Links for the Weekend (9/13/2019)

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

A Letter to a Reader about the Battle against Sin

I would guess most Christians have wrestled with this question as they walk with the Lord. And Barry York provides an excellent, short answer. Here’s the key question.

How can someone know if they are a legitimate Christian struggling with sin versus an unbeliever in sin? And what should a Christian struggling with sin do when he feels defeated?

How to Kill Your Anger so You Can Represent Christ to the World

How do you respond to anger from others directed at you? How do you respond to your own anger? Amy K. Hall helps us with sound advice from the Bible. We are not to fight anger with more anger.

Lest anyone think all anger must be expressed in order for one to be “healthy,” it’s important to note that ignoring your anger is not the same thing as fighting and killing it, though both are attempts to avoid expressing that anger against others. The first will only cause the anger to build up until you can’t ignore it anymore. The second dispenses with it in a way that glorifies God and respects the people around you.

God’s Sovereign Plans Behind Your Most Unproductive Days

In this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper answers a question from a listener who struggles with efficiency in her life. Piper works through an imaginary scenario—and then two passages from the Bible—to show us how God’s purposes may frustrate our desire for efficiency. Have a listen or read the transcript here.

Then walk in the peace and freedom that, when it shatters on the rocks of reality (which it will most days), you’re not being measured by God by how much you get done. You’re being measured by whether you trust the goodness and the wisdom and the sovereignty of God to work this new mess of inefficiency for his glory and the good of everyone involved, even when you can’t see how.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called God May Postpone Your Relief for His Glory. 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. 

God May Postpone Your Relief for His Glory

The beginning of Exodus overflows with the oppression of God’s people. The Egyptians employed slavery, torture, and murder to keep the Hebrew people under foot.

But God’s compassion is equally evident in those chapters. It’s striking to read how God identifies with his people.

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. (Exodus 2.23–25)

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land…” (Exodus 3.7–8a)

The details of this story are familiar. God enlists Moses and Aaron in his rescue mission, and by the end of chapter 4 they have traveled back to Egypt from Midian. They are ready to confront Pharoah.

Because God is in control and cares for his suffering people, we might expect Pharoah to fold immediately. God snaps his fingers, and the Israelites drop their bricks and follow Moses out of town.

But that’s not how the story goes. In fact, Pharoah makes his slaves’ lives worse because of Moses’ intervention (Exodus 6). God told Moses that he would harden Pharoah’s heart, and it happens before our eyes.

Why is this? Why doesn’t God give immediate relief to his people?

God is the Lord

When we investigate the Biblical text, we see God is motivated by a concern for his glory.

Before God brings the first plague against Egypt, he tells Moses he will harden Pharoah’s heart. This message isn’t new, but this time we hear God’s design in the hardening.

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 7:3, NASB)

And what’s the purpose of these signs and wonders?

The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst. (Exodus 7:5, NASB)

God wants the Egyptians to know that he is the Lord. He says he will accomplish this for Pharoah when the Nile turns to blood. (Ex. 7:17)

Instead of an immediate release, God will bring Israel out through great judgments (Ex. 7:4). These plagues will bring glory to God by showing the Egyptians (including Pharoah) that he is the Lord.

Do you feel the tension? As the plagues stretch on, Israel is still in slavery. They still have backbreaking work and unreasonable quotas in front of them every day. I can imagine the people asking, “How long, O Lord?”

Waiting and Faith

God’s deliverance for Israel doesn’t follow our timeline. But this isn’t an issue only for his ancient people.

Consider the young woman struggling with chronic pain. Or the teenager overwhelmed by depression. Or the middle-aged man trapped in a soul-sucking job or a loveless marriage. These people of God cry out for relief. They get no answer and God seems distant and uncaring.

But the beginning of Exodus teaches that God’s compassion isn’t bound to time. He can be full of love and “slow” in providing relief. Before Moses returned to Egypt, it had been 40 years since Israel cried out to God. But Israel had probably been under Egyptian rule for hundreds of years.

God is vitally concerned about his glory, about humanity recognizing him for who he is. This includes the people around us, observing us as we wait for deliverance. It also includes we who wait. Waiting on God is the essence of faith.

We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Jesus didn’t get relief when he requested it. He didn’t get relief at all. The greatest display of God’s glory (the cross) involved God refusing relief to his own son. God was glorified in not showing compassion to Jesus so that his compassion could be multiplied to the nations.

As you ponder God’s delay, as you wait for his answer, remember that he is with you. He will glorify himself in your waiting.

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Links for the Weekend (9/6/2019)

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

Nothing on Your Phone (Including TGC) Can Replace the Local Church

Brett McCracken has a great piece about the importance of the local church. The best books, articles, and sermon podcasts are no substitute for a local church family!

Just as material affluence can keep us from church on Sunday because we have the means for all manner of distraction (globetrotting vacations, weekends at the lake, NFL games on our 90-inch flatscreen), theological affluence can keep us from church because we have umpteen resources to fill our theological “tank” during the week. Why would we be desperate to attend church regularly, listening to our so-so pastor’s Sunday message, when we can listen to John Stott and John Piper sermons on our commute, five days a week? Doesn’t that check the box?

Humility Is Not Hating Yourself

To be humble isn’t to hide your talents or to hate yourself. Instead, following Tim Keller, Gavin Ortlund writes of humilty as self-forgetfulness.

So perhaps we get it backwards: we think humility is an impossible burden, but in reality it is as light as a feather. It is pride that makes life gray and drab; humility brings out the color. Why do we get this wrong? I don’t know, but part of the answer might be we simply misunderstand what humility is.

3 Ways to Kill Gossip

Gossip is easy to tolerate, and Costi Hinn shows us the danger of such tolerance. He also offers three tactics to fight gossip.

And so, like a lamb being led to the slaughter, the gossiper falls under the alluring power of Lucifer’s minions and begins to cannibalize the flock. All the while, dehumanizing the target of conversation and adding horrific caricatures along the way. Whether through the seed of bitterness, emotional venting, or purposeful slander, gossip works tirelessly to sink its teeth into open hearts.


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 (8/30/2019)

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

The Blessing of Heaven as a Near Reality

Melissa Edgington writes about a lunch she attended when two older saints were saying good-bye, perhaps for the last time on this side of eternity. She describes how real heaven is to this one sweet lady.

But one blessing of old age is her growing connection to the future that she knows is coming. It is the essence of hope, this sure belief in a painless world of sweet reunions and Christ in His full glory. It is what can bring a genuine smile to an aged face. And it is a motivator to run this race well, even through the pains of all kinds, and finish strong. Perhaps there is no greater hope in the Christian faith than the hope of one who recognizes that she is running her final miles toward glory.

How To Be More Curious Than Certain

The PCA’s discipleship ministry for women produces enCourage Resources. One of the resources is a podcast, and this episode of the podcast is focused on deeper relationships in the church. The podcast host speaks with Tami Resch, the Parakaleo Church Planting Spouses Ministry Founder & Programs Director, about vulnerability within relationships. Tami Resch also shares some practical questions and techniques to get to know people on a deeper level.

Five Hard Lessons Learned from The Fall of a Once Revered Evangelical Leader

In the wake of a number of high profile Christian leaders walking away from the faith, Jim Newheiser turns to the Bible for wisdom. How could such a thing happen?

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Jesus, Our Eager Shepherd. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Maggie A and Cliff L for 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. 

Jesus, Our Eager Shepherd

What does Jesus think about me?

Does he love me, hate me, or tolerate me? When I sin—is he ashamed of me?

If you’re reading this as a Christian, you’ve probably wrestled with these questions. But here’s another question about Jesus that’s every bit as vital to our everyday faith: How does Jesus view his job?

Did he look forward to his earthly calling, or was he resigned to the task? Is he glad when we pray, or is it a chore for him to care for us?

Our understanding of Jesus’s attitude toward his work and his people affects our prayer lives, our evangelism, and our willingness to trust him. And while the Bible doesn’t record any pre-Incarnation conversations among the members of the Trinity, Scripture is not silent on this issue.

Exhortations to Elders

Peter writes instructions to elders near the end of his first letter (1 Peter 5:1–4). He uses the image of a shepherd with his flock, and he lists three ways shepherds must “exercise oversight.”

  1. Not under compulsion, but willingly (verse 2).
  2. Not for shameful gain, but eagerly (verse 2).
  3. Not domineering over those in their charge, but being examples to the flock (verse 3).

The comparison of God’s people to sheep is instructive if not flattering. Sheep don’t score high on IQ tests. They are prone to lose their way and wander from the herd. In their ignorance they expose themselves to predators, and they are rather helpless on their own.

As those charged to care for a flock like this, elders have a holy and difficult calling. Perhaps this is why Peter follows these commands with a reminder of the promised reward for faithful elders: “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).

Jesus, the Chief Shepherd

Peter motivates local church elders with the forthcoming crown, but when he refers to Jesus as the “chief Shepherd,” he gives all of us much to ponder. Elders are shepherds; Jesus is the chief.

If the elders are told how to shepherd in verses 1–3, and if Jesus is the perfect and chief shepherd, then the characteristics urged in men are present fully in Jesus. Specifically:

  1. Jesus does not need to be compelled to be our shepherd; he does it willingly.
  2. Jesus does not shepherd us for gain; he does so eagerly.
  3. Jesus is not a demanding shepherd; he is an example to the flock.

Eagerness

Have you ever pondered this glorious truth (see point 2 above), that Jesus is our eager shepherd?

Think of all the pain, conflict, hardship, frustration, loneliness, separation, and sorrow involved in Jesus’ earthly ministry—especially in his passion. If that lay in front of us, we would flee.

And we often project our reaction onto Jesus. We think Jesus must have been talked into his rescue mission. Maybe he was willing, but he couldn’t have been excited.

No! Jesus was eager to save and shepherd us. While it meant tremendous suffering, he charged into the mission with zeal. He was motivated by joy.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2, emphasis added)

Jesus was eager to save us, and he is eager to love and keep us. We do not annoy or burden him with our confession and prayer. Our confusion and wanderings do not irritate him. He is not troubled by our doubts or questions. He welcomes our helplessness.

Jesus is our good, good shepherd. He feeds and tends and protects his sheep.

We can be as eager to trust Jesus as our shepherd as he is to embrace us as his people.

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Links for the Weekend (8/23/2019)

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

I’m so glad our vows kept us

Jennie Cesario writes about her marriage and her vows and what’s like when two people are joined together over decades. It’s hard and exposing and beautiful. If you only read one of the recommended articles this week, make it this one; it’s the best writing I’ve read in quite a while.

But this is the trade-off: Our hearts are so very tender toward one another now with the long years, softened to a sweetness hard-won. I can’t imagine a context in which I’d throw a glass now or cut off my hair just to spite him. In my mind, if there are still disappointments, they are not mine but ours. Not me against him, or him against me, but the two of us pressed together. His flaws folding into my imperfections like our fingers entwined on the dance floor.

How To Be Lonely (To The Glory Of God)

Loneliness is all too common these days, both inside and outside of the church. In this article, Cole Deike directs us to Psalm 102, whose author knows deep loneliness.

The gospel, after all, is not the good news that if you believe in Jesus, you will be spared from loneliness. Loneliness discriminates against nobody. You can rip Psalm 102 out the Scriptures and sand down the edges of the cross if you wish to believe that nonsense. The gospel is better. It is the good news that if you believe in Jesus, then Christ will be present with you in your loneliness.

3 Reasons Drifting from the Faith Starts with Drifting from the Church

If the book of Hebrews is an encouragement to persevere in faith, and if one of the commands in that book is that we must not neglect to meet together (Hebrews 10:25), what does this teach us about the church? Michael Kelley gives us three reasons to help us see the importance of church to our perseverance.

We must not abandon the church if we want to persevere in the faith. We must keep going to keep ourselves going. The church is God’s gift to us – each one of us – not so that we have a perfect experience there, but because we are weak, and we really do need the help.


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 (8/16/2019)

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

The Commuter Bible Podcast

If you’re looking to spend more time in the Bible, consider the Commuter Bible podcast, created by John Ross. Each episode is around 30 minutes long, perfect for a commute, a workout, or chores around the house or office. Released on weekdays (and excluding official U.S. holidays), over the course of a year you’ll listen to the entire Bible (CSB translation).

Overcoming the Fear of Evangelism

Juan Sanchez knows that evangelism is easy for some and difficult for many. He takes Jesus’s promises in the Great Commission (that he is with us and he is sovereign) and helpfully traces out the implications for different situations that call for us to share the gospel.

You see, because Jesus is with us and because He is sovereign over all things (including salvation), we can share the gospel courageously and confidently. Christ will build His church, and we need not fear what man may do to us.

Is It True That God “Loves the Sinner but Hates the Sin”?

In this brief video, Stephen Nichols looks at the biblical evidence for this common phrase. He concludes that we don’t do sinners any favors by trying to downplay the wrath of God.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Grandparents, We Need You! 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. 

Grandparents, We Need You!

As I was leaving a restaurant recently, I walked past a booth where an older man was sitting with a young girl. (I assume this was his preteen granddaughter.) The girl put on headphones and played with her phone while the man sipped his coffee and looked off sadly in the distance.

This stuck with me all day. I couldn’t imagine a breakfast without conversation, especially with my grandfather! What a tragedy.

Abundant Opportunity

Though this was a sad scene, I was not entirely discouraged. I mourned for this man, but then I turned the scene around in my head. What is the best outcome of such a meal?

Grandparents carry tremendous influence with their grandchildren. Here are three ways I’m praying my kids learn from their grandparents.

1. Learn Through Conversation

Many children are eager to talk about themselves but unable to focus on others. Outside of immediate family and school friends, they aren’t great at communication.

Meanwhile, grandparents love spending time with their grandchildren, and they’re delighted to play games, go to the park, or chat over cookies. Your kids can learn valuable lessons during these visits.

Train your children to interact with older adults. Teach them how to ask questions (and follow-up questions), how to listen, and how to take interest in others.

In addition to growing in conversational and social skills, children will learn more about their family. They can hear about their grandparents’ jobs, families, and adventures, and they might even see their parents in a new light.

In grandparents, children have an eager, loving, attentive audience. We can bless both our children and our parents by encouraging these visits.

2. Learn Through Experience

Godly grandparents have a precious heritage to pass along. A lifetime of walking with God, learning from him, and seeing his work—these are all gifts for younger generations.

Older Christians often have moving stories of God’s redemption and provision. They have seen his love displayed in ways that come only with decades of faithfulness. These stories display in vibrant color some of God’s attributes that might only exist in black and white for children.

As children hear testimonies of God’s goodness, they grow in their faith. When we learn how God has worked and provided in the past, we gain confidence that God will work and provide in the future.

3. Learn Through Example

While children are at the beginning of life, grandparents are closer to the end. One of the best gifts grandparents can give is to show how to age, weaken, and die with a joyful hope in Jesus.

That took a dark turn, didn’t it? Stay with me.

Most children are insulated from the hard realities of the Fall. We prepare them for school and jobs, for a spouse and a church, but we don’t talk much about sickness, weakness, and frailty. However, death is more sure than a spouse is. Our children need to know how to die.

Children shouldn’t develop a fascination with the grave, but thinking about death brings our faith into sharp focus. We see what really matters.

As grandparents age, they can show their grandchildren the greatness of God and the liberating salvation Jesus has won. As their bodies ache, as moving and breathing become more difficult, they can guide children to the true source of hope.

It’s easy for children to focus on the latest toy, the approval of friends, or the perfect science project. In the end, these are all meaningless. With a steady gaze at the glory of God, grandparents can display the power and grace of God to save and love sinners. Toward the end of life, grandparents can point to God in ways that peers, teachers, and even parents cannot.

Look Ahead

Parents, if your parents (or parents-in-law) are no longer around, don’t despair. Most churches are full of godly men and women who love children. They would jump at the chance to visit with your family once a month.

Finally, by God’s grace, let’s be the older Christians we seek for our kids. Let’s pursue God with all that we have so he can use us to influence generations to come.

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Links for the Weekend (8/9/2019)

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

Make Sunday Mornings Uncomfortable

In this excellent article, Rebecca McLaughlin describes the three “rules” she and her husband keep in mind on Sunday mornings. These guidelines focus on welcoming those visiting their church for the first time, especially when a visitor might not be a Christian. I love this perspective, because it urges us to take risks and underscores how important community and connection are for everyone who is considering the Christian faith.

This was one of many opportunities my husband Bryan and I have had to connect with not-yet-Christians inside our church building. We have very little else in common. I’m an extrovert; he’s an introvert. I’m from England; he’s from Oklahoma. I’m into literature; he’s an engineer. But God drew us together around a shared sense of mission, and Bryan recently expressed that mission in three rules of engagement at church. These rules make our Sundays less comfortable, but more rewarding. If you’re tired of comfortable, you might want to give them a try!

Three Cautions and Encouragements for Dads

Dustin Crowe writes a good word for fathers. He reminds us how our words, actions, and attitudes should reflect our heavenly father when we interact with our children. I think all parents will be able to relate to the story that sparked his reflection.

When my daughter delayed getting our tent set up, I was more concerned about finishing the job and creating a great experience than I was about her. The idol of my plan ended up keeping me from loving my daughter well. That’s what idols do. They ruin and rob the things we hope for.

El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy

After recent mass shootings, the public conversation about these tragedies becomes political all too quickly. John Stonestreet urges us not to point fingers at sin out there, but to look in here as well.

Yet, we wonder how lonely young men without meaning or moral formation or fathers, who have no way to fulfill their pornographic-fueled fantasies, but have access to plenty of self-medication options, could be driven to white-supremacist or progressive extremism.  We need to ask what it is about our culture that’s producing these young men bent on killing and chaos. And we need to ask: Where is the church?

Thanks to Cliff L 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 (8/2/2019)

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

Christianity’s Best-Kept Secret

How’s that for a title? Tim Savage contends that while Christians think a lot about Christ in the past (forgiven sins) and the future (the coming of heaven), we don’t think enough about Christ in the present. This article helps to explain the wonderful phrase “Christ in you.”

As Christians, we’re organically linked to Christ at the deepest level. The apostle Paul makes the point repeatedly in a simple but easily overlooked prepositional phrase. No less than 164 times, Paul refers to Christians as people “in Christ” or “in him” or “in God” or “in the Lord.” It’s a tantalizing phrase, with thrilling implications for the lives of Christians.

4 Promises to Christians about the Resurrected Body

What does the Bible say about our future resurrected bodies? Colin Smith takes us on a tour of important Scriptural truths.

The new earth will be better than the earth we have now. The resurrection body will be better than the body you have now. And you will have forever to savor the pleasures that God has in store for you.

The Gospel in Psalms

Jesus told us in Luke 24 that all Scripture pointed to him. This is easier to see in some parts of the Bible than others. In this post, Bruce Ware and George Robertson show us how to read Psalms with Jesus always in mind.

Reading the Psalms mindful of Jesus is not a clever way to read this book of the Bible, nor is it one way to do so among others. It is the way. A gospel-lens to reading the Psalms is how Jesus himself teaches us to read them. As you read this portion of God’s Word, make these prayers to God your own, and consider the ways these Psalms are good news to us—expressing the full range of our emotions, and ultimately bringing our minds to rest on the finished work of Christ on behalf of sinners.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called How to Resist Sins of Conformity. 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.