Links for the Weekend (1/24/2020)

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

Kill Whatever Kills Your Love for God

Our sin is deadly and dangerous, and yet we so often hesitate to put it to death. Why is that? Garrett Kell helps us think through the matter.

The apostle Peter pleads with us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). As long as we are in this world, sin will seek to sap our love for God and stoke our love for every other god. We must do whatever it takes to put it to death. Love for God and sin cannot coexist. Kill your love for sin, or sin will kill your love for God.

20 Benefits of Being in God’s Word According to Psalm 119

The Bible offers countless blessings, comforts, and encouragements. Here’s a list of many of these benefits, pulled from Psalm 119.

If only the world could grasp the benefits available to the soul who seeks God through His Word—willing to see it as truth, clinging to it at every turn. For the Word of God is life-changing and life-sustaining and life-giving. And it’s so much more, as the author of Psalm 119 testifies. The psalmist offers us numerous reasons to run to the comfort of Scripture and never turn away from it.

True Friends Confront Sin

In the church we are called to love one another, even when it is painful. Sometimes this means we need to point out and/or help our friends with the sin in their lives.

If you want to grow in grace, surround yourself with godly friends. These are the people who aren’t afraid to wound you every now and then so that you get your act together. Woe to you when your friends only have kisses for you, those aren’t your buddies. Blessed are you when like king David in 2 Samuel 12, you have a Nathan in your squad. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad! “Let the righteous man strike me – it is kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” (Ps. 141:5) Choose the friends who are going to love you enough to be real with you when you’re falling. If you don’t – if you surround yourself with people who won’t call you out, or worse, who share the same idols you do – you’re digging your own grave.


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 (1/17/2020)

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

Neither Sin nor Death nor Elections Can Hinder God’s Work in 2020

Benjamin Vrbicek considers the very end of the book of Acts and writes about the spread of the gospel. As we face both personal and national difficulties, this is a great reminder.

God’s name “will be great among the nations”—not because he removes every earthly hindrance, but because no single hindrance we experience is strong enough to impede the gospel’s spread. God wills and works for his gospel to be cherished, and even hell’s gates can’t hinder his church’s advance (Matt. 16:18). 

Should We Trade in Funerals for “Celebrations of Life”?

Rare is the person that likes to think about death. And, as a pastor, Jason Allen has seen how this aversion affects the way many people treat funerals for those they love. He cautions against discarding the opportunity of a distinctly Christian funeral for a light-hearted “celebration of life” service. (This article is written for pastors, but I think we all can benefit from it.)

After all, death is God’s enemy. Paul tells us as much in 1 Corinthians 15:26. But it’s an enemy that has already been defeated by the resurrection of Jesus. What better venue than a funeral to highlight this glorious truth? We shouldn’t aim for “upbeat and lighthearted” when the deep emotional well of Christian hope is available to us. We shouldn’t spend so much time on jokes that we give short shrift to Jesus Christ who, having defeated sin and death, has made a way for the wicked to be forgiven and made righteous.  

Four Lies My Teachers Told Me

This article is framed around lies the author heard on a secular college campus. However, I suspect it is true much more broadly. Think of these lies as those underlying beliefs that most of our unbelieving neighbors hold without questioning them. The first lie that Kaitlin Miller addresses is that “only religion requires faith.”

The question, therefore, is not whether we will have faith, but in what we will put our faith. The question is not even whether we will place our faith in evidence, but rather, on what evidence we will place our faith — empirical evidence alone, or the intersection of historical, logical, moral, and philosophical evidence on which Christianity has always been based.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called 3 Essential Words to Say to Your Child. 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. 

3 Essential Words to Say to Your Child

I slid behind the wheel and felt the familiar pang of spiritual conviction. As we began the short trip to school, I tried to ignore the tap on my shoulder, but I knew what I had to do.

Just twenty minutes earlier, I yelled at my children. This was not a loving, firm correction, but an explosion. They disobeyed, and I lashed out at them, trying to provoke feelings of guilt and shame and smallness. It was terrible and embarrassing. I needed to come clean.

I confessed my sin and asked my daughter for forgiveness, which she gave gladly. Her grace pointed me to the very goodness of God I needed to remember.

The following hours were busy, filled with meetings, classes, advising, and grading. And yet, that four-minute conversation was the most important part of my day.

Seek Their Forgiveness

For their spiritual health and yours, your children need to hear you say those three little words: Please forgive me.

I’ve resisted this, and you have too. I have thought my sin was not that bad, or it wasn’t the right time, or they didn’t notice. If we’re honest, it’s easy to find reasons not to confess your sins to your child. You’re big, they’re small, and they’re not the boss of you.

But these conversations are crucial, both for your child’s spiritual development and for the health of your relationship with them. They’re one of the best ways to spotlight Jesus and glory in the gospel. Each talk may be uncomfortable, but there are at least five reasons we should ask for forgiveness from our children.

  1. Because God commands it. In the Bible, God urges reconciliation and harmony in relationships. We are to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us (Eph 4:32Col 3:13). Real forgiveness presupposes confession from the guilty party, so when you sin against someone else, you should ask for their forgiveness.1 This includes your children.
  2. Because obedience is for everyone. Parents make and enforce the rules at home, so children usually know their offenses. But they see your sin too, especially when you sin against them. Through confession you underline that you are not above the law. God’s standard applies to you, and you don’t measure up. Admitting your sin gives you the chance, as a fellow sinner, to point to Christ.
  3. Because it teaches them how to forgive and seek forgiveness. Give your children a model for these conversations. Confess your sins specifically, without excuses. Describe the pain you have caused. Express your grief over your sin and the relational rift you’ve created. Ask them to forgive you, and thank them when they do.
  4. Because it teaches them grace. You don’t deserve your child’s forgiveness, much less God’s. Remind your child that God forgives his enemies: us!
  5. Because it points to Jesus. God didn’t forgive by putting our sins off to the side; he faced them. He is enraged against sin, but Jesus felt God’s fury in our place. Forgiveness, even the peer-to-peer kind, is costly (see Matt 18), and talking about this cost naturally turns to the gospel.

The Importance of the Heart

When you talk to your children about sin—whether theirs or yours—emphasize the heart. Give your children categories and language to describe the most important part of their relationship to God.

For example, I yelled because I was angry. But I was angry because my child’s disobedience upset my comfort and peace. I reacted in a sinful way because my happiness was more important than honoring God and caring for my children.

Conclusion

Enlist your spouse in your efforts to keep short accounts with your children. They have a better sense of when you need to confess than you do, and they can see your relationships more objectively.

As these conversations become more a part of your family life, your children will trust you more. Hopefully, they will come to a greater awareness of their own sin and the forgiveness and grace that God offers. This is the great aim of parenting.


  1. For much more on this line of thinking regarding forgiveness, check out the book Unpacking Forgiveness.  

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Links for the Weekend (1/10/2020)

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

Why Bible Reading Can Be Such a Challenge

The Gospel Coalition is running an initiative to read through the Bible in 2020, and this article is a companion to the launch of that project. Don Carson writes about the challenges of reading Scripture and how this reading initiative can help.

The challenge has become increasingly severe in recent years, owing to several factors. All of us must confront the regular sins of laziness or lack of discipline, sins of the flesh, and of the pride of life. But there are additional pressures. The sheer pace of life affords us many excuses for sacrificing the important on the altar of the urgent. The constant sensory input from all sides is gently addictive—we become used to being entertained and diverted, and it is difficult to carve out the space and silence necessary for serious and thoughtful reading of Scripture.

A Good Funeral is a Blessing to the Soul

Often funerals are the occasion of great sadness and grief. But a good, Christ-soaked funeral can also bless and strengthen those who attend. This meditation on a funeral from Adam York is a great testimony of a great funeral.

So, then, what could possibly cause a funeral to be a blessing? Only the gospel. Death is a result of sin, yet God sent his Son to conquer death through his death, burial, and resurrection. Even as death is conquered it still happens in this mortal life until Jesus returns, yet death has been conquered to the point that God can use it to challenge us to live for and magnify his kingdom. God can use a funeral to challenge us to be more like Lula Mae as she was more like Jesus.

5 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor in 2020

Most of us probably know we should be praying for our pastors. But this article gives specific, practical ways to pray. Very helpful. (I promise that neither Pastor Don nor Pastor Phil put me up to this!)

With so much opposition and difficulty within and without, pastors constantly need the people of God to be praying for them. The shepherd needs the prayers of the sheep as much as they need his prayers. He also is one of Christ’s sheep and is susceptible to the same weaknesses.


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 (1/3/2020)

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

Seize the Morning

Many people are in a reflective and/or goal-setting mode at the beginning of the year. David Mathis helps us think about how we might make the most of our mornings. (I recognize that the morning may not be a good time for everyone, but many of these principles can apply to any time of day you’d like!)

The Bible never commands the modern “quiet time.” Nor does it specify that we must read our Bibles first thing in the morning. In fact, the concept of Christians having their own copy of the Scriptures for private reading is a fairly recent phenomenon in the history of the church. So, here at the outset of the year, we’re not talking mainly about an obligation but an opportunity.

For Christians, getting our souls within consistent earshot of God’s voice in his word is as basic as sleeping and eating and even breathing. Our fully human Savior himself said, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). If Jesus needed his Father’s revealed words for daily human living, how much more his fallen brothers?

Is Your New Year’s Resolution Biblical?

I love the impulse behind this article. Just because it’s a new year and we want to turn over a new leaf doesn’t mean that’s a good leaf to turn over!

You may think your goal is to lose weight this year. But what’s the goal behind losing weight? Your motive may have to do with self-image, your health, or having the energy to go on an adventure you’ve always dreamed about.

Help! I Want to Read the Bible, but I Find It Boring

It’s hard to find a more honest title than this one! And, if we’re honest, I think many of us feel the same way. Katherine Forster has written some advice that you may find helpful. (This is written by a teenager but certainly not only for teenagers!)

If we’re honest, I think we’ve all been there. It took years before I learned to enjoy and love the word—and that was after I became a Christian. Here are a few things I learned as a young person struggling to find a love for the Scripture. Perhaps they’ll be helpful for you, too—especially if you’re also a teen!

Bible Reading Plans for 2020

I shared this link last year, but it’s worth sharing again. Ligonier Ministries has put together a great list of Bible reading plans for 2020. Check it out and see if anything resonates with you and your Bible reading goals for the year.


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

Links for the Weekend (12/27/2019)

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

5 Potential (Year-Long) Effects of the Christmas Season

Jason Seville suggests that there are rhythms of the Christmas season that we would be wise to stretch out over the whole calendar year. One of the areas he writes about is hospitality.

At Christmas we buy gifts, bake cookies, send cards, extend meal invites, and throw parties. We get to know fellow church members better, and we welcome strangers. We have people over with the clear intention and purposes of extending Christ’s love.

But hospitality ought to be the Christian’s perennial disposition. We ought to, as Paul wrote, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7). Let’s circle dates in those first 11 months as well. When will we plan a dinner party for a group of coworkers? When will we invite that new couple from church for dinner? When will we randomly bless the widow down the street with a plate of cookies?

God with us

This article in Fathom Magazine is a short, lovely meditation on the life of Jesus.

He enters into our hearts, flames flickering above our heads as he tears down the old, rotting walls of our souls, the structurally unsound, cracked, termite-ridden foundation. He takes his carpenter’s hands and he rebuilds.

Ten Questions for a New Year

The beginning of the year is a great time to prayerfully consider our ways. Is there anything you should add to your life this year? What should be changed or removed from your life? Don Whitney provides some good questions for us to ponder.

The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by making a goal to encourage one person in particular this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t set that goal.


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

Links for the Weekend (12/20/2019)

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

Come, Desire of Nations, Come: An Advent Reflection

Here is a wonderful extended meditation on Haggai 2:7, one of the lesser-used prophecies about the Messiah. Matthew Arbo notes the reference to this verse in the hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and writes about the need for God to shake the nations before the desire of all nations will come.

He is the desire of all nations whether the nations know him or not. He isn’t the desire of just some nations. He is the desire of all nations. The nations desire him irrespective of whether they acknowledge him or not. He is the object of their deepest and highest longing, for the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he rules over the nations (Ps. 22:28). 

Three Things to Remember When Giving Comfort to Grieving People

The holiday season can amplify loneliness and grief. Randy Alcorn gives three helpful things to remember when we have friends who are grieving.

If we don’t know what to say to a friend in crisis, remember that so long as Job’s friends remained quiet, they helped him bear his grief. Later, when they began giving unsolicited advice and rebuke, Job not only had to deal with his suffering, but with his friends’ smug responses, which added to his suffering.  

The Enduring Power of ‘A Christmas Carol’

Eric Metaxas writes at BreakPoint about the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

Dickens’ classic shoots down the idea—prevalent in some Christian circles—that reading novels is a waste of time. They seem to forget that Jesus Himself was a master storyteller. For instance, He didn’t just say, “Come to the aid of those who need help.” Instead, He told a vivid story about a Samaritan who rescues a wounded man.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Sarah Wisniewski called Consider the Sycamore. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

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. 

Consider the Sycamore

“How high can the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you’ll never know.”

This line from—of all places—Disney’s Pocahontas, has influenced my views on how God’s people should think about and interact with creation, a concept sometimes called creation stewardship.

Can a line from a song glorifying pagan pantheism from a movie about fictionalized history teach us anything true about God or his creation? By itself, no. But placed next to God’s own word about his creation, this lyric distills several aspects of creation stewardship that resonate with me.

Reverence

We don’t believe that “every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name.” But we do believe each one was crafted by God himself, and that alone should inspire in us a reverence for God’s creation.

Scripture shows us God’s passion for his creation. In Genesis 1, God shapes each aspect of creation individually—the stars, the seas, the birds. He could have spoken it all into existence at once, but he chose to tell the story this way, giving special attention to each piece. Later, God prescribed Sabbath years “of solemn rest for the land” (Leviticus 25:5). When they weren’t kept, God exiled Israel to Babylon “until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chronicles 36:21).

Creation doesn’t exist solely for mankind’s use. God made the universe and everything in it to bring glory to himself: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

The value of a sycamore is not found in how many feet of lumber it generates but in how it glorifies its Creator. We show reverence for our Creator when we approach his creation with a sense of awe.

Wonder

The average sycamore tree grows to about 100 feet tall. But that doesn’t really answer the question in the song, does it? The spirit of the question is more about delight and wonder in the world around us.

At Creation, God gave man and woman authority over nature: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

God’s pattern of authority is one of love and service. Consider the teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5, when husbands are given authority over their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

Our charge is to tend to nature, seeking its good. We need to cultivate a sense of wonder at what God has made and a desire to see it flourish.

A Sense of Loss

My grandparents have all passed away, and they took with them bits of now untraceable family history. When did my great-grandparents come over from Czechoslovakia? Which relative built the old grandmother clock? There is a sense of loss in thinking of these things that I’ll “never know.”

There’s a similar sense of loss when a piece of creation disappears: a species goes extinct, a forest is cut down for land development, or a mountaintop is removed for mining. There’s a loss of natural beauty, a loss of habitat, a loss of potential for what could have been.

God has given us the right to use creation’s resources. God gave the plants to Adam and Eve for food (Genesis 1:29) and sanctioned the felling of the cedars of Lebanon for his temple (I Kings 5:5-6). The progression of redemptive history is from Eden to the New Jerusalem, the garden to the city, from untamed to cultivated.  

Sometimes we need to cut down the sycamore. It’s good for paneling, flooring, cabinets, and high-end furniture. (Not great for firewood and also a royal pain to split, according to Google.) We can be grateful to God for the resources we extract from nature while also acknowledging their cost.   

Practical steps

Environmentalism has gotten a bad name among conservative Christians because of its associations with progressive politics and New Age ideas. Creation stewardship doesn’t dictate a particular set of opinions on environmental issues, but it does demand a respect for creation.

Caring for nature doesn’t have to mean hugging trees. We can begin by taking ownership of our consumption. Can we honor God’s gift to us by reusing, recycling, or composting it? Can we avoid generating waste by combining trips in the car, turning out the lights, or choosing products with less disposable packaging? Can we find ways to simply use less?

Creation stewardship is not about saving the planet. God is sovereign over his creation, and humanity will not wipe itself out before his appointed Judgment Day. Creation stewardship is about seeking the welfare of creation out of love for its Creator. It’s about finding joy in how high the sycamore grows, simply because its branches reach up in praise to the Lord.

Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (12/13/2019)

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

Jesus’s Birth through Four Biblical, Literary Forms

Davis Wetherell points to four different types of writing in Scripture and shows how they can all be used to point to Jesus.

We’ll look at prophecy, theology, song of praise, and narrative. By looking at these four literary forms, it is my hope that we will see Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, the inexhaustible object of study, the reason for worship, and the resolution of all conflict.

There Will Most Assuredly Come A Morning

Here’s an article about the death of a young child and the hope that his parents have found in Christ. Our world is full of sadness, but the Resurrection will come.

On a day like today, as I remember the pain of last year, and as Finn’s parents weep and remember, there is a God above who is faithful, who is bringing a morning so bright that all this pain will certainly be in comparison light and momentary. And all those little things we miss today he will restore. In our mourning, in Christ, we can know that there will most assuredly come a morning. The years that the locusts have taken will be ours again, and no one will snatch them from our resurrected hands.

The Voice That Made the World

What does it mean that Jesus is our prophet? This is an important question, but especially so during Advent, when we understand Jesus’s birth as the fulfillment of so much prophecy. Here’s a great explanation.

The voice of the Old Testament prophets was often disregarded and mocked, even by God’s own people. Today, all God’s people hear Jesus’s voice, even as his words are disregarded and mocked in the world. But we can have confidence that all people will ultimately hear the name and voice of Jesus and bow the knee to him (Philippians 2:9–11). Even today, we can hear and submit to the voice of God in the words of Jesus.


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

Links for the Weekend (12/6/2019)

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.