Yesterday, France was brutalized by Islamic terrorists.

This is a time for praying against what God is against, and for what God is for. God is against murder, and he is against the false gods that demand the slaughter of the innocent. He is for the putting down of injustice, and he is for the knowledge of his glory filling the earth, even through the salvation of former worshipers of Allah.

There are many things to pray on a weekend like this. Denny Burke recommends we pray the words of Psalm 10, and that’s a good suggestion:

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.

The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.

Here are some helpful reflections, suggestions, and articles from around the web on this and related tragedies.

*This article was crossposted at the Desert Springs Church Blog.

Kevin DeYoung is the lead pastor at University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan. Since he began publishing, DeYoung has served the church well through the publication of many timely books. He also writes regularly at his blog hosted at The Gospel Coalition.

One topic DeYoung speaks to from time to time with nuance, insight, and conviction is politics. That shouldn’t be heard the wrong way. He’s not a political junkie who cares more about politics than his work as a pastor. But he understands the real, somewhat complicated, but always consequential role of political engagement for Christians given our opportunities in a democratic republic. He has done a nice job over the years of speaking to Christians concerning their role of citizens of this world, albeit a role secondary to our role as citizens of the next.

A nice example of this would be a piece published earlier this week, “Ten Things to Remember as the Presidential Campaign Season Gets Into Full Swing.” Here are his ten things:

1. We’re not electing a king.
2. Elections matter.
3. Character matters.
4. The best predictor of future performance is past performance.
5. You almost certainly will not have a beer with the next president.
6. The big picture matters more than all the details.
7. The candidates will say something stupid.
8. The media will do very little to help you understand the issues and what each candidate believes.
9. It is extremely unlikely that either party will nominate someone with no political experience.
10. The system could be much worse.

Click here to read DeYoung’s explanation of each point. Here’s his explanation of the last point:

Sure, there is plenty to complain about. The presidential campaign seems interminably long. It takes a boatload of money to stay in the race. We are all stupider because of Twitter and the 24-hours news cycle. And even the best debates are hardly Lincoln-Douglas material. But we do get a say. We do get a vote. We basically get the presidents we deserve. I’d rather have candidates pandering for our votes than dictating the terms of our surrender. Yes, if you want to be president it helps to be rich and famous, but you also have to hang out in New Hampshire all winter and shake the hand of every farmer in Iowa. I like that. There are good reasons to be frustrated with both parties. But with only two major parties, it’s hard to completely ignore most viewpoints. You can’t build a coalition without trying to appeal to a lot of diverse groups of people. So is the system broken? I’m sure it is, but I’m also sure there are more ways than we can imagine to fix it even worse.

DeYoung isn’t the only one to read during election season. He’s not going to write ongoingly about every turn and every issue in the presidential race. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will be more helpful there. And there are others worth listening to who write and reflect from an explicit or roughly Christian worldview including Albert Mohler, Michael Gerson, Ross Douthat, etc.. The Gospel Coalition will publish a number of thoughtful pieces along the way, and Justin Taylor will drip pieces like these into the line of his blog at The Gospel Coalition:

But mixed in with posts on just about everything else a pastor would care about, DeYoung will provide consistent and timely insight into politics. Here are a few helpful pieces he’s published on Christian political reflection and engagement over the years:

Finally, since this is a post about who to listen to, let me suggest that TV news will be one of the least helpful resources for receiving and processing ideas and the specific views of candidates during this season. This is not to mischaracterize every network or show, but generally speaking TV news is a circus of perception creating and narrative forming media. Generally speaking, TV news does not foster careful or extended thought. Generally speaking, TV news cheapens and askews both good and bad arguments, both good and bad candidates. So, watch, yes. But read more than you watch. Be thoughtful and careful in the coming months.

For a pastor who writes on these things with care, concern, and a critical mind, Kevin DeYoung is worth the read.

At the end of November we wrapped up our Equip Class on the Old Testament book Joshua at Desert Springs Church. Joshua is that book with the story of Jericho, a story famous in children’s books and flannelgraph. But not the whole story. Here’s how it ends: “Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21). Joshua’s sword has a lot of blood on it.

This presents a difficulty to sensitive and attentive readers. In a book filled with the gracious promises of God for his people and even careful instructions for justice for their life together (Joshua 20), what should we make of this apparent military overkill? Was God right to command this and was Israel right to carry it out? What shall we say to those who call the Bible a barbaric book, who use this as an example of how religion spoils everything?

If the Bible is true and we’re reading it right, then, yes he was. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for us to understand.

As with any text of the Bible, we need to situation this one in its immediate context, the context of the story that is unfolding in Scripture, and in the context of the whole Bible. This specific question gives us a great exercise in biblical interpretation. Four resources will be helpful to you in thinking this through:

We should not be surprised to bump up against hard questions in the Bible. We’re fallen and finite creatures. We don’t have the whole picture and if we did we’d have a sinners take on it. Gratefully, God’s Word is true at every point and we can trust it. And gratefully its story leads to a cross where the Lord dealt fully and finally with the injustice our own sin, and a resurrection where he conquered death for those who entrust themselves to him.

*This article was crossposted at the Desert Springs Church Blog.

For most of my life, Leno and Letterman have been night time’s funny men. Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show until I was 11, but that might as well have been before I was born. I only remember these guys.

And for the most part, they have only been clowns to me, often hilarious, sometimes annoying, and sometimes inappropriate. What they have not been to me is human. But as humans, they have hopes, they lose loved ones, they do terrible things that hurt others and cause them shame, and they need the love of Christ.

Here are two videos worth your time:

Leno on Life, Relationships, and 20 Years at Tonight

Letterman on Being a Weasel

Two quick thoughts on Letterman’s admission.

First, a guy like Letterman has been doing camera for the better part of his life. But we can appreciate and hope that these words are genuine. One insight that I found helpful here was his admission of weasel motives even in the moments before he confessed to his Late Show audience. He thought he might get some sympathy out of the event. He didn’t have to say that, and perhaps exposing his motive at that point is part of coming as clean as he knows how. But it is at least an honest assessment and reflection on the trouble in his own heart. I was humbled by the sheer honesty of that moment.

Second, Letterman spoke about needing to discover why he did what he did, and about atoning for his sin. The Christian can only know heartbreak at this point for a man who needs but does not know the forgiveness of God. A man whom the world has loved does not know the love of God, and he can’t know peace until he does.

Why did he do what he did? How can his sin be atoned for? How wonderful are words of another David’s in his confession of adultery in Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Because of God’s “steadfast love” for us in Jesus Christ, sinners like Letterman, like you, and like me can know the forgiveness of God. We can be clean, and whiter even than snow because Jesus Christ, who never sinned, died a sinner’s death. Through faith in him and him alone, our sins can be removed “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).