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August 2007 Blog Archives

Friday, August 31

5:23 PM Farm update:

1) You can probably tell it's been a slow work day here on the farm. We had great plans, but Nathan's van (our "farm vehicle") went on the fritz. The gear shift went totally kaput. Flopped up and down. Couldn't get the van out of park. The dealer's cost to repair it would have been $300 plus. So Nate got the parts and repaired it himself. It took all day but it saved him oodles of money. Cost for parts: $33.55. Cost for labor: $00.00.

2) Introducing the two newest members of the Rosewood family. Nate got them from a neighbor. (The price was right.) He figured the barn rats needed some playmates. They're Geschwister (siblings), by the way. He named them:


...and "Cat."

Original, huh. If you think their existence on the farm is purely functional, you're right.

3) Becky's working today, so you know who's cooking supper tonight. Yep, you already know what he's cooking, too.

4:01 PM I have something to say in response to Alan Knox's latest blog entry, Ransom letter ecclesiology. And I shall cut to the quick. As I see it, the root of the problem is our unbiblical clerical system. (Notice I did not say the problem is that we have elders or pastors or overseers. There is nothing unbiblical about churches having elders or pastors or overseers!) We are going to have to give up one of the greatest myths of Christendom -- that the church is a business. If we want true restoration, we must be willing to give up all professional ministries. The church would again become an oikos, the household of God, a family in which everyone had a job and was a real minister of the Gospel. The New Testament is clear that ordained professionals did not exist in the early church. I take seriously the awful drain on the church's energy because of all the institutional baggage we carry around with us. We must learn to mobilize lay elders in every church. As long as we have salaried professionals some faction of the congregation will always find the pastor's (i.e., their employee's) theology, personality, social views, family, wife, etc. unacceptable. The minister is no longer a brother or even a person. I talk to more and more clergymen for whom the professional ministry is becoming an impossible burden. The reason for this is that our Lord never entrusted leadership to one man, let alone to a "professional." What can we do, then, to hasten the demise of clericalism? (Notice I did not say hasten the demise of elders or pastors or overseers!) Return to the lay-based church of the New Testament. Remove our clerical robes. Stop trying to be the people's burden-bearer and priest. Divest ourselves of our professional illusions. Rediscover what it means to witness to our Servant Lord in the midst of the world. Let our seminaries move beyond the theoretical study of the church and put into practice the training of the laos ("laity") for ministry. These may be but first steps in the search for the biblical church, but the search can and must begin.

2:23 PM The Student-E Resources Blog has posted The All Time Top Ten Study Tips For Success In Tests And Exams. The author suggests such activities as:

  • Review your notes regularly to reinforce your new-found knowledge.

  • Learn how to remember lists of things by linking each item to a location on a journey or route you are familiar with around your town.

I suppose this makes sense if you are in grade school. But graduate students taking exams over lists? Essay exams test a student's thought processes and understanding of the material much better, in my opinion. And a student's retention after the exam is also much better. Above all, a good essay exam calls for students to express their own opinions, their own conclusions, their own approach to the subject under discussion. I do not want students agreeing with me because I'm the teacher. I tell them: You study the evidence, all of it, and then go wherever you believe the evidence is pointing you. The only exception I make is in my Greek classes, where weekly quizzes and occasional exams over the rote material keeps students on their toes. And everything I ask them to memorize and then spit out again is something they will need to remember forever. With this in mind, here are some helpful hints for writing essay exams. And I agree -- a good essay exam will always be preceded by a set of study questions. Exams should never be a guessing game with the prof!

11:53 AM In a recent blog entry I wrote:

From Paul’s earliest writing come these uses of “brothers”:

  • We know, beloved brothers...

  • For you yourselves know, brothers...

  • For you remember, brothers...

  • For you became imitators, brothers...

  • Having been taken away from you, brothers...

  • Therefore, brothers...

  • Furthermore, brothers...

  • I don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers...

  • Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers...

  • But you are not in darkness, brothers...

  • We urge you, brothers...

  • Now we exhort you, brothers...

  • Pray for us, brothers...

In the same book he says that sinning against a fellow believer is sinning against a “brother,” that the love believers have for each other is “brotherly love,” that the Christians in Macedonia are “brothers,” and he greets the “brothers” in the church and charges that his letter be read by all the “brothers.”

Do you think that Paul took the words of Jesus in Matt. 23:8 seriously?

My point was that, unlike so many of us today, Paul seemed eager to follow his Master’s teaching and refer to his fellow believers as “brothers.” But I failed to mention one very important fact. In the New Covenant there is no special class of “ministers,” no clergy-laity divide. This means that all believers – whether male or female – are members of and ministers in Christ’s Body (Gal. 3:28). As Joel prophesied (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18): “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh … and your sons and daughters shall prophesy [i.e., both men and women]….”

Sisters are just as much a part of God’s royal priesthood as are men. Each of us is a living stone in the spiritual temple called the church, regardless of our gender (1 Pet. 2:5). Every member, male or female, has a spiritual gift with which to edify the Body (1 Cor. 14:26). The sisters (and not only the brothers) are to teach and admonish one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16). The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to every member of the church for the common good (1 Cor. 12:1-12). Together, brothers and sisters are to exhort one another when the church assembles (Heb. 10:24-25). Indeed, every mature believer, male or female, is in some sense expected to be a “teacher” (Heb. 5:14). In the early church, therefore, women contended for the Gospel “side by side” with Paul (Phil. 2:3-4). And I could give many other examples.

So, let’s revisit 1 Thessalonians and see how all of this relates to what the New Testament teaches, this time including the sisters:

  • We know, beloved brothers and sisters

  • For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters...

  • For you remember, brothers and sisters...

  • For you became imitators, brothers and sisters...

  • Having been taken away from you, brothers and sisters...

  • Therefore, brothers and sisters...

  • Furthermore, brothers and sisters...

  • I don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters...

  • Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers and sisters...

  • But you are not in darkness, brothers and sisters...

  • We urge you, brothers and sisters...

  • Now we exhort you, brothers and sisters...

  • Pray for us, brothers and sisters...

In the same book he says that sinning against a fellow believer is sinning against a “brother” or “sister,” that the love believers have for each other is “brotherly (or sisterly) love,” that the Christians in Macedonia are “brothers” and “sisters,” and he greets the “brothers” and “sisters” in the church and charges that his letter be read by all the “brothers” and “sisters.”

To go a little deeper with just one of these verses, note how Paul in 1 Thess. 5:14 exhorts all the believers in Thessalonica, not just their leaders (v. 12) and not just the men in the congregation, to admonish the unruly. (I develop this thought further here.) The sisters are to be every bit as involved as the brothers. The German language, of course, has a wonderful word to describe what I am talking about (Geschwister). The only activity-role in the church I see the sisters excluded from is that of pastor-teacher (this is how I interpret Eph. 4:11 and 1 Tim. 2). That is, it seems clear to me that the New Testament allows only qualified brothers to serve the church as elders-pastors-overseers (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2, “he must be the husband of one wife”). As I understand the New Testament, eldership in the church is to be male, home-grown, plural, qualified, servant-oriented, and non-hierarchical. If you disagree with me, I respect your opinion, but this is my conviction. The same is probably true of deacons (though some argue from 1 Tim. 3 that female “deaconesses” served alongside their deacon-husbands). (NB: If you want my interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:34-35, you’ll have to attend my New Testament class, in which I spend about 3 hours going through all the various views on that difficult passage!) Otherwise, let’s never forget that the “brothers” in the New Testament include the sisters as well. Gender-specific spiritual gifts simply do not exist (see Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, 1 Pet. 4). All of us are servants/ministers in Christ’s Body, the church. So, let’s not just proclaim the priesthood of all believers. Let’s practice it. After all, that’s New Covenant Christianity.

My greatest partner in ministry:

Two of the 6 women we took with us to Ethiopia this summer:

Becky with her women’s class in Addis Ababa:

Women choir members leading us in worship:

Four choice servants of the Lord (Becky’s mom is on the left; she was a missionary with SIM for many years, along with her husband):

11:23 AM Becky just finished painting our front porches -- upstairs and down. She also did all the railings and rail posts. Big job. Great results:

7:49 AM Seth Godin's latest ebook takes a new slant on an old topic. He discusses three different kinds of blogs: Cat blogs – blogs designed to be a public diary by and about an individual and their interests; Boss blogs – blogs created to manage an activity; and Viral blogs – blogs designed to spread ideas. Which of these describes your blog? I have no idea which one applies to mine. The more I think about my blog, the less of a "blog" it becomes in my mind. To me it's more like a daily diary recounting events from my personal, professional, and practical life. This is one reason why I haven't changed my format to blogspot or wordpress (which would allow an RSS feed). Number one, I'm not smart enough to do this. That's the truth. I have barely enough web savvy to know how to use Front Page. (I know, I know, this technology was invented about the same time the ark landed on Ararat.) Number two, I still have a readership (all two of you) without RSS. My friends tell me this is because our blog is, well, unpredictable. You never know what you'll find, from farm photos to Greek guidance to missionary musings (how do you like that for alliteration, Dr. McDill?). In fact, I myself never know what I'm going to blog on until I start out that day. Number three (are you ready?), my family would kill me if I changed formats. That said, I'm not stupid enough to think we can't improve our blog, both its content and its delivery system. As always, your thoughts are most welcome and I do respond to your emails in a timely fashion, even though I might not agree with everything you say. Bottom line? I enjoy blogging. It's sort of a ministry I feel the Lord has given me, alongside teaching and book writing. It's something I'd probably do daily even if nobody read it. But the fact is, I've met so many fine people through blogging, and had such wonderful correspondence with fellow bloggers as a result of our daily shenanigans, that I cannot thank the Lord enough for this technology, even though I know I'm "way behind the curve." 

7:26 AM Francis Schaeffer, whom I had the privilege of learning from while living in Switzerland, had this to say about the "price" of running L'Abri:

L'Abri is costly. If you think what God has done here is easy, you don't understand. It's a costly business to have a sense of community. L'Abri cannot be explained merely by the clear doctrine that is preached; it cannot be explained by the fact that God has here been giving intellectual answers to intellectual questions. I think those two things are important, but L'Abri cannot be explained if you remove the third. And that is there has been some community here. And it has been costly.

In about the first three years of L'Abri all our wedding presents were wiped out. Our sheets were torn. Holes were burned in our rugs. Indeed once a whole curtain almost burned up from somebody smoking in our living room. Blacks came to our table. Orientals came to our table. Everybody came to our table. It couldn't happen any other way. Drugs came to our place. People vomited in our rooms, in the rooms of Chalet Les Melezes which was our home, and now in the rest of the chalets of L'Abri.

How many times has this happened to you? You see, you don't need a big program. You don't have to convince your session or board. All you have to do is open your home and begin. And there is no place in God's world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home." 

Becky and I feel much the same way about our retreat center here on the farm, which we open up to people free of charge. It's really the Lord's farm; we're just the stewards of it. But you have to make a conscious choice to make your home available to others. As Schaeffer puts it, "All you have to do is open your home and begin." It's easy but not simple. Last week my Ph.D. students and I were looking at two beautiful nouns in the Greek of Heb 13:1-2: philadelphia, and philoxenia. (Do you see the word play involving the phil- prefix?) The first word is usually rendered "brotherly love." Paul says, "Let that continue. Don't stop loving your brothers and sisters in Christ." Then he states: "Stop neglecting to show hospitality to strangers," meaning, "Don't only look after the needs of people you know well. Go out of your way to open your homes to people you know hardly at all." Whether they are familiar or not, there are people out there who need our love, our wisdom, our encouragement, even a place to vomit, as Schaeffer says. Every year the Lord Jesus brings to us retreatants who leave the farm refreshed in their walk with God -- married couples, singles, whole families, elders groups. This has brought us great joy and has made our farm much more than just a place to live and eat. It's what I've called The Gospel of Hospitality. It simply involves opening your home -- as long as its "a real home," as Schaeffer reminds us. And believe me, ours is a real home -- lots of foibles, but lots of love too.

Below: One of the many farm visitors we've had in the past three years. You can see that we get a lot of use out of our front porch.

Thursday, August 30

7:37 PM Danny Slavich, an M.Div. student at SBTS, has started publishing some of his poetry and fiction over at his site. Here's a sampler that I guarantee will bless you. You're off to a wonderful start, Danny. May God richly bless your literary talents as you use them for Him. 

1:50 PM I just got a nice email from a student at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, who's taking a course in Hebrews from James Swetnam. Prof. Swetnam and I are two of only a handful of New Testament teachers who hold to what many consider a quite old-fashioned and obscurantist view, namely the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. It's been a delight for me to correspond with him over the years on this very subject. As I've often said, other than the Fourfold Gospel, the Book of Hebrews is my favorite New Testament writing. By the way, I see that Logos Bible Software is publishing Swetnam's grammar along with Maximillian Zerwick's excellent book on Greek syntax. That's a dream team when it comes to Greek studies.

1:34 PM Heartiest congratulations to my esteemed colleague Bill Warren as he joins the staff of Evangelical Textual Criticism. Bill directs the Center for New Testament Textual Studies at the New Orleans campus. It's nice to know that two of the world's leading textual scholars teach in our SBC seminaries (Warren at NOBTS and Maurice Robinson at SEBTS).

8:18 AM Missiologist Todd Benkert notes the price the Koreans paid for the release of their hostages.

7:58 AM Don’t anyone tell me there aren’t any teaching jobs out there. In fact, Bethel University in Saint Paul currently has three openings (Biblical Theology, Old Testament, Systematic Theology). If you’re a fledging Ph.D. student, never despair. If God trains you, He’ll use you somewhere.

7:54 AM The countdown is on for our next Civil War reenactment, this time in nearby Alamance County, NC. I haven’t seen any website on the event yet, but I can tell you that the dates are Sept. 22-23. I always enjoy playing bang-bang with the guys but, even more, I look forward to sharing the love of Jesus with my compatriots, whether they wear blue or gray. I will be preaching on Sunday morning to both General Lee and General Jackson. We may even sing their favorite hymns. Come and join the fun!

7:47 AM Pat Buchanan has written an excellent essay showing how and why Iran is the next target in the administration’s sights. (Ron Paul agrees.) Note well Buchanan’s conclusion about the war party’s motives. I have one comment. Believers in Christ do not rejoice over the distress of nations. When all this takes place we are bidden to look up, not down, because it means that this age is drawing to a close and the Lord will soon return. Behind all the bad news is the good news: “Behold, I come quickly!” Meanwhile let’s occupy (spiritually speaking) until He comes by getting the love of Jesus out to every corner of this planet.

7:41 AM On this day in 1876 the electric starter was invented. I’m mighty glad, too. I’d hate to have to hand crank our Massie Ferguson 135.

7:36 AM If you’re married, read this tragic essay and then put your nose on the carpet and thank God for the wife (or husband) He’s given you.

7:31 AM When Becky was ironing our clothes the other day I thought about this extreme sport

7:26 AM You can now read Ron Paul’s statement of faith. Paul continues to take the internet by storm. I like Ron Paul because, unlike most Republicans, he does not pin his hopes on human plans and programs for world peace, hopeless international organizations, and political solutions to much deeper national problems. He is also a big fan of the law of the land (the Constitution). Forgive me for quoting yours truly, but in 2003 I wrote:

Ironically, the very same conservative Christians who follow the Scriptures when it comes to matters of morality (e.g., same-sex marriage, the ordination of homosexuals, abortion) fail to uphold the Constitution when it comes to matters of freedom. The Neocon-Christian Right alliance, which came to power during the Reagan era, now controls the conservative movement, wielding its influence through such mouthpieces as the Weekly Standard, the National Review, and the New Republic.

Say what they may, but adherents to this alliance are completely out of sync with the Constitution. Our politicians may assert that all Americans have the “right” to free health care, education, and retirement benefits, but none of these so-called rights is supported by the Constitution, and hence the case is closed—or ought to be. The Republican Party calls itself the party of limited government, but after three years of George W. Bush can anyone name a single regulation that has been repealed or a single agency that has been abolished? Even the National Endowment for the Arts, which is perhaps the most unconstitutional establishment in America, struts along exuberantly. And the problem is not just the Republican Party. On matters of foreign policy, trade policy, immigration policy, and socialized medicine, the two major parties have become inseparable twins.

Alas, nothing seems to have changed since then. Yes, America needs a president who will defend and uphold the Constitution. But how about a citizenry that stops demanding government to meet its every need?

7:20 AM Greek student, if you think learning just one Indo-European language is challenging, you need to read this story (in German, sorry!) about a 22-year old student who has mastered over 30.

7:14 AM Walk Score calculates how “walkable” your community or neighborhood is and how accessible community institutions (shops, restaurants, etc.) are. The higher the number, the better (supposedly). For example, the White House in Washington, DC has a score of 91. My neighborhood? Well, Nelson, VA, 24580 (our post office) gets a score of 0. That’s right, zero. That's one reason we live where we do. By the way, this doesn’t mean I don’t do any walking. Living on 123 acres involves a lot of foot slogging.

Wednesday, August 29

7:02 PM This is an answer to prayer!

6:55 PM Heard this great line on the radio while driving home this evening: "Today singer Michael Jackson turns 49. His nose is 11."

6:06 PM Quick note at the end of a good day. I just got back from campus where I taught on that most “popular” of subjects, New Testament textual criticism. I even showed an ancient papyrus I acquired in Egypt. (Okay, so I bought it there in 1986.) How do you explain the importance of an obscure, pedantic-like subject to 120 young people (and some not-so-young people) that have never studied it and will probably never study it again in their entire lives? I don’t really know. For better or for worse my approach was to take a couple of examples that impact real life – what we believe and how we live. John 3:13 either says that Jesus was claiming to be in heaven while talking to Nicodemus or He wasn’t making that audacious assertion. That’s Christology, and that’s important. Matt. 5:22 either says that Jesus nixed all anger or only ungodly anger. That’s Practical Theology. We even got into the “King James Version Debate,” though I doubt there’s anyone in my classes who would die defending the 1611 edition. One of my most cherished possessions is an autographed book by my former professor and colleague Harry Sturz. It’s called The Byzantine Text Type and New Testament Textual Criticism, and it argues that the Byzantine/Majority text is not that evil, corrupt thing that most modern critical scholars make it out to be. No, I don’t slavish follow the MT (Majority Text), but I still think it has its place in textual criticism. In the end, I gave my opinion: the evidence points to Jesus saying to Nicodemus that He was actually on earth and in heaven at the same time, and that He condemned only unrighteous anger (“if anyone gets angry with his brother without a good reason he’s going to be judged”). I could go on and on. But the text that we teach or preach is important. It’s just that we’re not always sure whether the original text is reflected in the NKJV or the NASB tradition. And that’s why textual criticism is more than ancient history.

Tuesday, August 28

4:27 AM The latest addition to our home page is called The Post-Political Church.

4:25 AM We've added several names to our private email list to receive Becky's next installment about our new North Gondar Outreach. Becky and I couldn't be more excited to see how the Lord Jesus is bringing this work along. The great need, of course, is for establishing churches. Anyone reading the book of Acts realizes that wherever the church existed it had been "planted." The apostle Paul visited areas where the Gospel was not known and soon we read of "churches" existing there. Christian missions is essentially the process of preaching the Gospel in new territories and establishing churches there. Even after 20 centuries there are still many areas in our world where the church does not exist and where Christ is not known. In some areas in the North Gondar Region there are a handful of believers. But the normalcy of converts being grouped into congregations is not yet a reality. So thanks to all of you who have expressed an interest in this work of God. Thank you for realizing that the Great Commission was not given to the church in any particular location but to believers of all ages and places. Galatians 6:2 knows no international boundaries! There is a great work to be done in North Gondar. Please pray for Becky and me as we give earnest thought and prayer to ways we can best help. And if you'd like to be added to our email list, it's not too late. God bless you all.

4:22 AM Greek students, you won't believe this

4:20 AM Margaret mentions two things she doesn't like about blogging. Well put indeed. Two brief  comments: 1) Never update your blog because you feel people expect you to. Nothing will kill spontaneity like a spirit of co-dependence. 2) It's perfectly okay not to know anything about your readership. Occasionally, though, they'll write to you, and that's always fun. The bottom line to blogging? Maybe it's as simple as allowing the Holy Spirit to direct what you post, and then asking Him to bring someone to your site that day who needs a word of encouragement that perhaps He wants to provide through you. Now that's living by faith!

4:13 AM I'm in the mood for a brief farm update, photo-style. Here are a few pix that remind me why I like Rosewood Farm so much. Enjoy!

Turkeys that fly onto your shoulder....

Orphaned goats that need lots of TLC....

Calves grazing in the front yard on a foggy morning....

Taking Trav's bridle off after a long ride....

Hay and chickens!

Farming is a hard life but a good life. A very good life.

Monday, August 27

4:08 PM No new developments in Afghanistan. 19 Koreans are still being held hostage. Let's keep praying....

12:20 PM Right now I'm writing a "fun" quiz over the reading assignment for tomorrow's Greek Linguistics course. I say "fun" because no one's grade will depend on it. It'll just be a way I can get some good discussion rolling, find out if the students have understood the material, and give away a book to the highest scorer. Long ago I stopped giving quizzes over reading. If a student isn't self-motivated to learn, I don't want any extrinsic motivator goading him or her into reading material they'll forget a second after the quiz is over. Only what is intrinsically meaningful will stay with us long after the course is over. At least that's what I've always found to be true in my own life.

8:36 AM Mike Knox points out a significant difference between teaching and training. He's right. And I think that what he says could be applied as much to the seminary classroom as to the local church. It's relatively easy to disseminate cognitive information. It's a lot harder to model, apprentice, disciple our students. By the way, Mike, I've been "learning" how to farm these past four years. Yes, we've read a lot about farming. But until you've actually butchered that cow or built that barn or baled that hay or bottle-fed that orphaned goat you don't really "know" farming.

8:21 AM From Paul's earliest writing come these uses of "brothers":

  • We know, beloved brothers...

  • For you yourselves know, brothers...

  • For you remember, brothers...

  • For you became imitators, brothers...

  • Having been taken away from you, brothers...

  • Therefore, brothers...

  • Furthermore, brothers...

  • I don't want you to be ignorant, brothers...

  • Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers...

  • But you are not in darkness, brothers...

  • We urge you, brothers...

  • Now we exhort you, brothers...

  • Pray for us, brothers...

In the same book he says that sinning against a fellow believer is sinning against a "brother," that the love believers have for each other is "brotherly love," that the Christians in Macedonia are "brothers," and he greets the "brothers" in the church and charges that his letter be read by all the "brothers."

Do you think that Paul took the words of Jesus in Matt. 23:8 seriously?

Sunday, August 26

8:23 AM Today Becky and I are happy to be back at our home church again. This afternoon we get to spend time with some very special people who live in stoplight-less Charlotte County, the erstwhile home of John Randolph and Patrick Henry. Meanwhile I'm trying to finish an essay on religion and politics. Hope to have it up this week. We'll see. At any rate, have a great Lord's Day wherever you are.

8:20 AM Alan Knox again reminds of why we are to call each other "brother" and "sister" in the Body of Christ. Here's his peroration:

Thus, "brother" and "sister" are not niceties to use to other believers, but a reminder of our intimate relationship with one another in God by Jesus Christ and through the Spirit. We should not be embarrassed if someone calls us "brother" or "sister". We should not be embarrassed to call other people "brother or "sister". Why? Because it is less a "title" and more a reminder of who we are together because of God's grace and power.

The entire blog entry is worth reading, of course. Coincidentally, I was reading through Acts yesterday and was struck again by how "familiar" the New Testament believers were with each other (e.g., Ananias calling the newly-converted Paul, "Brother Saul," Acts 9:17). Love it!

8:16 AM If you haven't bookmarked this yet, you need to.

8:14 AM I see that Rod Decker, indefatigable editor of New Testament Resources (the Greek student's best friend), has started a "Bulletin Blog" (rather than a Bulletin Board). Great idea, Rod!

8:10 AM Bryant Owens, a student at Southern Seminary, discusses the need for restful rhythm. Be sure to read his quote from Eugene Peterson.

8:01 AM As I was typing last night I snuck the camera out of the desk drawer and caught Miss Sheba just as she was dozing off.

Wherever I am, the doggies are always close by. They are the most wonderful creatures on God's green earth. Recently I've been listening to John Rutter's arrangements, including his amazing rendition of "All Things Bright and Beautiful." When I go through the day these words are often in mind as I greet the calves or the chickens or the ducks or the goats or the dogs:

All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.

He sure did. And here's one man who's mighty grateful.

Saturday, August 25

6:45 PM This email from a reader in Oregon about our Anabaptist series encouraged my heart:

I appreciate the inclusion of Wesley's opinion, which is similar to my own. While I don't agree with Eternal Security, Limited Atonement, Total Depravity and many other doctrinal issues, I believe we are fellow believers who just happen to not agree on some things. It is evidenced by your concerns, your love of the truth, and your desire to try to wake up the church, as a whole, to the whited sepulcher we've become. You have inspired me and shamed me, and I hope and trust I'm not alone.

I love theology and defending my views, but what it all comes down to is not how much you know, but how much you believe and who you look to: God or men's attempts to methodologize Him.

"God or men's attempts to methodologize Him." That's a classic. Thanks for writing, friend.

6:36 PM OK, Steve Sensenig just hit a home run and it deserves notice. Here's the quote. Mull over it, chew on it, pray about it, then church -- let's act on it.

Again, with relation to this, though, I still find it significant that Paul instructs people to provide for the needs of those who are traveling in the ministry, but he never instructs those in ministry to ask for, demand, or in any other way expect it.

In fact, he goes the other way and says that his example (as you pointed out, Alan) is to forego any "right" to support. And says to follow his example.

Oh that the church would get to the point where leaders would learn to give up what they perceive as their rights. Isn't that the example of Jesus as Paul explained in Philippians 2? And he says to have that same mind in us.

Frankly, I'm a bit weary of the continued defense (not here, but throughout the traditional system) of paychecks for pastors hired from outside the body.

If there is a pastor who has been chosen in a biblical fashion (i.e., from among the body) because of biblical characteristics (i.e., the list Paul gives), who leads in a biblical fashion (i.e., shepherding the flock among him)...then and only then do I think he might qualify for biblical support.

But someone who is chosen from outside that local fellowship because of his degree or resume or personality or preaching ability (none of these are ever mentioned in qualifications for elders), which appears from my unscientific evidence to be >99% of paid pastors out there...sorry. I don't see how that can qualify as consistent with scripture. And I find it hard to believe that Paul was in any way endorsing that.

Boy am I glad for brothers like Steve.  

6:07 PM Almost forgot to mention it. Last night Becky treated me to a Musikalischer Abend, playing some of my favorite songs on the piano, including Moonlight Sonata and Clair de Lune. She finished with some hymn arrangements that were out of this world. It reminded me of the time in Basel when she surprised me (it was my birthday, I think) and took me to our little church and played all three movements of the Moonlight Sonata just for me, with no one else present. She had been secretly practicing for months. That was a real nice surprise. Music is such a huge part of our family life. I hope it is in yours too.

5:56 PM New Testament students, the campus bookstore placed the wrong book on the shelf. You should purchase my New Testament Textual Criticism and NOT my Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism. Sorry for the foul-up. New Testament Textual Criticism is currently on back order, but the bookstore has promised me that books will available by Monday at the latest.

5:50 PM Lookie here. Your friendly Neighborhood Salvage Experts were at it again, this time at our next-door neighbor's farm. Roofing tin for the taking to anyone who would work in 100 degree weather to get it down. Never fear, Nathan's here!

Folks, this heah trailer load of tin and rafters would have cost us several hundred greenbacks, but we got it for free. It will all be put to very good use on our farm, too. Curmudgeons and Scrooges we're not. Spendthrifty? Guilty.

8:50 AM Looking for a quick and easy-to-read update on the latest Bible software? Look no further.

8:45 AM I thought this was very well put:

Churches that are alive and growing today are aggressively looking for ways to obey the Great Commission. This opens up an infinite number of possibilities for local churches and individual Christ followers. This also leads to doing many things in the name of missions that do not follow a biblical pattern for mission. The challenge is to follow the New Testament model and at the same time allow freedom for churches to follow the Holy Spirit's leadership.

Read more.

8:41 AM Prospective Ph.D. students, take note. Highland Theological College in Scotland welcomes two outstanding new faculty.

Friday, August 24

7:14 PM The comments on Alan Knox's latest blog post are phenomenal. This is blogging at its best. Let me restate my position, just for clarity's sake. When we speak of church polity we are dealing with the wineskins -- the meetings, committees, structures, systems, and programs of church life. The present wineskins tend to be rigid and highly resistant to change. This is acknowledged by all. Now let me make it clear that God is still at work in the old wineskins. Conversion and edification still take place there. I myself came to know Christ through the old wineskins, and I still work closely within the existing structures. In the old wineskins you will still find sound, good wine. God has always worked through a multiplicity of patterns. At the same time, Jesus calls us to put the new wine into new wineskins. We can therefore never be completely satisfied with the old structures when Scripture is so clear about the new shapes. Personally, I am convinced that when the church in America becomes a persecuted minority -- and that day is almost surely coming -- the church will begin to take the shape appropriate to its calling. When the seminaries are closed down the church will look to its own for leadership. When churches are forced to give up their real estate they will become churches without walls. You say, "No professional minister? No church building? How can it be a church?" The answer is that the church is a pilgrim people. Its reality does not depend on educated "reverends" or stately "sanctuaries." It is a tent-dwelling people, looking for a city whose Builder and Maker is God. That some churches are finding this to be true apart from the persecution I've mentioned is a healthy thing in my opinion. This does not mean, however, that they can snub their noses at traditional churches or refuse to work with them to advance the kingdom of God -- a point made quite nicely by one of Alan's respondents.

6:54 PM We took advantage of the dry weather today to shore up our boundary line along the creek in the back 40. My job was to move stones into the eroded bank. Nate's was to cover the stones with dirt. A long, tedious process, but quite necessary for when the rains begin again.

While I was working I stumbled upon this set of bones. Probably a relative of Lucy, don't you think?  

In other news: While yours truly gave the upper deck of our monster trailer a second coat, Nate did the same with the belly of the beast. In case you're curious, the color of the paint is "Massie Ferguson Red," available at Tractor Supply.

All in a day's work.  

6:45 PM One of my doctoral students has just started teaching at a state university in NC. I'm very proud of him and can really identify with his excitement. Have a great semester, Matthew.

8:12 AM Dare to criticize the ISV and this may happen to you:

...this post earned me an invitation from ISV's Willliam Welty to go at it and fix the problems I see in ISV's formatting of the book of Lamentations. That's what I get for opening my big mouth.

Seriously, your comments and suggestions are most welcome, John. Keep 'em coming.

7:38 AM Jim Hamilton reviews Michael Bird's new book Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission. In my opinion, Michael defends the obvious: Whose missionary program did the early church carry out if not that of Jesus?

7:04 AM In yesterday's blog I welcomed "Adam" back to my Greek class. The student's name, of course, is "Chad" (the correction has been made). I deserve to get hit with the stupid stick.

6:56 AM Day 37 has passed and most of the press has forgotten about them, but I'm still praying daily for the Korean hostages in Afghanistan. Will you join me?

6:27 AM Three of the four closest Baptist churches to our farm are currently without pastors. Again. In our area most pastors last about 2 years. Then the cycle begins all over again: a pulpit committee starts looking for the ideal new "preacher." Even though the Bible makes no distinction between "layman" and "minister," most Baptists do. Thus most of them would never consider choosing more permanent, stable leaders from among their own congregations. But the advantages of non-hired, local leaders are numerous:

  • the fact that the pastor/elder is one of the brethren magnifies the sense of brotherhood

  • his lack of financial dependence on the group issues in independence of thought and judgment

  • it preserves the priesthood of all believers

  • the supported minister is subjected to enervating competition bidding for his services

  • a professional ministry causes a loss of identification with the people (the pastor is considered a "hireling")

  • the congregation feels tremendous instability due to a frequent change in pastors

  • the non-hired pastor is not considered a member of a class separate from the rest of the fellowship

I wonder if rural churches caught up in the viscous cycle of revolving pastors are not just shooting themselves in the foot.

Below: Artist William Holman Hunt's "The Hireling Shepherd." The unsupervised sheep (near hay they should not eat) are symbolic of the negative effects of the shepherd's inattention to his duties.

6:21 AM For those of you who are new to seminary, here's one from the vault I wrote with you in mind: What I Learned During My First Semester in Seminary.

6:16 AM Danny McDonald posts some delightful thoughts about correcting other people's grammar -- when to do it and how. Be sure to click on his link to the essay, "Errors That Aren't: 12 Grammar Rules You Can Toss Out the Window."

Thursday, August 23

7:21 PM How's your garden doing? Today Becky planted turnip greens, collards, and cabbages.

7:14 PM We just finished supper -- Chinese with a very special ingredient (of course). Tonight we polished off Bert, one of our very first steers that we raised from a calf. We all had to laugh that we used to name our cows.

7:07 PM Today Nate and I visited the elderly mother of one of our church members who is in a nursing facility in South Boston. We were just happy to stand there and let her reminisce about growing up on a farm. She is the youngest of 9 children (her roommate at the home is the eldest of 10). She has 2 children, 3 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. My how things have changed. As she spoke about planting crops and butchering chickens Nate and I just had to chuckle. Believe it or not, there are still some old-fashioned people who do that today.

11:35 AM Glad to have Chad back in class. Go for it, bro!

11:29 AM Greek students, three brief reminders:

1) My office hours are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this semester. My door is always open. Please stop by and introduce yourself. And if you have any questions at all, I am always available to help you. On the other days you can email me and I will return your email within 24 hours, usually much sooner.

2) The Academy of Ancient Languages has produced a set of vocabulary cards based on our grammar. Check it out here.

3) Remember that on your quizzes and exams there will always be extra credit. For example, on next week's quiz you can earn up to 108 points. As I said in class on Tuesday night, set your sights high in this course: you'll never reach higher. Determine right now, this very moment, between you and the Lord Jesus that you will not just do well in this course but will excel, in His strength and for His glory! To that I end I want you to know that I pray for you every day. God bless all of you.

11:11 AM The latest addition to our home page is called The Purpose of a Seminary.

10:30 AM This quote blessed my heart:

However, Rev 12:11 is profoundly unique in that it describes spiritual warfare in a different light than how most people choose to portray the unseen battle. What I have noticed from a brief glance at this verse and the context is that the battle between the Dragon and the “brothers” is not depicted as a mystical scene. The overturning of the accuser is not a result of silver bullitts, gold-dagger crosses, buckets of holy water, or chanting priests. Instead, Satan and his demons are defeated in a very humble way, and the great cosmic victory is acheived in an unlikely manner.

Go here to read the entire essay. Thanks, Billy, for this reminder that we conquer in defeat, we are strong in weakness, the way up is down, and in sorrow we find joy.

9:53 AM In case you missed it, Becky has published Part 4 in her series on Reaching the Orthodox.

Wednesday, August 22

7:59 PM So, Jesus was a capitalist. Questioning that dictum has apparently gotten a professor at Colorado Christian University fired.

7:55 PM Charlie Wallace on a verse I can identify with. (I've been gray a long time.)

7:51 PM Novel idea: Surfboards for peace.

7:45 PM One thing is for certain: It’s hot and dry here in southern Virginia. Still, we’ve gotten two cuts of hay this summer. The Lord Jesus knows what we need, but I feel sorry for ranchers who are trying to feed their cattle on pasturage only.

7:41 PM I’m smiling as I write this because today I had something very special happen. For the first time in 31 years of teaching I had a deaf interpreter in one of my classes. Cool.

7:36 PM Why study New Testament Greek syntax? Here’s a good answer.

7:31 PM Fuller has an opening in New Testament in their Northern California campus.

7:25 PM I just added a new word to my vocabulary: hyperlocal. The application? When I teach or preach I need to relate what I’m saying to the local situation as much as possible. One thing I’ve started doing is mentioning the names of people in attendance in the congregation during my message (e.g., “I was thinking the other day, Thomas Gray, about what all this means for our church”). Linguists sometimes call this phatic communication. I think this can work well in certain classroom situations too.

7:18 PM If you’re struggling with the question of whether or not to homeschool your children, you’re not alone. Tony Kummer has some excellent thoughts that all parents should read.

UPDATE: Izzy chimes in here.

Monday, August 20

8:28 PM Been a busy day on the farm. We got up another couple hundred bales today and sold a few hundred to a man who lives in Asheville, NC. He picked them up this evening. Meanwhile our garden vegetables have finally reached their peak. We're still hoping and praying for rain, though. O the joys and rigors of farm life. Tomorrow I'll switch hats again when I return to campus.

10:13 AM It looks like the Museum of the Confederacy is moving. The only question is, Where? I agree that Lexington would be a good venue, although Appomattox does host Reenactors' Mission for Jesus Christ. By the way, Becky and I met brother Farley of RMJC on a trip to Virginia when we were still living in California. We were driving through Appomattox on a Sunday morning and, as is our custom, stopped for church. We happened upon a Bible Baptist Church, sat through a wonderful service, and then met its pastor. His name? Robert E. Lee. I kid you not. We then discovered that this was brother Farley's home church. We had handed out his pocket-sized New Testaments on many occasions during our reenactments in California. What a small world.

Speaking of the Civil War, if you live near Raleigh/Durham and have never attended a reenactment, I hope you'll consider the annual Battle of Zachary Hill Civil War Reenactment in Snow Camp, NC, Alamance County, Sept. 22-23. On Sunday I'll be preaching the Gospel at the period church service. It starts at 10:00. The public is warmly invited.

8:55 AM I see my alma mater ranks no. 44 among "global" universities. I think the theological school is still a good place for Americans to study today, especially in the field of Old Testament. If you do study in Basel, here's the Theologisches Seminar building on the historic Nadelberg. Brings back lots of happy memories.

8:47 AM When I was asked last week why I gave up riding, my answer was my knees. They're simply not strong enough to endure the posting and other jostling movements needed to ride cross-country at an all-out pace. And I could never settle for just walking a horse. No sour grapes here, folks. I am grateful for every one of the thousands of rides I enjoyed during my 15-year riding career. I can say the same thing about surfing. Surfing was a huge part of my life ever since I was 8 years old. I continued to ride waves after I moved to California. However, I knew the writing was on the wall when we relocated to the East Coast. One trip to the Outer Banks with my board was enough to tell me that it wasn't worth the effort. I am wired to pour 110 percent into everything I do. The question that's always haunted me is: What if I had been as passionate about missions as I was about waves and horses? Well, I may have gotten a late start, but I am enjoying learning what it means to be a Great Commission Christian. I hope you don't wait as long as I did to discover this joy.

Enamored with power, surrounded by praise
We set out ecclesial plans.
Efficiency hums, and we spend our days
Defending, promoting our stands.
Techniques multiply, our structures amaze—
The gospel slips out of our hands.

-- D. A. Carson

8:38 AM Recently Mike Pocock, head of the World Missions and Intercultural Studies department at Dallas Theological Seminary, spoke with Renee Montagne of NPR about the South Korean hostages being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Here's an excerpt that will get you thinking:

Scriptures indicate very very clearly that anyone who follows Jesus Christ seriously is likely to suffer for it. And Jesus himself of course gave His own life for the world and indicated quite clearly that anyone who followed Him would probably have difficulties. So missionaries and sending Christians understand that they are putting people into harms way. They try to minimize the dangers of that and take whatever prudent precautions they can. Nevertheless they are willing to risk practically everything in order to get a life changing message across to those who need it.

8:30 AM I couldn't be more excited. School starts in earnest for me tomorrow morning at exactly 7:30. This will be my 31st year of teaching. I enjoy it more and more each year. My favorite verse as a teacher is Luke 6:40. I don't live up to it, but it's my gold standard. I've also compiled a list of "students' rights" that I review at the beginning of each semester. For what it's worth, I list them below.

Students have the right to:

  • expect interesting and intrinsically significant lectures

  • have profs who are personable and caring

  • be treated with respect and genuine Christian love

  • get out of class on time

  • have their work graded by their profs and not graders

  • have ready access to their profs for advice and counsel (open door policy)

  • have their emails answered within a reasonable time (48 hour rule)

  • be graded on a strict scale and not on the curve

  • have their graded work returned to them in a timely fashion

  • be shown how to think and not just what to think

Above all, I want my teaching to be grace-filled. I pray that God will make me that kind of a teacher this semester.

Below: One of the highlights of my career was teaching beginning Greek for 6 weeks two summers ago in Addis Ababa. At the end of the course I gave all the "survivors" a free copy of the UBS Greek New Testament. What a great group of church leaders they were. I have lost contact with most of these men. I often wonder what they are doing now. My greatest joy is seeing my students apply what they worked so hard to acquire in class. If you are a former student of mine and are reading this, may God bless you as you put your head knowledge into practice wherever you may be.


Sunday, August 19

2:59 PM Here's the latest on the Korean hostages. I've added them to my daily prayer list.

2:51 PM All I can say, Josh, is that I can identify with your grief. I once had my very first Greek New Testament stolen. It contained all of my handwritten notes. Now I'm much more careful where I place my Greek Bible.

2:24 PM Greek students! Check out this great website by an SIL linguist who works in Papua New Guinea. Brought back memories of Skip and Jackie Firchow, who were the first linguists to translate the New Testament into the Rotokas language of PNG. I'll never forget the day when Skip gave me my personal copy of the Rotokas New Testament during a church service in La Mirada many years ago. Skip was so proud of the fact that Rotokas had made the Guinness Book of World Records because it had one phoneme fewer than my native Hawaiian. I always looked forward to hearing the Firchows speak about missions whenever they were on home assignment. They lived and breathed the Gospel.

Below: A photo of Skip (Irwin) Firchow with helpers David Akoitai (middle) and Caleb Karuruvate.

2:15 PM Today Nathan read from Psalm 139 during our visit to the nursing home. We had another full house. And we did something different. We had a good, old-fashioned singspiration. Requests were taken, Nathan led us on the piano, and everyone had a great time singing to the Lord and each other.

We love these people. Just in our church alone we have 8 in the nursing homes, 4 in this facility.

Later we went to our home church for an Ethiopia presentation. I had spoken previously, but everyone wanted to see pictures. We were happy to oblige.

1:55 PM Good news! I'm happy to report that the book I'm editing on the last twelve verses of Mark has been enthusiastically received by the publisher, though a final contract is still pending. Anyone who knows me can guess that I'm a staunch defender of the long ending's authenticity and, in fact, frequently quote the Markan version of the Great Commission. My interest in Anabaptism thus parallels my love for New Testament textual criticism, in that the central passages used by the Anabaptists to justify adult baptism were Matt. 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16. Conrad Grebel and his friends understood these texts to teach the foundational truths of the Great Commission: followers of Jesus are to go forth and preach, then baptize those who repent and believe, and finally instruct them to obey all of Christ's commandments. Thus baptism was robbed of its sacramental nature; it was but a visible sign of an inner change as well as a visible commitment to live a new life. Seems a simple concept today, but in the sixteenth century it was a radical idea. I cannot help but wonder if this desacramentalization of baptism would have taken place as rapidly had not the Anabaptists found Mark 16:15-16 in their Bibles. Remember, it was the doctrine of believers' baptism that sent the Swiss Anabaptists on their independent ecclesiological course. Just what this path might have looked like absent the ending of Mark is anyone's guess, but the importance of these verses cannot be underestimated. At any rate, I'll let you know when I get a contract and a release date for the book. I hope it opens a huge can of worms.

Saturday, August 18

5:47 PM I see that Alan Knox and his Greek Class have started blogging. What a great idea! Did you know that it has its predecessor in the sixteenth century? Let me explain. As everyone knows, the study of Greek was very important to Zwingli and his humanist friends in Zurich. "Sodalities," or groups of believers who wanted to study Greek, were set up throughout German-speaking countries at the initiative of a man named Conrad Celtis. By 1520 a sodality was operating in Zurich. Celtis' son Conrad Grebel had joined this group, which quickly expanded its interests to the study of Hebrew. Eventually Felix Mantz, son of the Zurich cathedral canon, joined the group, which by that time was specializing in scriptural and exegetical studies. This was grass roots Bible study at its best, and -- as any student of church history will know -- it played an indispensable role in the origin of the Anabaptist movement, as Grebel and Mantz were the very first Anabaptists!

Congratulations, Alan, on being the first Greek teacher (so far as I know) to establish a "sodality" in cyberspace. I hope the words of Zwingli at the First Zurich Disputation will be an encouragement to you and your linguistic flock:

The Scriptures are so much the same everywhere, the Spirit of God flows so abundantly, walks in them so joyfully, that every diligent reader, insofar as he approaches with humble heart, will decide by means of the Scriptures, taught by the Spirit of God, until he attains the truth.


7:55 AM Today I posted the final essay in our series on Anabaptism. Does anyone have any ideas about what my next series should cover? I'm toying with the idea, "How My Mind Has Changed." At any rate, I hope you enjoyed our essays. I enjoyed writing them.

7:48 AM Alan Knox has a good discussion going about the value of lecturing as opposed to mentoring in Christian discipleship. I agree that lecturing has very limited value. Here's why. Students listen selectively, learn selectively, and remember selectively. In fact, all learning is self-learning. Just because you are talking doesn't mean that anybody is listening. Just think of that boring chapel message or sermon you heard recently. Still, I feel that a lecture can be very effective if two things are present. First, the lecturer must speak from the heart. Not just during rabbit trails, but throughout the entire lecture. Second, he must speak without notes. He must give the impression (hopefully it represents the reality) that he really knows his stuff, that he's not regurgitating what others have said or written. Still, Alan's point is well taken. The most boring lecturer at the University of Basel was my own doctor father Bo Reicke. He was glued to his notes, spoke in a quiet monotone, and perspired constantly while speaking. But outside of the classroom -- Wow! He was the best mentor a young man could have dreamed for. I lived in his home the first month I spent in Basel. I had access to his personal library. He was always available for me. In short, though this was never expressed in words, I sensed that he loved me. Which made his lectures bearable.

7:35 AM The Better Bibles Blog has a great reminder that all reading in the first century was aloud. That is, the New Testament was meant to be heard, not simply read. Should we not, then, emphasize reading aloud in our Greek classes more than we do?

Friday, August 17

5:04 PM This blog post is for three very special little boys. Do you remember our big trailer? Do you remember how the paint was old and faded? It needed a new paint job, don't you think? Well, guess what Papa B did today? That's right: he painted it!

Do you like the color? What color is it? Does the trailer look happy now? I think it must be very happy. As happy as Uncle Nathan's red tractor. By the way, we enjoyed having your daddy here for lunch today. Mama B served him something very special. You can ask your daddy what it was. I think he really liked it. Well, I'll talk to you later. I love you!

8:20 AM Part 7 in our Anabaptist series is up and running.

8:13 AM The Rambling Prophet calls our attention to an example of how politicized the American church has become. I offer a brief response. Although it is legitimate to hold strong political opinions, the political divisions that exist among Christians are scandalous. Followers of Christ cannot serve two masters. When we think that our primary obligation is political allegiance we disrupt fellowship in Christ. We have chosen the other master. The truth is that we can belong to different political parties and still be totally united among ourselves. The important thing is that we bear witness to Jesus Christ no matter what our political affiliation might be. We must always insist that our political position comes second and our allegiance to Christ comes first. We must pass beyond political barriers if we are to remain loyal to fellowship in Christ. As Barth (I think it was) once put it, we should never be the enemies of our opponents.

Thursday, August 16

5:35 PM The Lord gave us 127 bales today. Some of the very best quality orchard grass/fescue mix we've ever had, too. Nate's gone to Oxford to deliver a load. The rest we added to our barn for a big delivery on Monday.

The Eiffel Tower. The Coliseum. The Great Pyramids. The Acropolis. I've seen them all. But I still think there is no prettier sight in the world than hay bales in a field. Can I get a witness?

Our baler worked great today, too. I don't know how he did it, but my farm manager somehow knew what was wrong, ordered the correct replacement parts, installed them perfectly, and we didn't miss a beat today. All I can say is he's a genius. Pure genius. He definitely got these skills from God because I know he didn't get them from me.

12:44 PM "Bear one another's burdens...

...and so fulfill the law of Christ."

Man do I love these people. 

10:56 AM Here's a special invitation to all of my students this semester. Becky and I are holding our Student Day on Saturday, Sept. 29, here at Rosewood Farm. You and your families can start arriving at 10:00 am and we'll eat lunch at 12:00 noon. We hope you'll mark your calendars, postpone your nervous breakdowns, cancel your surgeries, and do whatever else is necessary to come. Bring your fishing poles (we've stocked the pond with bass), Frisbees, or whatever, and be prepared for a game of Greek Scrabble.

10:44 AM This question came up during our faculty meeting: Do you have to be published to be considered a scholar? For what it's worth, here are my two lepta. To be a scholar is to be a thinker. To be a thinker is to be a researcher. To be a researcher is to be a writer. And whatever you think is worth writing is worth having somebody other than yourself read. Does that make any sense? So to answer the question: To me an unpublished scholar is an oxymoron. The main reason we get our doctorates is to learn how to become lifelong students of Scripture (the dissertation being the least important thing we will ever write/publish). So, when I graduated from the University of Basel in 1983, I set the following goals for myself: one book every five years and one journal article every year. The Lord Jesus has kindly allowed me not only to meet but to surpass these goals. And on top of everything else I maintain a website (which is the modern-day equivalent of the printing press in terms of its potential for mass communication). Is this onerous? Not at all. Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, My burden is light." So what can we ever complain about? Having said all this, do I consider myself primarily a scholar? No. A writer? No. A teacher? No. Perhaps the best expression to describe who I am is shepherd (Eph. 4:11). My goal is to be the best "pastor" (shepherd) to my students that I can possibly be by God's grace. And to do this I need to be the best scholar, writer, and teacher that I can be. But a personal, caring, loving, sacrificial shepherding of my students is always my highest priority.

Like I said, just my two lepta.

One more thought before I go. I mentioned the Internet above. Occasionally I'll hear some slighting remarks about "all those blogs out there that are ruining the church." I'm amazed that anyone could have such a negative attitude toward blogging or websites in this age of cybernetics. Let me put it this way: If I publish a book it may take 5 years for 10,000 people to read it. But if I publish an essay on my website it may take a week for the same number of people to read it. And these people live in India, Ukraine, Brazil, all over the world in fact. Get the picture? And all of this for only 10 measly bucks a month. The Internet is such an incredibly effective tool for publishing that I am shocked at how few are using it effectively. My advice to you if you are a fledging scholar is to start a blog, publish it regularly (constant updating and good content are the two keys to any successful blog), and watch what it will do for your writing skills as you begin that first book project. And if I can give you any advice along way don't hesitate to contact me. I am happy to "shepherd" my web audience as well.

10:25 AM Here's a thought: Paul's letters are not abstract theological treatises. They are actually missionary correspondence by a missionary who had planted some churches that needed to learn how to integrate theology and life. At any rate, that's how I read the letters of Paul. It makes all the difference to me!

9:12 AM Becky has just published her latest report about our desire to reach the Orthodox of Northern Ethiopia with the Good News. Please click here to read it.

UPDATE: Becky has been interviewed about our work in Ethiopia here.

Wednesday, August 15

7:44 PM I just had a very nice visit here at Bradford Hall with Albert and Vivian Yeh. I first met this wonderful couple 7 years ago when I began preaching at the Raleigh Chinese Christian Church. Albert is the president of the Christian Leadership Renewal Center in Bracey, VA, about an hour and half drive from our farm. We talked about church life and leadership training from a biblical perspective. Albert and Vivian are originally from Shanghai, a city I hope to visit soon. They were able to bring me up to date on the church situation in China, both the underground church and the state registered churches. Meanwhile, they are doing all they can to raise up a new generation of humble, servant leaders in the Chinese churches of America. To learn about their ministry, you can go to their bilingual website. By the way, with Becky working I had the audacity to cook Chinese food for them. Now that took guts.

4:18 PM Do mothers need to learn how to love their children? It depends on how you define "love."

4:07 PM These words blessed me:

We need not add to our salvation. Who we are in Christ is sufficient to sustain us in and through all that life here has to offer. We are pilgrims, strangers in a strange land. We are on journey and will soon arrive at our destination. Let us heed Peter’s words and abstain from the lustful things this world has to offer. To entangle ourselves with such things is to slap our Lord and savior in the face and tell Him that He is not enough. May God forbid that we ever seek to fill ourselves with anything less than the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit.

2:34 PM I just snapped this photo of Nathan raking the hay he cut a few days ago. I love this time of year. Lots of sunshine and fresh air. We'll be baling tomorrow. Just got another order for several hundred bales. It's been a dry year, and the demand is high.

1:50 PM Below is one of the most important entries I have ever posted at DBO. It's from a former Korean student of mine who now studies at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. She offers a unique perspective on the Koreans who were killed in Afghanistan. Please read her letter carefully, be moved by its passion, and then offer a prayer on behalf of your brothers and sisters who are suffering for Christ in a far-away land, and for their families.

I thank you, Dr. Black, for posting the story about what's happening in the Korean church due to the hostage situation in Afghanistan. While humbly asking your intercession on behalf of those who are still captive, I would like to share what happened in the families of the two martyrs.

The first martyr who was executed by the Taliban was a young pastor of the church, who leaves a wife, a 9-year-old daughter, and aged parents. In fact, his younger sister lives at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where I am a student; her husband is also an M.Div student here. Having heard the news of the hostage situation, Korean students got together day and night to pray for the kidnapped brothers and sisters and also for the pastor's family in the community.  Though it was a painful time, I can tell that the family was strong in faith. It was said that the young pastor, Hyung-Gyu Bae, had an aunt in her 90s. She dearly loved him as her son. No one could tell her that he went home to be with the Lord, but seeing that she continues to pray for her nephew's safety, they couldn't hide it anymore. Nevertheless, when she heard the news, rather than being in shock, she raised her hands to the heaven and cried out, "Lord, thank You! Lord, thank You! …" at least ten times.   

The second martyr was a brother from a non-believing family. Because they had not even known that their son went to a dangerous country, the family couldn't accept the death of their son. Their blame and hatred toward the church was great. However, during the funeral preparation and service, the love of the church was poured out on them. Moreover, the family heard what kind of service their son did at the church (he was a volunteer worker for the ministry for the disabled). As they heard the story of their son (probably for the first time), they began to understand the value of his service and, most of all, his faith. His parents were touched and understood why their son had to go to Afghanistan, and said, "We want to believe God; my son also believed."

Dear DBO readers, more than half of the kidnapped brothers and sisters' families do not know Christ. I humbly ask your intercession on behalf of them, and also for the churches in Korea that they may be wise and humble and sensitive to the Holy Spirit in doing God's missions. Most of all, please pray that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may reach to the unreached no matter what may come their way. We trust those 19 lives still captive into the mighty hands of the Lord.

Trusting our Lord's sovereignty,

You sister in Christ

UPDATE: According to the Times of India, negotiations for the release of the hostages are scheduled to resume tomorrow.  

11:24 AM Here's a story that brings home the real cost of missions. I have nothing but the greatest respect for these Koreans. I have had the privilege of teaching on 6 different occasions at various South Korean seminaries, all Presbyterian. You will never meet more dedicated followers of Jesus Christ or more missionary-minded people. You can also never know what you'll encounter when you travel abroad. On my first trip to Ethiopia several years ago gunfire broke out just down the street from where we were staying in Addis and 43 civilians were killed by government troops. Last December war broke out between Ethiopia and Somalia just days after we arrived. You just never know.

Here's what we asked each of our 14 team members to sign before we left for Ethiopia in June.

As with all of Life, there are “risks” inherent in this trip. These risks include, but are not limited to, reaction to immunizations, travel dangers, political upheaval, kidnapping, infections & diseases, thievery and emotional trauma. 

Neither we, the Ethiopian church, nor your home church can assume responsibility for your well-being. We will give frank, open, honest guidance and recommendations to you, based upon our knowledge and experience, but your safety and well-being is beyond our control.

As your brother and sister in the Lord, as co-laborers for Him, as the holders and givers of His love, we will do our best to make your trip safe and profitable to both you and the Lord’s church in Ethiopia.

But political, travel, health and societal issues are simply not under our control. And even with the greatest of care and common sense, harm and difficulty may come to you. By pursuing the trip, you are making the choice to act responsibly and trust the Lord with your well-being.

Let's keep on praying for the release of the Korean hostages. But let's never forget that missions is a dangerous business. If you're going to get involved, you must be willing to give your all for Christ.

9:39 AM Meet a follower of Christ.

8:48 AM Here's a sign we saw at one of the government schools we spoke at in the Burji region of southern Ethiopia. Love it!

7:44 AM I've just posted Part 6 of our series on Anabaptism.  

7:41 AM What is ministry all about? Answer.

7:38 AM If you haven't explored Todd Pruitt's two-part series on Calvinism yet, you need to. Go here and scroll down to read it. Thank you, brother Todd, for this excellent series. You've handled an incredibly touchy subject with great tact and wisdom.

7:32 AM The proud owner of an old Nash Rambler just got another one. I don't know about you, but I plan to hitch a ride on both frequently.

By the way, Tony, did you know that the Internet was invented for guys just like you and me?

7:26 AM Thousands of homeschool families are just now getting into gear for the new school year. I have many memories of those days. I can really identify with this writer's reasons for homeschooling:

Many times I have been asked why we home school. And I must admit that my answer changes day by day. Sometimes we home school because of some horrible story we see on the news. Sometimes we home school because the public school system is less than ideal. Sometimes I am not even sure why we home school. But when those days come I am quickly reminded of home much I enjoy spending my days with my children. Experiencing life through their eyes. Walking with them as they discover the blessings of God. And sharing the joys and heartaches of family together.

God bless all of you whose children are starting back to school (whether homeschooled or not).

7:20 AM I see the soundtrack CD to the movie Pride and Prejudice just arrived in the mail. I got it for Becky. What an incredibly beautiful musical montage.

7:12 AM Have you ever wondered what it's like to be an author? Speaking personally, I love it. It's an interesting life, partly because you never know how people will respond to what you put down on paper. Here's a case in point. Over at I found these two, completely opposite, reactions to my Pulitzer Prize-losing book Why I Stopped Listening to Rush:  

Exhibit A: Even though the Dittoheads have helped to create the situation we have now (whereas we critically thinking citizens were aware enough to know all along that Limbaugh was trying to manipulate the masses), Black at least comes to the matter with full contrition and new awareness. He also gives a good overview of exactly why these people are as dangerous as they are. He outlines the essentials for why the neocons/Scoopers are, in fact, sworn enemies of the United States rather than allies/patriots. I also liked Black's take on a number of different aspects -- now if we could only turn back time and undo all the damage Rush & Co. have done to our once strong republic.

Exhibit B: Author Black provides little interesting reading in Why I Stopped Listening to Rush : Confessions of a Recovering Neocon. His narrow, simplistic view of US government and culture is poorly supported in this book. His themes are repetitive and based on half-truths. He continually references the "founding fathers" and their seemingly homogeneous line of thinking. Additionally, this book should be offensive to any non-males, not of the Caucasian persuasion. On pages 41 - 44 he lists characteristics of a good American leader. Every stanza begins, "He would be a man..." This is a poorly written, offensive book.

With a controversial book like this one, I suppose everything depends on your perspective going in. At any rate, David Dockery reminded us on Monday that if you are going to be a serious scholar you have to get your positions out there in the marketplace of ideas and let everybody have a go at them. He's right. This involves exposing yourself to some pretty harsh criticisms at times, but it can also be deeply satisfying. At least it has been for me. I wouldn't write if the satisfactions did not far outweigh the stresses. And, while I don't like "mixing it up," I am not afraid to take unpopular stands, be it in the area of New Testament textual criticism (I do not reject the Byzantine text type), source criticism (I affirm Matthean priority), or the authorship of Hebrews (why, Paul, of course!). Note: I not only hold to these positions, I have made my views known IN WRITING. May I extend a friendly challenge to my colleagues to do the same?

Tuesday, August 14

4:59 PM Not that it matters very much, but I just sent Kregel another endorsement, this time for Herb Bateman’s forthcoming A Workbook for New Testament Greek. It looks like Kregel is shaping up to become one of America’s leading publishers of Bible study tools. Good for them.

4:55 PM Don’t forget to pray for Iraqi Christians.

4:51 PM What we can learn from the Chinese house churches.

4:47 PM Scott Hafemann on why we study Greek:

Our study of the Greek language is not an end in itself, but we study Greek for the sake of knowing scripture, and we know scripture for the sake of understanding God’s self-revelation to us, and we want to understand God’s self-revelation to us that we might live in relationship with him. So Greek for the sake of scripture, scripture for the sake of knowing the Lord, and knowing the Lord for the sake of living in relationship with him. Greek and the gospel: inextricably linked...

It’s a spiritual discipline. Learning Greek is not simply an academic exercise. It’s a calling and it’s a privilege. It is a spiritual exercise like any other spiritual exercise, whether it’s prayer, fasting, worship. I would like you to think about Greek as loving the Lord with your mind in the same way that you engage in loving the Lord with your heart and your soul and your strength in all the other pursuits of your life.

If you’re interesting in these kinds of things, Oceanside United Reformed Church has a readable article on The State of Biblical Language Instruction in the Seminaries.

4:40 PM I’m about half way through A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism, 1521-1700 and am finding it completely engrossing.

4:36 PM Grassroots candidate and “internet insurgent” Ron Paul makes headlines in this German article on the Republican presidential candidates. A snippet:

"Wir sind eine Armee", bebt David Fisher, 39. "Eine Freiwilligen-Armee." Als Paul im März seine Kandidatur bekannt gab, schrieb sich der Ingenieur aus Des Moines, Iowas Hauptstadt, noch am selben Tag als Wahlhelfer ein. ist das erste Mal, dass ich Geld gespendet habe. Viel Geld." Und warum? "Seine Botschaft. Die Botschaft der Freiheit. Ich liebe Dr. Pauls Botschaft der Freiheit."

My translation:

“We’re an army,” stutters David Fisher, 39. “A volunteer army.” When Paul announced his candidacy in March, the engineer from Des Moines, Iowa’s capital, enlisted the same day as a campaign helper. “For 20 years I’ve been a Republican activist,” he said. “But this is the first time I’ve spent money. Lots of money.” And why? “His message. The message of freedom. I love Dr. Paul’s message of freedom.”

Paul is even loved in France and Brazil, if you can believe that. I won’t bore you with more quotes and translations, but if you can read either French or Portuguese you might want to check out these sites. It’s good to know that LRC isn’t the only news source that gives Ron Paul a fair shake. Fans of empire and militarism, beware: the Paul train is picking up speed. (And coming in fifth place in the Iowa Straw Poll with just under 10 percent of the vote is nothing to be ashamed of.)

4:26 PM My mind is jumbled right now – now that I just spent two days in faculty meetings at school. It was a wonderful time. We just added several fine new faculty members both in the college and the seminary. It’s amazing how our schools just keep on growing. Our special speaker during the faculty workshop was David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, TN, and author of some great books in biblical studies and theology. Among other things, David called for “grace-filled engagement” with our colleagues both inside and outside of Southern Baptist life, for collegiality instead of individualism, for doctrinal integrity, and for scholarship modeled after Eph. 4:11ff. My favorite line of his was when he was caricaturing the a-theological student who said, “Don’t give me that exe-Jesus stuff; just give me Jesus.” The funniest joke I heard during our meetings was told by Gary Galeotti: “A lady was asked, ‘What would you be if you weren’t a Southern Baptist?’ She replied, ‘I’d be ashamed of myself.’” The second funniest was: “Old professors never die. They just lose their class.” By the way, David and I go way back. We even co-edited two books together, though only Interpreting the New Testament is still in print. It was nice having him back on campus.

Monday, August 13

5:41 AM Students, today and tomorrow I will be on campus for our faculty workshop. In between I will be available in my office should you need or want to stop by and see me (or meet my two kittens). The next time I will be on campus is next Tuesday, when we have convocation and my first class meets. As a refresher: my classes this semester are Greek I (Tuesdays, 6:30-9:20 pm), Jesus and the Gospels (Wednesdays, 12:30-3:20 pm), and Seminar in Greek Linguistics (Tuesdays, 7:30-9:50 am).

5:37 AM Thousands are asking: What was the picture that had Becky and Miss Charlotte in stitches? Inquire no more:

5:32 AM Man, I was so blessed and encouraged by reading this blog that all I could say was, "Amen and Amen!"

5:27 AM Yesterday, on August 11, at 1:15 pm at the Denny's Restaurant in South Hill, VA, an event of tremendous historical significance took place, an event so momentous that it deserves a place of honor here at DBO. Precisely at that moment, for the first time in human history, your editor ordered his FIRST MEAL from the senior menu (55 and over). I am sure you will want to join his wife in extending to him, depending upon your point of view or age, your heartiest congratulations or your deepest sympathies.

5:22 AM Praise God for Antioch Baptist Church. This was about the 15th time we've spoken there. I remember my very first visit about 9 years ago, when we were still living in Oxford, NC. It was a long drive then. Antioch is much closer now. Closer spiritually, too. A great group of missions-minded people who are willing to obey Jesus and "Go global" (Acts 1:8)!

Praise God for music, too. Old-fashioned, country Gospel music. And praise God for all these dear widows at the nursing home who sang along with us. A foretaste of heaven, for sure.

Praise God for allowing Becky and me to part of such a wonderful community of people and churches. We did not move here because of the community or people (I've strongly discouraged people from moving to such and such an area or city in order to go to so-and-so's church.) But once we moved here we have sought diligently to "pay our dues" to the community, and we now feel like we are one of them, even though we don't speak the local dialect and never will.

5:12 AM I'd like to talk to you for a moment about okra and education. Here's a photo of the vegetables we picked yesterday from our garden.

I could have picked another bucket-full of okra had I wanted to pick okra that had grown too big. When it comes to certain vegetables, every gardener knows that bigger is not always better. Big okra is too tough to be of any earthly good. Likewise, education can be a good thing. It can also be a very bad thing. It is bad when it makes us too "big," when it makes us proud and unapproachable. Have you ever asked yourself this question: "Is it wise to be educated?" Education does not make a person wise. It can help in that process, but it can also hinder it. We all know people who are "educated beyond their intelligence," if you know what I mean. It is very rare to meet a truly humble man who is well-educated, well-published, and well-esteemed in the academic community. Not impossible, but rare. It is much more likely to find him strutting about, or seeking scholarly advancement at the cost of relationships (closed-door policy!), or being impossibly boorish. If, of course, you look beyond all the posing and posturing you are likely to find a frail, egotistical man who derives his security and identity from others, and not from Christ. Remember that, as I said, it is not necessarily wise to be educated if all of our book-learning produces a strict or fussy standard of propriety that no one else can live up to. The main thing to remember is that the size of one's head (or the number of one's diplomas) is no indication of wisdom or spirituality, and these latter virtues are the things God is looking for in His servants.

Fellow students of the Word, as together we enter a brand new semester, with all its potential for good or ill, let us take to heart the old Scottish proverb that says, "Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place. But it is not at head of the cross where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Christ."

I hope you have a great school year. And remember: Your Shepherd loves you very much, and so does this teacher. 

Sunday, August 12

8:32 AM Good morning, cyber world. It's going to be a busy day around these here parts today. Right now I hear Becky working on her video presentation of our trip to Ethiopia last June. The shouts, the singing, the clapping of the believers as we arrive in village after village -- brings back a lot of happy memories. Right now yours truly is typing up his next installment in his Anabaptist series as well as Becky's next installment in her Orthodox series, then it's off to Antioch Baptist Church for our Ethiopia presentation. This is a very big day for us as we'll be introducing the new work in Gondar for the first time. Later this afternoon we'll have the privilege of singing at the nursing home in South Hill, about an hour from the farm. Southside Virginia is one happening place these days, I tell you. Since you can't be with us this morning, how about a brief guided tour?

Below: the most beautiful people in the world. And I'm NOT biased. Notice how fascinated the young ladies are with Becky Lynn. She is the center of attention wherever she goes, as these girls have probably never seen a faranji (white faced foreigner) in their lives, at least not one as tall and beautiful as Becky.

Everywhere we went we were welcomed royally. Palm Sunday revisited! School would be cancelled and all the believers wore their "Sunday best" (i.e., their most colorful clothing). I only wish you could hear them singing.  

Things settle down a bit and get serious when it's time for the official welcoming, bouquets and all. I've always wondered: How do they select which children get to present the flowers?

This is one of my all-time favorites. Everyone is praying just before I speak. Remember, this is an area where 50 years ago there was no Gospel witness at all. Just animism. Isn't the Lord Jesus a great God? Shore nuf!

Talk at you later!

Saturday, August 11

8:42 PM Brief farm update: Like I said, we have the greatest neighbors in the world. This morning Allen Hayes stopped by to pick up Blackie. Then his father ("daddy" here in the country) Thomas Gray stopped by to see how we were coming on the barn. Tonight I was trimming Nathan's hair and beard when Thomas's wife Charlotte stopped by to drop off some slop for the chickens.

At the same moment who drives up but Becky, just back from the hospital. So out comes the ice cream.

Somehow we start telling redneck jokes, and Nathan grabs his favorite redneck pix and before long our sides are splitting.

Such is farm life in southern Virginia on a balmy summer evening. I wouldn't exchange it for any other place on the planet.

5:46 PM Speaking of why we blog, here's a great blogger's prayer:

Lord Jesus, I dedicate this virtual space to You. You have so taken over my life that I can't even blog without You. Make this a place where everyone who stops by is loved and respected. Make this a place where Your people are encouraged, and where those who are not Yours are caused to give You second thought. I ask that You would save me from using this space to promote myself instead of You. Preserve me from causing others to stumble. Give me Your wisdom, insight, and grace.

And here's where it came from. I share your goals completely, Mike.

5:20 PM Well, we finished painting the roof of one barn but still have the big barn to go. Nate, as usual, did all the roof work, while I stirred the Kool Seal and kept him stocked with coating. Here's the funny thing: it took me as long to stir the stuff as it took Nathan to go through a pail of Kool Seal. I'm talking a half an hour! Of strenuous work. Must be the aluminum fibers it's got in it. And why must I always spill? No matter how hard I try not to. I'm turning into a Curly. 

4:35 PM A brand new friend of DBO wrote me a wonderful letter that contained these words:

Your website has been a great encouragement to me as I check it every morning! Thanks so much! BTW, your essay on "A Great Commission Marriage" was superb. Very challenging for my wife and I to read. Thanks for - in a sense - counseling and discipling me (long-distance and w/o even knowing it!) from your website!

This one's definitely going in my "encouragement file." I have two brief responses: (1) We should never underestimate the power of a positive email like this one. This is web fellowship at its very best. (2) Before I post anything (be it an essay or a blog entry) I always (a) pray about whether or not I should upload it and, if I get a green light, (b) ask the Lord Jesus to use it in the blogosphere to "strengthen, encourage, and console." This description is taken from 1 Cor. 14:3, which would make a good theme verse for any website, don't you think? To all those like my new friend who have taken the time to write: my heartfelt thanks!

4:25 PM "How should you treat a fellow believer who is critical of you and your ministry?" That's a tough question! I've been asked it a lot recently. For what it's worth, here's the advice I offer people. Actually, it's not my own. I heard this from Joe Aldrich in a class at Talbot some 25 years ago, just before he became president of Multnomah. But it's stuck with me through the years. Joe said it takes a lot of discernment to distinguish a brother or sister who truly has your best interests at heart from the "professional" weaker brother. The latter is usually a "mature" saint who has a very myopic view of life, uninformed by Scripture. His world is completely black or white. There are no secondary or tertiary issues for him. If he doesn't like what you're doing or saying, it's because you refuse to adhere to his narrow list of dos and don'ts. It is precisely because you reject his petty legalisms that he dislikes you so much. How to handle the situation? For the former group of sincere and mature Christians, Joe suggested you listen to their advice, answer their legitimate questions (personal note: in my opinion not all questions are legitimate or appropriate), and make an effort to understand and to be understood. For the latter group, Joe said that a response will likely do more harm than good. Their motives are evil though couched in "I'm only trying to help" language. Above all, they want control. Many Christians live in constant fear of such perfectionists. Don't! If you have a good conscience on the matter, follow it. It isn't necessary to please anyone other than your Heavenly Father.

Brother Joe had some very good advice. I've tried to follow it in my years of ministry and I can tell you it works. But it sure takes a whole bunch of Holy Spirit discernment!

(By the way, Alan, I distinctly recall Dr. Aldrich telling his students it was OK to call him "Dr. Joe," "Brother Joe," or just plain "Joe." He was a very approachable, likeable, and down-to-earth prof. His classes were always packed.)

4:16 PM This entry broaches a very sensitive topic: Baptist gluttony. I highly commend it. (The essay, not gluttony.) 

4:12 PM Roger Ebert reviews No End in Sight.

4:04 PM Members of the Bethel Hill Baptist Church Burji team have posted some great pix of their trip to Ethiopia last June. You can access them at Picasa Web.

9:24 AM Farm update: We just said goodbye to little Blackie, a heifer Nathan rescued from a neighboring farmer. Her mother died when she was born so we raised her for her owner.

It was touch-and-go for a while, but she is now a strong and healthy calf. What I find funny is that people who have farmed forever are now looking to Nathan for his help and expertise, even though he's been farming for less than 5 years. A quick learner, he! By the way, brother Allen's family has farmed their land for 5 generations. They are great friends and mainstays at our local church, Averett Baptist. A man can't ask for better neighbors. 

Meanwhile the weather has turned cooler so it looks like we'll start painting the barn roof today, after swapping out manure trailers. It'll be good to work outdoors again.

7:58 AM A Great Commission Marriage mentioned a famous passage from the book of Joshua: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." It reminded me of the plaque we placed in the brickwork of one of our fireplaces when we built Bradford Hall. It was Becky's idea. I love it.

7:50 AM I am such a big fan of the Vocal Majority that I'm thinking we'll have to plan our next trip to Dallas to visit Becky's parents around their concert schedule. One member of the group writes:

The ability to make harmony on Earth is, I am convinced, a loving gift of God straight from the gates of heaven. It has power to impact the heart of both the musician and the hearer. I know that the tremendous joy I feel singing with VM pales in comparison to the joy I'll have singing to my Father in His presence... but then, I'm singing to Him now. Maybe that's why it feels like heaven.

To read his blog go here. That's exactly how I feel about singing. Exactly. I can't wait to hear the Vocal Majority in concert someday.

7:34 AM It's confession time. Who is Dave Black? I'm not well-suited to being a polemicist and could never be a debater. I spend more time witnessing to Joe Six-pack than Yuppies. I used to be tall, dark, and handsome (now I'm just tall). My favorite lunch is a mater sandwich. I have never been guided by a GPS. I believe the country is in a ditch. Less Hobbes. More Locke. Finally, I am a sucker for animals. It's been 4 weeks since I said goodbye to Traveler and I still can't get him off my mind (or out of my heart). If you have ever bonded with a horse you'll understand. If you haven't, you won't. I haven't called yet to find out how he's doing, but I may have to soon. He was one good friend, I can tell you that.

Friday, August 10

8:40 PM I just won on EBay Greg MacGillivray’s “Five Summer Stories,” the great 70s surf classic. Boy am I jazzed. Becky recalls being dragged to Huntington Beach dozens of times while we were in college to see these films (HB was the only city that showed surfing movies). O, the hours of what must have been sheer misery for her while I salivated over Pipeline, Pupukea, Haleiwa, and Chun's Reef, wave after endless wave. Now that's love. What I like best about this flick is that it's like a flight simulator: it puts you right on the wave and you get as close to real surfing as you would probably ever want to get. And the soundtrack by Honk is phenomenal.

Will I ever get over my love for surfing?  

6:24 PM We just returned from visiting our friends at the local nursing home. I am very glad to report to you that Frankie is doing great. He's been listening to a set of Bible recordings on his CD player, and today his joy in the Lord was simply exuberant. I wish you could have been there with us. I cannot thank the Lord Jesus enough for what He has been doing in Frankie's life. And to all of you who have been praying for him: Mahalo nui loa!

Since Becky's working today it's time for you-know-who to start cooking supper. You guessed it: Chinese!

3:38 PM Beginning Greek students, the semester is fast approaching. Here is a great testimony to what a little perspiration (and motivation) can do. It comes from A. T. Robertson's Big Grammar:

At the age of sixteen John Brown, of Haddington, startled a bookseller by asking for a copy of the Greek New Testament. He was barefooted and clad in ragged homespun clothes. He was a shepherd boy from the hills of Scotland. “What would you do with that book?” a professor scornfully asked. “I’ll try to read it,” the lad replied, and proceeded to read off a passage in the Gospel of John. He went off in triumph with the coveted prize, but the story spread that he was a wizard and had learned Greek by the black art. He was actually arraigned for witchcraft, but in 1746 the elders and deacons at Abernethy gave him a vote of acquittal, although the minister would not sign it. His letter of defence, Sir W. Robertson Nicoll says (The British Weekly, Oct. 3, 1918), “deserves to be reckoned among the memorable letters of the world.” John Brown became a divinity student and finally professor of divinity. In the chapel at Mansfield College, Oxford, Brown’s figure ranks with those of Doddridge, Fry, Chalmers, Vinet, Schleiermacher. He had taught himself Greek while herding sheep, and he did it without a grammar. Surely young John Brown of Haddington should forever put to shame those theological students and busy pastors who neglect the Greek New Testament, though teacher, grammar, lexicon are at their disposal.

If a shepherd can learn Greek, so can you. And just think: you even have a shepherd (well, a goatherd at least) for a teacher. See you in a week and a half!

10:17 AM Chuck Baldwin (no coward he!) tackles the true meaning of Romans 13.

10:13 AM There are many wonderful readers' comments at Alan Knox's latest blog entry, but this one blessed my socks off:

Why am I interested in the church? Because while the 'organization' of church has proved disappointing, even wounding in our lives, the 'people' of the church, the real 'church' are amazing, and loving, and truly the body of Christ.


9:50 AM Here's one for all of our fellow rednecks out there in pooter land. ("Redneck" is a title we're right proud of here in Southside Virginia.)

9:33 AM Quote of the day (J. P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind, pp. 190-191):

If Christ is actually the head of the church, our church structures ought to reflect that fact, and a group of undershepherds, not a senior pastor, should collectively seek His guidance in leading the congregation.

9:31 AM Years ago Becky and I gave up TV for good and have never regretted it. In fact, I have never met anyone who has given up watching TV in a principled way who regretted it. But one technology we think is fantastic is the computer, and Becky is fast beginning to master it. Last night we visited with our good friends Ed and Dolores Johnson in Roxboro, NC, where Becky had the chance to put her considerable editing skills on display. We thoroughly enjoyed her video of our last trip to Ethiopia. It was fancy, I tell you!

You may recognize brother Ed as one of the team members from Bethel Hill Baptist Church who went with us to Burji in June. Ed has assembled an excellent Power Point presentation of their trip for use by team members as they speak in area churches.  

By the by, if you're ever in Roxboro and need a good place to eat, you can't beat La Cocina for Mexican food. Tasty but inexpensive. Ed suggested I get the Texas fajitas and I wasn't disappointed. 

In many of our congregations "missions" means Jim Elliott-types in Latin America or Africa doing the Lord's work on behalf of all the under-dedicated people in the local churches. Too few of us understand just how few of the denominational workers are actually on the field. As long as the budget item is designated "missions" we do not care too much about the number of bureaucrats engaged in administration as opposed to those souls actually feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and preaching the Good News. Ed and Dolores are exceptions. They are true missionaries for Jesus. Ed not only talked about going to Africa but went. Dolores is a leader in the pregnancy care clinic in Roxboro and is active in the local homeschool organization. They are great examples to Becky and me of what Jesus meant by loving God with all of our hearts. Thanks, Ed and Dolores, for such a delightful evening. I hope we can do it again soon.

8:51 AM Who are the Orthodox of Ethiopia? Where do they come from? What do they believe? Becky begins answering these questions as she continues her series, Reaching the Orthodox.

8:45 AM If you are at all interested in the problems farmers face in Ethiopia (and elsewhere in Africa), here's an excellent article on farmer training in Africa.

Thursday, August 9

3:44 PM The latest addition to our home page is called A Great Commission Marriage.

7:42 AM Thus far the Lord Jesus has appointed Becky and me to work in Ethiopia primarily in two regions: Burji and Alaba. Recently He has given us a burden to help reach the Orthodox in the North Gondar region for Christ. Today Becky begins publishing a series of essays introducing you to this new work. To read Part 1, please go here. This is an exciting time for us. We are again discovering that God leads His people moment by moment. He does not reveal His strategy a year or two ahead of time. He gives His people guidance day by day. In the past God has led Becky and me in unpredictable ways. Perhaps He has done the same with you. One thing is certain: Those of us who are called by the living God to belong to Him must be on mission to His world and go where He leads and do whatever He bids. It is my conviction that until our churches move from programs and pulpits to an encounter with this world our generation will never discover how ineffective our present church structures really are. The young men and women in the emerging church movement who are so critical of present institutions must produce models of ministry that focus on God's mission activity in the world. And all of us must realize that the church does not merely engage in missions. The church IS missions. It is to go to all nations, and its tactics and strategies must be determined as a result of obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit of God. This is what we are re-discovering as we wait upon the Lord for guidance.

7:33 AM A big Thursday morning shout-out to our son Fasil who begins his second year of full-time teaching at the Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa. Fasil graduated this past May from the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology with his M.A. in New Testament. To help him celebrate we are sending him to study at Jerusalem University College in Israel, where he will be enrolling in a short course in the history and geography of the Holy Land. Students get to see Israel literally from Dan to Beersheba. This is the course Becky and I took in 1985. It literally changed our lives. Have a great year teaching New Testament and Greek, Fasil. We love you. 

Wednesday, August 8

9:20 AM If you are a gardener, you simply must read this essay by Aussie John. Excellent!

8:32 AM My thanks to everyone who wrote to me about our series on Anabaptism. Because of your enthusiastic response, I've decided to continue it for a few more entries. To read Part 5, click here.

Tuesday, August 7

4:05 PM Guess where I went today? To the local scrap iron dump. We unloaded 740 pounds worth of junk and got 31 dollars worth of fiat money in return. Here was the load in front of us:

Then it was our turn:

This was a first for me. I found it fascinating. The only negative was working in the hot weather. The heat index today is a sizzling 107 degrees. Right now Becky and Nate have gone off to run errands in Oxford. I'm typing my next essay on Anabaptism and one on marriage (called "Has Your Marriage Died Yet?"). I hope you're having a good day wherever you are.

8:41 AM What do a Kuwaiti island and Alexander the Great have in common? A great deal, apparently.

7:25 AM Great News! I just received the final installments of my Beginning Greek DVDs from our editor in Dallas. As soon as I've reviewed them we'll decide the best way to make them available to Greek students worldwide. When they’re ready, you’ll hear about it right here on our blog.

7:20 AM Over the weekend, our Sunday School opening was led by Nathan, who read two Psalms, shared about the brevity of life, and really got us all thinking about making each day count for Jesus.

During our Sunday School hour we were led in a great study of the life of Solomon, going verse by verse through 1 Kings 3. Almost everyone in our class shared a comment or two. Highly participatory! One comment that Becky made really stuck with me. She said something to this effect: "Christianity is the great equalizer. Anyone led by the Spirit can serve the Lord Jesus successfully regardless of social standing, income level, ethnicity, gender, education, etc." I've witnessed the truth of her statement everywhere I've been in the world. After Sunday School we left for Union Chapel to hear Earnie and Gunda Taylor give their Ethiopia report, along with Lloyd Williamson. And what a thrilling report it was! It's always fascinating to hear others describe the same experience from their own perspective.

By the way, the featured music was sung by a girl no older than 10, and the ushers were all young men. This blessed my heart, as you can well imagine.


After the service I greeted Ned and Shelby Mathews, who were visiting the congregation they used to serve over 40 years ago. Ned is a wonderful friend and colleague at Southeastern.

Nathan insisted on taking this photo of our supper last night: tacos with all the fixings. It does make for a rather colorful table, don't you think?  

7:13 AM New Testament students, here’s an incredible site if you’re looking for online photos of the Holy Land and other Bible places. As we study Capernaum, Nazareth, Bethlehem, etc. this semester in Jesus and the Gospels, you can access a virtual photo tour of all these places.

7:10 AM Recent job openings include Northwest Nazarene University (Christian Studies) and Whitworth College (Biblical Studies).

7:06 AM I just received very kind email from a student at The Master’s Seminary in California. He has a great website as well. Check it out here. Nice to meet you online, Geoffrey. Hope to meet you in person someday!

7:00 AM For you computer geeks out there, I just received word that Logos Bible Software will be publishing three of my books on the New Testament: Learn to Read New Testament Greek, Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, and Interpreting the New Testament, all B & H products. No word yet on publication dates for the electronic versions.

6:55 AM Kregel Publications sent me a preview copy of Rod Decker’s latest book. I am very impressed with this work. The publishers asked me for an endorsement. This is what I sent them:

I have waited a long time for Rodney Decker’s Koine Greek Reader. It is exactly what students need after they have covered the basics of Greek grammar. I have been providing these selections on my own for many years. Now they are available in a handy volume, along with copious reader’s notes. Both Dr. Decker and Kregel Publications deserve the heartiest thanks of Greek students and teachers everywhere.

I suspect that my longtime friend Jim Weaver, editorial director at Kregel Academic, had something to do with acquiring this work. Jim and I have worked on many book projects together, both at Kregel and when he was at Baker. My hat’s off to you, Jim.

6:48 AM You never know what will happen when you're on campus. Yesterday my esteemed colleague Maurice Robinson shared with me the news that yours truly has made KJV-Defender David Cloud’s Hall of Shame, along with such "liberals" as Benjamin Warfield and Don Carson. Up until today I was somehow blissfully unaware of this honor. Maurice ordered the book for our library and copied for me the pages detailing my "heretical" activities, which include such nefarious deeds as editing a book (Scribes and Scripture) that contains essays by the likes of Bruce Metzger and F. F. Bruce. Maurice told me he's upset that he didn’t make Cloud's list. I told him there’s hope: just wait for the second edition. By the way, if you’re not familiar with King James Only-ism, here’s a good place to go for starters.

Monday, August 6

7:24 AM I'll be in Wake Forest office for most of the day. Students, stop by and see me if you need to. If you need a form signed and I'm not in, leave it with my secretary and I'll get to it ASAP.

7:20 AM In the past few weeks I've been blessed to have gotten to know a married couple in which the husband gladly and eagerly serves his wife. This is a great example to me. How I desire to nourish and cherish my wife like that. This is what Paul taught and our Lord exemplified: the greater is to be the servant of the lesser; the hierarchical superior is to serve the hierarchical inferior; the stronger is not to exercise power and authority but is to put himself at the disposal of the weaker. In Christianity the social hierarchy is reversed. Jesus washes the disciples' feet. He tells them not to act like "great ones" and rulers. (Have you ever wondered why "ruler" -- archon in Greek -- is never used in the New Testament to describe a Christian leader? The synagogue has its archon; the church has none.) Paul wants the husband to be ready to give his life for his wife. All of this is very easy to assert. It is far more difficult to flesh out. But when it is done, when men act like Jesus toward their wives, it is wondrous to behold, isn't it? If you know a husband like that, thank the Lord for him. God knows how rare such men are. And remember, men: in our weaknesses God can be strong. Throughout the Bible we see God choosing the weak and humble to serve Him (the stammering Moses, the shepherd boy David, the fisherman Peter). God can make you and He can make me the husbands we need to become.

7:12 AM Last night I was re-reading Phil Newton's book Elders in Congregational Life (Kregel, 2005). In his chapter called "Can It Be Done? Making the Transition to Elder Leadership," Phil makes this statement: "Brief pastorates fail to build the trust necessary to shift from one form of church government to one grounded on God's Word" (p. 125). He says that only when a church begins to think biblically will it be open to elder-led leadership. This means lots of patient instruction from the Bible. Pastor friend, please think twice before moving on. Our little rural churches here in Southside Virginia are desperate for men who will become "one of us" by moving into our communities and becoming part of our lives. Trust can be built in no other way. If you are going to have any long-term impact, you must consider staying for the long haul. And if you are considering a move to greener pastures, you must read this essay by Jim Elliff first. God bless you.

Saturday, August 4

6:11 PM CCCP Ministries, the sponsor of our Ukraine 2007 trip, has just published its ministry report. Go here to read it.

5:11 PM Tomorrow morning Becky and I will be at Union Chapel Baptist Church to hear Earnie and Gunda Taylor's report about their ministry in Ethiopia this June. Pastor Earnie and his wife were a delight to work with. Earnie taught the book of Romans while Gunda started a bell choir. Here Gunda presents to the Keranzo church a framed picture of their sister congregation in the US.

Pastor Earnie was a big hit with the Keranzo congregation, though it looks like there were a few exceptions. I hope you show this pic tomorrow, brother Earnie!  

Both Earnie and Gunda have a huge heart for world missions. Prior to our June trip Gunda organized a Tuesday morning prayer meeting in the parsonage for anyone who wanted to pray for the church worldwide, and especially the church in Ethiopia. I am so glad we have such people in our area churches.

4:25 PM Earlier I promised you a more detailed report about an Ukrainian wedding I had the privilege of witnessing. It took place at The Church of God's Grace in Nikolayev, where I preached on Sunday morning. The wedding was added onto the morning service, almost as an afterthought, or so it seemed to me. The bride and groom showed up about 15 minutes late. (Punctuality does not seem to be a strong suit in Ukraine.) Pastor Victor didn't miss a beat, quoting verses from Matthew about falling asleep in church while waiting for the groom to appear. When at last they arrived, he shouts out, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh!" (or words to that effect in Russian). His humor set a relaxed, joyful tone to the ceremony. One of the deacons borrowed my digital camera and took the following pix.

The wedding ceremony itself was very simple. One of the church leaders spoke from Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 in a very casual, matter-of-fact manner about the significance of marriage. His talk was interspersed by several beautiful choir numbers, all in a very robust, minor-key tone. It sounded dour to me, but that's just my ethnicity coming out, I'm sure.

The speaker then gave an admonition to the parents of the couple and then to the couple itself about how to treat their in-laws. "You are a separate family," he told the bride and groom. "Yet you must not forget your parents. They will need you when they grow old." And so on in that line of thought. Beautiful. His word to the parents was also very straightforward: These young people will need your advice in the years ahead. Don't give it to them ahead of time. When they ask you, then give it. They will likely look to you more than ever before for wise advice, so be available to them. At this point the couple knelt. They were joined by both sets of parents on the platform. Then each of them prayed aloud individually into the microphone -- the parents first, and then the bride and groom. Lengthy, heartfelt prayers, too. It was wonderful to watch and even more wonderful to listen to (their prayers were translated to me).

It was now time for Pastor Victor to lay his hands on the couple and give a benediction. Again, everything in the service was very Christ-focused.

After the rings were exchanged and the formal pronouncements made, the groom sheepishly kissed his bride and the service was over. All in all it lasted no more than 40 minutes.

People gathered at the front of the building to hug the newlyweds, and that was that. I suppose they had a small celebration dinner afterwards, though I am told that American-style receptions are unknown in Ukraine: they are simply too cost-prohibitive.

I enjoyed the service immensely. I was struck by its simplicity and Christ-centeredness. It was a blessing I had not anticipated witnessing during my trip, icing on the cake, so to speak. May the Lord Jesus look with favor upon this beautiful young couple.

11:53 AM While I'm in the construction mode, I thought I'd post this pic of our new hay barn, just to show off the tiny cupola. Nice touch, I think. Our next job is to paint the tin. We've already bought the paint. Nathan, if you're reading this, there's no way I'm painting another roof for at least a week!

11:37 AM This is an historic moment here at Bradford Hall. While I was gone our massive computer monitor went belly-up and Becky replaced it with a marvelous new flat screen. I got the old monitor from the Learn Foundation when I began working on the translation of the New Testament for the International Standard Version. It lasted all of 10 years. Not bad. Thus an era passes. I really like our new high-density monitor, though.

11:31 AM Greetings, cyberfriends. Since I haven't blogged in 4 days you know I've been out of town. Nate and I just finished a job down in Enfield, NC. Did I take any pictures, you ask. Are there mosquitoes in Louisiana?

The one-story house in the foreground was built in 1848. Ten years later the two-storied main house was constructed. The style is Virginia Tidewater. Once upon a time this was the "Big House" of a large plantation. Last year Nate and I repaired the roof, and the owner was so impressed with Nathan's work he hired him back (along with his trusted side kick, the big kahuna) to repair the front porch and paint the roofs (including two outbuildings). We lived in the house while we were there. We worked 10 hour days for 4 days, only stopping for half-hour lunch breaks. Is there a word in English stronger than "exhausted"? If there is, that's how we feel.

Work of this nature is much like a chess match. Here's the master builder studying his next move. We replaced two massive beams on the porch, all of the sheathing, and some of the center beaded boarding. Later we added new tin roofing. The porch is now good to go for another 50 years or so.

It was eerie to me to be working with lumber that dates back to the antebellum south. Whoever built this home built it to last. The only thing it needs now is a good coat of paint. 

Et voila! The finished product. You can see some of the old siding we had to replace at the top of the ladder. I don't see how Nathan did it -- brushing on bucket after bucket of paint at such steep roof pitches. My job was to paint what I could and to keep Nate hydrated and supplied. And cook him supper too. One night I actually made Chinese food (with my secret ingredient). Not too bad either. We used our own venison for the meat.

This area is full of historic homes. We saw this beauty on the campus of North Carolina Wesleyan College just south of Enfield. 

Boy did we have fun. Painting a tin roof in 95 degree weather. What a deal. The owner gets a freshly painted roof. I get great fellowship with my son. And Nate gets to take a hefty check all the way to the bank. The owner took a bid from us on painting the house next spring. By the way, a ritzy hunting club is currently renting the facility. It sits on 2,000 acres. The owner has invited us back this winter for a few days of hunting as his personal guests. We just might take him up on it, even though there's plenty of deer and turkey on our farm.

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