Archaeology and the Seven Churches

This is a fascinating interview with Mark Driscoll and Dr. Andrew Jackson, one of the foremost authorities on biblical history in the country of Turkey.

In the first video, Dr. Jackson explains the history and importance of the city of Ephesus:

In the second, Dr. Jackson discusses the seven churches of Revelation:

The interviews above are well worth your time and provided some particularly interesting nuggets for me. For example, the order of the seven churches listed in Revelation 2:1-3:22 is deliberately organized for the travel circuit through each region is a very helpful bit of information as it means there was a specific reason for why the books were placed in the order they were.

Most of all, the videos remind me just how important the study of history is to our understanding of Scripture. Archaeological expeditions allow us to get a much better sense of what the culture was like, to see some of the remains of the cities where the gospel first went forward and bring believer today that much closer to our earliest counterparts.

And it’s all the more reason to give thanks.

Do you look into archaeological expeditions of biblical sites? If so, what’s been the most interesting you’ve learned?

Sermon Audio: Delighting in Devotion

On Sunday, February 20, 2011, I had the privilege of preaching at Gladstone Baptist Church in Gladstone, Ontario. The message, “Delighting in Devotion,” was preached from Psalm 1:1-6:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seats of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The complete audio is available here:


You can also download to listen later.

My original sermon notes are available for download here.

I’d love to get your thoughts on how this message has impacted you (if at all). Looking forward to hearing from you!

Around the Interweb

The Osteen Moment — Your Own Moment Will Come Soon Enough

Albert Mohler:

What happened last night on Piers Morgan Tonight is a sign of things to come. After this interview, Joel Osteen will never be seen in the same way by the secular media and a good segment of the public. His efforts to avoid talking about sin failed him, and he ran out of options. Thankfully, he did not deny that homosexuality is a sin. We can only have hoped that he would have given a more bold answer, followed by an equal boldness in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Read the rest.

Also Worth Reading

Writing: Top Five Things You Hear as a Writer/Editor

Ministry & Criticism: Not Radical Individualism: A Reply to Dr. John MacArthur

Politics: In His Own Words: A Radical Pro-Abortion President

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Arrogance of Youth and the Subtle Danger of Experience

Book Review: Reclaiming Adoption by Dan Cruver

All Who He Has Saved Are His Brothers

David Powlison: Is God Disappointed?

My Memory Moleskine: Philippians 1:27-30

Mark Driscoll: Your Cause Can’t Be More Important than Christ

A Beautiful Woman…

…through the eyes of a literalist:

This is an important reminder of why similes and metaphors should always be read as such.

HT: Michael Krahn

Douglas Moo, the Updated NIV and Jesus' Sense of Humor

Last September it was announced that the rather poorly received TNIV translation would be discontinued and that work would begin on an update of the widely regarded NIV translation for release in 2011. As of November 1, 2010, the updated NIV text has been made available online at

Dr. Douglas Moo, the head of the translation committee for the New International Version, introduces the updated translation in the following video:

The press release follows:

The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) is the body of scholars with responsibility for overseeing the text of the New International Version of the Bible.

The Committee was established in 1965, and we continue to meet every year, under the terms of the NIV charter, to monitor developments in biblical scholarship and English usage and to reflect these developments in periodic updates to the text.

The Committee is made up of leading evangelical Bible scholars drawn from various denominations and from some of the finest academic institutions in the world. We are passionate in our pursuit of the NIV’s core philosophy – the desire to mirror, as closely as possible, the reading experience of the original Bible audience. When the books of the Bible were first written, they let people hear exactly what God wanted to say in language that was natural and easy for them to understand. Standing with our predecessors in the work of translating the NIV, this is the experience we strive to reproduce for the Bible readers of our time.

Over at his blog, Darryl Dash had the opportunity to interview Dr. Moo about the updated NIV. Here’s an excerpt:

What are some challenges to being on a Bible Translation committee of which those who have never done it would not be aware?

First, I should say that I consider it to be a tremendous privilege to be on the CBT: my work on the committee is the ministry that I have most enjoyed in the course of my life. Imagine sitting around a table with 14 other scholars talking about the Bible and what it means and how to say it! There are, of course challenges. We don’t always agree and, because we are all passionate about our work and the text, our disagreements can be strong. But in the midst of these debates, there is at base a sense of unity around our common passion and common task.

I’ve been checking out the update and for the most part, it’s very close to the 1984 edition; sadly, they kept one of the TNIV translation decisions that winds up masking Jesus’ sense of humor in Matt 4:19:

ESV: And he said to them [Peter and Andrew, who were fishermen], “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

NIV 2010: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

It’s a minor thing (bordering on irrelevant), but it’s kind of fun to see Jesus make a pun. :)

That said, I hope that the update will be a blessing to all its readers.


What translation are you using?

If you’re an NIV reader, will you be getting a copy of the updated text?

John Flavel: The Wheat and the Tares

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)

It is Jerome’s observation, that wheat and tares are so much alike in their first springing up, that it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish one from the other. . . . The difference (saith he) between them, is either none at all, or wonderfully difficult to discern, which those words of Christ plainly confirm. Let them both alone till the harvest; thereby imitating both the difficulty of distinguishing the tares and wheat; as also the unwarrantable rashness of bold and hasty censures of men’s sincerity or hypocrisy, which is there shadowed by them.

How difficult soever it be to discern the difference betwixt wheat and tares, yet, doubtless, the eye of sense can much easier discriminate them, than the most quick and piercing eye of man can discern the difference betwixt special and common grace; for all saving grace in the saints have their counterfeits in hypocrites. There are similar works in these, which is a spiritual and very judicious eye may easily mistake for the saving and genuine effects of the sanctifying Spirit…

And this difference will yet be more subtle and undiscernible, if I should tell you, that as in so many things the hypocrite resembles the saint; so there are other things in which a real Christian may act too like a hypocrite. When we find a Pharoah confessing, a Herod practising, as well as hearing, a Judas preaching Christ, and an Alexander venturing his life for Paul; and on the other side, shall find a David condemning that in another which he practised himself, a Hezekiah glorifying in his riches, a Peter dissembling, and even all the disciples forsaking Christ in an hour of trouble and danger: O then! how hard is it for the eye of man to discern betwixt chaff and wheat? How many upright hearts are now censured, who God will clear? How many false hearts are now approved, whom God will condemn?

Men ordinarily have no clear convictive proofs, but only probable symptoms; which, at most, can beget but a conjectural knowledge of another’s state. And they that shall peremptorily judge either way, may possibly wrong the generation of the upright; or, on the other side, absolve and justify the wicked. And truly, considering what hath been said, it is no great wonder that dangerous mistakes are so frequently made in this matter. But though man cannot, the Lord both can and will, perfectly discriminate them…

He will have a day perfectly to sever the tares from the wheat, to melt off the varnish of the most resplendent and refined hypocrite, and to blow off the ashes of infirmities, which have covered and obscured the very sparks of sincerity in his people: he will make such a division as was never yet made in the world, how many divisions soever there have been in it. “And then shall men indeed return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked; betwixt him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not.” Meanwhile, my soul, thou canst not better employ thyself, whether thou be sound or unsound, than in making those reflections upon thyself.

John Flavel, Husbandry Spiritualized; or The Heavenly Use of Earthly Things in Which Husbandmen Are Directed, p. 95-97

Genuine Humility

When is humility genuine? How do you know the difference between pride and loving correction?

James MacDonald and C.J. Mahaney sit down and discuss how to offer guidance and correction to those we love in a way they can receive—and how we can do so with godly motives.

HT: Collin Hansen

Lay Your Burden Down

[tentblogger-youtube TzNSaxZqw24]

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Get Serious About Your Studies: Choosing Your Digital Tools

Over the last few days, we’ve looked at study Bibles, a great reference tool, systematic theologies and reading plans. But what about the internet?

Technology has made Bible study easier than ever. With many terrific online tools available, I want highlight just a couple:


YouVersion is an extension of‘s online ministry, allowing men and women around the world to read the Bible online in the translation of their choice and make notes. offers you dozens of Bible translations—allowing you to pick the one you're most comfortable with!

YouVersion also offers a variety of reading plans, including Canonical (straight through the Bible), “First Steps” plans for new believers, and more. [Read more…]

Get Serious About Your Studies: Choosing Your Reading Plan

You want to read the Bible all the way through… but where do you start?

Do you read from cover to cover? Pick a book at random until you’re done? Play Bible Roulette and hope you don’t end up in Lamentations or Leviticus every day?

While any of these can work (although that last one might not be the best idea), a good reading plan can really help you out.

What is a Bible reading plan?

A Bible reading plan is a guide to help you read the Bible within a set period of time (the most common plans are in 90, 180 and 365 day increments). There are a pretty wide variety of plans that cover the Bible from start to finish (Genesis to Revelation), chronologically, literary style, and some that have you reading in both the Old and New Testaments daily.

Have you used a plan?

I’m actually about to start using the M’Cheyne plan for my second run through the entire Bible (see below for details on that). The first time, I read straight from Genesis to Revelation in about 11 months, just taking a few chapters a day. While I found it a great exercise, honestly, by the time you get to Lamentations, you can find yourself in a pretty dark place if you’re not on the look out for Christ in the Old Testament. It can be pretty depressing stuff at times!

What tools do I need to go with my plan?

The essential tools are a pen, highlighter and a journal. Make sure you’ve got a pen or highlighter that won’t bleed through the pages of your Bible (so if you use pen, use a ballpoint). Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy, just functional. When you’re reading, prayerfully be on the lookout for one or two verses in each chapter that God brings to the forefront. Write them down. Read them in context. Journal your thoughts and at least one specific way you can apply the truth of what God has shown you today.

What’s a good plan?

Probably the most popular plan is the M’Cheyne Reading Plan developed by Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish pastor who ministered during the 19th century. The M’Cheyne plan takes readers through the whole of Scripture over the course of a year, with Old and New Testament passages being read daily. It’s also intended to be used for family devotions as well as personal reading. Here are the advantages of the M’Cheyne plan: [Read more…]

Get Serious About Your Studies: Choosing a Study Bible


Studying the Bible is an essential for the Christian. Yet it seems far many of us seem to take it for granted, myself included. If we study the Bible at all, it’s as a chore—”I have to do this”—instead of a privilege—”I get to do this!”

Through the Scriptures, we learn not how life works best, but how life really is. There is a God who created all things and is in authority over all things. That mankind, made in His image and likeness, rebelled against Him and plunged all of creation into its current state of futility and sin. And that God made a way for mankind’s sins to be forgiven through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

This is such good news, and we should want to know all we can about it, shouldn’t we?

Absolutely. A few years ago I wrote a series called “get serious about your studies,” offering readers a look at a few different resources intended to help them study the Scriptures. Today, I’m revisiting this series, beginning with the most critical area: you and your Bible. More specifically, your study Bible.

Do I need a study Bible?

Despite what many of us have been taught, the Bible isn’t an impenetrable book with a mysterious message requiring decoder rings and multiple PhDs to understand. The truth is, much of the Bible is fairly easy to understand. God wants His people to know Him, regardless of academic achievement. So whether you’re in grade school or grad school, you can understand the Bible.

Even so, we must also acknowledge there are many things that are confusing or unclear to the twenty-first century reader. Much of this is due to cultural proximity—we’re a long way away from the time Jesus and His apostles walked the earth. We live in a completely different context and speak a completely different language. Certain nuances get lost in translation. And let’s face it, the vast majority of us aren’t going to be learning the biblical languages anytime soon.

This is where study Bibles are a wonderful gift to us. A study Bible is a valuable resource to assist the reader in understanding Scripture by providing insight into words and phrases used that we might not understand, as well as historical interpretations of texts. Essentially, it provides a running commentary that you can turn to should you get stuck.

What’s the right study Bible for me?

Choosing a study Bible, like choosing any Bible, can be difficult. There are a number of terrific versions available, so to some degree it comes down to preference. Nevertheless, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering which study Bible to invest in:

1. Translation style. This is probably the most important criterion. The methodology in how the text was translated from the original language can drastically affect your understanding of the words the original authors used and why. The two most common translation methods are “dynamic equivalence” and “formal equivalence.”

  • Dynamic equivalence is essentially thought-for-thought—seeking to capture the ideas the authors were conveying, sometimes at the expense of the original language. The NIV and the NLT are good examples of this method.
  • Formal equivalence tends to be a bit more word-for-word in its translation style; the upside is that you’re going to get a better idea of the actual words used in Greek and Hebrew, however the sentence structure can be clunky. The ESV, NKJV, NASB and the HCSB are probably the best formal equivalence translations on the market today.

While they certainly can be used for more in-depth study, generally speaking, dynamic equivalence translations are ideally suited for devotional reading. If you’re looking to do some serious investigation, lean toward a formal equivalence translation.

2. Notes and supplemental articles. The notes in your study Bible need to actually be helpful in clearing up confusion where possible, and great ones will provide insight into the original language used. Avoid wishy-washy write-ups whenever possible. Supplemental articles on translations, Church history, ethics, the canon of Scripture, reading plans, as well as ones that help you understand the context of each book of the Bible, general themes, etc. are essential. Your notes and articles are the things you’re paying for, so be sure to take some time to read carefully.

3. The contributors. Do your best to know who is contributing notes to your study Bible. While no pastor or theologian is infallible, there are some who you should pay closer attention to. If you have a study Bible featuring notes by the likes of J.I. Packer, John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul, rejoice! But if they’re by Joel Osteen, run for the hills.

4. Font size. I know this sounds silly, but it’s actually pretty important. Reading tiny print takes a toll on the eyes. You want to try to avoid eye strain if at all possible.

What study Bibles do I recommend?

There are tons of great study Bibles out there, and here are a few I strongly recommend:

The ESV Study Bible. This is one of the best translation specific study Bibles available on the market today, with contributions by Dennis Johnson, Andreas Köstenberger, Ray Ortlund, and Tom Schreiner, among many others. (Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.)

The HCSB Study Bible. The Holman Christian Standard Bible is increasingly becoming one of my favorite translations to use, combining the accuracy of the ESV with the readability of the NIV. This study Bible features notes written by Richard Hess, Andreas Köstenberger, Robert Yarbrough, Walt Kaiser and more. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon.)

The Reformation Study Bible. This study Bible is ideal for getting a solid grounding in historic Reformed theology, featuring contributions by R.C. Sproul, Graeme Goldsworthy, Peter Jones, Tremper Longman III, Sinclair Ferguson, Leon Morris and more. (Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books,

A Precise God

I’ve been chewing on a great quote from Charles Spurgeon since reading it (of all places) on Twitter:

A Puritan was told that he was too precise; but he replied, “I serve a precise God.”

What’s specifically been sticking with me is that response: “I serve a precise God.”

How often do we consider the preciseness of God? Earlier on Thursday, maybe two hours before reading the quote from Spurgeon, I noticed a few Facebook friends “liking” a silly page called “God created men first, cause you always make a rough draft before a masterpiece!” (Yes, I get the joke.)

Thursday morning, I was reading Galatians chapter two, wherein Paul is explaining how after fourteen years of preaching the gospel, he went to Jerusalem because of a revelation that had come to him. In verse two, Paul explains that, “I went up . . . and set before them [the Apostles] . . .  the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.”

What struck me as I read this was Paul’s concern for precision of his gospel. He set before the Apostles “the gospel that [he proclaims] in order to make sure that [he] was not running or had not run in vain.”

Paul was desperate to make sure that the gospel he proclaimed—that Jesus Christ had lived a sinless life on our behalf, died on the cross and bore the punishment for our sins, rose again bodily from the grave on the third day and was now seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven; that salvation comes through faith alone in Christ alone—he was desperate to make sure that this was, in fact, the gospel! [Read more…]

The Bible’s Not About You…


…so who’s it about?

This excerpt from a message by Tim Keller (quoting from Sinclair Ferguson’s Preaching Christ in the Old Testament) was a great reminder for me as a writer, and occasional preacher:

If Jesus isn’t at the heart of the message, it’s nothing worth saying.

HT: Jared Wilson

This is the Gospel (and the part that I struggle with) by Will Adair

Today’s guest blogger is Will Adair. Will describes himself as a pastor in transition, learning what it means to be content in Christ. He regularly blogs at Sojourns with Jesus and can be found on Twitter here.

My name is Will Adair and you are reading this because Aaron is on vacation and has graciously opened his blog to me. I wanted to write something universally applicable instead of rambling on about some fun but obscure doctrine like modalism or why the Avett Brothers are a band you should have continually on your play track next to Derek Webb (go Google them). Instead, I am writing on the Lord’s prayer. Let me be clear and candid. I have struggled with every line in this prayer.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

The concept of God as Father once seemed ludicrous. If God was up there he certainly could not also be my father down here. God is remarkably patient as a Father. When I finally embraced him, with little decorum he ran to me when I wandered home as the prodigal younger son. He gently rebuked me when I was the unloving elder son. I joyfully embrace his Fatherhood because as a father I need him to model to me how to love my kids.

“Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Most of us have little problem with God as Savior but God as a real Lord tends to be problematic. No one has a problem with a Sovereign that is merely a figurehead like say Queen Elizabeth. The Father though unlike the Queen of England desires and has the authority to be involved in every aspect of his subjects lives. God as a King offends our modern & post-modern pride. Where there are kings there are servants. None of us likes the idea of servitude. Oscar Wilde lived his life as an atheist in his attempt to flee God and be his own lord. This though is the great illusion of our world. Wilde in De Profundis summarizes well the human condition. “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” All humans either knowingly or unknowingly are as Wilde said “other people.” All of us already follow either a life given over to God or one given over to sin. Even our sin is not truly our own, it is at best someone else’s remixed. [Read more…]