Saturday, September 20
10:48 AM Even if I'm not 100 percent, farm work goes on. Just finished bush hogging the edges of the fields in preparation for mowing, raking, and baling. The weather could not have been better. Right now it's 69 degrees and sunny. We've got several clear days ahead too. God has been so good to us Piedmonters this year.
Gotta go. One of my kids is coming over to visit dear old dad.
9:08 AM Nice note here:
9:04 AM Just bought 2 tickets for the North Carolina Symphony's performance of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto in Raleigh on Oct. 24. Love the solid chords played at the opening by the pianist. Love classical music period!
8:40 AM Hey friends! I hope you're enjoying your weekend so far. Mine is going great, though in a fallen world things won't always be wonderful. My left ear is still aching (it wasn't a good idea to fly with a head cold) and I'm still coughing, but I'm improving slowly but surely. Today I'm trying to wash the linens and towels left behind by our retreatants and get the fields ready for haying. Yes, the Lord is granting us a second cutting, and we are thrilled!
But moving on....
This morning I was reading some of the "Christian agrarianism" blogs and stumbled across a post that basically called for everyone to leave their jobs and begin farming. After all, doesn't Paul tell us to "work with our own hands"? Think about it. I run a 123-acre farm but I'm not an "agrarian" because I don't see this is as the only legitimate Christian lifestyle. I enjoy it. It's healthy. It's hard! All well and good. But I am not an advocate, if you know what I mean.
Of course, all of this is to miss the larger point, the elephant in the room if you will. You see, regardless of the work we do or where we live, we forget that the main purpose of work has nothing to do with us. Note what Paul says in Eph. 4:28:
That's The Message. The NLT puts it this way:
Sadly, instead of confessing that the real purpose of our work is to help others, we idealize a particular lifestyle that enables us to be "fulfilled" or to home school or to never retire, etc. I suspect that even the Christian agrarian movement has been influenced by narcissism and greed every bit as much as capitalism. Related to this, I think we've relinquished the care of the needy to the government for so long that most Americans can't picture themselves as doing anything to help them or taking responsibility for the social needs all around them. Due to this faulty way of thinking, we sadly imagine that our greatest duty in life to work the soil and we tend to avoid the messy realities of poverty and need all around us.
I know this issue is terribly complex and ambiguous, but I think it's clear that once we "take a stand" for any kind of "Christian" lifestyle we miss the point. We become Christian archists (and the "archy"/"rule" we are defending can be any number of things) instead of anarchists whose only concern is with expanding the kingdom of God. (See my book Christian Archy.)
The real divisive issue is not the way we earn our living but the way we polarize around our belief systems to the neglect of what is of most importance. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven our concerned isn't to criticize what Caesar does so poorly or even to eschew the "American Dream" of bigger and better, but to try and understand the needs all around us (both in our families and in our world) and do whatever we can to help others through making radical sacrifices with our own earthly goods. If we would learn to do this, then the glory would go to God (where it belongs) instead of to us (and our paltry little "movements"), and the kingdom would advance. And we would keep the kingdom holy. Now, I'll admit that I'm not great at doing this. But I'm trying. When I see genuine unmet needs in my family, if I can meet them (and if it is right for me to do so), I will try and meet them. Ditto for the work of the Lord in other nations. You see, the cross of Christ revolts against all that is self-centered. But you'll have to work against going with the flow of our culture.
"Give generously to others in need." This is where Christianity really shines. But it means that we will have to give up our platforms and get off our soap boxes and put our arms around this confused and dangerous world. I'm proud to know several Christians who live this way. They are a model of the kingdom for me and others. To them I say, thank you!
Friday, September 19
7:40 PM A couple of highlights from my day:
1) Stopped by Bethel Hill and left some roses for my rose:
2) Spent the early evening on the front porch re-reading this book by Paul Himes. (Full disclosure: I was Paul's Ph.D. supervisor and wrote the foreword.)
Paul's concluding chapter is a doozy. In fact, this is one of the most clear-thinking books I have read in a long time. Under "Theological and Practical Implications," the author makes several important points. Perhaps the most important is that "this world is not my home." That fact, says Paul, is overlooked because we American Christians take one of two incorrect theological approaches. First, while we claim that "our citizenship is in heaven," we forget that we do indeed have an earthly home as well, namely, the church, the body of Christ. "Consequently," writes Paul, "there is no excuse for a 'holy' withdrawal from engagement with the world." In the second place, Paul says that we American Christians are all too eager to set up a rival kingdom in place of kingdom of heaven in the form of the United States of America. The result is that "...nationalism and politics are inadvertently set up as idols against the God who alone deserves the praise of the Church." This is so right on. The Gospel that Jesus preached isn't one that boasts about American freedoms but instead is one that turns the other cheek and in which there is no difference between Jew or Greek or (by implication) American and Chinese. This is a corrective that is needed more today than ever, and Paul is correct to emphasize it. I am not sure that we Christians in America get it. We tend to elevate political power to the level of a theological virtue. Paul Himes clearly shows how this is misguided as he debunks the myth of Christian America.
This is a very thought-provoking book, as I said. I highly recommend it (again!).
3) Finally, my thanks to everyone who played our little "guess the scholar" game. The answer, of course, is A. T. Robertson. And the winner is:
John of Greenfield, Indiana
Congratulations, brother. I'll get the book in the mail next week.
5:22 PM Let's see... what does this double delta stand for?
Nope! How 'bout Rob Plummer's Daily Dose of Greek! Greek students, take note! Especially if you are using the grammar written by yours truly!
11:48 AM Hello bloggers,
Sorry for posting so much about me of late. I think we all need a break from that, don't you? So, to change the subject ....
The journal New Testament Studies has kindly been allowing access to several of its essays for free. I have been reading Graham Stanton's "The Fourfold Gospel" with great interest, since I am a proponent of the "Fourfold Gospel Hypothesis." (See my Why Four Gospels?) The essay, of course, assumes a commitment to the Markan Priority Hypothesis.
If I may be permitted a few random reflections ...
I deeply appreciate Stanton's tireless work in Gospel studies. However, as I have tried to show in my book, to understand how the four Gospels got to us, one needs to forget virtually everything that has been previously accepted as fact about the Synoptic Problem. The Fourfold Gospel Hypothesis does not allow readers to acquire a new idea that can be applied to their existing solution to the problem. Simply put, students of the Gospels cannot hold to the traditional solution of Markan Priority and accept the concepts that are put forth in Why Four Gospels? Let me elucidate:
1) The Markan Priority Hypothesis -- which is the "affirmed" interpretation of history based almost exclusively on the internal evidence -- is fatally flawed when one takes into account the writings of the earliest Christian fathers. Regrettably, any theory of New Testament interpretation, once it is established, becomes nearly impossible to dislodge, even if new (and seemingly contradictory) evidence is produced. Any new interpretation of the events, if it is to be accepted, must be built around the old consensus and incorporated into it, even at the expense of logic. An example of this is the Farrer Hypothesis, which dispenses with "Q" while insisting on Markan Priority. Indeed, so embedded is the popular view in the public consciousness that it is nearly impossible to dismiss it. The story is "safe," and the matter is not really open to debate. In my opinion, New Testament scholarship has become so preoccupied with maintaining the status quo that it has neglected to explore the external evidence. Moreover, I think there is insufficient curiosity, generally speaking, as to why the Gospels were written in the first place.
2) As I have noted, the accepted version of the story focuses on the internal evidence. If, however, one were to seriously investigate the external evidence -- the evidence provided by the patristic testimony -- it would become evident that current explanations are incongruent and incompatible with the opinions of the fathers. Why, for example, did Clement of Alexandria insist that the Gospels "containing the genealogies" (i.e., Matthew and Luke) were written first? And why is Matthew always listed as the first Gospel? Why is Mark's Gospel consistently described not as an independent work of Mark but as a record of the words of the apostle Peter? In light of this evidence, it seems illogical to believe that our earliest Gospel was written by Mark, a non-eyewitness.
3) Ensconced deeply in the affirmed version is the notion that Mark contains inferior grammar to that found in Matthew and Luke. Some Markan priorists have even gone so far as to claim that Mark contains "errors" that were subsequently "corrected" by Matthew and Luke. Yet each of these supposed "errors" allows for a plausible alternative explanation that does not require Markan priority (as I have attempted to show here). If the New Testament student desires a complete understanding of the factors that led up to the writing of the Gospels, the internal evidence alone simply does not provide it. The external evidence keeps getting in the way of the affirmed version.
4) Again, why are the fathers so adamant that Matthew came first? Why did Clement aver that Matthew and Luke came before Mark? Why do the fathers go to great lengths to show that Mark never set out to write a Gospel but simply recorded the words of Peter as they were spoken before his Roman audience? What has prevented proponents of the affirmed view from asking these vital questions? The answer, in my opinion, is that the consensus view is falsely shackled to a misguided preference for the internal evidence. In short (and this post is already way too long!), as long as the patristic testimony is ignored, the internal evidence, which by its very nature is subjective, will continue to reign supreme. And as long as the traditional view is anchored in the minds of scholars, the solution will remind hidden.
So what is the simplest explanation of the facts -- all the facts? To discover that, one must be bold. The missing pieces of the puzzle must be included if we are to assemble the whole puzzle rather than leaving them out because they do not seem to fit. Taking the external evidence into account will have serious repercussions. The answer to the Synoptic Problem will remain incomplete until a central piece of the puzzle is in place.
Think about it :-)
10:45 AM New Festschrift in honor of Keith Elliot: Texts and Traditions. Just had our seminary library order it. (At $171.00 it's a bit expensive for us average Joes.) The contents follow. I am eager to see the essay on "St." Mark's style.
10:28 AM "Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life."
Good word from the apostle James (James 1:19, The Message). In recent days, God has been doing things in my life that I don't understand. Sickness. Disappointment with people I trusted. Cancellation of ministry trips. When God's actions -- or the actions of others -- do not conform to what I think is "justice," I am tempted to act in the flesh. But God is perfect in wisdom, power, and love. James says we must trust Him to "landscape" our lives. And so we must be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." It is my hope that as you go through the day you might remember that God can do what you can't do. Seek the lessons God wants to teach you today. Pray repeatedly, earnestly, even for those who have let you down. God is your Father still and He has a good plan for your life. Absolutely nothing can get in His way if we will only submit to His way.
Thursday, September 18
7:14 PM Just added this portrait to the mantle in my library at Bradford Hall. A good friend gave it to me.
This scholar was born not far from where I live near Chatham, VA. He attended Wake Forest College prior to opening the Civil War. My favorite quote of his? "The greatest proof that the Bible is inspired is the fact that it has withstood so much bad preaching."
And his name?
Send me the correct answer (along with your mailing address) and I will add your name to the pool of contestants. I'll announce the winner this time tomorrow. The prize is a copy of my It's All Greek to Me: Confessions of an Unlikely Academic.
5:42 PM My little buddy Sheba getting groomed.
5:22 PM Why we need to lift both hands up to God when praying:
Read What is in a name? I'm glad I did.
4:04 PM Along with my iPhone 5s I bought a recharger that also functions as a phone case. It is pretty nifty. I've been talking on the phone all day, so when the "20 percentage battery life left" message popped up on the screen I immediately flipped the little switch on the back of the phone and now it is recharging. Oddly, every time I do this I notice something strange. The iPhone heats up. You can literately feel it get hot in your hands. It's an odd feeling, let me tell you.
Right now I am allowing my spiritual batteries to be recharged. And slowly, very slowly, the life is returning to my weary soul. I'm beginning to warm up again to life, to the responsibilities I face, to the challenges I must conquer. It's a good feeling. No, it's not happening all at once. No legion of angels has intervened. Even the apostle Paul (whose handkerchief healed others) had to become weaker in himself until the divine power (and heat) was seen in his life. He slogged through life with his "thorn" (or, better, "stake") in the flesh. That was simply God's will for him.
What is your thorn in the flesh? How are you handling it? Know where to find help? There was once an old rugged cross, on a hill far away, and it freely offered to anyone who would receive it everything the Father promised -- forgiveness, renewal, strength, passion, power. I'm not the least bashful telling you that I have grown weary in well doing. But two things are holding me up: the hands of God. "Oh God, all my life I have proclaimed Your marvelous works, and now that I am old and my hairs are gray ... I will sing songs to You, because You have redeemed me" (Psalm 71:17-24). I am meeting God. Alone. That is the energizing principle of everything we do. I am in my "closet" (Matt 6:6), apart from the eyes and ears of others, alone with my Savior and Best Friend. My Heavenly Father knows my needs. It is my faith in Him that sustains me.
As God has promised, His word always proves true.
11:02 AM I am feeling worse today so I have cancelled my trip to Guyana. I need rest and replenishment. A quick nap isn't enough. A daughter of mine reminded me today of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. What a lesson! What an encouragement! "The spirit needs to be fed, and the body needs feeding also. Do not forget these matters; it may seem to some people that I ought not to mention such small things as food and rest, but these may be the very first elements in really helping a poor depressed servant of God." So said Spurgeon. This is a profound lesson that I have been all too slow to learn. So I will rest up and be ready to teach my classes next week and for my trip to Asia on Oct. 2. I'm thankful for your prayers -- and for the Scriptures: "Don't worry over anything whatsoever. Instead, tell God every little detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer. Then the peace of God that transcends human understanding will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus."
Wednesday, September 17
5:23 PM Last Sunday someone noticed that I was still wearing my wedding ring. They even commented on it to me. I hadn't realized that people were actually checking out my left hand to discover whether I was ringed or not! I said that, yes I was, and that my heart is still held in a vice-like grip by my bride. I recalled that in the Garden the two genders were already joined together and had to be separated by the Lord in a surgical procedure. Death is that surgery for a widower, but the loss is more than a rib, way more.
Anyway, in case you were wondering, I'm still ringed.
12:04 PM "I do not want to act in the flesh. I want the church to act in the Spirit." These are the words of "Brother Victor," a Christian on the ground in Iraq. Please listen to the interview with him called The Trauma Is Indescribable. The suffering has been going on for centuries. The atrocities are barbaric. Christians have never been accepted in the Middle East, merely tolerated. What can you do?
1) Pray. This is what Brother Victor calls for more than anything else. When we look at the life of Christ, we see how important He considered prayer. Pray that the God who designed the universe will intervene and bless. Let us wait upon God for His grace and mercy to help in time of great need.
2) Surrender. Do not be surprised when suffering strikes you. Paul says that suffering is as much a gift of God as is faith (Phil. 1:29). I believe we are on the verge of the time when genuine Christianity will be considered a cult in America. Be prepared to accept suffering as a normal way of life. Be willing to enter the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. Don't listen to the lies of American churchianity. Our culture, even our church culture, is geared to avoid sacrifice and suffering. But that's not the way real life works.
3) Give. Don't just talk about the trauma in the Middle East. Here's my challenge to you. Live on less if that's what it takes for you to give and to give sacrificially so that your brothers and sisters might have food, clothing, and shelter. I recommend the Baptist Global Response. But don't just talk about the problem. Don't just link to the above interview. Don't just pray about the situation. May I ask you, dear reader, to prayerfully consider giving at least $10.00 to this need? You see, love is the only force that can draw us to reality in the handling of our finances. Let love rule!
10:50 AM Just received this awesome email from a dear friend:
I wrote back (in part):
Barry Manilow's Could It Be Magic is so good it hurts. It came out a year before Becky and I got married.
I watched this YouTube on my anniversary. Becky was my best friend. "You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes" (Song of Songs).
Lady take me
In 1976 God opened my side, placed a woman there, permanently, intrusively, achingly. We cleaved to each other the way flesh cleaves to the bone. Out of the world's billions she was the one He had chosen. Thus began a rich adventure ended only by death. Loved she was, imperfectly but deeply. Missed she is, deeply and achingly. Regrets? Many. But the greatest is not telling her daily -- many times a day -- how much I loved her.
Maybe it's time you called your wife?
9:50 AM Hey thoughtful readers! I've got a new book for you. If you're looking for a great discussion of the ever-debated subject of foreknowledge, then this is the book for you.
It is not a philosophical work. It is rooted in the actual situation facing the readers of 1 Peter. I think Paul has done a masterful job, and my opinion is completely unbiased! As my SEBTS colleague Dave Beck puts it:
Also, I think we owe good deal of gratitude to Wipf & Stock for publishing the work of freshly-minted Ph.D. students. This is Paul's first entrée into the wild and wooly world of publishing but I am quite certain it will not be his last.
9:22 AM As a follower of Jesus, an attitude of gratitude is to be an everyday thing, but today I am thinking deeply of all the things I am thankful for.
1) I'm thankful for your prayers. Whatever I have is nasty, but I'm already feeling a bit better. I need to catch a flight to Guyana on Friday so your continued intercession would be appreciated.
2) I'm thankful for a very good night's rest. I slept 10 hours straight until I was awakened by the dogs barking loudly. I got up to see what the fuss was all about and saw the donkeys grazing happily in my front yard. Recalling James 1:14 ("Each person is tempted when he is lured by his own desires"), I got a bucket of oats and the donks were back in their pasture in no time. Five minutes of fence-mending and I think we're good to go -- until the next prison breakout.
3) I'm thankful for family. Here's my grandson Bradford celebrating his third birthday at the family's favorite Mexican haunt.
Nate sent me this pic yesterday. Sweet!
4) I find that I am especially grateful for friends who constantly write and check up on me. These guys are the greatest.
Oh God, forgive me when I whine. I am as blessed as any other man on earth. Yes, Becky is gone, but I can think of much harder ways to lose a spouse than to cancer. Today I am resting up and working a little bit on a Festschrift article that's due on Nov. 1. It's on the origins of the Gospels. I want to give a quick summary of the external evidence. It's not easy to do, I'm finding.
The past 7 days have been a time of triumph as well as some pretty rough stuff. So I give thanks for the good and the not-so-good and touch the words of Scripture and pray for the Lord who heals to do His work.
Tuesday, September 16
11:42 AM Watch this beautiful time-lapse video of the aging process. The idea that we have all the time in the world to serve Jesus is a myth. We can't give God "a little bit" of our time to keep Him happy. If we are serious about following the way of Jesus, we have to submit each day to Him as if it were our last.
9:45 AM Hello blogging friends,
Well, here I am sitting at the computer again, this time sipping hot tea and nursing a cold I picked up in California. I want to begin by saying that speaking at 412 Church was one of the highlights of my teaching ministry this year. Never have I met people more hungry for simple Bible study. And this in a denomination often called out for its anti-intellectualism. Hogwash. Each Sunday service was packed. I guess I spoke to upwards of 1,500 people this weekend. I had very much looked forward to getting reconnected with my friend Don Stewart and meeting Joe Holden of Veritas Seminary. My talks focused on the reliability of the New Testament and Jesus' call to follow Him in radical obedience and love, expressed both through correct doctrine and scandalous acts of Calvary-love. American exceptionalism runs deep in evangelicalism, so I also felt I needed to address the futility of politics. Jesus Christ is the only answer to the malaise that afflicts our homes, families, and societies. Well, it was a great time. I've posted some pix below. I'm told the church will have DVDs made of the conference in case you're interested.
You would think that a guy who lived in California for 27 years could have adjusted to the heat, but I wasn't used to experiencing temps in the 100s each day. My main problem was going from the heat into frigid, climate-controlled indoor venues. I guess the old bod couldn't take it, hence this bout with pneumonia. (Just kidding. But whatever I've got is nasty.) I have nothing but the greatest envy for people who can sleep on airplanes, but I guess that's just not my gift. Also, Thursday I was hit by an emotional firestorm as I remembered my wedding day. I hope it's okay if I tell you what I was feeling. It felt like the night was black. It felt like the dawn would never come. It felt like the clouds were veiling the sky. I was in the Dust Bowl and the pain of loss was overwhelming. I told the folks at church, "Thursday was the second most difficult day of my life." And it was. Again and again that day I had to relinquish control. You know, self-pity can ruin a life. Grief reduces all decisions to one, one simple decision that must be made over and over again. When God brought Becky and me together it was a true joining of two unrelated people through a solemn exchange of promises. But that covenant we agreed to so many years ago was but a foreshadowing of the greater covenant that God made with me by bleeding for me on the cross, enabling me to become His own blood relative in a relationship that, unlike marriage, will last forever. On Thursday past, there was an overwhelming reality of loss to come to grips with again, and it is little wonder that people try to evade it through drink or busy-ness. Yet even while I was struggling with the absence of Becky, I had a sense that Jesus was every bit as involved with me as a wife could be, only more so. Last Thursday on this blog I gave voice to my memories of Becky, and don't be too surprised if I continue to do that from time to time. I'm creating a biography for my children and grandchildren, and it's not just stories. It's who she was as a person. It's about the one person in my life who, apart from God Himself, was the impetus for me becoming more conformed to the image of Christ. Letting go doesn't mean you don't remember the past. It's just a shift in focus, from presence to precious memory. And how painful those memories can be! I had a rich life because of her. I'm still learning how to say goodbye so that I can eventually move on to another hello. I'm still learning how to mourn in a way that doesn't interfere with my new lifestyle. Alas, so much to learn!
Today, I'm just tired. Last night I never worked harder at sleep or failed more miserably to attain it. And now, here I am. Blogging about Becky when I should be in bed. For now, I'm content with sipping tea and resting in the love of my Savior -- and hers. As for Becky, it's time to say goodbye to her again. I'll see her on the other side. I know that. And that's the truth that will fill me again each time I pour myself out.
Thursday, September 11
11:50 AM ¿Tiene usted el deseo de aprender el Griego del Nuevo Testamento? ¡Si es así, estamos contentos de anunciar la publicación de la gramática introductoria de David Alan Black!
Read more here.
10:12 AM Today, as you know, marks my 38th wedding anniversary. Where to start? How about with a little reminiscing. Let's go back a year, to the last time Becky and I celebrated "our big day" together. Never was a couple treated more royally. All day long, Becky and I had been excommunicated from the south side of the house while the conspirators carried out their carefully planned plot. This included seeing that the Waldorf Astoria cake (our favorite) was ready to go. Eventually the dinner bell was rung and out came the honeymooners. We were both in a goofy mood, so we began singing the "Wedding March."
All of a sudden our piano picked up the tune. Does Karen play the piano? I asked myself. No, they had connived our church pianist into providing live piano music during our meal. Leanna played all of our favorite hymns and worship songs.
It was the perfect ambiance for our evening. Here you see our first course. Karen and Becky's mom (who had been visiting with us) had thought of everything. Recalling our days living in Switzerland, they started us off with delicious fondue and fresh, crispy vegetables with a side of humus.
The only thing lacking in the fondue was the wine but, hey, we're Baptists. The main course consisted of roasted veal and artichokes tenderly wrapped in bacon, and the dessert, as I said, was our favorite cake. Becky and I just talked and reminisced and read the cards that had been laid on the table. We had shared life together and we knew that soon we would share death. I was never more at peace, and yet I was never more scared than that night. Just when I thought they had thought of everything, out comes a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from Hawaii.
Becky and I immediately went into reenacting mode. I offered her a nut (just as I did 40 years ago in the cafeteria line at Biola when we first met), and she accepted it, saying to me, as she said to herself those many years ago, "You don't know this, but you've just met your future wife."
My favorite moment of the evening was inviting Becky to take a drive with me. She had just enough energy to make it down the front steps, so off we went into the sunset, as they say.
Then it happened. Suddenly I could smell it all over again. It smelled like youth, and it smelled like innocence. All of a sudden we were young again, and life seemed like an endless highway.
It's hard for me to explain how looking at this picture brings unspeakable joy to my heart even as it is breaking it. We were young, and then we were old. It seemed to happen just that fast. (Take note, you younger couples.) Before you knew it we were back home. We got Becky reconnected to her oxygen supply and she fell fast asleep, exhausted by the day's events. We didn't know it then, but she had less than two months to live. We settled into an easy rhythm, preparing the best we could for the inevitable. Many friends emailed us words of encouragement. We knew we were very nearly there. And then she was gone.
And so here I am, on one of the most surreal days of my life, sitting at the computer trying to tell complete strangers what I'm feeling. I still can't get used to Becky's death but I have accepted it. My mind is flooded with images. It's as though I can't stop talking to her, telling her how beautiful she is, how much she means to me. I say to myself, You should be adjusted by now, but death is a terrain so vast and rugged that you never adjust completely to the loss. It's been said that it takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months to recover from the death of a spouse. So I'm being patient with myself. I'm so encouraged to see how God is working through all of this, and not only in my life. I'm so grateful to be able to look back and not see just the darkness but also the light of the Lord breaking through the dark clouds. I know that I am not the same person I was on this day a year ago. If nothing else, I've learned to love more and empathize more and serve more. I can't be the same when He is in my life, when He makes everything new, when nothing in my life is hidden from Him. "It matters to Him about you," says Peter. Allowing God's presence to penetrate our lives and renew our hearts is the first step toward healing.
One thing is for sure. I can't wait to see her again. I want to sit here and write for hours. I want to type a million words and underscore them and yell at the top of my lungs, I love you! I know she can't hear me but I'll say it anyway.
I miss you, Becky.
I will never forget you.
7:45 AM Received some sad news from Odessa today. The elders there are anticipating the war to spread to their city and hence they have cancelled my trip in November. Please join me in praying for the peace of Ukraine. Speaking of traveling, as you know today I leave for California to speak at an apologetics conference on Saturday and to minister the word on Sunday. While I am gone a group of elders from a Raleigh church are meeting on the farm for a retreat. (I always try and have someone on the farm while I am traveling.) On Monday one of my colleagues from SEBTS will be holding a personal retreat here. I am so glad to see this ministry, the vision of Becky, continuing in her absence. Before I leave for the airport I hope to share some thoughts about her and about this, our anniversary. In case you were wondering, the speakers' schedule at 412 Church in San Jacinto is as follows:
9:15: Don Stewart, The Case for Christianity.
10:15: Dave Black, Can We Trust the New Testament Text?
1:30: Dave Black, Why So Many Bible Translations?
2:45: Joe Holden, Archaeology and the Bible.
4:00: Q & A.
Hope to see many of my friends who live in SoCal there.
Wednesday, September 10
10:18 PM Weekend weather forecast for San Jacinto? 104 degrees. Yep, it's Southern California during the month of September.
9:44 PM A few more odds and ends ...
1) Aussie Craig's latest post will get you thinking. Read Neither Calvinist nor Arminian; but, I’m not sure I’m Baptist either.
2) What's new at our Greek Portal?
Thanks to my ever-able assistant Joshua Covert for adding the links.
3) I want to put in another plug for my friend Robert Martin's excellent book The Caregiver's Beatitudes. I am deeply grateful for what his words meant to me when I was caring for Becky, and I predict that the same will be true of many other caregivers who acquire this book.
6:14 PM Good reminder here: Learning Contentment.
6:04 PM A friend just sent me this from Kona with the words, "For several reasons, this made me think of you."
Everyone's a comedian.
5:50 PM Hey friends. I hope you had a good past couple of days. Mine were just fantastic. Got to teach my classes and meet with friends and students and write and spend time with family -- nothing too out of the ordinary but every facet I just mentioned made my life wonderful. Anyway. I'm too tired right now to blog about anything too heavy (but wait till the morning -- the actual day of my anniversary!) so I'll leave you with a few odds and ends.
1) Our porous borders. Shameful!
2) Brian Fulthorp reviews my Why Four Gospels? I love his sense of humor:
3) The Spanish edition of my Learn to Read New Testament Greek is now available for pre-order. Sweet-tastik!
4) This email brought a smile:
5) I am eager to hear the president's speech tonight and his plans for degrading and defeating ISIS/ISIL, a group that is perhaps the epitome of evil. But let's remember that our uniqueness as Jesus' followers isn't in how we vote but in how we live, even how we pray for our enemies and seek their salvation.
Walk in love.
8:12 AM As you know, on Saturday I am speaking at an apologetics conference on the Left Coast. My talks will center on the veracity of the New Testament. Indeed, I wrote my book Why Four Gospels? not so much to argue for Matthean priority as to affirm the complete historicity and apostolicity of the Gospels. Early in my Christian experience I discovered that the Gospels were -- and needed to be -- central in my understanding not only of the Good News about Jesus Christ but of life itself. Only the cross of Jesus can supply meaning to life, and that is because the cross and the resurrection are an interwoven reality. Of one thing I am certain: Christianity is a historical faith. It is rooted and grounded in historical fact. No "leap of faith" is required to believe in Jesus. As I once heard Francis Schaeffer put it in Switzerland, you don't have to put your brain in park or neutral to become a Christian. His cross is the center of all history. It is the crossroads of the universe. No one can avoid confrontation with it.
It is my prayer for the weekend that skeptics may come to the Gospels with an open mind and heart, for there the living Christ is ready to meet Doubting Thomases in their pessimism and travelers to Emmaus in their intellectualism. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.
8:04 AM Check out this headline:
Well, Eddie may have stopped blogging, but Matthea Glass has just started. She is on a roll, let me tell you. Her site is called Nevertheless...
Tuesday, September 9
9:28 PM It's hard to sit down and try to summarize what a great day I had today. One of the best moments of the day came right after my Greek 3 class when I had my third interview with brother Abidan Shaw of Hoi Polloi podcast fame. We discussed my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.
I'm told the link should go live in a day or two. Then I hopped into the car and drove to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant, the justly famous Queen of Sheba in fabulous Chapel Hill, where a group of us met to eat, drink, and be merry -- and just remember the marriage God blessed me with.
We sat and talked and hugged and held babies and as we all went our separate ways I think we had grown just that much closer and our hearts were a little lighter because of the fellowship. Now that I'm back home I can't stop thinking about it. I can still see my grandson Graham's clear blue eyes.
I can see little Christian yakking about his dog and, in the midst of it all, I can still see a beautiful women I married 38 years years ago. You see, I love her still, after all these years, and let's be honest, if you had been married to Becky you would too, for she was, well, Becky. Is there anything better on this old earth of ours than to love and be loved? A bereaved spouse is like a double amputee, and only the Lord can heal the wounds, can close up the naked flesh. Tonight, again, it was perfectly evident to me how blessed a man I am, have always been, a man who is grateful to God for the bizarre and beautiful mystery of marriage, a mystery that becomes more profound to me as the days and weeks wear on. Thank you, family, for standing with me, for loving me and loving on me tonight.
As all of you know, I had nothing to do with the gruesome, unwelcome stranger that visited my house 10 months ago, but I can determine to live my life in gratitude toward the One who is greater than death, who called Himself the resurrection and the life, who reconciled both me and Becky to God through His blood, and who walks with me and talks with me day in and day out.
Glory to God!
5:40 AM Ever considered what to make of so-called "seeker-sensitive" churches?
5:30 AM Some of you may have wondered why we call our home "Bradford Hall." The Hall is named in honor of three of Becky's ancestors: Governor William Bradford, Dr. William Bradford Brooks, and Mr. Bradford Noyes Lapsley.
William Bradford, author of the Mayflower Compact, was governor of the Plymouth Colony for 30 years and helped shape the political institutions of the first permanent settlement in New England. Bradford is remembered for establishing traditions of self-government (such as the town meeting) that would set the pattern for national political development in years to come.
William Bradford Brooks, Becky's paternal great-grandfather, grew up in East Texas and operated Brooks Saline, the largest supplier of salt to the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy. During the war he served in the First Texas Heavy Artillery guarding the Texas Coast. Later he became a medical doctor in Fort Worth. A pioneer in the field of medicine, he founded the Texas Medical Examiner, the first medical journal in Texas, and was also the first doctor to specialize in the treatment of chemical dependency.
Bradford Noyes Lapsley, my wife's father, served with SIM as a pioneer missionary to Ethiopia in the 1950s. Today he continues to publish works for Ethiopian pastors in the Amharic language. (See Good Amharic Books.) He has left a lasting legacy in the lives of thousands of Ethiopians whom he has touched with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So now you know.
5:22 AM "If we are going to be made into wine we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes." Oswald Chambers.
Monday, September 8
8:22 PM Tomorrow night a few of us are getting together in Chapel Hill to celebrate my 38th wedding anniversary. "Celebrate"? Crazy I know, but my theologian brain stops me in mid-sentence. Why "celebrate"? Don't you mean "commemorate"? Or "remember"? Or "honor"? Or "memorialize"?
What difference does it make? God gave Becky and me 37 years together, and then some. And that is worth celebrating. Yes, we had our share of problems, but we eventually learned to endure them joyfully. It's as though God were making a pearl out of our relationship, taking an irritating grain of sand and embedding it into the soft inner folds of our lives and then turning the irritant into a fluid that, in time, formed a pearl. A good marriage can't be rushed. God needs time to work in our lives, turning our biggest irritants into priceless gems.
How's your marriage? There is no escaping the need for patience as God works His miracle in your lives. For in one way or another, we must all be humbled. We must all die to self, for there can be no peace in a marriage without it. Marriage doesn't mitigate the struggles of life; it only deepens them, makes them personal. It is this unrelenting personalness of married life that makes it so rewarding and pleasurable. So what if you've got struggles. View them not as a threat but as a great blessing. God is making a priceless pearl out of the two of you.
And that's something to celebrate, even if your spouse is now in glory.
7:40 PM I leave for California on Thursday. Thankfully, the waves have been blessed before my arrival.
Yep. Truth is still stranger than fiction.
5:25 PM Care to ride the tractor with me? Be sure to turn up your speakers. Ain't nothin' in this ol' world quite like the purr of a Massie-Ferguson 135!
5:04 PM Been praying a lot today for some friends who are going through a tough time. I sent these thoughts to them in an email. Maybe they will encourage you if you are experiencing adversity. (Of course, the message is just as much for me as it is for you.)
3:32 PM Greek students! Check out the New Testament Textual Commentary produced by the Center for New Testament Textual Studies at New Orleans Baptist Seminary.
10:32 AM Last night I received an email from a brother who has been receiving a great deal of what he considered to be unjust criticism lately and was wondering how to handle it. Here was the gist of my response:
9:28 AM Looking forward to resuming my Ph.D. seminar on Philippians tomorrow. The book of Philippians has changed my life forever. My study of it, published in Novum Testamentum, showed me what Paul lived for, and what the Christian is to live for. It is our privilege to stand together in one spirit and contend as one person for the faith of the Gospel (1:27-30). Paul's language pictures an athletic team in which every team member has a job to do -- a joint effort, not an individual one. It is a life of selflessness, of giving rather than getting. And it is costly. Kingdom service involves sacrifice. In the words of Corrie ten Boom, "I learned to hold everything with a loose grip because it hurt when God had to pull my fingers away." Salvation involves more than accepting Christ as Lord and Savior. It must include a commitment to becoming servants in the world. The church of the New Testament does not merely "do missions" or "send" missionaries. It is missions. If we are to be the church we must go to all nations. Please do not learn this lesson as late in life as I did.
9:15 AM My latest essay in Spanish: Recuperando la Perspectiva Paulina sobre el Liderazgo Pastoral. Grateful to mi hermano. I now have 12 essays in Spanish. Praise the Lord!
7:56 AM "What God says is best, is best, though all the men in the world are against it." John Bunyan (Pilgrim's Progress).
7:50 AM It's not something I do often, but let me talk to you this morning about the "Pastoral Epistles." (The quotation marks are intentional.) But first, an analogy from the Civil War. There are several myths that surround the war, but none greater than the myth of "Pickett's Charge." It should be called either Longstreet's Assault or the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Attack. But convention trumps truth. Ditto for the Pastorals. As Curt Parton writes in his blog post What about Timothy and Titus?:
My colleague Ben Merkle agrees. Read Were Timothy and Titus Pastors/Elders? I love what these "myth busters" are doing. Just one example. Often we hear that pastors are in view when we read such injunctions as "preach the word." That command, however, was given to Timothy, not the Ephesian elders. The same holds true for "do the work of an evangelist." The reason Paul is eager for Timothy to do the work of an evangelist is precisely because Timothy was an evangelist/church planter (like Paul), not an elder in a local church.
I ponder what would happen if we took biblical eldership seriously. We would insist that our elders/pastors were home grown. We would also eschew the notion of a "senior pastor" other than Jesus Christ. (See Curt Parton's Why we don't have a senior pastor.) Folks, the Scripture is our greatest strength as church leaders. It's our only guidebook. Yes, I realize that its probably much easier to lead a church with only one man in charge. But the fact of the matter is that Jesus never entrusted the leadership of His church to a single individual. If we want to truly follow and obey the Scriptures, we've got to adjust our mental picture of the church so it looks more like the book of Acts. Can you see anyone claiming to be the senior pastor of the church at Thessalonica? Or Philippi?
So I encourage you to read the posts I've linked to above. But if you really want to have a life-changing experience, try reading the book of Acts and the "Pastoral Epistles" in the light of their historical background.
Sunday, September 7
2:44 PM It seems like it's been forever since I last shared with you my thoughts about Becky. The day started out like any other, but right now I am bawling like a baby, my emotions having been triggered by this rendition of "When I Survey" I heard on BBN on the drive back from church today.
Becky loved to sing. For years we sang together in the Northeast Piedmont Chorale. But it was in California, in one of those larger churches with a professional-like choir, that she found her greatest joy as a soprano. And no hymn did she enjoy singing more than this arrangement by Gilbert Martin. Becky enjoyed the hymn as much for its words as its wonderful harmonies. She would often sing it at home.
I've said it before: losing Becky to cancer has been the hardest thing I've ever had to face in my 62 years of living. All too often it's easy for me to forget how truly dependent on God I am. Things go right, and so I start to rely on my own wisdom and strength. But from time to time God, in His great mercy and grace, rocks that confidence to its core. My feelings ebb and flow, still to this day. Maybe it's because my 38th wedding anniversary is this Thursday. Maybe it's because I still miss her deeply and love her deeply, even though she's gone. Usually my emotions erupt because some trigger activated them. Sights, smells, sounds -- you never know what it will be. I just sit here and say, "Oh Lord, Oh Jesus," again and again, thankful that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me with groans that words can't express (Rom. 8:26). Saint Patrick wrote the following words in 433. They are still apropos today.
Some days, nothing hurts. At other times it seems like the pain is unbearable. I am still a teacher and a father and a grandfather and a missionary, but there's a huge vacant place where Becky stood. Her loss subtracted part of who I am. Grief is an unwelcome intruder. I ask painful questions of God, unanswered questions. One day, if you live long enough, you will ask them too. The bottom line is that God's ways are not our ways. He is way too big and sovereign and mysterious to fit into any of our little boxes. And that is how it should be. The Father of the Lord Jesus, who spoke not a word because He knew we could never hear Him, sent His Son, crushed Him, and now He loves me with the same love. I need Him. I need Him to hold me and to hear my heart break again and again and again and to shoulder the burden of grief with me. And I'm not too proud to say that I need others to hold me too. Community means everything to me right now.
Speaking of community, here's where I spoke this morning.
Clement is a favorite of mine, not only because Kim and Joel attend there (Joel is the pastor), but because this church loves Jesus and loves the Gospel. I spoke about when I first caught a glimpse of the hidden treasure that Jesus talks about in Matt. 13:44, an earth-shattering time in my life, and then I spoke about the need to finish the school building in India. That sub-continent is gaining an ever-increasing hold on my heart. I pray that the American church would somehow get a glimpse of the needs there as well as the opportunities. "To love at all is to be vulnerable," wrote C. S. Lewis. "Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken." India has been born in my soul. I will do whatever I can for her. Why? Because Jesus is coming soon. Whatever your eschatology might be, His return is promised. I have lived a long time on this earth and have studied every conceivable position about the return of Christ, from pre-trib to historic premillennialism to amillennialism. But I refuse to argue with anyone about the matter. For what it's worth, my own personal eschatology can be summed up very simply. When Jesus comes, I'm going. Until then, until He comes back, He told us to occupy, to keep busy, to give His Cause our best rather than trinkets, to use earthly things correctly, to live in the light of spiritual reality, to choose the way of the cross daily, to think of as many ways as possible to simplify our lives and save money for world evangelism, to take no thought of tomorrow, to be willing to lose everything for the sake of the Gospel, to turn the world upside down for Christ. The alternative is the merry-go-round of churchianity that Satan uses to hold our families in bondage. So I agonize over India. I share the opportunities with others every chance I get. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This is really the hinge upon which all genuine Christian outreach turns.
You ask, "What can I do?" Be an informed intercessor. Be a faithful prayer partner. Get personally involved by giving and going. Sponsor a missionary yourself. Arrange for a missionary conference at your church. (I would be happy to speak.) Finishing the task of global evangelization has never been more possible that right now. Yes, I have problems, and yes, you have problems. "In even the happiest of Christian lives there are deep pockets of incurable pain" (Larry Crabb). Let that pain make you more sympathetic with others who suffer. Let it spur you on to greater love and good works. I think the time is now to get started, don't you? This has been the hardest year of my life. But God is my co-pilot. With Him I can always be myself. Being with Him makes me want to serve more and love more and be more.
How about you?
8:45 AM Over the past week I've received several emails from those of you who are Civil War buffs. Well, can you handle yet another post about the "wo-a" ("war" has two syllables where I live)? If you've been to Gettysburg you will be able to recognize the Leister House. I snapped this photo just over a week ago.
It's a very humble setting but it was the Union HQ during the battle. It's got just two tiny rooms. In one of them, General Meade had his council of war on the evening of July 2. I have absolutely no idea the exact words that were spoken during that meeting. I doubt if anyone does. But here's the gist of what took place. Meade, in command of the entire Union army, essentially asked for the opinion of his Corps commanders. That takes both humility and courage -- courage because what they said might have come out different from what you wanted. But it was important for Meade to ensure that everyone was on the same page. Here was an authority figure who cared about what others in his inner circle thought. He valued their opinions. Just another reason why I admire Meade so much. Turns out old goggle-eyed, snapping turtle Meade did an extraordinary job at Gettysburg, playing the cards he was dealt with exceptional skill. Even Robert E. Lee, some years after the war, commented, "Meade, in my judgment, had the greatest ability. I feared him more than any man I ever met upon the field of battle."
Just think. It was in this shabby little farmhouse that this conversation took place. I'm glad it was never torn down and forgotten. I think it holds lessons on leadership for us today.
7:58 AM The Peach Orchard. The Wheatfield. The Cornfield. The Sunken Road. Places in American history that, for better or for worse, earned the right of capitalization. The everyday became historic. At each place the stakes were high. At each, soldiers laid down their lives for their cause. I have great affection for these historic sites, which keep history alive. Many of the men who fought and died in these places had not been born in the United States. German, Italian, even Hawaiian immigrants formed a large part of the Union army. Hawaiian did you say? Yep. Just read this. 200 men from Hawaii served in the armed forces during the Civil War, including forces that fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. A film is currently being produced to document this historic fact (go here).
What were my ancestors doing during the war? My paternal great-grandparents were farmers and German Baptists. They lived beside a meandering creek in western Maryland. Part of a great battle was fought on or near their farm. They were the Millers. You will read about them if you study the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg.
History. How can you not love it?
Saturday, September 6
4:14 PM The ancient Greeks had a saying: gnothi seauton ("Know yourself"). In April of 1862, Union General George McClellan wrote about his potential adversaries Joseph Johnston and Robert E. Lee.
"I prefer Lee to Johnston -- the former is too cautious & weak under grave responsibility -- personally brave & energetic to a fault, yet he is wanting in moral firmness when pressed by responsibility & is likely to be timid & irresolute in action." Amazing. If you know anything about the Civil War, you know that McClellan isn't describing Lee but himself! He didn't know himself any better than he knew his enemies, including Lee.
3:48 PM A topic making the rounds in the blogosphere is the problem of evangelical superstardom and its consequences both for the church and for the church's witness in the world. First of all, let me say a word of appreciation to my own elders who have done a great service to the body by making decisions together and being accountable to each other. Moreover, our leadership has never been sensational or flamboyant, and their genuine humility (humility can't be faked) has helped our congregation avoid the superstar-loving mentality of the surrounding culture.
Whenever I think of the problem of superstardom, I think of Paul's correspondence with the Corinthian church. His approach to the problem of superstardom is thoroughly christocentric. His purpose is to bring the thought of every Christian (including the thought of every leader in the church) into obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:1-6) and to ensure that all boasting is boasting in the Lord alone (10:17). Believers must live with single-minded devotion to Christ (11:2). Today, I think our preoccupation with superstars stems from an inadequate understanding of Christ's sole headship and authority (Col. 1:18). Christians are called to ensure that Christ alone has the preeminence ("the first place") in everything and to see that He and He alone is acknowledged as the only Senior Pastor and Head of the body (1 Pet. 5:4). Paul's theology in 1-2 Corinthians is nothing than a theologia crucis, a theology of the cross -- that is, Christianity is the way of weakness (corporate and individual). "When weak ... then strong" (2 Cor. 12:10; see my book Paul, Apostle of Weakness). Everything Christians have they have in Christ. Nothing, therefore, is to be added to Christ and His archy (see my Christian Archy). The spectacular ego-stroking understanding of the Spirit that had infiltrated the Corinthian church must be stopped, says Paul, for the work of the church is to be the honoring of Jesus Christ. No leader, however "charismatic," can be allowed to supplant the sole supremacy of Christ. In Him we are all one, and whatever differences exist are primarily functional. The pastor/elder is therefore no more "spiritual" than the least impressive member of the body. Each part needs the other. Hence no part should feel either inferior or superior, for "God has arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as He chose" (1 Cor. 12:18). The result? A rich harmonizing of purpose (advancing the Great Cause) and an amazing supplementation of each other in the service of equipping the whole.
I encourage you to put no trust in a Christian "superstar." The only real security is in Christ and living His way.
9:50 AM It's a gigantic universe but a very small world.
Laniakea is our supercluster in the universe. But it's also a beach on the North Shore of Oahu that I often surfed in the winter time. Great waves too.
9:40 AM Sitting on the front porch last night enjoying a bowl of vanilla ice cream and homemade peach pie (courtesy of one of my daughters). Life don't get no betta!
Friday, September 5
5:22 PM New book on Hebrews. Looks promising.
5:18 PM Chatted yesterday with someone who is thinking about starting a blog. Though hardly an expert, I had this advice:
1) The first key to a successful blog is quality. "Content is king."
2) The second key is frequent updating.
3) Try to make your blog personal if you can.
I rather like blogging. Even now, 11 years after I began DBO, I still get excited about it. As a general rule, I will probably read your blog if you adhere to the above qualifications.
5:10 PM In his latest blog post, Thomas Hudgins calls our attention to a major conference on Erasmus' Greek New Testament to be held in Basel. Wish I could attend. In just two years, the city will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the publication of this, the first-ever published Greek New Testament, and what a celebration I imagine it will be. It is widely assumed that its publisher, Froben of Basel, had heard about the forthcoming Spanish/Catholic Polyglot and wanted to beat the good folks in Alcalá to the punch. A helpful resource is an essay written by my Basel Doktorvater: Bo Reicke, "Erasmus und die neutestamentliche Textgeschichte," Theologische Zeitschrift 22 (1966), pp. 254-265. Reicke coordinated the 450th anniversary celebration in Basel.
I love church history! I love Basel!
4:56 PM My thanks to Katy Isaacs, daughter of Kevin Brown, for a copy of her latest book. I finished reading it today.
Katy is one of the most remarkable young ladies I have ever known. Unlike many authors today who write for fame and money, she writes so that others might come to know Christ. The key, of course, is to have an ear cocked toward heaven above the constant drone of the humdrum.
Thank you, Katy, for writing this book. Looking forward to your next one.
10:12 AM Nice write-up here about my favorite Ethiopian restaurant in Raleigh: The Queen of Sheba. This will be the place where I will be commemorate my 38th wedding anniversary next week with family and friends.
9:10 AM The Christian Post is reporting some sad news: The president of a major Christian university is getting a divorce. I need to tread softly here. I do not know the couple. But any divorce is a tragedy. Any time we break our vows it is a tragedy. "Irreconcilable differences"? I think every marriage has them. On the other hand, Scripture allows for divorce in certain circumstances. The report does imply that the divorce has yet to be finalized; it's still in process. I am praying for this couple. I am asking God to work a miracle. Can God heal a broken marriage? The answer is yes -- in terms of the kingdom. A simple step of obedience can issue in the miraculous repair of something we think is a hopeless mess. I hope there is still time to restore a shattered relationship.
8:58 AM You'll get a kick out of this: 'Why are you still single?' My favorite comeback line?
8:38 AM Hey folks! Just a reminder that I'll have the honor of speaking at a major apologetics conference in Southern California next weekend. The details are here. Also, in case you didn't know it, Biola University's apologetics department has published a two-CD audio resource called Key Issues in New Testament Criticism by yours truly. It runs about 2 hours.
On another note, here at the farm I met yesterday with an elder from a church in North Raleigh whose leaders are planning a retreat at Rosewood next week. To date we have hosted many hundreds of guests here at the farm and indeed I must say (without any bias whatsoever) that the farm is very conducive to spiritual retreating. So, folks, let me know if you want to take advantage of it for anything from a personal retreat to a family reunion. The price is right (free). Finally (for now), I've heard from quite a number of you about my book on Becky's and my cancer journey, and I'm delighted you think it's a good idea. Thanks for your prayers as we begin this project.
Thursday, September 4
6:24 PM So what did the bachelor cook for supper tonight? Korean Bulgogi.
Yep. The real deal too. Well, truth be told, all I did was add some store-bought flavoring, and there you go. The purists might demur. But since I am the cook, I get to name my supper whatever I like. Oh, and here's yours truly putting everyone to sleep today in chapel.
Sounding like a broken record, I praised God that Christendom is dying a slow death in America, and I reminded these young people that God is positioning them to be used powerfully to advance His kingdom in the years ahead. And they don't have to graduate in order to get started. Thank you, Jon, for the gracious invitation to share the word today. I counted it a great privilege.
Oh, don't forget to pray for Saeed!
1:48 PM Just had the privilege of speaking in the chapel at Cresset Christian Academy in Durham. Actually, that was my excuse to go to Durham to visit with my daughter and her husband -- and the kiddos. Love my family!
8:15 AM "Do good because God wants you to be happy."
I'm not sure where we get the notion that Christianity is safe or the cause of ephemeral happiness. Sometimes people ask me if I'm afraid of going to places where the church is persecuted. I'm more afraid of the American suburbs to tell you the truth. Jesus told us not to fear the things that can destroy the body but to fear the things that can destroy the soul. The giddy American church is obsessed with happiness and infatuated with super-stars. Following Jesus is cool. Not to mention all the temporal benefits it brings.
Yeah, it's funny and disturbing to watch a video like this. But aren't we guilty of the same philosophy?
7:48 AM This morning I recived an email from a friend who lives in Odessa, Ukraine. He just visited Artiomovsk, Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, Lisichansk, Severodonetsk, Pervomaisk, and Mariupol. He met with local pastors and others who are living in the savage conditions of war. In his email he included letters from eyewitnesses. One such testimony reads as follows:
These believers are being challenged to follow Jesus to the max. While we in America find ourselves embroiled in the narrow issues that define conservatism, our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world are suffering unspeakable horrors. I challenge us to become radicals (in the original sense of the term -- people who want to get back to the roots of what it means to love and serve). Obviously, I have not cancelled my trip to Ukraine in November. The world will always be a scary and insane place. Christ is breathing new life into His body in Ukraine, and I want to be a part of it. No doubt, there is much you can do too. Begin by praying. Pray for the moneychangers to be driven out of the temple. Pray for the little voices, the ordinary radicals who are trying to love their enemies. Pray for a new kind of Christianity in Ukraine, a new kind of revolution. Pray for unity among God's people both there and here, whether Republicans or Democrats, capitalists or socialists, pacifists or just-warriors.
Pray for the peace of Ukraine.
7:32 AM Kevin Brown's latest blog post (Who Has Access to Your Brain?) has me all choked up.
Where to start?
I can't read anything Kevin says without feeling totally unworthy of his remarks (not an exaggeration). I am woefully inadequate to mentor him or anyone else for that matter. It's hard to explain how Kevin's words encouraged my heart just as they were breaking it. I am utterly overwhelmed by what I read. Honestly, I just can't get used to it -- being considered someone's mentor. It was just yesterday, wasn't it, when I was sitting at the feet of Jim Cook at International Baptist Church in Honolulu or Harry Sturz at Biola or Bo Reicke in Basel? I'm so encouraged to know that God does indeed provide us with mentors when we most need them. Kevin, I'm floored by your kindness and your heart for truth and genuineness. One thing I cling to is the knowledge that you would never follow me as you do Jesus. I'm so grateful for your friendship. This is jumbled I know, but so are my thoughts right now. All I want to say is God bless you. There is still so much learning and growing I need to do. You have been a spur to my own walk with the Lord.
7:22 AM Civil War trivia -- true or false:
1) Union General Abner Doubleday invented baseball. False.
2) Prostitutes became known as "hookers" because of Union General Joseph Hooker's predilections. False.
3) "Sideburns" get their name from Union General Ambrose Burnside. True.
You can't believe everything you read. Even the "experts" make mistakes. So test everything (1 Thess. 5:21). Be a Berean.
Wednesday, September 3
8:15 PM Well, several of you talked me into it. I've decided to write the story of Becky's (and my) cancer journey from the perspective of what it looked like as her husband. I'm tentatively calling the book Grace for Each Hour: A Care-Giver's Story of Cancer, Loss, and Hope. I hope the book will be honest, sensitive, and occasionally humorous. Please pray for me. Honestly, I don't know if I'm up to it. But I want to write it for the honor of the Lord, who kept me going when I stumbled and who infused my grief with hope. May the blessing of God be upon this project. Ready or not, it has begun.
Let me know if you're praying for me, will you?
7:26 PM Help needed! I have a student in my doctoral seminar who is looking for the following essay:
It's not available in our library. Please let me know if you can help us out at email@example.com.
7:18 PM Let's say your husband or wife was in prison simply for being a Christian. How would you feel? That's the case with Saeed Abedini. I hope you will consider joining me in praying for him on the second anniversary of his arrest (Sept. 26). I believe that God can release him. I believe God can keep him faithful to the Gospel even in prison. After all, as Christians we believe in things we don't see (Heb. 11:1). If you have the gift of frustration and the sense that this old world is in a pickle, thank God for that. Not everybody shares your vision. The true servant of Christ realizes that obedience will often be dangerous and unpleasant. But such servanthood is the normal Christian life, or ought to be. I am boldly asking you to join me in fulfilling Heb. 13:3: "Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them." God is, after all, in the prisoner-loving business. Thank you.
7:02 PM Taking the quiz today over chapter 3. I was so nervous!
8:34 AM Look who's memorizing Philippians in Greek.
8:23 AM Lincoln's Gettysburg Address said the same thing as Edward Everett's speech but in 1/60th the time. Less is more.
(Just in case you were wondering why my books are getting shorter.)
8:16 AM Glory be. Abidan Shaw has already scheduled me for my next podcast interview with him for next Tuesday at 3:30. The topic? Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. I think he likes my books.
8:02 AM I forgot to show you pix of the conference center in PA. Here's the chapel and dining hall.
And here's the lodge where guests stay.
The whole place is serene and picturesque. It's not uncommon to watch deer bounding across a field and disappear into the brush or see a wild turkey race along like Beep Beep the Road Runner then flee around a curve in the road, looking as though it should be accompanied by skidding sound effects. At night the place sounds like a bullfrog on steroids, amplified with a loud speaker. It leaves an impression, I tell you. Thomas and Lesly drove up from Maryland for the weekend. Here he is lecturing me -- again. I like him anyway.
Ken Coley message's was on "wholeheartedness." Loved it.
Again, I want to thank Ken and Kathy for the honor it was to serve them (and the Lord) this weekend in Pennsylvania. And oh, by the way, the food was really good.
Tuesday, September 2
6:35 PM This and that ....
1) Enjoyed lunch today with Kevin Brown and his daughter Kandace at the Red Robin in Wake Forest. What did we talk about? Missions of course. Kevin (who blogs here) and I are so much on the same page that it's downright scary. We agree that the most important thing is to employ material things for the kingdom of God rather than ourselves or our own churches. I am thrilled to be able to speak to his congregation later this year and share with them my vision for India. Thank you, Kevin and Kandace, for driving all the way from North Wilkesboro to have lunch with this old geezer!
2) My recent podcast interview about my book Why Four Gospels? is now available at the Hoi Polloi website. I love interviewing with Abidan.
3) Greek 1 students! Be sure to check out this parsing guide to all of the verbs in the exercises from chapter 3 (due tomorrow). And thanks to Jacob Cerone for this labor of love.
4) Why participles are important. (From our Greek 3 class today.)
5) The "Our Father" written to honor Hugo Chavez?
6:12 AM It was 10 months ago today that Becky passed into the arms of her Savior. What to write? My mind draws a blank this morning. So let me share with you the words I posted on my blog an hour after her passing. Blessings, Dave
The moment I have dreaded, and the moment I have been praying for, has arrived. Exactly one hour ago my beloved wife, precious lover, mother of my children, and closest partner in the Gospel, surrounded by friends and family, crossed the finished line. Yes, folks, she made it.
Hooray for Becky!
Three cheers for my gal!
You did it, honey!
Faithful to the end!
Praise the Lord!
Glory to God in the highest!
In case you didn't know, Becky is scheduled to receive official sainthood from the Church. Well, not really. But she should. Why? Because she married the world's biggest knucklehead. For 37 years she put up with his rough-sawn personality and taught him how to love other people. She is one of a handful of people you will never forgot. God used her time and again to remind me what life is all about -- that people are more important than one's profession. You really gotta hand it to old Solomon when he penned Proverbs 31. How in the world could he describe Becky when he had never even met her? I bet he's standing in line to greet her now. I can't imagine the crown that's awaiting her as she enters her heavenly Home. "'Crown' did you say, Dave?"
Honey, if I could send you a letter up there in glory, it would probably say something this:
This morning, I held my wife's cold hand as she took her final breath. I wish you could have seen her face. I have never in my 61 years witnessed anything more beautiful. Oh my Becky, how beautiful art thou! The moment she crossed the finished line a huge sense of joy swelled my breast as I thought of what she was doing that very moment at the feet of Jesus. Then I led the family in prayer and we sang the doxology.
The Scripture says, "Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His holy ones." No, I did not write "saints." If ever there was a holy one, that person was Becky Lynn Lapsley Black. Her life was separated, sanctified for the Master's use -- every last cell of it, even the cancerous ones. She has left a legacy that will last into eternity. Will you, will I, follow her lead? Will we live as well as she did, and die as well?
Fare thee well, my darling. I love you with all of my heart. You loved me well. I shall never, ever forget you.
Monday, September 1
8:58 PM "Never let your studies interfere with your education." Mark Twain.
8:25 PM Hey folks! I'm back after a whirlwind trip to the great state of Pennsylvania. I tell you, it feels good to be blogging again. The other day Henry Neufeld and I were talking about the joys of blogging. Seems he's been blogging up a storm lately as have several of my favorite bloggers (Jacob Cerone -- welcome back!). I think many of us find blogging to be both addictive and inspiring. I can see why it's still so popular despite Facebook and Twitter. While some people seem to struggle to post a pic or a comment on Facebook, bloggers are having fun writing away with whatever thoughts come to mind. I once thought about opening a Twitter account but then decided against it. Blogging is lots more fun. I realized I had stumbled onto ideas that people seem to really care about. I write for folks who like to cogitate but who also enjoy curling up in the sofa with something that's unpredictable. When I'm reading other people's blogs, I'm always looking for quick bursts of motivation. If the blogger is personable, so much the better. As I read blogs like Henry's and Jacob's I discover lots of new ideas that get my own writing juices flowing. You know, blogging can either be a huge waste of time or a very productive avocation. In the end, it's become one of my most high-value activities as it nurtures my own soul and hopefully the souls of my readers.
Well, as I said, I just returned from 4 days in Gettysburg speaking at a conference as well as revisiting the site of the nation's bloodiest battle. When it comes to the Civil War, I am mercifully free of all bias on the one hand and personal advocacy on the other. And oh -- I've got some beach-front property in Fargo, North Dakota for sale as well. Actually, it's probably impossible to find a completely unbiased American when it comes to the war, perhaps least of all in Gettysburg. Through the town men and women in Union blue and Confederate gray weave their way through the crowds, doing their best to remain in period. Not a few of them are severely overweight -- which would have been an absurdity back in the 1860s. Period music wafts through the air, while suttlers push their wares, and store owners sell their gaudy Gettysburg t-shirts by the hundreds. I enter a friend's photo studio on Steinwehr Blvd.
Rob Gibson is known and revered throughout the reenacting community as perhaps the best period photographer in America. As I climb the stairs to his studio I hear Rob explaining to a group of tourists how a tintype works. Many people are too frugal to sign up for a portrait, but yours truly, under pressure from a good friend who dared me, I stop and pose as one of the more famous combatants of the battle.
Rob gave me the jpeg, which I sent out to my family and friends with the caption: "Look who I ran into while in Gettysburg. Looks a little miffed that he lost the battle."
There seems something both silly and noble about trying to portray a man like Robert E. Lee. But Gettysburg will do that to you. One can't help but feel overwhelmed, excited, amazed, and humbled that an actual battle took place right where you're standing. Like millions of other Americans, I found it engrossing. Having my likeness taken is a reminder that the soldiers who lived 150 years ago and who stare at us from the old daguerreotypes are really not all that different from most of us today except for all that facial hair. I have been to Gettysburg 5 times and still I find the site of Pickett's Charge mindboggling. I have reenacted the assault 4 times, twice in a full woolen uniform. This time I did it in shorts and sunglasses with a bunch of buddies who met me for breakfast in town. It was their first time to cross "that bloody space." We talked about the war and about reenacting. Much to my surprise, none of them had attended a big event. You've never really lived until you've spent the day roasting under a July sun confronted by faux-officers brandishing period sabers in front of a long row of Porta-Potties. Over here is JEB Stuart, instantly recognizable by his red beard and plumed hat, while over there stands Lee himself, resplendent in his colonel's uniform. My Yankee friends would be able to recognize Grant and Meade in their new blue uniforms. Irony of ironies, Meade's statue at Gettysburg is dwarfed by Lee's. Lee you can lionize and certainly Grant, but Meade? Still, I give old Meade a lot of credit -- a lot of credit -- for the Union victory at Gettysburg. That day the South was outmanned, outgunned, and outgeneraled. Stuart had foolishly deprived the Army of Northern Virginia of its eyes and ears; Longstreet was slow and half-hearted; Ewell's bloodied and tired men failed to take Cemetery Ridge. Meade, on the other hand, was as tough as nails and all over the battlefield, personally directing his troops. As my friends and I made it past the Emmitsburg Road and began to climb Cemetery Ridge to the Bloody Angle and Copse of Trees, I thought of Pickett's famous answer to the question of why his division's attack failed. "I always thought the Yankees had something to do with it," was his laconic reply. Last Friday, my friends and I stood on the very place where hundreds of Americans were killed, blown apart by musket fire or double canister. During a Civil War reenactment, Federals and Confederates blast away at each other, but no one dies. Not so on July 1-3, 1863. War happened, it really happened, and the results are more significant that the 1,400 plaques and monuments you see plastered all over the battlefield. As Faulkner once said, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Gettysburg proved that the seemingly invincible Lee could be defeated. It also led to heroic acts of kindness on both sides. Take the field hospital that was set up at the Lutheran Theological Seminary along Seminary Ridge. I had always wanted to climb into the cupola that stands atop Schmucker Hall (as the building is called). What would General John Buford have seen from those heights? Well, last week I wrote Mark Hoffman, who teaches New Testament and Greek at the seminary. I told him, "Basically you don't know me from Adam, but since we are colleagues and both teach Greek, perhaps you might be willing to do me a big favor and see if I can get up into the cupola during my visit." Mark wrote back a very cordial letter with the surprising and welcome news that the building has been turned into a museum, and that anybody can tour the copula by paying an admissions price.
Both Isaac Trimble and James Kemper (Confederate generals) were treated here after the battle, along with hundreds of wounded from both sides. Below I am standing in the exact spot where Sam Elliott (playing Union General John Buford in the movie Gettysburg) calls down to General Reynolds and says, "There's a devil to pay."
The seminary even allows skirmishing on its property each year. It has four stories of unforgettable displays, like this one showing Union wounded after the first day of battle.
I was ecstatic to have been in the cupola. The view was more than spectacular. The rest of my time in Pennsylvania was spent speaking at a conference at the Middle Creek Bible Conference Center in Fairfield, only a few miles from the Round Tops.
My hosts were Kathy and Ken Coley. The retreat center has been in Kathy's family for years. It's 535 acres of pristine Pennsylvania farmland devoted in its entirety to King Jesus. I was joined by my new friends Matt Olson (former president of Northland Bible Institute) and David Foster (a biology prof at Messiah College), both of whom brought excellent messages.
I spoke twice on missions and sacrifice in the cause of the Gospel (no surprises there, I suppose). Definitely a great time. A thousand thanks to the Coleys for their gracious invitation to minister the word. I kept praying that the Lord would fill us up with love and strength and wisdom so that we could all go back to our daily routines and pour ourselves out all over again. I'm starting to think He may well have accomplished that. To Him be the glory. Here's a few more pix for you to enjoy while I go and cook supper. Good night.
The place where General Armistead was mortally wounded.
The Codori farm, famous for being right on the Emmitsburg Road.
This is the ground Lee's men had to cover to reach the stone wall on the third day.
Lee's HQ. It's only a block from the Lutheran Seminary.
The site where John Reynolds was killed while leading his First Corps against Heth.
I drove up to Cashtown to see the place where Lee's troops bivouacked the night before the battle.
Pickett's reconstructed "Division."
The Virginia Monument on Confederate Ave. Our "charge" began there.
We reach the Emmitsburg Road!
During the last few yards, we went at the double quick. There's Armistead (Ken Coley) waving his hat.
Standing with Michael Cooper-White (to my right) and Mark Hoffman, president and professor of New Testament respectively at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg. Two more gracious hosts I have never met.
The Round Tops as seen from the Longstreet overview along Confederate Hwy.
Rob Gibson displays his magic. I was tongue-tied.