This is War: Christ’s First And Second Coming

If you’ve ever met me in the flesh, I’ve probably told you about the huge impact that Bible Study Fellowship has had on my life in the past two years. This year, we are studying Revelation. While I was theoretically excited about the study, it felt so abstract. In the bible, so much of what we are doing is studying what has been written in the past to people in the past, whereas with with Revelation we are studying what was written in the past that describes the future. Suffice to say that I had been having a hard time this year tying the coming Christmas season with the second coming we see in Revelation. I was loving both aspects of God’s plan, but had a hard time thinking of them being the same Jesus. That was, until one morning on my way to leader’s meeting on Saturday at 5:40 AM…

But first, by way of background, a quick story. If you’ve ever met me, the conversation has probably turned to music as well. And in that conversation I’m sure I’ve told you about how much I love Dustin Kensrue. About 5 years ago he put out a Christmas album with a combination of both original songs and covers. The original closing track1 of the album was a song called “This Is War”. While I liked the message, I didn’t love the music of it. The sparseness of the arrangement just didn’t hit me. Last year, Dustin released a new Christmas EP under the name The Modern Post. On that EP, he re-interpreted “This is War” and let me tell you I am a fan! Just listen to it!

The song just sounds apocalyptic. The crazy horns. The driving nature of the drums. I love everything about this version.
And so, that one Saturday morning, driving on the freeway at 5:40 in the morning, with the sky black and with a prepared heart, I saw the connection between Christ’s First and Second Coming. It’s maybe better if we look at some of the lyrics of the song.

This is war like you ain’t seen
This winter’s long, it’s cold and mean
With downcast hearts, we stood condemned,
But the tide turns now at Bethlehem.

This is war, and born tonight
The Word as flesh, the Lord of Light,
The Son of God, the low-born King,
Whom demons fear, of whom angels sing.

The first two verses of the song really got me into the Christmas mindset that Christ is coming as a baby. And then, it was like we were stepping right into Revelation:

Hallelujah! A Child is born!
He is the rescue we’ve waited for!
The Throne of David, He will restore
And reign with mercy forevermore!

So much of what we’ve been studying in Revelation 1-7 has been that Christ is the rightful king and He alone is worthy to take the scroll from God’s hand, open the scroll, and to fulfill God’s plan for the end of this Earth. He holds the “Key of David” (Revelation 3:7), and is the Root of David who has conquered (Revelation 5:5). This reminded me that he was born in the town of David. We are also spending so much time in BSF studying being in God’s throne room in Revelation 4-6. We see God on His throne, with the elders, living creatures, angels, and all of creation worshipping God and His Son, the Lamb.

Then, the next verse really solidified the connection:

This is war on sin and death,
The dark will take its final breath;
It shakes the earth, confounds all plans,
The mystery of God-as-man!

In Revelation we are seeing the finality of God’s judgment. We studied the Day of the Lord in Joel and saw how God has been calling for us to repent for millennia, yet we have hardened our hearts and reject Him as King. God is patient, giving all an opportunity to repent. Our during lecture, our BSF teaching leader pointed to the fact that Jesus completed the work of defeating sin and death 2,000 years ago on the Cross. That is something that is so easy for me to forget as we study God’s final judgment of those who are not covered by the blood of the Lamb.

As the line “it shakes the earth, confounds all plans” played, I couldn’t help think of Revelation 6:12-17 (ESV) (emphasis added):

[12]When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, [13]and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. [14]The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. [15] Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, [16]calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, [17]for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

The plans of those who did not trust Jesus to cover their sins are confounded, the earth is in disarray, this Lowborn King is bringing about God’s final plan for this current Earth. He will bring about the New Heaven and the New Earth. While we wait for His second coming, may we rejoice and share the good news He brought with His first coming.

It also makes me think of another Christmas song: “Come thou long expected Jesus”

Scripture quotations marked “ESV” are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.

  1. 2 additional songs have since been added. 

How To Rest

Someone I follow on Twitter tweeted a link to one of Shawn Blanc’s weekly newsletters entitled How to get it all done. I’ve never really read Shawn Blanc’s content. This piece, however, may change all that.

Spend less time on counterfeit rest: things like television, video games, social media, mindless internet surfing — these things can be time sinks. Moreover, they don’t leave us feeling refreshed, motivated, or recharged. You most definitely need breaks and time to rest, but there are some great ways to do it other than zoning out.

During this school year I have been attending Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) on Monday nights. One of the themes that keeps coming through as we’ve studied in Exodus 20, 34, Leviticus 25, and Deuteronomy 5 has been taking a day of true rest every week. So when I read Shawn’s post, it really resonated with me.

While taking a Sabbath may sound really legalistic and “Old Covenant”-y, it’s not. God rested at the end of the creation account. Christ came “to fulfill the law”. I recommend you check out Tim Keller’s excellent sermon on resting in a modern context.

For Christians, taking a Sabbath to truly rest, is for our good in multiple ways.

  1. It demonstrates, to an increasingly busy world, that God will provide for our needs when we trust Him instead of our own works.
  2. It causes us to put our faith in God in specific ways and see the miraculous outcomes. Concerned that X won’t get done and your life will unravel because you didn’t “do anything” on Sunday? Trust God to provide and see what happens.
  3. Obedience to God deepens our relationship with Him and pleases Him.
  4. It gives us the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual rejuvination necessary to continue loving Christ to the best of our ability.

I’m not saying that nothing that resembles work can be done: we still need to cook and shower and take care of our kids on Sunday. Churches still need people to be ushers, serve communion, and preach and clean. What I have been so encouraged by through BSF is the heart attitude we need to take to resting on Sundays. That can be through the no-work, only paper plates and MRE’s on Sundays or it can be through joyful, active service to God. The BSF notes say it better than I could:

The important question is: do you observe the [Sabbath] in any significant way?

And one of the other core issues BSF has really hit home this year as we’ve studied The Life of Moses is the importance of obedience. Obedience does not gain us salvation, but it is an outward demonstration that indicates that we are children of God.

Thinking about obedience makes me paraphrase the Mute, Demon-Possessed Boy’s father from Mark 9:24 (ESV)

“I obey; help my disobedience!”

May we rest in the finished work of Christ tomorrow.

Scripture quotations marked “ESV” are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.

Doug Wilson On The Reality Of The Incarnation

Doug Wilson, from his excellent book God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything. This passage has make me shake with joy and fear for what it meant that Christ became a man.

We ought always to reflect on the profound reality of the Incarnation. Over the course of time, we have added a bunch of cultural traditions to the celebration of the Christmas season, which is absolutely fine, but at the same time we want to take care not to obscure anything central. So, enjoy the fudge, and the sleigh bells jingling, and bringing the woods into your living room… but enjoy it all for the right reason.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:1,14)

John’s gospel begins with the words in the beginning, deliberately echoing the first words of Genesis (Gen. 1:1). Just as God created the heavens and the earth, so in the arrival of Jesus, He was recreating the heavens and the earth (v. 1). In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. What does this mean? The withness is defined by the word Word. The Word was with God the Father in the way our words are with us. They are not the same. And yet, at the same time, our words reveal us and are to be identified with us. We are what we speak. Out of the abundance of the heart, a man speaks, and we are this way because God is the same way. Out of the abundance of His heart, He speaks. Now, this perfect Word, this Word that came from the Father without any degradation of meaning, this Word which was also to be identified with the Father, what did He do? He became flesh, John says, and dwelt among us (v. 14). Did this bring about degradation of meaning? No, John says— we beheld his glory (v. 14). What glory? The glory of the only begotten of the Father. What glory? A glory that was full of grace and truth.…

…Now, consider the nature of the miracle we celebrate at Christmas. Without losing anything “in the translation,” God brought this conversation into this world, starting in the womb of a young Jewish woman. The Word (the Word we have been speaking of) became flesh, and all carnal philosophy and wisdom fall backwards, like the men who came to arrest the Lord.

…we need to take careful note of the fact that Jesus was not telling us to do something that He was unwilling to do Himself. We should see this as the very model of His particular kind of servant leadership. Jesus told us to become like little children. And what did He do in the Incarnation? He became a little child. The one, in short, who told us that we needed to be humbled, converted, and made like little children, was the same one who humbled Himself and took the form of a baby in the womb of a young maiden. Jesus told us to become like little children, but He did so as the one who had— in an utterly unique way— become a little child.

He, the eternal Word, the one who spoke the galaxies into existence, was willing to become a little baby boy who could do nothing with words except jabber, and in that jabbering, make glad his mother and earthly father. He, the source of all life and all nourishment for that life, was willing to be breastfed. He, the same one who had separated the night from the day, and had shaped the sun to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night, was willing to have his diapers changed for a year or so. It is not disrespectful to speak this way; for Christians, it is disrespectful not to. We believe in the Incarnation, in the Word made flesh. This is our glory; this is our salvation.

Jesus told us that in order to enter His kingdom, we would have to stoop. This is not surprising, because He was the one who stooped in a mystifying way in the creation of that kingdom. He stooped —the ultimate Word became a single cell, and then a cluster of cells, and then visibly a baby, although still less than a pound, and then a child who kicked his mother from inside, delighting her immeasurably. He became a little child, and then, years later, He told us to copy Him in this demeanor— to become little children.…

…The atonement did not start when the first nail went in and then stop when the Lord breathed His last breath. The entire life of Christ was involved in our salvation, from His conception on. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah said that we were healed by His stripes, which were inflicted before the cross (Is. 53: 5), and that by His knowledge He will justify many (Is. 53: 11). The Lord’s time on the cross cannot be detached from the rest of His sinless life, and it is theological folly to try.

Wilson, Douglas (2012-11-16). God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything (Kindle Locations 453-526) Kindle Edition.

A URL Scheme for Logos Bible Software for iOS

As a quick follow-up to my previous post, it turns out that Logos for iPhone/iPad does have a URL scheme. No, not the type I was looking for with X-Callback support, but still, a URL scheme nonetheless. I thought I’d quick publish how I’m using it in case any other geeks are looking for a way to open Logos directly to a bible or book.

We have chosen Psalms as a passage of scripture for our two girls. As a part of my nightly routine with my daughters, I will read the Psalm with them. I could be a normal dad and pull out a physical bible[1] or I could pull out my phone, which I invariably have with me everywhere I go. That means that if we’re somewhere and we just need to read something to keep her engaged, I have easy access to it.

I had been using the built in “favorites” feature to Logos for iOS but that was way too many steps. I was trying to think of ways to get to get to the Psalm. Should I put the text into a markdown file and launch that file from Launch Center Pro? Should I use LCP to launch directly to a website like that will have the passage? Neither of these options were great in my mind. Then after a few weeks, I remembered that Logos had URL links long before I got into this whole iOS automation thing.

I went to the Logos forums and realized that someone had already done a great job with LCP & Logos. So here’s what I did.

  1. Went to the passage I wanted in Logos for Mac and selected Copy Location as URL.
  2. Send Logos URL to my iPhone via Command-C
  3. Open Launch Center Pro
  4. Create a new action using the url on the clipboard as the URL.
  5. Name the action.
  6. Boom! Open directly to the passage (or section if it’s a book)

Getting a URL from Logos Bible Software for Mac


  1. I should note that my daughter and I do read out of The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm almost every night.  ↩

Using Editorial on iOS to Build The Ultimate Sermon Notes Tool

One of the things I love about our new pastor at church is that he sends out an outline of his sermon on Fridays to all the small group leaders along with discussion questions. This is great because it’s allowed me to take much better notes on Sundays and to be focused on the content of what our pastor is saying, not just taking detailed notes.[1] My main workflow for doing this has been to take the email or PDF of the sermon outline, copy it into Drafts, take my notes there, and then send it to Evernote with a custom action that puts it in my “Jesus” notebook, tags it with “Sermon Notes”, and adds the date stamp to the note title in my preferred format.

A Few Issues with Drafts

Taking my sermon notes in Drafts has been fine, but I’ve found myself fairly limited by the way Drafts is setup to work. Drafts was designed for, well, drafts. Type a quick note, send it to Evernote. Type a quick text and send it out. You get the picture. Longer-form writing isn’t in the app’s purview, and that’s what sermon notes have become for me.

The main issue I was having was getting text from the Bible apps into Drafts. I wanted it done with a URL scheme, but there aren’t any Bible apps that I’ve been able to find using the X-Callback-URL scheme. So I was

  1. opening Drafts,
  2. then opening a Bible app,
  3. copying the text to the clipboard,
  4. switching back to Drafts,
  5. pasting the text as a new draft,
  6. sending the text to TextTool for cleanup using a Drafts action, and
  7. switching back to the sermon notes draft.

This workflow was eventually simplified somewhat by incorporating a Launch Center Pro action, but it was still way too cumbersome. So I was searching for a way to keep my mind more focused on the sermon than the technology for note-taking.

My Issues With The Bible Apps Available On iOS.

Before moving on to how I solved my problem, let’s just discuss the state of Bible apps on iOS. On my Macs I use Logos Bible Software for all my bible study needs. I have primarily used their great iOS app as well for my mobile study, daily devotions, and for reference during sermons. However, the Logos app has this odd formatting issue. If you copy text and paste it into another app, it includes all sorts of weird formatting, specifically related to footnotes.

In the screenshots below you can see the footnotes in Logos for iOS are in superscript. Well, when those get copied in plain text and pasted, they get converted to regular text, sometimes with zero-character spaces between them as shown in the second screenshot.

Logos for iOS
Logos for iOS
Text Pasted from Logos for iOS into Drafts
Text Pasted from Logos for iOS into Drafts

So I was looking around for other iOS Bible apps and came across the ESV Bible app for iOS. Ironically, it was my wife (not a techie), who I noticed using the app, so I gave it a try. When it was formatted into plain text, the results were much nicer (screenshots below), and thus I was able to clean them up in TextTool with a simple wrap function.

The ESV App for iOS
The ESV App for iOS
The Raw Paste from the ESV app
The Raw “Paste” from the ESV app
The Final Product of TextTools Wrap Function
The Final Product of TextTool’s Wrap Function

This was fine, but it was still way too cumbersome for quickly getting Bible verses into my sermon notes, especially when the pastor was on a roll. I needed a tool that could help me when the pastor just starts listing off verses that support his point.

How Editorial Helped Me With Sermon Notes

I’ll be honest, I loved Editorial when it came out for about a month. Then iOS 7 happened. The app looked dated quickly and since iOS 7 broke TextExpander support, I essentially stopped using the app. But with the recent 1.1 update, I started using Editorial again quite a bit. So much so, that I started using it for my weekly sermon notes. It came to mind one Sunday, that if I could find a Bible app that supported the X-Callback-URL I could have my ultimate powerhouse for sermon note taking. So I pinged a few random people that I knew were into tech and Jesus on Twitter.

I want to thank everyone who responded. Ben Whiting, Jordan Shirkman, Phillip Gruneich, and Eric Pramono, you guys were great. Eric has an interesting post on how he uses Launch Center Pro and Pythonista to share verses. But eventually I discovered that the app I was looking for didn’t exist. As I was thinking through the problem that Sunday, I remembered something. The ESV bible[2] had an online version and just maybe, they’d have an API for non-commercial use.


The ESV site even had some sample script in Python, which is great because I don’t know how to script or program, I’m just able to reverse-engineer code occasionally. So, I built two simple workflows to make Editorial harness the ESV Bible’s API, and help me stay focused on the sermons and not technology on Sundays.

The Workflows for Editorial

As I mentioned above, I don’t know how to code, I simple reverse engineered some workflows and the sample code from the ESV API. There’s a lot of work that could be done on these scripts, but for now, they do what I need them to do. If you’re handy with either Editorial or Python and want to give me some suggestions, I’m all ears.

  1. My brain doesn’t do well with doing two things at once. If I’m taking good notes, I’m not generally actively engaged in thinking about the content.  ↩
  2. my translation of choice  ↩

Initial Thoughts On What’s Best Next

I just started picking away at Matt Perman’s new book What’s Best Next. Things have been hitting me so hard in the preface that I’m writing this from my iPhone. I’m really excited to dig more into this book.

The quote in the tweet above reminds me of an excellent sermon from Tim Keller on Work and Rest. In short, God only allows us to get done what He wants us to do so we are forced to rest in His provision.

More background on Matt and why he wrote the book can be found on his website.

Solomon Was Not An Abstract-Random: Why Proverbs Wanders

Solomon Was Not An Abstract-Random: Why Proverbs Wanders

A friend sent this post over to me and I'd recommend it to you if you're a parent or parent-to-be.

Discipling Your Kids Is More than Family Devotions

Verses [in Proverbs] extolling the diligent man and chiding the sluggard (12:11) are flanked by statements on caring for animals (12:10) and the danger of covetousness (12:12). Why such a meandering method of instruction? Because Solomon knew life rarely comes at us in carefully organized chunks. It's an example of patience right after a your son spills a cup of milk onto the newly mopped floor; it's a reminder to your child how desperately she needs Jesus immediately after throwing her doll at her brother in anger.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Learning to Pray

“If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ. We must ask how we can understand the Psalms as God’s Word, and then we shall be able to pray them. It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given moment in our heart. If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Psalms p. 14

The Internet: Gasoline On The Fire Of Our Heart’s Desires

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my use of the internet. I am an absolute tech geek. But how do I spend my time? What role does the internet have in overpowering my desires for Christ?

A lot, I think.

I’ve come to think of it this way: surfing the internet is like pouring gasoline on the fire of my heart’s sinful desires. So quickly, my seemingly harmless interest in technology, humor, etc, turns in to next hour binging on “looking in to” something1.

The Internet Is A Fertile Breeding Ground For Our Covetousness.

If our heart is factory churning out idols2, adding the internet is the equivalent of going from a river-powered sawmill to today’s robotic assembly lines.

Want to see someone with a better house than yours? Click here.

Want to see the latest and greatest fashions you shouldn’t waste your money on? Click here.

Want to see which of your friends / frenemies is at your favorite band’s concert right now? Scroll here.

Want to which island paradise this this hot, young Celeb went to for his/her Labor Day Weekend? Click here.

Our Covetousness Should Scare Us

I’ve been listening to Ephesians on my morning walks. What I’ve never noticed before was the huge warning sign Paul puts on covetousness:3

Ephesians 5:3-5

3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

What has been shocking to me the degree to which Paul emphasizes covetousness. He is referring to it same level as sexual immorality, which is defined by many people in the church as the most heinous sin. So why do I take coveting my neighbors app or phone or skinny latte so flippantly? Why do I say I’m just “admiring” their nice house, dinner, or vacation spot, when in reality, I’m wishing that I was there, enjoying the comforts that this world has to offer? Why do I not see the seriousness of my sin and how it distracts me from loving Christ and finding my satisfaction in Him? Oh Lord, change my heart.

May we kill sin, wherever and however we find it in our hearts. When I find that I’m coveting more than praising God for what I see on the internet, I’ve removed apps from my phone, unsubscribed from blogs, and generally tried to take a few steps back from those things. May we only covet more of Jesus.

  1. I’m convinced that tabbed browsing was invented by Satan as a way to distract us very quickly from our task at hand. ↩
  2. supposedly from John Calvin’s Institutes, but I can’t find it anywhere in there… ↩
  3. I’m ignoring his condemnation of sexual immorality here because our culture still, to a degree, thinks that some types sexual immorality is wrong ↩