The Saddest Person

Some of the saddest words ever written are by the prophet Jeremiah in his “Lamentations” for Jerusalem and the fall of the Kingdom of Judah. But in chapter 1:14, there is a description that can be applied to anyone whom God holds accountable for his or her own sins. I think such a person must be the saddest of all:

“My transgressions were bound into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they were set upon my neck; he caused my strength to fail; the Lord gave me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand.” (Lam. 1:14 ESV)

There is no relief for the person whose sins are formed into a yoke and fastened around her neck. There is no turning away from them, no putting them out of mind, no hiding them from others.

But the happiest person, by contrast, is the person whose many sins are not fastened around their neck, who is not held accountable for her sins:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
(Ps. 32:1-2 ESV)

This person finds relief from his or her own guilt. This person does not ignore them, turn a blind eye to them, put them out of her mind, or hide them from others: in her “spirit there is no deceit” (Psa 32:2). No hypocrisy, no pretending, no hiding behind a mask or an image she projects to everybody around her. She does not need to turn from, pretend, hide, or ignore her sins because they have been dealt with. Not ignored. Removed. Applied to someone else who took the penalty she deserved, who bore the wrath she had earned: Jesus Christ.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21 ESV)

Through faith in Jesus Christ to be our sufficient sin-bearer, the saddest person becomes the happiest person (c.f. Romans 4:5-8).

Why Every Christian Should Study Bible Prophecy

When I say that, I don’t mean every Christian should buy a Ryrie Study Bible, Scofield Reference Bible, or MacArthur Study Bible. I do mean every Christian should think carefully about why the Apostles thought it was of utmost importance to be familiar with the doctrine of Jesus’ second coming.

I’m getting ready to start a sermon series in our church on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. The second coming of Christ is mentioned in every single chapter of this letter.

  • and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thess. 1:10 ESV)
  • For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? (1 Thess. 2:19 ESV)
  • 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. 3:13 ESV)
  • For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
    17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
    (1 Thess. 4:16-17 ESV)
  • For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thess. 5:2 ESV)

In every chapter, then, Paul brings his readers back to the foundational truth that Jesus is coming again, and that His coming is a reason to not lose hope, to not be afraid. Things were bad in Thessalonica when Paul wrote this. The leaders of the Jewish synagogue had stirred up the population against the Christians and accused them of treason against Caesar. And in the months since Paul, Silas, and Timothy had come to preach the Gospel and plant a church there, the new Christians had experienced a lot of persecution. It’s possible they wondered if that persecution was part of the great tribulation of the end times. To make matters worse, some of their own members had died since Paul had left. And they had somehow arrived at the conclusion that they would never see those Christians again. They didn’t know about the Resurrection at Christ’s second coming. Their idea of salvation did not include life after death for those who died before Jesus comes back.

Although they were Gospel-centred (just look at chapter 1:2-7!) the Gospel they were centred on had some pretty big holes in it: without a firm grasp on the Apostles’ teaching about the end times, their Gospel was underpowered. How does knowing Jesus died to save us help us in the face of intense persecution if we don’t also know that He will rescue us all—believers who have died and believers who are alive when He comes—from death, forever? How does knowing He is coming back to rescue His people give us hope when we bury our loved ones, if someone convinces us He already came back and so maybe we aren’t included in the ones He came to save? I’m not saying these misunderstandings are common today. But I am saying that Paul’s remedy to these misunderstandings—good teaching about the second coming of Christ–will also remedy a lot of other misunderstandings that are common today, or tomorrow, or decades from now.

You can follow along with our sermons series here:

Standing When Your Faith Is Shaken: Sermons from 1 Thessalonians

The Church Triumphant

“This holy army of saints, is marshalled here in earth by the officers, under the conduct of their glorious emperor Christ, that victorious Michael. Thus it marcheth in this most heavenly order, and gracious array, against all enemies both bodily and ghostly. Peaceable in itself as Jerusalem, terrible unto them as an army with banners, triumphing over their tyrrany with patience, their cruelty with meekness, and over death itself with dying. Thus through the blood of that spotless Lamb, and that word of their testimony, they are more than conquerors, bruising the head of the serpent; yea through the power of the Word, they have power to cast down Satan like lightning: to tread upon serpents and scorpions: to cast down strongholds, and every thing that exalteth itself against God. The gates of Hell and all the principalities and powers of the world, shall not prevail against it.”

(Henry Barrow, “A True Description of the Visible Church”, 1589)

Skeptics Always Think They’re Cool

Very recently I read an opinion piece in a well-known newspaper in which the writer scored rhetorical points by casting aspersions on old-fashioned, biblical thinking. Now this had nothing really to do with the point of the article. But apparently it’s always good technique to present one’s perspective in contrast to the narrow-minded, constraints of bygone Christian oppression. It makes the skeptic seem cool. I felt like I was back in grade 5, the class geek scorned by the cool kids.

What was particularly interesting to me was the fact that Christianity really—really—had nothing to do with the writer’s point. It was only a writer’s trick to pressure readers into picking sides: do you want to be numbered with the cool kids, or do you really want to take the risk of holding a different point of view and be ostracized with the fundamentalist Christians? There is no middle ground; no gray area here.

Sadly it is no longer uncommon to run into portrayals of Christianity that depend on cheap and superficial caricatures. One can’t be a thoughtful Christian. Or a respectable Christian. Never mind the thoughtful and respectable paragons of history—Isaac Newton, William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther King—to name a few. The whole point of being a cool skeptic is to control the conversation by controlling the definitions. Christians are insensitive, inbred, indoctrinated, and inarticulate. In case you didn’t know.

And yet, optimist that I am, I think there are still lots of good people who think for themselves and are able to filter this kind of nonsense from the daily diet of social media and talking heads. I am hopeful that the respectable and thoughtful agnostics, atheists, unconvinced, and skeptics I count as friends are not anomalies. I hope there are many unbelievers in the West who aren’t inclined to lynch the straw man. Because this has all happened before. And it never turns out well for the cool kids. Shallow, condescending skepticism is not new. The cool kids were making fun of the Bible centuries before Jesus Christ was born.

Around 600 years before Christ (we used to call that “B.C.” although now the cool kids tell us to call the time after Christ the “Common Era”—however uncommon His advent was), the prophet Jeremiah lamented,

“…behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it” (Jer 6:10 ESV).

This is remarkable. Because thoughtful, respectable, believers, both before Christ and after Christ, have treasured the Scriptures available to them precisely because they found pleasure—happiness—in meditating on and living according to God’s Word. I know I do. The depths of Scripture give up far more weighty gold than wishing wells ever could. I have heard unbelieving friends confess that after reading some of the Bible, or listening to a sermon, they just “don’t get it.” But that’s like the person with ambitions of being a gold miner abandoning the effort after only digging a couple of feet. Men and women have throughout history been motivated and strengthened to accomplish great things fuelled by the hope and happiness discovered in God’s Word. It is improbable that the names of Newton, Wilberforce, Lincoln, Lewis or King would be recognizable to us today if they had not found both treasure and pleasure in the Bible. And can you imagine how much poorer we would all be today without them?

A few verses later, Jeremiah penned this timeless invitation to his readers not to stand with the skeptics who think they are cool, but to seek and discover in God’s Word the treasures they didn’t even know they were missing. Unfortunately, that didn’t end well back then either.

“Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jer 6:16 ESV)

Windows 10 for Preachers

Screenshot 2015-08-12 15.16.43

Along with a billion other users this year, I upgraded my computer to Windows 10. Not only was the upgrade simple, requiring zero effort on my part and zero inconvenience, it has already changed the way I study and write sermons. In a good way.

OneDrive & Office

For the past few years, ever since Google Docs got good, and since I no longer had MS Office paid for by the church I worked for, I’ve been doing all my writing via Google. Google Drive came along and made it even simpler to use Google Docs and Google Slides instead of Word and PowerPoint. I was content with these products and enjoyed the improvements Google made along the way.

However, Windows 10 represents the latest milestone in Microsoft’s strategy to provide seamless file management and editing in always-backed-up, cross-platform cloud storage. This was well under way already when Windows 8 was released. But at the time, I still found Google Drive much easier to use. But now Microsoft has convinced me to make the switch. Office 365 is now both affordable to try and easy to use. Windows 10 makes integration with OneDrive a piece of cake. So now, though I still have Drive installed, and still use it for storing many of my files, I’m not using it at all for sermon prep.

Screenshot 2015-08-12 14.29.24Using Word, when I click to save the sermon document I’m working on, it gives me a link directly to OneDrive, where all my sermons are backed up constantly and available on my Android phone or tablet using the Office apps from Microsoft.



I know BibleWorks has released version 10, but for now, still using version 9, I can easily set it up to store all of my personal notes in OneDrive so that they can be recovered any time in the future. Gone are the days when a hard drive failure, OS upgrade, or BibleWorks upgrade meant time lost trying to backup and recover my hundreds of notes files on various chapters of the Bible.

Screenshot 2015-08-12 14.26.17 In the Notes Editor (I have it set up in the middle column of my BibleWorks layout), hovering over the little yellow file-tree icon shows the hint, “Choose Notes Dir”. Clicking this, I browsed to the OneDrive folder on my computer and created a new folder called “BibleWorks”. That’s it.

Bible Study 6 from Olive Tree

I have used OliveTree since the days of the Palm Pilot. With version 6 of the app for the Windows Desktop, this software finally works well allowing me to add windows for all the commentaries and Bible versions I want simultaneous access to while studying.

Screenshot 2015-08-12 14.25.58 In this screenshot, I have the ESV Bible open in the left column, the ESV Study Bible Notes in the next column. Beside it to the right, at the top I have the Gospel Transformation Study Bible notes. Below that, I have the Hebrew (BHS), and below that, the Analytical Greek New Testament. If I’m studying in the New Testament, the Greek window will scroll along with the ESV window; if in the OT, the Hebrew will do the same. Then on the far right of the workspace, I have Calvin’s Commentaries open.

Windows 10

Many of these features don’t require Windows 10 and are not particularly unique. But Windows 10 has added a streamlined desktop manager that makes it handy to use all these tools at the same time.

Screenshot 2015-08-12 15.05.37 Pressing Ctrl+windows key+D opens a new desktop. So in the example pictured here, I can do that and then open BibleWorks, then using another desktop, Bible Study 6, then Word, and so on. The screenshot shows the running desktops at the bottom of the screen, showing the apps already open on the selected desktop.

What I love most about the desktop feature, is that pressing ctrl+windows key+[left or right arrow] neatly slides between open desktops, switiching me from BibleWorks, back to Word, or Bible Study 6, etc.

That’s how I’m using Windows 10 with my Bible software and Office to study the Bible and write my sermons every week. Do you have other Windows 10 tips to share? Leave a comment below and join the discussion.

UPDATE MAY 18, 2016

I now have BibleWorks 10 running on my ThinkPad and I love the new tools, theme options and collapsible frames. I’ve found it really convenient to snap BibleWorks to one side of the screen while snapping OneNote to the other. Snipping a Greek syntactical diagram from the Leedy module and pasting it into the top of my current sermon file on OneNote gives me access to that diagram and all my subsequent notes on my phone or my tablet.



The Epitaph of the Unremarkable Preacher

From time to time, the Monday blues weigh on me so that I struggle with some depression as I face the fact that I’m just not that remarkable a preacher. Even when I hit a homerun, I’m pretty sure my sermon isn’t really making that big a difference in the real trials my hearers are facing day to day.

So I was delighted, after that kind of Monday, to read an article on 9Marks titled, “Hope for the Melancholy Preacher.” And I share it with you—the one or two of you who read this—hoping that it will encourage you as it has me.

Will We Keep the Sabbath in Heaven? Isaiah 66:23

The question came up recently in an online discussion, “How should premillennial historicists understand passages like Isaiah 66:23, which is sometimes used to make a point about how Old Testament ritual and Levitical laws will be implemented by God in the Millennial Kingdom?” (For an introduction to premillennial historicism, visit and take the tour.)The_8th_Night

So at the request of a friend, I prepared this brief study of Isaiah 66:23. The purpose of this study is to determine whether if such laws are observed after Christ’s return and triumph, should such laws be mandatory for Christians to observe before Christ’s second advent?

From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD. (Isa 66:23 ESV)

וְהָיָ֗ה מִֽדֵּי־חֹ֙דֶשׁ֙ בְּחָדְשׁ֔וֹ וּמִדֵּ֥י שַׁבָּ֖ת בְּשַׁבַּתּ֑וֹ יָב֧וֹא כָל־בָּשָׂ֛ר לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֹ֥ת לְפָנַ֖י אָמַ֥ר יְהוָֽה

(Isa 66:23 WTT)

Following the grammar of this verse, the phrases, “from new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath,” is giving the frame of reference in time—a temporal prepositional phrase—for the main action in the sentence.

The subject of the sentence is God: “the LORD declares…”

The direct speech of God is the content of what He declares: “all flesh shall come to worship before me”.

The duration of that worship is defined in the prepositional phrase: “from new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath”.

It’s important to note the influence of the substantive “dey” in each of the prepositions, “from new moon” and “from Sabbath”. The preposition is formed from the prepositional prefix, “m” + the substantive “dey” = “mdey”. So, for example, the Hebrew words “from new moon” form one construct, “mdey-chodesh”.

This is informative because the phrase without the “dey”, “m’chodesh” would still mean, “from new moon”.

The difference the “dey” part adds is that, extending from its basic meaning, “sufficiency, enough” (see Brown Driver Briggs), it takes on the idiomatic meaning, “as long as it is still…” or “as often as”, when used with a temporal preposition like this.

Then, taken with the second part of each prepositional phrase, “to new moon” and “to Sabbath”, the meaning clarifies. Both latter halves of the prepositional phrases are grammatically third-person singular with the “b” preposition: “in its new moon” and “in its Sabbath”. This specifies when each new moon and each Sabbath are going to happen.

So you end up with, “As long as each new moon occurs in its own new moon, and each Sabbath occurs in its own Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me,’ declares the LORD.”

Isaiah uses the vocabulary of Jewish ritual worship, but he does it by setting months and weeks in the pre-existing framework of Creation. As long as there are still months, as long as there are still weeks, all the Earth will be worshipping God.

The picture here is provided by the context in Isaiah 66 as the end time. So this is not the Millennial Kingdom. This is the New Heavens and New Earth. That is clear from the next verse (Isaiah 66:24) which pictures the saints regularly looking at the judgement of the wicked in Hell. That judgement does not occur until the end of the Millennium (Rev 20). (My view of this picture is that it is not that the saints will literally see people suffering in Hell, but rather that the saints will regularly think about and consider the holiness of God and His justice in the eternal punishment of unbelief. I.e., Thinking about the reason Jesus’ death for sinners was necessary, and the consequence of rejecting His atoning sacrifice, will be an occasion to worship God more, not less.) 

So the vision is superlative. It is not just saying that the worship of God in Heaven will be equal to that of the Jewish nation in its golden years; it is saying that the worship of God in Heaven, not just by Israel, but by “all flesh”, will not just be on Sabbaths and New Moons, but perpetually: as long as weeks and lunar cycles still exist in the New Heavens and New Earth!

This shows that God’s plan includes much more than merely extending Israelite worship and Mosaic Law throughout the world. It shows that through the fulfillment of the Gospel, true worship will not be one nation, but all nations; not just on the holy days of the calendar, but all the time; not just the shadowy type, but the real, universal reality. That’s why God “declares” it; that’s why He boasts.

The comparison, the ratio if you will, of Old Testament “New Moon” feasts, and Sabbath observance, is proportionate to the future reality in the same way that the sacrifice of little lambs is to the death and resurrection of the Son of God.

Therefore, in conclusion, if the observance of Levitical laws regarding things like worship are a mere shadow and type of the true worship of God through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then the requirement of that kind of observance of Old Testament laws in the worship of Christian churches is a Galatians-style regression from Gospel truth and freedom, to slavery and legalism.

6000 Years? Really?

How can an educated person believe the Earth is only several thousand years old?

In this article, nuclear physicist Jim Mason responds to a presentation by a University of Adelaide professor whose position was

a) the Earth is 4.54 billion years old, or

b) the Earth was created to look like it is 4.54 billion years old.

Dr. Mason responds that with a careful explanation of many layers of evidence in favour of the conclusion that the Earth actually is, and appears to be, around 6000 years old, consistent with the Bible’s account.

This is an excellent summary of many of the reasons why I myself have come to firmly believe the Bible is correct in its testimony that the Earth is not billions, but merely thousands of years old. You will notice, if you read the article carefully, that these reasons are scientific. That is they are based on observations and interpretations of physical evidence. Although I already believed the Bible was an accurate and trustworthy record of history before I had heard of any of these lines of evidence, I used to hold to the second option above (“the Earth was created to look like it is 4.54 billion years old”). This was an uncomfortable position to hold because of the implication that God had perhaps deceived us by making a young world look old. However, I now conclude, with Dr. Mason apparently, that the best scientific option, even though incredibly unpopular, is that the world really is “young”–just as the Bible teaches.

Lastly, those pastors and other Christians who take the position, that the “old Earth” scientific consensus must be correct, that it is anti-cultural or arrogant to promote the belief that the Earth is young, and that there is no solid evidence from science for believing the Bible’s straightforward testimony on the age of the Earth to be true, seem to be to be regularly repeating rather poor arguments which, given the lines of evidence presented here, can be seen to be misinformed. It may be that in the next life, I will ask God about the age of the Earth and He will tell me I was wrong–that the world really was 4.5 billion years old (although I think this is so far from likely as to be almost certainly untrue in my opinion). But my point here is that there are good scientific reasons, aside from “faith”, to challenge the “old Earth” consensus and maintain a “young Earth” view.