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April 2012 Blog Archives

Monday, April 30

11:22 AM I am on my way to make two trash runs today. An update before I leave:

1) This Wednesday my colleague Keith Harper (an expert in American history) will be speaking in my NT class on an interesting question of Baptist history, namely, how did we get from a non-stipend role for pastors to the highly clericalist state of affairs we see today in our churches? All are welcome to join us, but be forewarned: the good doctor has a giant funny bone.

2) The deadline for the Peláez Festschrift has been postponed until the end of May, but never fear -- I will still get my essay in by the old deadline (tomorrow). In case you were wondering, the 37 contributors include  A. Pińero, C. B. Amphoux, F. Camacho, J. Trebolle, J. K. Elliott, S. E. Porter, C. Stenschke, J. Lee, and R. Rueter.

3) Did I tell you that I am thinking about holding another major New Testament conference on campus? The theme this time around will be the pericope de adulterae (John 7:53-8:11). We are fortunate to have a resident expert on the subject here at SEBTS. But the fact remains that this is a highly disputed passage. If I can, I'd like to involve as many textual critics and Johannine scholars as possible, while trying (of course) to avoid all the petty vanities, egotisms, and shortcomings that sometimes characterize conferences such as this. Even now, after more than a half century, I have vivid memories of hearing about this controversy from my pastor in Hawaii. What position he took on the matter I do not remember. No doubt many pastors today could use a refresher course on the topic.

4) Talk about bias!

5) SEBTS Ph.D. graduate Matt Emerson shunts us to an old siding: the use of the Old Testament in the New. He is full of fertile ideas on the subject. When one uses the word "convoluted" you know something's afoot.

6) I am still working feverishly on farm projects. To me it was immensely gratifying that so many students and friends were willing to help us on Saturday. Thanks again to all who came and served. I think I can honestly claim that we have never had a more enjoyable Student Day.

7) Becky and Nigusse just went to South Boston to have her blood work done. Pending a good outcome we are scheduled for another chemo treatment at UNC this afternoon. As always, your prayers are appreciated. By the way, we are not the only ones at UNC today: Please say a prayer for little Miss Abigail, the daughter of one of my former students, who is having surgery there this morning.

We'll, all this junk isn't just going to walk to the trash dump, so I had best boogie.

Sunday, April 29

7:14 PM Wikipedia now has an entry on textual variants in the New Testament. Looks pretty good. One notable gap: no mention of the significant variant in John 3:13. (I have defended the longer reading.)

7:07 PM Becky's rose garden has really taken off. The following pictures don't do it justice, but I thought you might like to see it. Pink, orange, and red. Gorgeous.

6:12 PM Alan Knox shares with us his latest "Scripture, As We Live It":

But some of you have been anointed by the Holy One, and some of you all have knowledge. (1 John 2:20 re-mix)

Wow! The tragic truth is that American Christians have become spiritually codependent. We cannot seem to make up our minds about anything until we first consult Dr. So-and-So to see what he says. This is the day of the "expert," and we listen to fallible men more than the infallible Scriptures. The Good News is that through the New Covenant Jesus has set us free and we are His. We need no pope or prelate to tell us what course we are to set. We may legitimately make use of all the avenues of sound biblical teaching available to us today, but unless we have the mind of Christ and a clear conviction based on personal study of the Bible we will make no real progress. Finite Bible scholars cannot provide this conviction. Indeed, they need it as much as anyone else.

5:58 PM Last Sunday, while driving in Dallas, I noticed time and again several Catholic churches that had the word "community" in their marques. Good for them. That is precisely the way I would translate the Greek word ekklesia. How can the church be the church? A good place to start is by paring away all the non-essentials and the verbiage that clutters and confuses. The basic meaning of ekklesia is a group of people that come together and have something in common, as opposed to a group of people that have come together and have nothing permanently in common (this latter idea is usually behind the Greek word ochlos, which is translated "crowd"). The great danger in most of our churches is that we confuse the physical plant with the church. The church is a people! So let the church be the church! What is the basis of this kind of human relationship? The New Testament teaches that the church is Christ's very own Body. Amazing but true: Because we are united with Him, we are united with everyone who follows Him in obedience and love. What a high view of the "church" we must have and teach! The  church, this Christian "community," is God's laboratory in which we work out our functions as members of His Body. The Bible doesn't say we are to create this community. Jesus has already made it. But we are maintain it, we are to express it, and we are to extend it. This is such a unique concept that I wish our churches could express this concept better in our names. "Wake Forest Community Church" would be redundant: Wake Forest Community Community! Oh, may our churches become the communities of faith God intends for them to be!

3:20 PM Salutations, cyber friends! My failure to blog yesterday was due to a hectic but delightful schedule. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have spoken 4 times in Cary, NC over the weekend. Thank you, RCCC, for your gracious reception. Another incident of the weekend that I must not neglect to mention is our Student Work Day yesterday. A now exhausted army of workers descended on the farm to perform various projects that needed doing. The work was accompanied by much jollity and wit. It was also Nigusse's birthday, which meant cake, candles, and gifts of course. Our time together with all the students and their families was great and I've never enjoyed anything more. The final weeks of the semester are upon us, so it was an amazing thing that so many would turn out to volunteer their precious time and energy to help Becky and me. A thousand thanks to everyone who helped. It was especially thrilling to watch Nigusse Skype with his family in faraway Alaba. It was something Becky arranged and it took Nigu by complete surprise.

This afternoon Becky and Nigusse are traveling. Nigu is speaking twice at Clement Baptist Church in North Carolina. As for me, I will spend the rest of the day in concentrated loafing, which I am very good at.

Pix (of course):


Friday, April 27

8:31 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Reflecting on the state of today's church reminds me of this recent post about the Anabaptists. I have long followed the ministries of the Anabaptists and their work in Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. A braver movement in church history is not to be found. You will not be comfortable with what you find in the Anabaptist Movement, but that's a good thing.

2) So what's the difference between "Jesus Christ" and "Christ Jesus" in the New Testament? The answer is here.

3) My alma mater announces an important conference in May:

  • May Conference: "Christian Scholarship in the 21st Century: Prospects and Perils"

  • May 18–19, 2012, Biola University, Calvary Chapel

Note: Calvary Chapel is not a church but the building on campus by that name where I taught many of my New Testament survey courses.

4) Check out Danny Akin’s new book on missions called Ten Who Changed the World. The publisher writes:

Ten Who Changed the World is seminary president Daniel Akin's powerful tribute to the transformational work done by some truly inspiring Christian missionaries. With each profile, he journeys into the heart of that gospel servant’s mission-minded story and makes a compelling connection to a similar account from the Bible.

The Bible constantly talks about the power of personal example. Christ is the greatest example of all, but we Christians are to be good examples as well. Paul frequently urges his audiences to emulate him as he emulates Christ. You can't argue with a good example – it's simply too real! I'm so grateful for godly examples of men and women who have lived for something bigger than themselves. Thank you, Danny, for reminding us that they still speak to our generation of believers.

Thursday, April 26

8:38 PM Hello virtual friends on the internet super-highway! They say that life goes through periods. Well, this week was an exclamation point. Danny Akin has called SEBTS a Great Commission Seminary. He is so right about this! We who are pledged to follow Jesus have pledged to do one thing: Make disciples in His name. So I am very glad to announce to you not only that my student Alex Stewart passed his dissertation oral defense yesterday (with flying colors, I might add!), he is on his way to serve Jesus in Holland, where he will teach New Testament and Greek at Tyndale Theological Seminary. Here he is after The Great Tribulation (with his persecutors-in-chief Black and Köstenberger):

Alex's dissertation on the theme of overcoming in the book of Revelation is certainly meant to be published. A couple of my other doctoral students decided to sit in as observers during Alex's defense, and I just had to take the lot out for Chinese food afterwards at Wake Forest's excellent Hong Kong Restaurant. Both Paul and Mike (below background) are in the dissertation phase of their program, and I expect mighty good things from them.

Of course, yesterday Dan Heimbach didn't miss a beat in our NT class as he did his best to convince us of his views about divorce and remarriage from the Scriptures. He sacrificed three hours of his precious to spend with us. Greatly appreciated, Dan.

Then today, my Th.M. student Michael Stover gracefully defended his master's thesis on the dating of the book of 1 Clement. I am so proud of you Michael!


What is more (can you handle any more?), this week Thomas Hudgins and I finished the first draft of our essay for the Peláez Festschrift. It's called "Jesus on Anger (Matt. 5:22a): A History of Recent Scholarship." I think we covered the bases (including essays and commentaries in French, German, Dutch, Italian, and Spanish). Here's Thomas in the "hot seat" in my office.

Finally, today's chapel service was the highlight of my week. We were blessed to hear a message from none other than M. O. Owens of Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia, NC. Dr. Owens is no less than 98 years young and still going strong. Hat's off to him for hanging in there! I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed his message over 2 Thess. 3:1-6. I turn 60 in June and am asking God to pleeeease give me just half the energy that M. O. has at the age of 98.

The bottom line is that this week was one of the greatest I've ever experienced, and this weekend should be just as much fun as we have Student Work Day on Saturday and I preach three times in Cary, NC.



Tuesday, April 24

7:16 AM Good for Stan Porter. He's had the courage to say a few things about modern commentaries that others would never dare to mention. It's time we stopped making excuses for repetition and mediocrity. If you're going to say something, say something new and important. People don't read commentaries critically nowadays it seems. No matter how shallow or mundane, we extol every new commentary that comes off the press. After all, how dare we criticize Dr. So-and-So's latest work? We almost worship commentators, like we do war heroes. Just try criticizing U. S. Grant for messing up his early assignment in the Western Theater. Someone is likely to fire back, "How can you blame him? He was drunk at the time." Porter is right. America has produced few really great commentaries in the past three decades. It's a little presumptuous of publishers to fawn all over their latest works. Most of us who have reached middle age have discovered that there's not much new under the sun. Today's sensational new commentary is very much like the sensation of 30 years ago.

7:03 AM This weekend Becky and I enjoyed a few Aprillian days in Texas with Becky's parents. One advantage of visiting Dallas is the fact that the Vocal Majority group is based there. Them boys got what it takes to put on a GOOD show. In an instant you realize that you haven't enjoyed music so much in years. They have reached the ultimate in good old-fashioned barbershop music. Uplift  -- that's there job, and they succeed most admirably. As for food, the Big D boasts several Ethiopian restaurants, but none as wonderful as Sheba's Ethiopian Kitchen. Few things in life are as enjoyable as a mouthful of doro wat. Ethiopian cuisine is a marvel of human ingenuity.

Meanwhile, one of the minor catastrophes hanging over the head of a writer is the chance that he or she may not meet a publishing deadline. This may happen to me this month. With the help of my assistant Thomas Hudgins I have been working on an essay in honor of Jesús Peláez, who teaches Greek at the University of Córdoba, Spain. (Obviously anybody named "Jesús " deserves a Festschrift in his honor.) Ordinary life has come crashing to a halt. The "essay" now controls my life. In part, I blame my natural optimism for my personal plight. "Can you get it to me by May 1?" "Of course I can. Never missed a deadline in my life." More than most people know, scholars leave things to the last minute. We are the ultimate procrastinators. That's because we work better under pressure. The one thing to do if you have a publishing deadline is stop making excuses and just get the job done. You will find that the experience in punctuality is well worth the effort. Within a few days you can tell a big difference in yourself. For one thing, you can cross another project off your list. Then too, your reputation remains intact. "Good old dependable Dave," they'll call you.

I can think of a lot worse things to be called.

Friday, April 20

5:10 AM Becky's latest Ethiopia vignette tells the story of persecution and grace, of victory and defeat. I know you will be blessed by it.

5:04 AM Good morning, fellow bloggers! Sorry for the delay in posting but I've been crazy busy. To bring you up to date on what's been going through my little pee brain this week:

1) In Tuesday’s chapel I met a whole bunch of wonderful kingdom people. They are our students who are being deployed this year to some foreign country in order to "reach out and touch someone" with the love of Christ. As we laid hands on them and prayed over them, I was haunted by the idea that God is not so much commissioning them as He is commissioning all of us to be fulltime missionaries in this world.

Cook a meal and take it to an unsaved neighbor and you have just gone on a "mission trip." Can you rake leaves? Use that "talent" to draw others to the Savior. Jesus wants to use all of us in evangelism. Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for each and every one of these students and their commitment to global evangelization. I just wish more of us were like them. Rumor has it that people with the most toys win. Don't believe it. No amount of things can satisfy. The American Dream is a huge downer. Much better to live for Jesus by serving others. Plug in wherever God has put you. Do it now. The time is short. The night is coming. Isn't it about time we got back to the Bible’s way of loving people toward the cross? Let's all step up the plate.

2) How well do you know the content of the Gospels? Well, yesterday in my NT 1 class (Gospels) I gave an objective exam over our book The New Testament: Its Background and Message. I've been teaching New Testament Introduction for 35 years now and each time I face the same challenge: How to cover so much material without wasting class time? My solution? A content exam covering all the little facts that a seminary graduate is expected to know. I'm not sure if this is best solution, but for now I think I'll stick with it. The exam, by the way, was preceded by a set of very thorough study questions so that it was not a guessing game with the prof about what to expect. A thousand thanks to my assistant Matthew Myers for putting these questions together for me.

3) Last night I gave the final talk in my series on the life of Christ at Red Bud Baptist Church in Castalia. I focused on issues that are central to the Christian faith such as obedience, selflessness, and scandalous love. Sometimes I think we preachers forget the need to help young believers really understand the basics. I have prayed a lot of prayers in my life, but I think I've never prayed harder than for these meetings. I want to say thank you to the great people at Red Bud and especially to those families who went out of their way to serve me such wonderful home-cooked meals every night. I am thanking God ahead of time for the way He will stretch the congregation as they continue to look to Him.

4) My good friend Alvin Reid has published an excellent reminder of why mentoring is so important. His essay is called The Potency of Proximity. There is nothing new under the sun. The author of Proverbs knew about mentoring 3,000 years ago (Prov. 27:17).

5) Yet another Bible translation? Yes indeed, and this one is called The Voice.

6) I am pleased to announce a new Greek parsing app called ParseGreek.


7) Looking ahead to next week: My Ph.D. student Alex Stewart has his oral defense, I'm preaching a "revival" at the Raleigh Chinese Christian Church, Student Work Day is Saturday at Rosewood Farm, and Nigusse is speaking at Clement Baptist Church. Lots to do for the kingdom.

Stay centered in Jesus.


Monday, April 16

11:50 AM Still left on my list of things to do today: Spray these cattails. Unless you keep them under control they will take over the entire pond.

Interesting fact: Cattails in a pond grow faster than corn in a field.  

11:41 AM Can't tell you how many former Ph.D. students I've run across who have completely forgotten their German. Despicable :-) If you're a guilty party, check out Andy Bowden's guide to keeping up with your German.

And all the people said, Yawohl!

10:52 AM Farm work day here at Rosewood. I was able to fix a light fixture and re-caulk a bathroom sink. Then klutzdom took over and I messed up the pull cord on my pressure washer. I don't dare try and repair it on my own because I know the spring will jump out and bite me. Now it's time to check the chain saws and get them ready for Student Day on the 28th. Yes, Student Day this time around will be a work day. What fun!

8:54 AM So, Dave, what have you been reading lately? Well, for starters there's the new biography of F. F. Bruce that our school library just happened to have sitting on its recent acquisitions shelf.

I knew I had to read it. Here's a few takeaways:

1) Bruce began writing his famous commentary on Acts in an air-raid shelter in Leeds while he was on air-warden duty during World War II (p. 33). Talk about killing two stones with one bird. I well recall teaching myself Dutch during the horrendous gas lines we had in Southern California in 1979. At 2:00 am I would park my car next to the gas pump (so that I could be first in line when the gas station opened at 6:00) and then go next door to an all-night diner, where I sipped coffee and studied Dutch. After three months I could read practically anything in the language. Time well spent.

2) Bruce once said, "I am thinking of no better foundation than a classical education for the professional cultivation of biblical studies" (p. 50). I couldn't agree more; and it is for this very reason that I now rue my undergraduate biblical studies major. I now wish I had studied English or history or classics before going on to seminary.

3) I love this quote about the great scholar: "For him there was no tension between critical study and Bible exposition; indeed, the former fed the latter" (p. 62). I am sometimes asked about my "personal devotions." I have none. I cannot separate critical study of the Scriptures from devotional study.

4) At Manchester Bruce "maintained a full teaching load" (p. 103). Still, he was able to write prodigiously. I can identify with this statement, not the part about being prodigious but the part about teaching fulltime and also writing. I have never enjoyed "release time" for writing. At SEBTS we do not have "research scholars." We are classroom teachers, first and foremost, and any writing we do must be done "above and beyond." Yet it can still be done.

5) Three fifths of Bruce's doctoral students at Manchester came from oversees, especially from the U.S., leading him to quip that "the PhD was invented so that Americans could take an advanced degree with them when they came to the UK for further studies" (p. 106). How true. Yet who has not benefited from this arrangement (think of Hagner or Silva)?

6) The author writes, "He was able to distinguish between academic disagreement and personal antagonism in a way that scholars have not always done" (p. 112). In other words, Bruce was a gentleman. It is what someone once called "the silent preaching of a lovely life." It is a virtue we can all aim to emulate.

7) Finally, on pp. 175-76 we read these words by Bruce: "The chief obstacle is Christian reluctance to advance, to leave the comfortable security of the familiar and traditional for the security of the revolutionary and unknown. If Christians showed half the resolution and dedication in the interests of the Kingdom of God that communists exhibit in the promotion of their cause, the scale of Christian advance would be transformed out of recognition." Let that one sink in!

Bruce died on September 11, 1990. Just before he entered the presence of the Lord he wrote an essay for me. Actually, the essay was to honor a dear colleague of ours, Harold Greenlee.

It was one of the last essays Bruce ever wrote. I still have the type-written manuscript in my files. I will always treasure it.

Thanks be to God for the life and legacy of F. F. Bruce.

8:17 AM For some reason, and I guess it's quite an obvious one, I always feel rather sad and dejected after preaching. Trying to communicate God's Word in a way that is both simple and practical has always been a challenge for me. Nevertheless, I had a delightful time with the folks at Red Bud Baptist Church in Castalia yesterday, speaking in their morning and evening services and being treated like royalty by their pastor Cory and his dear wife Jasmine.

Cory is a graduate of our seminary who went on to earn a Ph.D. from Reformed Theological Seminary. Their community is the kind I love -- pre-Mayberry. Tonight Nigusse will join me as I share about the glory of the Lord in Ethiopia. Although I am not generally enthusiastic about "revivals," I do think the Lord is blessing our meetings.

Sunday, April 15

7:45 AM Been a great weekend so far. At the Marriage Conference on campus Danny Akin introduced us to the most common havoc-wreakers in marriage. Danny spoke with great candor. His 6 one-hour talks were non-technical, believable, realistic, positive, and free from legalistic demands.

He frequently mentioned his own marriage (warts and all) and showed us how he and Charlotte managed to survive and thrive through 33 years of marriage. His talks were accompanied by amazing stories and moving devotional thoughts. I give him an A+. As for me, I came home battered and bleeding. My only claim is God's amazing grace that enables men like me to change almost every day into the image of Christ. Above all, we were immersed in the Word. Marriage is God's plan, not ours. He holds the patent on it, and all is in vain unless we seek His counsel first and foremost. If nothing else, the conference engendered a lot of biblical discussion about marriage among the 7 couples that went from Bethel Hill. Thank you, Danny, for blowing the dust off of God's original blueprint for marriage and reminding us that He can restore and indeed improve any marriage.

Then it was off to Ed and Dolores Johnson's for a delicious chicken barbeque dinner in Roxboro. We were joined by their daughter Leanna and our Nigusse. So thankful their partnership in the Gospel!

This morning I'm kicking off a five day Bible conference at a church near Louisburg, NC. Grateful to minister with a former student.

Enjoy your Lord's Day, and remember that every one of us is a "fulltime minister of the Gospel"!

Friday, April 13

3:25 PM Off to campus for some excellent Bible teaching on marriage and the family with Danny Akin.

3:22 PM The Lord blessed us with a new baby goat yesterday. We've named her Beriberi. Ask Nigusse what it means. She's the little white lump in the picture below.


3:13 PM Some people will do anything to visit the farm. The latest excuse for the Jon Glass family? Leaving their Sheltie Galana here for us to dog sit while they are on vacation. They came to pick her up today. Thanks so much for the visit!

10:55 AM Becky's latest Ethiopia vignette is called Life and Death in Burji. It tells the story of two precious women whose lives were anything but easy but whose faith sustained them through every trial.

8:36 AM A little of this and that …

1) Lee Harmon reviews my colleague Ant Greenham's new book The Questioning God.

2) Need encouragement?


3) Andrew Rozalowsky, of McMaster Divinity School, has begun a series of interviews. He's up to three:

4) Hendrickson Publishers was so very kind to send me a gratis copy of my colleague Maurice Robinson's latest book, Analytical Lexicon of New Testament Greek.

Maurice (aka Hort Redivivus) and I had a long talk today about getting Harry Sturz's The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism back into print. To some of us dabblers in textual criticism, Sturz's book went a long way to disabuse our minds of Hort's claim that the Byzantine text was edited and therefore secondary. Of course, there is absolutely no historical evidence for a Lucianic recession of the Byzantine text, nor does the absence of pre-fourth century fathers who quote this text mean anything. Hort never applied his so-called "genealogical method" to actual manuscripts. Want a more complete picture? Read Sturz's book. Alas, you can't unless it is re-published. I have rarely read a book that is more profound, thought-provoking, and well-researched (it is based on Sturz's doctoral dissertation at Grace Seminary). Sturz's arguments show clearly why the Westcott-Hort theory needs to be rejected or at least completely re-thought. Robinson, on the other hand, is willing to apply Hort's genealogical method consistently – hence his new moniker, Hort Redivivus. It is impossible for me to get excited about New Testament textual criticism today. Discussions always seem to have an utterly predictable Hollywood ending. Maybe a reprinting of Sturz’s book (with its numerous typos corrected) would shake things up again a bit.

5) Yesterday my good friend Josef Solc spoke to my NT students. It was awesome! He encouraged them to adopt an intentional missional lifestyle.

Being from the Czech Republic, his heart is broken over the lostness in Europe. He noted that in any European nation the average of evangelicals is about 2.4 percent. Europe is adrift. It needs the Gospel. Are you willing to make disciples among the nations of Europe? Here are two essays of mine that might help you to make up your mind:

6) Speaking of missions, I've been thinking about the team that is going with us to Ethiopia this summer. I love you guys so much! Thank you for risking much in coming with us. Are any of you a bit anxious? Join the club! Missions is not easy. So, let me share a brief word of encouragement to all of my fellow members on the Ethiopia 2012 Team.

Often our spiritual enthusiasm outstrips our actual readiness to do the hard thing for Christ. Jesus said, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). I like Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of this verse in The Message: "There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire." Peterson is certainly on the mark! The unspoken message is clear: Let your walk match your talk. Unfortunately, even a passionate pursuer of God can crumble in the face of obstacles and weaknesses. Why is this so? Because we are aligning our values more with the world (pleasure, comfort, ease) than with Christ. His demands prove to be far more daunting than we thought when we signed up for this gig.

As I said, I'm familiar with this worldly value system. On my recent trip abroad, I often sought out the comfortable, the easy whenever I could. I grew up in Hawaii as a getter and not a giver. Living sacrificially for others doesn't come naturally for me – believe me! Following Jesus is just plain tough. Shouldering Jesus' yoke of other-centeredness means doing the impossible – in our flesh. I speak the truth: the flesh is weak. My flesh.

But I find solace in two truths:

1) Jesus understands. He knew what it meant to be weak. He knew firsthand what a struggle it is to crucify self. By taking on flesh, He became vulnerable. Peterson's translation of John 1:14 captures this thought brilliantly: "The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood." Yes, Jesus is "one of us." He "knows our every weakness," as the old hymn puts it. Amen!

2) More than just understanding our weaknesses, however, Jesus can actually do something about them. He assures us that when we place our minds, bodies, and wills at His disposal, He will never leave us or forsake us but instead fill us with the Holy Spirit. Our part is to surrender, letting go of our pride and allowing God to cripple it. I know this will sound cheesy, but the truth is that His presence is never absent from us. His presence, however, is not enough. We must learn to practice His presence. No props. No gimmicks. No cheap solutions to our problems. No short cuts. Just the presence of the One worth trusting when all we feel is His absence. The presence of the One who understands what alienation and heartache feel like. The presence of the One who knows that some wounds are never going to heal in this life.

"The disciples were glad," John reports, "when they saw the Lord" (John 20:20). This is what makes missions possible. This is why I can keep on going even though I am rapidly turning into an ancient fossil. Missions springs from the presence of the risen Jesus. Which means that we have much to celebrate, and not just at Easter or Christmas!

8:18 AM Good morning, fellow cybergeeks!

Today I was thinking: The Internet is an amazing place, isn't it? I'm told that more people will log onto Facebook and Twitter this Sunday than will go to church. More people will meet their future spouse online than at a church potluck. In the online world you'll find flamers (people who love to incite arguments), trolls (people who do nothing but post negative comments on other people's blogs), de-frienders (people who get even by hitting the "de-friend" button), and scabs (people who know nothing but have an opinion about everything and scour the Internet for the salacious and controversial). It takes absolute diligence to guard our hearts against these online seedpickers. I thought about this on Tuesday during our chapel service when I heard a very convicting message about praying for others – the way Epaphras had prayed for the Colossians (4:12-13):

Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

The speaker said it's amazing how even a short blog post saying "I'm praying for you" can work a miracle in someone's life. Immediately the Lord convicted me that I needed to do more of this in my own blog. To me, blogging is a unique gift from God for our generation. My mission in life is to live with single-minded determination to see the church around the globe grow for the glory of God, so blogging is a natural extension of that passion. It's neat how blogging allows me to connect to God's forever family around the world, from China to Chapel Hill. It's always humbling to receive an email like this one:

Hello Mr. Black,

I came across your blog by accident yesterday, and decided today I would send you a message letting you know that a little over a year ago I started going though your beginner's textbook on Learning New Testament Greek. I loved it. I wanted to learn to read Greek and found your book on Amazon for a price I could afford. Now I am beginning to read the New Testament, and sometimes the LXX, in Greek…. Now I'm learning more languages.

Don't you just love sharing Jesus' goodness in this digital ocean? "Because I believe, I blog" may well become my motto! I especially love blogs that are conversational and writers who talk to you as though we were friends. Maybe we are….

So this is it, fellow bloggers: We can either use our blogs to promote our own pride and agenda, or we can link arms and light up the online space for the sake of Jesus. I don't know about you, but I want to do the latter.


Your faithful fellow-blogger.

Tuesday, April 10

5:18 AM Excited to have the following guest lecturers in my NT 1 class this semester:

  • April 11: Josef Solz on Evangelism and the Gospels

  • April 25: Dan Heimbach on Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage

  • May 2: Keith Harper on The Professionalization of Pastoral Ministry

  • May 9: Michael Travers on The Gospels As Literature.

All classes are held on Wednesday at 12:30 pm. You are always welcome to join us. Email me for more details.

4:45 AM Becky and I both up early, enjoying the fireplace and a cup of coffee together. Life is good. 

Monday, April 9

4:51 PM Looking forward to getting caught up this week with my colleague Alvin Reid, who just returned from a short term mission trip to Ukraine over the break. Alvin is a firm believer in the value of short term mission trips, and so I am. Check out his latest essays on the subject at An outtake:

We go on mission trips not because we are the American heroes who come to rescue poor folks in other lands, but because Jesus is the hero, period; we simply want to join other believers in making Him famous. Plan your trip, raise the funds, gather the people, and bring along young people. As you go, go to serve in the partnership we share in the gospel.

4:47 PM Hong Kong Baptist University (there really is such a thing!) announces an opening in Religious Studies or Theology.

4:38 PM Only in North Carolina?

People all across the country started their day in church -- singing, praying and remembering the reason for the holiday.

But in Whiteville, North Carolina, hundreds started the day on their hands and knees -- not reading the word of God -- but writing it.

Congregants of 30 different churches wrote the entire New Testament on the sidewalk in chalk.

That's 27 books, 260 chapters, almost 8-thousand verses and close to 140,000 words.

No mention about which version was used.

4:28 PM Did I mention that Becky and I, along with several other married couples from Bethel Hill, are planning on attending Danny Akin's Marriage Conference this Friday and Saturday in Wake Forest? After 35 years of marriage I feel I still have a lot to learn about being a good husband. Marriage is great, but it takes hard work. I'm looking forward to Danny's clear explanation from the Word about God's plan to keep our marriages strong, healthy, and kingdom-focused. Charlie Shedd was right: "Marriage ... is not so much finding the right person and being the right person" (Letters to Karen, p. 13). So I'm ready to grab a deep breath and take the plunge. It may hurt!

For more information about the conference, go here.

9:59 AM While I was gone, Andrew Rozalowsky was kind enough to review my book Why Four Gospels? (Or republish an earlier review.) Thank you, Andrew!  

P.S. Andrew has switched to the NIV. Check out his reasons here.

9:42 AM Odds and ends ...

1) As usual, I'm feeling tired, achy, and worn out -- par for the course after such an intensive trip as the one I just took. Please tell me life gets easier the older you get, will you? I do hope to be back to normal in a couple of days.

2) I arrived home to find this stack of clothes in our breakfast room.

Somehow Becky will pack them into 19 ministry suitcases for the July trip to Ethiopia. The evangelists and their families sorely need them.

3) Becky's white count took a huge jump upward while I was gone, so we're off to UNC for another round of chemo this afternoon. My father-in-law emailed me yesterday with words to this effect: "So, you go away for a while and Becky starts feeling better. Do you think there might be a connection between the two?" Everyone's a comedian.

4) Tomorrow it's back to school again. I get tired just looking at my calendar.

5) I think I told you that I'm taking Becky to Dallas this month to visit her parents. Seems the older we (and they) get, the more we see the need to do this.

Enjoy your day!

Sunday, April 8

9:06 AM Quote of the day:

In my "Lifegroup" at Apex Baptist, we have employees that work all across the workplace spectrum. We have everyone from computer/software engineers to painters. We have a deck installer. We have a nurse and we have a dentist. We have a warehouse employee. In the midst of all of this, we have a husband and wife team getting ready to head across the globe with the IMB (the mission agency of the Southern Baptist Convention). My litmus test for whether or not we have changed how we think about the workplace the right way would be this: When the question is asked, "Who is a missionary?," everyone will say, "I am."

Are you a fulltime missionary in the workplace, wherever that might be?

8:46 AM Happy Resurrection Sunday, one and all. I'm home! God richly blessed our trip. Those of you who are on our private email list will receive an update shortly. In the meantime I've published An Easter Meditation on Freedom. I wrote it while flying home yesterday. Whom the Son of Man sets free is free indeed!

Thankful for your prayers for Becky and me during my travels,


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