Links for the Weekend (6/11/2021)

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

Rich and Miserable — How Can It Be?

It is so, so easy to believe the lie that happiness increases proportionally with the number in our bank account. But it’s just not true! Scott Sauls describes several successful, wealthy people who were far from happy. He ends with a needed call for our imaginations to be “shaped by God’s vision for work.”

So how can we explain the apparent contradiction between the words and lifestyle of Jesus and the apostles, and the Old Testament prosperity passages? Can God’s people today lay claim to those Old Testament promises of prosperity? The answers to these questions lie in the fundamental differences between the Old and New Covenants.

Chasing Rest

Here’s a great reflection on sleep and rest by Kristin Couch. It is humbling to think that one of the ways we best acknowledge that God is God and we are not is by closing our eyes at night.

The soul of gentle waters trusts God moment-by-moment in contentment, and remains calm through absolute submission to God, who is wisdom and authority and perfect power. Nothing startles the Lord, and unflappable tranquility is the result of a heart set upon him.

God Has Not Forgotten You

Vaneetha Risner reflects on the promises of God which have sustained her in the hardest times. The promise that God will not forget us is powerful indeed.

But somehow, knowing that God had not forgotten me stirred me to press into him with renewed hope. Those simple words turned my mind and helped me focus on the truths that I needed to remember. That the Lord was with me and would sustain me through this trial. That God was using my suffering to accomplish something far greater than I could see or understand. And that my pain wouldn’t last any longer than was absolutely necessary.


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 (6/4/2021)

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

What Does Ongoing Sin Say About Me?

The title of this article is a common question for Christians. Scott Hubbard gives us some helpful categories to think through our relationship with ongoing sin.

Some of the clearest displays of our loves and hates appear on the battlefield. While some fight their sin half expecting and (if truth be told) half hoping to lose, others learn to fight like their souls are at stake — like Jesus spoke seriously, even if not literally, when he talked about cutting off hands and tearing out eyes (Matthew 5:29–30).

Going Beyond Clouds That Hide the View

Sylvia Schroeder writes a beautiful meditation on waiting, God’s timing, and beholding his glory.

When clouds draw shadows dark and foreboding, when mist dims His splendor, we can take heart because we know the certainty. We have seen His glory, and nothing less can satisfy.

This Week’s Free eBook: ‘Evangelism as Exiles’

It looks like this deal at The Gospel Coalition is only good through June 6. But hey, free book!

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called How to Find Hope When Hope Has Perished. 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 Find Hope When Hope Has Perished

The book of Lamentations is not dripping with hope. I suspect many avoid the book because it seems so dreary and somber.

But there is hope for God’s people in Lamentations.

My Hope is Gone

Chapter 3 in Lamentations takes a different turn than chapter 1 or chapter 2. God’s judgment earlier was corporate, focused on Israel as a people. In chapter 3, things get personal.

Instead of mourning the destruction of the city or the loss of the temple, now the writer cries out at God’s attacks on his person. God has broken his bones (verse 4), made him dwell in darkness (verse 6), given him heavy chains (verse 7), and even shut out his prayer (verse 8). God is like a lion or a bear hiding in wait for him (verse 10); the writer is a target for God’s arrows (verses 12, 13).

In the start of this chapter, we have an inversion of the way we usually think about God on the side of his people. This writer sees God’s hand against him (verse 3), and instead of protection and joy God has brought him bitterness and tribulation (verse 5). This sorrowful cry escalates until his soul is bereft of peace and he has forgotten what happiness is (verse 17). At the peak of the lament, the writer confesses that both his endurance and his hope have perished (verse 18). Bleak, indeed!

This may seem like an off-limits prayer. Earlier chapters were filled with complaints about the state of the people and city after God brought judgment. Here the writer trims away all of the decorations and strips it down to this crushing truth: God has done terrible things to me.

I Will Yet Hope

The wonderful, memorable verses from Lamentations 3 must be read against this harsh background. What does a person of God do when hope has perished?

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21–24)

The key to our understanding and application of verses 22–24 is found in verse 21. How do we harvest hope from a hopeless situation? We don’t. We remind ourselves (“call to mind”) of what is true that we cannot see.

Lamentations shows us that hope does not come from a change of circumstances. Rather, it comes from what you know to be true despite the situation in front of you. In other words, you live through suffering by what you believe, not by what you see or feel. (Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds Deep Mercy, page 110)

We look around and witness devastation, we feel God’s arrows pointing at our necks, but we know he is full of mercy. We know—from our own experiences walking with him and from countless episodes in the Bible—that God’s steadfast love never ceases. He is so, so faithful—great is his faithfulness!

How wonderful: God’s mercies are new every morning! This doesn’t mean that his mercies are different from one day to the next. Rather, his mercies are fresh every time the sun rises.

Right now is a good time to plan how you will call to mind what is needed. We store and practice and prepare now for the desperate times later. Reading and memorizing the Bible are more than appropriate disciplines here, but so is something like gathering stories of God’s faithfulness from your own life and the lives of others. Ask your friends to remind you how faithful and loving God is. Christian biographies can also be a good source of stories about God’s faithfulness.

Seeking the Lord in Hope

The first half of Lamentations 3 ends with instruction on how to seek the Lord in hope. The punch line here may not be what you’d like to see, but it is anchored in God’s character.

The author tells us, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lam 3:25). Among other things, this means that seeking the Lord may involve more than waiting, but it does not involve less. As much as it grates against our human impulses, we must wait on the Lord. This is a good practice for God’s people to learn even from their youth (verse 27).

Why can we wait? Why can we rebuke our flesh when it insists that things must happen right now? Soak in the beautiful answer found in Lam 3:31-33. God may cause grief to his people, but that is not what makes his heart beat (verse 33). He “will not cast off forever” (verse 31); “he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (verse 32).

With the author of Lamentations, we must return to the theme of God’s steadfast love. His steadfast love is the grounds for our hope; his Son Jesus has secured our hope.

While the author of Lamentations felt the judgment of God personally for his transgressions, Jesus felt the judgment of God personally for our transgressions. Jesus suffered, cried out, and waited on the Lord—all for us. He hoped that God would raise him from the dead to new life. And that same new life awaits those who follow this same suffering, steadfast, risen king. This is the real hope everyone needs.

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Links for the Weekend (5/28/2021)

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

Do the Old Testament Promises of Prosperity Apply to God’s People Today?

Randy Alcorn writing about money is always worth your time. He tackles the question which serves as the title of his article.

So how can we explain the apparent contradiction between the words and lifestyle of Jesus and the apostles, and the Old Testament prosperity passages? Can God’s people today lay claim to those Old Testament promises of prosperity? The answers to these questions lie in the fundamental differences between the Old and New Covenants.

My Hiding Place

Kristin Couch writes about the way Corrie ten Boom’s testimony affected her in a season of suffering. One cool thing here is the number of years that passed between Kristin hearing of Corrie and when the application was needed.

I can see now, in hindsight, that God designs sufferings, created uniquely for his children. He does not toss hardships at random, like dreadful Christmas gifts from some Great Aunt who bestows the same matching, ill-fitting sweaters to each family member carelessly, with little care. Instead, God gives us our sufferings to fit his good and holy purpose: to grow and form and shape us in likeness to his Son. Our part is to trust and obey and follow our Father, knowing that there is nothing reckless or random in his plan. He is our perfect hiding place; the safest spot to dwell.

Manners for Social Media in Polarized Times

Anyone who spends time interacting with others online (not just on social media) would do well to read this article. Jim Elliff exhorts us to love others online.

Christian friends, we must be careful to watch our heart and our words. Have we adopted the spirit of the age? Most of the time our family and social media friends can get along without our condescending viewpoint. Is all our careless ranting displaying the glory and beauty of Christ? Surely it is time to change.


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 (5/21/2021)

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

Mothering at the End of Me

Liz Wann has written a wonderful article about embracing dependency as a mother.

God has a purpose for us in coming to the end of ourselves. If we always felt strong and put together, then we wouldn’t feel our need for Jesus. Like the old hymn says, “Every hour I need you.” Motherhood can make us feel needy every hour. God regularly brings us to this place so that we can lay our burdens down before him and learn to embrace the humble dependence that our Savior modeled for us.

6 Questions about the Book of Job

Christopher Ash has written extensively about Job. At Crossway, he answers some common questions about this often-perplexing book.

Sure, there is a huge amount of suffering in the book. In almost every verse there is pain or some allusion to distress. It is an agonizing book to read. But to say that it contains suffering is not the same as concluding that it is fundamentally about suffering.

Why Confessions Matter

Why do we need confessions if we have the Bible? This article by William Boekestein gives a persuasive answer.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Prayerlessness Springs From Pride. 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. 

Prayerlessness Springs From Pride

Pride is a sneaky, pervasive, elemental sin.

Pride gives birth to many sins and obstructs many godly pursuits. In this article, we’ll consider the ways our pride disrupts our prayer life.

ACTS of Prayer

When we are proud, we feel we are enough. And when we feel we are enough, we don’t think we need God. I read the phrase “prayerlessness springs from pride” earlier this year in a fine Michael Reeves book, and it struck me as profoundly true.

In my early days as a Christian I learned the ACTS acronym to help me pray: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Pride interrupts each of these aspects of prayer.

Adoration

When we think too highly of ourselves, we tend not to think highly of others. With inflated perspectives on our abilities and importance, we don’t notice the skills or positions of others. And this includes the way we think of God.

When we are filled with pride, God’s perfections, his power, his goodness, and his immortality are far from our minds. Our self-exaltation crowds out the acknowledgment of God’s rightful place on the throne.

Confession

If we focus on our goodness and rightness, we are not as aware of God’s laws or our transgressions. As pride increases, conviction decreases, and we slide further down the road that sin paves.

We may mention—either in private prayer or during corporate worship—familiar, long-standing sins. But this is usually done out of habit, half-heartedly, not out of a sense of offending a holy God.

Thanksgiving

When we are consumed with our achievements and convinced of our worth and talent, we don’t think much about what we receive from the Lord.

If we see everything good in our lives as something earned—instead of as a gift—we won’t return much thanks to God.

Supplication

A proud person is not in touch with their poverty and powerlessness, so they are not aware of just how much they need from the Lord. Jesus commends prayer for daily bread, even for those with a full pantry.

We need the Lord’s sustaining grace in both the physical and spiritual realms. We need God’s loving, fatherly discipline; we need his wisdom; we need his protection. And yet, pride blinds us from these needs and blocks us from asking.

Fighting Through Pride to Pray

I’ve often attributed my prayerlessness to busyness. But saints through the years have seen that for the lie it is. Martin Luther famously said that he was so busy the following day he’d need to devote even more time (three hours!) to prayer.

I think Michael Reeves is right—our lack of prayer burbles up from the spring of a proud heart. This means that one of the ways we protect and cultivate a rich prayer life is to battle against our pride.

This article doesn’t have the space for a full strategy to war against pride, but here’s one tactic that has helped me: Read and memorize God-exalting parts of the Bible.

When we fall into pride we start to believe we are independent, that we can function just fine without God or anyone else. This is, of course, a flagrant and laughable lie. But it is a lie our flesh loves, so we need to read and absorb the truth. God is the only independent being in the universe, and we (along with all creation) are completely dependent on him. There are many good places in Scripture to turn for this help, but I find myself returning to Job 38–41.

Prayer as a Weather-vane

If your prayer life is evaporating, pride may be the reason. The specific ways we drift from God can serve as weather-vanes, pointing to the ill winds blowing through our hearts.

This may sound like an article full of bad news. Identifying sin is painful and embarrassing, and repenting of sin is terribly difficult. But if you are in Christ, there is always, always good news.

The fact that you are aware of this pride in your life is not a sign of God’s anger toward you. Just the opposite! It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). If God shows you pride in your heart, it is a sign of his love for and commitment to you.

So don’t stay away from your Heavenly Father. Embrace your dependence on him, turn away from your pride, and pray.

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Links for the Weekend (5/14/2021)

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

Even Dementia Is Not Dark to God

This is a beautiful article by Cynthia Fischer, writing about her mother’s dementia and Psalm 139. It’s worth your time.

My mother can’t call on Jesus to help her. She’s no longer clear who he is. She cannot seek God for peace. She cannot pray to him. She cannot cry out to him—at least not in any verbal way. Who among us has contemplated the end of our days and considered we might not be able to pray aloud?

The Missing Conversation in Our Accountability

At Desiring God, Ryan Griffith writes about an old practice called “holy discourse” which may be able to make our notions of accountability deeper, richer, and more effective.

Holy discourse seeks to apply the blood-bought benefits of Christ to the deepest recesses of the human heart. Holy discourse fans zeal for Christ, strengthens understanding of Scripture, reinforces doctrinal orthodoxy, unearths destructive patterns of thought, addresses beleaguered souls, nurtures preserving prayer, bridles gossip and backbiting, deepens compassion for others, and develops skills of soul care.

Your Weird Church is “Plan A” and There is No “Plan B”

We all know there’s no perfect church, but since we see our church up close, we see its flaws and weirdness more clearly than most. Jared Wilson reassures us about our weird church and about how God calls us to this glorious weirdness.

It’s almost like He prefers losers, cast-offs, and ne’er-do-wells. Like He’s recruiting sinners, in fact. God is prioritizing broken people from broken situations to be His chosen emissaries to a broken world. Which means that as weird and messy as your church may be, you are exactly suited to this weird and messy time. There is no other church than your church to be the church to the people in your community. There is no other people than the church to be an outpost of heaven in your city, in your nation, in this world.


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 (5/7/2021)

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

3 Reality Checks for Your Marriage

In this excerpt from a recent book, Paul Tripp helps us have realistic expectations about marriage.

It is not an accident that you have to deal with the things you do. None of this is fate, chance, or luck. It is all a part of God’s redemptive plan. Acts 17 says that he determines the exact place where you live and the exact length of your life. He knows where you live, and he is not surprised at what you are facing. Even though you face things that make no sense to you, there is meaning and purpose to everything you face. I am persuaded that understanding your fallen world and God’s purpose for keeping you in it is foundational to building a marriage of unity, understanding, and love.

Aging Doesn’t Make You Faithful. Jesus Does.

Spiritual growth doesn’t happen automatically, simply as the calendar turns. Glenna Marshall writes about her own journey with spiritual disciplines.

As someone who long neglected her faithfulness but has been drawn near by the grace of God through trials and suffering, I can tell you that the time spent knowing Him through His Word, prayer, and the body is never wasted. It is for your endurance and patience with joy that you get to know and love Him through His prescribed means of growth (see Col. 1: 11, Heb. 10:19-25). Were it not for the kindness of the Lord in bringing me to the beauty and sustenance of Scripture and prayer, I might still be hoping for a far-off, future faithfulness. I would have missed years of nearness to Christ as I learned of His faithful character through the pages of Scripture and hours of intercession.

We Must Learn the Skills to Resist Sexual Temptation

Randy Alcorn has a helpful warning about sexual temptation, and this article has links to some resources designed to help.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Lord Has Become Like an Enemy. 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 Lord Has Become Like an Enemy

Most Christians don’t have a problem seeing God’s hand in the blessings of life. Give us a new job, a narrowly-avoided accident, or an energizing time with a friend and we’re eager to point to God as the giver.

It’s harder for us to see God bringing difficulty our way. How can we attribute bad circumstances to a good God?

The author of Lamentations did not have this modern problem. As he sits in the smoldering ruins of Jerusalem, he knows for a fact that God has done every bit of it.

So Much Devastation

The poet of Lamentations 2 looks around and sees his city destroyed. And though Babylon is directly responsible for the fires and the rubble, he knows this is God’s work.

God has “broken down” the defenses of the city (Lam 2:2) and “cut down” its might (Lam 2:3). He has “swallowed up all its palaces” and “laid in ruin its strongholds” (Lam 2:5).

Even the destruction of the temple can be traced back to the Lord. God “laid in ruin his meeting place” (Lam 2:6). He has “scorned his altar” and “disowned his sanctuary.” He delivered this holy building “into the hand of the enemy” and they “raised a clamor in the house of the Lord” (Lam 2:7).

Through this work, God was not removed. He was angry. In the first ten verses of this chapter alone, notice the words that describe God’s posture toward his people: anger, fury, burned, killed, without mercy.

At one point it must have seemed unthinkable for God to stand against his people like this. But now, “the Lord has become like an enemy” (Lam 2:5). The author does not take the easy road, writing that God allowed this or that tragedy. No, God “did not restrain his hand from destroying” (Lam 2:8).

This chapter contains some of the most vivid, forceful, specific language in the Bible about God’s judgment on Israel. If the prayer of Lamentations 1 could be summarized as Look at what has happened to us, then chapter 2 takes a harsh turn: Look what you have done to us!

Reasons for Judgment

We don’t have a detailed list of the sins of Israel in this short book. But chapter 2 offers a few details.

The prophets have failed the people. They have seen “false and deceptive visions.” They “have not exposed” the people’s iniquity, but have instead spoken “oracles that are false and misleading” (Lam 2:14).

In his response, God has not acted out of character or against his promise. “The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word which he commanded long ago” (Lam 2:17).

The Response to Judgment

This chapter is filled with weeping and lament. Here we have a profound example: We can mourn our circumstances to the Lord even when God is the one who brought about our mournful circumstances.

It is not wrong—in fact, it is deeply right—to cry out to the Lord in the midst of pain and tragedy that are the result of God’s judgment.

The repeated prayer in Lamentations 1 is a request for the Lord to see the poet. That is also the author’s main request in this chapter: “Look, O Lord, and see! With whom have you dealt thus?” (Lam 2:20)

But now the request to be noticed acknowledges God’s hand in the devastation. The end of this verse captures the layers of grief, surprise, and horror: “Should women eat the fruit of their womb, the children of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord?” (Lam 2:20)

While few of our hardships can be traced with certainty to our guilt, all suffering exists because of the fall of humanity into sin. This chapter helps us understand that crying out to God is good, even in the midst of judgment. How much more, therefore, is it good for us to lament when we are not necessarily directly to blame?

The Laments of Jesus

Because God is just, sin must be judged. And for every Christian, this is what Jesus accomplished. His sufferings were greater than those of the residents of fallen Jerusalem. His agony was deeper than we could imagine. In the unthinkable way that God became like an enemy to his people, God confronted Jesus as he was “made sin” in his final hours (2 Cor 5:21).

On the cross, our Lord lamented being forsaken by God (Matt 27:46). He could just as easily have cried, “With whom have you dealt thus?” (Lam 2:20)

Called to be Lamenting People

The white, western church is deeply uncomfortable with lament. Our calls to worship, our songs, our congregational prayers bear little resemblance to Lamentations. Though we often suffer, we have swallowed the lie that our lives and our words to God should be nothing but celebration.

But it is good to grieve over sin and its consequences. In this way we agree with God—our broken world needs redemption.

As we turn to God, let’s acknowledge him as the good, sovereign king who justly brings consequences for sin. When we feel that sorrow, and when our neighbors bend under that same weight, we can bring this anguish to God.

He will hear. He will see.

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Links for the Weekend (4/30/2021)

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

Help! My Beliefs Are Viewed as Intolerant

In a world where Christians are increasingly viewed as having views which are intolerant, Michael Kruger helps us to think carefully about this charge and offer a humble response.

In most conversations about exclusivity, the non-Christian often remains entirely unaware of why Christianity must be exclusive. Is there any internal logic for why Christianity makes this claim?

At this point, we need to reassure our non-Christian friend that Jesus’s claim about himself is not arbitrary nor is it merely self-aggrandizing. Rather, Jesus is making that claim because he, and he alone, is the only solution to the problem of sin.

What Does It Mean For God to Be Our Father?

Since we are told repeatedly, both in the Old and New Testament, to refer to God as “Father,” we should let the Bible tell us what that means. I don’t mean to spoil things, but having God as our father is very, very good news! Here’s one example:

He responds appropriately to requests, for our good – If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

How to Mortify Sin

The “mortification of sin” sounds like an old-fashioned term, but it is Biblical—it means putting sin to death. In this article, originally published in Ligonier’s Tabletalk magazine, Sinclair Ferguson writes about how Colossians 3:1–17 instructs us to mortify sin. (One extra bonus: this passage is part of the sermon text for this upcoming Sunday!)

Failure to deal with the presence of sin can often be traced back to spiritual amnesia, forgetfulness of our new, true, real identity. As a believer I am someone who has been delivered from the dominion of sin and who therefore is free and motivated to fight against the remnants of sin’s army in my heart.

Thanks to Phil A for his 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.