Rejoice Always

Recently at youth group we read 1 Thessalonians 5:16, one of the shortest verses in the Bible. It says, simply, “Rejoice always.” Thinking about it after, though, it struck me how it’s linked with the next verses. Here are the following verses, and notice that “Rejoice always” is part of a sentence: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Joy in All Things

Paul commands us to rejoice always and we should recognize that joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness comes and goes and is dependent on our circumstances at any given moment. Joy, on the other hand, is a state of mind, rooted deep within us in the knowledge that whatever may come, God is in control and that it’s all for our good and for His glory.

But that doesn’t mean joy always comes easily. Even now, I know people—some close to me—who are struggling with medical issues, financial challenges, and life changes that are difficult. These are people who, in a way, would have every right to be miserable or angry with their circumstances. But Paul says to have joy always. How can any of us rejoice all the time?

Prayer is the Key

The apostle gives us the answer: “pray without ceasing.” If prayer is simply having a conversation with God, then praying constantly shouldn’t be a difficult proposition. It doesn’t mean we have to walk around 24 hours a day with our heads bowed and our eyes closed (though there is certainly a time and place for that), but it does mean that we should allow ample time talking to the One who knows us best.

Part of prayer is recognizing who God is and what He has done for us. Think of the titles we use and what they mean in relation to God’s character. We call Him “God,” “Lord,” “Creator,” “Father,” “Savior,” “Spirit.” God sent His Son, who died and rose, that justice might be satisfied and our sins forgiven. Prayer is a great reminder of these things.

Thanksgiving All Year

Which brings us to the last clause of the sentence: “give thanks in all circumstances.” As we spend time in prayer, contemplating who God is and what He has done, it reorients us. It causes us to take our focus off of our problems and, instead, focuses us on the One who is in control of our problems. And that change in focus leads to thankfulness. It also brings us full circle. As we think about and give thanks for what the Lord has done, it causes our joy to deepen. And that makes it easier to “rejoice always.”

Paul’s command in this sentence is not an impossible one. Paul likely knew that life’s problems cause us to focus on ourselves. It’s easy to worry when things don’t seem to be going our way. But an attentiveness to prayer—and the awareness that brings as we’re reminded of the God who loves us no matter what we go through—changes our worry to joy. Then we will have what we need to follow the command to “Rejoice always.”

Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (11/15/2019)

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

Your Unfulfilled Desires are a Treasury, Not a Tragedy

We are often such slaves to our desires that we ” assume that to live with unmet expectations is an insufferable misery that must be resolved as quickly as possible.” Tyler Greene gives us a different perspective from the Bible.

This episode in Moses’s life beckons an important question for our own: what should we do with our unfulfilled desires—those sources of unresolved tension in our lives that have left us disappointed, devastated, or despondent? Sadly, too few of us are equipped to face such a question.

The 15 Best Films About Faith from the 2010s

The decade of the 2010s is almost over, so prepare yourself for lots of “looking back” and “best of” lists in the next month or so. Here’s an interesting one, posted at The Gospel Coalition, about movies that explore faith.

What were the best films about faith released in the 2010s decade? I’m not talking about “faith-based films” as the marketing term Hollywood uses for movies like Fireproof and God’s Not Dead. I’m not talking about films made for faith audiences so much as films made to explore faith: the struggle and beauty of faith, its many ups and downs, its fragile place in our secular age.

One of the Best Illustrations I’ve Heard in Years

How can Jesus be both omnipresent as God and incarnate as man at the same time? This is a difficult, long-asked question. Andrew Wilson shares an answer from Gavin Ortlund which draws on the analogy of an author and his writing.


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 (11/8/2019)

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

Comparison Steals More Than Joy

Brittany Allen writes about comparison, envy, and the sorts of truth that we really need to hear.

We need truths about Jesus. Truths that cause us to be overcome by thankfulness and gratitude. Truths that ingrain a trust in the Lord that seeps deep into our hearts. A trust that freely and humbly appeals to the Lord about our desires, but submits to His timing and will, knowing what He chooses to give or withhold are both His grace.

What Kind of Older Man Will I Be?

Here’s a short article at For The Church which tells the story of two godly older men and highlights their prayer for others. The author writes about good and bad ways to age in faith and ministry.

The examples of T.S. Mooney and William Thomas really help. Like them, I want to be an older man who disciples younger men with the confidence that the Lord will use them greatly in the future. Some men, as they grow older, become increasingly critical of younger believers. That’s such an unhelpful attitude. Instead, I want to teach younger men the Bible, believing they will grow and honor Jesus. 

Kanye West Proclaims Jesus Is King

The subject of iconic rapper Kanye West’s conversion to Christianity has been fodder for lots of online discussion over the past weeks and months. John Stonestreet pulls back a bit and asks us to consider celebrity conversions in general.

This foolish embrace of our cultural tendency toward celebrity worship has infected the church in so many ways, as evidenced by a generation of musicians and leaders in the church seeking to be famous and “have a platform” instead of being discipled and educated and obedient.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Glory of Repetitive Tasks. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Cliff L for help 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. 

The Glory of Repetitive Tasks

“Do you think we’ll wash dishes in heaven?”

My feet ached from standing, and I winced as I dipped my already-dry hands into the dishwater. The plastic containers had gathered by the sink, and as I worked my way through the pile, I looked for hope as I asked my wife this question.

“Probably, but I don’t think we’ll mind it,” she said.

Accurate, gentle, and with just a hint of rebuke. You can tell I married up, as they say.

The Weight of Repetition

We all feel the weight of repetition. We need to wash our clothes, cook our food, cut the grass, and brush our teeth. We finish a job…and put it right at the top of our list again! (With feedings and changings, mothers of young children feel this weight acutely.)

Some repetition happens because of the curse, and some is made more difficult by the curse. But there’s no denying that our sin affects the way we respond to and carry out our duties.

If we chafe at repetition, think of the Levites and priests in the Old Testament. Think of the sacrifices they carried out on an annual, monthly, or daily basis. Some of these offerings were matters of bread and oil, but many more involved the blood, fat, skin, and organs of animals.

These sacrifices were messy, smelly, expensive, labor intensive, and numerous. I imagine that as soon as one sacrifice was complete, the Levites were anticipating the next. This cycle, needed only because of sin, spun round and round and round. How would it be resolved? Would it be resolved?

The End of Repetition

The sacrificial system pointed to a need for something permanent, one sacrifice to end the cycle. One decisive offering to bring about a cosmic change.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

Through his Son, God accomplished what the law could not. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was once-for-all. The author of Hebrews meditates on this glorious fact:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1–4)

The sacrifices would have ceased if the law could make God’s people perfect. Instead, the sacrifices reminded the people of sin.

But look at what Christ has accomplished:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11–14)

Jesus is the only priest who could sit down, because his was the only sacrifice that needed no sequel. His offering perfected God’s people, who now are being sanctified.

Imagine an Old Testament Levite longing for a one-time sacrifice! Think of the relief, the lifted burden! As a comparison, suppose you had only one load of laundry to do, or that the next time mowing the grass would be your last. Imagine changing only one diaper!

The Repetition that Remains

While the sacrifice for sins is complete, Jesus’ work for us continues.

Instead of an ongoing offering for sin, Jesus intercedes (Romans 8:34Hebrews 7:25) and advocates (1 John 2:1) for us before his Father. This perpetual work of our High Priest is exactly what we need!

Because we are weak and needy, we need Jesus’ prayers. We don’t know how to pray as we should, so we need the Holy Spirit to intercede with “groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

Because we continue to sin, we need Jesus’ advocacy. He is our righteous defense attorney, pleading his blood as the reason for peace with the Father.

Repetition for God’s People

Our spiritual disciplines and good works are shaped by Jesus’ work. While the repetition in the Old Testament flowed toward Jesus’ sacrifice, our repetition flows from it.

We now have the joyful calling and freedom to worship weekly, celebrate communion, confess our sins, pray, hear and read God’s Word, and do good to our neighbors. These tasks are repeated because we are not yet home. We are frail and need strength; we are ignorant and need instruction; we are scared and need encouragement. We—and so many around us—need the Spirit to work within us.

See Glory in Repetition

God has created this world and written his Word so that much of what we see and experience remind us of eternal truths.

  • The rainbow is a sign of God’s promise to Noah.
  • Trumpets and clouds remind us of Jesus’ second coming.
  • A bird with a worm in its mouth points to God’s provision for his children.

Let’s see repetitive tasks in the same way.

  • When you cringe at the thought of another load of laundry, think of Christ’s singular work to wash you clean.
  • When it’s time to clean the gutters or shop for food yet again, remember his one-time, effectual sacrifice.
  • When you need to change the light bulb, re-paint the walls, or replace the tires, consider the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work of sanctification within you.

Let your thoughts bounce from your frustrations to these magnificent, eternal truths. Embrace the contrast between your ongoing work and the completed work of Jesus. Build your longing for heaven, where the curse will be no more and all repetition, even washing dishes, will be free from the stain of sin.

Post credit | Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (11/1/2019)

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

When Joy Feels Far Away

Over at Desiring God, Scott Hubbard uses Psalm 40 to discuss those times when darkness settles in. He gives solid, helpful encouragement from King David’s experience.

David’s confidence in the coming joy does not mean his darkness was not so deep after all; it means that joy, for those in Christ, is always deeper and surer than the darkness — everlastingly deeper, infinitely surer. You may not feel the truth of it right now. But can you, in hope against hope, imagine yourself singing again, laughing again, telling everyone who will listen, “Great is the Lord!”?

The Cross Is Our Stairway to Heaven

Jen Wilkin writes about the common evangelistic tool known as “the bridge.” She observes some small flaws in the basics of the drawing and explains why it is important that God came down (not across).

But Christ is not merely the stairway, he is also the perfect mediator, superior to angels in his descending and ascending. “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’” (Heb. 1:13). In the incarnation Christ descended to Earth. The sinless Son condescended to take on human flesh. And having suffered, died, and raised from the dead, he ascended to the right hand of the Father.

Five Questions about Faith and Works

The doctrine of justification by faith is at the heart of the Reformation, and Kevin DeYoung has a good discussion about some of the important facets of the related debate. The article draws on the work of Francis Turretin for helpful answers.

In short, while our good works are often praiseworthy in Scripture—pleasing to God and truly good—they do not win for us our heavenly reward. There is a true and necessary connection between good works and final glorification, but the connection is not one of merit.

5 Myths about the Reformation

Here’s a brief discussion of five myths that persist about 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. 

Video Overview of Psalms

If you were in the adult Sunday school class yesterday, you heard Zack recommend an overview video on the Psalms by The Bible Project. This organization has produced many high-quality video introductions to books and topics of the Bible. Here’s the overview of Psalms.

If you’re the sort of person who prepares for Sunday school, you might consider watching this video and reading some of the first psalms in the book.

Links for the Weekend (10/25/2019)

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

Christianity Is Not a Frowning Contest

Too many non-Christians view Christianity as a profoundly unhappy experience. Why would they ever want to sign up for that? Sadly, some of us who have the most joyful news tend to be dour and grumpy much of the time. Randy Alcorn writes about how happiness in Christ can be one of our greatest evangelistic tools.

Imagine if God’s people stood out in stores, workplaces, schools, and even on social media for all the right reasons. What if, while not apologizing for biblical truth, we let our “reasonableness be known to everyone” (Phil. 4:5) and, “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,” we clothed ourselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12)? People are attracted to Jesus when they see his attributes in others’ lives. When they observe them, they will notice and want to know the source of those qualities.

6 Ways to Help Your Kids Love Reading the Bible

There aren’t many habits we’d rather our children develop than reading the Bible regularly! Stephen Nichols gives us some ways to help children love this discipline.

Pick a book of the Bible and stay with it for a month—or even two. Read a chapter a day together one week. If it’s a small enough book, and you’re not taxing young attention spans too much, read through the whole book in a sitting. Or two. The next week, focus on some key verses. Memorize one of them. Read the book, reread the book, and read it again. Mastering biblical books one book at a time can become a lifelong delightful task.

How to Share God’s Love Through Hospitality

Here’s a short article at Core Christianity by William Boekestein offering suggestions for how to show hospitality at home and at church.

Hospitality isn’t merely a command. It is also one of the ways that God invites his children to flourish as we share his provisions in anticipation of the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). “In biblical hospitality, the gospel of Christ becomes visual, concrete, and practical to the stranger”

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called How God Rebukes Us. 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 God Rebukes Us

From eating vegetables to visiting the dentist, there are many things in life we need but do not want. To stay healthy, we endure needles, checkups, and the occasional cabbage, though we’d rather ignore them all.

As Christians, we don’t usually want God’s discipline. It’s painful, but we need it. Our disobedience is both offensive to God and bad for us. But God corrects us out of love; in fact, God proves we are his children through his discipline (Hebrews 12:7–8).

Fine. But how exactly does God rebuke us?

Providence or Revelation?

Many will point to circumstances. They cite the “difficult providences of God” (illness, loss of a job, natural disasters, etc.) as the way God shows his displeasure.

But outward suffering is no more evidence of sin than material blessing is a sign of obedience. (See Psalm 37Psalm 73, or Luke 13:1–5.) We rarely learn the reasons behind God’s providence.

However, the Bible provides direct revelation of God’s will. Even in difficult circumstances, God rebukes his children through his word. This happens in three main ways.

1. God’s Rebuke Through Preaching

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he included these words about the Bible.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)

Since the phrase “man of God” recalls a common Old Testament term for a prophet, Paul probably had a pastor’s preaching in mind. This is consistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere that pastors/elders should rebuke those in error. (See especially 1 Tim 5:202 Tim 4:2Titus 1:91:132:15.)

Therefore, one of the purposes of a preacher’s message is to rebuke Christians.

Don’t get the wrong idea. You might dislike the idea of rebuke because you picture angry, fire-and-brimstone preachers heaping guilt on the congregation and bringing everyone to tears.

But rebuke is simply correction. God corrects us because it is better to obey than to disobey. Our blindness to sin (coupled with our forgetfulness) means we need a lot of correction.

Rebuke from the pulpit is the explanation and specific application of a Biblical text. This is what happened in Nehemiah 8, when the reading (verses 3–6) and explanation (verses 7 and 8) of the law prompted tears (verse 9) and extensive confession of sin (chapter 9).

2. God’s Rebuke Through Private Bible Reading

Though the words rebuke and reprove are often associated with preaching, the Holy Spirit can correct us in private. (See John 14:26 and John 16:13–15.) This usually happens during personal Bible reading.

We have a few Biblical examples. In Acts 8:26–40, we read that God prepared the Ethopian eunuch for Philip’s visit through private meditation on Isaiah 53. In 2 Kings 22:11–13, Josiah was convicted by a private reading of the law.

The Spirit convicts us as we read and study the Bible. To learn how to study the Bible, I recommend the book Knowable Word or this series of blog posts.

3. God’s Rebuke Through Other Christians

God also rebukes us through others. As examples, consider Priscilla and Aquila correcting Apollos in Acts 18:26 or Paul confronting Peter in Galatians 2:11–14. Jesus went beyond an example and commanded his disciples to rebuke brothers in sin (Luke 17:3–4).

Further, the language of reproof is all over Proverbs. Solomon assumes those seeking wisdom will give and receive correction.

Wise men love reproof (Prov 9:8), and there is honor for those who heed it (Prov 13:18). Rebuke goes deep into a man of understanding (Prov 17:10), and the wise reprover is like gold to those who will listen (Prov 25:12). In summary, fools resist instruction, but the wise seek it and grow.

This sort of rebuke happens when a friend applies Biblical truth to your life in a corrective way. By God’s grace, you see the need to change your thinking, your desires, or your behavior and you move forward in repentance.

Cultivate Humility

If God disciplines us in these ways, what does it mean for us?

In short, we should invite the Lord’s rebuke. That may sound scary, but encountering the Bible is a serious matter. Sometimes God’s correction is exactly what we need.

Before listening to the Bible taught or preached, before reading it privately or with your small group, pray that God would rebuke you as needed. Ask God to prepare you to receive correction from your friends.

This requires humility. We must acknowledge our weakness and sin; we should thank God for his wisdom and love in correcting us.

Any reproof we receive points us back to the gospel. The only correction Jesus justly received was the divine rebuke for our sin on the cross. His rebuke ensures that we are rebuked as forgiven children, not as exiled criminals. Further, Jesus’s perfect obedience secures the privilege we have of God’s fatherly correction.

And, thank God, it’s Jesus’s power that makes change possible.

Post credit | Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (10/18/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out. (Just two links for you this week!)

8 Sins You Commit Whenever You Look at Porn

Pornography is a big problem—both in the world at large and in the church. Perhaps it’s obvious that we commit the sin of lust when we view porn, but Tim Challies suggests there are eight other sins we commit as well.

You commit the sin of sloth. We are called in all of life to “redeem the time,” to understand that we live short little lives and are responsible before God to make the most of every moment (Ephesians 5:16). Sloth is laziness, an unwillingness to use time well, and reflects a willingness to use time for destructive instead of constructive purposes. In that way pornography is slothful, a misuse of time. It is using precious moments, hours, and days to harm others instead of help them, to foster sin instead of kill sin, to backslide instead of grow, to pursue an idol instead of the living God.

J. I. Packer, 89, On Losing Sight But Seeing Christ

Here is an interview with J. I. Packer from back in 2016, shortly after he lost his ability to read. Packer is a faithful, long-term writer and speaker who has influenced many, and it is both sobering and encouraging to hear him talk about his condition and his hope.

Overall, would you say you’re encouraged?
Yes, I don’t see how any Christian under any circumstances can’t be encouraged who focuses on God. I don’t see how any Christian can be discouraged, because God is in charge—God knows what he’s doing, all things work together for good for those are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28), and our hope is in Christ. Those things don’t change, and those are the things to focus on.

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 (10/11/2019)

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

Two Habits of Successful Parents

Tim Challies writes about two trends he has noticed in parenting: “young parents aren’t asking seasoned parents for input or assistance” and “seasoned parents are reluctant to address concerns or offer assistance.” He offers some reasons why this might be and then suggests two habits that would be good for young parents in our churches to adopt.

There are few tasks you will undertake in life that are more important than raising children. It is an incredible honor that God allows us to create, birth, and raise other human beings made in his image. With this incredible honor comes great responsibility. You’re unlikely to fulfill this task well, or as well as you could have, without the input of the community God has given you. So take advantage of it! Learn to implement these basic habits of successful parents.

Wisely Handling the Book of Proverbs

Ligonier has published a nice introduction to Proverbs written by R.C. Sproul.

So, the book of Proverbs is concerned to give us practical guidelines for daily experience. It is a neglected treasure of the Old Testament, with untold riches lying in wait in its pages to guide our lives. It holds real, concrete advice that comes from the mind of God Himself. If we want wisdom, this is the fountain from which to drink. He who is foolish will neglect this fountain. He who is hungry for God’s wisdom will drink deeply from it. We need to listen to the wisdom of God so that we can cut through the many distractions and confusions of modern life. But, as with the entirety of the Word of God, we need to be zealous to learn how to handle the book of Proverbs properly.

Christian Reflections on Anger

Here are 8 theses on anger by David Qaoud, who recently preached on the topic.

Want to know your idols? Show me your unrighteous anger. Whenever you get angry, as I believe I heard Tim Keller once say, you should ask what you are defending. Your pride? What others think of you? Most unrighteous anger comes down to an aspiration to be sovereign over the universe, to have others stroke your ego. The next time you get angry over something silly ask yourself why you’re getting angry. Look closely, and you just might find something that you’re banking on for your identity.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Sarah Wisniewski called The Incarnation of Aaron. 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.