone of our churches, our homes, our ministries. So, let’s think it through. And then, let’s get after it.

Christmas in a Minor Key

If Christmas is merely a superficial celebration, this might be a year to pitch it. How can we drum up interest in tinsel when the pandemic has made life so hard and so sad for so many? Doug Eaton argues that these miseries give us a greater reason than ever to celebrate this year.

The arrival of Jesus into our world is the answer to a world lost in darkness. Christ, God incarnate, entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, he was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and he would endure it all because of his great love for us. We have a Savior who can sympathize with our weakness, and he went to the cross to atone for our sin.

The Gentle Tug of Spiritual Disciplines

I enjoyed the way Craig Thompson contrasted his dog’s need to go outside with his practice of the spiritual disciplines.

There is more. Your spiritual disciplines will not usually yell at you, but when you neglect them, there are reminders. Learn to tune your heart and mind to the gentle tug of spiritual disciplines. Do you feel stressed and overwhelmed? Could it be that you have allowed the noise of the world to drown out God’s love in your life? The gentle tug of spiritual disciplines is a bit more like a hunger or a longing than a begging and demanding.


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 (12/4/2020)

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

Advent in a Global Pandemic

David Mathis writes about the themes of darkness and light as they relate to this year and the Advent season. The bottom line? “But Advent looks darkness square in the eye and issues this great promise for our season of waiting: darkness will not overcome the Light.”

Advent, the season of waiting and preparation before the high feast of Christmas, is a chance to regain spiritual sanity, and create fresh and healthier rhythms personally and as a family and as churches. As we enter the six darkest weeks of the year in this hemisphere, we will pivot midway to mark the greatest and brightest turning point in all history: the birth of Christ. And perhaps this Advent will begin restoring what the locusts have taken this year.

An Advent Series on Christmas Carols

The Daily Grace Podcast is doing a series during Advent which examines Christmas carols. There will be a new carol explored each week (new podcasts are posted on Tuesday mornings) including a performance by an artist, history on the background of the song, and reminders of the gospel message throughout. Here’s a link to the first episode in this series—the subject is the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Older Women, Young Churches Need You

Hannah Nation explains why older women are such a crucial part of local churches, especially churches with lots of younger members. She also explains how younger women can benefit from relationships with their elders in the faith.

These concerns bring to mind the words Paul wrote to Titus. He writes that older women “are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (2:3–5). Older women who mentor, disciple, and care for younger women are an essential part of a biblical community.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Sarah Wisniewski called Quarantine, Regret, and the Gospel. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Thanks to Maggie A and Sarah W for their 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 (11/27/2020)

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

How to Harm a Heavy Heart

Vaneetha Risner writes about listening to and grieving with friends who are going through difficult times. I appreciated the way she discussed the Christian practice of lament.

Sometimes we aren’t in a setting to lament together through Scripture, but we can apply those principles to everyday conversation. We can invite our friends to talk about their feelings without judgment, beginning the conversation by saying, “This must be so hard. It would have opened a whole host of struggles for me. How are you feeling?” Sharing our own battles and temptations invites others to speak, knowing they won’t be judged.

Our Only Hope In Life and Death

This short, solid reminder about a Christian’s true hope cheered my soul.

This can bring us great comfort, knowing that hope is not lost, that our hope is in Christ alone. We will continue to struggle with the restrictions, but placing our faith in God means we know His promises still stand, that He is sovereign over the world, and that our lives are lived unto Him, every day. 

Should We Expect Our Jobs to Make Us Happy?

We’re all prone to find our identity and happiness in unfit places. Barnabas Piper writes about why our work can’t bear the weight we often want it to.

Work— like many other things in life- is a means of finding happiness. It’s designed by God and is a good thing. It’s a good hook for the right things, but too weak to hold our hopes for total happiness.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

Not this week, but last week on the blog we published an article I wrote called How to Encourage Those Who Grieve. 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. 

How to Encourage Those Who Grieve

When a loved one dies, we feel more than just sadness. We know pain and despair and heartache in the center of our souls. Because we hurt, we can feel disoriented, asking the deepest questions of our lives.

We can understand, therefore, why Paul needed to write part of his first letter to the Thessalonians. These Christians were grieving and confused, wondering what had become of their friends and family members who had died.

In 1 Thess 4:13–18, Paul answered their questions and addressed their fears. In doing so, he has shown us just how much comfort comes from thinking rightly about the future.

Grief is Good

When Paul addressed his brothers in 1 Thess 4:13, he spoke about their grief.

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. (1 Thess 4:13)

Those outside of the church grieve, but they have no hope anchoring their grief. Paul wanted his friends to grieve with hope, and he gave specific grounds for that hope in the following verses.

Paul was no Stoic; he did not prohibit mourning. But our mourning should be done—like everything else in our lives—as Christians. We should not deny the natural emotion of grief, but our grief should be informed by the truth of God’s word.

Those Who Have Died Have Not Missed Out

From what Paul wrote in 1 Thess 4:15–17, it seems the Thessalonians were concerned that their loved ones might not experience the full joy of the coming of the Lord. Paul reassured them.

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:15–17)

The dead in Christ will rise first. Then there will be a joyous reunion with loved ones (“caught up together,” verse 17) and with the Lord. Though we do not know the time nor all the specifics, there is great comfort in knowing what is to come.

For Those Who Believe in Jesus

It’s important to state this unpopular truth: Comfort in the coming of the Lord is reserved for those who believe in Jesus.

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess 4:14)

Though Paul did not write the entire Christian gospel here, he stated its central truth (“Jesus died and rose again”). In the first century, Christians were chiefly set apart by this belief in the work of Jesus. Paul wanted these believers to know that God’s work for their loved ones was not over. He will bring them with him when he comes.

Genuine Hope

We’ve all heard hollow words of hope and empty promises of comfort surrounding death. At least he’s in a better place. You’ll feel better, just give it time.

Paul had no time for faint hope. He pointed to the best, most lasting comfort there is—the eternal presence of God. How sweet to know that “we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17).

Without interruption or distraction, we will be with our loving, faithful, glorious Lord. Our sin made us unworthy of being near him, but Jesus has brought us close and will, on the last day, take us closer still.

Encourage One Another

Paul ended this short portion of his letter with a command. “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess 4:18).

Far too often the coming of the Lord has been a source of controversy, division, and apprehension among Christians. Yet Paul sees this coming as a source of courage for the grieving.

We are often called as a church to love and comfort those who are mourning. And this passage tells us how we can pray for and speak to our grieving friends. We remind them of the gospel, we point to the future, and together we cling to the sure hope of eternal fellowship with the Lord.

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Links for the Weekend (11/13/2020)

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

No Blank Slate Christianity

Jared Wilson has written a great encouragement not to believe a “half-gospel.” Too many people, he says, know about the forgiveness of sins but forget (or do not know) about the imputed righteousness of Christ.

The doctrine of imputation gives the Christian the right kind of confidence. Because your faith is counted as righteousness (Rom. 4:5), you don’t have to “pay back” what Christ purchased for me (as if you ever could anyway!). You don’t have to earn credit with God. He has freely given Jesus’ sinless perfection to you as if it was your own. Now you can obey God freely and with joy, knowing you’ve been set free from the condemnation of the law. This is hugely confidence-building, as it destroys any pride we might have in our own obedience and strengthens our reliance on Christ’s obedience on our behalf.

How to Read the News Wisely

Scott Slayton has some good advice about how Christians can consume the news.

We could spend all day reviewing the glories that are coming to those who are in Christ and we need to look at the daily news in light of these overwhelming realities. This doesn’t mean that healthcare, abortion, social justice, and civil liberties don’t matter, instead, it reframes how we think about these issues. If we don’t get justice in this world, we know that ultimate justice is coming. If our opportunities for a comfortable retirement are declining, we remember that we look forward to something much better than retirement. Our great future hope changes the way that we look at everything.

Podcast: Wisdom Gained by Walking Together

Here’s an episode of the podcast from the PCA’s Women’s Ministry about friendship and mentoring relationships. For those feeling the weight of isolation and strained relationships this year, this may be an encouraging help.


Thanks to Maggie A for her help in gathering 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. 

King David and Intimacy with God

Most Christians know that King David was a man after God’s heart (1 Sam 13:14). What did that look like?

Part of the answer lies in Psalm 139. David’s cry in last two verses is remarkable.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23–24)

This is a powerful, intimate prayer. Christians would do well to pray this way.

But there’s an approach to this prayer that’s all wrong. Too many treat this prayer as self-improvement, asking God for a home inspection so you can do the patching and remodeling.

As with everything in the Bible, we need to read and pray this prayer in context.

David Knows God

David knows God, and this is evident throughout Psalm 139. What David knows about God gives him comfort, strength, and zeal. Consider what David says about God.

God has already searched and known him (v.1). David is asking God in verse 23 to do something familiar.

God knows his actions, thoughts, and words (vv.2–4). God knows David’s thoughts and his words before they’re spoken. God’s knowledge is overwhelming (v.5).

God is everywhere (v.7). David cannot escape God’s Spirit or his presence. Day or night—the darkness makes no difference to God (vv.11–12). And God is not coolly studying David; he is leading and holding David with his hand (v.10). David enjoys God’s love in addition to his knowledge and presence.

God made him (vv.13–15). God knit and intricately wove David together inside his mother. Think of the detail and care in those words!

God knows all his days (v.16). Before David’s birth, God knew not just the number of his days but the days themselves.

God shares his thoughts with David (vv.17–18). David knows that God’s thoughts are numerous, and precious.

God provides his presence (v.18). After awaking from pondering God’s thoughts, David is cheered and comforted by God’s faithful, ongoing presence.

God can slay the wicked (vv.19–22). David appeals to God’s power, authority, and justice.

The Gospel in Psalm 139

The thought of God searching us can be terrifying. Maybe you imagine a blinding, prison-yard spotlight, sweeping across the grounds, leaving nothing hidden.

But, for God’s children, this isn’t the right image. David has already been searched and known by God. Because God is merciful, God’s hand on David is “wonderful” (v.6). If a sinner calls the hand of a holy God upon him wonderful, there’s only one explanation: this hand belongs to a father, not a jailer.

David knows the evil in his heart that rises against God.

For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. (Psalm 38:4)

But, by faith, David also knows that his sin has been forgiven.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

Because David is God’s child, the searching of God is for the purpose of discipline and holiness, not judgment and punishment.

Let’s Pray

So, let’s pray Psalm 139:23–24. But let’s pray it in context.

We’re not praying for self-improvement. Christians have given up on the idea that we can improve ourselves.

We’re not praying for purity so we can get closer to God. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and by the gift of faith, God has already brought us near to him! No work or repentance of our own could accomplish any more.

Let’s pray this psalm because we are beloved children of God, and his faithful love compels us to repent of all that offends him. Let’s pray because we need the knowledge of God and the work of the Holy Spirit; our self-knowledge is inadequate and incomplete and so often inaccurate.

Let’s pray this psalm because we trust God not only to show us our sin, but to “lead [us] in the way everlasting.” God won’t simply point the way down the proper path, but he’ll take our hand and walk with us.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23–24)

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Links for the Weekend (10/30/2020)

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

Loving Difficult Neighbors Isn’t Optional

We can all provide a bushel of reasons why we can’t love our neighbors. Will Anderson reminds us this isn’t an option.

Though many justify neighbor-avoidance based on differences, the real issue isn’t some impassable chasm of incompatibility; it’s our own discomfort, pride, and fear. As we huddle within the bounds of familiarity, we’re robbed of serving those who don’t look or think like we do.

God Wants You to Call Him “My Father”

Ed Welch reflects on what it means for us to pray to God as our father.

My Father—the Spirit of Christ teaches us to address our prayers—to my Father. So like the disciples, we, too, will gradually learn this most remarkable feature of New Testament prayer. Jesus is the Son and we, joined with him, share in this relationship. The same easy confidence with which Jesus prayed to his Father can now be our own (Heb 4:16). And given how this closeness and familiarity are the most unexpected features of how we pray, “My Father” can always leave us amazed. Go ahead and insert it into the beginning of any psalms you read and place it next to the other names of God. Scripture will immediately be more intimate, as your Father intended it to be.

What Was Reformed in the Reformation

Here’s a nice, short summary of the central doctrines recovered during the Protestant Reformation.


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