Links for the Weekend (2024-02-23)

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

Even Believers Need to Be Warned:
How Hell Motivates Holiness

Though we might wince at the thought of hell and using it to motivate Christian obedience, this article does a good job showing how Paul often did just this in his epistles. This article is sobering but really helpful.

When we turn to Paul’s letters, we actually notice something even more startling than the notecard over my friend’s sink. Regularly throughout his writings, the apostle not only reminds the churches of their formerly hopeless state; he also warns them of their ongoing danger should they drift from Christ. He says not only, “You deserve hell,” but also, “Make sure you don’t end up there.”

Life is More than Mountaintop Experiences

Aaron Armstrong has written a wise article about the highs and lows of the Christian life and how God’s presence is with us in everything.

But when we start chasing after spiritual highs, we also start to define our faith by them. When we get that high, life is good. We feel as though we are gaining greater insights from Scripture. Our prayers are more focused (and possibly ornate). We’re ready to do big things for God and share the gospel with that friend who doesn’t know Jesus. But when the high starts to fade, our sense of intimacy and our resolve go with it.

Lenten Sonnet | March 17, 2017

The poem of the week is a Lenten sonnet by Andrew Peterson. It’s full of Narnian goodness!

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Default Posture of Love. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


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

The Default Posture of Love

It was a delightfully ordinary morning. I was well-rested, blessed by the routines of both the previous evening and the present day. I was enjoying the silence and stillness. Then my children awoke.

Though this happens every day, something was different. I was immediately on edge, listening critically to their conversation and actions. I felt like a coiled spring, ready to bounce upstairs to correct, scold, or yell at the slightest provocation.

Default Positions

We all know a bit about defaults. A default is a position assumed automatically without active choice. We’ve all accidentally subscribed to an email newsletter (or fifty) because we didn’t uncheck the proper box.

On this particular morning, my default position toward my children was one of suspicion and anger. Before they said or did anything, I took on an adversarial stance; I assumed they would soon need correction or discipline. I’m convicted as I remember this attitude, because it’s simply not the way a Christian should think about his kids.

A False View of God

Christian fathers have a weighty task. Whenever they interact with their children, they speak about God’s fatherhood. Like it or not, kids will learn what God is like as a father (in part) by watching, playing with, and listening to their dad.

In my posture toward my children, I was promoting a false view of God.

The culture at large thinks of God as a scold, a grade-school nun eager to draw blood from knuckles with a ruler. The clear, Scriptural evidences of God’s holiness and judgment are used to paint God as perpetually angry, just waiting for us to sin so he can strike. He may be merciful, but only as a last-second shield from his wrath.

These conceptions of God do not square with the biblical picture, especially for Christians.

The True View of God

If you are a Christian, God loves you (1 John 4:10). Your faith is an evidence of his love. He cannot love you any more, and he cannot love you any less. Full stop.

There is not a drop of his wrath remaining toward you (Rom 8:1). Every last ounce was wrung out on Jesus in your place (Rom 5:6–11). Because he is just, God is not waiting for you to fall. (Though he will pick you up when you do.)

Of course, God disciplines us as a loving father (Heb 12:3–11). But God’s discipline comes as needed, in just the right measure and at just the right time. It is never extraneous or excessive; it is never vengeful or disproportionate. His discipline is perfect and perfectly loving.

In short, God’s posture toward us is one of love.

A Godly Vision of Fatherhood

Perhaps the application for parents is clear. Our default posture toward our children must be one of love and peace. We should rejoice at the God-given relationship we have. Friends come and go, but these will be our children forever. Instead of suspicion and anger, my resting state with my children must be warmth and joy, especially if I am to teach them about God.

This posture doesn’t excuse sin or disobedience. In fact, it provides the biblical context for addressing disobedience.

I can love because I am loved. I can help because I have been helped. I can forgive because I have been forgiven. I can correct, guide, and instruct because my Father does the same for me.

For yourself, and for your children, this makes all the difference in the world.

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Links for the Weekend (2024-02-16)

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

Worse Than Any Affliction

It’s always convicting for me to read Joni Eareckson Tada write about her life and her battle against the temptation to complain.

My flesh is wasting away, and who would blame me if I complained? Certainly not the world — it’s natural for them to expect an old lady in a wheelchair to grumble over her losses. But followers of Jesus Christ should expect more from me. Much more.

Gratitude

This article reflects on the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers and draws out some helpful points about thankfulness.

There are times when I’m thankful, but I don’t take the extra step to express that gratitude to God or to the person who’s blessed me. That robs God of the glory He deserves, the other person of the gladness of knowing they made a difference, and me from the delight of counting my blessings and realizing there’s so much more for me than against me!

A Sonnet for Ash Wednesday

Poem of the week: A Sonnet for Ash Wednesday, by Malcolm Guite. Those in our Presbyterian tradition do not usually pay much attention to Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent), but this poem is still worth reading and pondering.


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 (2024-02-09)

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

The Parenting Book Too Few Parents Read

Tim Challies encourages us to learn from the ways our fellow church members parent their children.

And yet I believe that many parents fail to read the parenting book that could make the biggest difference to their lives and families. Many neglect to give their attention to the parenting book that God has set right before them. It’s the “book” that is being written in the lives of the people in their own local church.

Why We Pulled Our Kids from Club Sports

This article is an interview with the athletic director at Dordt University about kids’ involvement in club sports. He highlights the good things about sports for children, and he offers some cautions as well.

Navigating that fine line between loving sports and idolizing sports is really hard, and that’s why we need Christian coaches and leaders to help educate families on moderation—on what is enough for their family. Certainly, we are getting no help from the culture on de-idolizing athletics, so we need to be intentional. We hear loud noises from the greater sports culture saying, “Indulge, indulge, indulge.”

Selfless Self-Control in a Selfish Society

When we think of self-control, we often think primarily of ourselves. This article explains why self-control is commanded of God’s people—to benefit others.

Godly self-control, such as we find described in Titus, is the opposite. It is about us restraining ourselves not just for our own sake but for the sake of other people. Self-control admits that, left to our own devices, we would not tend towards the interests of others but towards our own interests—and seeks to do better.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called God’s Promises Are So Much Better Than We Think. 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. 

God’s Promises Are So Much Better Than We Think

God has made promises to his people, and they are staggering. The fact that we don’t consider them staggering means either that we haven’t taken them seriously or that we haven’t meditated on the first chapter of 2 Peter in a while.

All Needful Things

Peter begins this letter telling his readers that in his power God “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” All of these things come “through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet 1:3).

Think of it—there is nothing pertaining to life and godliness that our heavenly father has withheld. We lack no access, no privilege, no resources to live a life which glorifies God. The vehicle through which these resources come is the “knowledge of [Jesus],” which we should understand as the Scriptures and the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

What Promises!

Peter gets more specific after this, pointing his finger at one category of essential resources for godly living: God’s promises.

by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:4)

In context, this verse is full of great encouragement regarding the promises of God. Let’s take a look at five characteristics of these promises.

Precious Promises

God’s promises are precious. By this Peter means that they are of immense value to believers. They fill the bank account of our souls with great riches because they point to what is true and eternal.

When something is precious it is also treasured or cherished. God’s promises are words we should hold close and consider frequently. Rather than keep them in a museum-quality display case, they are meant to be picked up and examined with awe from every angle and in every light.

Very Great Promises

God’s promises are very great. These are no small assurances! God’s promises are vast and sweeping, like a roaring river kicking foam up onto its banks.

I love the emphasis Peter puts on this adjective—God’s promises are not just great, they are very great. They are far better than anything we’d wish for.

His Promises

Perhaps this is obvious, but sometimes what is obvious is useful to state: God’s promises are his. They come from God himself, guaranteed by his name and his word. His promises cannot fail because God cannot fail. God spoke all of these promises, and not a single one was an accident, an exaggeration, or a hastily-made effort to appease. God meant every last word of every promise he has made.

Partake of the Divine Nature

If you doubted that God’s promises were very great, hold onto your hat. Through God’s promises he intends for us to “become partakers of the divine nature.”

This may seem like an unattainable (or even an unintended) plane of existence. On its surface, this isn’t anything I’d long for or request.

But what Peter has in mind is likely echoed elsewhere in Scripture. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that God disciplines his children “that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). John also tells us that “when he appears we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).

God’s promises won’t make us divine, but they do provide strength and light along the path to growing in divine qualities, like holiness, goodness, and love.

Escape from Corruption

Partaking of the divine nature is not the first result of holding onto God’s promises. Rather, this happens as we escape “the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (The end of the verse lends weight to linking “partaking of the divine nature” to growing in holiness.)

In their best moments, what Christian doesn’t want to escape the corruption of the world and grow in holiness? If you desire these things, Peter is pointing you to God’s promises. Of all the things that pertain to life and godliness which God has provided, his promises are among the most powerful.

Life Through the Promises

God’s promises are far from the only important aspects of Scripture. But they are vital to our faith, and we ignore them at our own peril.

Because God’s promises are central to our faith and hope, we should take care to identify and cling to them. I plan to discuss both of these aspects of God’s promises in future articles.

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Links for the Weekend (2024-02-02)

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

I Still Feel Shame for My Past Sins. What Should I Do?

Sinclair Ferguson answers this question about shame for Ligonier. This is available as an audio recording (a podcast) as well as a transcript.

10 Things You Should Know about American Criminal Justice

This was eye-opening for me. This Crossway article (and advertisement for one of their books) explains some of the misunderstood facts about the American criminal justice system.

Concerns about and criticism of the criminal justice system is not un-American; rather, it is quintessentially American. The American Revolution often brings to mind tea taxes and the Boston harbor protest of such. But skimming the Declaration of Independence, one realizes that the colonists were also quite concerned about abuses of the criminal justice system by King George III. In the very first Congress, James Madison proposed a series of constitutional amendments—now known as the US Bill of Rights—that were overwhelmingly focused on how criminal prosecutions must be conducted. The American founders understood that the power to criminally punish was an enormous one and the emotional outcry to solve a crime could lead the authorities to run roughshod over the rights of the accused. 

Laughter

Here’s our poem of the week. It’s a great reflection on Sarah’s laughter when she learned of her pregnancy in old age.


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 (2024-01-26)

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

Aging Peacefully

This is a wise and touching article about aging, inspired by an encounter with a dress in a department store.

I was embarrassed that I haven’t transcended these ideas of what it is to be a woman, that I haven’t devoted more of my mind and my heart to purely spiritual endeavors instead of physical ones. I wondered why there is such heartbreak in something as inconsequential as crow’s feet, love handles, greying hair, and a particularly beautiful dress that I am too old to wear.

It’s Okay To Just Pray

I thought it would be good to include an article about prayer since we’re hearing about the Lord’s Prayer on Sunday mornings. This article by Tim Challies emphasizes that we don’t need to understand prayer in order to pray.

I take that to mean that we should not allow our lack of understanding to lead to a lack of prayer. We should not allow our confusion to excuse hesitation. Instead, we should press on in obedience and faith—obedience to God’s clear command and faith that prayers are meaningful to God. We should press on in earnest prayer, in confident prayer, in constant prayer, and in all kinds of prayer, trusting that God loves to hear them and act upon them.

When Consequences Are Irreversible

Our sin has consequences. What happens when those consequences are irreversible?

Perhaps you made a major life choice like a move or job change without listening to the Lord through prayer and wise counsel…then it quickly becomes apparent that you made the wrong choice but can’t change it immediately. What if you marry an unbeliever only to realize your sin after you’ve made the commitment and said ‘I do.’ There are many different ways we may make a wrong choice that brings long-term consequences, and surely living in guilt and shame for the rest of our life isn’t God’s desire for his people.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Gospel Gives Us Courage. 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 Gospel Gives Us Courage

The gospel of Jesus Christ brings to us an abundance of gifts. When we believe, we have new life; we have the forgiveness of our sins; we are new people, made part of the body of Christ, the church.

But the blessings of the gospel keep on coming, some of which we may not realize until months or years later.

In particular, the gospel gives us courage.

Courage to Approach God

Believing the gospel involves confessing our sin, and once we begin to glimpse our sin, we realize a portion of its horror. In the presence of our holy God, and without a mediator, this sin would electroshock our hearts, leaving us quivering on the ground. We would only fear God’s judgment, knowing we don’t belong anywhere near him.

But the gospel tells us that we now “have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). He is “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2), meaning that he absorbed God’s wrath that we deserved.

This changes everything!

We now have confidence to go to God. We can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace” for “help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). Paul tells us that in Christ “we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Eph 3:12) We have assurance that God hears us when we pray: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14).

While we must not approach God with irreverence or presume upon him, we no longer come into his presence as one only flinching before a disciplinarian. We come to a holy God, but this holy God is our Father.

Courage to Admit Our Sin

If we understand that a fundamental part of us (our sin) is known fully by God, and if we grasp that he is devoted to us despite this knowledge, then our attitude toward our sin can change. We can stop trying to convince everyone we are perfect—or, in the church, we can stop trying to make others think we’re not too bad.

Such an acting job is exhausting. Keeping up appearances, admitting to respectable flaws but burying our less presentable wickedness, deflecting the questions of people who might actually want to be close friends—it’s enough to run us into the ground.

The good news is that it’s not necessary! We can admit our sin—to God, to ourselves, and to others. We can seek and expect help from the Holy Spirit to transform us, and in showing that we aren’t perfect we can invite others to live more honestly as well.

How does the gospel accomplish this? God’s love for us is secure, and we are reconciled to him through the work of Jesus. We no longer need to jealously guard our reputations or images. We don’t need to be obsessed with impressing others, because the most important One knows and loves us, and he won’t turn away.

Courage to Speak the Truth to Others

Good, harmonious relationships are rare and precious. Consequently, we often shy away from any conversation or topic that might endanger that harmony.

And yet, Christians are called to speak the truth in love. This might mean pointing a friend or acquaintance toward Jesus, inviting them to consider his claims. It could also mean offering correction to someone at church, calling them to repent of their sin.

How does the gospel give us courage to do these hard things?

In Christ, we are delivered from the rule of sin. We need not say only what others want to hear and ignore their offenses to God. In short, we need not live to please man any longer.

Most of us have an internal compass that directs us in conversation. We move toward or away from topics that make the other person uncomfortable or irritated. But as Christians grow, the Holy Spirit begins to override this compass, helping us to honor God instead of making relational peace our only aim.

The gospel had this transforming effect on the apostle Paul. He describes how God gave him “boldness” to declare “the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (1 Thess 2:2). Paul spoke the gospel “not to please man, but to please God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thess 2:3).

The confidence that we have “to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19) should lead us to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24). Often this stirring up happens through encouragement, but sometimes it happens through confrontation.

Gospel Boldness

When a person comes to Christ, they may not develop radical boldness right away. But the trajectory of our lives should point more and more toward the sort of courage that the gospel inspires.

We who know Jesus have been given the “ministry of the Spirit,” which has far more glory than the “ministry of condemnation” (2 Cor 3:8-9). This “ministry of righteousness” is glorious, in part, because it is permanent (2 Cor 3:9, 11).

The more we believe this, the more we’ll be able to say, with Paul, “since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Cor 3:12).

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Links for the Weekend (2024-01-19)

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

The Irreplaceable Encouragement of Intergenerational Relationships

Wow, that title is a mouthful! This article offers the experience of a woman who has been blessed by intergenerational friendships. It’s an encouragement for us to find and build those same kinds of relationships

They have faced some of the very things I fear most in life, and yet show me what it looks like to keep trusting Christ. And they do not try to pretend to do it perfectly. More than their wisdom or experience, it is their testimony of God’s faithfulness that means the most to me. I can’t get enough of it. I am still young and keenly aware of how much life is still ahead. I can choose anxiety and fear and yearn for control, or I can remember that the Jesus who has sustained these brothers and sisters is the same Jesus I trust.

Parenting Will Kill You Too (And That’s Good)

I enjoyed this article about what parenting calls us to put to death in ourselves.

And so I die daily. I repent quickly and listen slowly. I surrender seeds of self-preservation and self-promotion, letting them fall to the ground and die. And as I wait for their resurrection—a harvest of righteousness in my life and my kids—in faith I laugh. Like a burbling stream, laughter flows from childish antics and childlike jokes; laughter bubbles up at idiolects and innocent delight. Though impediments come, as I contemplate these priceless treasures I’ve been gifted, the astonished laugh of Sarah of old wells up. All really is grace. 

Stop Looking For Friends, And Start Making Them

Here’s another article about friendship. It is written with the conviction that deep friendships are often formed instead of merely found.

We all want the treasure of friendship. Of course we do. It’s treasure! We just don’t all want the process that makes the treasure look like treasure. We want to discover a hoard somewhere that someone else worked and fought for, that someone else mined and minted, and we want it all for ourselves to spend and enjoy as we see fit. Maybe that’s why we’re so lonely. We’ve charted the wrong course by hunting around forever for chests full of ready-made friendship, perfectly formed and perfectly suited to our needs and desires. The reason there’s no map for that kind of friendship is because that’s not how friendship works.


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 (2024-01-12)

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

How does judgement and salvation work in the Bible?

Many people come to the Bible with their own assumptions about how judgement and salvation work. Here’s a good corrective, which actually features Jesus. (The video is only two minutes long!)

How do I get over certain anxiety triggers?

It’s a video-heavy edition of the links this week! CCEF counselor Todd Stryd turns to Scripture to help us think about our response to anxiety triggers. (The video is about 5.5 minutes long.) This gives me a good excuse to post a link to a collection of CCEF resources related to anxiety.

Tabernacle

The poem for the week is Tabernacle, a lovely work about the dazzling beauty of the Incarnation of Jesus.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Lord’s Supper is Not a Pot Luck. 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.