Links for the Weekend (8/27/2021)

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

We Won’t Perfectly Practice What We Preach

Jen Wilkin writes in Christianity Today about being convicted by her own words (quoted back to her) on Instagram. I appreciated what she shares about sanctification and growth as a Christian.

Sanctification is not a swipe but a slog. It rarely looks like an immediate ceasing of a particular sin. Instead, we become slower to step into the familiar traps and quicker to confess when we do. Slower to repeat, quicker to repent. This becomes a mantra of hope. Our hatred of sin is learned across a lifetime.

We Agree, Right?

Holly Mackle discovered she was presuming that her conversation partners agreed with her unspoken opinions when they had other characteristics in common. In her, this led to condescension when there was not agreement. She proposes a wonderful remedy: curiosity.

Considering the opinions or beliefs of others can be hard. And it takes a supernatural, Holy Spirit level of humility and grace to grant another the space to disagree. It can be an exhausting exercise to continually remind myself to elevate others over my own opinions, plans, or preferences. But I’ve found that expecting others to agree with me all the time can quickly shade the way I approach God, luring me to attempt to poach on his lordship. This habit of presuming I’m in the right and that others will agree is a slippery slope to making God in my own image.

9 Things You Should Know About the Taliban

Sadly, the Taliban are back in the news because of their return to power in Afghanistan. If you’re unfamiliar with this group, here is a helpful explainer from Joe Carter.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Restore Us to Yourself That We May Be Restored. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Leeanne E for her help in rounding up links this week!


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

Links for the Weekend (7/23/2021)

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

Moms and Dads: Show Your Need

Here’s a profound reminder of an important parenting truth: our children will learn much about how much they need Jesus when we show them how much we need Jesus.

If the true north of our parenting is drawing our children to God, there is nothing more powerful at every stage than showing them that we desire God every bit as much as we want them to. If a healthy parent-child relationship is characterized by trust, vulnerability is a must. Few things strengthen trust in any relationship more than entrusting the other with intimate stories of our failure and hurt. A parent-child relationship isn’t exempt from this reality. Discretion is undoubtedly needed. A child should not be asked to wield burdens too heavy for them. And yet, withholding our failures from our children stunts our relationship with them and their relationship with God in profound ways.

Seem or be?

“Do you want to seem holy or be holy?” The question driving this article is a vital one for us to consider as we pursue growth as Christians.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

This podcast series from Christianity Today is ongoing. Its subject is the late Seattle megachurch Mars Hill and its controversial pastor Mark Driscoll. It helps to explain a lot about the modern American church.


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

Resisting Revenge is a Whole-Church Effort

Most of the Bible is addressed to groups of people, not individuals. And while collective commands have clear implications for individuals, the corporate nature matters.

Many modern Christians have been breathing individualistic air for years, with far-reaching consequences. But we must remember the communal nature of the Bible if we are to live faithfully as God’s people.

A Community Standard

There’s a verse in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church that highlights this point.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

The context, as always, is important—this verse falls in the middle of several commands Paul gives to this church. That a group is addressed is obvious, both in verse 15 itself as well as in the presence of “brothers” in verses 12 and 14 and “yourselves” in verse 13.

Note that the command here is not simply “don’t repay evil for evil.” Rather, “See that no one repays evil for evil.” Paul prohibits revenge for each person, but he also makes every individual responsible for the obedience of others. Each person is charged with maintaining the no-retaliation standard in the community.

It’s natural to balk here. I have enough trouble obeying God myself. How can I be responsible for others?

We turn back to the passage for the answer. We are to respect our church leaders and “esteem them very highly in love” (verses 12–13). Giving proper love and encouragement to our elders is essential for the health of the church.

Additionally, we are to “be at peace” among ourselves (verse 13). And there is a summary of sorts at the end of verse 15: “always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” If we are all seeking to do good for everyone, no one will be repaying evil for evil.

Becoming Like God

A church’s reputation and testimony can be damaged by one flagrant or unrepentant sinner. But the church acting together in love can say glorious things about God.

As a local church body obeys this no-revenge command, they become more and more like their patient, saving God. Quite simply, God does not repay evil for evil! Rather he is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). God’s patience and forbearance are such that we were reconciled to God while we were his enemies (Romans 5:10).

God is just, but his is a patient justice. He will repay, but he offers mercy. In fact, our forbearance with others must be based upon the certainty of God’s justice (see Romans 12:19).

In some ways, it’s in our (fallen) nature to seek revenge. When we are injured, we want to nurture the internal wound until just the right moment to visit an equal or greater injury in return.

But as we practice forgiveness and reconciliation, fueled by the forgiveness we’ve received in Christ, the church can offer (and point to) a balm the world desperately needs. That balm is the very presence of God.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10)

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Links for the Weekend (3/26/2021)

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

What We Celebrate on World Down Syndrome Day

This past Sunday (March 21) was World Down Syndrome Day. Lauren Washer is a mother to a boy with Down Syndrome, and she reflects on some of the difficulties and the gifts that have come along.

I don’t pretend to understand why God allows disability, but I do know he displays his glory in our suffering. For it’s in hardship, challenges, and grief when we grow to know God more. Maybe not at first, but as our faith increases, God uses suffering to produce in us character, perseverance, and hope. Through suffering we come to know Christ more as we share in his suffering. And we grow to long for heaven like never before. When I see my son suffer, I yearn for Jesus to return and make all things new. Will there be Down syndrome in heaven? I don’t know, but if there is, it won’t be accompanied by hardship.

Delivered From the Tyranny of Emotions

What is the difference between experiencing emotions and being controlled by them? Megan Johnson explores this question and thinks about the role of her Christian faith.

My emotions have a place, and rightly so, as God made us to be feeling creatures, but my emotions shouldn’t have the final say about what is true in a situation. God, in his severe mercy, has given me a number of opportunities to practice this lately.

How Can I Fight Sin Without Losing Sight of Christ?

John Piper tackles a difficult question about fighting sin on a recent episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast. Here’s the question he addressed.

The following question is the source of my confusion: How can I rest in being justified if I need obedience as the evidence to truly know that I am justified? In other words, how can I rest in the verdict of ‘not guilty’ if in reality the verdict could be ‘guilty’ unless I see obedience in my life? This circular reasoning inevitably puts the focus back on myself instead of Christ, the opposite of what it is intended to do. I am almost sure I am thinking about this the wrong way.


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

My Favorite Benediction

In my younger days, I thought the benediction just marked the end of the worship service. Perhaps the musicians needed a cue to prepare for the postlude.

Now, the benediction is one of my favorite parts of Sunday morning. I desperately need the blessing of the Lord, and I hunger for it as the worship service winds down. I know some of what Jacob felt, when he would not let the angel go without a blessing (Gen 32:22–32).

Many pastors use the familiar passage from Numbers 6 (verses 24–26) to bless the people of God. My favorite benediction comes at the end of 1 Thessalonians.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24)

You may feel weary as you read this today, but by meditating on this blessing you may find just the encouragement you need.

For Sanctification

Paul begins by praying that God would sanctify his friends. If we’re paying attention to the context of this passage, this request is no surprise at all.

Paul has spent most of his letter encouraging the Thessalonians in their sanctification—that is, their growth and maturity as followers of Jesus. He has remarked how far they have come, and he has urged them to press on still more. (See 1 Thess 1:2–10; 2:13–16; 3:6; 4:1–12; 5:11.)

This prayer for God to sanctify his people is a delightful and fitting summary of the letter.

The God of Peace

If sanctification is an unsurprising topic, the title used for God may be less expected. We may not balk at opening the Bible and reading about “the God of peace,” but why does Paul use it here when praying about sanctification?

I usually connect peace with God to conversion and adoption. When my soul has a new orientation and master, I am no longer at war with my maker.

Yet, as any Christian knows, there are still “warring members” within us—territory within our minds and hearts that is not completely aligned with the Lord’s desires. As we are sanctified, our wills and loves change and therefore the objective peace we have becomes more fully realized throughout our person. We offer less resistance to what is best for us and we experience more peace with God.

It is therefore appropriate that “the God of peace” is the one who sanctifies us—he changes our rebellion into glad submission and eager friendship with our master.

Entirely Changed

As sanctification is progressive—that is, it happens slowly and not all at once—it makes sense that Paul would ask for God to sanctify his friends “completely.” The work has begun but is not yet finished.

Paul asks that God would keep their “whole spirit and soul and body” blameless. This phrase is Paul’s head-to-toe description of a person.

There are many dark corridors, locked closets, and dusty crawlspaces in the sprawling estate of our hearts. The remodeling of the Holy Spirit takes time and, often, suffering. But make no mistake—the goal is a gleaming, beautiful, renovated home.

Look to His Coming

The coming of the Lord is a pervasive theme in 1 Thessalonians, so it is no surprise we see it in this final benediction. Paul touches on this topic at least once in each chapter of the letter!

This is not just a quirk of Paul’s personality. The coming of the Lord should command our attention and be a great source of our hope. After all, that coming will usher in the time when we will be together with the Lord forever (1 Thess 4:17). All of the promises of God will come together to be fulfilled as we finally and eternally enjoy his unmediated presence.

So Paul prays that God would keep his friends blameless for that coming. He wants them to enjoy this most joyful occasion, and not to cower in fear when thinking of that day (1 Thess 5:4–6).

Hope in God

Paul ends this blessing by pointing back to God.

Paul writes that God is the one who calls them. He is the originator of their faith, bringing them out of darkness (1 Peter 2:9). And this same God who calls is faithful. He is sturdy and sure and unwavering. We do not have to guess whether he will continue to keep his promises—he will love his people perfectly, forever.

And finally, God will surely do it. That is, God will sanctify his people completely and he will keep his people blameless for the coming of Jesus. Paul has every confidence to trust in God this way, and his blessing urges us toward similar trust.

Blessing Indeed

Are you feeling stalled in your Christian growth? Frustrated by habitual sins and foolish decisions? Discouraged and in need of hope? Read this blessing, meditate on it, and pray it for you and for your friends.

Take comfort in the one who calls you, the one who is faithful, the one who himself will surely prepare you for heaven. This is blessing indeed.

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I Know God’s Will for You

The title of this post is true, you know. I know God’s will for you, sure as the shoes on my feet.

This isn’t a predictable message. It doesn’t involve your career, your home, or your spouse. It’s not about the next big decision in your life. (At least, not specifically.)

Are you jittery with suspense? Here’s the truth.

God’s will for you is your sanctification.

God’s Role in Your Sanctification

My revelation for you comes from God’s word. Specifically, Paul writes this to the Thessalonians: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3).

“Sanctification” sounds like a fancy theological word, but it’s easy enough to understand. It refers to our growth as Christians, the development of greater trust in the Lord, deeper love for God and our neighbors, fuller obedience, more thorough repentance. Sanctification is the process—sometimes a painful one—by which we resemble Jesus more and more.

It would be terrifying if sanctification were left entirely to us. But God is involved through and through, as Paul writes in his letter.

We should focus on pleasing God. Though we please God by observing his law, Paul directs our focus specifically to God. This is far more motivating than merely holding up a set of rules to obey.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. (1 Thess 4:1)

Sanctification is a sign of knowing God. In this passage, Paul writes pointedly about sexual immorality, and he draws a contrast between Christians and Gentiles. He wants the Thessalonians to behave with “holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess 4:4–5). Knowing God should be the beginning of all ethical decisions and behavior.

The Lord is an avenger. Sanctification involves loving our neighbors, including our brothers and sisters in the faith. Paul warns his friends that they must not “transgress” or “wrong” their brother, “because the Lord is an avenger in all these things” (1 Thess 4:6). As we must remember that God is our father, we must not forget that he is also the judge.

God has called us for purity. When we sin, we go against the very purposes of God for us. “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thess 4:7). Purity and obedience are not easy, but it is comforting to know that we swim with the current of God’s will for us when we abstain from immorality.

God gives us his Holy Spirit. Paul tells the Thessalonians that those who ignore his exhortations are in danger for their souls. “Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thess 4:8). The command for holiness comes from God, not from man. But God gives himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, to teach, strengthen, guide, and encourage us in this same holiness.

Abstain from Sexual Immorality

The specific issue Paul had in mind for the Thessalonians’ sanctification was sexual immorality. From what I understand, in many Greek cities in the first century, sexual immorality was rampant. Men rarely limited their sexual relationships to only their wife. It was vital that this church take a clear stand before their watching neighbors on this matter.

Through Paul, God’s command is to “abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess 4:3). This is not an area that calls for moderation; these Christians are not to wean themselves from this behavior like a man who wants to quit smoking. All sexually immoral behavior needs to be put aside, now.

This is not just an ancient message, of course. We need Christian sexual ethics just as much as the first century church. Because we are loved by God, adopted by him at the highest possible cost, we must live in a way that pleases him.

Excel Still More

Paul has a brilliant, loving way of bringing this command to his friends. He encourages them to keep doing what they’re doing, only more.

The Thessalonians know the instruction Paul gave them, how to walk with and please God, and they are doing it (1 Thess 4:1). Paul pleads with them to “do so more and more” (1 Thess 4:2).

Find more ways to love and obey. Do it more often, in more areas of your life, regarding more and more people. Search out more ways to repent. Don’t be content with a plateau.

This is good for us to hear. It is far too easy to fall into patterns that are at cross purposes for our Christian obedience.

Be encouraged, dear saints. When you hear that God’s will for you is your sanctification, you may be disappointed, because for too long “obedience” has come to make us think of a boring, humorless, locked-down life.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. What God commands is not only good for us, it’s best for us. And there is deep, lasting joy in aligning ourselves with God’s will and purpose for us.

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What Do We Want for Our Friends?

It is a sad fact of life that friends move away. How do you pray for such a friend? What do you want for them?

Perhaps you pray for their health, their family, or their church. You surely pray for specific requests they share.

And while these petitions are wonderful, the apostle Paul would like to add to our list.

Paul and the Thessalonians

Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians as an evangelist and pastor. But the warm nature of the letter shows that he also wrote to these people as friends.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13, I notice at least five things Paul earnestly wanted for his friends.

Paul wanted to see them face-to-face

Paul was driven out of Thessalonica after a short period of ministry (Acts 17:1–10). He described it as being “torn away” from them, so great was his pain (1 Thess 2:17).

Though I’m sure Paul was grateful to send written communication, he longed to be with his friends in person. (See 1 Thess 2:17–18, 3:6, 3:10, and 3:11.) In fact, this is one of the dominant themes of the letter: Paul loved the Thessalonians, missed them, and wanted to see them!

The same is true for us. We can thank God for modern technology that lets us keep in touch with our distant friends while still longing and planning to see them in the flesh.

Paul wanted to strengthen and encourage them

Paul couldn’t stand the separation from the Thessalonians (1 Thess 3:1) so he sent Timothy to visit. Paul was willing to give up the help and fellowship of his dear friend so he could send a personal word to this church.

Timothy was sent, in part, to “strengthen and encourage” them in their faith (1 Thess 3:2, NASB). The Thessalonians were disheartened because they heard of Paul’s suffering (1 Thess 3:3–4). Paul wanted them to know this was an expected part of following Jesus (1 Thess 3:3).

Paul was not just acting as an apostle. This is a vital role friends play in each other’s lives. We remind each other of what is true, because we easily forget. We need our friends to point us back to God, to rehearse the good news of the gospel for us, to recall the hope we have for the future because of Jesus.

Paul wanted to hear about their faith

Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica for at least two purposes. In addition to encouraging this church, Paul wanted Timothy to bring back a report about their faith (1 Thess 3:5).

Paul was concerned that the disturbance the Thessalonians felt regarding Paul’s afflictions might tempt them to turn from the faith (1 Thess 3:5). This was no idle curiosity for Paul—he loved his friends so much that their standing with God was vital to him.

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. (1 Thess 3:6–8)

How often do we pray this simple prayer for our friends? Lord, strengthen them to stand firm.

Paul wanted to minister to them

As Paul thanked God for the joy the Thessalonians gave him, he prayed “most earnestly” that he could see them face to face. One reason he wanted to see them was so he could “supply what [was] lacking in [their] faith” (1 Thess 3:10).

Because of the way Paul had to leave Thessalonica (Acts 17:10), he likely had not finished the initial training and instruction he had planned for these young disciples. While we are not apostles, we do have important roles to play in ministering to each other within the body of Christ. God often calls us to be bearers of grace to one another.

Paul wanted them to be ready to meet Jesus

Paul ended this section of his letter with a benediction.

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thess 3:11–13)

Paul has Jesus’s return in view throughout this letter. Here he holds up Jesus as the judge. He wants them to be blameless, and he knows that abounding in love is the way to get there.

Praying for Our Friends

This is a convicting passage for me. I don’t always have my friends’ growth and love in mind as I pray. I’m not often looking for opportunities to encourage and minister to them.

As I see my failings as a friend, I am reminded of Jesus, the Friend of sinners. He encourages, strengthens, and ministers to his people. Even better, he wants to be with us forever, and his sacrifice secures our hope.

As those who are friends of Jesus, by his grace, let’s learn to be better friends to each other. Then we can say, with Paul, that we really live if our friends are standing firm in the Lord.

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Links for the Weekend (11/22/2019)

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

When Your Plan for Killing Sin Isn’t Working

Have you ever been frustrated by the sin that still remains in you? The sin that you’ve battled against for years? Lara d’Entremont reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s work in our sanctification (growth as a Christian).

What makes the process of killing sin so frustrating is that we want to be finished with sin once and for all. We consider success to be when sin and temptation are no longer present. But as long as we abide on earth, we will face temptation, probably on a daily basis.

Parents, Don’t Fear the Teenage Years

When children are approaching their teenage years, parents are constantly told, “Just you wait!” There’s a certain glee mixed with mischief when most people throw this warning out to nervous parents. But Russell Moore tells parents not to be afraid.

Yes, the teenage years are a time of transition and sometimes tumult. Adolescents are seeking to figure out how to differentiate themselves from their parents in some ways, to figure out what belongs to them and what is merely part of their family inheritance. That’s normal, and it’s not a repudiation of you. Yes, awful things can happen. That’s true at any age, just in different ways.  

When You Don’t Desire God’s Word

Shar Walker has some good counsel for when the Bible “seems less like honey and more like prune juice.” She encourages us to give our time, our ear, and our heart.

There is a difference between knowledge that produces obedience, and knowledge that merely produces more knowledge. Many people know facts about God and his Word, yet fail to embody those truths. I had college professors who memorized more scriptures than I did, studied more biblical history than I did, and mastered Greek and Hebrew—yet they did not submit themselves to the words they read. True biblical knowledge works itself out in obedience.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Cliff Lester called Rejoice Always. 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.