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?

Dear Song Leader

Dear Song Leader,

You have a tough job. You’ve been tasked with leading the congregation in song, choosing music that flows with the sermon to be preached and is actually enjoyable.

And everybody has an opinion on what “enjoyable” means.

Including me.

There are some songs that are just offensive to my taste. There are some songs that are just impossible for me to sing because I’m a guy and the key is just too high (and I can’t pull off the skinny jeans that could make it possible to hit those high notes). I don’t like songs that go on for seven minutes when they have six words.

And I don’t like Hillsong United.

Truthfully, I could go the rest of my days without ever hearing another one of their songs and die a happy man. Because honestly, I doubt we’ll be singing any of their material in Heaven—not even “Mighty to Save.”

That’s my taste—and it’s something I am trying to get over every time I hear one of their songs. My taste is not what’s important. What’s important is that our songs are pleasing to Christ and communicating truth about Him and praise to Him.

Song leaders, I have a request:

Challenge us when we sing.

I’m not saying that you need to start rocking the classic hymns. (Although you could. They communicate the truths of the gospel in a way that many modern songs simply don’t even come close.)

I’m not saying put Romans 8 to music, or write a song that goes through the doctrines of grace or advocates for the free will of man in salvation (if such is your theological position).

I’m asking you to make us think deeply when we sing. Make us think deeply about what we’re singing. Confront us with our sin.

Help us rejoice in our salvation.

Sincerely,

Aaron

Working For Justice without Undermining Evangelism


It seems like everywhere you turn, people are asking the same question:

How do you work for justice without undermining evangelism?

Typically there are a couple of ways to answer the question. One camp suggests that we don’t need to evangelize until after the need has been met, if at all; that our focus should be eliminating extreme poverty or ending human trafficking. A cause is at the center instead of Christ.

The other tends to run to the opposite extreme, seeing any sort of social action as anathema to the Christian life.

Both extremes, obviously, are wrong. How, then, do you find a healthy, biblical middle-ground?

I’ve written about this a few times (here and here for example), but over at the Gospel Coalition last week, they examined the issue by posing the question to a number of wise pastors and theologians. Here’s a look at their insights:

Don Carson:

1. By doing evangelism. I know numerous groups that claim to be engaging in “holistic” ministry because they are helping the poor in Chicago or because they are digging wells in the Sahel, even though few if any of the workers have taken the time to explain to anyone who Jesus is and what he has done to reconcile us to God. Their ministry isn’t holistic; it’s halfistic, or quarteristic.

2. By being careful not to malign believers of an earlier generation. The popular buzz is that evangelicals before this generation focused all their energies on proclamation and little or nothing on deeds of mercy. Doubtless one can find sad examples of such reductionism, but the sweeping condescension toward our evangelical forbears is neither true nor kind…

3. By learning, with careful study of Scripture, just what the gospel is, becoming passionately excited about this gospel, and then distinguishing between the gospel and its entailments. The gospel is the good news of what God has done, especially in Christ Jesus, especially in his cross and resurrection; it is not what we do. Because it is news, it is to be proclaimed. But because it is powerful, it not only reconciles us to God, but transforms us, and that necessarily shapes our behavior, priorities, values, relationships with people, and much more. These are not optional extras for the extremely sanctified, but entailments of the gospel. To preach moral duty without the underlying power of the gospel is moralism that is both pathetic and powerless; to preach a watered-down gospel as that which tips us into the kingdom, to be followed by discipleship and deeds of mercy, is an anemic shadow of the robust gospel of the Bible; to preach the gospel and social justice as equivalent demands is to misunderstand how the Bible hangs together.

4. By truly loving people in Jesus’ name—our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all people, especially those of the household of faith. That necessarily includes the alleviation of suffering, both temporal and eternal. Christians interested in alleviating only eternal suffering implicitly deny the place of love here and now; Christians who [fail] to proclaim the Christ of the gospel of the kingdom while they treat . . . suffering here and now show themselves not really to believe all that the Bible says about fleeing the wrath to come. In the end, it is a practical atheism and a failure in love.

Ray Ortlund: [Read more...]

Preaching Between Two Worlds: Alistair Begg on Ecclesiastes 12

Back in September, Alistair Begg joined us at the Toronto Pastors’ Fellowship and shared the message, Preaching Between Two Worlds, from Ecclesiastes 12:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Begg also engaged in an enlightening Q&A with Pastor Paul Martin.

Powerful messages for preachers and wannabe preachers in these videos.

Take some time to chew on them today as you go about your day.

I Didn't Want to Go to Church Anymore (But I was Wrong)

photo © sms2info

I was done. I’d had enough.

I didn’t want to go to church anymore.

Maybe.

At the time, we were going to a very big church that would probably be best characterized as seeker-sensitive in its ministry model. Top-notch band; comfortable setting; short topical messages; the works. Lots of people were coming, a new multi-million dollar facility was just being completed and there was a lot of excitement in the congregation.

But I was miserable.

There wasn’t anything going on that was bad per se, but… something was off.

“It’s not you, it’s me,” as they say.

Except in this case, it was me.

Every week, it was the same. I would pray that God would give me contentment. I would come, Bible open, ready to hear the message; I would listen, seeking to find that one thing that might be what I needed to hear… but there was nothing.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Eventually, I stopped caring.

And it didn’t matter if I went or not. Heck, sometimes the days when we called in “Bedside Baptist” (ie skipped) were the most fruitful for me. Not necessarily because I was spending huge amounts of time in private worship; I just wasn’t ticked off about something.

So yeah, I was done.

But I was wrong.

See, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to church anymore—it’s that I couldn’t be a part of the church I was attending anymore. [Read more...]

Francis Chan: "International Man of Fu Manchu Mystery"

Ever since he announced that he was leaving his pastorate at Cornerstone Church in Simi, California, it seems everyone’s been wondering, “What the heck is going on with Francis Chan?”

In a conversation with Francis Chan and Joshua Harris, Mark Driscoll asks, “Everybody thinks you’re cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. You’ve got a good church going on and you hit the eject button and now you’re an international man of Fu Manchu mystery. What is going on? What are you thinking? And what’s going to happen to your church?”

You see Chan’s response in the video below:

HT: The Gospel Coalition

The Call by Gabe Posey

Photo by Matthias Wuertemberger

First a word of thanks to Aaron Armstrong for the opportunity to write a guest post here for him. 

And now on to the subject at hand. 

Being called is an interesting concept when it comes to the current church. Having recently spent a considerable amount of time in a fairly traditional Presbyterian church, I’ve found that they have a nearly formal way for determining calling. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a process of their tradition, but it is definitely more exacting than the tradition I was raised in. And I can say I prefer it better. 

Since coming into reform theology (not even knowing that’s what it was until it was far too late), I came to understand that one of the most critical factors is one of proof. Not necessarily dismissing or destroying or denying the power of personal experience, the reformers seek to look harshly at what is within the Bible and decide based upon what information is at hand what is truly there and not add to it based upon such experience for fear of exalting tradition above the scripture and end up in sola ecclesia. 

As I was raised, the primary qualifier for a person going into the ministry was an ability to passionately communicate and enough wit about them to play the political church game so as not to get eviscerated by people more cunning than they. [Read more...]

Small Groups: A Beautiful Mess by Ben Reed

Today’s guest post is by Ben Reed. Ben  is the small groups pastor at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, TN. He blogs regularly at Life and Theology, wrestling through subjects such as small groups, parenting, leadership, social networking, and counseling…all from a distinctively biblical point of view. You can follow him on Twitter HERE or on Facebook HERE.


Ever been in a relationship of any kind? Then you know what I’m about to say is true: relationships are messy.

Because of the Fall (Genesis 3), try as we may, building meaningful relationships with others is one of the most difficult things we will try to do. Because it’s not just us that we have to work on.

If our problem is, let’s say, lying, we can work on that. We spend time in prayer. Read books about how lying is a sin. Write little encouraging notes to ourselves on our bathroom mirror and on sticky notes that get lost.  Read books that talk about how the Truth has set us free from lying. Bring others into our story, let them know our struggles, and have them call us to the carpet when we lie.

But building relationships isn’t all about us. You can try all you want, but the fact that you’re trying to build a relationship with a fellow sinner complicates the game. Because it’s not just you that has to deal with a sinner…the other person has to as well. Trying to line up two sinful hearts is an unbelievably difficult task.  So many of us find ourselves gravitating towards isolationism, where we run from relationships. It’s much easier than pursuing them.

But this doesn’t please Christ. For whom did Christ die?

The Church.

And who is the Church?

A body of believers. 

Which means that you, in and of yourself, are not the church. You need others. And they need you.  [Read more...]

Sermon Audio: True and False Worship

On Sunday, July 11th, I once again had the opportunity to preach at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. The message is from Romans 1:18-25, True and False Worship.

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The abbreviated transcript follows for those who need/prefer:

The last time I was here, I spoke on obedience and how obedience—to God’s Word, for His Glory—is the evidence of the Christian life. That message has weighed heavily on me since I was last here and as I’ve examined my own life in light of it, I’ve been left with a question: If obedience is the evidence of what we worship, who or what am I worshipping? Is it God or something else?

What we’re going to discover together is this:

Because God is the only One worthy of our praise, we must examine our lives and discover who or what we truly worship. [Read more...]

The Real Heroes of Social Justice

I’ve been home now for a little over a day and have been thinking about how to wrap up my thoughts on this trip. There’s so much that I could write about. More experiences with children and families, why writing letters actually does make a difference… But the thing I keep coming back to is social justice.

Social justice is a weird animal.

Why? Because there is always a question of “who is the hero?”

Photo by Yuri Fortin, Compassion Honduras

There are a number of answers one could give; more often than not, though, the answer will be (overtly or covertly) a way of saying, “We are!”

It’s a real challenge for every organization.

Who is the hero of social justice organizations? The program? The supporters? The fundraising model?

You?

Want to know something that’s really, really freeing?

NGOs are not the heroes in the lives of kids like these. Neither are the programs, the supporters or the funding model.

So, who is then? [Read more...]

David Platt on the South & Young Pastors

Dustin Neeley sat down with David Platt, Pastor of the Church of Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL and author of Radical, at the Advance the Church 2010 Conference. In this video, he shares his thoughts about the Spiritual Landscape of the South, his counsel for younger leaders, and his “one thing” for pastors.

HT: The Resurgence

Truth and Lies: Kevin DeYoung on the Contemporary Church

Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church and author of Just Do Something, and Why We’re Not Emergent & Why We Love the Church (with coauthor Ted Kluck), was the second speaker at The Exchange. His message addressed the Truth and the Lie in the Contemporary Church.

In his message, DeYoung asserts that there are four lies we’re told about the gospel, the Church, divine revelation and discipleship.

The Gospel

The lie: The gospel is not about doctrine, it is simply an invitation into a way of life.

The truth: The gospel is a message of historical fact plus theological interpretation.

DeYoung cites one popular author who says, “The gospel is an event to be proclaimed, not a doctrine.” Another says that orthodoxy is about how you live; that it’s a vision for a new way of living.

“You may have heard this quote from St. Francis of Assisi, ‘Preach the gospel, use words if necessary,’” says DeYoung. “This has a number of problems—first, there’s no record that he said it, second, there’s no indication that he lived by it, and third it’s a confusion of categories.”

“We want to adorn the gospel with good deed, but without the proclamation we have not shared the gospel.”

In other words, lifestyle evangelism should not be code for “I don’t evangelize.”

“I really don’t think my neighbors are going to come to me and say, ‘Kevin, you don’t swear, can you tell me about Jesus?’ or ‘You have a fair trade coffee; tell me how to go to heaven?’”

People want to emphasize the gospel as a way of life because of a veneer of cultural Christianity. It’s more than getting a doctrinal formulation correct, but it’s no excuse for turning the good news into “good advice.”

“Without doctrine, ‘It’s about Jesus,’ becomes a meaningless mantra,” says DeYoung. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:1-11: [Read more...]

Around the Interweb (06/13)

Introducing PLNTD

This week, the PLNTD Church Planting Network officially launched. Distinctively Baptist and confessionally Reformed, its vision is “to cultivate community for church planters and assist churches in the process of becoming church planting churches.”

Our purpose is derived from text and context.  Textually, we see that church planting is the natural outcome of enduring commitment to the Great Commission.  Contextually, we believe that a church-based network is not only the best way to advance God’s kingdom in an area but also the best place for church planters to be trained and supported.  It is our desire to be able to facilitate both: developing church planters as well as church planting churches.  

Find out more on their site or follow them on Twitter.

In Other News

You’ve still got a couple weeks to take advantage of ChristianAudio.com’s free download of the month, Forgotten God by Francis Chan. Download code is JUN2010. (Incidentally, I reviewed the book a few months back in case you want to get an opinion before you download.)

Terrace Crawford needs your help. The other day Terrace announced that his position as Minister to Students at Crossroads Community Church, Yorktown, VA, has been cut from full-time to part-time as the church continues to struggle financially due to the economy. If you’re looking for a guest speaker in the Virginia and surrounding area, drop him a line.

Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood (Trailer):

Who Tithes?

In Case You Missed It

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

A review of Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson

Perhaps we should work harder at getting to the point?

Reflecting on Ed Stetzer’s stats on Candian Youth and Christianity

Rejoicing in Foreknowledge, a few reflections on Psalm 139

Battling sin is hard, let’s play a game instead

George Whitefield on the necessity of intercessory prayer