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.

 

BibleWorks9

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.

2016-05-18

 

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 Historicism.com 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.

geochronology
http://creation.com/geochronology-uncertainties

“Jesus, I’m Tired of Being Lazy”

Desiring God featured two blog articles this week that beg to be expanded and completed in a book about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ holds the cure for male-pattern laziness. I saw my own lazy tendencies described, and I was encouraged by the refreshing wisdom offered.

Paul Maxwell’s two blog posts are titled, “The Complicated Life of Lazy Boys” and “Put Laziness to Rest”.

Read these intros, and then click the links to go to Desiring God and read the rest. Well, read, then rest.

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From “The Complicated Life of Lazy Boys”

The modern man has a major branding crisis. Most sum him up in one word: lazy. There are different ways to pronounce the word — dependent, wasteful, inept, ungrateful, complacent, unworthy, unimpressive, undisciplined — all with one root: the failure to do. Avoid work, and aim for the bare minimum.

Cycles of laziness eventually turn into cycles of violence. As our muscle for self-denial in work atrophies through inactivity, our ability to deny ourselves in relationships weakens as well. The seed of abusive inclinations is embedded in the selfishness of our laziness. A man who dishonors himself will eventually dishonor others (Proverbs 18:9).

Male laziness, though, is both misunderstood and underestimated by most. Until we understand laziness, we will never be able to work well. We have tried yelling at and mocking men, and that has not worked often or for long. Instead, let’s look at the complexity of laziness to see the deeper business underneath it and how the gospel heals and empowers lazy men.

There are (at least) five vicious cycles that perpetuate male inactivity. Each highlights a different logic behind our tendency toward laziness and complacency.

READ THE REST

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From “Put Laziness to Rest”

God often has a backwards way of dealing with brokenness in our world. Conquering, but not by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Defeating death with death (Hebrews 2:14). Preaching parables to bad listeners (Matthew 13:13). Fighting laziness with rest. Because of the complexity of laziness, we need to pay close attention to the ways God addresses our complacency.

To shout at men, “Get to work!” ironically reinforces a dysfunctional cycle of both work and rest. It fails to say what really needs to be said. It isn’t all that hard to see why God punishes his people by making them “forget festival and Sabbath” (Lamentations 2:6). Let me speak for ancient Israel and male millennials: bad resters make bad workers. Lazy men need a new theology of rest.

READ THE REST

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The Moon, Meteors, & Massive Basins

One of the criticisms I have heard about Creationists is the caricature that so-called scientists who believe the Bible don’t do real science: they don’t follow the evidence, seek to explain the evidence, and just resort to a God of miracles to explain the mysteries revealed by the scientific method.

I have not generally found that caricature to be accurate, although I could name a couple of writers who have, over the past 30 years, given biblical creationism a bad name. But poor representatives can also be found among secular, evolutionist scientists! Namely misotheists like Richard Dawkins, or those who resort to the belief that intelligent aliens seeded life on Earth, like Francis Crick. I’d like to think most secular scientists are more tolerant of religious beliefs than Dawkins, and more discerning than Crick.

One recent good example of a creationist doing excellent work to seek understanding and to seek scientific explanations for physical evidence aided by his belief in the truth of the Bible is Michael Oard, and his paper, “Large cratonic basins likely of impact origin”.

Chinese-Wall (1)

This is a very interesting paper (though a bit tough to get through due to technical jargon). In summary, since the moon evidences over 1800 massive (30km) impact craters (an argument cited from another of Oard’s papers, see fn #39), Earth should bear the scars of thousands of massive impacts of proportionate diameters (many 1000km+). Impacts fit the physical evidence of many of the very large continental basins which secular, uniformitarian geology struggles to explain. Basins like these include the Hudson’s Bay Basin, Belt Basin, Williston Basin, and also the South Caspian Basin and Congo Basin. The presence of huge amounts of sediment in these cratonic basins fits a theoretical model that thousands of astroids impacted the Earth early in the global flood. This model also provides a mechanism for a number of features of Noah’s Flood, including prolonged rainfall, uplifting, tsunamis, and current dynamics.

http://creation.com/large-cratonic-basins

Biblical Reasons to Believe Genesis

Last week Justin Taylor lit up the evangelical blogosphere with his post to the Gospel Coalition website, titled, “Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods”.

I have frequently shared Justin’s blog posts on Facebook and Twitter. I admire his writing and his love for the Bible and his devotion to Christ. But I was saddened by not just the poor logic and biblical exegesis in his post, but also for the impact such a prominent writer can have on others, spreading his doubtful speculations to many who are not equipped to know how to respond to such reasoning. For this reason, I share a couple of my thoughts here, to equip and support people looking for biblical reasons to believe that Genesis means what it looks like it means. But I also want to encourage readers to take the time to carefully examine Justin’s argument, and, as Lita Costner wrote in her response (see below), to “ask yourself, ‘How many of these claims could I answer?’”.

So below are a couple of my thoughts—responses that came to mind as I read Justin’s post, followed by a link to Lita Costner’s excellent rebuttal on the Creation.com website.

The first thing I noticed in Justin’s article was his appeal to well-regarded experts to add credibility to his doubts about the meaning of the days of Creation week in Genesis 1. First, he quoted Reformed scholar, R.C. Sproul, saying, “When people ask me how old the earth is, I tell them I don’t know—because I don’t.” But as many pointed out in the comments to Justin’s post, R.C. Sproul is on record more recently saying he has changed his mind: he now agrees that Genesis 1 clearly means the days are normal 24-hour days:

“For most of my teaching career, I considered the framework hypothesis to be a possibility. But I have now changed my mind. I now hold to a literal six-day creation, the fourth alternative and the traditional one. Genesis says that God created the universe and everything in it in six twenty-four hour periods…” (Sproul, R. C. Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 2006. Pg. 127,28. Thanks to Joe Fleener in his comment for this citation.)

So Justin’s use of Dr. Sproul as a corroborating authority is misleading or ill-informed.

Then a little further into the post, Justin quotes a number of credible scholars, including Augustine, to show that doubt about the length of the “days” in Genesis 1 are not unreasonable or unprecedented. The problem is, he kicks off his list of authorities with a quote from Augustine:

“Augustine, writing in the early fifth century, noted, ‘What kind of days these were it is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible, to determine’ (City of God 11.7).”

I could not recall anything like that in City of God, so I went looking. I’m not sure what translation or edition Justin was quoting from, but here is what I found in the copy of City of God I have in the collection, Early Church Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, translated by Dr. Marcus Dodds (included in BibleWorks 9 and available online at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102.iv.XI.7.html) :

We see, indeed, that our ordinary days have no evening but by the setting, and no morning but by the rising, of the sun; but the first three days of all were passed without sun, since it is reported to have been made on the fourth day.  And first of all, indeed, light was made by the word of God, and God, we read, separated it from the darkness, and called the light Day, and the darkness Night; but what kind of light that was, and by what periodic movement it made evening and morning, is beyond the reach of our senses; neither can we understand how it was, and yet must unhesitatingly believe it.
City of God 11.7

Notice that Augustine’s words here are not about doubting what kind of “days” Genesis 1 is talking about, but about what kind of “light that was” that governed the days before the creation of the Sun. Moreover, as if to remove any doubt about what he believed Genesis 1 to mean, in spite of the uncertainty he had about how there could be “days” before there was a Sun, he adds, “…and yet we must unhesitatingly believe it.” Furthermore, in the next book of the City of God, chapter 10, Augustine removes any doubt at all about how old he believed the world to be at the time of his writing. He specifies that it was younger at that time than 6000 years—making him what is called a “Young Earth Creationist”:

They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed. And, not to spend many words in exposing the baselessness of these documents, in which so many thousands of years are accounted for… But not even thus, as I said, does the Greek history correspond with the Egyptian in its chronology.  And therefore the former must receive the greater credit, because it does not exceed the true account of the duration of the world as it is given by our documents, which are truly sacred. (City of God 12.10)

Now for an excellent and thorough rebuttal of Justin’s arguments, I want to commend to you this article on Creation.com by Lita Costner.

Biblical reasons to affirm the creation days were 24 hour periods: A response to Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition