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 (2023-12-22)

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

A quick programming note: this will be the last WPCA blog post of 2023. Look for a new links post on January 5 and a new original article on January 10.

Small Group Saved My Parents’ Marriage

This is a moving story about how some men from the author’s church intervened in her father’s life and helped to turn him around.

First, the gospel changes lives. My dad came to terms with how his anger and pride hurt the people he most loved for many years. Seemingly overnight, he changed from a man of anger to a man of patience and love. When he was confronted with the grace, forgiveness, and mercy of the gospel message, those traits infiltrated his life as well.

My Grandfather Died with Dignity

This article describes some of the concerning problems with Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), which is gaining popularity in Canada and some countries in Northern Europe.

The conversation around MAiD puts front and center the questions of what makes life worth living and, by implication, in what circumstances a life might no longer be worth living. In the modern Western ethos of entrepreneurial individualism, the cardinal virtues include efficiency and productivity. As Justin Hawkins reminds us, our cultural fixation on accomplishment and achievement has influenced the way we view the moral worth of those who cannot achieve or accomplish. Old age and chronic illness increase our dependency on others; each simple cold or stumble on the stairs can become a greater and greater battle for lesser and lesser recovery. The moral hazard here is for the suffering to view their struggles not only as a reduction in their own value and dignity, but for those charged with their care to take offense at being asked to sacrifice their autonomy and capacity in the service of those dependent on them. Those so affronted could be tempted to ask, as Canada’s healthcare system writ large is doing right now, “why should I forego what makes my life valuable for the sake of one whose life is becoming less and less valuable?” In the moral logic of accomplishment, efficiency, and productivity, giving someone the option to die eventually imposes upon them an obligation to die. 

A Harmony of the Birth of Jesus: Matthew and Luke

If you’ve ever wondered how the chronology of Matthew and Luke fit together surrounding the birth of Jesus, Justin Taylor provides a helpful chart.

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 (2023-12-15)

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

Think You Know the Christmas Story?

How many of our go-to Christmas images are shaped more by myth and misconception than the Bible?

These five misconceptions remind us that sometimes our picture of scriptural stories is shaped more by popular perceptions and modern retellings than by the text itself. But when we take a closer look at the biblical clues, a wonderful—and hopefully more accurate—picture emerges of what happened that night nearly 2,000 years ago.

15 Strategies for Men to Strengthen Their Friendships

It’s no secret that friendship for men can be difficult and rare. Drew Hunter offers some strategies for men to build up friendships.

Isn’t this what the God of love has done for us? Jesus came to be face-to-face with us, and he walks in friendship with his people. This is why the best strategy for stronger friendship is to enjoy friendship with the friend of sinners.

There Is No Inconvenience Too Great For Godliness

Here’s a compelling call to pursue godliness regardless of the cost.

We love comfort. We love the path of least resistance. But here’s the question for a Christian: What wouldn’t you do to be godly? Is there anything too hard? Is there any inconvenience too great? When Jesus says to cut off hands and pluck out eyes, He’s not saying it with a wink. He’s communicating something deadly serious. We can’t wear kid gloves when dealing with sin. Sin leads to hell. What would we wish we had done if we were to find ourselves there?

More Light, Lord

Here’s your poem for the week. (It’s short and lovely.)

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Immanuel: The Story of Christmas. 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. 

3 Skills Christians Can Learn from a Great Interviewer

What keeps you from being a better friend to the people in your life?

As we grow in grace, we should become better friends. But it’s a hard climb; we should learn from whomever we can.

Krista Tippett hosts a public radio show/podcast called On Being. (I haven’t heard it.) She was interviewed on the Longform podcast back in October, and the episode gave me a lot of food for thought.

Practice Gracious Listening

Around the 33:35 mark, Tippett is asked about the phrase “gracious listening” which she uses in her 2016 book, Becoming Wise. What does she mean by this phrase?

I put words in front of the word “listening”—gracious, generous—because the word listening and the act of listening, there’s a lot of lack of self-awareness around that. I think that I grew up, and a lot of people in this culture grew up, experiencing listening as being quiet while the other person talks, basically. Right? So that eventually you can say what you have to say. Listening is basic social art, but it’s something we have to learn and practice. And we really haven’t practiced a robust listening—generous, gracious listening—which is not just about being quiet, but about actually, truly being curious, really mustering curiosity. Which can be as simple as being willing to be surprised.

She contrasts this curiosity with making assumptions about others.

We tend to go into encounters pretty much thinking we know who that other person is. We know who they voted for, we know what they do. So, curiosity I think is something that is a virtue that can be really complex and it’s counter-intuitive to how we walk through the world, especially how we walk through the public world.

I love that phrase be willing to be surprised. So often I assume I know another person by applying stereotypes. But this is far from loving. Being curious means, in part, acknowledging your incomplete understanding about another person. (Even your best friend or spouse!)

Because I am accepted by God and fully known by him, I don’t need to pretend to have everyone figured out. By his power I can put to death the insecurity and pride that puts up this front.

Create a Hospitable Atmosphere

Later in the podcast, Tippett is asked how she prepares for an interview. She talks about trying to get to know someone by immersing herself in what they’ve written and/or said in the past.

What I’m trying to do is not so much understand what people know, but how they think. And then, if I have just a sensitivity to that, that really creates a hospitable space for them to think out loud with me. And this transmits itself viscerally, within a very few moments of meeting somebody. We’ve all had this experience of walking into a room and […] you know you’re going to have to defend yourself or explain yourself. And that creates a certain amount of tension and it puts you in a certain mode of what you are going to talk about and what you’re not going to talk about. And I’m trying to create an atmosphere, an intellectually hospitable atmosphere, where people have this sense very quickly that I get them. And then, you just relax inside.

Tippett’s description makes me wonder what sort of atmosphere I create in my conversations. Are people encouraged to think out loud with me? Or am I making them feel defensive and interrogated? This idea of a hospitable atmosphere has huge implications when it comes to apologetics, evangelism, and discipleship.

Ask Good Questions

Tippett’s definition of a good question is “one that elicits honesty.” She was asked what she means by that definition.

I think one thing a lot of people do is ask questions that are interesting to them. Like, “I’ve always wanted to know.” […] Often when I start out preparing for an interview, I will have my questions that I think going into this I’m probably going to want to ask this person. But in the course of preparation, a lot of them will fall away. And what will come in their place is the question that’s going to be interesting to them. And I can formulate that question because I’m immersing in their thinking. So then the questions I’m writing are coming out of that rather than out of my head. And if you ask somebody a question that’s interesting to them, they immediately—you’ll hear it, they’ll say, “Oh, that’s an interesting question.” And then they stop realizing they’re being interviewed, and they’re not even giving an answer, they’re thinking in real time.

This definition of a good question is fairly specific to the context of an interview, but there’s still a lot to learn. My default setting is to ask questions I find interesting, and I never considered that this might be selfish. It is a challenge to know someone well enough to ask a question that interests them. What works in one conversation might not work in the next.

Perhaps a common theme that holds these skills together (for the Christian) is dependence. If we depend on the Holy Spirit, discarding the notion we must control the conversation, we’ll be more likely to love the other person. We won’t make assumptions, we won’t focus on ourselves, and we’ll serve.

As Tippett says (in the first quote), this takes practice. But it’s worth it! And it reflects our God as well—he knows us completely and welcomes us in relationship and conversation. By his strength, let’s do the same for each other.

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Links for the Weekend (2023-06-09)

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

Delighting in the Trinity

Michael Reeves is a wonderful writer, specifically about the Trinity. In this article, he describes the love we could expect from a single-person god in contrast to the Trinity.

Just imagine for a moment a single-person god. Having been alone for eternity, would it want fellowship with us? It seems most unlikely. Would it even know what fellowship was? Almost certainly not. Such a god might allow us to live under its rule and protection, but little more. Think of the uncertain hope of the Muslim or the Jehovah’s Witness: they may finally attain paradise, but even there they will have no real fellowship with their god. Their god would not want it.

3 Ways Our Relationship With Social Media Warps Friendship

I appreciate the way this article explains how social media connections can taint our thinking and beliefs about in-person friendship.

Shallow, transient friendships (or “acquaintances”) aren’t all bad—not every “friend” can be a best friend, of course—but those kinds of relationships aren’t built to bear the weight that comes with walking side by side on the road of faith. Unfortunately, the social internet specializes in the generation and maintenance of shallow, transient friendships that masquerade as deep ones. And because we spend more time scrolling our feeds than we do looking at faces, we’ve become far too comfortable with the shallow, transient relationships that social platforms provide.

The kingdom of heaven is like

Here’s a brief, vivid poem about the kingdom of heaven. I especially like the last stanza!

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

What Makes a Good Friend?

Friendships can be fickle. Even putting aside the middle and high school years, many adult friendships have flimsy foundations. A hobby? A common interest in a sports team?

Other adults have few friends to speak of.

When Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), he wasn’t only predicting his own cross-directed future. He was giving a lesson on friendship.

Personal Preference?

If you ask ten Christians what it means to be a friend, you might get ten different answers. Some of this is due to personality, background, and preference. But the Bible teaches that all Christian friendships have some common elements.

The basics might be expressed differently. But, like a leaf burn in autumn, the aroma of Christian friendship is distinctive.

Wanting the Best

Good friends want the best for each other. In other words, friends love one another.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)

We need to be committed to our friends for their good. We should get to know them, listen to them, and ask questions to figure out what that “good” is.

In good times and bad, friends remain loyal. Through sins, slights, and offences, they persevere in love.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

Doing Good

Love which only occupies intention is no love at all. A real friend takes action.

We should point our friends repeatedly to Jesus. Sometimes this means support and encouragement, and sometimes it means rebuke.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)

A good friend is quick to listen and slow to speak. He gives godly advice when appropriate.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. (Proverbs 27:9)

Friends know each other’s weak points, temptations, and sin patterns. They give concrete help in the fight against sin, and they remind each other of God’s grace. They pray for one another.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

We can usually make more of an impact by being a close friend to a few than being a casual friend to many. We see in the life of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus was and is the best friend we could ever imagine. He is loyal, loving, and ever-present. He is full of grace and wisdom, and he gives both abundantly. He rebukes us and encourages us at the right time and in perfect proportion.

But Jesus is much more than an example. He makes friendship possible. He frees us from our self-focused obsession and gives us love for others.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

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How to Ask Better Questions

Asking questions is like sending email. We do it many times each day, mostly without thinking. Our patterns are familiar and comfortable.

But questions, like email, are a foundational way we interact with other people. We all have room to improve.

The Importance of Questions

Questions are the way we learn. Without questions, you’ll have no understanding, no wisdom, no growth.

This is obvious in the world of facts and ideas. Where was the bicycle invented? What are the drawbacks of socialism? We don’t often get answers without questions.

But this is also (and more importantly) true with people. Questions drive conversations, and better questions lead deeper. A good question sidesteps small talk and draws out ideas and passions—it makes space to hear a person’s heartbeat.

Because questions are a key way to get to know other people, they are vital for being a neighborly human. And for the Christian, they are essential.

We all want to grow in our love for other people. So how can we improve in this area?

How to Improve

I offer no cheat sheet. You won’t find “5 easy tricks” here.

Instead, I have some hard news: To ask better questions, you need to grow. For most of us, the barrier to good conversations is our selfishness and our lack of love for God and neighbor.

Be Curious

Curious people are a delight. Instead of making polite conversation, they take an interest in you. They make good eye contact, they follow up, and they think about your words before responding.

Curious people are always learning. They are intrigued by everything from sea turtles to Saturn, from the periodic table to the printing press. And curious Christians are fascinated by their neighbors.

Growing in curiosity begins with worshiping God as creator. If God is creative, infinite, and wise, then everything he makes—from bamboo to Barbara in HR—is worth investigating. Any Christian who loves God and worships him as creator will never be bored. Everything is interesting; everyone is interesting.

Curious people reject the simplistic reflex that files people in boxes. He’s a gun-loving Republican. She’s a liberal academic. God makes people individually, and love demands we get to know people instead of making assumptions.

Be Humble

Honest questions involve admitting we don’t know the answer. We speak up because we lack some knowledge or explanation.

But no one likes looking ignorant or naïve. So, depending on the listening audience or our conversation partner, we keep silent. We don’t mind confessing our limitations in the abstract, but when a specific person learns of a specific deficit of ours, it feels like torture.

In order to ask better questions, we must make peace with looking silly. Take a sledgehammer to your fascade of omniscience. God knows everything and you do not. That doesn’t make you weak or stupid, it makes you human. You’re only weak if you care more about the opinion of others than seeking the truth in love.


Many of us need to hear this word from James again and again.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19–20, ESV)

So often we only listen up to a point. We think of a response or a connection to our experience, and we start looking to jump back in. We ignore the other person by looking out for ourselves.

We must repent of selfishness in conversations. We can only ask good questions as we hear the other person and advance the conversation accordingly.

Listening requires a loving focus on the other person. With man this is impossible, but all things are possible with God because of Jesus.

Love Your Neighbor

Christians must be concerned about loving our neighbors, and the skill of asking good questions is crucial for the spread of the gospel.

Evangelism is much more than keeping a tally of monthly gospel shares. This approach makes the gospel seem like a water balloon we’re just waiting to pop over a person’s head. (Got one!) It smooths out distinctions between people and implies our task is limited to one conversation. We’re tempted to shoehorn the gospel in where it doesn’t belong or where its introduction is premature.

The gospel is rich, full, and deep, and it answers all of life’s questions and difficulties. But if we don’t know our friend’s struggles, they won’t see how the gospel addresses them personally.

Think through your conversational patterns and repent of them where appropriate. Take up the task of asking good questions of your friends. And pray for opportunities to introduce them to Jesus.

This isn’t just strategic and winsome, it’s the loving way forward.

Some of the ideas in this post were inspired by an interview with the author Malcolm Gladwell on Tim Ferriss’s podcast. Skip ahead to the 41-minute mark to hear Gladwell talk about the best question-asker he knows: his father.

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Links for the Weekend (2023-01-13)

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

3 Questions to Ask When Anxiety Strikes

Karrie Hahn offers some suggestions on connecting to truth in times of anxious thoughts.

How, then, can we reorient ourselves when anxiety threatens to overwhelm us? While life is more complex and nuanced than offering easy steps to get from here to there, asking myself three questions has proven helpful.

I Want Him Back (But Not The Old Me Back)

I’ve linked to Tim Challies several times as he’s written about grief and his son’s sudden death. Here’s another article on that topic I found helpful. He writes about missing his son desperately but being grateful for the growth he’s seen in himself because of the loss.

And, indeed, as we look back at our own lives, we often see evidence of the ways God has worked in us through our hardest times. We see how it was when a loved one was taken from our side that we truly grew closer to the Lord, how it was when our wealth disappeared that we came to treasure God more fully, how it was when our bodies weakened that our reliance upon God grew. We see that God really does purify us through the fire, that he really does strengthen us in our weaknesses, that he really does sanctify us through our sorrows. Though we do not emerge from our trials unscathed, we still emerge from them better and holier and closer to him. Though we wish we did not experience such sorrows, we are thankful to have learned what we have learned and to have grown in the ways we have grown.

Grieving a Childhood Friend

Here’s another article on the topic of grief, but from a different angle. This author writes about losing a friend from childhood, someone who had moved away but gotten back in touch. This is a lovely bit of writing.

Then there is the grief that comes on like a freight train, approaching from far off with increasing dread to wallop you with unexpected fury: the diagnosis and decline that is met with no familiar scripts or cliches, but uncomprehending emptiness. In three months last year I got to taste each of these types of grief, but the one that most unnerved me – that seemed most unnatural and the hardest to explain – was the death of one of those kids who had sat next to me in the bleachers.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Do You Need More Self-Control? 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. 

Links for the Weekend (2022-06-03)

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

Our Hope in the Ascension

Protestant Christians don’t always do a great job understanding the ascension of Jesus. Here is an article that explains why the ascension should give us great hope.

More important than history, of course, is the Bible. And here we find that Christ’s ascension is more prominent in Scripture than many realize. Luke describes the Ascension in the most detail, first in his Gospel and then in Acts. Peter’s Pentecost sermon is, in part, about the Ascension and enthronement of Christ. Likewise, John’s Gospel is full of references to the Ascension of the Son of Man and the importance of Jesus returning to the Father.

Submit Your Felt Reality to God

What we think and feel does not always match reality, and it takes some humility (and perspective) to realize this. I appreciated the language and categories this article gave me.

Reality and felt reality aren’t the same. Sometimes they align — what I think and feel fits with what is actually happening. Other times, my felt reality is out of accord with reality. In such cases, I might be believing lies, or framing reality wrongly, or overreacting. My perspective might be distorted by my emotions or my sinful desires or my own limitations.

Building Deep Community in a Lonely World

Here’s a podcast episode in which Collin Hansen interviews Jennie Allen about her book on building community. It’s hard to make and keep friends, and this conversation was helpful on the topic.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Christian Life is a Waiting Life. 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. 

Links for the Weekend (2022-04-29)

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

Friendship and Belonging in Middle Age

Here’s an article by Alan Noble on some of the reasons it’s hard for people in middle age to make and sustain friendships. And yet, we need friends!

The way our lives are set up is broken. The structures, habits, practices, and values. Our city planning, markets, careers, laws, and entertainment—all have been designed with a false idea of what a human being is. Collectively we assume that to be a human is to belong only and ever to yourself. Thus, friendships can be a nice perk of a successful life, but friends can’t demand anything of you that you don’t choose to give. At any point, if a friendship is holding you back or bringing you down, you can bail. Because the only person you owe happiness to is yourself.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

One of the main accusations that Jesus faced was that he hung out with sinners too much. What are the implications of this for our churches today?

Some Christian circles assume that if a pastor or church is drawing in sinners, they must be compromising the message of the Bible. Maybe they’re seeker-sensitive, watering down the more offensive doctrines of Christianity. On the flip side, pastors who have a reputation for castigating sinners, faithfully exposing the sins of society, must be doing something right. But the truth is, neither approach captures the complexity of Christ’s gospel ministry. Jesus had the ability to attract notorious sinners with the offer of grace without ever compromising truth. It wasn’t the outwardly sinful who were typically put off by Jesus, but the sanctimonious! Ministries that repel sinners through so-called boldness can be just as unfaithful as those that attract them through compromise. 

Go to Funerals

I love the way this article talks about a church body attending funerals. The author encourages everyone who is able to go—especially children—because a church is a family.

The Christian community can be distinct by going to funerals of everyone in your church. At funerals, we display to the world what the body of Christ is like. At funerals, we display what commitment looks like in a covenant body. When we take our membership vows, we are not joining a hobby or a club. We join a body. A body needs all its members—especially at a funeral.

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