Links for the Weekend (2022-12-23)

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

Why Is the Virgin Birth So Important?

How central to Christianity is the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus? J. I. Packer shows that it is very important indeed!

The church fathers appealed to the virgin birth as proof, not that Jesus was truly divine as distinct from being merely human, but that he was truly human as distinct from merely looking human as ghosts and angels might do, and it was probably as a witness against Docetism (as this view was called) that the virgin birth was included in the Creed. But it witnesses against humanitarianism (the view that Jesus was just a fine man) with equal force.

Was Christmas Like This?

Some of the typical Christmas narrative is not really from the Bible. Some of it probably didn’t happen! So, how would a more realistic telling of the Christmas story read?

In what follows, I will try to stick to what the Bible does say, but I will fill in some details from my reading of history and my experience of living in other cultures around the world. What results, is – I believe – a more believable story and hopefully, one which is closer to the reality than our traditional reading. 

Mary Consoles Eve

I ran across a lovely piece of art recently. It pictures a pregnant Mary standing next to Eve. Here’s an interview with the nun who drew the picture (and you can see the picture in the middle of this article).

I never intended to share the picture with anyone outside the monastery, but I liked it well enough, so I showed it to some of my sisters. Sr. Martha asked if she could use it for making the community Christmas card. I was surprised, but told her if she wanted to use it, she was welcome to it. A few people who received our card started posting images of it online. It has been both surprising and touching to see how the image moves people.

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 (2022-12-02)

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

The King Came in Rags

Sometimes a simple, straightforward meditation on the great contrasts of the incarnation is exactly what we need.

Jesus didn’t look like a King, either. His appearance was marred with no form, majesty, or beauty that would have captured our attention as he walked past (Isa. 52:14; 53:2). His face carried the marks of tears and grievous afflictions. We would turn our faces away and fail to esteem him as we ought (Isa. 53:3). Our Savior knows the depths of rejection and sorrow since the very people he came to save are the ones who rejected him (John 1:11). We all rejected him—at least until he opened our eyes to see how great he truly is.

The Value of Repeated Bible Reading

Scott Slayton encourages us to read sections of the Bible repeatedly and force ourselves to summarize what we’ve read.

To me, the most important aspect of Dash’s post was what you do on the last day you read a section. He advises that you go through a write a one-sentence summary of each division in the section you are reading. You might do this by paragraph or by section, but it is a necessity that you do this. There is something about writing that helps us gain a grasp of what we have read. In addition, when you go back and look over what you have written, it refreshes your mind about what is in a passage.

New Advent Resources: 75-Song Playlist, Books, and More

This article contains links to Advent resources you can purchase, but its greatest value might be the playlist of Advent music to help you prepare for the season.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Zack Wisniewski called Truth and the Silver Screen. 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 (2022-09-16)

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

Lord, Help Me See the Ways to Die Today

Trevin Wax writes about how the opportunities for self-denial often show up in small ways throughout each day.

A few months ago, I began asking the Lord every morning to give me chances that day to die to myself, and for the Spirit to help me recognize those opportunities. He has never failed to answer this prayer. Not once. Every time I’ve asked him to show me opportunities to die to myself, he’s come through. Annoyingly so. On occasion, I’ve thought it might be best to stop praying this prayer, as I grew tired of the spiritual discomfort.

Why It Matters That Jesus Was and Still Is Human

Here is a moving reflection on the humanity of Jesus which focuses on his great compassion.

One implication of this truth of Christ’s permanent humanity is that when we see the feeling and passions and affections of the incarnate Christ toward sinners and sufferers as given to us in the four Gospels, we are seeing who Jesus is for us today. The Son has not retreated back into the disembodied divine state in which he existed before he took on flesh. 

You’ve Never Heard This (Spiritually) Before

Many times the first time a person hears the gospel is not actually the first time that person hears the gospel.

So what’s the point? Why sow seed that just seems to get eaten by the birds, rich truths that seem to immediately get suppressed and later forgotten? Simply because this is the only way that spiritual understanding comes about – through the unrelenting sowing of God’s word. The Spirit only comes upon those who have heard the words of truth. He does not work without it or around it. He works through his word, period. And from our perspective we cannot see what is going on behind the scenes, which seed is the one that will take root and burst through the concrete. He sovereignly chooses to strike with life sooner, later, or not at all.

Did Jesus take on our sin nature?

Here’s a short video answer to this question, courtesy of Ligonier Ministries and Michael Reeves.

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 Incarnation of Aaron

It was a rough mom day: Toddler up early, breakfast residue on the table, cold coffee, quick tempers all around. By about 9:30 a.m., I needed a hug. So much so that I scooped up my unruly child and asked for one. 

She peed on me. 

I should have turned to God, should have been like Susanna Wesley (mother of John and Charles) and thrown my apron over my head to pray. But what I wanted was clean clothes and, still, a hug.

Prayer is effective, and the Holy Spirit’s presence is real. But some days you just need something to touch.

God wants us to turn to him in all circumstances, whether crisis or joy. He genuinely cares for us! He also knows that we are physical beings—he made our bodies with their needs and limits. Even Jesus, when he took his most fervent prayer to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, brought friends. 

A Physical Brother

Before Moses was a patriarch, leader of Israel, and Scripture author, he was a shepherd offering three separate objections to God. Out of excuses, he finally asked God: “Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). 

God’s response is equal parts comforting and humbling: “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart’” (Exodus 4:14, emphasis added).

Aaron, led by God, was already on his way to Moses, probably before the bush began to burn. If Moses had trusted God and accepted his mission, Aaron still would have come to aid him. God knew that tangible, personal support is important for physical beings. God himself declared: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). 

We are certainly to seek comfort, wisdom, and solutions from God through prayer and Scripture as a first resort. God often responds to those prayers through people: friends, the local church, spouses, doctors, and therapists. Sometimes he uses dogs, warm blankets, or coffee. Much like Aaron, our help may be on its way before we think to ask. 

A Physical God

Aaron appears in the desert as an incarnate demonstration of God’s presence and provision. In that way, he is a type of Christ. 

God knows our need for physical connection so intimately that he made himself incarnate, in a body that sleeps and cries and eats, in the form of his son Jesus: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). 

Jesus knows our weakness, sympathizes with our suffering, and stands with us in temptation, because he has physically experienced it all as we have. Ours is not an abstract God out of touch with our lives, or a haughty God who refuses to interact with our menial existence. Ours is a loving God who humbled himself to experience life in the world he himself created. God became physical, so we can trust that he understands our physical needs and desires.

A Physical Savior

Aaron was later appointed the first high priest of Israel (Hebrews 5:4), the intercessor between the people and God. But he, like all his successors, was an imperfect high priest: he had to sacrifice for his own sins, in addition to those of the people (Hebrews 5:3). 

As our perfect high priest, Jesus lived through the range of human experiences but was without sin. He then offered up his own body as the physical sacrifice, the shedding of blood, that was necessary to forgive our sin and fully restore our relationship with God (Hebrews 9:22). 

Because Jesus physically lived and physically died (and physically resurrected and ascended!), we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). 

The weather is turning crisp. It’s the season for warm drinks and cozy sweaters. Thank God for these tactile comforts! Call out to God in your struggles—but also maybe call or text someone. Man wasn’t meant to be alone. The help God sends may be a spiritual peace, a miraculous intervention, or simply a friend to hug.

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