Links for the Weekend (2023-03-31)

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

Knowing the Future Doesn’t Cure Anxiety

Jen Wilkin looks at what our anxious prayer requests reveal about our understanding of God.

We are, indeed, anxious about what the future holds, wondering about what to do when difficulties arise in our friendships, our finances, and our families. If we could just know a bit more about what is coming next, surely we could lay to rest our anxieties and take a proactive stance. And certainly, we could relax and trust God!

Wrath Is Not an Attribute of God

This article offers a helpful explanation about God’s love, his wrath, and his attributes.

In our society, love is often reduced to affection or affirmation. To love someone is either to have warm feelings toward her or to affirm her without conditions. And when people in our society think of the wrath of God, they imagine a red-faced deity with a bad temper and short fuse. This irritable God lashes out with uncontrollable rage and finds pleasure in punishing the wicked.

The Joy of Reading Revelation

Nancy Guthrie provides seven reasons for reading and studying this often-avoided book.

The truth is, while the apocalyptic prophecy of Revelation presents some challenges to us as modern readers, it also provides gifts of insight and understanding to those who are willing to engage with it. Revelation is a letter written to gird us for faithful allegiance to Christ as we wait for his return. And that is encouragement we all need!

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 (2023-03-24)

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

If God Would Outsource His Sovereignty

Tim Challies imagines a scene in which we get to pick our life circumstances. Though we might shy away from difficult providences of God, this article reminds us how God uses them all.

And as we receive these from his hand we can rest assured that in the life of the Christian there are not two classes of providence, one good and one bad. No, though some may be easy and some hard, all are good because all in some way flow from his good, Fatherly hand and all in some way can be consecrated to his service. For we are not our own, but belong to him in body and in soul, in life and in death, in joy and in sorrow, in the circumstances we would have chosen anyway and the ones we would have avoided at all costs.

Helping Children with Anxiety

This article discusses how parents can help their children deal with anxiety. It also includes some resource recommendations at the end.

While children deal with their own fears and worries, they’re also watching you, taking cues on how they should respond. As parents, we tend to think it’s best to shield our children from our anxiety, and there are times when that’s appropriate. But shielding them and denying the presence of anxiety teaches them to do the same. That’s unhealthy, and it’s unbiblical. The psalmists didn’t bottle things up; they poured everything out. That doesn’t mean you should pour out your soul before your kids each day. But it does mean they should see it’s okay that you deal with fear and anxiety, too, and you do something about it: you turn to your heavenly Father in prayer. You read his word. You walk by faith. You believe. Showing them what to do with anxiety is much healthier than modeling denial.

One Man’s Walk in the Snow Creates a Giant Masterpiece

This last link is not specifically Christian, but this video displays God’s glory and man’s creativity in nature. This short film is only 6 minutes long.

    On the WPCA Blog This Week

    This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Lord, Teach Me to Hunger. 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. 

    Lord, Teach Me to Hunger

    I can’t remember the last time I was hungry.

    Not another-Oreo-would-hit-the-spot hungry. Not grab-a-granola-bar-mid-afternoon hungry. I mean honest, echoes-in-the-stomach hungry. I suspect I’m not alone.

    I thank God for this. Many people around the world—and plenty in my own town—ache for food. God has (to this point) spared me this distress, and I’m grateful.

    But I have often been a poor steward of God’s provision. I have used food to push hunger away, rejecting my body’s built-in notification system. In eating and snacking (and snacking and snacking), I have insulated myself against feeling my need.

    The physical risks of this habit are obvious, but the danger runs deeper.

    A Spiritual Problem

    Notice the centrality of hunger and thirst in these three passages from the Bible.[1]

    Matthew 5:6

    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    Psalm 42:1-2

    As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
    My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
    When shall I come and appear before God?

    Psalm 63:1

    O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
    my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

    Hunger, thirst, pants, faints. The Bible uses the language of our bodies to describe a heart inclined toward God.

    Can you hear the desperation in these words? “To hunger” doesn’t mean to want to eat very much. Hunger is the body’s testimony to the necessity of food.

    Read those verses again. God is not a take-or-leave bedtime snack; he is our sustenance.

    More Than Hunger

    Analogies depend on a known reference. Jesus’s claim to be the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) is meaningless unless his audience was familiar with sheep. The Israelites knew about consuming fires (Deut. 4:24) because of their daily cooking and worship habits.

    So if the Bible urges us to hunger for God, physical hunger should not be so rare in our lives. Bodily hunger brings the spiritual reality into the physical realm; it points us toward proper desires. But God uses more than hunger.

    Grief, loneliness, waiting—these feelings and experiences of wanting and lacking are all a gift from God. They show us our lack of control and our need for help outside ourselves.

    When we make it our goal—always unspoken—to avoid any trace of these feelings, we lose a powerful guide. We reject pictures and lessons from God designed to draw us to him.

    Satisfied in Jesus

    In the context of asserting his oneness with the Father (see John 6:30), Jesus made this remarkable statement.

    “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” — John 6:35

    This is glorious—our spiritual hunger is temporary! God gives the longing and provides the fulfillment. Because of the work of Jesus, this ultimate satisfaction is for everyone who comes.

    Implications for Today

    In God, and because of Jesus, we will be completely satisfied. We have present-day glimpses of that satisfaction, but we await the fullness. What does that mean for today?

    I’ve realized I need these feelings. Hunger, thirst, grief, loneliness—they remind me of my dependence and God’s thorough provision, both now and in the future. God supplies everything I require, from the smallest reassurance to my greatest need—God himself.

    God brought me to this issue through food, so I’m starting with physical hunger. Over the past two months I have been snacking less and fasting more. Small steps, to be sure, but I hope God will use them to build within me a longing for him and the confidence that he will satisfy my deepest hunger pangs.

    [1] There are many more passages like this. Here’s a small sample: Psalm 119:81, Rev 22:17, Psalm 107:8-9, Psalm 143:6, Psalm 84:1-2.

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    Links for the Weekend (2023-03-17)

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

    Most To Jesus I Surrender (or Maybe Just Some)

    Tim Challies ponders what it means to come to Jesus with everything.

    As I worked my way through chapter after chapter, I noticed one recurring theme: the people are meant to bring to the Lord what is first and what is best. Where they may be tempted to wait until their barns are full and their larders stuffed before offering their sacrifice, God demands the firstfruits. Where they may be tempted to sacrifice the animals that are lame or unsightly and that can otherwise serve no good purpose, God demands what is perfect and unblemished. He makes clear that if his people are to worship him, they must worship him in ways that prove he is their first priority.

    How Can I Learn to Receive Criticism?

    This episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast (transcript also available) helps us distinguish between warranted and unwarranted criticism. I appreciated the reminder of how Paul and Jesus counseled Christians to combat the negative effects of hurt feelings.

    The deeper question in all of this — and I think this may be what she’s really getting at — is how to keep our hurt feelings (which all of us have from time to time) from dominating us, controlling us, causing us to either become melancholy or depressed. Or how to keep them from making us bitter or angry so that we are miserable to be around. Neither of those responses to criticism shows the sufficiency of Jesus.

    You Don’t Need a Degree to Read the Bible

    In this video, Matt Harmon explains how asking a few good questions can bear much fruit when reading the Bible.

    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 (2023-03-10)

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

    7 Things to Say to a Hurting Loved One

    When a suffering friend opens up to us, sometimes we don’t know what to say. This article offers some places to begin.

    Arguably no moment is more formative than immediately after a loved one shares her pain with you. Relationships are defined by what happens in these sacred seconds. Your words can bring healing or harm, communicate love or judgment, build or destroy trust.

    A “Good Faith” Debate: Should Christian Parents Send Their Children to Public Schools?

    The Gospel Coalition arranged a conversation between Jen Wilkin and Jonathan Pennington about the topic of public schooling. You can watch a video at the link here, and there is also a transcript available for reading. This issue can often be heated and contentious, but this conversation was insightful and full of respect.

    Special thanks to Maggie A who sent along this link and the links in the following block. Maggie mentions that these resources on the topic of schooling might be especially helpful at this time of year when many families are thinking through schooling choices for the fall.

    A Podcast Series on School Choice

    In 2018, Risen Motherhood ran a four-part series on their podcast about different schooling options that Christian parents might choose.

    On the WPCA Blog This Week

    This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Jesus, the Moka Pot, and Me. 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. 

    Jesus, the Moka Pot, and Me

    My wife loves coffee. When the mood strikes, she breaks out this little classic, the Moka pot.

    It’s easy: tuck grounds and water into their assigned quarters, then draw out the good stuff on the stove. Add water or milk to taste.

    This Italian friend delivers a tasty beverage and makes my wife happy. And yet, I hate the Moka pot.

    I am aware this is not rational.

    Whose Mess?

    My main issue: the Moka pot is not dishwasher-safe. In our house, this means I scrub the bugger.

    Now the Moka pot isn’t difficult to wash by hand. Some disassembly is required, but I can clean everything without much fuss. Two or three minutes, tops.

    In my mind, however, this process takes hours of tortuous labor. So, far too often, I ignore the Moka pot. He awaits cleansing by the side of the pool, for he has no one to lower him into the waters.

    But my sin goes beyond mere neglect—there’s a dangerous storm brewing in my heart. That’s not mine, it’s hers. Why should I have to wash it when she’s the one who dirtied it? Why should I have to clean up her mess?

    This thinking is not just silly and selfish. It may just be blasphemous.

    Telling Lies

    Consider this well-known verse.

    For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (Eph 5:23)

    Douglas Wilson has noted this is not a command but rather a statement of fact. And the comparison in this verse should drive Christian husbands to their knees.

    Every marriage, everywhere in the world, is a picture of Christ and the church. Because of sin and rebellion, many of these pictures are slanderous lies concerning Christ. But a husband can never stop talking about Christ and the church. If he is obedient to God, he is preaching the truth; if he does not love his wife, he is speaking apostasy and lies—but he is always talking. If he deserts his wife, he is saying that this is the way Christ deserts His bride—a lie. If he is harsh with his wife and strikes her, he is saying that Christ is harsh with the church—another lie. If he sleeps with another woman, he is an adulterer, and a blasphemer as well. How could Christ love someone other than His own Bride? (Reforming Marriage, p.25)

    He is always talking. Ouch. What am I saying about Christ as I leave the Moka pot dirty?

    If I am unwilling to clean up my wife’s mess, I’m lying to the world about Christ’s love for the church. I’m saying that Jesus leaves the Church to wash herself, to fix her own problems.

    What’s the Truth?

    Praise God that this life-sermon I preach about Jesus is not true! Instead of neglecting the church and leaving her responsible for her own purity, Jesus cleansed the church “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:27) Further, since God took initiative in our salvation (Rom 5:8), my laziness and neglect toward my wife are not the last word.

    In his mercy, God lifts my gaze from my lies to his truth. This is worth proclaiming and sharing far and wide!

    If you’d like to discuss it, I know a beverage we can share.

    Note: I still appreciate the Wilson quote used in this article, but I wouldn’t point people to his teaching now in the way I might have when I first wrote this.

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    Links for the Weekend (2023-03-03)

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

    We Must Repent: An Introduction to Lent

    This article is a nice introduction to Lent.

    Lent, then, is about turning away from our sins and toward the living God. A season dedicated to repentance and renewal should not lead us to despair; it should cause us to praise God for his grace. Central to Lent is the idea that we need this kind of renewal consistently throughout our lives. We do not receive God’s grace only when we turn to him at the beginning of our spiritual journey. God’s grace meets us again and again.

    The Scariest Thing Jesus Ever Said

    Scott Sauls offers his thoughts on the scariest thing Jesus ever said, and then he goes on to discuss the (related) matters of faith and works.

    Both Jesus and James are putting a spotlight on our inclination to replace Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him. We replace his call with a self-serving path in which we deny our neighbors, take up our comforts, and follow our dreams. When we do this, we exchange true faith for a counterfeit. We exchange irresistible faith with a way of thinking, believing and living that God himself will resist. Why is this so? Because demonstrating active concern for our neighbors—especially those whom Jesus calls “the least of these”—is an inseparable aspect of a true, Godward faith.

    5 Things You Should Know about the Doctrine of the Trinity

    This article has an historical flavor, explaining the importance of, and some of the misunderstandings of, the doctrine of the Trinity.

    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 (2023-02-24)

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

    Tossing Out Beliefs When They Don’t Spark Joy

    Samuel James observes that many modern Christians are tempted to see doctrine as unnecessary. He offers a persuasive defense of why we should try to understand what is true.

    To be sure, it’s pretty rare for someone in a church to actually come out and say that talking about or studying theology is bad (though this does happen!). What seems to be the case is not that many American Christians actively think of doctrine as bad or harmful but that many believe it is unnecessary. In other words, for many evangelicals, biblical doctrine—the teaching of all Scripture in its fullness, beyond the bare essentials for salvation—is not like poison but like clutter. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it does not “spark joy.”

    Can You Trust the Bible When It’s Full of Contradictions?

    This article from TGC Africa offers some thoughtful responses to the charge that the Bible is full of contradictions.

    Paul says that no one is saved by works but only by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and then James says without works no one can be saved (James 2:14-17). That’s not a contradiction but a tension. The Bible is clear that there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), but that he has revealed himself in three persons (Matthew 3:16-17). That’s not a contradiction but a tension. People are valuable as image-bearers (Genesis 1:26), but are also deeply sinful as rebels (Romans 3:23). Again, that’s not a contradiction but a tension.

    How would you explain the doctrine of limited atonement?

    Here’s another excellent video from the folks at Ligonier. This time Stephen Nichols addresses the doctrine of limited atonement.

    On the WPCA Blog This Week

    This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Why Most Productivity Advice Doesn’t Help. 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. 

    Why Most Productivity Advice Doesn’t Help

    Turning to the internet for productivity advice might sound like searching for a nutritionist at KFC. But you can find wheat amid the cat-video chaff. Set smart goals. Use good tools. Make realistic to-do lists. And so on.

    The Main Problem

    Despite all the practical tips, I’ve been disappointed. Most articles, even from wise Christians, don’t address the biggest barrier to my productivity.

    That would be me.

    That’s right—I’m the biggest obstacle. Even when I’m in a good location with clear goals and a dynamite to-do list, the fact is that sometimes I don’t want to work. I’d much rather read, sleep, or sort my paperclips. Work is hard.

    In my flesh, I’m a lazy man. I’m addicted to comfort, ease, and pleasure. No matter what the newest productivity book says, the main reason I don’t accomplish what I should is that I’m a sinner. My heart wants the wrong things.

    God’s Standard

    Work has been around since the beginning; it was God’s idea well before the fall of man (Gen 2:7–9, 15–17). And God has clear expectations.

    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col 3:23–24)

    For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thess 3:10–12)

    To these commands we can add the numerous examples and warnings in Proverbs. There we see the terrible consequences of laziness and the rewards of hard work and planning. (See, for example, Proverbs 6:6–11; 10:4–5; 13:4.)

    I wilt under these standards in God’s word. I see my sin in sharp contrast, and I know the way forward is confession and repentance. But what does repentance look like?

    Hope for the Lazy

    Once I confess my laziness, change isn’t as simple as telling myself to work hard. That’s just a restatement of the law. Knowing God’s standard is essential, but I also need a heart that wants good things, that pumps the right motivation clear down to my toes. The first step, then, is obvious: God, please change my heart!

    In part, God transforms us as we understand and believe the truth. Because the gospel of Jesus Christ addresses and transforms all of life, this includes my work. So I return to these gospel principles.

    God’s work covers mine. In Christ, God has done the most important work for me—work I could never do myself. He has atoned for my sins and kept the law perfectly to make me righteous. My motivation for work must flow down from this mountain spring.

    I belong to God. He has created and redeemed me; I am his and I answer to him. My name is written beautifully in heaven, so I don’t have to scrawl it in the dust of earth. From God, my big-picture tasks are to do good to others and make his name known.

    God approves of me. He loves me as his son. This must be my dominant feedback, above the most recent or loudest evaluation from my students, colleagues, deans, or any larger community.

    I live for others. Because I have been freed and bought with a price, I can freely live for others. I have this charge from God and the Spirit-given ability to do it. As Matt Perman writes in What’s Best Next, “generosity is to be the guiding principle for our lives.” (p.87)

    In other words, love should fuel my work. I must put aside ego, fear, and every selfish motivation. Because I am loved, I can work my tail off to love others. What does this mean?

    …take the energy you have for meeting your own needs and use that as the measure of the energy you use in seeking the good of others. Desire and seek the good of others with the same passion, creativity, and perseverance as you seek your own. (What’s Best Next, p.88)

    Battle On

    I still fight an hourly campaign against laziness. But when God gives me victory, it’s usually because I glimpse my standing as a child of God by grace and my opportunity to do good to others. Then, when I am thinking clearly (i.e., believing truth) about my work, I can turn to advice about productivity with some profit.

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    Links for the Weekend (2023-02-17)

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

    Just Listen

    This article emphasizes the importance of being a friend who is willing to listen. I love it.

    After a few years of reaching out to these younger women, it finally dawned on me that they weren’t interested in my wisdom or advice. They weren’t even all that interested in getting to know me. What they wanted instead was just someone to listen to them. Time after time a woman would barely settle onto my sofa or into a restaurant booth before she started to spill her story, her hurts and her tears. Often two hours or more passed before she rose to leave and I hadn’t really had the chance to say anything.

    5 Myths about Porn

    Ray Ortlund helps to strip pornography of its power by pointing out the ways that porn is built on lies.

    It’s no surprise, then, that porn promises much but delivers less—and not just less but, in fact, the opposite of what it promises. And by now aren’t we all fed up with being manipulated? Advertisers lie to us. Politicians lie to us. Porn lies to us. This world breaks our hearts. But Jesus has come, and his kingdom heals our hearts. So let’s be defiant. Let’s get free of every lie, by God’s grace, starting with the fraudulence that pornography is.

    Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

    This isn’t a new song, but this is a new recording by The Gray Havens. The words are moving. You might benefit from hearing/singing it this weekend!

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