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August 2010 Blog Archives

Monday, August 30

9:12 PM Nice website: the homilia of a budding nt scholar.

8:51 PM Just put the children to bed with a story and a prayer. Was a great day, but three boys can be TIRING.

5:03 PM Brian Fulthorp links to a wonderful article on healing here. In the Clementine Letters we read, "Let the deacons of the church ... find out those who are sick in the flesh and bring such to the notice of the main body who know nothing of them, that they may visit them and supply their wants." The church has always cared for its sick, and Bethel Hill is no exception. On Sunday Jason called the sick to come forward and the church to pray for them and their families. No oil was present, but oil is not the essence of James 5:13-15. James is saying that there is no limit to the power of fervent prayer. This truth has become very precious to me in recent days.

4:32 PM "The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." Thus wrote William Arthur Ward.

The apostle James says it's a mistake for many of us to become teachers. We'll receive a greater judgment if we do. What an awe-inspiring responsibility! One danger is trying to teach something before we ourselves know anything about the subject (see 1 Tim. 1:6-7). The tendency then is to pander to the desires of our audience. How thankful I am today for my college and seminary teachers who were careful to exercise their calling with integrity and who took care that their lives did not contradict their teaching. May God make me to become like them some day!

4:14 PM Just back from taking the boys for a walk. Looking forward to cooking supper with them as my special helpers. Gonna try something they've never eaten before but I think they'll like it. Meanwhile Bec's been having a good day though she remains tired. Thanks again for all your cards, emails, and prayers.

1:41 PM Today I read the book of Ruth in the New English Translation of the Septuagint. Note: Names are transliterated, and the English syntax can be rough on the reader, but otherwise a fine work.

1:30 PM Just received a great email from a fulltime "professional" missionary who has decided to become a tentmaker (i.e., self-supporting). I'm sure some will cast furtive glances in his direction. To me it's a matter of conscience. Resist the temptation to do something just because another believer seems to approve of it. Your conscience is the critical issue. But be sure it's biblically informed.

1:20 PM Assurance of salvation is not presumption. We cannot claim to be saved unless we can prove it with our lives. A genuine believer has both faith and works. Likewise, a genuine "student" will be eager to study. It's just that simple.

12:30 PM Alan Knox thinks the purpose of the Internet is (at least partly) ministry. As usual, he's right.

So, “internet ministry” is the use of online services, apps, functions, and technologies in order to serve people with the intention of helping those people grow in maturity towards Christ.

I am often ministered to by Alan's writings -- or should I say "by the Lord through Alan's writings." What a wonderful ministry of edification! What a powerful medium for encouragement! May his tribe increase!

12:20 PM Always enjoy the thoughts of Arthur Sido. Today he writes:

It is not about house church or simple church or institutional church. It is all about the way the church lives and gathers together and how that impacts our ministry to one another. Does the way we view the church enhance or impede the way we minister to one another, edify one another and equip one another? The Bible spends far more time talking about the way we should relate to one another in community and how our fellowship should edify us than it does about the order we should meet in on Sunday morning.

How grateful to God I am for a (traditional) church that actual relates to each other as family even if the wineskins are a bit old. I hope and pray that your experience is the same whether you are in a traditional church setting or a house church gathering.

BTW, here's Miss Leanna giving her personal testimony during yesterday's gathering at Bethel Hill Baptist. Talk about relatedness and community. We've got it in spades at BHBC. You did a great job sis. I'm really proud of you!

12:12 PM I just made mater sandwiches for everyone. Side of homemade pickles. Plus fresh peaches. Yummy.

8:45 AM Right now I'm re-reading Brotzman's Old Testament Textual Criticism. I especially like his examples from Ruth. Excellent introduction!

8:40 AM Students, this semester I'm looking for a Gideon's Band -- men and women who mean business. I do not intend this to be an exclusive club, however! Let me encourage each of you to commit your studies to the Lord -- and yourselves. Don't just "get by." Excel in all you do, for His glory. Do not wait for graduation to become "ministers." This very day, right where we are, we can serve Him. And that includes honoring Him with our minds.

Remember: God is never pleased with mediocrity. "Holy shoddy is still shoddy" (Elton Trueblood).

8:04 AM Don't you just love this picture? It shows our Becky Lynn when she lived in Bobitcho. "Where's Bobitcho?" you ask. You'll have to wait for Becky's book to find out. She's just written chapter two, which recounts her upbringing in "Utopia" (dad's word for Ethiopia). It's an honest account of the good -- and not so good -- times growing up as an MK in Africa. Each chapter will conclude with photos. In the meantime, let's keep this cutie pie in our thoughts and prayers.

7:40 AM Openings: Wheaton College in theology and Anderson University School of Theology in Old Testament.

7:35 AM Alan Knox gleefully muses about "abuses" at the Lord's Supper. Y'all won't believe this, but when I was a child I used to carefully lick out the communion cup with my tongue. After all, the pastor had just said, "Drink ye ALL of it."

7:26 AM Exciting week ahead. It begins today as we send Matt and Liz off to a Bed and Breakfast near Appomattox to celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary.

I'm told they'll have the whole place to themselves. Have fun you two, and heartiest felicitations!

Sunday, August 29

7:16 PM Memories:

1) I snapped this during our trip to Ethiopia in June. It's a church sign. Can you figure out what the English says?

2) I love this picture of Alan Knox. I took it while he was on break from teaching church elders in Alaba. Kids are ubiquitous in Ethiopia, and they love faranjis.

3) Here I am drawing a portrait of a child in one of the villages of Gomeda, where I went for evangelism. This is my modus operandi in Ethiopia and it works. Soon I am surrounded by the entire village and can share the Good News with them.

4) In this picture I'm holding a copy of the Gospel of Mark in Alabinya, the native language of the people of Alaba. I was even given a personal copy to bring home with me. I cherish that little book.

5) Sending the generator across a swollen river on our way to show the Jesus Film in Konso. Everybody pitches in, and the work gets done.

6) Joseph was our translator among the Gujis. As a Burji he risked his life to serve us. He is fluent in 6 languages, including Gujinya. What a marvelous servant of the Lord.

7) This girl and her mother are waiting to see Dr. Rick. Her diagnosis was, of course, Downs Syndrome, and there was little Rick could do for her.

8) The precious children of Ethiopia. Are there any more beautiful eyes on this planet? I think not.

Please do not forget to pray for the people of Ethiopia. For more on what the Lord Jesus is doing there, go here

5:53 PM A reader sent along this email:

Dr. Black,

In case some of your students in this semester's Septuagint course might be interested but have not yet stumbled across this resource, Logos Bible Software is slated to release the Göttingen Septuagint (beginning?) on November 8. Those who order the module before then should be able to obtain it for $349.95, a substantial sum but one that is quite a bit more economical than the cost of the equivalent print volumes.

LXX students, be advised. Here's the Logos link.

2:15 PM In honor of my friend Alvin Reid's post about "carnivores" (or something like that), here's a pic of the steak this here carnivore enjoyed last night, cooked by Master Chef Matthew over an open fire.

Eat your heart out bro! Incidentally, check out this great quote from Alvin's essay:

There is a younger generation of believers who are tired of “do the minimum” Christianity. They want it straight, they want it real, and they want it now. If you teach the Bible, and if young adults you teach sense you genuinely love them and love Jesus, you can get right in their grills. In fact, you must. If however they perceive you as a smart aleck, or you stereotype them to the extreme, you will lose them. And you will never have a chance with unchurched young adults.

2:03 PM Quote of the day:

Christ changes the heart of those who come to Him, but they must be taught. The Spirit is working inwardly, while the teaching is occurring outwardly.  As we teach, we must focus on the teachings of Jesus, and we must give grace to the hearer. Just as Jesus did not pressure the rich young ruler to accept His teaching and change his ways into obedience to that teaching, so we must teach, encourage and model, but we must realize that ultimately, it is the decision of the new disciple and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Read Making Disciples.

1:44 PM It's been exciting to see how the body at the Hill have begun latching on to Liz and Matt and the boys. I'm especially thankful that the leadership is tapping into Matt's teaching skills. Next Sunday Matt will be pinch hitting for our Sunday School teacher Chris, and in two Sundays he'll be doing the teaching during the main service. Thanks to all who have reached out to our family and made everyone feel so welcome, and that includes you, brother Jason!

1:30 PM Driving home from the assembly today I was listening to Jonathan Falwell's message live from Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg. He has been bringing a series of messages on their congregation's new vision statement. I was so excited about it that I just had to stop the car and jot it down. Here it is:

The vision of TRBC is to transform our world by developing Christ-followers who love God and love people.

Wow! That is exactly what the church of Jesus Christ should be about -- focused on (1) worldwide evangelism, (2) radical discipleship, and (3) obedience to the Great Commandment to love God and others. I love it! Of course, Christians are meant to constitute a people characterized not by our formulas, rituals, ceremonies, or vision statements but by a quality of life. And there is a price to be paid. May our good friends at TRBC learn what it means to live out their vision by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God!

1:23 PM Just back from the Hill and boy are my blogging juices flowing. Becky is very tired today and so she remained at home while Matt, Liz, the boys, and I attended the gathering at Bethel Hill. Pastor Jason allowed me a moment to share with the family how Becky is doing, and so I hope you will allow me to bring all of you, our web audience, up to date. I will be brutally honest with you as I was with our Bethel Hill brothers and sisters.

Becky's cancer is, for all intents and purposes, terminal. As you know, her previous radiation as well as her chemo treatments (Taxol and Carboplatin) were ineffective. Her uterine cancer has metastasized to her lungs and probably to her liver as well. Because the disease is so widespread, both further radiation and surgery have been ruled out. This past week Becky began taking a new drug. We are scheduled for 6 treatments with Adriamycin at UNC Chapel Hill. There is a very slim chance that this drug will prove effective with Becky's type of cancer. After 3 treatments she will have a scan, which will tell us whether or not the drug has been effective in either stopping the growth of her tumors or reducing their size. If Adriamycin proves to be ineffective, we will stop the treatments and consider other options. Frankly, I do not have any hope in a medical cure for Becky's condition. I believe that if B is to be healed it will take a miraculous intervention by our God. Still, we are trying to be good managers of the resources that God provides by pursuing one last non-experimental chemo treatment. In addition, Becky and our daughter Liz will spend 5 days in early October at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston for tests and a second opinion. Anderson has consistently been rated the number one cancer hospital in the United States. I had hoped for an earlier appointment but this is the earliest time the hospital could accommodate us. Becky's mom who lives in Dallas will also join them in Houston.

In the meantime, Becky and I will be doing some traveling together. As I mentioned previously, this Thursday we leave for Dallas where we will spend 5 days with her parents. Then in early October (during my fall break from school) we will visit Arizona and California. Our goal is to "reconnect" with various places in our family life that have brought us joy. I am really looking forward to this trip with Becky. We will rent a small camper and stay at many of the same campsites we visited when we were raising our family.

How are we doing emotionally? As well as can be expected. The other night I awoke at 1:30 am to the sobs of Becky. I asked her what was wrong. "I'm worried about you," came the reply. "I'm worried about you!" I said. So there we lay, hugging and doing what we could to comfort the other person.

As you may know, Becky has never asked for her own healing. I have, but she has never felt led to pray for that. Instead, her simple prayer has been to remain a faithful servant of Jesus till the end, whenever that should come. But the other day Becky said to me: "Honey, for the first time I've asked Jesus to heal me. Liz needs me, the boys need me, you need me, the work in Ethiopia needs me." She is right. We do need you, honey. That said, we are not grasping to life. Becky is prepared to see Jesus. To live is Christ and to die is gain.

In Jason's message today on the Lord's Supper from 1 Cor. 11, he made a passing reference to the World War II Memorial in Washington DC. He noted how the monument is designed to provoke Americans to remember the sacrifices made for their freedoms. Without wanting to be in any way, shape, or form insensitive, I believe that the sacrifice of self in service to Jesus is more costly, and even more difficult, than the sacrifice of one's life for a political cause. When Jesus said "Greater love has no one than this -- that he should lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13), He was referring to His own death on the cross, though we often take His words out of context and apply them to the context of war or to people who have given their lives in defense of law and order. As praiseworthy as these sacrifices may be, Christians are called upon to make an even greater sacrifice, motivated by the love of One who sacrificed Himself for the benefit of others.

Anybody who knows Becky knows that serving the Lord Jesus Christ sacrificially has been her one passion and aim in life. Speaking personally (and perhaps even selfishly, though I hope not), I believe that not only does Becky's family need her but that the world needs to see more Beckys. Should the Lord Jesus decide to prolong Becky's life and restore her health, no one will be happier than me. Should He choose not to do so, no one will grieve more than I will. Either way, please know this: Becky and I have complete assurance that even the worst attack, the most sickening body-blow, the most subtle trial can only come to us under the sovereign hand of God and can therefore be turned to His praise. 

7:44 AM Off to meet with the family at the Hill. By the way, the latest addition to our home page is called Seven Who Changed the World.

Saturday, August 28

5:57 PM I love watching the cattle. Here they are cooling off in the pond. Not a worry, not a care. Good way to approach life.

P.S. Notice the green grass. Looks like the Lord Jesus will grant us a second cutting this year. In fact, as I type Nate is cutting one our larger fields. Hope to get the hay up next week. God's grace!

3:37 PM Check out On the Journey. Delightful site. 

3:24 PM Just finished priming porch boards. Having guests for supper tonight. Matt is grilling steaks. Summer is ending!

8:58 AM Has Amazon gone crazy?


1 used from $1,228.61



8:52 AM Does Heb. 11:32 exclude a female author for Hebrews? Over at Covenant of Love, Ruth Hoppin says "No!" Read her arguments and then join the discussion.

8:45 AM Question: What famous American classics scholar of yesteryear said this:

I lost my pocket Homer, I lost my pistol, I lost one of my horses and, finally, I came very near losing my life.

Answer: Basil Gildersleeve.

For more on this renowned professor's wartime exploits, read A Greek Professor in the Civil War.

(Note again: All great Greek scholars sport beards.)

8:40 AM Wow. Perfect OBX surf. Makes me want to grab my board and head for the beach.


Friday, August 27

8:50 PM You can read the introduction to Eerdmans' new introductory Greek grammar here (.pdf). I am looking forward to its appearance and wish the book every success. But here's an excerpt that surprised me:

All beginning grammar books are incomplete in their coverage of the language they introduce. In fact, grammar books often present half-truths (even lies!) about the language that we have seen needed correcting in second-year classes. We trust that this text contains fewer such statements than others.


Sounds a bit caustic to me. I'm quite sure that authors of beginning grammars have tried their very best to present what to them is accurate information, even though we may have missed the mark in certain places. Moreover, as the authors point out, there is only so much one can cover in an introductory grammar; much, indeed, needs to be fleshed out or tweaked in second year classes. But is it really necessary to accuse one's colleagues in the guild of telling "lies"? Supposedly this latest grammar will have "fewer" of these notorious half-truths and lies. Let's hope so.

Again, I wish my esteemed colleagues well with this latest contribution to introductory Greek studies.

8:12 PM Just finished supper. Right now Nathan and Elijah (our guest) are playing "shark" with the boys on our bed. Family chaos at its best.  

6:08 PM Excellent thought-food from Arthur Sido (Men and Boys):

I am a big believer that boys need to be prepped for being a man sooner rather than later but we find that a lot of what we value in society acts in opposition to this need. A big culprit is college (yes I am banging that drum again). Colleges have turned into hiding places where kids who have, against their will, become legal adults can extend out their childhood by 4, 5 or even more years of going to school. The line between “higher education” and “finding a place to hide until I can move back home” is getting pretty blurry. The other obstacle is enablement, parents and women enabling men to keep living out the behavior that prevents maturation.

(Warning: He calls out Mark Driscoll.)

6:03 PM Hebrews students, check out this fine bibliography of Hebrews (.pdf) by Paul Tanner.

5:58 PM Our new log barn:

To match our old log barn:

Daisy approves!

5:24 PM Getting ready to cook supper tonight. Yep, same old same old, with our "secret" ingredient of course.

5:14 PM A huge Friday shout out to two men I love dearly. Brother Rick is a medical doctor in Roxboro, NC. This summer he served in our Galana clinic and also came with us one day to the Guji village of Mediba. Here he is seeing one of his patients that day.

Brother Jamie is a pharmacist, also in Roxboro. Unlike Rick, Jamie had been with us before to Ethiopia.

In Gujiland they saw 90 patients in one day -- count them -- 90. Now that is ministry! Can you tell Rick is tired?

Friends, the Bible knows nothing of a two-tiered system in which some "fulltime ministers" serve Him and others only support the "ministers." In fact, in John 17:10 Jesus says, "All Yours and Mine, and all Mine are Yours, and I am glorified in them." Please notice that final statement. Its meaning is breathtaking! Jesus is saying that He is glorified in the lives of normal, everyday Christians. That must have been a staggering revelation to people who were used to priests doing all the ministry for them. So, Rick and Jamie, I thank God for you and for the example you're setting of the truth that every member of the Body of Christ is a minister, a priest, and a missionary. May your tribe increase.

11:08 AM Quote of the day (Henry Neufeld):

Christianity is about serving others. When my wife and I have changed congregations, we generally ask first about the mission of the church. In fact, I have quite a “thing” about church mission statements. Most churches have one. What I’ve found in visiting churches is that if the members in general can tell you what the focus of their church is in ministry, you’ll find you have a vibrant church. If the members in general aren’t sure what they are there for, you’ll find the church is dead.

10:40 AM I just finished reading Phillip Rucker's essay about President Obama's upbringing in Hawaii.

It flooded my memories with those days long ago when I was a lad on Oahu. Becky and I recently discussed whether we wanted to include a jaunt over to the Islands during our October vacation trip. Alas, we'll be far too busy visiting Bryce, the Grand Canyon, and various sites in California to make that trip -- this time. I don't always agree with Mr. Obama's policies, but I do agree with his assessment: "There is no doubt that the residue of Hawaii will always stay with me." How true.

10:15 AM In Christendom, the sacrament as well as the sacerdos are indispensable. A "call" to "the ministry" is therefore an essential concept, even though it is decidedly more tradition-oriented than Word-oriented. Such is the argument of Paul Harrison in his brilliant essay Pastoral Turnover and the Call to Preach (.pdf). Every pastor or pastor-in-the-making needs to read this essay. The fact is that all Christians are called to fulltime ministry. There are straws in the wind that, thankfully, suggest that the younger generation of believers is no longer blissfully unaware of the importance of this issue. Glory to God.

8:57 AM Everyone who struggles with weight control must read Jay Voorhees's post called The Travails of a Fat Pastor. Jay observes:

What I need is what all of us need — not someone to comment from afar but a supportive community who is willing to walk beside me, who doesn’t judge but rather encourages, who is willing to not only share words but is willing to give the time to walk with me — literally.

We Southern Baptists (who often struggle with weight issues; see Are You a Good Steward of Your Health?) have much to learn from this honest pastor.

8:41 AM Good news: We got the bats out of our attic. Bad news: They're now sleeping in our eaves. Go figure.

8:34 AM Last night we had a cook out to end all cook outs. Here's proof:

Thanks Matt and Liz!!

Thursday, August 26

7:19 PM Quote of the day #2 (Tullian Tchividijian):

Coral Ridge had become widely known for what it was against much more than what it was for. And I vowed to change that. I wanted the city of Ft. Lauderdale (my hometown) to know that we were going to become a church in the city, for the city. I made it very clear from the outset that we were going to be a church that rolled up our sleeves and got our hands dirty in service to our city. I said that if our ministry was not attracting the same kinds of people that Jesus attracted, then we were not preaching the same message that Jesus preached. Most people loved that! Some hated it—and they made it known.

7:12 PM Quote of the day (Drew Dixon):

If evangelism is a command, then it follows that neglect of evangelism is sin.

6:52 PM Robert Thomas of the Masters Seminary in California has written an essay called Modern Linguistics Versus Traditional Hermeneutics (.pdf). His message is, essentially, "Beware linguistics!" We discussed this article yesterday in our Linguistics Seminar. Dr. Thomas's warning certainly has some validity to it. Linguistics is not the Abracadabra or Open Sesame to biblical interpretation that it is sometimes made out to be.

My own approach to the matter is somewhat different, however. I urge my students to use linguistic insights with caution, but to use them nonetheless. Modern translation theory, for example, recognizes that the search for a literal word-for-word equivalence between one language and another is futile. Of course, anyone who can speak a modern foreign language fluently (such as German) knows this. Johannes Louw, in his delightful book Semantics of New Testament Greek (p. 71), illustrates this point by the story of the "translation machine" that rendered into Japanese the sentence "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." The resultant sentence was then back-translated into English as "There is some good whisky, but the roast is mediocre."

Apparently some people believe that the language of the New Testament is unique. If so, their position is a demonstrable cul-de-sac. In my opinion, no one should despise the help of linguistic research to illuminate the truth of the New Testament. I have discussed this issue at length in Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. It seems that we need to avoid two irresponsible extremes. One is the naive assumption that the New Testament is purely divine. Please notice that I used the word "purely." The New Testament is most certainly divinely inspired (and, I must add, inerrant), but it is also the product of human language and as such is susceptible to the vagaries of human speech. The remedy to this extreme is to foster a conscious approach to the New Testament that acknowledges the Bible as a divine-human book. (David Dockery and I argued this in the preface to our Interpreting the New Testament.)

The other extreme is the over-enthusiastic iconoclasm that insists that Greek alone is necessary to interpret the New Testament. This is surely not the case. The translation of John 1:1c ("And the Word was God"), for example, cannot be determined by syntax alone (Colwell's Rule notwithstanding). The remedy to this situation is to give primary weight to Greek linguistics while taking into careful account the contextual, theological, and historical dimensions of the text.

I have no desire to disturb traditional views of hermeneutics for the sake of novelty. But when linguists can help us to understand how something as complicated as language works, and when Christian preachers continue to be woefully ignorant of the exegetical fallacies they commit (etymologizing, illegitimate totality transfer, etc.), it seems to me that we should pause and ask ourselves what is to be gained from an exposure to the art and science of Greek linguistics. Perhaps indeed we shall discover that it can help us at many points to read the New Testament with fuller understanding.

4:23 PM For what it's worth, here's an excerpt from my forthcoming Paul, Apostle of Weakness. Believe me, it's a message I needed to hear today loud and clear.

The key to Paul’s prayer life was the same as Jesus’: ou ti egō thelō alla ti sy (Mark 14:36b). Christ, who himself in his earthly life had been so ruthlessly assaulted by Satan, prayed in the garden three times for the cup to pass, but in the end an angel from heaven came and strengthened him for the cross of suffering (Luke 22:43).

One can only imagine with what compassion the Lord received Paul’s thrice-repeated supplication to be free from his thorn in the flesh. But what was true in Jesus’ situation was also true in Paul’s (cf. Heb 5:7): “Im Gebet erkämpft er sich die Bereitschaft zum Leiden und sterben.” It was only through prayer (in actu orationis) that Paul came to recognize that his handicap (be it a medical or non-medical condition) was God’s own way of keeping him from self-glory, and that in his suffering he was to fulfil his missionary calling.

Now the apostle understood the meaning of the continual drain on his strength: in that very condition God’s power would be made manifest and reign supreme. From then on, Paul accepted his thorn in the flesh, considering it to be both a messenger of Satan and—since it was a deterrent to spiritual pride and a platform from which to display divine strength—a gift of God.

4:04 PM Took my sweetie-pie out for lunch today and we had a long talk about the future. The series of chemo treatments that we started yesterday is just another leg in our journey together. In 33 years we've worked through a lot of challenges and I'm so thankful we've had the Bible to keep us on course. "Be wise," it says, "and the make the most of your time, because the days are evil." Recently we've needed wisdom, in spades. It's only the light of the Scriptures that keeps us thinking properly. The Bible assures us that God has a perfect plan for our lives. Do we really believe that? Absolutely! Proverbs 18:14 tells us why it's important to keep our spirits in check:

The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, but a broken spirit -- who can bear it?

A Christian can endure sickness (by the grace of God) but he or she can't endure a broken spirit. I can tell you that your supportive letters have helped keep some of the sting out of the wound. Emails such as these were heaven-sent:

Dear Mama B,

How are you? How is your health now? Know that you are in our heart.


So many people care and love you. I know that you are in God's hands. We will continue to do what we can through prayer.

Mrs. Black, 

I'm so encouraged by your faithfulness through everything.  I will definitely continue to pray for both of you as you seek to give Him glory in all aspects of life. If you think of anything I can do, please feel free to ask.

Mrs. Black,

I am praying for you! I love you very much. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Dear Becky,

We are praying for you and for Dave. We love you!  We consider it an honor to speak your name before our loving and wise Father.


I want you to know that I am so impressed by your courage!  You are such a Christian example to all of us! Thank you for setting such a brave example and sharing your love for Christ. May God richly bless you.  I am praying that you only experience minimum  side effects with this chemo.  I pray that you will get to take the trips that you want.

Dave & Becky,

Thank you for displaying the power of the gospel for the world to see.  My own faith is strengthened as I watch you navigate these waters by faith in a surpassing Hope and Treasure.  My prayers are with you both. 

Dear Becky Lynn,

Thank you so much for being willing to share more information with us, and as always, to generously share your heart with us.  I will continue praying for you, and now with even more specificity will implore the Lord on your behalf.  We have a great and powerful God and I know that should He choose to do so, your cancer would be gone tomorrow.  It is my earnest plea that He will give you more time here with your family and with all of us who are so encouraged and stimulated to walk closer to the Almighty because of your amazing testimony and life.

Dear Sis Black,

I just wanted you to know  that I have been in prayer for you for the last several days.   I know that you all had some very difficult decisions to make.  I know that you know God's grace is sufficient but I also want you to know that those of us who love you are praying for you and Dave.  We not only pray for your outcome but for the both of you and your family as you go thru what you have to face today and in the days to come.  Please call me if I can be of any assistance.

Dr. Black and Becky,

Just wanted you both to know that you are being lifted up during this difficult time. Praying that our Father will give both of you everything you need to live each day to it's fullest and to continue living out the gospel for all to see. May you both continue to have opportunities to share His grace, truth, and mercy with those who cross your paths. Thanks for being such a great example to us!

These are just a few of the dozens of letters we've received in the past few days. Talk about family support!

God is GOOD!

11:48 AM My assistant and Th.M. student Andy Bowden asks Why Blog?

11:31 AM I love reading Bruce Ashford's series on the danger of seminary. Here's part 5: The Danger of Seeking Academic Acclaim. Mr. Ashford, thanking you helping me to see that I am not alone (The Purpose of a Seminary).

11:27 AM Why do we have institutions made up of walls when we live in a world of webs? Why do we teach in classrooms when we have the Internet?

Maybe it's my age, but I'm really a classroom person. I love to see my students face to face and watch their eyes light up when they understand how, for example, the Greek verb system works. What fun!

Speaking of Greek students, I hope you'll strive to get over 100 percent on every quiz and exam this semester. I'd love to give out 60 A Plusses in December. And remember: If you get a perfect 110 on an exam you will receive the prestigious "110 Award" -- a free copy of one of my books. I'll even sign it for you if you want. That way you can't sell it lol!!

11:12 AM My thanks to our guest speaker in our Linguistics Seminar yesterday. He hails from the land down under (not to be confused with the underworld) and spoke on the language of the pericope of the woman taken in adultery. I hope your work is published soon, Andrew.

10:50 AM Two program notes:

1) Becky just published her latest essay. It's called Dealing with Disappointment. Bravo to her for saying:

When we place our expectations on ANYTHING other than the character of God, we set ourselves up for disappointment.  It is just a matter of time before disappointment knocks the breath out of us.  Only the breath of God in our being can sustain the knocks of life.

2) I've made a collection of all of Becky's essays about her experience with cancer. The page is called Our Cancer Journey. Honey, what a great job you've done of keeping everyone informed. I love you.

Wednesday, August 25

7:12 PM In a culture that has shifted from "What do you think?" to "How do you feel about?" I am thrilled to be able to teach at a seminary that eschews subjectivism. That said, contemporary practicality remains a legitimate pursuit of all biblical interpretation. I praise God for the clarion call that President Danny Akin gave in yesterday's convocation chapel when he spoke about missionary George Leile. His message was spot on. The evangelical church, he said, must return to the Word of God PLUS a passion for the saving of souls. We must, once again, be the pure and holy witnesses to the world that Christ has called us to be. A doctrinally sound church will ALWAYS be a missional church.

George Leile went to Kingston, Jamaica as the first Baptist missionary from America. There were four things that impressed me about him, as Danny described him to us in chapel:

  • He was bi-vocational all his life.

  • He had no formal theological training.

  • They called him "Brother" Leile.

  • He lived totally for the Gospel.

My kind of guy exactly. I urge you to listen to Danny's entire message if you possibly can. It's called The Cross And Faithful Ministry As Seen In The Pastoral And Missionary Ministry Of George Leile.

7:07 PM From the job file:

7:04 PM Listen to Matthea Glass's testimony about God's faithfulness in the midst of her miscarriage. In our escapist, irresponsible, permissive world, Matthea's call to commitment to a God that cannot change was hugely refreshing. Thank you, sis.

7:01 PM I appreciated what Catherine Marshall once said following the death of her husband Peter. He died prematurely from a heart attack (he was only 47). One day he was there, suddenly he was gone. In describing how she overcame her grief, she said she finally became convinced that being lost in grief could become nothing more than an act of self-pity. It's like saying, "I don't believe in a sovereign God. I don't accept the fact that He took my mate." When she realized this, she turned her energies to writing. And who hasn't been blessed by her books?

Becky's started writing her own book, a testimony to God's faithfulness to her through the years. She finished chapter 1 this morning. I know you are as eager to read it as I am. May the Lord Jesus bless her as she writes, for the glory of God alone.

6:55 PM My thanks to those who provided the following supplementary resources for my textbook Learn to Read New Testament Greek.                                                                                                                         

In all candor, I can't imagine how much time and effort went into producing these aids. Students, make plans right now to avail yourself of these tools. And remember: If I could learn Greek back in the Dark Ages, you can today!

6:50 PM Read The Problem With Pulpit-Centered Worship.

6:48 PM Classes were awesome, and so was our visit to UNC. Bec's treatment went well. Right now we're about to sit down to supper -- something delicious that Liz has conjured up. Nothing like family time.

Tuesday, August 24

6:16 AM Please continue to keep Becky in your prayers. She will begin chemo again tomorrow. We decided not to participate in a research trial of a new type of treatment. The drug she will be taking is really the only FDA-approved option. The not-so-good news is that it has proven to have only a 20 percent success rate with metastatic uterine cancer of all kinds. (Becky's cancer, of course, is clear cell -- the rarest and most aggressive type of them all.) The good news is that the smaller spots on her lungs are inactive, at least for now. Becky is scheduled for 6 treatments every 21 days. We will do a scan after 3 treatments to see if the drug is being effective in Becky's case. If not, we will look into the alternatives (i.e., the clinical trials).

Has this shaken our faith? Absolutely not. God gives strength for every trial; He has not changed in this regard. We're in the midst of a stormy season, but like all storms this one shall pass. If you'd like to join us in praying for Becky's peace of mind and stamina during the next few months, I'd be very appreciative.

On a final note: I'm thinking of writing a series of short biblical/theological/pastoral essays on the theme of strength-in-weakness. You're invited to join me in thinking through these issues. Right now, however, I'm off to school.

Jesus bless you!


Monday, August 23

11:55 AM Off to make a hospital visit at Duke and then to go to our appointment at UNC -- after driving through Taco Bell, that is!

11:25 AM Ross Parker, SEBTS grad and current Ph.D. candidate at Baylor University, rightly calls attention to my dean's website: Theology for the Church.

11:20 AM The beds are weeded, tilled, ready! In the meantime our Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, beets, are leeks already coming up. New life. Wonderful.

8:33 AM Off to roto-till B's garden beds. Nice weather for working outdoors. Do I sense a hint of fall in the air?

8:30 AM Arthur Sido's review of Pagan Christianity is a must read. He concludes:

The big question this book should leave the reader with is a simple one, but important. What do you do with this information? Do you seek a more faithful expression of the church, seek to live more like the first century church (not in terms of dressing in togas but in terms of living in a community of intentional witness to the world)? Or do you toss up your hands and go back to the Scripturally unsupportable model of church that dominates our cultural landscape?

These are precisely the questions we are asking ourselves at Bethel Hill. May God help us. 

8:09 AM Today at 3:00 Becky and I meet with her oncologist at UNC. Then we have a huge decision to make. I'm glad we have each other to lean on. I'm glad we're a team marriage and ministry. Whether we are planning a trip to Africa or seeking wisdom about cancer treatments we are in it together. We think of our marriage as a triangle, with God at the top corner and Becky and Dave at the bottom two. As we grow closer to God, we grow closer to each other. Together we seek to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1), ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), fulfillers of the Great Cause (Matt. 28:19-20), prayer intercessors (Eph. 6:18), and followers of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The bond of human marriage is "till death do us part." But the bond of brother and sister in Christ is eternal. Whatever else we are as a married couple, we are laborers together for the sake of the Gospel.

Some of you will remember the names Edith and Francis Schaeffer. In her book Tapestry, Edith described her marriage as "going through life shoulder to shoulder."

Even though Francis and Edith have their names on different books and spoke to different audiences, the core of their ministry was the product of their being co-laborers in the kingdom. I'd like to think that Becky and I operate the same way.

(Incidentally, people have been telling Becky that she should write a book about her life. I heartily agree! It would make an excellent tome.)

So off we go to write a new chapter in our book of marriage. In the tidal wave of today's events and experiences we feel the grip of a powerful hand offering transfused inner strength and direction. If, my friend, you are equally yoked together with your spouse, you are blessed. I mean that. What an honor for any married couple to be able to say, "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."

7:54 AM I've been translating the book of Ruth from the Hebrew and Greek. It's having an incredible impact on my life. What does God want to teach me? What needs to be changed? As I translate I'm jotting down lessons. I hope they'll settle into my memory and dwell within my heart. Today this observation struck me:

Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to Naomi.

So it is in the Christian life. Affection for Christ must lead to obedience. The step must become a walk. Respect must issue in devotion.

Which am I -- an Orpah or a Ruth?

Sunday, August 22

6:10 PM For all the Bethel Hillians who asked -- here's my teaching schedule this semester. Thanks, guys, for your interest and prayers. I'm grateful for you.

  • Tuesday: 12:30-3:20 Exegesis of Hebrews

  • Tuesday: 3:30-6:20 Greek 1

  • Wednesday: 7:00-9:50 Linguistics Seminar (Ph.D.)

  • Wednesday: 12:30-3:20 LXX

I am ready Freddy!

6:06 PM Quote of the day (see comments section to this excellent post):

Being a grandstanding moron is much easier than loving people. Amazing the number of brainless sheeple who follow such charlatans.

5:18 PM Greatly encouraged today by being with the Bethel Hill family and challenged by brother Jason's message. He reminded us that few of us are living at our best. We are afraid to climb the mountains, so we stay in the misty valleys. He challenged us as a church to move to the uplands of God. He wants us to cast aside the extra baggage we are lugging around with us. Time will tell whether or not we will respond appropriately. It amazes me that the Lord Jesus truly loves us despite all of our manmade traditions. I love Jason for the honesty with which he voices the truth. Unlike many pastors, he is a wonderful teacher who does far more than provide instruction. He walks with us every step of the way. Jason, please don't get discouraged in well doing. You are so right: God is worth our best. Like Ruth, I want to be willing to relinquish all I hold dear and travel  to that strange country called Obedience.

Bethel Hillions, the Lord Jesus waits for our response. He waits for us to open the door and let Him have the "preeminence in all things" (Col. 1:18). I have thought a lot about this verse in Colossians. I'm sure I haven't yet grasped its depth. But at least it must mean this: That Jesus wants to have the first place in our church structure. All He asks is that we do things the way He designed for them to be done. And so His call goes out to all who would respond to Him: "Come, make Me your Senior Pastor." I can't help but pray:

Lord Jesus, we at the Hill must give an account of ourselves to you. Knowing that your love is unconditional, and that you are present to accomplish your purposes in our midst, please intensify our longing to please you, revere your Name, and bring you glory by allowing you and you alone to have the first place in everything. I ask this in your Name, Amen.

6:59 AM Seminary students! Have you learned the importance of "looking away" yet? I'm referring to the verb in Heb. 12:2 -- aphorao. The prepositional prefix suggests the idea of "looking off" or "looking away" unto Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfector of faith. We are not just to "look" at Jesus. We are to "look away." But how?

Earlier the author referred to a "great cloud of witnesses." He's talking about the people named in chapter 11 who are testifying to the sufficiency of Christ. He's clear that they are worth looking at: they can inspire and challenge us. Likewise, in your studies you will be drawn to many exemplary men and women. I've drawn encouragement from the biographies of Jim Elliott and George Muller, to name just two. Likewise, I'm a huge fan of certain bloggers whose writing inspires me every morning when I read their thoughts. In addition, I'm blessed to have colleagues on campus whose faith constantly challenges me to follow hard after Jesus.

Yes, I draw encouragement from many co-pilgrims, but if they are my sole strength I will soon run out of gas. The secret of running with endurance is in the word "looking away." Look at great men and women of faith, then look away to Jesus. He can do what others can't. The book of Hebrews makes clear that He is vastly superior to any man or woman who has ever lived.

Please, this semester do not focus on your pastors or leaders or role models or professors. We are to look away unto Jesus because He can both inspire and empower us. 

6:45 AM Becky's just published her latest thoughts on her journey with cancer. It's called What Now?

Saturday, August 21

7:20 PM Thanks, Kevin.

7:18 PM Scot McKnight and Allan Bevere in the same post. Check it out here.

5:46 PM Off to cook Chinese food for supper. With, of course, my "secret" ingredient! 

5:40 PM Thanks a million guys! Great job!

3:18 PM Stopping for the day. Ran out of floor boards. My feet say "Thank you!"

12:17 PM Break time. We're half way done with the floor boards. Just cooked lunch for the guys. Grilled cheese sandwiches -- with home made bread! Up and ready to get back to work.

8:10 AM Today's project: replace the upstairs porch flooring and railings. I'm really grateful for Nathan and Matthew helping out. Becky and Liz too. And the boys. This is a monster job!

Friday, August 20

4:22 PM Read Rod Decker's outstanding essay, The Use of the Biblical Languages in Systematic Theology (.pdf).

2:48 PM Quote of the day (Carl Henry):

The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.

2:36 PM Just received an excellent prospectus from one of my doctoral students who plans on writing his dissertation this semester. Thankful for bright, Christ-centered students.

12:26 PM Got a minute for an update on Becky? She just sent out this email to our prayer partners:

Dear Prayer Partner Family,

On Wednesday I had a CT scan.  This scan was done to check on some spots on my lung that we found just before we went to Ethiopia.

Yesterday the doctor called to give us the report.  The cancer has now gone to my right lung.  There are 2 tumors, one at the top & one at the bottom, of my lung.  The top tumor has doubled in size since mid-June, and the tumor at the bottom has tripled in size.   Also, there are many very small spots that cannot be clearly identified.

My type of cancer is very aggressive; it grows fast.  It usually doubles in size in 2 months.  The tumors are still very small, but we must start treatment right away and hope that the treatment works.  Because the tumors are spread over my lung, I cannot have surgery to remove the tumors.

On Monday afternoon, Dave & I will meet with my cancer doctor to discuss what to do.  We are thinking that more chemotherapy is the best treatment, but we must change to a different type of chemo therapy. 

Please pray for me to be strong.  I was hoping very much that our Lord would give me a rest.  But He has decided that I cannot rest now.  I am disappointed that He is not giving me a rest, but I must trust Him, that He does all things according to His love.  And He will hold me during the coming weeks, as He has held me in the past.  And one day, He will give me rest....until then I must be diligent to live for His purposes.

Know that you are greatly loved!  Thank you for your continued prayers for me.



Psalm 95

This news was not unexpected. Still, it leaves me numb. It is a terrible thing to watch a loved one suffer. It's slowly dawning on me that Becky and eventually all of us are paying a terrible price for Adam's sin. I want to confess that I have struggled more with Becky's illness than with anything else I have ever experienced. I find it hard to deal in writing with my feelings. Frankly, I'm embarrassed with the mundane nature of my thoughts. How I wish I could write from a richer, more experienced heart! On the other hand, because of our transparency and vulnerability, Becky and I have connected with scores of other people who were thankful that they were not alone. Like us, they are discovering that being a Christian is disarmingly simple. You just trust and obey. You accept, gladly and willingly, whatever cup the Lord gives you. Becky has. Something in me admires that. Something deep inside wants to know if it is possible for me to generate that kind of rugged trust among my students. Something prods me to think that this journey with cancer is more intended for my benefit than hers. It occurs to me that Jesus would have been comfortable with the words of Os Guinness (Journey Among Students, p. 71):

Toward the end of the itinerary [in the British Commonwealth] I was so tired when I arrived back in Auckland and was giving my report of the tour to a public meeting I had to stop and sit down without finishing. If I had said another word I would have found myself in tears. The nervous batteries had completely run down.

Neither Os nor Jesus quit the race. They knew what weariness is all about, but the passion to finish the course never waned. So it is with Becky and me.

Recently I received an email from a former student of mine who reminded me of a class he had taken with me and described the difference the class had made in his life. I have no doubt that the writer was God's gift to me. Affirmation is one person's assistance to others so that they can see the work of God in their lives. I want to thank all of the affirmers in our lives who have written to tell us that they love us and are praying for us. In my list of special-friend teammates, you are at the top.

I've taken a lot of words to say a simple thing. No longer can I compartmentalize God. No longer can I reduce His ways of working to trite little formulas. His presence is all I need. In that presence all of my fears and vulnerabilities are quickly dispelled; at night I lie down to rest, and soon I am asleep. I know that morning will dawn, and the night will be forgotten.

9:20 AM This morning I'm prepping for our LXX class that begins next Wednesday. We'll be sight-reading a Psalm of David in both Greek and Hebrew and looking for clues as to the LXX's translational techniques. I'm beginning to see an interesting pattern emerging that I had never seen before. I'll share that with the class when we meet.

In the meantime, are you reviewing your Greek and Hebrew syntax? I am!

9:15 AM Eugene Peterson tells the story of a man who went into a Christian bookstore and asked the manager, "Do you have any books by dead Christians? I don't trust anybody living." Hebrews students, I hope you'll avail yourselves of the writings of "dead" Christians, including this excellent chapter on the authorship and canonicity of Hebrews (.pdf) by Henry Thayer.

9:04 AM Jon begins his Ethiopia reports. Better late than never lol!

8:58 AM Read Robotic Prayers.

8:44 AM Do students call me "Doctor Black"? If they want to. But they know how I feel. Titles are irrelevant in the kingdom. Earthly honors mean nothing. I've discovered that when I'm on my knees before Jesus I am no longer a professor or a doctor or a scholar. It no longer seems important who got what degree from where. It doesn't matter who gets the credit either. All honor goes to King Jesus. Paul warned that "we should not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:5). That is so difficult for us to accept in our Christian sub-culture. Many will think you're crazy if you don't aspire to titles and degrees. None of us who serves Jesus is immune to the temptation to seek position. I am the chief of sinners in this regard. Every time I am attracted to big numbers, big buildings, or big programs I am faced with my own ugly pride.

Students, ask yourself: "Have I abandoned everything to follow Him? Have I truly embraced servanthood?" The kingdom is not patterned after corporate America. Christian leadership is not hierarchical. Jesus demonstrated this in John 13. He never expects of us today what He Himself hasn't already demonstrated. I challenge all of my dear students: Before you begin the semester, go to the doorpost of your house, lay your ear against the wood, put your hand to the awl and say, "Please, Jesus, pierce my ear and make me Your servant!"

8:23 AM Want some really good news this morning? It's a miracle story, in fact. It occurred during my recent visit to Alaba, Ethiopia, which is almost completely Muslim. The dove of peace descended upon a man and his wife. Let me explain.

His name is Tesfai. You may have heard his name before as I've told his story often. I met Tesfai during my first trip to Alaba several years ago. He and his family were the only Christians in their village. One day the enemies of the cross slaughtered his 8-year old daughter and threw her headless body down the village well. They had also prevented Tesfai from burying his daughter in their village. Bu the grace of God I was able to help Tesfai transport her body to another village for burial.

Some time later Tesfai's wife left him and reverted to Islam for fear of persecution. She married a Muslim man though the marriage quickly fell apart after he began beating her. Eventually she came to the end of herself, repented, and sought the forgiveness of her husband. When I met with Tesfai not 5 weeks ago he had still not overcome his grief. He could not bring himself to forgive his wife, not after all the pain she had caused him. Would he allow God to free him from his bitterness and extend that spirit of liberty to others? Could God heal his broken heart and allow him to forgive his wife? It was a severe test and one into which I was unwittingly drawn. I did the only thing I knew how to do -- I prayed with Tesfai, wept with him, and shared with him the Word of life (1 Cor. 7; Eph. 5). I asked him if he would please read the book of Hosea and then meet with me again a week later. God's help was available, but would he avail himself of it?

Praise God, he did!

There are no works of art in the form of a family that have never been in danger of being broken into pieces. That's true of your family and it's true of mine. Has any married couple never felt like walking away from each other? Every family faces this temptation, and many give in to it each year. And then we remember: "For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. Till death do us part."

Someone once described marriage as a hanging mobile that is held up by invisible threads. When the threads wear thin and sag, there is still hope from the Marriage Expert, who holds even the universe together by His powerful Word (Heb. 1:3). Today Tesfai and his wife and their three surviving children are testimonies to the wonder-working power of the Gospel.

There is no area of life where true grace is needed more than marriage. I am deeply moved by the ability of God to heal the trauma wreaked by sin and death in the lives of Tesfai and his wife. It's an incredible story, isn't it?

Thursday, August 19

9:39 PM Rosewood Farm has all the amenities of life, including a first-rate Redneck Swimming Pool:


2:33 PM LXX students, go here (.pdf) to review your Hebrew vocabulary.

2:02 PM Eric chimes in on the authorship debate. Close, but no cigar!

1:34 PM Haven't shopped at SEARS in years, but today we got a good deal on a new ride mower for me and a new washer-dryer for Becky and Liz. Whew, I'm exhausted from all this shopping.

8:40 AM Northern Seminary's new website is up and running.

8:38 AM This morning Caleb has been doing some serious truck building.

Here's the resulting Monster Truck:

Go Caleb!

8:24 AM Is Jude the author of Hebrews? William Varner of the Master's College thinks so. He's wrong, of course, but at least he isn't espousing Lukan authorship lol!

8:04 AM In his book The Table of Inwardness, Calvin Miller describes an antique wooden box in his home. It was designed to transport dynamite from the manufacturer to its place of use. On the lid were printed these words: DANGER DYNAMITE! "But the last I saw of it," Miller writes, "it was filled with common paraphernalia that could be found in any workroom."

As a Greek prof, I'm drawn to Miller's description. This might be the unfortunate picture of the weary Greek student whose passion for the language has waned. Like the box, the Greek New Testament is stored dynamite, the very Word of God, but for many of us it has become only "common paraphernalia."

Our students do not need teachers who will only disseminate information. They need to discover afresh the authority of the Book. The New Testament is filled with energy and power. However, spiritual energy is often dissipated in the midst of drudgery and confusion. We get so busy memorizing vocabulary or principal parts that the Bible becomes for us simply another analyzable datum of linguistic investigation. How terrible!

Ph.D. students, I pray that our seminar on Greek linguistics this semester will do more than illustrate the value of a scientific approach to the Greek language. In fact, I hope and pray that the text of Scripture will grab you by the shoulders and give you a hard shake. We do ourselves a serious disservice if we fail to see the powerful content of this book we call "Scripture."

Wednesday, August 18

8:57 PM Greek and Hebrew students! Are you a little rusty with your biblical languages? Why not consider auditing our LXX class this semester? We meet Wednesdays at 12:30. I can think of no better way of brushing up on your linguistic skills. Send me an email at if you're interested.

8:43 PM At our Bible study tonight at Bethel Hill, Jason led us in an excellent discussion of 2 Thess. 1:3-12. I am astonished at how clearly Paul describes the fate of the lost: "they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from His glorious might." How awful. I ask myself: How can Americans spend 96 percent of all Christian resources on just 6 percent of the world's population? If the people of this world can die for such petty causes as political independence, isn't obedience to the Great Cause the minimal response we can offer our Savior?

12:21 PM Just had for lunch the best cream of broccoli soup I've ever eaten. Thanks Liz!

11:38 AM LXX students, as you know we are translating the book of Ruth this semester. You will be blessed by watching this video from Mars Hill Church, especially the first 6 minutes or so when chapter 1 of the book is read with passion and emotion. Hear the pathos, identify with the pain of Naomi, feel the heart-beat of Ruth. What a deeply sorrowful chapter -- though the final verse holds out hope for the future. Great story. Greater God.


10:53 AM If you know me, you know that I love to see who the "Unreached People of the Day" is. (Go here for a website that has this feature.) May God open our eyes to the reality of the thousands of Sharchop of Bhutan who are still unreached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Millions of persons in Asia have not once heard the Gospel, have never held a Bible in their hands, have never heard a Christian broadcast or even met a believer. Compare this crying need overseas with the present glut of churches in America. We need to ask ourselves seriously why God has given these United States such tremendous blessings and spiritual resources. Could it be that He intends for us to repent of our getting stuffed with the Gospel while most of the world is still waiting for a first bite?

10:45 AM Jerry Rankin reflects on his 17 years as president of the International Mission Board in an essay called When Is Your Sabbath? He asks, What kind of stewards are we being with our physical energy? He writes:

God created us and knows exactly what we need to function and live as we should. Just as He made our bodies to need a daily cycle of sleep and rest, He ordained the Sabbath as a weekly cycle necessary for our wholeness and well-being. Not only does it provide physical rest and a time of withdrawal from the busy, hectic pace of life mentally and emotionally, it is necessary for spiritual renewal.

Many times I've needed to be reminded of this great truth. Thank you, brother Rankin, for helping us to see the need for a frequent and regular "Sabbath."

10:34 AM Youth pastors, you'll want to check out Dan Edelen's new series on The Youth Ministry Problem. As a former youth leader in Hawaii I've had to do a lot of rethinking the wineskins in this area. We don't like to admit it when we're wrong, but we are constantly being brainwashed with the notion that successful work with youth involves segregating them from adults. We can't imagine age-integrated ministry, so we do things our own way. How often we create more problems than the one we intended to cure. So please read what Dan has to say, and let it challenge you to become Bible-driven in all you do as a youth pastor.

9:05 AM Derek Ouellette reviews Margaret Köstenberger's Jesus and the Feminists.

8:35 AM Becky's just published Part 3 of her report on our pastors' series on New Testament eldership. I love the heart of our pastors (soon to be called "elders"?). They are committed to travel toward the heart and mind of God, and they are gently pushing us to stay on course as a church. I sense a real season of growth for Bethel Hill, and Jason and Joel are a vital part of God's work of preparing and encouraging us for the experiences that lie ahead. God wants us to persevere in prayer and be on the alert for the movement of His Spirit. I'm grateful for the strong fellowship of other believers to guide me through the challenges, joys, and uncertainties of the road ahead. I know that both of my pastors have our best interests in mind, and the best part about it all is that they depend upon God's Guidebook and not the words of men.

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love!

7:10 AM Just read this fantastic quote by my colleague Bruce Ashford:

In a nutshell, every classroom at SEBTS should be a Great Commission classroom because every page of Scripture and every locus of doctrine relates in some way to the charge given to us above. Christian Theology is the most exciting thing that a person could possibly study, and one of the exciting things about it is that it not only drives us to ministry and mission, but shapes the same ministry and mission. At its heart, theology is missional.

In just three brief sentences Bruce captures the essence of a theological education. Well done, friend! Read Bruce's essay Teaching Theology from a Great Commission Perspective. Better still, let's practice what he preaches.

6:58 AM The latest addition to our home page is called The Gospel Is Not a Sales Pitch.

Tuesday, August 17

8:34 PM Today president Akin tweeted:

Awesome day with the largest incoming class ever @ SEBTS! Their love 4 Jesus & passion 4 the nations blesses & inspires me 2 excel 4 Jesus!

Amen and thank you Lord!

8:29 PM Speaking of the Septuagint class, Bob Cole and I posted the course syllabus on Moodle today. If you're enrolled in the class, check it out. I think you'll like the concoction we've brewed up.

8:20 PM A huge Tuesday evening shout out to our acquisitions librarian Steve Frary for ordering Muraoka's A Greek-Hebrew/Aramaic Two Way Index to the Septuagint for my LXX class this fall. It'll be in the reference section in a couple of days, awaiting your perusal. Thank you, Steve!

5:59 AM Students, hope you had a fruitful summer. I'll be on campus all day today. Stop by if I can be of any help to you.

Monday, August 16

8:22 PM The debate in New York City continues, and as it does it might be helpful to remember that we are a nation of laws, including the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

All Baptists should all be proud of Thomas Helwys, founder of the first Baptist church in England, who was one of the first to call for religious liberty: 

Mens religion to God, is betwixt God and themselves; the king shall not answer for it; neither may the King be judg betwene God and man.  Let them be heretickes, Turks, Jewes, or whatsoever, it apperteynes not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.

After penning those words to the king of England, Helwys was arrested and spent the rest of his life in prison. Religious liberty is about as American as American can get. It's also a great Baptist distinctive.

Are we going to be Baptists in name only?

6:17 PM If you're interested in studying the Anabaptists (and you should be), my esteemed colleague Nathan Finn (pictured) offers some excellent bibliographical recommendations. Incidentally, one of the areas of theology that the Anabaptists got right was their view of tithing, as David Croteau shows on pages 30-31 of his book.

6:04 PM Quote of the day #2 (Bert Watts):

Christianity would be much better off if its followers actually followed Christ in loving those at odds with the gospel. This doesn’t mean, however, that Christianity should accept anything and everything under the sun. What it means is that Christians should be people of selfless love, loving those different from themselves and not boasting in their supposed “superior” morality and laboring to show people the way of Christ even when it is in opposition to other’s lifestyle and preferences.

Read On Anne Rice, Christians, and Christ.

5:54 PM Been getting some great emails. Congratulations to my Ph.D. student Michael Rudolph for passing his French exam this summer. As I told him, you never know when these languages will come in handy. During the past 10 days I spoke more French and German than I have in a very long time. My main problem was that Amharic kept trying to sneak into the conversation since I had just spent 4 weeks in Ethiopia. I would think I was saying "Ausgezeichnet" when "Betam turono" was actually coming out of mouth.

5:46 PM Our daughter Liz is playing hymns on the piano right now. Lovely. 

5:26 PM This book arrived while I was gone:

The Acknowledgements section reads in part:

Dr. Black (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) motivated me to write my first research paper on this topic for one of his seminars. His constructive criticisms were invaluable.

Mr. Croteau was one of my very best students, when he would actually show up for class, that is, lol! Seriously, David, heartiest congratulations on this prodigious work of scholarship. If I may quote your conclusion (p. 269):

The model of giving proposed in this book drives people to their knees and their relationship with Christ; the popular tithe model drives them to a calculator for deciding how much to give.

5:12 PM Okay, bats, you are done for. THIS is your new house -- not our attic. Enjoy your last day of sleeping in our belfry, you beastly brutes. Tomorrow the BAT REMOVER cometh!

1:10 PM I am deeply grieved over the push to deny the rights of Muslims in this nation to build a mosque near Ground Zero. It almost looks like the identity we assume as "Christian Americans" is as important as the Gospel message we communicate. I submit to you it's not a kingdom mentality. What is a kingdom mindset? It's an attitude of gentleness that affirms the values and dignity of others, even those who are different from us. It's an attitude of humility that considers others as better than one's self. It's service without any strings attached. It's washing the feet of our enemies. It's service motivated solely by the love of Christ.

Christians with this attitude towards their Muslim neighbors are the most powerful weapon in God's arsenal. It's an attitude, by the way, whose origins are supernatural. How can we live this kind of life? I believe it's only possible through continuous self-examination and confession. We need to see where we need to be, repent, and get up and go. For my wife and me, it is our continual prayer every day for God to save the souls of the lost. May God teach us that all the blessings we enjoy as Americans are only temporary and conditional. May He help us to see how late the hour is and how urgent it is that we respond with obedience to His radical call to love even our perceived enemies.

10:49 AM Alan Knox continues to post thought-provoking pieces. His latest deals with church covenants. The money quote:

If we use a “church covenant” to include some believers and exclude others, then we are dividing the body of Christ and making distinctions that only God can make. We are trying to choose who to love and who to serve. (Of course, this makes life much easier, but it doesn’t make it a life that lived according to the gospel.)

9:42 AM I've invited Becky out to lunch at the local Chinese restaurant. Got lots to catch up on. Grateful for her partnership in the Gospel.

9:37 AM Just checked my class lists at the seminary website. Can't with to meet our new students. It all kicks off tomorrow with orientation. Despite the fact that this is my 34th year of teaching, I am as excited as when I first entered the classroom as a Greek instructor at Biola back in 1976.

9:31 AM Quote of the day (Art Mealer):

The NT gathering of saints is not preaching dominated nor worship music dominated--both of which require an elite person or subgroup --but each member contributing, edifying ONE ANOTHER.

See the comments section to this fine post by Eric Carpenter.

9:12 AM Speaking of the local church, my own congregation (Bethel Hill Baptist Church) is being treated to a great series of messages on eldership in the local church. You won't want to miss it. Becky has published her reports on the series: Part 1 and Part 2. More to come.

9:08 AM Yesterday J. D. Greear tweeted:

Seminary training is only helpful when in conjunction w/activity in local church.

Couldn't agree more.

9:03 AM I'm BACK! How do I feel? Not bad for an old guy. This was one of the most difficult trips I have ever made but also one of the most important for a variety of reasons. I'll have some general comments later. One picture I thought you'd enjoy:

And this was a cool day. 

Yours in the Great Cause,


Wednesday, August 4

7:28 AM There are plenty of lost sheep out there, and we're sent to find them. "Go everywhere and tell everyone" is our marching order. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to travel to the Middle East during the next 10 days. Thanks be to God -- the mission is big enough for all of us to be involved regardless of our culture or condition. I go as an aging 58-year old American who is wealthy simply because he lives in the U.S. and has a job. I am going to a place of great economic hardship and spiritual darkness. The Jesus who calls us to radical abandonment startles me. He did so when I was a young man and He continues to do so today. The Jesus story never changes. The Gospel creates a new society with its own set of deviant values. Jesus' call to radical discipleship should energize all of our commitments. I'm so grateful for this Savior who replaces the tedious machinery of religion with the new Torah of love. By doing this He earned the Roman electric chair. Even then He still loved and forgave His enemies. I find myself drawn to this Jesus again and again, don't you? This latest trip stirs my spirit again. My debts are heavy, but I especially want to acknowledge all those who pray for and with me. May this trip bear much fruit for Jesus' glory, and may that fruit remain. I am truly blessed to have your support. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 3

8:12 PM Micah just ran downstairs to kiss his Papa B goodnight. Precious.

8:08 PM Nice serendipity: Becky made stuffed peppers for dinner tonight. She knows it's one of my favorites. What a great last supper before I leave tomorrow.

3:48 PM Porch update:

1) Nate cuts the excess from the porch flooring.

2) Building the railings.

3) Not too bad looking, huh?

4) Caleb was a HUGE blessing to us today. Thank you, young man, for being such a willing and pleasant helper today. Your Papa B really appreciates that and loves you!

12:22 PM Where DID we put that skill saw?

12:18 PM I'm jazzed. Just accepted an invitation to speak at a Korean students conference next year. After all, I'm half Korean. I must be; I've eaten Kaegogi!

11:04 AM Read Alvin Reid's latest ebook called With: A Guide to Informal Mentoring. We have a writing faculty.

9:55 AM Feeling good. I just met a July 31st book publishing deadline. Glory to God.

9:53 AM My colleague Nathan Finn says you should check out missions at SEBTS. He's right, of course!

9:48 AM Wheaton College's Karen Jobes rightly receives kudos here for her work on 1 Peter.

9:44 AM How (not) to be an American Missionary in Scotland remains one of my all-time favorite essays on the web. Read it and you'll see why.

9:36 AM Quote of the day (Samuel Zwemer):

The great Pioneer Missionaries all had 'inverted homesickness' this passion to call that country their home which was most in need of the Gospel. In this passion all other passions died; before this vision all other visions faded; this call drowned all other voices. They were the pioneers of the Kingdom, the forelopers of God, eager to cross the border-marches and discover new lands or win new-empires.

9:30 AM Jeff Lacine has begun an excellent series called The Local Church: Training You for Ministry. Jeff writes:

It is God's will that you be active in life-long ministry, in your church. You are called to edify, build up and encourage a local body of believers by utilizing your own unique giftings by the power of the Spirit. How are you to be equipped for this ministry? Through the ministry of the local church itself!

Preach it, brother!

9:25 AM Alan Knox continues his series of post-trip reports, this time focusing on his teaching ministry in Alaba. Check it out here. Alan admits that he "chickened out." Can you guess about what?

9:15 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Turning a Deaf Ear to the "American Way."

Monday, August 2

4:44 PM More food for thought from Arthur Sido: 

The church is not intended to operate in a system where a few men minister to the rest of the local body. It is a system where mature men equip other Christians to do the work of ministry and presumably where those equipped Christians mature and in turn equip others. That is how the church grew in the earliest days and it is how it should be working now.

Read Even more on pastoral burnout.

4:40 PM Had a great work day today. Downstairs porch flooring is finished. Tomorrow: Install new railings. A few pix from today's excitement:

12:55 PM Wow, this is truly a sad story: America's oldest family farm for sale.  I can really relate with the pathos of this tale. We purchased our 123-acre farm here in southern Virginia from an elderly couple whose desire was that the farm stay in the family. However, none of their 4 children was interested in it. When we bought it we did our best to assure mom and dad owners that we would do what we could to maintain it as a farm. It has turned out to be a wonderful experience for us.

The following lines from the story touched me:

As he trudges along rows of tall, ripe corn, Tuttle recalls what his grandfather once told him. "He said be careful where you set foot on this farm because that footprint is going to be there for the rest of time, you're gonna leave your mark on this farm," he says.

How true. Already I am able to look back fondly on the fencing we've put up or the barns we built by hand or the fields we've developed or the herds we've tended. Long after I'm dead and gone I hope one of my children's children will reflect on their grandfather's legacy. I know I am being purely sentimental, but the story of Mr. Tuttle strikes home. There is something beautiful about working the land, about working with one's own hands to build things that will last for perhaps more than a single generation, even about the work I'm doing today -- building our front porches for the third time. What memory builders. What companionship. What work -- hard work, but GOOD work.

Mr. Tuttle, what can I say except that I wish you well. I hear what you're saying; I feel your pain; and I share your passion for the land.

12:37 PM On lunch break. We're nailin' that front porch! Pix later.

8:44 AM Quote of the day (John Stott):

We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.

8:36 AM Hey students, plan NOW to attend our semi-annual

Student Day

here at Rosewood Farm. This semester we will meet on Saturday, October 16, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. I'll provide directions and details later, but for now, be sure to cancel your surgeries and postpone your nervous breakdowns and MARK that date on your calendars. All of my students and their families are welcome to attend.

7:40 AM I heard many good reports about the service at Bethel Hill yesterday morning. Pastor Jason was teaching on the subject of plural eldership in the early church. I sense an eagerness on the part of our congregation to follow scriptural patterns of doing church, and I am delighted with that. This does not mean that we must live in a perpetual ferment of renewing the wineskins. Indeed, only the Spirit of God can give us perception beyond what we are traditionally used to in our churches. Sometimes I've seen paper perfect churches with a form of godliness denying the power thereof. There is no greater hindrance to genuine spiritual growth than a superficial knowledge of Scripture. We then settle for the externals -- drawing near to God with our mouths and honoring Him with our lips and yet being strangers to His love and compassion. We end up, as Alan Knox so beautifully put it in a recent blog post, loving our "movement" more than the "Mover."

What are the marks of a New Testament church? Surely one of them is plural leadership. Jesus Christ never entrusted leadership of His church to a single individual. But the marks of the Lord Jesus are not limited to matters of church polity. Prayer and the Word and godliness -- these should be present as well. Paul gloried in being lightly attached to the ephemeral concerns of this world. For him, the kingdom consisted of love and good deeds in the cause of the Gospel, and I humbled and grateful to belong to a church family that majors on the majors even as we desire to take giant steps forward in our ecclesiology. The wineskins are important. But the wine is where it's at.

One more thought: Jason asked everyone to read the Bible for themselves, ponder what it teaches, and pray for the Holy Spirit to be our only Teacher. I say "Amen" to this approach. In fact, I think that if we really believed that the Spirit of Jesus could provide consensus, we would dispense altogether with that silly little book about Rules of Order and avail ourselves of God's Spirit of Order instead.

7:23 AM Received an email this morning from someone wondering why I have written so little about the Obama administration when I used to expose the failings of the former administration with some regularity. Here is my response:

Dear _______,

I have written very little these days on the kingdoms of this earth, and when I do, it is usually in my blog posts (rather than in my essays). My focus is becoming more and more on the Kingdom that matters. You might read my latest books The Jesus Paradigm and Christian Archy to trace this development in my thinking.

Warmest regards,


I hope the inquirer will indeed take the time to peruse my latest works inasmuch as a paradigm shift of significant proportions has taken place in my thinking of late. I urge all of us to be about kingdom work as the Lord Jesus opens doors of service. Time is too short to spend time on much of anything else, including politics.

Sunday, August 1

9:20 PM Front porches: You are going to be repaired, starting tomorrow. I'm warning you.

9:14 PM Took gobs of pictures today but this one is by far the best of the best. It shows Matthea Glass with two of her four beautiful children.

That's right. I said "four." Jon and Matthea announced this morning at Cresset that their quiver will receive another arrow next March. So THAT explains the nausea Matthea felt on their return flight. Congratulations you guys!

As an aside, after the service we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Glass's and then celebrated Dolores and Ed Johnson's 40th wedding anniversary in Roxboro. Here is the lovely couple exchanging bites of their anniversary cake.

I told Becky I feel like a newlywed in comparison (we've been married "only" 33 years). Heartiest felicitations to the blissful couple. May God grant you many more years of serving Him together.

8:55 PM Why older commentaries are still worth reading.

9:12 AM Off to Cresset Baptist and then lunch with some missions-minded people from the church.

9:06 AM This is too good to pass on: Wow. That's a long sentence. Reminds me of **Paul's** periodic prose in Heb. 1:1-4 lol!

8:10 AM I am a "no one":

We do not know who wrote Hebrews. Paul has been suggested as the author, but this is highly unlikely. Vocabulary and stylistic differences abound, and although these cannot by themselves disprove Paul's authorship, they do make it a less plausible alternative. More significant is the absence of a self-identifying greeting at the beginning of the letter, as it was Paul's normal practice to include such a greeting. Above all, it is almost impossible to believe that Paul would identify himself as one of those who heard the gospel, not from the Lord, but from "those who heard him" (2:3; cf. Gal. 1:11-12). Today virtually no one defends Pauline authorship.


8:02 AM Congratulations to Don Carson on his new book Collected Writings on Scripture. Writes Robert Yarbrough:

Carson's voice has been among the most forthright, consistent, rigorous, faithful, and compelling in serving the vital divine end of testifying to Scripture's veracity. This book guides readers to the priceless destination of confidence in God's Word through refutation of its critics and commendation of its truth.

For me, John 3:16 depends on 2 Tim. 3:16. Everything hinges on inspiration. I believe every word of Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. I am not ashamed of such a simple faith. In fact, it drives everything I do and say in the classroom. Thank you, Don, for your faithfulness to Scripture and for defending its inspiration with both grace and power.

7:46 AM Brother Ben Durand's first post-trip report is now up: Wonder Working Weakness. Ben has a way with words. He writes:

Jesus’ power was evident in the lives of other team members as well.  Jesus’ grace helped one team member overcome a stubborn nausea from New York to Addis.  Jesus’ grace helped another team member endure  sleep apnea, another endured an allergic reaction to a medication, another team member suffered with debilitating headaches.  All of us had things that terrified us: one was afraid of heights, one is claustrophobic, some of us, I’m sure, were afraid of the unknown, some afraid of the unseen, some afraid of the uncertain. Amid all of the fears and weaknesses we were carried along by the grace of God.   

Here's Ben passing out Bibles in the village of Benaye:

And here he is setting up the Jesus Film in Konso. Many villagers came to Christ that night and are now being discipled by the church there.

Ben, you were a great asset to our team. Please keep these reports coming!

7:11 AM Hebrews students, please take note: The syllabus that I posted online asks you to purchase George Guthrie's commentary on Hebrews in the "Life Application Commentary Series." It should read "NIV Application Commentary Series" (published by Zondervan). As should be obvious, the focus of our class will not only be on exegesis but on living a life of faith by applying the truth of Hebrews to our everyday struggles.

My thanks to SEBTS student C. K. for pointing out the error to me by email.

6:51 AM Follow-up: Here's the link to Hendrickson's offer.

6:44 AM Speaking of Karl Barth, I received the following email this morning. Something worth looking into, for sure! 

Welcome back!
Your quote from Barth reminded me: Looking at the new Christian Book Distributors catalog (August/September, 2010), it shows, on the front page, that Hendrickson Publishers (that good reprint house) has, apparently, been granted the North American hardback reprint rights to Barth's entire 14-volume Church Dogmatics.  List price is $995 but they've got the set on sale for only $100 - cheep!
I've forgotten who Barth's European publisher was (T&T Clark?), but I guess they've decided that the Dogmatics is ancient enough now that they're not interested in keeping it in print themselves.
Well, anyway, for anyone who might be interested, it can now be bought - for the first time in living memory - without having to sell your car first!  You might want to alert your blog readers - such a deal!
Again, welcome home!

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