Links for the Weekend (5/7/2021)

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

3 Reality Checks for Your Marriage

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

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

Aging Doesn’t Make You Faithful. Jesus Does.

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

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

We Must Learn the Skills to Resist Sexual Temptation

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

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Lord Has Become Like an Enemy. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


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

Tending a Fruitful Life

As spring makes its entrance, many of our minds turn toward gardens and flower beds. I am a terrible gardener, but I keep trying. Last year, I planted eight tomato plants. They grew tall and lush. They were beautifully green and suffered none of the yellowing and spots that have plagued other plants in my care. I was so excited! I could imagine the amazing flavor of my homegrown, heirloom tomatoes. I would slice them and layer them with mayo on sandwiches, or maybe I would sprinkle a little salt and eat them on my front porch like I did with my dad when I was little. They would be red, juicy, and sweet.

Alas, I harvested one, mediocre tomato. I don’t know with certainty what went wrong. I would be lying if I even began listing the reasons for my failure, but I know one thing that my tomato-keeping lacked. As a gardener, I lacked consistency. I watered my tomatoes, sometimes. I weeded my raised bed, sometimes. I hoped it rained enough. I hoped my netting would hold up to the deer. I did not always take the actions required to have a thriving, bounteous crop of tomatoes (or anything else for that matter).

Spiritual Fruit

Do you ever feel that way in your devotional life? If you are anything like me, you go through seasons when you read God’s word occasionally. You seek out spiritual instruction from godly teachers sporadically. You consult valuable commentaries on scripture inconsistently. You are not alone, friends. Many of us seem to be hoping that God’s word will be imparted to us through osmosis as our Bibles sit on our nightstands, unopened and collecting dust. We hope that being in a church while someone is preaching will give us a big enough dose of truth to get us through the week. Maybe if we sit there enough times, we will be nourished and quenched. Maybe we will thrive, and hopefully, the weeds of sin will wither.

Sorry, fruit doesn’t grow like that—neither tomatoes nor spiritual fruit. My tomato plants looked healthy. They had enough nutrients and water to get along okay. However, they only had enough of what plants need to put their energy toward growing green leaves. They did not have adequate resources to put energy toward growing fruit. As a follower of Christ, you can probably appear okay on a bare minimum. You might glean enough inconsistent nourishment to trudge through a tough season. After all, God is holding you tightly and seeking after you with persistence when you stray (not unlike a parent hanging on to a toddler at the zoo). His love can sustain you through all kinds of trials. 

Consistency is Key

Most of us do not want to simply appear alive. We want to live. We want to live in God’s presence, building toward a richer relationship and a more fruitful life for his glory. We don’t need perfection or greater intelligence or access to seminary-level courses every night of the week. We need consistency—consistent reading of the scriptures, consistent conversations with our brothers and sisters in Christ who push us to grow and to learn. We need to take hold of even short segments of our days and devote them to growing in the Lord instead of the 101 other possible uses of our time. 

I wouldn’t be the first wishful gardener who felt tempted by another fancy gadget or expensive plant food to solve my tomato problem. And I am well aware that the world is full of apps, cool journals, and Bible commentaries to try to solve the scripture-starved-Christian problem. These tools promise to make it easier to dig into God’s word and stay there. They may, indeed, be useful tools, but none of them will have the impact of simple consistency. For me, regular reminders to stop and sit for a time of devotions help establish a steady routine. I use alarms on my cell phone or Post It notes to signal a new habit. Sharing your plans with a spouse or friend can build useful accountability.

Beating ourselves up about shortcomings in our Bible study habits will not bring us any closer to the meaningful relationship with God that we desire, just as punishing myself for not tending my garden is not going to produce more crops. We tell ourselves that we need to work harder and push further in order to be good or valuable. Fortunately for us, God already knows our shortcomings, and a perfect record of daily devotions will not make us more worthy of his gift of salvation. Love is a greater motivator to create consistency than shame or other external reprimand will ever be. Desire God and then seek him in his word. He will meet you there.

Seeking a Harvest

If you are feeding yourself scripture on a consistent basis, fruit will grow. When you are filled up with the good nourishment of God-breathed truth, you will see the pesky weeds of sin and pluck those buggers right out. You and I will crave more of the Bible because time surrounded by God’s goodness whets our appetite for more of the same. Instead of the drive-by sprinkle of scripture at a short Sunday service, you will long to be doused in refreshing water from the source and linger in the flow. 

My poor tomato plants got some watering because rain happened to fall. They had some food because the soil harbored some nutrients on its own. However, with consistency and intention, I probably could have helped them produce a respectable crop. I am challenging myself to consistency this summer in my gardening and in my devotional life. Will you? I’ll keep you posted.

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Links for the Weekend (2/5/2021)

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

What Do You Mean by ‘Unity’?

I appreciated this article by Quina Aragon about what unity is and is not, according to the Bible.

It’s important for us to keep in mind the biblical vision, especially when we hear hollow unity calls that fail to also call us to repent of damage done to others. If we really want true and virtuous unity among God’s people, that both reflects him and also expresses the unity his Son secured on the cross, then we must examine ourselves. Are we insisting on our own way or dismissing others’ pain (Phil. 2:3–4; Luke 10:25–37)? Then we must repent, resolving anew to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The Lost We Love the Most

If we’ve already shared the gospel, and if there’s been no response, how do we continue to love our friends and family?

But what if evangelism is about more (not less) than sharing the content of the gospel? What if people are more complex and unpredictable than we may think? And what if the situation with our spouse, friend, child, parent, or neighbor is more dynamic than Satan would have us believe? In the face of an apparent stalemate, it’s refreshing and encouraging to remind ourselves of three dynamic realities in any relationship with a lost loved one.

Do Not Despise the Gentle Nudge

While there are exceptions, we often need many small nudges instead of large shoves in order to stay on a faithful path with God.

These little adjustments to our spiritual lives, while seemingly small and insignificant by themselves, make all the difference in avoiding spiritual danger and experiencing intimacy with God.


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 (12/11/2020)

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

The Surprising Ministry of Encouragement

“Gospel doctrine creates gospel culture.” Ray Ortlund writes that encouragement is essential to this gospel culture that the best churches cultivate.

Encouragement is what the gospel feels like as it moves from one believer to another. The ministry of encouragement, therefore, isn’t optional or just for people with a knack for it. Real encouragement has authority over us all. It deserves nothing less than to set the predominant tone of our churches, our homes, our ministries. So, let’s think it through. And then, let’s get after it.

Christmas in a Minor Key

If Christmas is merely a superficial celebration, this might be a year to pitch it. How can we drum up interest in tinsel when the pandemic has made life so hard and so sad for so many? Doug Eaton argues that these miseries give us a greater reason than ever to celebrate this year.

The arrival of Jesus into our world is the answer to a world lost in darkness. Christ, God incarnate, entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, he was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and he would endure it all because of his great love for us. We have a Savior who can sympathize with our weakness, and he went to the cross to atone for our sin.

The Gentle Tug of Spiritual Disciplines

I enjoyed the way Craig Thompson contrasted his dog’s need to go outside with his practice of the spiritual disciplines.

There is more. Your spiritual disciplines will not usually yell at you, but when you neglect them, there are reminders. Learn to tune your heart and mind to the gentle tug of spiritual disciplines. Do you feel stressed and overwhelmed? Could it be that you have allowed the noise of the world to drown out God’s love in your life? The gentle tug of spiritual disciplines is a bit more like a hunger or a longing than a begging and demanding.


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

Where Our Gaze Lands

We gathered around a glass enclosure at PetCo. My kids pressed their fingers and noses against the glass, trying to get a look at the entangled pile of ferrets napping in the corner. Some of the animals curled in upon themselves, while others were practically upside down—their mouths sleepily hanging open to show tiny, pointed teeth. I shuddered a bit.

“Oh, Mommy! Can we have one? Please?” my family begged in chorus. “They’re so cute.” 

Cute? Ferrets are too “rodent” for my taste. They make me think of a rat that got stretched like dough in a pasta maker. Sure, a ferret’s face resembles the more appealing sea otter, but the teeth, the little feet, and the beady eyes all bring me to emphatically decline my children’s requests.

“Mom, the sign says $39.99,” my first-born reasoned as he pulled out his wallet. “I almost have that much. If you could just…”

“No,” I interrupted.

My husband stepped in with a grin on his face.

“Give Mommy some time, guys,” he said. He turned to me with mischief in his eyes. “Do a little research. You’ll come around.”

I playfully punched him in the shoulder. This is an on-going joke between us. For as long as I can remember, I have loved research. When I dive into a subject, I become enthusiastic and nearly obsessed about my subject matter. I can become sympathetic to a cause after I’ve examined the complexity of the issues. I believe this is a good character trait—leading me to be well-informed and a person of compassion and empathy. However, it can also get a little silly with long, one-sided conversations at the dinner table about anything from urban chicken farming, to cellos, to childbirth. I admit that I dive in and try to drag my family with me.

When I allocate time to an idea, I am altering my perception of the world simply by placing my attention in a specific way.  You probably do it, too. We want to lose weight, so we dig around on the internet for solutions. We desire to change something in our relationships with our kids, so we pick up a parenting book. We’re hoping for a promotion at work, so we listen to the latest leadership podcast. Most of us have realized that when we learn more about something, we sharpen our attention toward that issue or object. We might not grab another doughnut because we just read about the downfall of simple carbs, for example. Most of us have also experienced the fading interest that comes shortly after a New Year’s resolution loses its sparkle. It’s easy to lose focus and hop to the next obsession. 

As a Christian, I know that my attention needs to be on the Lord, and my growth in faith is dependent on a steady diet of truth from God’s word and an influx of the Holy Spirit. Not unlike the weight-loss books and last year’s resolution, the knowledge and richness I gain from Scripture can fade if I am not deliberate about making time for study and prayer. I will drift back to the world and the sinful thoughts of my own heart if I do not return to the Bible with regularity and lean into the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

Consider Matthew 6:21. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Aren’t time and attention two of the gifts (the treasures) God has given to us? We allocate these finite things in many ways through a lifetime. The world clamors for our attention. We are bombarded daily with messages that insist that we must focus on our bank account, our BMI, our wardrobe, our kids’ report cards, our grocery list, and our calendars. And on and on. 

Any Christian knows that the emotional high of being saved or coming to a new understanding of Christ does not last forever. Our hunger for God waxes and wanes over the years of our discipleship. This is common. Few of us will stay on the soaring cloud of first love. God knows the fickleness in our humanity, and he will, through his Holy Spirit, sustain us when new love fades and we are enticed by things, people, and ideas that he does not intend for us. He welcomes us back after we have strayed, even pursues us when we would rather flit from one worldly interest to another. (See the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7.) But we can be wise in fixing our gaze upon our Savior.

God offers us instruction on how to avoid the temptations of the world. In Philippians 4:8, we read, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” God gives us discernment and his Spirit so that we can choose purity over vulgarity, beauty over ugliness, and honor over corruption. Without his intervention, we would not see the world for what it is, but with Scripture in our minds, we will see the world through a different lens. Again, God knows this. In Deuteronomy 8:10, God tells his children, “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.” This is an instruction to keep God’s word ever present. 

When I am researching an issue, I have trouble thinking about anything else. I have lain in my bed long after I should have been asleep, unable to turn off thoughts about landfills, industrial farming, math curricula, and whether or not I could actually run a marathon. (Yes, my interests are varied.)

Imagine if my days included more time lingering over the Bible, resting in its promises and being stretched by its commands. Where, then, would my thoughts drift when I am troubled by an obligation or a looming deadline? How, then, would I react during a strained conversation with a colleague? Where would I turn when I face disappointment or pressure? How would I respond to a homeless person on the street, my spouse after a disagreement, or maybe even my neighbor’s question about the reality of God? A shift toward a heavenly focus can be as subtle as closing internet clickbait in favor of time in the Bible or redirecting a conversation with a friend in order to steer away from the potential of gossip. I can place my focus with intention and follow it.

Where our treasure is, our heart lies. Where our gaze lands, our thoughts follow. When we focus on Jesus and his good news, we are primed to walk nearer to him, speaking and behaving in ways that bring us ever closer to our Savior. 

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