Links for the Weekend (2022-09-30)

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

Why Do Christians Make Such a Big Deal about Sex?

This article is a good primer on what the Bible has to say about sex and marriage.

Whenever people ask me why Christians are so weird about sex, I first point out that we’re weirder than they think. The fundamental reason why Christians believe that sex belongs only in the permanent bond of male-female marriage is because of the metaphor of Jesus’s love for his church. It’s a love in which two become one flesh. It is a love that connects across sameness and radical difference: the sameness of our shared humanity and the radical difference of Jesus from us. It’s a love in which husbands are called not to exploit, abuse, or abandon their wives, but to love and sacrifice for them, as Jesus did for us.

Remembering Rich Mullins

The 25th anniversary of the death of Christian singer/songwriter Rich Mullins happened recently, and Lisa LaGeorge reflected on why his music means so much to her.

Rich was a friend, or at least, his music was. Ministry in Alaska was lonely at times, cold and dark. Rich was a click away on the Discman, making observations, asking questions, confessing, and declaring the love of the Savior of a ragamuffin people. I needed the reminders–often. I still do. 

Introducing Ligonier Guides: Accessible Theology for Everyday Life

Ligonier Ministries has developed a new resource called Ligonier Guides. These look like helpful essays on a variety of theological (and other) topics.

For those looking for clear and succinct biblical and theological teaching, Ligonier Ministries has developed a new resource: Ligonier guides. These guides, covering topics such as theology, worldview and culture, biblical studies, Christian living, and church history, provide overviews and explanations from Ligonier’s topic index, along with quotes and links to additional topics and resources.

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 (2022-09-23)

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

A New Song: In the Valley (Bless the Lord)

Tim Challies recently released a book on sorrow, and the group CityAlight wrote a song inspired by the book. The words are simple but powerful. Here’s the second verse.

When the road that I tread

Fills my heart with despair

And it seems like my grief has no end

Still to Jesus I hold

Who will walk with me there

And the Lord he will give me His strength

Age with Joy

I enjoyed this meditation on aging. Our approach to aging can distinguish Christians from the world!

Just as Death has lost its sting, so aging has lost its ability to cheat us. We may momentarily lose loved ones or abilities, our outward self will waste away; but it is only a momentary loss, and as the Holy Spirit renews us day by day, our inward lives are strengthened, more robust and alive. Even as our flesh decays and we are nothing but bones in the ground, this is but a temporary reality. Because the grave is indeed swallowed up in Christ’s victory. We are laid to rest, yet we will rise again with bodies imperishable.

Can you summarize the doctrine of the believer’s union with Christ?

In a video from Ligonier Ministries, Sinclair Ferguson gives a 2-minute answer to this question about union with Christ.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Let the Guilty Lament. 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. 

Let the Guilty Lament

God has been teaching me much in my study of Lamentations over the past nine months. I’ll share a short one today: one does not need to be innocent to lament.

I’ve never heard anyone claim that innocence is required for lament, but this sort of statement can be absorbed over years of selective Bible reading. Lamentations smashes that statement to bits.

In my mind, there are two obvious examples in the Bible of crying out for deliverance. The first one is King David.

David wrote a good portion of the Psalms, many while on the run from Saul or other enemies. When he asks God for deliverance, he frequently appeals to his own righteousness. Here’s an example.

The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me. (Psalm 7:8)

David is asking for deliverance in this prayer (see Psalm 7:1), and he cites his integrity as the basis on which God should act.

The difference between righteousness and innocence is an important one; perhaps at another time and/or place. For our purposes it’s enough to note that, in this situation, David’s sin is not what got him into trouble.

The other example of crying out to God that sticks in my head is the Israelites in Egypt. God’s people pleaded with him for deliverance from slavery, and God heard them (Exodus 2:23–25). The Israelites were not a perfect people, but they were being oppressed—this is what prompted their cry.

Lamentations is different. This book of prayers arises from rebellious people who have received just judgment from God for their sin. And yet, this cry of lament is included in Scripture! Blamelessness, righteousness, status as an innocent victim—none of these are requirements to come before God in lament.

The author of Lamentations confesses that the people are guilty and have deserved God’s wrath. (See Lam 1:5, 8, 18, 22. Examples abound in chapters 2–5 of the book as well.) And yet, they still come to God. They still describe what they are experiencing and the accompanying pain and sorrow. They know they are to blame for their situation, and they still ask God to see them. They want to be remembered in their suffering, even when the blame for their suffering falls on their own shoulders.

The requests in Lamentations are sparse. In this way, these prayers are much different than psalms. We might expect multiple cries for mercy, for deliverance, for some way out of the present suffering. But there is really only one request like this, at the very end of the book: “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old” (Lamentations 5:21). Even this request acknowledges the guilt of the people.

God wants the guilty to come to him. To keep praying. Even when they suffer as a result of sin. I find this to be incredibly good news! Not because our sorrow or pain is easily traced back to sinful actions or desires (though occasionally that is the case), but because God is so open to our lament that we can come in any condition. Even those who are dripping with guilt, standing in the smoky ruins of a conquered Jerusalem—these believers can lament before the Lord.

This opens the gate for everyone, every last person who looks to the Lord. God will see. I am guilty; I can lament before the Lord.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus underline this truth. Jesus was the friend of sinners, welcoming the guilty even as he hung on the cross.

Because Jesus brings us to God (1 Pet 3:18), we can go to him, taking our praise, confession, sorrow, thanks, and lament, trusting that he hears.

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Links for the Weekend (2022-09-16)

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

Lord, Help Me See the Ways to Die Today

Trevin Wax writes about how the opportunities for self-denial often show up in small ways throughout each day.

A few months ago, I began asking the Lord every morning to give me chances that day to die to myself, and for the Spirit to help me recognize those opportunities. He has never failed to answer this prayer. Not once. Every time I’ve asked him to show me opportunities to die to myself, he’s come through. Annoyingly so. On occasion, I’ve thought it might be best to stop praying this prayer, as I grew tired of the spiritual discomfort.

Why It Matters That Jesus Was and Still Is Human

Here is a moving reflection on the humanity of Jesus which focuses on his great compassion.

One implication of this truth of Christ’s permanent humanity is that when we see the feeling and passions and affections of the incarnate Christ toward sinners and sufferers as given to us in the four Gospels, we are seeing who Jesus is for us today. The Son has not retreated back into the disembodied divine state in which he existed before he took on flesh. 

You’ve Never Heard This (Spiritually) Before

Many times the first time a person hears the gospel is not actually the first time that person hears the gospel.

So what’s the point? Why sow seed that just seems to get eaten by the birds, rich truths that seem to immediately get suppressed and later forgotten? Simply because this is the only way that spiritual understanding comes about – through the unrelenting sowing of God’s word. The Spirit only comes upon those who have heard the words of truth. He does not work without it or around it. He works through his word, period. And from our perspective we cannot see what is going on behind the scenes, which seed is the one that will take root and burst through the concrete. He sovereignly chooses to strike with life sooner, later, or not at all.

Did Jesus take on our sin nature?

Here’s a short video answer to this question, courtesy of Ligonier Ministries and Michael Reeves.

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 (2022-09-09)

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

Money’s Not the Problem

Paul Tripp reflects on problems that we have with money, and what those problems can tell us about deeper matters.

Your financial life is always determined more by the desires of your heart than by the size of your income. To the degree that you ask money to provide for you what it was never meant to provide, to that degree you will find it very hard to be careful and disciplined in your use of money. Money can’t buy you a satisfied heart, money can’t buy you peace and happiness, and money can’t buy you a reason to get up in the morning. Money isn’t meant to be your source of comfort when you are hurting or of hope when you are feeling discouraged. Money can’t and was never intended to give you life. To ask money to do any of those things will always lead to money troubles.

The Messy Home of Blessing

Raising children can be really hard. This article reminds us why that hard work is worthwhile, despite what others might say.

Whenever God gives a child, he’s entrusting us with a precious and eternal heritage — a new life that will never end, and that, Lord willing, will grow to change and shape the world in all kinds of ways (maybe even having children of their own). Their impact on eternity will easily outweigh whatever work the world holds up as more meaningful and consequential.

Jesus Wants You to Know You Are Weak

Even Christians need to be reminded that there is no such thing as self-reliant Christianity.

Why highlight this point if we are already gospel people? Because we need constant reminders. Jesus reminded His disciples that they were already clean because of the word he had spoken to them (John 15:3). This motley crew of ragamuffins didn’t have it all together and neither do we. We are so forgetful. We often do our devotions and move into the workday as though the weight is completely on our shoulders. We treat our vocations, our hobbies, our parenting, and sometimes even our ministries as though we don’t really need much help. We’re like the adopted child who keeps trying to prove to his parents that he is part of the family.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Caroline Higginbottom called Toward Mending a Divided World. 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. 

Toward Mending a Divided World

Everywhere I look, I see divisions. There are lines drawn between people, pitting us against each other because of skin color, finances, gender, political party. Even in the church, we put up boundaries to keep from mixing with people who are different. I lament the way we are separated. I’m tired of it.

So, when I found Jesus Outside the Lines, I began reading it immediately, finished it in a day, and immediately wanted to hand a copy to everyone I know.

This fantastic book, written by Pastor Scott Sauls, gently leads us away from an us-against-them mindset and toward loving our neighbors despite our differences. He begins with an introduction that reminds us of Jesus’s call to love all people, even those who do not love us. He shows how kindness to people who do not agree with us flows naturally from God’s mercy and compassion to us.

Sauls addresses two different ways in which we must love across divisions, and these are the book’s two parts: within the body of Christ and outside of it. In each section are several chapters addressing particular issues that are difficult for Christians.

The first section covers loving our siblings in Christ across internal borders. It includes chapters addressing political and economic differences, among others, and how we must love people who voted for the other candidate or who earn more or less than ourselves. It is equal parts exhortation and encouragement. It is easy to say we must love our family; actually doing it can be difficult!

The path is harder still in the second section, because we are also meant to love those who do not believe as we do. This part addresses far more subjects, because there is so much to keep in mind when we talk to non-Christians. Should we affirm or critique? Should we be hopeful or realistic? What do we say when we are called hypocrites? How do we talk to those outside the faith about chastity?

Sauls doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but rather helps the reader think through this important question: How do we love our neighbors, especially when we do not agree with them? The question is crucial since we will disagree with nearly everyone on one point or another. As people of God, we must treat each person with loving kindness, regardless of their beliefs.

The majority of people I interact with during the week are not Christians. It can be challenging to relate to classmates who center their lives around something that is not God, and sometimes this fundamental difference threatens to divide us. But I don’t want this to happen; I care about many of them, and I want to be someone people can count on to listen when they need to talk, to be kind when they are hurting. I want God’s light to reach them. This book provided guidance about the confusing mess of human relationships in light of God’s word and his love for us. It gave me permission to affirm and encourage non-Christians around me and to be friends with them. It also reminded me that critique, not criticism, is sometimes the most loving thing to do, and I ought to do so with an attitude of gentleness, not judgement. 

If you want to learn how to talk to people who aren’t (yet) believers or how to handle politics with other Christians, Jesus Outside the Lines is a great resource. It would be valuable for anyone who wants to build friendships with people who don’t agree on every issue, whether inside or outside the church.

Links for the Weekend (2022-09-02)

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

Sometimes I Struggle With the Bible

As Christians we know that we should read the Bible, but sometimes that feels like a tall task. Scott Sauls confesses the difficulty he has reading the Bible at times, but explains why he keeps at it.

Indeed, honest Bible readers—even skilled teachers of the Bible like C.S. Lewis—have found parts of it difficult, puzzling, mystifying, and even offensive. As much as we can rejoice in, get inspired by, and find comfort in certain parts of the Bible, other parts will disturb us—namely, the parts that contradict our feelings, instincts, hopes, dreams, traditions, and cultural values. I recently saw a quote that said, “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself. They reject it because it contradicts them.”

Why Does Justice Matter?

We may mean different things when we refer to “justice,” but that doesn’t mean we can ignore it. Jonathan Noyes tells us why justice should matter to Christians.

Justice is a universal moral principle, and it’s an objective moral good. It’s the single best word to capture God’s purpose for human conduct, individually and corporately (i.e. governments). The standard of what’s just and unjust is not a matter of personal opinion or preference. In this way, justice is a category of truth, with an important difference. Standard truth claims correspond to what is. Justice corresponds to what ought to be. Justice tells us what should be. 

The Problem with the Self-Help Movement

What’s the difference between self-help and sanctification? Jen Wilkin has a good, short video explanation.

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