Links for the Weekend (1/14/2022)

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

3 Reasons to Use Better Bible Study Resources than Strong’s

For Christians of a certain age, the best resource to reach for during a Bible study was Strong’s Concordance. This article explains some of the misconceptions about and misuses of Strong’s. Mark Ward, the author, also points to some better options.

3 Ways to Use Social Media More Wisely in 2022

Most Christians who use social media would probably admit they could use some advice on using social media. Chris Martin comes to the rescue in this article. He admits his own temptations and weaknesses with regard to social media and gives some basic principles to follow.

Social media is at the center of our lives in more ways than we often realize, so I think it would be wise for us to examine the role of social media in our days and do what we can to use it more wisely. How might we do that? I could list a dozen ways, but here are just three, and they all revolve around one principle: intentionality.

Discipled by Algorithms

This article is related to the previous one, but with a different angle. If we use technology, we are obviously influenced by technology. But how often do we acknowledge the extent to which we are shaped by technology? What does it mean to practice wisdom in this area?

Whether we realize it or not, algorithms are discipling each of us in very particular ways — by curating the news we see, the things we purchase, the entertainment we enjoy, at times functioning in ways that seem almost human — all feeding the sense that this world is ultimately all about you. While AI may seem innocuous at first, it can also have devastating effects on our relationship with God, our spouse, roommates, those in our local church, and our broader communities as we opt for efficiency over wisdom and the virtual over the embodied.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Grief of Finite Joy. 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 Grief of Finite Joy

Somehow my oldest child is a freshman in high school. As I’ve experienced those where-did-the-time-go emotions that come with such minor milestones, I’ve started to feel a deep, preemptive loss.

I have loved being a parent. It has been one of the best callings in my life. My sadness at (possibly) having less than four years left with my daughter at home is not mere nostalgia for familiar or picturesque days. In the midst of a happy season, I can see its end on the horizon.

I’m not alone in this, and these feelings are not reserved for parents. I’ve felt this same grief in the middle of a family vacation as the lightness of the first few days becomes weighted with regret as I feel the end approaching.

This grief creeps into small things too, like stretching out the end of a good book to avoid snapping the cover closed for the last time. Or savoring a delicious coffee so long that it turns cold and sour.

This is a narrow, specific kind of grief, but it can be stifling. At times I feel myself pulling away from gatherings or experiences because I dread their endings. An honest person has to see how powerless the world’s pleasures are to give true, lasting satisfaction.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 10, “Hope”)

God has put eternity into our hearts, and we long not just for joy but for joy unending. Every happy experience we have on earth will end. That prick of incompleteness, of a premature finale, is an indication of the capacity of our souls. It points to a new land.

In the midst of a much-debated passage about the second coming of Christ, we read this from the apostle Paul.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Perhaps it is too well-known to warrant our attention, but the word “always” jumped out at me recently in this verse. Once we are with the Lord, we will never be away from him. I don’t know if this will be full-time, ecstatic joy, but the absence of the curse, along with unmediated fellowship with God, will give us a settled, fulfilled happiness that won’t ever be cut off. (See Revelation 21:3-4.)

Our joy will stretch out like a long road before us. We will no longer flinch when considering the end of a great happiness, for our happiness will have no end.

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Links for the Weekend (1/7/2022)

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

The Neglected Ministry of Specific Encouragement

I’ve never heard of anyone who has been encouraged too much. Here’s a short, practical article on how to give and receive encouragement.

Herein lies the primary difference between worldly compliments and biblical encouragement. Worldly compliments exalt self; biblical encouragement exalts God. When someone receives biblical encouragement, she walks away praising and thanking God—not praising and inflating self.

Say Hi to the Old Lady on the Porch

Here’s a delightful story about an unlikely friendship in Memphis between two women who didn’t have many other people in their lives.

So I waved back, because if a cute old lady waves at you and you don’t wave back, you might be the biggest jerk ever to exist. But day after day, wave after wave, it began to feel weird to not stop and say hello. How many times can you wave and not actually speak without it getting awkward? And I was curious about her. Who was this old woman who sat on this porch in her rocking chair, her hands folded nicely over her stomach as she rocked, waved, rocked, waved? So one day, I stopped my bike and said hello.

A Sonnet for Epiphany

Epiphany is January 6 on the church calendar, and Christian poet Malcolm Guite wrote a poem for the occasion. In the winter it feels like we all could use a little more poetry in our lives.


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 (12/17/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out. (Programming note: After the post you’re currently reading, there will likely be no more posts on the WPCA blog until the New Year.)

Advent Collection: Week Three

The Rabbit Room is a delightful website to which I’ve linked before. The folks behind that site have a compelling vision for excellent art produced by Christians (which is not the same as the “Christian art” with which you may be more familiar). The editors there are curating weekly “collections” during Advent—posts that recommend music, poetry, paintings, etc., which are appropriate for the Advent season. You can find their week three Advent collection here. (You can also check out week one and week two.)

When the Soul Feels its Worth

Andrea Sanborn wrote a brief article connecting the Incarnation of Jesus with our innate desire to matter and be seen.

Life is a vapor. A wisp, a breath; warming, for a time, the souls around us. Holy breath mingles with ours, infusing life into our simple offerings, our stumbling words. God invites us to draw close, as we reach to touch the scepter of grace with trembling fingers.

The Great Challenge of Every Marriage

We move away from the Advent theme for this final recommendation. Tim Challies wrote an article about how God has surprised him in the way marriage has been used for his growth as a Christian. I think all husbands and wives (and, frankly, anyone who merely aspires to be a friend) would benefit from reading.

Certainly there have been times when each of us has helpfully and even formally pointed out where the other has developed patterns of sin and selfishness. There have been times when we have each helped the other fight a particular sin or a general sinfulness. Yet as we look back on the past twenty-three years, we see that this has been relatively rare. It’s not that we don’t see plenty of sin in one another and not that we are firmly opposed to pointing it out. No, it’s more that there is another way that marriage has helped us grow in sanctification—a way in which our efforts are directed at addressing ourselves more than fixing each other.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Philip Rychcik called The Gift of Presence During Advent. 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 Gift of Presence during Advent

Advent is a time for reflection and preparation. Christians meditate on themes of hope, love, joy, and preparation to commemorate the birth of Jesus when celebrating Christmas Day. It is a comfort that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, and His commission is that comfort is proclaimed to all the world (Matthew 28:16–20). The season of Advent provides the followers of Jesus the opportunity to live out the themes of hope, love, joy, and preparation. The season can leave those believers and unbelievers with physical, emotional, and spiritual pain isolated when the presence of God and his people could benefit them the most. This Advent, we can give the present of presence to someone in need of God’s love.

Follow the Divine Example

God best exemplifies the care of others through presence as stated in the Psalms. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 34:1). Consider how the presence of God in these examples and our lives can inspire us to minister to the needs of others.

Yahweh — (1 Kings 19:1–15) When the prophet Elijah was overcome by exhaustion after a dramatic confrontation with the prophets of Baal, the Lord made his presence known. He provided physical nourishment and assurance to Elijah that he was not alone.

Jesus — (Luke 19:1–10) Jesus demonstrated the transformative power of his presence in the account of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Jesus’s outreach, despite the stigma of associating with a tax collector, resulted in the repentance of Zacchaeus and restitution to all whom he had defrauded.

The Holy Spirit — (John 16:1–15) The Spirit is the comforter promised to the followers of Jesus after he ascended into Heaven. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be a guide and support through persecution and the mission to preach the Good News of salvation to the world. The Spirit is an ever-present help (John 14:16).

The Ministry of Presence

In his article, The Ministry of Presence, Dr. Stephen Davey describes every Christian as qualified for the ministry of presence. “You do not have to be anything but available to be a wonderful tool in the hand of God.”

To participate in the ministry of presence, we need to be mindful and prayerful of family members, church members, fellow students, colleagues, and others we know who require support. Make an invitation tailored to the individual’s specific circumstances on your heart. For example, one person with a medical condition may benefit from transportation to an appointment or a visitation in the home. In contrast, one with a contagious illness may be ministered to by a telephone or video call. No matter how a person is suffering—the death of a loved one, loss of employment, or a traumatic diagnosis—the ministry of presence is appropriate.

Davey quotes author Joseph Bayly to explain how mere presence is often more valuable than words.

I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly; he said things I [already] knew were true. I was unmoved, except I wished he’d go away. He finally did. Another came and sat beside me for an hour and more; listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply and left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.

Davey warns against the well-intentioned impulse to quote the Bible and offer platitudes to those we serve. A genuinely applicable verse or nugget of wisdom can be perceived as trite and dismissive to a person in pain if it is made with an inappropriate tone or timing. Instead, we can focus on being present, not profound.

The ministry of presence is risky, and we can take that risk because we’ve experienced the loving presence of God ourselves. Because God has sought us out and made his dwelling with us through Jesus, we can extend ourselves when the task is unpleasant or when we may not be appreciated. God has much to offer both believer and unbeliever through our presence: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)

‘Tis The Season To Serve

Advent allows the Christian to reflect on the present and presence that define Christmas and Christianity: Christ Jesus. The present God gave the world he so loved (John 3:16) modeled a ministry of presence for all of us to follow (John 13:34–35). Jesus was intentionally present with the lost, hurt, sick, and poor of society. The joy that Advent heralds transcends our circumstances. Still, life circumstances can steal that joy from the people around us afflicted by physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. Therefore, as recipients of God’s gracious presence, let us minister to those who need a loving presence this Advent and in the year to come.

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Links for the Weekend (12/10/2021)

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

How Mary’s Song Bridges The Old and New Testament

We may not often think of how the Old Testament shaped the thoughts and meditations of the characters in the New Testament. Katy Morgan looks at Mary’s Song as an example of someone rejoicing in what God has been doing for generations.

Once you start seeing it, you can’t stop: the writers of the New Testament, especially in the Gospels, have a worldview shaped by the Old Testament. They constantly refer to the history of God’s people; their whole understanding of God comes from there. People around Jesus made sense of him by referring back to what God had always been like and what he had always promised.

Advent Meditation: Sigh No More

Brett McCracken reflects on the theme of hope in Isaiah 35.

Maybe one day—when “Emmanuel” is our everyday ex­perience (hallelujah!)—we’ll look back on this life of lonely exile and feel gratitude for how the sighs and sorrows made us hungrier for the everlasting feast, and the fullness of joy, that will be ours forever.

A Great Way To Make Friends

At a time when making new friends can be difficult, Seth Lewis encourages us to focus first on being a good friend to others.

Finding friends can be hard. But if you spend your time and energy loving and serving the people around you whenever you can, however you can, with whatever you have to give, then eventually you might be surprised to see that you’ve got real, deep friendships growing all around you. So many people are looking for friends. If you’re friendly, then they are looking for you. This Christmas, why not take the opportunity to reach out to someone? 


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 (12/3/2021)

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

What We Pray in the Dark

Glenna Marshall suffers from some painful ailments, and I found this account of her seeking the Lord in the midst of pain quite moving. Perhaps it will help you in your pain or in the ways you can love someone who hurts like this.

Pain tells me God doesn’t love me, but Scripture tells me God has demonstrated love in sending Jesus to die in my place. The voice we must listen to is the one that speaks truth—even when we just can’t quite believe in weak moments of pain and doubt. Sometimes all we can pray in the dark is “Lord, I believe—help my unbelief!” And He does. Somehow.

Gentleness Is A Christian Virtue

Those that follow Jesus should be gentle and kind. Craig Thompson explains why this is so necessary in modern times.

There is no room among Christ’s followers for meanness. In a dark world the light of Christ must shine through with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Christians must be willing to be wronged, if being wronged enables the gospel of Christ to go forward and the glory of Christ to shine brighter to a lost world.

Ear of the Beholder

This article is Aarik Danielsen’s review/recommendation of Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God. That album is a worthy addition to your Advent playlist.

Plainspoken yet profound, these songs don’t stop at delivering sound, storied theology. They reject the whiplash rhythms of the unexamined season. They enter a tug-of-war waged between true hope and the shiny objects which promise to sate our hopes, yet only defer them for another day. Peterson’s songs beckon us to live by a truer, gentler meter and observe the real rhythms of Christmas: pausing, recounting, beholding, worshipping.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Erica Goehring called While We Wait: Advent with Children. 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. 

While We Wait: Advent with Children

The season of Advent comes at a time when many families are already busy with holiday preparations and extra events. School parties, band concerts, and shopping trips fill our calendars, and the to-do list seems to grow as the hours shrink. A daily or even weekly Advent practice can feel like another thing to manage during the busiest time of the year—another “should” when we are already feeling spent. 

However, an intentional time of reflection with our children can be a respite instead of a chore, a time to quiet ourselves and remember that the many tasks and traditions that fill our holiday season are not the real celebration. We are merely waiting for the ultimate joy in the ways we remember Christ’s first arrival and in the celebration yet to come when he returns.

Simple Practices

An Advent tradition in our homes opens a wide opportunity for telling the gospel story in a way that will be memorable and will heighten the anticipation that children already feel this time of year. As parents who are intentional with our time and teaching opportunities, we can shape our kids’ understanding of Jesus by pointing them to the miracle of his birth.

Your practice can be very simple, perhaps a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” at bedtime or a candlelit prayer after dinner. You can purchase or make an Advent wreath for your mantel or table and continue the candle-lighting tradition that we enjoy in church each Sunday. Paired with a song, the lighting of a candle can be the perfect way to end a busy day with a short family worship time. (Our family sings this song as we light our candles.)

A paper chain from colorful construction paper is a quick, inexpensive way to observe a countdown to Christmas. You can write a Scripture verse or a word of gratitude on each loop, or simply add one loop each day as you read through the daily Advent reading guide provided at WPCA. With or without a physical countdown, the reading guide is a beautiful addition to the days of Advent. A brief reading from the Bible and a hymn each day work together to tell the full story of Christ’s coming.

A Jesse Tree is a popular choice among Christian families. Jesse Tree sets can be purchased, made, or simply printed. More information can be found here.

More Resources

The following resources may also enhance your family’s Advent season. Music and calendars are easy ways to experience the anticipation of Christ’s coming. If you are looking for something more comprehensive and perhaps ambitious, you may like to explore the daily crafts in The Truth in the Tinsel or the multi-disciplinary plans in A Connected Christmas, linked below. (Note: The resources recommended below all require a purchase.)

Waiting Songs by Rain for Roots

Music is the perfect way to set the tone! This album from Rain for Roots is created for a young audience, but the simple beauty of the folk-style music will appeal to listeners of all ages. With Christmas music playing in every store and on many radio stations, Waiting Songs reminds us that the celebration has not yet begun. The selection of tunes with their thoughtful lyrics captures both the story of the Messiah’s arrival, as well as the mood of anticipating something wonderful.

The Giving Manger

This sweet activity turns acts of kindness into a cozy bed for Baby Jesus as children place pieces of straw into a little manger. The Giving Manger by Allison Hottinger and Lisa Kalberer emphasizes “gifting” others with our love and service, and in turn, our acts are a worshipful gift to Jesus himself. The concept can be easily recreated without purchasing the specific book and manger. 

The Christmas Promise

The Christmas Promise is a book and calendar combination. As the days of Advent pass, children seek letters to complete a hidden message. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, and the lift-the-flap calendar is fun to explore. A video sneak-peek is available on the website. 

The Littlest Watchman (book and calendar)

The Littlest Watchman shares the “big picture” story of the Bible, combining prophecy and the Christmas story in a tale of expectation and wonder. The book places emphasis on waiting on God for the fulfillment of his promises. 

The Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands

This ebook provides a brief devotional with a craft for each day of Advent. There are alternative schedules included for people who do not wish to do an activity every day. Supplies are not included. The crafts are fairly simple and appeal to a wide age range. The website also offers printable ornaments and a parent prayer guide for purchase.

A Connected Christmas

A Connected Christmas by Treehouse Schoolhouse is a three-week home education curriculum that combines scripture, hymns, poetry, crafts, art study, handwriting practice, and read-alouds in a carefully organized format. A digital download or a printed copy can be purchased from the website.

Set Aside Perfection

Every family will find some practices work better than others. Time constraints, ages of children, and financial considerations may play a part in your choices. Acknowledging Advent with your children likely will not look like a shiny picture in a magazine. As a person who annually and happily displays a green baby Jesus colored by a four year old, I encourage you to abandon perfection in favor of honoring the beautiful story of anticipation and redemption that God has created. 

If you do not frequently gather as a family to have devotions or family worship, perhaps an Advent practice will be the beginning of a new routine for the upcoming year. We can model what it looks like to celebrate Christmas as an expression of faith, not a race with our busy culture. 

Finally, as with any practice involving children, set aside your expectations and remember that less is often more. May we open our hearts to the things that children teach us as we journey together toward the manger.

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Links for the Weekend (11/26/2021)

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

Helpful Things You Can Say to Grieving Parents

Tim Challies has written a practical article from which I learned a lot. When you encounter Christians experiencing profound grief, here are some loving ways to speak to and care for your friends.

It can be awkward to reach out to those who are deep in grief. It can be hard to know what to say and easy to believe that our words are more likely to offend than comfort, to make a situation worse rather than better. We sense that our words ought to be few, but also that the worst thing to say is nothing at all.

Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Leanness of Soul

What does it look like to be thankful? What might keep us from being thankful? Doug Eaton offers some reflections using Psalm 106.

Gratitude flows freely from a heart full of God, mindful of His wondrous works, and aware of His grace to such unworthy and sinful creatures. The sinner, who hungers and thirsts after righteousness and has been filled by the justifying work of Christ, can find themselves in any harsh situation this life has to offer and still rejoice with full hearts. On the contrary, the person who forgets God’s great works toward them and begins to think they deserve more can be in the most pleasant of all earthly positions and still live with lean souls.

The Danger of Nostalgia

Here’s a helpful word about nostalgia in the life of a Christian.

When we view certain seasons of our lives as rosier than they actually were, it can make things now seem worse than they really are. Our relationships or career or church now seem more lackluster than they really are. Our gratitude with the past might be coupled with ingratitude for the present. 

Why the Gospel of Self-Improvement Isn’t Good News

Here’s a podcast from The Gospel Coalition where Colin Hansen interviews Ruth Chou Simons about her new book, When Strivings Cease. If you need a reminder about why God’s grace is enough for you, have a listen.

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 (11/19/2021)

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

The Middle Years

Melissa Edgington wrote an article reflecting on aging as a Christian. I thought the conclusions she drew were especially helpful.

I’m not going to sugar coat this for you, though. This is harder than I expected it to be, this moving from youth to the middle years. This, like all difficult things, helps me to rely on Him. It helps me to remember that it isn’t just beauty that’s fleeting…it’s this life. Here, we age and we fade and we grow ill and we die. In eternity, it’s all beauty and youth and vigor and life. Spurgeon admonished his congregation to be grateful for the thorns and thistles that keep us from falling in love with this world. I suppose that this aging process is one of those. It’s a thorn. It stings. But it’s a very present, everyday reminder that there are better things coming.

Thanksgiving in Everything, Not for Everything

Here is an article observing what Paul did and did not say in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. What does it mean to live a life of thankfulness?

Above all, we know God is working in every situation to bring good to those who are His (Rom 8:28)—which does not mean that everything that happens to the believer is itself, “good.” Calvin helpfully comments on 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “God has such a disposition towards us in Christ, that even in our afflictions we have large occasion of thanksgiving.” Like Romans 8:28, “In everything give thanks” reminds us of the providence of God in all aspects of our lives.

The Teacher Who Never Spoke

This article is on the long side, but it’s really good. Maureen Swinger wrote about her brother Duane and his impact on the world. Duane was never able to talk or walk and only lived 31 years, but this is a moving reflection on the image of God in humans.

The five of us siblings were born within the space of five years, with D right in the middle of the lineup. As kids we prayed confidently for miraculous healing, sure that the next morning he’d run out of his room to meet us. But sooner or later, the realization caught up with each of us: D is D, and he’s here, as he is, for a reason.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called How to Be Less Thankful. 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.