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. 

Links for the Weekend (11/22/2019)

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

When Your Plan for Killing Sin Isn’t Working

Have you ever been frustrated by the sin that still remains in you? The sin that you’ve battled against for years? Lara d’Entremont reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s work in our sanctification (growth as a Christian).

What makes the process of killing sin so frustrating is that we want to be finished with sin once and for all. We consider success to be when sin and temptation are no longer present. But as long as we abide on earth, we will face temptation, probably on a daily basis.

Parents, Don’t Fear the Teenage Years

When children are approaching their teenage years, parents are constantly told, “Just you wait!” There’s a certain glee mixed with mischief when most people throw this warning out to nervous parents. But Russell Moore tells parents not to be afraid.

Yes, the teenage years are a time of transition and sometimes tumult. Adolescents are seeking to figure out how to differentiate themselves from their parents in some ways, to figure out what belongs to them and what is merely part of their family inheritance. That’s normal, and it’s not a repudiation of you. Yes, awful things can happen. That’s true at any age, just in different ways.  

When You Don’t Desire God’s Word

Shar Walker has some good counsel for when the Bible “seems less like honey and more like prune juice.” She encourages us to give our time, our ear, and our heart.

There is a difference between knowledge that produces obedience, and knowledge that merely produces more knowledge. Many people know facts about God and his Word, yet fail to embody those truths. I had college professors who memorized more scriptures than I did, studied more biblical history than I did, and mastered Greek and Hebrew—yet they did not submit themselves to the words they read. True biblical knowledge works itself out in obedience.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Cliff Lester called Rejoice Always. 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. 

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.”

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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.

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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.