Links for the Weekend (1/15/2021)

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

Are Paper Bibles Better?

At Desiring God, David Mathis urges us to read our Bibles deeply and meditatively. And, for some people, this might mean that they need to spend more time with a physical Bible.

I want to invite you, here at the outset of a new year, to join me in doing something countercultural: get a paper Bible and learn to read it differently from your phone and other screens, and make the words of God your rock in a world of multiplied words of sand. You don’t need an old tattered, torn, marked up, and re-covered Bible like mine. You might consider, though, whether paper might make a difference in your time alone with God. There is some research to consider, not just my experience.

A Word of Hope for Those with Chronic Pain

This was written during Advent, but I think it is still helpful. We all experience chronic pain or know someone who does. What does it look like for people with such pain to wait in hope?

Waiting in chronic pain can wear you down, shrivel your love, fill you with self-pity, and poison your heart. Or it can refine your character, build your patience and endurance, and increase your longing for God. Whether our waiting does the one or the other largely depends on what we believe is on the other side of this suffering.

How to Overcome Temptation

Jared Wilson reflects on Jesus’s temptation by the devil and what we can learn from it about fighting sin.

Thanks to Jesus, temptation doesn’t have to be our undoing. Until he returns, we will struggle with sin, but we can fight against it and the constant attraction to it we face, if we will cling to Christ’s grace and follow Christ’s example in staying alert, staying focused, and staying in the word that gives power.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Sarah Wisniewski called I Am Not Enough. 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 Am Not Enough

When my son was born, due to stay-at-home orders we had none of the external resources we had planned to lean on. Play dates and church programs for our daughter, housekeeping and childcare help for us, even parks and library outings disappeared overnight. 

It was just Zack and me—and we were not enough.

We were not enough to be the sole source for our two-year-old’s social interactions. We were not enough for the bottomless needs of a newborn. I struggled and usually failed to live out the fruits of the Spirit while tired and stressed. Of course, we had never been “enough,” but before we could hide behind all the things we used to supplement our own parenting. 

It’s crushing to know as a parent that you are not enough for your kids. 

A Sufficient Grace

Paul also confronted his own weakness, a mysterious “thorn.” He pleaded with God to remove it, but God did not. Paul wrote:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

When we are not enough, God’s grace is sufficient. God’s grace is sufficient to preserve my kids through hardship and loneliness. God’s grace is sufficient to forgive my failures, like when I snap at my kids because I’m just done with today. And by God’s grace our weakness makes room for the power of Christ to fill us with the ability to serve and give and love when there’s nothing left in us. 

We are not called to hide our weaknesses or project an image that we’ve got it all together. Paul says he boasts of his weakness, because that makes it clear it is Christ at work, not himself. 

A Sufficient Gospel

God working through weakness sits at the core of the gospel. Paul points out in the following chapter that Christ himself “was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4). Christ became weak, so weak that he died, and through his “weakness,” God demonstrated his power to save. 

We can lay at Jesus’s scarred feet the places where we feel we are not up to the task. Jesus doesn’t ask us to be enough; he asks us to lean on him. Much like God gave Paul his thorn, he places things in our lives—like pandemics and newborns—that we are unable to handle. These things drive us back to the cross, reminding us that we do not live by our own strength but by Jesus’s power through the Holy Spirit. 

*Record scratch*

There’s a rub here: Some days I still find myself feeling spent by 11 a.m., and Jesus has yet to show up to watch my kids while I take a nap. What does it mean to live in the power of Christ in the day-to-day? 

A lot of prayer, for one. Prayer has (at least) two benefits. One, you truly are soliciting supernatural help from the Lord of the universe. Two, the act of praying leads you to rehearse the truth of the gospel. I find myself repeating back to God his own truths, like God’s patience with us and Jesus’ boundless sacrifice. Bringing these truths to mind can put your own struggles in context and lead you to have more patience with, say, the sixth time you’ve asked the toddler to put on socks. Totally hypothetical example.

God also placed us in a community. It was hard to take care of my family without support—because God designed people to need one another. Christians individually and the church collectively are God’s literal hands and feet in the world. It is unlikely that Jesus will personally show up to do my dishes. But he might remind me that my soapy hands are being used to serve the tiny neighbors in my home, just like Jesus’ pierced ones served me. 

In those early weeks of my son’s life, I felt numb with the truth of my own inadequacy. God had placed more on me than I could handle, and it was crushing me. While I could have happily gone my life long without such a stern reminder, I have also never seen so clearly that every step was not in my own strength. God—in his mercy!—places overwhelming circumstances in our way, not to cause us to rise to the occasion, but to drive us, like the crack of a whip or the sting of spurs, to himself.

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Links for the Weekend (1/8/2021)

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

Begin with Worship

Zach Barnhart writes about how we can use the first hours of our day to glorify God. And without making it seem mandatory, he commends private worship early in the day.

On many occasions, people have asked me whether I see any difference between Bible reading in the morning compared to at night. The spirit of the question seems to be asking permission not to study the Bible in the morning. Reasons abound. We are “not morning people.” Our children need our attention. Our morning duties render the thought of meaningful Bible study impossible at sunrise. Each family has its own particular challenges to navigate with time, of course. And no time spent with the Lord, whenever it may be, is deemed inferior or a waste. But the more I have experienced the choice of beginning my day with purposeful worship, the more I believe there is something to it. It seems Scripture itself tells us so.

The Quiet Power of Ordinary Devotions

This seems a good article to pair with the previous one. While we may long for powerful devotional times, filled with dramatic insight and joy, more often we find our times ordinary. And yet, as the title says, there is power in ordinary devotions.

Yet the cause does not always lie in us. If we are reading our Bibles rightly, in fact, we should expect many mornings of ordinary devotions: devotions that do not sparkle with insight or direct-to-life application, but that nevertheless do us good. Just as most meals are ordinary, but still nourish, and just as most conversations with friends are ordinary, but still deepen affection, so most devotions are ordinary, but still grow us in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel in a Democracy Under Assault

What happened at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was shocking, and Russell Moore has written a helpful reflection for Christians.

2021 Bible Reading Plans

If you want to plan your Bible reading for the year but haven’t done it yet, Ligonier has a long list of options for you. You may also want to see what reading plan Tim Challies uses.


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 (1/1/2021)

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

3 Questions For Setting God-Centered Goals

We all know the beginning of the year is a common time to set goals and resolutions. But, if we’re not careful, our goals can be terribly self-centered. Paul Worcester writes with advice on glorifying God with our goals.

If I’m not careful, I can gravitate toward goals that have the subtle motivation of glorifying myself. Fitness, finances, and fans can all be tools to glorify God. But if those things become ends in themselves, I am in danger of idolatry.

How Do I Become Passionate About Bible Reading?

John Piper answers this question on an episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast. I appreciate how Piper communicates how God uses his word in our lives.

But what I want to do in the next few minutes, at the beginning of the year here, is not persuade people of a particular plan, but to give the profound biblical truth and reality that ongoing feeding upon the word of God day by day is built into God’s way of saving you. In other words, we’re not putting icing on the cake of Christianity when we talk about Bible reading. We’re talking about the cake of God’s spiritual plan to preserve you and bring you safely to heaven with all the necessary holiness that the Spirit creates only by the word of God.

2020 Bashing

It’s easy and common to complain about how terrible 2020 was. Lisa LaGeorge has written an encouragement for us as we head into 2021—God is in control and he is good. She includes some helpful quotes from Corrie Ten Boom in her article.

Your God has planned 2020. There is nothing outside of His control, and He knows what is best. That change in the rhythm of life? The reduction in travel? The impact of the virus? All wrapped up in His goodness and work.


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 (12/18/2020)

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

Is Christmas a Pagan Rip-off?

Kevin DeYoung addresses the idea that Christmas is a copycat of a pagan holiday. Though this is a longstanding and accepted argument, DeYoung says that it’s just not true.

Unlike Easter, which developed as a Christian holiday much earlier, there is no mention of birth celebrations from the earliest church fathers. Christian writers like Irenaeus (130-200) and Tertullian (160-225) say nothing about a festival in honor of Christ’s birth, and Origen (165-264) even mocks Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries as pagan practices. This is a pretty good indication that Christmas was not yet on the ecclesiastical calendar (or at least not widespread), and that if it were, it would not have been tied to a similar Roman holiday.

Advent I: The Face of God

Brad East has written a nice Advent meditation on the face of God over at Mere Orthodoxy.

Advent is the season when the church remembers—which is to say, is reminded by the Spirit—that as the people of the Messiah, we are defined not by possession but by dispossession, not by having but by hoping, not by leisurely resting but by eagerly waiting. We are waiting on the Lord, whose command is simple: “Keep awake” (Mark 13:37). Waiting is wakefulness, and wakefulness is watchfulness: like the disciples in the Garden, we are tired, weighed down by the weakness of the flesh, but still we must keep watch and be alert as we await the Lord’s return, relying on his Spirit, who ever is willing (cf. Mark 14:32-42).

Liturgy for a Pandemic Christmas

To quote a part of this would be to ruin the whole, so I will just urge you to read this lovely poem written by Jessica Merzdorf at Fathom Magazine about Jesus coming for (and identifying with) his people.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called A Contrast of Kings at Christmas. 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. 

A Contrast of Kings at Christmas

Secular Christmas scenes are full of snow, wreaths, lights, and cookies. The roaring fires and flannel pajamas that appear on so many cards paint the holiday as one of coziness and warmth.

While there’s nothing wrong with these seasonal elements, none of them capture the biblical reality. Christmas is the time to rejoice in the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus.

But even in the Bible, Jesus’s birth was not an occasion for universal joy. While there was great celebration, the Christmas narratives are also serious, dark, and cautionary.

Herod the King

The second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel offers a stark contrast. Right from the beginning, we read that in the days of Herod the king the wise men came looking for the king of the Jews. This contrast seems intentional, as Matthew refers to Herod as “king” a total of three times (Matt 2:1, 3, 9).

While the wise men traveled a great distance to worship this new king (Matt 2:2), they went to Herod only for information. The wise men rejoiced when approaching the house where Jesus was, and they brought extravagant gifts, falling down in worship. Since God warned them away, the wise men didn’t even speak to Herod again.

Herod was “troubled” by this talk of a new king (Matt 2:3). The Jewish religious leaders reported that prophesies pointed to Bethlehem as the birthplace of a “ruler” who would “shepherd” the people of Israel (Matt 2:6). This was not good news for Herod.

Jesus the Child

The contrast between Herod and Jesus is heightened by the difference in their ages. Herod was an adult; Jesus had just been born. In fact, Jesus is referred to as a “child” nine times in this chapter.

Given the difference in physical ability and political power between Jesus and Herod, it seems bizarre that Herod was threatened by this baby. But Herod was so enraged when the wise men did not report back to him that he ordered the death of all male children in and around Bethlehem under two years old.

We should pause here and note the violence and devastation that Herod caused. His fear and his lust for power proved to be a murderous cocktail. These deaths were unspeakably cruel, selfish, and senseless, and they must have left Bethlehem residents horrified and empty with grief.

While Herod took drastic, human steps to eliminate Jesus, Matthew’s text shows us the supernatural elements used to honor and protect Jesus. The star that the wise men followed (“his star” in Matt 2:2) appeared both before and after their visit to Jerusalem (Matt 2:9–10) and led them directly to Jesus. Additionally, God acted through dreams to warn the wise men (Matt 2:12) and to direct Joseph and his young family (Matt 2:13, 19, 22).

Finally, notice the role of prophecy in this chapter. In his birth in Bethlehem (Matt 2:5–6), his exile to Egypt (Matt 2:17), and his settling in Nazareth (Matt 2:23), Jesus fulfilled what the prophets had spoken. On the other hand, the prophecy that Herod fulfilled was one of tears and lamentation (Matt 2:17–18).

Worship Christ, the Newborn King

Jesus was declared a king at his birth. And the contrast between Jesus and all other kings continued through his earthly life and beyond.

Because Jesus is the great, high king, he is a threat to all who hold power. God demands (and deserves) our undiluted worship, and this is a problem for anyone who craves any glory that belongs to God.

This is a warning to all in authority: Worship Jesus as the high king willingly while you can. One day every knee will bow, whether willingly or not (Phil 2:9–11). Your power is delegated power and should be used to help those around you to flourish.

And for everyone, this is a call to worship Jesus. He is no mere human king; he is the Lord of all. And as Lord, he shows himself to be vastly superior to Herod.

Though he is powerful and his authority is absolute, he is merciful and gentle. We have all grasped for power; we have all neglected and rejected proper worship. But king Jesus offers love and forgiveness for those who turn to him.

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Links for the Weekend (12/11/2020)

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

The Surprising Ministry of Encouragement

“Gospel doctrine creates gospel culture.” Ray Ortlund writes that encouragement is essential to this gospel culture that the best churches cultivate.

Encouragement is what the gospel feels like as it moves from one believer to another. The ministry of encouragement, therefore, isn’t optional or just for people with a knack for it. Real encouragement has authority over us all. It deserves nothing less than to set the predominant tone of our churches, our homes, our ministries. So, let’s think it through. And then, let’s get after it.

Christmas in a Minor Key

If Christmas is merely a superficial celebration, this might be a year to pitch it. How can we drum up interest in tinsel when the pandemic has made life so hard and so sad for so many? Doug Eaton argues that these miseries give us a greater reason than ever to celebrate this year.

The arrival of Jesus into our world is the answer to a world lost in darkness. Christ, God incarnate, entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, he was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and he would endure it all because of his great love for us. We have a Savior who can sympathize with our weakness, and he went to the cross to atone for our sin.

The Gentle Tug of Spiritual Disciplines

I enjoyed the way Craig Thompson contrasted his dog’s need to go outside with his practice of the spiritual disciplines.

There is more. Your spiritual disciplines will not usually yell at you, but when you neglect them, there are reminders. Learn to tune your heart and mind to the gentle tug of spiritual disciplines. Do you feel stressed and overwhelmed? Could it be that you have allowed the noise of the world to drown out God’s love in your life? The gentle tug of spiritual disciplines is a bit more like a hunger or a longing than a begging and demanding.


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 (12/4/2020)

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

Advent in a Global Pandemic

David Mathis writes about the themes of darkness and light as they relate to this year and the Advent season. The bottom line? “But Advent looks darkness square in the eye and issues this great promise for our season of waiting: darkness will not overcome the Light.”

Advent, the season of waiting and preparation before the high feast of Christmas, is a chance to regain spiritual sanity, and create fresh and healthier rhythms personally and as a family and as churches. As we enter the six darkest weeks of the year in this hemisphere, we will pivot midway to mark the greatest and brightest turning point in all history: the birth of Christ. And perhaps this Advent will begin restoring what the locusts have taken this year.

An Advent Series on Christmas Carols

The Daily Grace Podcast is doing a series during Advent which examines Christmas carols. There will be a new carol explored each week (new podcasts are posted on Tuesday mornings) including a performance by an artist, history on the background of the song, and reminders of the gospel message throughout. Here’s a link to the first episode in this series—the subject is the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Older Women, Young Churches Need You

Hannah Nation explains why older women are such a crucial part of local churches, especially churches with lots of younger members. She also explains how younger women can benefit from relationships with their elders in the faith.

These concerns bring to mind the words Paul wrote to Titus. He writes that older women “are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (2:3–5). Older women who mentor, disciple, and care for younger women are an essential part of a biblical community.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Sarah Wisniewski called Quarantine, Regret, and the Gospel. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Thanks to Maggie A and Sarah W for their 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. 

Quarantine, Regret, and the Gospel

I’ve come to the difficult conclusion that I’m not happy with my response to the “quarantime” that began in March.

It’s difficult because it’s always difficult to admit that you’re wrong. It’s doubly difficult because it’s done; there’s no fixing it or trying again next time. Lord willing, there will never be another such event in my lifetime. 

So what do I do with these regrets and feelings of failure? What Christians should always do, in any situation—run to Jesus. 

Regretting Sinful Attitudes

I regret spending so much time being angry. I was angry at the virus for existing, angry at the government for restricting me, angry that I had to wear a mask, angry at people for wearing their masks wrong, angry that my son’s newborn months were stolen, angry at other people for not reacting how I thought they should.

This regret is hard because I have to label it what it is: It’s sin. I sinned.

My anger is a sin against God, a challenge to his goodness and wisdom. It has also hurt those around me, both those on the receiving end and those who I’ve inflicted my anger upon by dwelling on it in conversation. 

The solution is repeated throughout the Scriptures: Repent. “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13b; see also 1 John 1:9).

For me, repentance has looked like making apologies and seeking reconciliation. It’s been praying for a more content and gracious heart. And it’s been praying for the Spirit to “see if there be any grievous way in me” (Psalm 139:24). 

Guys, it hurts. I hoped I could say, “I was angry and I’m sorry,” and be done with it, but my anger was just the shoot springing up from a root system of sinful attitudes that are still being exposed. 

This is the gospel: That when I was still angry, Christ died for me. That when I confess, he will forgive—and that he has given me his Spirit to convict me of my sin, drive me again to the cross, and empower me to live rightly. 

Regretting Missed Opportunities

I also regret not mobilizing to help my neighbors. I didn’t inquire whether my elderly neighbors needed groceries, didn’t seek out ways to help the needy, didn’t reach out to people in my own church family to ask how they were doing. I wish I had been Christ’s hands and feet to those outside my home, but I wasn’t.

Maybe you’re like me, and you feel the weight of missed opportunities. You didn’t help that person, didn’t finish that project, didn’t take that online course or master a new hobby during self-isolation. 

Good deeds left undone can be a sin of omission, in which case repentance is appropriate. But every Christian is not called to do every good work. Discerning between a sin of omission and a closed door of opportunity is a matter of wisdom and your conscience. 

In my case, I am confident in my conviction that I did not sin. I had a baby the day Governor Wolf declared a state of emergency. I was physically recovering, barely sleeping, and parenting my toddler. While serving the neighbors outside my home would have been a good thing to do, there was plenty of service and self-sacrifice to be done for the tiny neighbors in my own home. Nevertheless, I regret leaving so much undone.

The good news of the gospel is that, in Christ, you are already as loved and valued by God as you possibly could be. You don’t need to seize every opportunity, do the most good deeds, or be your best self to impress him or earn status in his eyes. Because God is already pleased with you, you can be gentle to your own heart. In a pandemic-themed issue of ByFaith Magazine, Kelly M. Kapic encourages discouraged believers to apply God’s kindness to themselves.

On the other hand, the gospel also frees us to do more and sacrifice more, because we follow a Lord who sacrificed all the way to death, then proved by his resurrection that even dying is only a stepping stone to glory.

In Christ, I am released from guilt over opportunities not taken. And, while I can’t repeat the last eight months, it’s not too late to love my neighbors.

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Links for the Weekend (11/27/2020)

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

How to Harm a Heavy Heart

Vaneetha Risner writes about listening to and grieving with friends who are going through difficult times. I appreciated the way she discussed the Christian practice of lament.

Sometimes we aren’t in a setting to lament together through Scripture, but we can apply those principles to everyday conversation. We can invite our friends to talk about their feelings without judgment, beginning the conversation by saying, “This must be so hard. It would have opened a whole host of struggles for me. How are you feeling?” Sharing our own battles and temptations invites others to speak, knowing they won’t be judged.

Our Only Hope In Life and Death

This short, solid reminder about a Christian’s true hope cheered my soul.

This can bring us great comfort, knowing that hope is not lost, that our hope is in Christ alone. We will continue to struggle with the restrictions, but placing our faith in God means we know His promises still stand, that He is sovereign over the world, and that our lives are lived unto Him, every day. 

Should We Expect Our Jobs to Make Us Happy?

We’re all prone to find our identity and happiness in unfit places. Barnabas Piper writes about why our work can’t bear the weight we often want it to.

Work— like many other things in life- is a means of finding happiness. It’s designed by God and is a good thing. It’s a good hook for the right things, but too weak to hold our hopes for total happiness.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

Not this week, but last week on the blog we published an article I wrote called How to Encourage Those Who Grieve. 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.