The Weekend Wanderer: 5 December 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Advent“Oh How We Need Advent (This Year More Than Most)” – A friend shared this article with me and I found it very beautiful, heart-rending, honest, and joyful all at the same time. Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the year. It so so much more than a preparation for Christmas. I appreciate the way that the author, E. M. Welcher, brings together the anticipatory longing and much-needed hope of Advent so powerfully.


harvest-wheat-farmer-hand“On Being Grateful” – Thanksgiving was just a short time ago, but our need for gratitude in relation to our lives is ever-present. We know gratitude is important, but it is also not natural for us. Particularly in a year that has come to be considered one of the worst years of our lifetimes, how do we live with gratitude? Kevin Williamson wrestles with this question, touching upon memory, gratitude, suffering, and the distinctly Christian response to it all.


9 nonobvious conversation“Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations: The art of making connection even in a time of dislocation” – I’m increasingly convinced that the inability to have conversations—to truly listen to and speak with (not listen past and talk at) one another—is one of the biggest problems of our day. Here is David Brooks’ nine ways to help improve that: “After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself.”


relationship ending“‘Covid ended our marriage’: The couples who split in the pandemic” – Relational strain during the pandemic is surging, particularly in marriages, as this piece from the BBC highlights. It seems like strains or difficulties that were already present have been heightened and new challenges have emerged because of the unique situation of lockdowns, children at home for schooling, job changes or loss, and so much more. The importance of reaching out for help (such as to a counselor or local church), learning to talk well together (see the previous article by David Brooks or this one on active listening), assessing your relationship, and accessing other resources is more important than ever.


books“A Year of Reading: 2020 by John Wilson” – At First Things, John Wilson offers his characteristic wide-ranging list of recommendations for reading from the past year. While I have read a couple of the books on Wilson’s list, I found many curiosities and treasures to explore, from fiction to poetry to memoir to natural history and more. If you’re looking for something to read during the long winter, Wilson’s recommendations will likely have something for you.


Indonesia SA attacks“Indonesia attacks: Army hunts suspected militants over Christian murders” – Religious persecution is not a thing of the past. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer. “The Indonesian army has deployed a special force to hunt for suspected Islamic State-linked militants behind a deadly attack on Christians. Four Salvation Army members were killed – one of them beheaded – in an ambush on Sulawesi island on Friday. Intolerance against Indonesia’s Christian minority has been rising as the Muslim-majority country battles Islamist militancy. A church body denounced the killings as terrorism rather than a religious feud.”


Music: Chabros Music, “Come Worship Christ

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Significance of Jesus’ Ascension

ascension_day-1512321530m.jpg
Edward Bolwell, ascension day, Acrylic Paint on MDF Board; 2017

Yesterday was Ascension Day, when celebrate the ascension of Jesus to the Father in heaven after His resurrection from death (Luke 24:49-51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:3-10). I believe the ascension is one of the most-neglected aspects of the life of Jesus with greater significance for our life with God as disciples of Jesus than we usually realize.

I wrote three posts in 2018 about the importance of the ascension for our faith because of Jesus’ reign as King, Jesus’ mediation eternally, and Jesus’ future return in glory, and would encourage you to join me in considering the significance of Jesus’ ascension.

Read them here:

The Ascension and Jesus’ Return (Part 3 of 3)

fullsizeoutput_93fWhat does Jesus’ ascension have to do with his eventual return? When will it happen and how should we prepare for it? In this third and final installment of my three-part reflection on Ascension Day  this week, I want to reflect today on the significance of Jesus’ return after His ascension.

After Jesus’ ascension, two heavenly beings speak to the disciples: ““Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Throughout the New Testament, many writers tell us that there will come a day when Jesus will return to establish His kingdom fully “here on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Five things we know about Jesus’ return from Scripture are:

  1. It will happen (Acts 1:8; John 14:3)
  2. It will happen in God’s time (Acts 1:6-7; Matthew 24:36)
  3. It will be recognizable to all (1 Thessalonians 4:15; Revelation 1:7-8)
  4. It will bring the fullness of Christ’s victorious kingdom over all (Revelation 19:11-16; 21:1-5)
  5. It will bring vindication for God’s people in the sight of all (1 Thessalonians 4:11-5; 1 John 3:2)

Jesus, the Ascended King, will return in glory, bringing the fullness of God’s kingdom and righteousness that will lead into the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth. So let us be encouraged by the ascension of Jesus that it will be followed by His return and the consummation of all God’s purposes and plans. Let us persevere in light of the resurrection and ascension until the day of His coming or when we see Him face-to-face, whichever arrives first.

[Read Part 1: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Enthronement” and Part 2: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Intercession”]

The Return of Christ: 5 Aspects and 3 Images

MP900438983This morning I had the privilege of speaking at Eastbrook‘s monthly men’s breakfast on the topic: “Jesus Our Coming King.” I began with an overview of the narrative arc of Jesus’ life:

  • Nativity and birth
  • Life: teaching, miracles, mission
  • Crucifixion
  • Resurrection
  • Ascension
  • Intercession
  • Return

I then shared five aspects of Jesus’ return:

  1. It will happen (Acts 1:8; John 14:3)
  2. It will happen in God’s time (Acts 1:6-7; Matthew 24:36)
  3. It will be recognizable to all (1 Thessalonians 4:15; Revelation 1:7-8)
  4. It will bring the fullness of Christ’s victorious kingdom over all (Revelation 19:11-16; 21:1-5)
  5. It will bring vindication for God’s people in the sight of all (1 Thessalonians 4:11-5; 1 John 3:2)

I closed with three images from Scripture on how we should live within the time between Christ’s first and second comings:

1. We are groomsmen – friends of the bridegroom (John 3:27-30)

  • waiting
  • listening
  • preparing the bride for the bridegroom

2. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

  • given the message of reconciliation between God and men in Christ
  • God makes an appeal through us

3. We are watchmen (Psalm 130:6;  Timothy 2:3-7)

  • we are watching
  • we are at the ready
  • we are like soldiers and athletes prepared for action

N. T. Wright on Jesus’ Second Coming

N T WrightI’ve been studying for a message I’m giving this Saturday morning on “Christ our Coming King” for Eastbrook‘s monthly men’s breakfast. I came across this quotation from N. T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope, that captures so much in such a small space that I couldn’t help but share it.

What we have here, with minor variations, is a remarkably unanimous view spread throughout the early Christianity known to us. There will come a time, which might indeed come at any time, when, in the great renewal of the world that Easter itself foreshadowed, Jesus himself will be personally present and will be the agent and model of the transformation that will happen both to the whole world and also to believers. This expectation and hope, expressed so clearly in the New Testament, continues undiminished in the second and subsequent centuries. Mainstream Christians throughout the early period were not worried by the fact that the event had not happened within a generation. The idea that the problem of ‘delay’ set out in 2 Peter 3 was widespread in second-generation Christianity is a modern scholar’s myth rather than a historical reality. Nor was the idea of Jesus’s ‘appearing’ or ‘coming’ simply part of a tradition that was passed on uncritically without later generations really tuning in to what it was saying. As with the ascension, so with Jesus’s appearing: it was seen as a vital part of a full presentation of the Jesus who was and is and is to come. Without it all the church’s proclamation makes no sense. Take it away, and all sorts of things start to unravel. The early Christians saw this as clearly as anyone since, and we would do well to learn from them.

(N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, page 136)