Links for the Weekend (2023-07-28)

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

The Goal of Scripture Memorization is Not Recitation

I appreciated Glenna Marshall’s article about the purpose of Scripture memorization.

As I’ve grown up in the faith and studied God’s Word, though, I’ve realized that the goal of Scripture memorization is never to recite it for the applause of men or to win a competition. Though the programs of my childhood smartly utilized games and competitions to encourage us to memorize, the goal was to store up God’s Word like a treasure so that when we needed to remember the gospel or God’s character or how to live as His people, the words of the Bible would already be buried deep within us. The point of Scripture memorization, I realized, was to remember.

How Were the Books of the Bible “Chosen”?

This article makes an important distinction about how books came to be included in the Bible.

The problem, however, is that the wording of the question already presumes the answer (or at least part of it).  Most people don’t realize this, of course. They are just honestly asking a question, probably using words that come most natural to them (or that they’ve heard others use). But, this particular framing of the question has a number of built-in assumptions that need to be recognized.

Ten Reasons the Old Testament Matters for Christians

It might be tempting to focus only on the New Testament, but this article gives ten reasons why the Old Testament matters.

To understand the Old Testament fully, we must read it as believers in Jesus, with God having awakened our spiritual senses to see and hear rightly. That is, we read through Christ. Then, as Christians, biblical interpretation reaches its end only after we have found Jesus and experienced him transforming us into his image. We, thus, read for Christ.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called How to Make Sense of the Bible. 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. 

How to Make Sense of the Bible

As Christians, we know that we’re supposed to focus on the Bible. Most of us are okay with reading the Bible, and sometimes we even work on Scripture memorization.

But the thought of studying the Bible can be daunting. We might wonder why we need to do such a hard thing when we have both paid professionals (pastors) to do this for us and an abundance of explanations of the Scriptures (study Bibles, commentaries, etc.).

Christians should study the Bible in order to know and love God more. The Bible is primarily about God and how we’re to relate to him—this is the most important topic in the universe! So, the better we understand and know him, the more we will be who he created us to be. (And, as it turns out, the more joyful we will be as well!)

The Bible is not Written in Code

At times in history, including these current times, some people talk about the Bible as though it were written in code. They imply that we have this communication from God available to us, only the very smartest and most clever people can decipher its meaning.

If we follow this logic, we must conclude that God is hiding who he is from us—that he does not want to be known or loved.

But this is NOT what God is like!

In addition to creation itself declaring the glory of God (see Psalm 19:1–6), we know that God wants to be known because of the incarnation of Jesus. God sent his son to make him known!

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14–18)

Now, just because the Bible is not written in code doesn’t make the whole thing obvious or easy to understand. But it does mean that the Bible is knowable. And, as veteran Bible-readers can attest, the Bible rewards repeated reading and repeated study. There is spiritual nourishment available whether you are reading the Bible for the first or the ten-thousandth time.

Resources for Learning to Study the Bible

No matter how many times you have previously studied the Bible, it can be helpful to have some guidance and resources in your toolbox. I have one book and one website to recommend in this regard.

The book is Knowable Word, by Peter Krol. It introduces the OIA (observe-interpret-apply) method of Bible study in a clear, short, easy-to-understand way.

The website is associated with the book: Knowable Word. Much of the content of the book can be found on the website, though the book is certainly a tidier, neater package. To begin, I’d recommend this brief introduction to OIA and then this more detailed description. You may also find this page of resources helpful as you study the Bible. (I like to print out some of the OIA worksheets to aid my study.) I’ve also produced a one-page summary of the OIA method which could be used as a reference sheet.

(I need a whole pile of disclaimers here, because Peter is a good friend of mine and I contribute articles to this website myself. These aren’t the only resources around to help you study the Scriptures, but they are aimed at ordinary people and many have found them helpful.)

Studying the Bible in Community

As with much of the Christian life, God didn’t intend for us to learn about the Bible in isolation. Bible study for personal devotional time is good, but you’ll likely learn and grow even more when you also gather with a small group of friends to dig in to the Scriptures. (If you’d like to know how to connect to such a group at our church, feel free to ask any member or regular attender on a Sunday morning!)

Studying the Bible may feel like an uphill climb, but it is a worthy hike! In this lifelong work of walking with and loving God, he has given us the Scriptures for our comfort and instruction. Let’s do our best to learn faithfully from him.

Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (2023-07-21)

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

Hospitality is an Everyday Endeavor

I appreciate the way this article points out unexpected areas where we can show hospitality. (And hospitality is not limited to opening your home for a meal!)

It’s such a common thing for biblical concepts like hospitality to be skewed by the lesser things that we tend to default to: pretty houses, pretty tables, fancy food, and pride. It can be easy to start believing that hospitality is only possible if we can cook or if we have children who don’t make messes or if we have “entertaining space.” HGTV doesn’t define what God calls us to. We could easily host a beautiful meal for strangers and friends and then spend the next day ignoring text messages and making receptionists at the dentist’s office miserable. If hospitality isn’t an everyday, all day endeavor, then we’re confused as to what we’re meant to be as representatives of Christ. Once we move hospitality out of the kitchen and into the overall attitude of our hearts, then we may be amazed at what God can do in that fast food joint or doctor’s office or texted conversation.

He Gives To His Beloved Sleep

When your three-week-old is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance because he has stopped breathing, you might think about sleep a bit differently. I enjoyed this meditation on Psalm 127 and its lessons about sleep for the children of God.

So as I looked at my sweet baby and wondered about his health, obsessively Googling his breathing patterns, and working myself into an all out panic, I was reminded of Psalm 127, he gives to his beloved sleep. Rest is contingent upon trust in the Lord. I am that beloved, I am the one who eats the bread of anxious toil. But I don’t have to. We have been given the precious gift of rest as we trust in an abundantly worthy God.

How Can I Encourage Without Flattering?

The difference between encouragement and flattery is an important one for Christians to understand. John Piper does a good job with the explanation, highlighting the motivations behind each. (This is an episode of a podcast for which a transcript is available, so whether you prefer to read or listen, you are all set!)

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 (2023-07-14)

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

4 Questions to Answer Before Giving Your Child a Phone

The time will soon come for all parents when they need to face the prospect of giving their child a cell phone. This article offers some questions to consider before making that decision.

Most parents affirm that kids should be spending more time outside playing, enjoying nature, and hanging out with friends instead of being occupied by screens. But even the practice of meeting up with friends is arranged through text—such is life in the 21st century. So asking the related question—“Are there creative solutions to situations where we think he needs a phone?”—can also prove helpful.

How do you disagree like a Christian?

Why are Christians so bad at constructive disagreement with each other? How can we improve? This article helps to point the way.

The secret to disagreeing like a Christian is best described as convictional kindness. Convictional kindness means having a firm belief or opinion while also being willing to genuinely listen to the views and perspectives of others. It is the natural outworking of both humility and tolerance, and in another time this would have been called by another name: charity. Charity is a lost virtue of our culture, one that disappeared as rapidly as our love of hot takes appeared, but has long been valued, especially by Christians.

In Your Race of Faith, Run Together

In this article, Lindsey Carlson reminds us of our identity as a body of Christ and shows us what “running the race of faith” together might look like.

As a runner in the race of faith, what is the goal of your race? Do you desire encouragement in order to get ahead? Or do you desire encouragement in order to work together with your fellow runners? As a follower of Jesus, you are a member of the body of Christ; every other Christian in the body is a fellow team member whose name is recorded on the roster and who runs alongside you in the same race of faith. You have pledged to run together with the people of God under the headship of Christ.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Sarah Wisniewski called The House No One Could Love. 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 House No One Could Love

Photo of old farm house

It’s a beautiful house—good bones, as they say. I mean the roof has gone bad, and the walls are bad, and some of the floors are bad, and the foundation is bad. But other than that, it’s a dream! 

The first time we walked through the house, I could practically see our realtor shudder. It was uninhabitable. No bank would touch it with a mortgage—what an awful investment! It looks like it might fall over at any moment! It’s not worth saving. The merciful thing to do would be to bulldoze it and put it out of the neighborhood’s misery. 

Why did we buy a crumbling house that any reasonable person would turn up their nose at? I could cite the history of the house, the size of the rooms, the acreage. At the heart though, we bought it because we want to save it, and we want to save it because we love it. 

Loved “As Is”

There’s something redemptive in saving this old, decrepit house. It was made to be beautiful, and we want to make it beautiful again. In that way, this project reflects the heart of our Father, who “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, … in order that the world might be saved through him” (from John 3:16–17). 

Before we were redeemed by Christ, we had nothing to commend us to God—not even “good bones.” As Paul wrote to Titus, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). We were, by all human measures, not worth saving. 

But God did save us! At great personal cost, with sweat and tears and precious blood, Jesus redeemed even me. He didn’t examine me closely and determine that there’s something here he could work with, or do a cost-benefit analysis to see if the work put into me would be worth the outcome. No, God saved me out of his own love and mercy.

Paul continued, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5). 

In love Jesus bought us—“as is,” you might say. He wanted you and me, both individually and collectively, to be his treasured possession. 

Completed on Schedule

This beautiful, outrageous act of redemption is not the full height of Jesus’s plan for us! He is also, at this moment, currently renewing us. 

Jesus places his Holy Spirit in each person who believes. Lovingly, painstakingly, the Spirit is crafting each one of us into pure, spotless saints. We are described as “living stones [that] are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 1:23), which resonates particularly right now as Zack is repairing the old foundation stone by stone. 

The Spirit’s work is not always—in fact, not often—glamorous. I took a mallet to a wall at the house recently. Plaster chunks and wood lath splinters flew, and in an hour or two the wall was reduced to studs and rubble. Our growth as believers can feel that way, shattered and broken. Aren’t we supposed to be growing from one degree of glory to another? Why does it hurt? Why is there so much dust?

Zack and I aren’t naive. We know that this sad, broken house will take years and dollars to bring back to life. It might take more of both than we have. The whole thing could fall down or burn to the ground before we ever get to see it to completion. (Probably not though, right?)

The God who made the world is a more sure builder. “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” wrote Paul (Philippians 1:6). 

Not one of God’s new creations will arrive in heaven behind schedule. The Holy Spirit works patiently, individually, thoughtfully, sometimes one room at a time, sometimes with several projects going at once, sometimes narrowly focused on one particularly malignant problem. But rest assured, at the day of Jesus Christ, you’ll have a fresh coat of paint, a new front porch, and the only strong foundation.

Photo by the author

Links for the Weekend (2023-07-07)

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

Your Gender Is God’s Good Design

There is a lot of cultural confusion about gender and sexuality at the moment. Here is an article by Rachel Gilson about the goodness of God’s design in our bodies.

When the Son of God took on a human nature, he underlined forever the dignity and value of human embodiment, because he shared it—and still does. He did not leave his human nature behind; he is still fully human and fully God, seated at the right hand of the Father. Additionally, he affirms sexed human embodiment—that is, being female or male. Jesus did not appear in his resurrection as an androgynous being but as he had been in his earthly life: as a male.

What Happened to Historian Molly Worthen?

I don’t often run across testimonies of academics who come to faith in Jesus mid-career. The Gospel Coalition recently ran a podcast interview with historian Molly Worthen about her journey to faith. I found it fascinating and encouraging! (A transcript of the interview is available at that link for those who would prefer it!)

A Series of Articles/Letters on Motherhood

Risen Motherhood is running a series of letters this summer written by five “mentor moms” which address all seasons of motherhood. Here is the landing page for the series. The first entry is already posted: A Letter for the Little Years.

Have you ever wished for a “big sister” in motherhood that could guide you through the ins and outs of mom-life? The “Sincerely” summer series was created just for you.

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.