Links for the Weekend (2023-06-30)

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

How Does the Doctrine of the Bodily Resurrection Shape the Life of the Local Church?

No surprise here: the doctrine of the bodily resurrection is important in many ways for the Christian life!

By teaching the doctrine of the bodily resurrection, local churches will be casting a more accurate vision of future life. Better than going away to heaven is being raised to dwell forever with the Lord in a new creation. The new creation will be material, not just spiritual, so a life of embodied immortality fits with the future consummation.

Hospitality Is About More Than Food

I appreciated this article about hospitality, which addresses who hospitality is for and what it can look like.

We were once alienated from the people of God, strangers from the covenant of promise, and yet God brought us near through the blood of His Son (Eph 2:12-13). As the hymn goes, “Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God. He to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood.” We get a chance to love the stranger as a beautiful gospel picture to the lost world.

God’s Pleasure is Not Reserved for a Particularly Faithful Few

In this article, the author meditates on the commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Who exactly might expect this greeting from the Lord?

But there is sometimes a subtext behind these words. A subtext that makes us wonder whether we will hear such words. Have we been good and faithful servants? Have we done enough to get this commendation from Jesus? The worry for many of us is that we don’t consider ourselves to be as godly as the people to whom we typically apply this. Some of us definitely aren’t considered as godly as them by other onlookers either. Perhaps this commendation isn’t for us? The subtext is that only those who have been good and faithful servants will hear these words.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Connecting Biblical Hope to Promises. 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. 

Connecting Biblical Hope to Promises

It would be hard to deny the importance of hope in the Christian life. Along with faith and love, Paul lists hope as one of three essential virtues (1 Cor 13:13).

Additionally, Paul calls Jesus “our hope” (1 Tim 1:1). Peter gets in on the action, reminding Christians that they have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

So, hope is crucial to followers of Jesus. What, then, is hope?

Basic Ideas About Hope

We use “hope” in conversation with enough frequency that we may not have a solid definition in mind. When we tell a friend that we hope they have a good day or that we hope we can cut the grass before it rains, we’re expressing a strong desire. In this usage, “hope” means something close to “wish.”

But this isn’t how the Biblical authors use the Hebrew and Greek words that come into English as “hope.”

Before we dive too deeply, let’s establish some basic ideas about hope. First, hope is forward-looking. It is about the future, events yet to come. Additionally, in almost every New Testament instance, the use of “hope” is eschatological. That fancy word just means that hope refers to “last things” or “end things.” Here are some examples.

Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” (Acts 23:6)

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:19)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. (Col 1:3–5a)

Word Studies

In some circles, “word studies” are a popular approach to the Bible. Such a method involves a concordance or a digitally searchable form of the Bible, and every occurrence of a word is gathered and analyzed with the goal of finding the one true meaning of a word.

This is a flawed approach to Bible study, as it often considers words out of their literary context. Additionally, it assumes that words are used uniformly by different authors and at different times. This isn’t the way we use English words, and we shouldn’t project that onto the Biblical authors. Analyzing the use of a word in different parts of the Bible can provide us with a range of usage, and clearly a word cannot mean anything we want it to mean. But there is rarely a single narrow meaning of a word.

Hope and Promises

With all this being said, we can draw one conclusion about many uses of the word “hope” in the Bible. Hope depends on what God has promised.

We can see this in several places in the New Testament, notably in Hebrews 6:9–20. The writer calls attention to Abraham as one who obtained the promises of God through waiting (Heb 6:15). Because it is “impossible for God to lie,” we can “hold fast to the hope set before us” (Heb 6:18). Hope is described as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:19). The argument in verses 13–20 is made so that the hearers of this letter might “have the full assurance of hope until the end” and “inherit the promises” (Heb 6:11–12).

We see the connections between hope and God’s promises throughout this passage. We must conclude that the Christian’s hope is built on God’s promises. As one Bible dictionary says, “Hope is the proper response to the promises of God.”

Reading Backwards

If what I have claimed is true—that Christian hope is built on God’s promises—then we can profitably read other references to hope with this in mind.

When Paul refers to the “God of hope” who will make the people “abound in hope” (Rom 15:13), we know that it is because God makes and keeps promises. (The connection is explicit here, as the previous verse quotes a promise given in Isaiah.)

In 2 Corinthians, Paul hopes that the people will be comforted (2 Cor 1:7) and that they will be delivered from present suffering (2 Cor 1:10), because these are promises God has made.

God is a promise-making and promise-keeping God. And so many of his promises are designed to give us strength, encouragement, and clarity to press in and press through the hard things of life. We can abound in hope as we learn, remember, and trust in God’s promises.

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Links for the Weekend (2023-06-23)

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

How I Grew to Love the PCA

The PCA’s blog recently featured an article by Jamye Doerfler, a member at Redemption Hill Church in our presbytery. (Her husband, Peter, is the pastor.) Her article tells the story of growing up outside the PCA and finding her way in.

You may be wondering how a nice Reformed guy could end up with a girl like me in the first place. Peter and I met at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, which was once associated with the PCUSA but now has students of every Christian stripe. When we started dating in senior year, we had no intention of marrying. After all, he wanted to be a pastor, and I wasn’t interested in being a pastor’s wife (but that’s a story for another time). Our doctrinal differences weren’t as important as the fact that we were both committed Christians. We were out of college and living in different states when we decided to marry, so it wasn’t until then that the rubber hit the road.

2 Things the Church Must Do to Help Our Post-Christian Neighbors Trust Jesus

What does it look like to be a good neighbor who desires salvation for those nearby? This article points a good way forward.

This is what it’ll take to help our neighbors trust Jesus for salvation: faithful relational engagement over years. I long for the church in America to resource and equip Christians for that sort of long-haul witness. We need discipleship, spiritual formation, and life-on-life engagement more than we need evangelistic events or outreach meetings and strategies.

The Assignment I Wasn’t Expecting

As a college student, Andrea was ready to go to the farthest corners of the planet for Jesus. She has had to get used to the calling God has given her in her own family.

But somehow I didn’t expect it all to come down to this. With the ministry over and the children gone, to have my existence circled around the care of this man-child, “the least of these”, as Jesus described him. When I said I would go anywhere, I was imagining an exotic faraway land, not a remote town in northern Minnesota. When I said I would do anything, I imagined kingdom impact, not caring for a 30-year-old man who still refuses to change his socks.

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. 

Links for the Weekend (2023-06-16)

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

God Is Eager to Forgive You

Cindy Matson draws some good news for us about forgiveness from Isaiah 30.

It may not be so hard to believe that God will welcome you back with open arms. You’ve likely heard that parable enough times not to be surprised by it any longer. But maybe you find it a little too good to be true that He would actually want to listen to your prayers right away. Perhaps you think that you’ll be put on “prayer probation” during which you shouldn’t really expect God to answer any prayers.

5 Misconceptions about Heaven and Hell (and 5 Truths)

There are a lot of false ideas and bad teaching about the afterlife. This article from Crossway points us back to Biblical truth about heaven and hell.

As always, we want to counter false ideas about these doctrines with the truth of the Bible. The most common misconceptions about heaven and hell have to do with their nature and purpose. There are many false ideas about what they will be like and what will happen there, but the word of God gives us clear pictures in both cases.

What Is Pride?

This article gives a good explanation of pride and why we are called to repent of it.

 When God humbles the proud, it is an act of His grace. In that moment of emptiness, we have an opportunity to repent and yield to the work of the Spirit in our hearts. In doing so, we cast aside our crown, bow before the King, and submit to His lordship.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Zack Wisniewski called Finding Hope in Slow Sanctification. 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. 

Finding Hope in Slow Sanctification

Have you ever felt like sanctification is too slow? I have. This is a common (and healthy) tension. For on the one hand, yes, God hates sin and we are called to live holy lives. On the other hand, no Christians on earth are completely free from the old self.

But there are some pitfalls here—some unhealthy places this tension can take us. Despair, frustration, and giving up are temptations we all feel from time to time. How can we avoid these traps? The best way is to focus on God’s role in sanctification.

The Temptation to Despair

God is not trying to lead us to despair. Sanctification is often a painfully slow process. I have grown impatient as I appear to be “left in my sin” with little to no evidence of growing holiness in my life. “I thought God hated sin,” I might say, “so why doesn’t he get rid of it?” I am aware of my blindness, but I don’t see any evidence of spiritual growth. But I’m superimposing my plan over and against God’s plan, as if to say “it would obviously be better if…” and failing to take the time to be still and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10). 

This despair can undermine our assurance of salvation. “Am I truly saved at all?” My only recourse is to trust, despite not seeing, that Christ is at work (Philippians 1:6) and, for some reason, taking his own sweet time. We were never saved because we were good. Remember, sanctification is founded in Christ and his obedience, not us and our weakness.

The Temptation to Frustration

God’s slowness can also become frustration, which is a pride issue. Often this is less about how slowly God works in us and more about how slowly God seemingly works in others. “Our country is going down the tubes. If only Christians in this country would…[fill in the blank]” or “my church would give more money if they actually believed what they say they believe.” Do other Christians need to work out their salvation? Yes (Philippians 2:12). But we can take it too far and become critical of the work of God himself. Again, this is an overemphasis on humanity’s role in sanctification and implies that people are hindering God. Nope, sorry. Doesn’t work like that. 

We are assured that Christ will bring his work to completion (Philippians 1:6) in his time. Becoming frustrated or angry puts my plans ahead of God’s and is unloving to the church. Everything is on track, and we are to “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15), realizing that he is still building his kingdom (Matthew 16:18)!

The Temptation to Indulgence

Unfortunately, God’s patience can also manifest in ungodly indulgence. This is a particularly dangerous pitfall which twists the patience of our Lord into permission to sin. “Oops, I guess that was just a bit of the old self” or “no one is perfect.” This is obviously wrong when I say it, for it presumes upon the sacrificial work of Christ (Romans 2:4). Nevertheless, it can creep into my life in more subtle ways, such as with a particular sin or for a particular season of life. And it creeps in so easily because it has a grain of truth to it. Yes, we will always struggle with sin on this side of eternity, and yes, in his divine purpose God has allowed sin to persist in believers. 

But, a believing heart will never be comfortable with sin again (Ephesians 4:22–24). The struggle must continue. This is key; a believer may struggle with recurring sin for the rest of their life, and the sin itself may look identical to that of an unbeliever, but the Spirit of God will never abandon the believer to feel at home in sin (John 16:7–11). A believer with a new heart takes after the character of God, and God hates sin (Romans 6:11).

What is Truly Valuable

So when our sanctification seems slow, it may be because we still have a lot to learn about what is valuable to Christ. We can become obsessed with a particular sin while Christ has bigger fish to fry. He may be working in us on a more fundamental level.

And the kingdom of heaven is not about you. It includes you, but it’s not all about you. So cultivate a heart of gratitude that you are included, and the fruit will be selfless love and service to others, without regard to their degree of sanctification.

Finally, know that there is a fire in you. The Spirit is alive and active in tectonic (powerful but often invisible) ways. Consider that the Scriptures make sense to you, you’re convicted of your sin, you are interceded for, works are prepared for you (and you for them), prayer to the Father is open to you in Christ, and a peace which passes understanding is yours.

When we seek to understand what is valuable to the kingdom of heaven, we start to see more and more of the beautiful work of Christ all around us and in us. Soon there is no room for despair because we see the fingerprints of God in our lives. A growing love for God’s people prevents our self-righteous frustration as we celebrate the small victories and realize they’re not that small after all. And we find that the new self takes on new life, caught up and pulled along by the hope and excitement of the gospel, leaving behind the old self where sulking in sin simply makes no sense anymore.

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Links for the Weekend (2023-06-09)

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

Delighting in the Trinity

Michael Reeves is a wonderful writer, specifically about the Trinity. In this article, he describes the love we could expect from a single-person god in contrast to the Trinity.

Just imagine for a moment a single-person god. Having been alone for eternity, would it want fellowship with us? It seems most unlikely. Would it even know what fellowship was? Almost certainly not. Such a god might allow us to live under its rule and protection, but little more. Think of the uncertain hope of the Muslim or the Jehovah’s Witness: they may finally attain paradise, but even there they will have no real fellowship with their god. Their god would not want it.

3 Ways Our Relationship With Social Media Warps Friendship

I appreciate the way this article explains how social media connections can taint our thinking and beliefs about in-person friendship.

Shallow, transient friendships (or “acquaintances”) aren’t all bad—not every “friend” can be a best friend, of course—but those kinds of relationships aren’t built to bear the weight that comes with walking side by side on the road of faith. Unfortunately, the social internet specializes in the generation and maintenance of shallow, transient friendships that masquerade as deep ones. And because we spend more time scrolling our feeds than we do looking at faces, we’ve become far too comfortable with the shallow, transient relationships that social platforms provide.

The kingdom of heaven is like

Here’s a brief, vivid poem about the kingdom of heaven. I especially like the last stanza!

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 (2023-06-02)

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

You Cannot Out-Sin the Cross

Here is a short, simple meditation on a portion of the apostle Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. It’s a great reminder that God’s forgiveness is available to everyone.

Now, linger over what Peter does say. Instead of condemnation, he offers grace. Instead of a hopeless word, he holds out the offer of forgiveness. He looks at those who murdered Jesus and tells them they can be saved. The depth of the gospel is deeper than the sin of murdering the Son of God. Is that not stunning?

To Those Who Fear They Aren’t Radical Enough

Lara d’Entremont has written about living an ordinary life to God’s glory. She has zoomed in on how God calls many to “ordinary” jobs to glorify him.

You are called by God to live a quiet life. You don’t have to be leading social justice groups or speaking from podiums to the masses to glorify God. You don’t have to be taking crazy risks for God. He calls you to live quietly, steward the things he’s put in front of you, and work with your hands to provide for yourself and your family. This glorifies God and puts us in good standing before the world so we can better minister to them. This is the beautiful calling God has for your life, and when you neglect it for any other work, that’s when you stop glorifying God.

How to Read the Prophets

The prophetic books can be difficult to understand. Here’s an article from Ligonier with some tips on reading and understanding the Prophets.

 Although the prophets do not speak with omniscience with regard to the future, they do often speak of the certainty of God’s coming in Jesus Christ, the new covenant, and even to the second advent of our Lord, without distinguishing all the parts from one another. Nevertheless, there is still an integral unity to the various stages about which they speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Giving Thanks is Serious Business. 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.