Links for the Weekend (2022-04-29)

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

Friendship and Belonging in Middle Age

Here’s an article by Alan Noble on some of the reasons it’s hard for people in middle age to make and sustain friendships. And yet, we need friends!

The way our lives are set up is broken. The structures, habits, practices, and values. Our city planning, markets, careers, laws, and entertainment—all have been designed with a false idea of what a human being is. Collectively we assume that to be a human is to belong only and ever to yourself. Thus, friendships can be a nice perk of a successful life, but friends can’t demand anything of you that you don’t choose to give. At any point, if a friendship is holding you back or bringing you down, you can bail. Because the only person you owe happiness to is yourself.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

One of the main accusations that Jesus faced was that he hung out with sinners too much. What are the implications of this for our churches today?

Some Christian circles assume that if a pastor or church is drawing in sinners, they must be compromising the message of the Bible. Maybe they’re seeker-sensitive, watering down the more offensive doctrines of Christianity. On the flip side, pastors who have a reputation for castigating sinners, faithfully exposing the sins of society, must be doing something right. But the truth is, neither approach captures the complexity of Christ’s gospel ministry. Jesus had the ability to attract notorious sinners with the offer of grace without ever compromising truth. It wasn’t the outwardly sinful who were typically put off by Jesus, but the sanctimonious! Ministries that repel sinners through so-called boldness can be just as unfaithful as those that attract them through compromise. 

Go to Funerals

I love the way this article talks about a church body attending funerals. The author encourages everyone who is able to go—especially children—because a church is a family.

The Christian community can be distinct by going to funerals of everyone in your church. At funerals, we display to the world what the body of Christ is like. At funerals, we display what commitment looks like in a covenant body. When we take our membership vows, we are not joining a hobby or a club. We join a body. A body needs all its members—especially at a funeral.

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 (2022-04-22)

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

The Bible’s Not an Instruction Manual

The Bible’s main message is not about what we should do; it’s about what has already been done. That’s a crucial difference!

The Bible is incredibly practical. We don’t have to make it that way. It’s already that way. There are lots of practical things in it, and we do need to teach them. But we must never teach the practical points as the main points. The practical stuff is always connected to the proclamational stuff. The “dos” can never be detached from the “done” of the finished work of Christ in the gospel, or else we run the risk of preaching the law.

Are You Discouraged? Run to the Word of Christ.

It’s marvelous that we have the Word of God to read. Kristen Wetherell reminds of us three things the Word does for us.

Jesus gives you his Word to strengthen your faith in Him. In your doubts, do you need to remember who God is today? In your discouragements—in all the trials that make life hard, that make you forget how loved you are, that bring you to suspect God of holding out on you—do you need to remember all the ways Jesus has served you?

I Am Proud Of You

All of us need encouragement, and our youth are no different. Craig Thompson writes about the difference it makes to tell young people he is proud of them.

To be honest, it shouldn’t be this easy to make kids cry. They should be built up and encouraged so regularly that a kind word doesn’t reduce them to tears. But, we apparently live in a world where many kids need are not being built up. We desperately need moms and especially dads to step up and step in. Kids need to know that they are precious and important.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Learning to Embrace Tension. 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. 

Learning to Embrace Tension

Not every story has a satisfying ending. Some clouds lack a silver lining.

Humans have a strong desire for resolution, not just in our own lives, but also for our friends and neighbors. We’re uncomfortable with the in-between, with sadness, with suffering.

Here is one more lesson that lament can offer. Lament teaches us to live with the tensions of life in a fallen world.

Lamentations 5

The end of the last chapter of Lamentations is a snapshot of the entire book.

But you, O Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
Why do you forget us forever,
why do you forsake us for so many days?
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
and you remain exceedingly angry with us. (Lamentations 5:19–22)

I learned recently that, when copying this text, several Hebrew scribes repeated verse 21 after verse 22, presumably because they thought the book should not end on such a down note. I understand that impulse.

But I’ve grown to see that the end of Lamentations is just about the perfect ending for this book. Like lament itself, there is no resolution. There is a question—a gut-wrenching, foreboding question—hanging in the air over that last verse. Yet this very tension keeps us seeking the Lord.

Trusting, trusting

While we know how our ultimate story ends, we don’t know all the details along the way. Not every episode or chapter will be joyous or fulfilling.

Learning to live with the tension of suffering, stubborn sin, difficult relationships, and tragedies helps us to continue trusting the Lord. We need him, we cry out to him, we mourn in his presence when we feel nothing more than a puddle of pain and confusion.

If life was smooth and predictable, it would be much easier to trust in peace, stability, or even the momentum of a string of good days. It would be harder to see our need to trust the Lord.

Similarly, our prayers do not need to be wrapped up with a shiny bow. We don’t need to come to the Lord with a lesson learned or with carefully-chosen, sanctified words. It’s okay to tell God your troubles, to sit with him and ask him why (see Lam 5:20).

Back to God

Tension in our lives and in our prayers is a generous gift of God. Like the end of Lamentations, it keeps us turning back to him, relying on him. Where else could we possibly go?

A tidy plot might be the script we’d write for ourselves, but the tension God gives is closer to what we need.

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Links for the Weekend (2022-04-15)

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

Only One Empty Tomb

Clarissa Moll wrote a powerful article about celebrating Easter in the light of her husband’s death. How do we celebrate Jesus’s empty tomb while we grieve all those tombs that are still full?

I confess I am impatient. I don’t want just an empty tomb 2,000 years ago. I want resurrection and a fully realized new creation now. Jesus’s victory over sin, death, and the Devil has brought me new life; but I want the hands on God’s clock to spring ahead. The empty tomb has whet my appetite. That’s what firstfruits do. Every day since my husband died, I have prayed, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” But, so far, the answer is a dramatic “not yet.” So far, only one tomb is empty.

The Risen Christ Knows Us By Name

Here’s a short meditation on Jesus’s words to Mary after his resurrection.

It’s very important for us to realize that Jesus’s first words out of the tomb aren’t a speech or public discourse in front of the masses. Instead, his first words are a personal conversation with a friend. That’s because he’s a personal Savior and that doesn’t change after the resurrection. Even now as the crowned King—who conquered death itself and thus rules over all the living—he’s still intimately interested in you and me.

You Don’t Have to Suffer Alone

Vaneetha Risner wrote about the way her church stood by her when her husband left.

In those long, hard days, I also heard truth from friends and people in my small group who individually encouraged me, prayed with me, and wept with me as they pointed me to Jesus. It was through their faithfulness that I experienced firsthand the church as the body of Christ, redeemed people who love, serve, and sacrifice for each other. Their love came in many forms — providing for our practical needs, sharing testimonies of how God had met them in their own grief, and reminding me of truth when I was tempted to doubt.

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 (2022-04-08)

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

When Debating Biblical Inspiration, Let God Do the Heavy Lifting

In this article, Greg Koukl puts his finger on something important. Listening to someone explain why the Bible is trustworthy is not the same as listening to the Bible. In helping people learn to trust the Bible, we should often begin by asking them to listen to the Bible itself first.

The objective reasons are important to show that our subjective confidence has not been misplaced, that what we’ve believed with our hearts can be confirmed with our minds. The ancients called this “faith seeking understanding.”

As Long as It’s Healthy

This is a thoughtful article by Andrea Sanborn about our tendency to live fearful, shallow lives in an effort to protect ourselves from sadness or suffering. She writes that we miss out on a lot of joy when we try desperately to avoid grief.

Some of us draw boundary lines between our hearts and God’s. We are aware that life brings not just great joys, but also great pain. So we attempt to protect ourselves against what he may ask of us. We wall off areas of our lives and post a guard at our hearts, hoping to make it through to the end unscathed. Like children in a classroom afraid to catch the teacher’s eye, we desperately hope that we won’t be called upon to demonstrate the faith that we claim to live by.

What Is Transgenderism?

Rosaria Butterfield wrote an article at Ligonier about the historical and theological background of transgenderism. This is one to read slowly.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Justice and Injustice at the Cross. 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. 

Justice and Injustice at the Cross

The crucifixion of Jesus raises a multitude of questions, even for those who have been following the Savior for years. Why did Jesus die? What did he do to deserve death? How could God the Father allow his Son to be treated so terribly?

There was a lot happening on both the earthly and cosmic planes outside of Jerusalem centuries ago. But, as the Christian faith is a historic faith, it’s good for us to grapple with these historic events.

In this article we’ll consider one facet of the crucifixion that is profound and fundamental to our faith. The crucifixion of Jesus was one of the greatest simultaneous displays of justice and injustice in history.

Injustice at the Cross

To limit the length of this article, we’ll confine our observations to the Gospel of Luke. This one book provides plenty of evidence that Jesus’s crucifixion was a terrible injustice.

The plot to arrest Jesus was Satanic in its origins and depended on conspiracy and betrayal (Luke 22:3–6). Once Jesus was arrested, he was mocked and beaten (Luke 22:63).

When the council of elders met, they produced no credible evidence to convict Jesus (Luke 22:66–70). In his subsequent trials, it was more of the same—Pilate said, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4). When Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, again there was no guilt to be seen (Luke 23:15). Pilate declared Jesus’s innocence three times (Luke 23:4, 14, 22) and summed up his findings this way: “Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him” (Luke 23:15).

Jesus’s innocence was obvious to many involved in the crucifixion, even to those with no prior allegiance to him. One of the thieves who was crucified with him knew Jesus had “done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). And after Jesus died, the centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47) The brutal, public execution of an obviously innocent man is a grave injustice.

The corruption went still deeper. Since Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, he planned to release him (Luke 23:16). But the crowd’s cries for Pilate to release a criminal named Barabbas grew so insistent that Pilate relented (Luke 23:23). The result? Pilate abandoned his responsibility to a mob and released a murderer and insurrectionist instead of the innocent man Jesus.

We read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s execution with anger and tears. He was treated so unfairly and with such cruelty.

But there was much more happening at the cross.

Justice at the Cross

If the cross was the site of such gross injustice, why are Christians so focused on it? Why do so many wear the symbol as jewelry?

While the human actors in the crucifixion drama were guilty of injustice, God the Father was also at work. He was accomplishing a great work of pardon and forgiveness.

Because God is perfectly righteous and just, he must do what is good and just and right at all times. Obedience must be blessed and disobedience must be cursed. All debts must be paid. To use the legal metaphor, every transgression results in an enormous fine, and we all have empty bank accounts.

How will God curse our disobedience and still bring us to himself? God accomplished this through the work of Jesus as our substitute. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The sins of God’s people were put on Jesus at the cross, and, in the pattern of so many Old Testament sacrifices, Jesus offered himself. “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

This exchange—this transfer of our sin to Jesus—is perhaps seen most clearly in the prophecy of Isaiah.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4–6)

While the cross was a horrific example of human injustice, it was also a necessary work of God’s justice. He must not ignore sin, and he dealt with the sins of his people on the cross in his son. In this way, God was reconciling us to himself through Jesus Christ.

Even Better

We do not have time to fully explore the glory of the cross in this short article. We have touched on the deep mystery of how the crucifixion satisfied God’s justice and accomplished our forgiveness. The wonder of the gospel is that there’s even more!

When God credited our sin to Jesus, he also credited Jesus’s righteousness to us. Not only are our debts forgiven, but our bank accounts are overflowing. This topic is worthy of deep, sustained meditation (and certainly more explanation).

As a fitting way to close, let’s consider this beautiful summary from the Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 56).

Q: What do you believe concerning the forgiveness of sins?
A: I believe that God,
because of Christ’s satisfaction,
will no more remember my sins,
nor my sinful nature,
against which I have to struggle all my life,
but will graciously grant me
the righteousness of Christ,
that I may never come into condemnation.

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Links for the Weekend (2022-04-01)

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

Prayer Requests for a Critical Heart

Gulp. This one strikes a little too close for my liking! As someone who is often critical in spirit, I appreciated these suggestions of ways to pray for those who need to fight this temptation.

A heart that rejoices in finding fault in others may align with contemporary culture’s values, but it falls short of the character of Christ. As followers of Jesus, we must fight our sinful critical flesh and renew our minds to be transformed into the image of our Savior. This change can happen because we are already new creatures in Him; the old has gone, and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). Not only that, but we’ve been indwelt with the Holy Spirit, so we do not fight alone. But fight we must.

FAQ: Does Predestination Mean God Is the Author of Sin?

If you haven’t wrestled with this question yet, you probably will! Does predestination mean God is the author of sin?

God is never the author of sin. God is the author of weaving even our sin into a tapestry that displays his glory and mercy. The Bible doesn’t say that all things are good because God predestines them. It says that God works all things together for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Spiritual Lessons from My Dumb Phone

Dru Johnson bought himself a “dumb phone,” in part because he didn’t like what his smart phone was doing to him. In this article he describes some of his experience and what he learned.

Making myself still, mentally or physically, has always been hard for me. I often have many irons in the fire. But maintaining the discipline of stillness requires a certain level of security with oneself and with God. My smartphone, on the other hand, offered an all-too-easy way to focus my constant motion, without truly slowing me down.

“I, Myself, Will Go Down With You.”

This article is a meditation on God’s promise to be with Jacob. I love thinking about God’s presence, and I’m grateful to have come across this helpful example.

The primary promise that Jacob receives is the promise of presence. I myself will go down with you. Jacob gets a guarantee that the God of his father will be with him. He also receives a secondary promise of presence: the guarantee that his long-lost son will be with him at the time of his death. Joseph’s hands will lower Jacob’s eyelids over his vacant gaze.

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