Links for the Weekend (9/25/2020)

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

Be Careful What You Put Your Hope in, Including Politics

Randy Alcorn writes about hope and politics, and he shares an extended quote from Paul Tripp. Good food for thought, especially over the next six weeks.

God is the sovereign King, and He alone is the hope of this nation and every other one. Even if America crumbles (which could happen under any presidential candidate, or be delayed to sometime in the future), God is the only hope of each person and each family. He has been that all along, but perhaps this time it will be just a little more obvious.

The Siblinghood of the Saints

Being part of God’s family means not only that we can call God “Father” but also that we call each other “brother” and “sister.” Allyson Todd has some wise words about how opposite-sex relationships should look different in the church than in the world.

Surely we all must act with wisdom according to conscience in our relationships with the opposite sex. We ought to have nuance and balance. If we avoid one another, we give in to fear and distrust. If we exploit one another, we give in to selfishness and abuse. If we love one another as Jesus loved us, we demonstrate the magnificent gift of the family of God, and by this, we declare the reason for our love: it is by God alone. 

When God Says No to Your Earnest Prayers

I don’t know about you, but I need good, solid reminders about unanswered prayer on a regular basis. Here is a helpful article from Garrett Kell.

Jesus wants us to know that our heavenly Father only gives us good things (Ps. 84:11). He never gives us snakes when we ask for fish, or stones when we ask for bread. He may not give us bread or fish, but he will never withhold good from us. As John Piper once said, “[God] gives us what we ask for, or something better (not necessarily easier), if we trust him.”

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called What Do We Want for Our Friends? 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. 

What Do We Want for Our Friends?

It is a sad fact of life that friends move away. How do you pray for such a friend? What do you want for them?

Perhaps you pray for their health, their family, or their church. You surely pray for specific requests they share.

And while these petitions are wonderful, the apostle Paul would like to add to our list.

Paul and the Thessalonians

Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians as an evangelist and pastor. But the warm nature of the letter shows that he also wrote to these people as friends.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13, I notice at least five things Paul earnestly wanted for his friends.

Paul wanted to see them face-to-face

Paul was driven out of Thessalonica after a short period of ministry (Acts 17:1–10). He described it as being “torn away” from them, so great was his pain (1 Thess 2:17).

Though I’m sure Paul was grateful to send written communication, he longed to be with his friends in person. (See 1 Thess 2:17–18, 3:6, 3:10, and 3:11.) In fact, this is one of the dominant themes of the letter: Paul loved the Thessalonians, missed them, and wanted to see them!

The same is true for us. We can thank God for modern technology that lets us keep in touch with our distant friends while still longing and planning to see them in the flesh.

Paul wanted to strengthen and encourage them

Paul couldn’t stand the separation from the Thessalonians (1 Thess 3:1) so he sent Timothy to visit. Paul was willing to give up the help and fellowship of his dear friend so he could send a personal word to this church.

Timothy was sent, in part, to “strengthen and encourage” them in their faith (1 Thess 3:2, NASB). The Thessalonians were disheartened because they heard of Paul’s suffering (1 Thess 3:3–4). Paul wanted them to know this was an expected part of following Jesus (1 Thess 3:3).

Paul was not just acting as an apostle. This is a vital role friends play in each other’s lives. We remind each other of what is true, because we easily forget. We need our friends to point us back to God, to rehearse the good news of the gospel for us, to recall the hope we have for the future because of Jesus.

Paul wanted to hear about their faith

Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica for at least two purposes. In addition to encouraging this church, Paul wanted Timothy to bring back a report about their faith (1 Thess 3:5).

Paul was concerned that the disturbance the Thessalonians felt regarding Paul’s afflictions might tempt them to turn from the faith (1 Thess 3:5). This was no idle curiosity for Paul—he loved his friends so much that their standing with God was vital to him.

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. (1 Thess 3:6–8)

How often do we pray this simple prayer for our friends? Lord, strengthen them to stand firm.

Paul wanted to minister to them

As Paul thanked God for the joy the Thessalonians gave him, he prayed “most earnestly” that he could see them face to face. One reason he wanted to see them was so he could “supply what [was] lacking in [their] faith” (1 Thess 3:10).

Because of the way Paul had to leave Thessalonica (Acts 17:10), he likely had not finished the initial training and instruction he had planned for these young disciples. While we are not apostles, we do have important roles to play in ministering to each other within the body of Christ. God often calls us to be bearers of grace to one another.

Paul wanted them to be ready to meet Jesus

Paul ended this section of his letter with a benediction.

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thess 3:11–13)

Paul has Jesus’s return in view throughout this letter. Here he holds up Jesus as the judge. He wants them to be blameless, and he knows that abounding in love is the way to get there.

Praying for Our Friends

This is a convicting passage for me. I don’t always have my friends’ growth and love in mind as I pray. I’m not often looking for opportunities to encourage and minister to them.

As I see my failings as a friend, I am reminded of Jesus, the Friend of sinners. He encourages, strengthens, and ministers to his people. Even better, he wants to be with us forever, and his sacrifice secures our hope.

As those who are friends of Jesus, by his grace, let’s learn to be better friends to each other. Then we can say, with Paul, that we really live if our friends are standing firm in the Lord.

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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. 

How God Rebukes Us

From eating vegetables to visiting the dentist, there are many things in life we need but do not want. To stay healthy, we endure needles, checkups, and the occasional cabbage, though we’d rather ignore them all.

As Christians, we don’t usually want God’s discipline. It’s painful, but we need it. Our disobedience is both offensive to God and bad for us. But God corrects us out of love; in fact, God proves we are his children through his discipline (Hebrews 12:7–8).

Fine. But how exactly does God rebuke us?

Providence or Revelation?

Many will point to circumstances. They cite the “difficult providences of God” (illness, loss of a job, natural disasters, etc.) as the way God shows his displeasure.

But outward suffering is no more evidence of sin than material blessing is a sign of obedience. (See Psalm 37Psalm 73, or Luke 13:1–5.) We rarely learn the reasons behind God’s providence.

However, the Bible provides direct revelation of God’s will. Even in difficult circumstances, God rebukes his children through his word. This happens in three main ways.

1. God’s Rebuke Through Preaching

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he included these words about the Bible.

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 complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)

Since the phrase “man of God” recalls a common Old Testament term for a prophet, Paul probably had a pastor’s preaching in mind. This is consistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere that pastors/elders should rebuke those in error. (See especially 1 Tim 5:202 Tim 4:2Titus 1:91:132:15.)

Therefore, one of the purposes of a preacher’s message is to rebuke Christians.

Don’t get the wrong idea. You might dislike the idea of rebuke because you picture angry, fire-and-brimstone preachers heaping guilt on the congregation and bringing everyone to tears.

But rebuke is simply correction. God corrects us because it is better to obey than to disobey. Our blindness to sin (coupled with our forgetfulness) means we need a lot of correction.

Rebuke from the pulpit is the explanation and specific application of a Biblical text. This is what happened in Nehemiah 8, when the reading (verses 3–6) and explanation (verses 7 and 8) of the law prompted tears (verse 9) and extensive confession of sin (chapter 9).

2. God’s Rebuke Through Private Bible Reading

Though the words rebuke and reprove are often associated with preaching, the Holy Spirit can correct us in private. (See John 14:26 and John 16:13–15.) This usually happens during personal Bible reading.

We have a few Biblical examples. In Acts 8:26–40, we read that God prepared the Ethopian eunuch for Philip’s visit through private meditation on Isaiah 53. In 2 Kings 22:11–13, Josiah was convicted by a private reading of the law.

The Spirit convicts us as we read and study the Bible. To learn how to study the Bible, I recommend the book Knowable Word or this series of blog posts.

3. God’s Rebuke Through Other Christians

God also rebukes us through others. As examples, consider Priscilla and Aquila correcting Apollos in Acts 18:26 or Paul confronting Peter in Galatians 2:11–14. Jesus went beyond an example and commanded his disciples to rebuke brothers in sin (Luke 17:3–4).

Further, the language of reproof is all over Proverbs. Solomon assumes those seeking wisdom will give and receive correction.

Wise men love reproof (Prov 9:8), and there is honor for those who heed it (Prov 13:18). Rebuke goes deep into a man of understanding (Prov 17:10), and the wise reprover is like gold to those who will listen (Prov 25:12). In summary, fools resist instruction, but the wise seek it and grow.

This sort of rebuke happens when a friend applies Biblical truth to your life in a corrective way. By God’s grace, you see the need to change your thinking, your desires, or your behavior and you move forward in repentance.

Cultivate Humility

If God disciplines us in these ways, what does it mean for us?

In short, we should invite the Lord’s rebuke. That may sound scary, but encountering the Bible is a serious matter. Sometimes God’s correction is exactly what we need.

Before listening to the Bible taught or preached, before reading it privately or with your small group, pray that God would rebuke you as needed. Ask God to prepare you to receive correction from your friends.

This requires humility. We must acknowledge our weakness and sin; we should thank God for his wisdom and love in correcting us.

Any reproof we receive points us back to the gospel. The only correction Jesus justly received was the divine rebuke for our sin on the cross. His rebuke ensures that we are rebuked as forgiven children, not as exiled criminals. Further, Jesus’s perfect obedience secures the privilege we have of God’s fatherly correction.

And, thank God, it’s Jesus’s power that makes change possible.

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