Links for the Weekend (8/7/2020)

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

Make Your School Decision. Then Trust God.

Glenna Marshall writes about a decision many parents are facing these days: What should we do about school for our children this fall? Some advice from a friend changed the way she was approaching the decision.

While walking through my neighborhood, I chatted on the phone with another mom who was also grappling with her decision. As I voiced my fears of getting it wrong this school year, my friend offered some sage advice. “God isn’t waiting to see if you make the wrong decision,” she told me. “He’s waiting for you to trust him with the decision you make.”

A Surprising Command for Suffering Saints

Michael Abraham reflects on James’s command to count trials as joy by directing our eyes toward Jesus.

Many of us, however, find great joy when our trials are over. James reminds us to find joy in our trials. Life is full of occasions for joy. Engagements are occasions for joy. Weddings are occasions for joy. Births are occasions for joy. You know this. But is sickness an occasion for joy? Are strained relationships occasions for joy? What about loneliness or loss? What about poverty and persecution? All trials are opportunities for joy.

Faithfulness in Forgotten Places

Scott Hubbard writes about “forgotten places”—those parts of our lives where are efforts are not noticed. He calls our attention to God’s providence and presence in the midst of these callings, as well as the reward in the future for faithfulness.

God sometimes does call us to do exceptional things for him: to adopt children, to launch ministries, to plant churches, to move overseas. But the point still holds, because none of us will do anything exceptional unless we have first learned, through ten thousand steps of faithfulness, to be exceptional in the ordinary.


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 (7/31/2020)

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

You Will Regret Giving In

We who belong to God often do not take sin seriously enough, and we therefore don’t fight against temptation with all our might. Garrett Kell provides four strategies to combat temptation.

God rarely touches our lives in such a way that we stop loving some long-ingrained sin immediately. But as we fight sin and pursue him, he changes our affections. We begin to love what he loves, and hate what he hates. Our confidence in willpower fades, and our hope focuses on Jesus, who was tempted and yet resisted in all the ways we have not (Hebrews 4:15).

The Mission Field I Never Expected

Rachel Wilson had grand visions of working for the poor or oppressed or enslaved around the world. She didn’t know God would have a far different calling in mind for her as the mother of two children with special needs.

For those of us who are mothers (and fathers), God wants us to esteem the field he’s given us. It’s not a tiring distraction from the true mission field we should be tilling; these are our people, for us to reach and for us to be trained and transformed as we do. Not only that, but in our giving, as we willingly lay down our lives, he smiles on us, because as Christ explained, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40, NIV). All the sacrifices, the diaper changing, the feeding, the dealing with meltdowns—they cannot be worth it if they’re just for our children. But they’re not. Ultimately, they are a perfume poured out for him.

How to More Wisely Consume News

We have more news—and more options for consuming the news—than ever before. How should we as Christians exercise discernment in this area? Bryan Weynand writes about virtues of wise media consumption and then offers some practical steps.

Still, as much as the media landscape is a minefield of misinformation, manipulative clickbait, and partisan rants, good journalism remains. Finding it requires intentionality and discipline, yet it can guard us against a frenzy that undermines our ability to trust anything. To this end, I believe it’s helpful to assess media sources through a grid of biblical virtues.

J. I. Packer: A Personal Appreciation from Ray Ortlund

Influential writer and theologian J.I. Packer died on July 17. Pastor Ray Ortlund wrote about the lasting marks of Packer’s ministry.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Erica Goehring called I Have Stored Up Your Word in My Heart. 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. 

I Have Stored Up Your Word in My Heart

I have an early memory of being aware that God was a real presence, not a cartoonish old man on a glitzy throne in heaven. I was in my elementary school’s third grade classroom, and I was eight years old. A mighty storm raged. The sky was dark as if evening had already descended. A sideways rain pounded at the rippled glass. As any classroom teacher can attest, every child was focused on the weather outside, math or spelling lessons forgotten.

My dad worked for the telephone company, and sometimes his job required him to climb telephone poles to make repairs. When bad weather hit, I usually worried about my dad up on a pole. (I am certain he would never do something that risky, but when you are eight and your dad is a superhero, you just never know.) As I watched that wild storm whip the trees and rattle the glass, I felt calm and unusually relaxed. I felt, for the first time in my life, that God was with me—real, present, and almost close enough to touch. I remembered the story of Jesus calming the storm around his boat while his frightened comrades huddled, fretting about their fate. My parents read that story at home. My Sunday School teachers taught that lesson in class. Our VBS staff reenacted it. This truth about Jesus had been placed in my memory and stored in my heart. The moment arrived when I could tap into that storage and pull out assurance. 

Through the next 30+ years, I have often felt thankful for the little snippets of Scripture and broad Biblical truths that are living in my memory. Some of them are a little dusty; I’m ashamed that I often cannot pull out the exact verse and chapter, and I would never win a Bible Bee. But I only need to blow the dust bunnies away, and my knowledge of the Lord comes flooding back. 

Why Learn the Bible?

Comfort is not the only reason to know and remember Scripture. Psalm 119:11 tells us, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Knowing God’s word, including his commandments and standards, helps us to be aware of ways we may sin by doing something God forbids or neglecting something he requires. I find this analogy helpful: When you visit a new swimming pool for the first time, you cannot know if you are going to dive into the wrong area or bring in a forbidden beverage unless you know the rules. Storing away God’s word helps you avoid sinning against him.

We also read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “[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 competent, equipped for every good work.” This passage highlights several related reasons to know the holy Scripture. When we encounter God’s word, we are both being taught ourselves and being prepared to teach others. His word is a primary means he uses to prepare us for good works. We cannot anticipate the next mission he will present, but he can and he does! The Scripture is the main way God’s children hear his voice, so if we want to partner with him, we must listen and remember.

Additionally, the written word of God is a tool for growing faith. Romans 10:17 reminds us, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” When our faith is brand new or has been weakened by time, experience, or weariness, we can come to the Scripture where Christ’s words live and actively move (see Hebrews 4:12). This is our fuel, our nourishment, the fertilizer that grows our faith and our relationship with the one who is the source of all good things.

How to Learn Scripture

I benefited greatly from teachers in my early life who knew the value of the Bible. I had parents, relatives, Sunday school teachers, and pastors who committed their time and energy to planting God’s word in my heart and praying for it to take root. However, my education in the Scriptures didn’t end there, and a person’s relationship with the Bible doesn’t depend on beginning in childhood. 

First, dig into the Bible knowing that your pursuit will be imperfect. As a young Christian, I took a few approaches. Sometimes, I simply opened a Bible and read. I took a passage and tried to read with an open heart, eager to hear from God. Other times, I made use of a study Bible. Short, clear annotations allowed me to gather historical context or nuances of the language that led to deeper insights. I also took a book-by-book approach, seeking to understand the larger story of the entire Bible. I knew that I would make mistakes and sometimes misunderstand. I accepted that I would miss details or stumble on challenging language, but I also knew that God promised to provide understanding through the work of the Holy Spirit. 

Secondly, learn in community. Look for opportunities to join a Bible study or class. More informally, reach out to your brothers and sisters in Christ and ask to gather around the word of God over coffee or by means of technology while social distancing is still wise. 

Finally, remember that memorization happens in small pieces, and memory is like a muscle that needs to be exercised. A single verse may challenge you now, but a whole chapter is possible with time and practice.

A Perfect Resource

Whether you face extraordinary struggles or the average setbacks of a regular day, know with full confidence that God has already provided a soothing word for your pain or a pointed direction for your next steps. He has prepared a perfect resource as we learn, grow, and prepare to teach others. Compared to his might and majesty, we are all children in a storm, invited to call upon the Lord for safety, calm, and assurance. Tuck his truths into your heart so that you may remember his love when the wind rises.

Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (7/24/2020)

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

To the Friends Who Tell Me “No”

What makes someone a good friend? This is such an important question, especially in times when we’re not gathering with friends as much as usual. I’m happy to recommend this great description of a close friend—not someone who is always affirming, but someone who is always loving. And love sometimes means saying “no.”

It is difficult to correct a friend. Although I am confident in my convictions, when it comes to those I care for deeply, I naturally desire to affirm. And yet, I know that if my friends did not have the courage to correct me, I would seriously doubt whether they actually loved me. Friends ought to want the best for each other, yet as fallen human beings we so often choose wrongly, think irrationally, and act selfishly. Without my friends, not only would I be lonely, but more than likely I would follow my sinful bent towards selfishness, arrogance, and misdirected affections. The friends who seek to save me from myself—even when I resent and resist it—are the friends I know to be true.

Millions of Kids Won’t Be at School This Fall. Christians Can Step Up to Serve.

With many children in the United States learning from home this year, and with many of the parents of those children needing to work, Heidi Carlson sees an opportunity. She suggests that by offering radical hospitality, Christians can show the sort of just-in-time love to their neighbors that can make a difference.

Those of us surrounded by supportive friends and community are able to rally, to figure out how to make it work. Creative rallying is what we do for people we know and love. But it’s not radical. This massive change in the school calendar is an opportunity for Christians to engage in a different type of radical hospitality.

When God Withholds Sleep

Stacy Reaoch writes about her longtime struggle with sleeplessness. She offers some Scripture to meditate on in the middle of the night, and she shares some of the lessons she’s learning.

In the meantime, God has a purpose in our sleeplessness. He can use our weakness to make us dependent on him, showing us his love and care with each passing minute of the day. He can use our weariness to push us to lean on him as the all-sufficient, all-wise, and all-powerful God, and to know that when we are weak with sleeplessness, then we are strong in him.

The Uighurs of China: A People in Peril

Greg Turner describes the persecution of the Uighurs by the Chinese government as “one of the worst human-rights crises in recent years.” Read this article to learn how you can pray.


Thanks to Maggie A for her 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 (7/17/2020)

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

Sipping Poison Won’t Make You Wise (Take My Word for It!)

“Does experience with sin make you more wise or more foolish?” Because of the gripping power of turnaround testimonies, we might end up thinking wrongly here. Benjamin Merkle relates a story from his days in the Marine Corps to the temptations of our culture and reminds us where wisdom originates.

This type of temptation still pulls at each of us with an incredible power. We feel that tasting a forbidden thing will bring us greater wisdom and make us more impressive. In fact, think of how easily we can feel embarrassed by all the sins we haven’t committed! We can actually become ashamed of our own innocence. Who wants to be naïve and inexperienced? How many Christian kids are embarrassed by their virginity, even though they’re convinced they’re right in preserving it until marriage?

Respectable Sins of the Reformed World

Tim Challies writes about “respectable sins,” those which might be accepted by Christians even though the Bible forbids them. He writes about those sins to which we are particularly tempted online.

Impugning. To impugn is to dispute the truth, validity, or honesty of another person’s motives. And closely connected to disputing another person’s motives is suggesting that you know the truth behind them. There is so much of this in the Christian world today, and it generates so little disapproval, that it must be classified as respectable. Yet a little biblically-guided introspection should tell us that we often don’t even know our own motives, and if we do not know our own, how could we possibly know anyone else’s?

Prayer Will Win the Nations

If you’ve ever wondered how to pray for missionaries around the world, here is an article giving some concrete suggestions.

In fact, we must. Prayer isn’t just a passing gesture or a frivolous holiday present. Prayer is supplying missionaries with essentials for their survival. Prayer is partnership in their work, vital to its Spirit-filled efficacy and the rescue of sinners. At the risk of sounding clichéd, prayer is a matter of life and death. Our intercession protects them from harm (2 Corinthians 1:11) and provides for the gospel’s advance (Romans 15:30–32).

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Learning from the Humiliation of Jesus. 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. 

Learning from the Humiliation of Jesus

Jesus’s crucifixion was not only unjust, it was tortuous. The Romans were famous for their punishing, public executions.

But physical pain was not the only agony Jesus suffered in his final days. In fact, one Gospel writer highlights the emotional torment of Jesus far more than his bodily pain.

Mockery in Luke

As my small group made its way through the end of Luke this year, the humiliation of Jesus jumped out at me.

After Jesus was arrested, the men who held him abused him. Notice the way they mocked Jesus, belittling his position as a divine prophet.

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. (Luke 22:63–65)

Later, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod. Herod and his soldiers “mocked him.” As part of this humiliation, Jesus was dressed in “splendid clothing” (Luke 23:11).

Jesus was “railed at,” “scoffed at,” and “mocked” (Luke 23:35–37, 39). He suffered the indignity of being crucified with criminals. Jesus’s accusers threw the title of “Savior” in his face—surely he cannot be the Christ or the King of the Jews if he can’t even save himself!

The Pain of Public Taunting

Let’s consider these indignities carefully. In public, Jesus was denounced as being utterly powerless. Jesus couldn’t be the Christ, he couldn’t be the Chosen One, he couldn’t be the King.

Because Jesus was fully man, we can imagine some of what he felt during this mockery. Think of a core mission of your life or a label given to you by God. Now imagine someone screaming these taunts at you in the town square. You must not be a child of God! She is not much of a mother! He cannot be a true missionary!

Here’s the awful, terrible truth. Jesus was completely humiliated. He was mocked and taunted and denounced. He heard every biting word, and, one by one, they sliced open his heart.

Lack of Physical Suffering

When compared to the emotional pain that Jesus suffered, Luke records far less physical suffering.

Luke tells us about the beating from the soldiers (Luke 22:63) and the way Herod and his soldiers “treated him with contempt” (Luke 23:11). But Luke doesn’t record Jesus’s crown of thorns or his scourging by Pilate’s men (see Matthew 27:29 and Matthew 27:26, respectively). Luke also omits other incidents of beating, spitting, and slapping that we read in the other three Gospels.

These omissions don’t point to a contradiction. They also don’t mean that Luke was unaware of these abuses. Luke just chose to emphasize Jesus’s emotional suffering.

Why This Emphasis?

This may seem like a strange focus, but it is a natural conclusion to the way Luke writes Jesus’s story. Throughout his ministry, Jesus identified with those who were scorned and cast out. He elevated the humiliated and called his followers to humble themselves in service of others. Once we look for this thread, we see it woven through every page of Luke’s Gospel.

  • Jesus announced his ministry by saying he would focus on the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed (Luke 4:18–19).
  • Jesus’s healings largely focused on those suffering in ways that put them on the margins of society. Among others, he healed a leper (Luke 5:12–13), a naked man possessed by many demons (Luke 8:26–39), a woman with a 12-year discharge of blood (Luke 8:43–48), a boy possessed by a violent demon (Luke 9:37–43), a woman with an 18-year “disabling spirit” which bent her in half (Luke 13:10–13), and a blind beggar (Luke 18:35–43).
  • He kept company with “tax collectors and sinners” at a time when religious leaders looked at such people with scorn and disgust. (See Luke 5:27–32, Luke 7:34, Luke 7:36–50, Luke 15:1–2, and Luke 19:1–10.)
  • In the Beatitudes, Jesus blessed those who were poor, hungry, weeping, and hated (Luke 6:20–23).
  • Jesus’s teaching on discipleship emphasized self-denial (Luke 9:23–27), selling one’s possessions to give to the needy (Luke 12:33–34), and inviting the poor, crippled, lame, and blind to a banquet instead of friends and family (Luke 14:12–14).
  • Jesus showed concern for the humiliated in his parables. In the parable of the banquet, the master brought in the poor, crippled, blind, and lame (Luke 14:15–24). The father of the prodigal ran to meet his broken and humiliated son when he returned (Luke 15:11–24). And Lazarus, a poor beggar covered with sores, was elevated to heaven while the rich man suffered in Hades (Luke 16:19–31).
  • Peter proclaimed he was willing to die for Jesus (Luke 22:33) and wanted a fight when Jesus was arrested (Luke 22:50). He didn’t want to be identified with a humiliated Jesus (Luke 22:54–62). Jesus’s look at Peter (Luke 22:61) was a quiet rebuke; following Jesus does not bring the honor of a final glorious battle, it requires the willingness to give up one’s rights and die.

After Jesus loved and cared for the humiliated through his ministry, he became humiliated at the end. He took the place of those he loved.

Our Response

Jesus knows our humiliation because he was humiliated. He is able to sympathize with every one of our conditions and weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). This is why we can draw near to his throne of grace with confidence, knowing that we’ll find all the mercy we need (Hebrews 4:16).

Jesus also calls us to willingly suffer humiliation for others. As we lower ourselves, giving up money or time or status, we elevate others.

In this, we embrace the pattern of Jesus, who suffered to save his enemies (including us, Romans 5:10). We also depend on (and demonstrate) the power of Jesus. Embracing humiliation for others is not natural; only after we have been changed can we seek out the lower place by the gracious work of the Spirit.

Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (7/10/2020)

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

4 Ways Not to Be a Jerk Online

Unfortunately, not many people (even Christians) focus on God’s command to “honor everyone” when they interact with others online. Matt Smethurst gives us guidance for loving God and our online neighbors.

Crafted in God’s image, every person possesses infinite dignity and worth—and should be treated as such. This can be easy to forget when scrolling through a comment section or staring at a little headshot. But pixels can never shrink personhood. Our online interactions must reflect this fact.

Unity Rather Than Uniformity

Here is a good word from Christine Hoover. She writes about her reaction to a friend with whom she disagreed regarding an issue of secondary importance. Her warning about the “drive toward uniformity in secondary issues” within a church is important.

If our convictions cause grief or cause another to stumble, which can easily happen when we campaign for our secondary choices to become primary, we aren’t walking in love or grace. In other words, our freedom isn’t the highest priority in the kingdom of God. We aren’t to put our convictions above love.

A Habit You Didn’t Know You Needed

At For The Church, Katie McCoy writes about the little-known (and even less-practiced) spiritual practice of silence.

In his book, The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster shows how practicing silence and solitude is not just for Himalayan monks. In fact, our need for quiet goes even deeper than getting away from outside noise. Pursuing God with this kind of solitary silence always involves actively listening to God. “Simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is not silence.” It’s an attitude of the heart, a lifestyle of “de-cluttering” the day so that we can hear God more clearly.


Thanks to Maggie A for her 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 (7/3/2020)

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

Christ Our Rock and Refuge

Christina Fox highlights some of the Psalms which refer to God as a rock. She writes about how helpful this image of God has been for her over the last several uneasy months.

Christ is the fulfillment of all God’s promises to be our rock and fortress. He is our true shelter and dwelling place. He is the answer to the psalmist’s cry for salvation and deliverance. He rescued us from sin and death. He united himself to us through faith in his life, death, and resurrection. He made us his own. He is our place of safety. Our refuge. Our strength. Our fortress.

Listen Quickly, Think Slowly

Craig Thompson applies the wisdom of James 1:19 to life in modern America, and he writes about some of the implications of being slow to think (not just slow to speak).

Slow thinking doesn’t fit well within the age of social media and immediate news. Slow thinking looks more like philosophy and conversation and less like soundbites and tweets. Slow thinking looks like books and newspapers, coffee shop conversations, and complicated intellectual wrestling matches. Slow thinking takes hard topics and resists the temptation to boil them down to their least common denominator and instead wrestles with the hard and complicated truths.

How Can I Be Free from Materialism?

Here’s an eight-minute episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast in which John Piper talks about materialism from Hebrews 10:34.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Surprising Transformation of the Disciples of Jesus. 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. 

Update from the Session to the Congregation (July 2)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings from your church Session! We hope this letter finds you both physically and spiritually well. We are reaching out to update you with our plans and preparations in light of the continued challenges that we face as a body of believers during the current climate.

First of all, we want to assure you again that our approach has always been and will always be centered on Christ and biblical teachings, which call us to be a people of faith and not a people of fear, trusting in God’s providence for His children, and yet focused not on our own wants or desires but always acting in love for and understanding of the needs of those around us. We are pleased with how smooth the reopening has been so far, and we are grateful to the many volunteers who have worked hard. We also thank you for your patience as we consider and act upon leading our church in the will of God through our current pandemic.

We would like to share with you our vision for worship and ministry at Washington PCA for the next month and beyond, as we understand it so far. It is our prayer that this update will address any lingering questions or concerns that you might have, but also that, if it does not, you will bring those to our attention right away.

To begin, in our discussions and deliberations we have been aware of the recommendations from public health officials, both local and national, and we have specifically been paying attention to local trends in public healthcare. As you are probably aware, Washington County and all of Southwestern Pennsylvania continues to be in the “green phase” of reopening and, while there has been some indication that continued diligence is due, we are grateful to God that our area remains relatively healthy.

We wish to state clearly that should the state leaders and healthcare professionals give the “all clear,” lifting the “green phase” and essentially returning life to pre-pandemic patterns, Washington PCA will follow suit and resume worship and ministries without the protocols that are in place now. Nonetheless, in the current situation, your leaders have decided that it would be best to continue worshipping with most of the current procedures in place, including asking attendees to wear masks (if medically able) and to maintain social distancing within the church building.

With that being said, after reflection, observation, and prayer, we have also taken steps to loosen some protocols that had been in place.

Social Distancing in Pews

We recognize that some family groups are meeting socially outside of church; for these groups, the policy requiring social distancing in the pews is irrelevant. Therefore, we invite groups who are already gathering socially outside of church to share pews, if they desire to do so; we hope that this will also free up space within the church as more brothers and sisters feel ready to return to corporate worship.

Volunteers

In addition, given that we have had several weeks to get used to the new protocols, we have decided to reduce the number and the role of the volunteers who assist in pre-worship gathering on Sunday mornings. Specifically, while we will continue to offer a sanitizing station and encourage all attendees to take advantage of it, we will no longer be staffing this station. Also, we will reduce the number of ushers directing worshipers to their seats from two to one. Finally, we will be asking the greeters to simply greet worshipers at the door (although it may be necessary to help direct newcomers or visitors). We hope that these changes will not only reduce the strain on volunteers, but also take steps to help create a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in our weekly gathering to worship. Again, we are grateful to those volunteers who were instrumental in making things run smoothly in June, and we are hopeful that more of you will be encouraged to volunteer as a greeter (as a family) or as an usher in the weeks to come.

Sunday School

Finally, we want you to know that we as church leaders are not only committed to surviving these unusual times but also to thriving as a spiritual body; consequently, we are continually exploring ways to nourish and minister to our church family. Foremost, we are excited to offer a new format for Sunday School for families interested in attending. Beginning on July 12, we will be offering a family-oriented Sunday School time on the church lawn, 9:15–10 a.m. ahead of the 10:30 a.m. service. We encourage participants to bring your own chairs or blankets and to maintain social distancing, but masks will not be required in this outdoor space. We do ask that all non-communicant members be accompanied by at least one adult. While our goal is to make our time of study nourishing to a wide range of ages, the lessons will be of greatest benefit to members age 5 and older (younger children are welcome to attend with their families, of course). We are also exploring the possibility of offering an “adults only” study during this time in the Sanctuary, but are still working out the details. In the event of inclement weather, the Sunday School time will be cancelled, with an announcement being sent via email by 8:30 a.m.

Fellowship and Other Activities

In addition, we are exploring other opportunities to encourage the life and growth of the church body. Interest permitting, we hope to conduct a “family photo scavenger hunt” with a time of fellowship (and pizza!) following on the church lawn. We will also be surveying the congregation shortly to determine interest in a book study aimed at parents; we are prepared to offer up to two sections of this book study, one which will happen small-group style in person in the church, and another to be conducted in an online format for those who are interested in attending but would prefer the convenience of an internet-based study. We would be happy to hear ideas from you on similar book studies, if you have suggestions. Finally, in lieu of a traditional VBS which is not feasible in this climate, we are exploring offering “backyard Bible clubs” for our children, with the possibility of opening it up to specifically invited children from the community at large. We ask that you pray for all of these ministries—that they will be glorifying to God and nourishing to His church body.

In closing, we wish to thank those of you who have reached out to us with your feedback; we appreciate the notes of support and encouragement, and we also continue to invite you to be open with us with any concerns or criticisms that you might have for us. Most of all, we solicit your continued prayers and patience.

Your brothers in Christ,

The Session

The Surprising Transformation of the Disciples of Jesus

Jesus’ disciples were not at their best at the end of his life. They were fearful, uneasy, and uncertain about the future.

And yet, at the end of the Gospels, these same men were ready to take on the world. How can we explain this difference?

The Disciples Before

For most of the last chapter of Luke, the disciples were not exactly full of faith.

When the women who visited the tomb told the apostles what they had seen, the men did not believe them—it sounded like an “idle tale” (Luke 24:11). Peter was curious, but he didn’t have much company when searched out the evidence (Luke 24:12, John 20:8).

The two disciples on the road to Emmaeus were intrigued by the women’s report (Luke 24:22), but they had lost hope in Jesus as the Redeemer of Israel (Luke 24:21). His death was unexpected and disheartening.

When Jesus appeared to his disciples, they thought he was a spirit (Luke 24:37). They were full of fears and doubts (Luke 24:38). Even after Jesus showed them his hands and feet and invited them to touch his wounds, they weren’t convinced it was him (Luke 24:41).

The Disciples After

The end of Luke 24 stands in stark contrast to its beginning.

The disciples witnessed Jesus’ ascension, worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:51–52). They were continually in the temple praising God (Luke 24:53).

The fact that the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy is itself an act of faith. In Luke, Jesus spent the first part of his ministry teaching and healing in Galilee, but then “he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

Things unraveled quickly after Jesus and his companions arrived in Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried, and killed. The religious and governmental leaders who were responsible were largely still present in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday; this would have made the city a terrifying place for Jesus’ followers.

Yet Jerusalem was to be the launching place for the proclamation of the gospel to all the nations (Luke 24:47). Jesus told his disciples to stay in the city until they received power for this mission (Luke 24:49). The fact that they faced staying in a dangerous place with “great joy” shows the magnitude of their transformation.

So, what caused the change?

The Elements of Change

As we observe the text of Luke 24, we notice three ingredients that kindled the disciples’ growth.

The Word of God

Jesus’ followers did not understand the Scriptures. Consequently, they did not grasp who he was nor did they expect him to suffer, die, and rise.

At the tomb, the angels reminded the women that Jesus had told them that he “must” die and rise (Luke 24:6–8).

Jesus told the Emmaeus-bound disciples that they were foolish and slow to believe what the prophets had spoken (Luke 24:25). He explained that it was “necessary” for the Christ to die and then enter glory (Luke 24:26). He then taught them about himself through all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27).

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, he reminded them that everything in the Law, Prophets, and Psalms “must” be fulfilled (Luke 24:44). He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

God’s word is the central corrective element in this passage. Jesus, the angels, and Luke all point to the Scriptures for a proper understanding about the Messiah. That understanding brought transformation.

Jesus

The disciples heard rumors of Jesus’ resurrection, but they were changed when they finally saw him.

After the two traveling disciples recognized Jesus at a meal, they felt conviction like heartburn when they reflected on his Scripture lesson for them (Luke 24:32). They returned to the eleven with the ground-breaking news (Luke 24:33), and when they arrived, the others were convinced of the resurrection because Jesus had also appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34).

When Jesus “stood among” the disciples, they weren’t convinced it was him (Luke 24:36–37). But Jesus invited them to touch and see. He showed them his hands and feet. He ate with them (Luke 24:39–43). Thus convincing the disciples that he was not a spirit and that he was, in fact, Jesus, he gave them supernatural understanding of the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

Finally, the disciples went with Jesus to Bethany for his ascension (Luke 24:50). He blessed them as they watched him depart (Luke 24:51).

The disciples had experienced a traumatic stretch of days. At the center of their disappointment was the death of their leader and their loss of hope. Spending time with and learning from Jesus between his resurrection and ascension had a powerful effect.

A Mission and a Promise

When Jesus visited the disciples, he didn’t only give them instruction and fellowship, he gave them a purpose for the future.

When explaining the Scriptures, Jesus said “it is written” that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). And the disciples were not just messengers but “witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).

Jesus gave the disciples a promise to accompany their mission.

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)

The disciples had a great task in front of them, but there was a mighty helper on the way.

Main Point and Application

Luke had at least one main point in writing the last chapter of his Gospel: An encounter with the resurrected Jesus will transform disciples and prepare them for a joyful mission.

We can start to apply this powerful truth by praying. Let’s pray for these encounters—for ourselves and others.

And as you brainstorm ways to bring yourself and your neighbors into contact with the risen Christ, remember that he is powerfully present in the Bible and with his people.

Post credit | Picture credit