Links for the Weekend (2022-02-25)

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

A Word to My Fellow Cynics

Cindy Matson contrasts our ever-present cynicism with love.

Cynicism has become the default setting of our society. From our comedy to our politicians, podcasts, and pulpits, being cynical is cool. However, while sardonically assuming the worst about a given situation or person may be socially acceptable, it diametrically opposes the character of Christ. A cynical Savior (what an oxymoron!) would have dumped the twelve disciples about two weeks into His ministry. And were He cynical like us, sarcasm, not love, would have flowed from His mouth in rebuking the twelve’s faithlessness. He wouldn’t have taught in the synagogue; He would have caustically declared, “You’re just going to reject me anyway. What’s the point?” Of course, our Lord, humble in heart and meek in spirit, never uttered a cynical word or harbored a bitter thought.

Help! I’m Afraid I Made the Wrong Decision

What happens when we regret a big decision? How can we respond as Christians?

Fear steals focus from God’s ability and wisdom, wrongfully placing a myopic focus on self. Through fear, self looms so large that we begin to believe that one decision can throw off God’s plan. Fear shrinks our infinite God and enlarges self in a way that robs God of glory and ourselves of peace. Fear forgets that the same God who spoke galaxies into existence holds our lives together. Fear forgets that “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).

A Word from Solomon About Social Media

Trevin Wax turns to social media armed with some wisdom from Proverbs.

Yet still, I wonder if—in a time when rapidity is rewarded, when the hot take is, well, hot, and the temptations toward outrage are baked into the algorithms of comments sections and Twitter streams—prioritizing books over Facebook is a better starting point for the seeking of wisdom. Surely we’re more likely to discover knowledge, insight, and understanding through the quiet and careful reading of a book than through the impressions created by endless scrolling.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Those Who Are Forgiven Much, Love Much. 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. 

Those Who Are Forgiven Much, Love Much

Of all the devastating interactions in the Gospels between Jesus and the Pharisees, this one has to be near the top of the list:

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. (Luke 7:47)

The Pharisee and the Sinful Woman

The context of that quote is Luke 7:36–50, a fairly familiar story. Briefly: Jesus is invited to dine at the home of a Pharisee, and as they are reclining at the table a “woman of the city” approaches Jesus, washing his feet with her tears and anointing them with expensive ointment. The Pharisee is horrified that Jesus would allow such a sinful woman to touch him.

Jesus knows the Pharisee’s scorn and tells him how the woman’s hospitality has exceeded his own (the Pharisee’s). Jesus tells a story about a moneylender cancelling two debts, one ten times as large as the other. Which debtor will love him more? The one with the larger debt.

Then Jesus speaks verse 47 (quoted above) to the Pharisee and turns to the woman and repeats, “Your sins are forgiven.” The implication for the Pharisee is clear to the reader—his sins are not forgiven.

But there is (to me) a natural question that flows out of the logic of this passage. If those who are forgiven much, love much, and if we want to grow in our love for God, should we also focus on how much we have been forgiven? If so, wouldn’t that involve dwelling on our sin?

Forgiveness and Forgetfulness

There’s an impulse among modern Christians to forget our sin after we know our forgiveness from God is secure. We know the mental and spiritual anguish that can be stoked by focusing on our failures. And we’ve heard the forgive and forget mantra enough that forgetting is an essential part of forgiving and being forgiven.

What is forgiveness between people? There’s a good illustration in Matthew 18:21–35, where Jesus again uses the analogy of a debt. When we forgive others, we absorb the debt caused by their sin against us so that they do not have to pay it. Among other things, this means that we will no longer hold that sin against them. We don’t need to pretend it didn’t happen, as there may be necessary consequences to sins, but we won’t extract any personal retribution. (I use the phrase “personal retribution” here in contrast to legal notions of justice that forgiveness does not erase.)

We can be sure that God acts this way toward us when he forgives us. He does not remind us of our sin nor use the memory of our past to harm us. (You may protest that Hebrews 8:12 says that God “…will remember their sins no more.” I think John Piper is correct when he reads that as God will not call to mind our sins in a punishing, vindictive way.)

We do have examples in Scripture, however, where Paul reminds fellow Christians of their sinful past. Here are two examples.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9–11)

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:11–13)

In both of these situations, Paul notes what these people once were. But he does not stop there. He also reminds them what is now true of them.

Recall Sin and Grace

Putting this together, it seems like we should recall what we were, but that we should also remember what we are. We are sinners, but we are washed and justified. We are loved and forgiven. We were without hope and without God, but now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Over time, we will grow in our understanding of how much we have been forgiven. We will see more of our sin, and we will see our current and former sin in greater, darker depth. This is part of developing and changing as a Christian.

How Much We’ve Been Forgiven

Returning to my question following the story of the Pharisee and the sinful woman, here’s the lesson. If we want to grow in our love for the Lord, we should focus on how much we’ve been forgiven.

This means recalling our sin, but never without also recalling God’s gracious forgiveness of that sin and our permanent standing with him as beloved children.

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Links for the Weekend (2/18/2022)

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

The Paradox of Parenting and How To Trust God More

Many parents struggle with giving up (perceived) control of their children and “releasing” them into the world. Cara Ray wrote about how a scare in her daughter’s life reminder her about depending on God.

Children may try to assert their control, but they are completely dependent on their parents for survival. And that’s how we are to be as God’s children. We may be adults, but spiritually, we have to become like children. Greatness isn’t found in our perceived self-sufficiency but in our utter and complete dependence on the Father. 

Wordle and Our Longing for the Limited

I’m guessing you may have heard of the word game Wordle. It’s a lot of fun! Chris Martin has some thoughts about what the popularity of this game might say about cultural appetites at the moment.

The vast majority of our interaction with the internet is defined by constant, on-demand consumption. We can binge years of television in weeks. We can scroll Facebook or TikTok for hours and never run out of new bits of entertainment. There is no limit to the number of tweets or emails we can send (unfortunately). Limitless consumption has long been the allure of the internet, but when you can gorge yourself on memes and tv shows, it all can start to taste the same.

How Great (Psalm 145)

Here’s a video of a new song by Sovereign Grace Music, a setting of Psalm 145 to music.

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 (2/11/2022)

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

Burial is Hopeful

What does a hope in resurrection look like for our dead bodies? Here’s a very hopeful answer!

When we take a departed friend and carefully prepare their body, we say that this is them, even though they are briefly not inhabiting it. We stand against the lie that our bodies are sacks of meat that we carry around while our minds are what matter—we say that these bodies are us, for all soul and body can be parted for a time.

An Open Letter to a Distressed Sufferer

Here’s a letter from a CCEF counselor to a friend who is in the midst of great suffering. Perhaps you or a friend might also be helped by the way he points to Jesus.

Dear friend, I have no definitive answer for why God has permitted this particular tsunami to flood your life. But while we can’t penetrate the mysteries of suffering, we can be sure of this: our gracious and strong Lifeguard will not let us be swept away. Whether we are flailing about in our panic or nearly comatose with grief, he holds us fast next to his heart and swims with us toward safety. Our suffering as believers is never the end of the story even when it looms large in our eyes—sometimes as large as death itself.

All This Wasted Worry

Glenna Marshall has a great word for you if you tend to stay awake at night worrying.

I went to bed that night with a personal imperative which I now quote to myself nearly every night when I turn out the light: Go to sleep, for God is awake and he loves you very much. Sometimes the things we worry over are real and serious realities. Kids get sick. Friends die. Bodies break. Finances crumble. Careers slip away. Relationships end. Cars crash. Storms rage. We can’t ignore the difficult things that we face in this life, and we don’t have to pretend to be impervious to the hurts and dangers of life on a broken, fallen planet. And yet, we also don’t have to pretend that we’re somehow preventing all the imagined bad things from happening by lying awake hatching together a rescue plan. The Rescuer has already come. We can trust him with today and tonight because he has promised us an eternity of peace. We can trust him with forever.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Winsome Christian. 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. 

The Winsome Christian

The word “winsome” is not in the Bible. Yet it’s worth pondering this old-fashioned concept as it relates to the witness of the modern-day church.

winsome life is attractive and inviting, exactly the sort of life every Christian should aim to lead.

Following the Friend of Sinners

Christians are called to take up their crosses and follow Jesus. So, by definition, a winsome Christian life is far from carefree or easy.

And yet, walking with Jesus should be attractive. If following him by faith is what we were created to do—if it is, in fact, the only way to true happiness—then taking those steps should resonate deep in our soul. And those looking on should sense and long for that same resonance.

Jesus himself was winsome. He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners when religious leaders of the day stood at a distance. Pharisees made their way to him covertly—they did not want to be seen talking to this rabbi, but they knew God was with him (John 3:1–2).

Though modern efforts to make Christianity attractive tend to downplay sin, Jesus’s winsomeness was not permissive in this same way. Jesus was more focused on bringing people into his kingdom than keeping them out. He was (and is) an inviting king.

Our lives will not be winsome in exactly the same way—Jesus pointed people to himself, after all, and we dare not point to ourselves. But as we walk closely with Jesus, our lives will share his inviting fragrance.

Ugly Christians

Sadly, many Christians today are anything but winsome. Instead, they are fearful, angry, and scolding. They delight in division. They have aligned their faith so thoroughly with a political party that they question the salvation of anyone who casts a dissenting vote.

In the minds of some, the appropriate response to a pluralistic culture is to view the church as a castle. Dig the moat, raise the drawbridge, and load the cannons. Every question is an attack, and the arrows are always flying.

It’s hard to imagine this always-suspicious, bared-teeth approach drawing many people to worship the Savior of the world.

Love with Integrity

The way of the world is to attract through power and possessions. A winsome Christian is attractive in an entirely different way.

She is generous and honest, joyful and compassionate. She is quick both to grant and to seek forgiveness. She is humble and hospitable, eager to listen. Her trust in the Lord is the strength of her spine, palpable and sure. Whether the waters of her life are smooth or stormy, she has a sure hope for the future.

She loves God with integrity, talking about him often. Her neighbors—not only the ones who agree with her—know she cares deeply and prays for them.

Winsomeness is Not the Goal

Winsomeness is not a set of activities but a posture. It comes naturally to those who seek Jesus by his Spirit.

If we focus on winsomeness, we will become performers, constantly wondering how we look to others. Diagnostic questions about winsomeness are best asked periodically, looking back over time, perhaps with a friend. A life that is not winsome points to other issues that should be unearthed.

Put differently, winsomeness is not the main goal, and we cannot even make it happen. Rather, winsomeness is the God-given fruit of faithfully seeking the Lord. When the fruit is missing, there is something wrong with the tree.

A Welcoming Heart

A winsome Christian pursues the Lord with thanksgiving, knowing that his welcoming heart will beat through all their interactions.

Now doesn’t that sound attractive?

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Links for the Weekend (2/4/2022)

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

The God Who Has Been My Shepherd All My Life Long

This article is quite short, but I found the reflection here moving. God is our faithful, life-long shepherd.

God, the Shepherd and Guardian of my soul, has been the same for me. Never failing to walk with me—even carry me when broken, beat up, and defeated by my own failures and sins against God or others, or enduring ill treatment from straying sheep or false shepherds. In my times of following and times of straying, He has never failed me.

Bible Study is Hard Work (And That is OK).

Like lots of things that are valuable, studying the Bible is hard work. But that doesn’t mean we should turn away from it!

Studying the Bible is hard work, but lots of things are hard. It is hard to run a marathon or write a book or raise a family or maintain a healthy marriage. Bible study is hard, but it results in a deeper and more rich understanding of who God is, and who we are. The deeper I fall into God’s word, the more aware I become of my own sin and of God’s overwhelming grace to allow me to know him.

10 Passages to Read with Someone Who Is Near Death

For Christians who are close to death, words from the Lord bring special comfort and hope. Here is a list of 10 passages to read with someone near death. Read them yourself now, to be reminded of the truths we rely on, and bookmark it for later use!

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