Links for the Weekend (4/16/2021)

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

The Day After Easter

Glenna Marshall mourns her friend who died on Easter Monday. She points us toward true resurrection hope.

Just the day before, we celebrated the resurrection of Christ. For most of my life, I only celebrated His resurrection. I didn’t realize that His resurrection guaranteed my own. But everything we hope for, everything we are staking eternity on, everything we have given up for the sake of Christ hinges upon the fact that He conquered death. He rose again. And we will, too. We bury Sue on Saturday, but one day her grave will be empty like His.

Post-Pandemic, Will China’s Church Be Changed Forever?

The Chinese government imposed new restrictions in 2020 which have drastically affected the church. This article describes how house churches have adapted and what the future might look like.

How Does Chronic Pain Glorify God?

When pain does not go away for those who follow Jesus, how does that bring glory to God? In this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper gives a helpful answer from the Bible. (The second half of this podcast is especially helpful.)

First, when we suffer without cursing God, without forsaking Christ, declaring ourselves to be his friend and servant and disciple and follower and a great lover of his glory and faithfulness, we make plain to others that having Christ is more precious to us than having freedom from pain.


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 (4/9/2021)

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

To Those Who are Frustrated with the Church

Colin Smith writes to those who have felt like giving up on the local church. Perhaps you’ve felt that pull and would benefit from this article.

The church is made up of ordinary people who are in the process of being redeemed, all of us sinners in the process of being renewed. It was Augustine who described the church as “a hospital for sinners.” He said it would be very strange if people were to criticize hospitals because the patients were sick. The whole point of the hospital is that people are there because they’re sick, and they haven’t yet recovered.

Serving Christ When Everyone Needs You

Ann Swindell reflects on what God has been teaching her in this difficult pandemic time. When we feel pulled by family and work and ministry, how do we respond?

I felt like I was serving in a hundred ways but missing out on many of the gifts of relationship and normal life that helped make that service joyful and rewarding. It all felt like too much, and those tears at the kitchen window revealed both my frustration and exhaustion.

My circumstances and responsibilities wouldn’t change anytime soon. But my heart could change, and it needed to.

A Conversation with Pastor Tim Keller about Hope in Times of Fear

Here’s a podcast episode where Russell Moore interviews Tim Keller. Keller was diagnosed with cancer last year and has written a book called Hope in Times of Fear. I find an encouraging freshness in listening to someone who has a palpable sense of their mortality talk about trusting in Christ. Maybe you will too.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Look and See, O Lord! If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Maggie A for her help 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. 

Look and See, O Lord!

In the midst of any prolonged suffering, we feel a natural desire for relief. We want the pain to go away, the grief to recede, the devastation to subside.

But there’s an earlier, more fundamental need we have as humans in mourning. We want to be seen.

Lamentations

The book of Lamentations in the Bible is filled with urgent cries of agony. Assumed by many to be written by Jeremiah (though never identified internally this way), Lamentations is a book of five laments about the destruction of Jerusalem. As an agent of God’s judgment on his people for their sin, the nation of Babylon conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C. After destroying the temple and much of the city, the Babylonians led most of the residents away to captivity.

This was a heartbreaking, disastrous situation for all Israelites. The prayers recorded in the book of Lamentations were written by one of the people left behind, and they were used in Jewish worship services for decades afterward. These prayers are filled with loss and anguish, and they teach us as God’s people how to process grief in his presence.

Requests in Lamentations 1

lament is a genre of prayer found in the Bible which usually contains complaints, requests, and expressions of trust in the Lord. Not all of these ingredients are found in all laments, but most laments include at least two of these elements.

It’s not hard to find the complaints in the first chapter of Lamentations—they’re everywhere. This is easy to understand, as the city and temple have been leveled. All that the Jewish people knew and held dear was reduced to rubble.

The requests in this chapter are more scarce. In fact, before the last two verses, there is only one petition I see, and it appears three times.

“O Lord, behold my affliction”

In verse 9, the author writes, “O Lord, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!”

The Israelites have “sinned grievously” (verse 8) and Jerusalem has fallen in a public and embarrassing way (verses 8–9). There is no one to comfort her (verse 9). The Lord “has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions” (verse 5).

“Look, O Lord, and see”

In Lamentations 1:11, we read, “Look, O Lord, and see, for I am despised.”

The nations have entered unlawfully into the Lord’s sanctuary and have taken “precious things” (verse 10). The people are starving, groaning as they search for bread (verse 11).

“Look, O Lord, for I am in distress”

In verse 20, we read, “Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious.”

The Lord has “inflicted” sorrow in his “fierce anger” (verse 12). The author writes in detail of the painful physical judgment God has brought on his people (verses 13–15). There has been no one to give comfort (verses 16, 17).

A Desire to be Noticed

As painful as suffering can be, loneliness amplifies this hardship. Agony is more acute when it is held in private and not seen or acknowledged by others.

Here is the root of these requests. Before asking for relief or deliverance or restoration, the author of Lamentations wants to be seen by the Lord.

This is something we should be praying for ourselves and our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ: “Look, O Lord, and see!”

Jesus, Our Lamenter

The book of Lamentations is bleak territory. With some minor exceptions, it doesn’t feel hopeful. I’d wager no verses from Lamentations 1 appear on a Hallmark card.

And yet, when we understand how all of the Scriptures point to Jesus, there is much we can learn from this rich book.

The author of Lamentations understands the connections. God is holy and the people have rebelled. So God has brought the judgment for sin he promised. The people are lamenting because they are suffering the consequences of their sin.

This probably doesn’t sound like Jesus yet, but remember what he screamed on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46)

Jesus knew the pain of judgment for sin. He knew loneliness. He knew what it was like to look in vain for comfort. Piped through the right speakers, Jesus’s cry on the cross sounds a lot like “Look, O Lord, and see!”

If you are a child of God, Jesus has suffered and lamented for you. Jesus is evidence that God has looked and seen!

Do Unto Others

We can now lament—even more fully than the author of Lamentations—because we have a lamenting Savior. Christians have the comfort of the Holy Spirit because, for a time, Jesus was without comfort.

We know how vital it is to be seen and noticed, to have our pain recognized and named. Entering into the full suffering of humanity, Jesus knew the same, so we have a sympathetic advocate in heaven when we pray.

The application for us toward our friends and neighbors here is obvious. We must learn to notice and acknowledge the suffering of others. We can lament on their behalf, asking God to look and see and comfort.

When we encounter our neighbors’ grief, it may be raw and wild. We don’t need to offer advice or platitudes; often our presence is enough.

And a lament to God for our neighbors—with our neighbors—may point more persuasively to Jesus than a sermon could.

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Links for the Weekend (4/2/2021)

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

What Is the Historical Evidence that Jesus Rose from the Dead?

Justin Taylor helpfully points us toward an article which argues for the historical credibility of the claim of Jesus’s resurrection. There are also two videos linked in Justin’s post made by apologists arguing for the resurrection.

Rejoice Together, Suffer Together, Repeat

Christians are to rejoice with each other and weep with each other. Anne Kerhoulas writes about what it means that these commands come in the context of writing about worship. Quite an insight!

Rejoicing is an act of worship. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). It is always about God because every good and perfect thing comes from Him (James 1:17), and we get to praise Him for what He has done. When my friend got engaged I didn’t tell her good job for her accomplishment. No, we celebrated what God had done and was doing.

Let Go of Lies About Heaven: Eight Myths Many Believe

Years ago, Randy Alcorn wrote a big book about heaven. In this article, he points out eight common myths about heaven. He directs our attention to the Bible to examine what God says about the future.

In an age when people try to make doctrines more appealing by ignoring or twisting biblical truth, here’s the irony—the true biblical doctrine of Heaven is far more attractive than the dull, inhuman view of the afterlife that has long prevailed in evangelicalism.


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 (3/26/2021)

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

What We Celebrate on World Down Syndrome Day

This past Sunday (March 21) was World Down Syndrome Day. Lauren Washer is a mother to a boy with Down Syndrome, and she reflects on some of the difficulties and the gifts that have come along.

I don’t pretend to understand why God allows disability, but I do know he displays his glory in our suffering. For it’s in hardship, challenges, and grief when we grow to know God more. Maybe not at first, but as our faith increases, God uses suffering to produce in us character, perseverance, and hope. Through suffering we come to know Christ more as we share in his suffering. And we grow to long for heaven like never before. When I see my son suffer, I yearn for Jesus to return and make all things new. Will there be Down syndrome in heaven? I don’t know, but if there is, it won’t be accompanied by hardship.

Delivered From the Tyranny of Emotions

What is the difference between experiencing emotions and being controlled by them? Megan Johnson explores this question and thinks about the role of her Christian faith.

My emotions have a place, and rightly so, as God made us to be feeling creatures, but my emotions shouldn’t have the final say about what is true in a situation. God, in his severe mercy, has given me a number of opportunities to practice this lately.

How Can I Fight Sin Without Losing Sight of Christ?

John Piper tackles a difficult question about fighting sin on a recent episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast. Here’s the question he addressed.

The following question is the source of my confusion: How can I rest in being justified if I need obedience as the evidence to truly know that I am justified? In other words, how can I rest in the verdict of ‘not guilty’ if in reality the verdict could be ‘guilty’ unless I see obedience in my life? This circular reasoning inevitably puts the focus back on myself instead of Christ, the opposite of what it is intended to do. I am almost sure I am thinking about this the wrong way.


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 (3/19/2021)

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

6 Questions about the Fear of God

The fear of God is a fundamental phrase in the Bible, yet it is also an easy one to misunderstand. Here is an article by Michael Reeves on the fear of God, adapted from his recent book on the same topic.

I want you to rejoice in this strange paradox that the gospel both frees us from fear and gives us fear. It frees us from our crippling fears, giving us instead a most delightful, happy, and wonderful fear. And I want to clear up that often off-putting phrase “the fear of God,” to show through the Bible that for Christians it really does not mean being afraid of God.

An Elephant in the Room-Sized Post on Gluttony

Jared Wilson wrote a longish post on gluttony at For The Church, and I found it helpful. He says what gluttony is and what it isn’t, and he points to the heart posture that gluttony reveals. This is one I’ll be saving and re-reading.

If you’ve ever given much thought to combating this sin, you’ve probably run into the same problem I have: there doesn’t seem to be much help out there. Certainly the sentiments of the world aren’t going to do us any favors. We live in the land of all-you-can-eat buffets, Big Gulps, and super-sizing. When portions at restaurants aren’t big enough to feed three people we feel cheated. We’ve even turned eating into a competitive sport, with one of the umpteen ESPN stations broadcasting battles to eat the most hot dogs.

It Was Finished Upon That Cross

Just in time for Easter, CityAlight released a song about what Jesus did on the cross.

Some lyrics:

Now the curse it has been broken
Jesus paid the price for me
Full, the pardon he has offered
Great, the welcome that I receive
Boldly I approach my Father
Clothed in Jesus’ righteousness
There is no more guilt to carry
It was finished upon that cross


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 (3/12/2021)

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

The Promise Is for You and Your Children

Here’s an article by Iain Duguid about why we baptize children in our church.

There was no area of his life that he held back from the Father. In him, the symbolism of circumcision and baptism became a terrible reality, as God the Father literally cut him off for our sin. He was baptized with the baptism of God’s wrath against sin, so that we might receive the sweet promises of baptism for the remission of sins.

The Counsel and Care of the Elderly

Nick Batzig mourns the way many young Christians consider and relate to older Christians in their church. He urges us to honor, respect, and care for the elderly among us.

A time is coming when you may be able to say with David, “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). Such a statement is born from years of experiencing the sustaining, delivering, and providing grace of God through many trials and challenges. Until that time, I would humbly encourage younger men and women to seek the counsel of the elderly, to honor and respect them, and to care for them in their time of need.

Helping a Covenant Child Prepare a Testimony

For a child growing up in the church, talking about their “coming to faith” is often difficult. Barry York provides some good questions that parents and grandparents can use to help children in this situation.

For many teen-aged believers who grew up in a Christian home and attended church regularly do not remember a time when they did not believe in Christ. Though they have known experiences with sin and trusting in Christ through their life, they are hesitant about naming a time of conversion. Forcing them to come up with such a time can be a way of unknowingly sowing harmful seeds into their souls, as they start looking for an experience that creates doubt rather than looking to Christ with simple yet real faith.

Jen Wilkin on Grace vs. Permissiveness

Jen Wilkin does a great job in this short (less than one minute) video making the distinction between permissiveness and a Christian understanding of grace.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Good News of the Ascension of Jesus. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Phil A for his help 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. 

The Good News of the Ascension of Jesus

“Do not cling to me.”

This can’t be the reception Mary Magdalene was expecting when she encountered the resurrected Jesus.

Mary had been weeping outside Jesus’ tomb. You can imagine her distress, having just watched her dear friend suffer a humiliating, grisly death. Now his body was missing.

Jesus walked up to her while she investigated the empty tomb. Mary initially thought he was the gardener, but when Jesus spoke her name, she recognized him! She called out, in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (John 20:16).

But instead of an embrace or some other warm gesture, Jesus was much more direct:

“Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

Read in the wrong light, this sounds cold, almost cruel. But in this statement, Jesus reveals his focus on his Father and also provides hope for Mary and the other disciples.

Jesus Longed for His Ascension

As you read through the Gospels, especially the Gospel of John, you’ll find that Jesus focused much more on his ascension than we do. By “ascension,” I’m referring to Jesus’ bodily return to heaven after his resurrection (see Luke 24:50–51 and Acts 1:9–11).

In John 20, Jesus didn’t want Mary to think he’d be on earth forever. He didn’t want her to get attached to his resurrected form. There was still work to do.

We think of Jesus’ work for us in three distinct categories: his life, death, and resurrection. But Jesus would have us add his ascension as a fourth category. And there’s no doubt this was his most anticipated work.

The Ascension Is Relational

Jesus loved his Father and longed for a reunion.

  • Jesus says to his disciples, “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).
  • “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16:28).
  • Jesus prays to his Father, “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11).

Before his incarnation, Jesus enjoyed perfect fellowship in the immediate presence of God the Father. This is what he longed to reclaim, and it’s one reason the ascension was so important to him.

In his ascension, he would experience the unbroken presence of his Father.

Don’t miss the fact that Jesus’ ascension was a bodily ascension. This matters! It means that in the incarnation Jesus took on and identified with the human body for all time. It also means that, as the head of the new humanity, Jesus shows us the destination of the redeemed: to be with God, bodily, forever (see Revelation 21:3).

This destination should shape our longings. When our aspirations or goals are dashed, when we experience pain in body or soul, we can lift our eyes to our final home. The new heavens and the new earth await, and we will dwell with God!

The Ascension Is Functional

Though Jesus wanted the heavenly reunion that his ascension would accomplish, he also had work to do. In his ascension, Jesus accomplished and began several vital tasks for our salvation.

Jesus is coronated as King.

Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). The Old Testament background for the title “Son of God” (see Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7) makes it clear that this title has a royal meaning. By his resurrection, Jesus was declared to be the king!

If the resurrection declared Jesus to be King, then the ascension functions as his coronation ceremony. It was important that his disciples saw him depart, ascending to his throne, knowing he would return in the same fashion.

For more support of this function of the ascension, note the following:

  • Jesus has conquered and sat down with his Father on his throne (Revelation 3:21), where he is praised (Revelation 5:6–14).
  • Peter says that God made Jesus Lord, sitting at his right hand until his enemies are his footstool (Acts 2:34–36). This is the language of a king.
  • Paul writes that Jesus must reign (like a king!) until he has put all enemies under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:25).

Jesus sends the Holy Spirit.

We begin to learn what the ascension means when we consider what we would lose if it never happened. Here’s a huge implication: If Jesus never ascended, his followers would never have received the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

Let’s not underestimate the sending of the Spirit! Because of the Spirit, we have the conversions at Pentecost, the growth and expansion of the early church, and the Bible. If the Spirit were not sent, you and I would not be Christians!

Jesus is our heavenly high priest.

Jesus’ ascension also takes him to a place of great importance. He is now at the Father’s right hand, and his ongoing work there is vital.

  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true high priest for his people. He “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus brings his people to God for true deliverance and salvation.
  • Jesus is also our heavenly advocate. He reminds his Father of his sacrifice for sin and holds our status as sons and daughters before God. “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
  • Jesus transcended physical limitations in his ascension. Though he keeps his human body forever, Jesus is now able to listen, rule, and heal without the familiar time and space restrictions we know.

What the Ascension Means for Us

The ascension of Jesus is a glorious fact that has scores of implications for his people. Here are a few:

Assurance

As our high priest, Jesus sat down at God’s right hand, indicating that his work of sacrifice is done (Hebrews 10:11–12). Our standing with God doesn’t depend on our actions or our emotions, but on the finished work of Christ.

Confidence

The enthroned king has been given all power to rule, and this power is his to dispense to his church (see Ephesians 1:15–23). Nothing can stand in the way of God’s purposes, and he will accomplish them with power, often through us.

Hope

When Jesus spoke to his disciples about his departure from earth, the note was joyous, not mournful. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). In this one verse, Jesus gives at least three reasons for hope.

He is preparing a place for us. He will come again. He will take us to be with him.

This is the destiny for those who, by God’s grace, call on Jesus in faith.

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Links for the Weekend (3/5/2021)

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

Which Christian Best Portrays Christ?

Tim Challies writes a parable of sorts, comparing Jesus to the Rocky Mountains, and how it’s impossible to capture either in one snapshot (or virtue).

In the end, which of these Christians best portrays Christ? Is it the one who is as kind as Jesus or the one who is as patient? Is it the one who teaches like Jesus or the who extends his warm welcome? The truth is all of them and none of them. All of them capture the part God has assigned to them, but none of them captures the whole, for the subject is simply too vast for any one canvas, for any one person. The closest view of the whole is when the many are gathered together into one gallery, each displaying its small part.

Turning Water to Wine

Megan Taylor writes a reflection on Jesus’s first miracle.

Have you ever secretly thought that Jesus’ first miracle is a bit of a letdown? The audience is small, the master of the feast does not even know something supernatural has taken place, and it seems the main takeaway from the guests is the quality of wine. Many people fixate on ancillary details of this miracle— the way Jesus speaks to His mother, the alcoholic nature of the wine— and it’s easy to miss the glory wrapped up in this passage as Jesus bursts onto the scene as the initiator of the new covenant.

Lament Is for Little Ones, Too

I’ve been thinking a lot about lament recently, so Christina Fox’s post on teaching children to lament was very timely (and helpful!).

Our children have big emotions. Like us, they experience sadness and fear, loneliness and grief. They need to be equipped to navigate their feelings. They need to be discipled to respond to their feelings in a biblical way.

But as parents, we often have a hard enough time dealing with our emotions. We can be uncomfortable even talking about feelings, much less helping our children navigate theirs. We can also default to unhealthy practices learned in our childhood: avoiding emotions, suppressing emotions, or soothing emotions with food or other temporary comforts.


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 (2/26/2021)

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

Burn Long Not Just Hot

Does passion for Christ look more like zeal or endurance? These are mutually exclusive, yet we may not often link endurance and passion the way the Bible does. Erik Raymond helps us understand what it means to burn long and not just hot.

I’m not saying that Christians should not be passionate. We should. Instead, I’m saying that today too often, we put a disproportionate and unbiblical emphasis upon what appears to be zeal instead of what is clearly endurance.

Homesick

Popular Christian blogger Tim Challies suffered a father’s nightmare when his healthy son died suddenly this past fall. Since then he has been writing more frequently about grief, love, and heaven. This is a nice meditation on what it means for us to call heaven “home.”

But there is far less mystery and far more familiarity to the most precious of its descriptions: home. For each of us, the Father has reserved a room in his home, says Jesus, and he himself has gone to prepare it. To leave behind the body is to be at home with the Lord, assures the Apostle. And so his longing and ours is to be away from this fragile tent and to be safely delivered to the great home that has been so carefully planned by the mind of God, so carefully constructed by the hand of God. What comfort there is in knowing that when we come to the end of our lives, we do not depart into the ether or disappear into the void, but simply go home.

Journey to the Cross

Gospel-Centered Discipleship has published an excerpt from Paul Tripp’s forthcoming book, Journey to the Cross. This is a great excerpt about groaning.

You see, we are not just groaning into the air as some cathartic exercise. No, we groan to someone who has invited us to groan and has promised to hear and to answer. We groan to one who is in us, with us, and for us, who has blessed us with life-altering promises and who will not quit working on our behalf until we have no more reason to groan. We groan to one who has already won the victory over everything for which we groan and who will not rest until all his children are experiencing all the fruits of that victory.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called My Favorite Benediction. 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.