I'm risking Carpal
Tunnel Syndrome for typing this, but last night while watching a PBS Front Line story I
gorged myself on some of North Carolina's finest cuisine. It's called junk food.
Doritos with cheese dip. And a Pepsi of course. Naturally, I had a good
defense for my self-indulgence. Patricia
Sellers once said she eats like a 6-year old because 6-year olds have
the lowest death rates according to the actuarial tables.
Yesterday I also
read that David Ige, Hawaii's brand new governor, wants to increase
hotel capacity in the Islands -- as if the Islands weren't already
sinking under the weight of tourism and retirees. Last week Ige also
made a pitch to President Obama to choose Hawaii as the location for
his presidential library. I think Chicago is a much better choice. Having lived on the
mainland most of his life, Mr. Obama is
as much a Hawaiian as George W. Bush.
According to the
BBC, the Chinese are actually taking classes in Western Manners,
including how to set a table and peel an orange. The story is
here. Huh? Do
Westerners have manners? I wouldn't let Becky open a car door, I would
at the dining room table, and we never ate until she said "enjoy." I
haven't seen a man open a car door for his wife in ages. Guys -- I know
you can do better than that.
Below is Andrew
Gold's Lonely Boy. I listened to it last night before hitting the
sack. I had been married one year when the song came out.
It's 2015 and I still love it. It perfectly expresses what we all
felt when we were teenagers at a time in our lives when we were trying
to "fit in." I especially love the words, "I'm pushin' on
through." What an
incredibly accomplished musician (who died much too young at 59) and
what an incredibly beautiful song. I relive my youth every time I
hear it. When did I get so old?
Friday, February 27
5:35 PMThe greatest
surfing song ever written:
5:28 PMThe winning answer
to yesterday's contest? Bran Castle in Transylvania, of course
(otherwise known as Dracula's castle). In my photo I was trying to mimic
the good count himself, sans the fangs. The winner has been duly
5:10 PMA pastor is your
local director of missions. His team is as large as his congregation. I
thought of this while reading Joel Bradsher's
AMAs you know, I've
been reading Elton Trueblood's classic book, The Company of the
Committed. It's about Christian living, and the author wants to
encourage a deep conversation about the church. Trueblood was a lifelong
Quaker, educator, and author. (He was also twice widowed.)
His main point is
that the church as it exists today is not very well suited to fulfill
its basic redemptive function. "The movement we need is a movement in
depth," he writes (p. 10). (I argue much the same thing in my book
The Jesus Paradigm.) This question is especially important in light
of the fact that the line between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of
this world is becoming increasingly blurred in our day. While on the one
had I have no problem at all with people being passionately involved in
politics as they feel God is leading them, I simply maintain that
politics must be kept strictly separate from what we are about as
churches and that no one should ever label their position as the
distinctly "Christian" way of doing politics. Remember, in most wars in
history, both sides firmly believed that their "God" was on their side
(think of the German belt buckles on their uniforms that said "Gott Mit
Uns"). The unique call of the Christian is to pursue the kingdom, and
this is accomplished in counter-cultural ways including our willingness
to sacrifice ourselves and even our very lives for others. Trueblood
gets this. "Our position [as a church] is not unlike that of the Roman
Empire when it appeared to be at the height of its prestige, with great
show of power at the center, but actually was losing province after
province on the edges" (p. 11). He goes on to show that many of the most
"successful" programs in our churches will not bear up under close
examination. "It is hard to exaggerate the degree to which the modern
Church seems irrelevant to modern man" (p. 17). From my own experience,
I can tell you this is very true in post-Christian Europe, where I have
lived. To be a Christian in Switzerland was the equivalent of putting
your brain in park or neutral. But not only does Europe suffer from this
malaise. I live in the rural South, and here in the Bible Belt the
church has only marginal relevance. To be sure, people are willing to
put up with it as long as it does not require anything of them. Hence,
writes Trueblood, the question today is not one of whether Christian
fellowships exist. Rather, the question is what kind of character
these fellowships have (p. 21). I personally think this distinction is
very helpful. The Gospel is not the true Gospel unless it is about
transforming society. I deeply appreciate Trueblood's attempt to call
the church back to its militant stance, which produced "the amazing
vitality of early Christianity' (p. 28). On p. 31 he writes:
It is perfectly clear that early
Christians considered Christ their Commander-in-Chief, that they
were in a company of danger, which involved great demands upon their
lives, and to be a Christian was to be engaged in Christ's service.
The "service" he's
talking about is a far cry from the typical worship "service" one
attends today. As in an army, every soldier has his or her own duty to
The key words are "one another"
[he writes on p. 32]. There are no mere observers or auditors;
all are involved. Each is in the ministry; each needs the advice
of the others; and each has something to say to the others. The
picture of mutual admonition seems strange to modern man, but the
strangeness is only a measure of our essential decline from
something of amazing power.
Trueblood, is organizing a genuine band of brothers, a company of the
committed. Jesus wasn't asking for people to go to church. "He was,
instead, asking for recruits in a company of danger. He was asking not
primarily for belief, but for commitment with consequent involvement"
(p. 34). "We cannot understand the idea of of a company apart from the
concept of involvement" (p. 38).The soldier's one desire is to please
his commander in everything. The undeniable reality is that most of us
today are both untrained and uninvolved. The easiest way to undermine
Christianity is to appoint someone else to do the work for us. During
the Civil War in America, if you had enough money you could purchase
your way out of the draft and let someone else do all the fighting for
you. The simple fact is that we have been called -- all of us -- to
follow Jesus Christ, not someone else's good ideas or movements or
strategies, however good we may think they are. Whether you are a
Republican Matthew or a Democrat Simon the Zealot, we can all get along
just fine as long as we follow Jesus and stop making our political
ideals the bulls-eye.
The Company of Jesus is not
people streaming to a shrine; and it is not people making up an
audience for a speaker; it is laborers engaged in the harvesting
task of reaching their perplexed and seeking brethren with something
so vital that, if it is received, it will change their lives (p.
This is the kind of
lay ministry that I have long espoused and have argued for in my various
publications. In the words of Trueblood, "...in the ministry of Christ
there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor
female, neither layman nor cleric [italics his], but all are one
in Christ" (p. 62).
If you share this
vision of the kingdom, will you support my work? Not financially of
course. Will you join me in praying for the church in North America?
Pray that God will help Christians here to wake up to the political
delusion that has descended upon us through well-meaning people. Pray
that we start caring more about sacrificing for the country than
controlling it. To me, the most basic and most difficult challenge of
being a Christ-follower is what Trueblood addresses in this marvelous
book. It's becoming completely sold out to the Commander-in-Chief and
living under His authority and in His love on a moment-by-moment basis.
I want to encourage you to cultivate a conscious surrendered attitude
toward God. By all means, express your opinion about politics. Vote for
the man or woman of your choice. But never, ever forget where the hope
of the world lies. Obey Jesus and love others as He did. This is our
calling, those of us who, by God's amazing grace, are privileged to be a
part of the Company of the Committed.
tempted to tell people that I live "alone," I have to catch myself.
Today, and every day, I have two furry companions who stick by me closer
than any cleaner fish ever stuck to the side of a shark. If I'm in the
library, they're in the library. If I'm in my office, they're in my
office. I just snapped this pic.
Just look at their
eyes. I don't know that I've ever had more loyal friends. And yet ....
How huge is the
gap between us.
As much as I can
"relate" to them, and as much as I enjoy their company, there is no
possible way they can know what's going on in my mind or enter fully
into my experience as a human being. Do they realize that I just paid my
Verizon bill or wrote another chapter in my book or texted with one of
my daughters? That's just how it is between animals and their masters.
A vast, unbridgeable gap. And it reminded me that God's ways are
so much higher than mine. I guess I've always known that, but there
comes a point in your life when you have to vocalize it, internalize it
-- especially when life has hit you upside the head with a two by four.
God does things we don't understand, and we don't understand them simply
because we can't understand them. We are only children; He is the
all-knowing Father. So when His actions do not seem to comport with our
ideas of justice or fairness, we simply have to trust Him. Just as my
dogs simply believe that I am loving and fair and just and kind, so we
must simply believe that God is Justice and Love and Fairness and
Kindness personified. It's just that simple. You trust.
fire you might be walking through today, thank God that He is your
cover, the one who is walking through this fire with you. Even if you
should be stripped of everything, you will still have Him. Go where He
goes. Sit at His feet. Gaze into His sympathetic eyes. Be quick to do
His bidding. He is enough. And because He is enough, you are enough.
Thursday, February 26
6:42 PMContest time again!
I'm giving away a brand new copy of
13 Hours in Benghazi (an
excellent book!) to anyone who can correctly name this European castle.
through tomorrow at this time. My scowl is a dead giveaway!
2:02 PMAre we happy?
1:15 PMLook who's been
enjoying the snow.
I have the greatest
grandkids in the world, bar none.
Time to go feed the
donks a carrot :)
PMTravel update: Lord
willing, I'll fly to Charleston this Saturday. On Sunday morning and
evening, and on Monday and Tuesday evening, I'm scheduled to speak at
Mount Tabor Baptist Church in Bowman. On Monday and Tuesday I have been
invited to lecture at Charleston Southern University. Quite an honor!
While in Charleston I'll also be meeting up with some of our seminary
grads as well as doing some sightseeing, including a visit to historic
It'll be crazy busy
but what better place to spend your week off from teaching? Charleston
is one of my all-time most favoritest cities in the world.
11:26 AMWhy is it on days
like this I can hear Kailua Beach calling to me?
Be back there in
May Lord willing. Already waxing down my surfboard.
11:15 AMOne reason I love our local
weatherman Greg Fishel so much. This man is the real deal.
11:06 AMGorgeous day! If I
still had my horses I'd be riding.
9:55 AMQuote of the day
Though the fig tree does not bud and
there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and
the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and
no cattle in the stalls, yet I will
rejoice in the Lord, I
will be joyful in God my Savior.
it. There are times in life when we hit bottom. When platitudes and
theories just don't seem to work any more. When nothing makes sense.
When nothing has worked out as we planned. We can still rejoice in our
Savior. We can praise God anyway. We must face our problems head
on. But we never face them alone. Hallelujah!
9:10 AM"For to the snow He
says, 'Fall on the earth!'" (Job 37:6).
Wednesday, February 25
7:06 PMIt's coming!
6:30 PMI see that Jacob
Cerone has been interviewed about his Th.M. thesis, A Comparative Discourse Analysis of
the Masoretic and Septuagint Versions of Jonah. I for one am eager to see the day when
Jacob's mature conclusions are published for all to read. In the
meantime, and to whet your appetite, you can read his interview
6:10 PMWriting in another
language can be challenging but it's an indispensable part of the
learning process. Here's our LXX class composing sentences in Greek
We are learning by
doing. This is how learning works best. This is how I learned to drive a
car and play the ukulele and the guitar and the piano and the trumpet.
It encourages proficiency even as it creates tons of frustration. I am
convinced that most Greek students can learn to write in another
language with the help of a tutor. The next time we meet I plan on
having the class compose in both Hebrew and Greek. This little exercise
forces us to think about syntax, the use of pronouns and their
antecedents, primary and secondary clauses, etc. In my years of doing
this I have noticed that the biggest challenge lies in the students'
lack of self-confidence and their inability to think in both the target
and the receptor languages. Idioms are often the greatest roadblocks.
If, for example, I were to ask you to write "For you the war is over" --
the famous greeting offered to practically every allied airman
surrendering to the Germans in World War II -- only the most adept
student would know to write, "Für Sie ist der Krieg vorbei." But even
those who feel extremely inadequate at first gradually gain
self-confidence. We learn by doing. First attempts will likely be
quite bad, but effort is always rewarded.
8:50 AMQuote of the day
(C. S. Lewis):
You are never too old
to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
8:46 AMYou can have a
"paper perfect" church and still fail its Chief Commissioner. Your blog
posts about the church may challenge tradition but if they do not equip
for service they fail. If the impression you give is that holiness is
having "my kind of church," then it needs to be unlearned.
Tuesday, February 24
7:04 PMSomeone texted me
Started reading Campbell's book
on Advances in the Study of Greek and found that he's quoted your
Quite a nice
compliment, eh? It's so wonderful to see the advances being made today
in the field of New Testament Greek studies. Well, mostly wonderful.
There have been a few public squabbles I haven't cared too much to
watch, but by and large things are boding well for our field. That said,
I offer a few imprecise and speculative predictions of what we might
expect to see in the next few years. I offer these as someone who is
certainly no prophet nor the son of a prophet and as someone who even
works for a non-prophet organization. They are:
1) I predict that
the whole concept of "deponency" will be "laid aside" (Latin,
deponere) in all grammar books.
2) I predict that
the verbal aspects will be acknowledged to be three in number and will
be called imperfective, stative, and perfective.
3) I predict that
the Koine Greek verb system will be vindicated as time-based in the
4) I predict that
more and more teachers will integrate the "Living Language" approach
with their classroom instruction.
5) I predict that
more and more students will be self-taught.
6) I predict that
some of the more recently-published introductory grammars will fail to
become widely used because they are weak pedagogically, i.e., they are
more complicated and lengthier than they need to be.
7) Finally, I
predict that the verb system will continue to be introduced in the
indicative mood (rather than in the infinitive, where it logically
should be introduced).
I know. I know.
Pure speculation. But I must say: I am grateful beyond words for (and a
bit stupefied by) the advances being made in a discipline that has
turned out to be a fairly major emphasis in my own academic life. The
future is bright, and all thanks and praise belong to God.
5:32 PMAnother reminder
about the importance of proofreading (check the Greek).
appears in a book published by Brill no less. The essay had two authors;
the book had two editors. The lesson? Egregious errors of this kind are
both inexcusable -- and probably unavoidable!
5:25 PMThought for
the day (David Livingstone):
God had an only son and he was a
missionary. A poor, poor example of him I am. But in this work I now
live. And in this work, I wish to die.
describes him with three words: Missionary, Traveller, Philanthropist.
5:22 PMWhat I'm reading tonight:
For an excellent discussion of the book,
11:40 AMCampus is closed today due to the snowy
weather. Be safe out there yall! Below: Niagara Falls from a drone.
6:26 AMWhat I'm reading: The Company of the
Committed by Elton Trueblood. The subtitle is "A bold and
imaginative re-thinking of the strategy of the Church in contemporary
6:20 AM"I've never let my school interfere
with my education." Mark Twain.
6:14 AMWhy study Greek?
emphatically agree with the old Scottish proverb that says: "Greek,
Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place. But it is not at the
head of the cross, where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the
cross in humble service to Jesus."
PMThe winner of our
contest is Jeff, who submitted the following caption:
"Yes, lamb chop, I will
still love you, even when you're baaaaaaad."
The book will go out in tomorrow's mail.
My thanks to everyone who played.
PMI'm in a crazy,
sentimental mood tonight. How I love my girl!
Never be the same without you here
I'll live alone
Hide myself behind my tears
Never be the same without your love
I'll live alone
Try so hard to rise above
What a terrific song. Thank you,
Christopher Cross. As for you, my sweet Becky: My heart is wrapped
around your memory. There is simply no escaping that fact.
How beautiful you are my darling! Oh
how beautiful! You have stolen my heart with one glance at your eyes.
(Song of Songs 4:1, 9.)
And now back to our previously scheduled
PM"What are the
essential doctrines of Christianity?" This is the topic of discussion at
a Google Hangout tomorrow night at 8:00 pm that promises to be most
interesting. More details at Allan Bevere's
PMA thousand thanks to
my daughter Kim and her kids for coming to the farm today and helping me
clean the house. I hope you enjoyed Papa B's sloppy joes. I love you!
PMSay hello to our new
video: The brother of two
Christians slain by terrorists prays for their killers on air. The Jesus
Movement is an irresistible revolution because of men and women like
this. Confessing Jesus as Lord is essentially a political act. A Gospel
that doesn't ascribe complete and total allegiance to the Savior is no
Gospel at all. What a dramatic challenge to our typical platitudes: "God
bless America -- and don't forget to vote for me."
AMI snapped this pic
of Sheba and Dayda at dusk last night. We were sitting on the front
porch stoop enjoying the warmer weather.
They were staring at their cookies, which
I was dangling just out of their reach and which they were just about to
enjoy. I love their eyes. That's how a Christian should look when
expecting the coming of Jesus. In a famous verse in Philippians, Paul
says that we are to eagerly yearn for a Savior, the Lord Jesus
Christ (3:20). In a sense, the entire creation -- doggies included --
are eagerly looking forward to the day when Jesus restores all things.
At that time, says Paul, our lowly bodies will become like His own
glorious body, and we will be fully conformed to the image of the Son
(Rom. 8:29). Adds John, "When He is revealed, we will be like Him,
because we will see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). Paul describes this
fantastic transformation in great detail in 1 Corinthians 15.
So there you have it. Even the eyes of a
dog can teach us something about the Christian life.
Sunday, February 22
Winner gets a free copy of
Scribes and Scripture, the
Greenlee Festschrift (with essays by F. F. Bruce, Keith Elliott, Moises
Silva, and others). Submissions close this time tomorrow.
PMQuote of the day (G.
A citizen can hardly
distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is
generally much lighter.
Here's my "tax office":
It's making me go bananas, become a basket
case, go bonkers, lose my marbles, take leave of my senses, and go
around the bend -- all at the same time. I'd much rather be ....
We now have one
monthly “Elder’s Meeting” where the pastors meet with the elders to
take the major decisions regarding vision, mission, ministries,
finances, program, events, and suchlike, as well as to discuss key
spiritual issues that might be affecting the congregation or
Then the writer adds:
... our leadership
structure is modeled on the book of Acts as well as key parts of the
rest of the NT that mention church structure, either directly or
It seems to me that a leadership structure
that is "modeled on the book of Acts" will not make a distinction
between "pastors" and "elders," since the terms are used
interchangeably. Pastors are elders are overseers, are
they not? It's all very complex and sometimes ambiguous, but once we
begin reading the New Testament for ourselves we have no choice but to
wade through it all. May the Spirit guide us toward the best policy and
help us to make any necessary changes!
AMSchedule note: I see
that I will be teaching the Greek exegesis of Mark in the fall, as I
requested. Class will meet every Tuesday evening from 6:30-9:20.
Speaking of Mark, two more quick items:
1) Allow me to remind you of the
forthcoming lecture in March titled "Who is Jesus according to Mark?"
The date is Saturday, March 14, the place is Fort Worth, and the speaker
is Adelo Yarbro Collins. My father-in-law and I plan on attending.
2) Last night I finished Lunn's
The Original Ending of Mark. His
case for authenticity is convincing. I hope all of you will take a look
at it if you can. The book has the potential of becoming a consensus
And to think that he once studied on the
very campus where I now serve.
Saturday, February 21
Thankfully, it will be in the 50s tomorrow
as we finally head into spring. The winter solstice is behind us, and
the long dark nights are slowly receding. I'm looking forward to a busy
year of teaching, writing, and travelling. How about you?
PMLast year at this
time I was in California being interviewed by Don Stewart for
It ought to be illegal to have so much
fun. Don and I go away back. We even had Greek together at Biola. At any
rate, to watch the interviews you can go to
this page and scroll down.
PMI'm proofreading the
final pages of my Spanish grammar. It's amazing how easy it is to miss
PMBeen working on
taxes all morning. Got a huge Charlie Horse between the ears. I quit!
PMI've received the
definitive answer to the "yup" versus "yep" question:
use the word "Yeup."
experiencing grief in your life right now, I invite you to watch this
video. I did last night. It helped.
Loss is traumatic. No one can prepare you for it. But when it
comes, you have to deal with it. Maybe you've lost a loved one, as I
have. Or perhaps you've lost your health or your job -- or a dream. Remember:
there's a difference between grieving and mourning. When we grieve, we
internalize the loss. We look normal to others, but on the inside we carry the
loss with us wherever we go. Mourning is something else altogether. When
we mourn, we take our grief and express it, go public with it. Mourning
is the outward expression of internal grief. Last night my grief gave
way to mourning, again. I could no longer suppress my grief. I had to
let it out. Becky's death was the most emotional experience I've ever
faced. I cope with her loss in a way that is consistent with the way God
made me: through music. There was no sobbing, just a great swell of
emotion arising softly inside my soul and sticking to my throat. At the
same time, I felt truly alive, truly human, truly cared for. Music is a
gift of God. And tears are liquid love. For indeed, I love her still, as
do many of you.
Maybe today is a good day for you to mourn
again. And remember: We don't have to travel this path alone. In the
beautiful words of Grace Noll Crowell:
Let me come in
where you are weeping, friend,
And let me take your hand.
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours, can understand.
Let me come in -- I would be very still beside you in your grief;
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend,
Tears bring relief. Let me come in -- and hold your hand,
For I have known a sorrow such as yours,
Love in the Lamb,
Friday, February 20
PMThe dogs insisted on
taking me for a walk today, so off we went.
Glad we did; this is what we found in our
Looks like a good read. As long as there's
a fire going in the fireplace. Accompanied by a hot cup of tea. :)
AMI have a very
important question for my readers. It has to do with a word I often use
when texting. Are you ready?
Is it "yep" or "yup"?
You see, I've been having this debate with
one of my sweet daughters who actually disagrees with me. My view is
that either one is acceptable. Please give me the correct answer. (I.e.,
assure me that I'm right.)
AMGreek students of
all ages and levels, don't forget Rob Plummer's "Daily Dose of Greek."
He's started going through Mark -- one of my all-time
favorite NT books (along with 26 others).
AMWell, folks, it's
time to hang it up.
Time to put my vocation behind me.
Friday, April 10th is the day.
On that day I will march to the center of
the village of Appomattox and stack my rifle and cartridge box, along
with hundreds of other comrades-in-arms. Time to put the war behind us
and start planting our summer crops. Thankfully, it's not far from
Appomattox to my family farm in Nelson.
Historical imagination aside, this should
be a fun event. Come out and see us if you can. Thursday is the
surrender. Friday we stack arms. Saturday night is the period ball.
Sunday morning is the church service. Both Union and Confederate camps
will be open to the public. For three days I'll live in my dog tent and
eat beef jerky and tell stories around the campfire and otherwise
disappear into the 1860s. Reenacting is a wonderful hobby. It's also a
mission field. So many of us are there trying to escape our problems by
playing bang-bang on the weekends. So we'll see what the Lord has in
store for this here old army private. We Americans have a rich history.
That history has shaped us, often for good, sometimes for ill. "The past
is not dead. It's not even past," said William Faulkner. Even today,
there is a vacant chair in many a household due to the ravages of war.
Even sadder, David's Son is standing outside and knocking at the door of
many a home in America. He wants to come in and anyone can open that
door. He enters as guest but remains as host.
If there is an empty place in your heart
today, enthrone Him. You will not be disappointed.
AMIt's 3 degrees right
now and I've got ants in my kitchen. No wonder they're called
AMHello, my blogging
It's freezing here. Literally. It was
minus-1 this morning. I miss long walks on the farm. The trade-off is I
get to catch up on my reading. Again, I'm pleased to commend to you
Markus Barth's commentary on Ephesians.
I read his discussion of chapter 3 last
night. Referring to Paul's self-deprecation in Eph. 3:7, Barth writes:
No loophole is left in
this overly redundant diction for attributing to Paul any honor or
dignity that belongs to God alone.
Whenever Paul speaks of his ministry, he
can't help but speak of God's grace, his "gift" of apostleship, the fact
that he was "made" (divine passive) a servant. For Paul, the essence of
God's grace was his appointment to call others into God's fold,
especially the Gentiles.
[Grace] is not given
to any man for personal salvation, enjoyment, and satisfaction only.
Then, in verse 8, Paul invents a word in
the Greek to describe himself. "Least" is too weak a term to express his
feeling of utter unworthiness, so he writes that he is the "leaster" (or
"smallester") of all the saints.
Paul is not ashamed to
place himself extremely low.
The reason, of course, is Paul's
self-awareness that he had persecuted the church before becoming a
Christian himself. To him -- of all people! -- missionary work was
In a church structured and ordered in a
New Testament way, you will not see titles such as "lead pastor" or
"senior pastor." The professional ministry model says, "Let those who
lead bear titles of honor." A participation structure says, "We are all
servants together of our one Lord and Master." As surprising as it might
sound, Markus Barth, himself a member of a highly structured and
organized denomination, argued that structures must be relational rather
than organizational. Equipping in the church ought to be characterized
more by participation than by representation.
One practical application of this might be
asking the question of where leaders should sit during the service. I
recall a time when leaders almost always sat on the platform during the
entire service, usually in bulky chairs. I rarely see this today.
Leaders sit with the congregation (of which they are a part) or with
their families until it is time for them to exercise their God-given
abilities in teaching or preaching. Professional thinking is being
adjusted to a body life mentality. This is a healthy step forward.
Why couldn't it be replicated on a grander scale? Couldn't your church
website have a link called "Who is your pastor?" and when you clicked on
it you read something like this:
Senior Pastor: Messiah Baptist
Church does have a Senior Pastor. That person is the most qualified
to lead the church. He is also the most effective in making
decisions for the body. He consistently teaches us Scripture by the
Holy Spirit. He loves the people of the church more than anyone
else. He also models perfectly what it means to be a child of God.
Finally, He holds us to a higher standard than anyone else is
capable of doing. His name is Jesus Christ. He is our Chief Shepherd
and our Overseer.
What, then, of elders?
The people of Messiah
Baptist Church – after studying Scripture and spending much time in
corporate and personal prayer – decided that Scripture models a
plurality of men to be pastors or elders (we consider these terms to
describe the same individuals and we use the terms interchangeably).
The members look among themselves and recognize men who are
qualified to be pastors/elders and who are living as mature
followers of Jesus Christ. There is no hierarchy among our
Notice how intentional this congregation
is. The call to ministry comes to every believer. Let no one, therefore,
deprecate a theology of the laity. All of life is ministry. It helps if
the church acknowledges this in ways that are obvious. No leader should
be ashamed to put himself "extremely low," as Barth says. No leader
should attribute to himself "any honor or dignity that belongs to God
Now, of course, changes like these can't
be orchestrated. But progress can be made when leaders themselves begin
to desire needed structural change. If change isn't from God, you might
as well remain stuck in tradition. But if your church has the kind of
people who want to be in earnest about following New Testament patterns
for doing ministry, the principles are there. No structure lasts
forever. Change is inevitable. Perhaps it's time to take a small step
Blessings on you all,
Thursday, February 19
PMQuote of the day:
ISIS may be a
perversion of Islam, but Islamic it is, just as Christian beliefs
about the sanctity of the unborn child explain why some Christian
fundamentalists attack abortion clinics and doctors. But, of course,
murderous Christian fundamentalists are not killing many thousands
of civilians a year. More than 80% of the world’s
terrorist attacks take place in
five Muslim-majority countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria,
Pakistan and Syria — and are largely carried out by groups with
Wesley insists that
this grace [of sanctification] should be preached "always by way of
promise; always drawing, rather than driving." This level-headed man
gives further advice which is a safeguard against fanaticism: "I
would be far from quenching the smoking fax — from discouraging
those who serve God in a low degree. I would encourage them to come
up higher, without thundering hell and damnation in their ears."
When Moses stood on
Mt. Pisgah he didn't throw stones at his brethren on the plain below
to get them to climb to those sunny heights.
Our Lord stressed again and again the high
cost of following Him, but He was always gracious and kind toward the
weak and heavy-laden. He says, "Come as you are," not "Come as you ought
to be." Yet He adds, "When you come, I will change you from the inside
out." What a merciful and gracious King we serve.
PMIf you're an
American history buff, you are probably considering attending the final
event of the Civil War sesquicentennial in Appomattox this year. The
dates are April 8-12. For a complete list of events, go
here. Lee surrenders to Grant on
Thursday the 9th, while the Confederate forces stack arms (and the
Federal forces salute them by order of Union General Joshua Chamberlain)
on Friday the 10th. By the way, I read that West Virginian Al Stone is
retiring this year from his role as Robert E. Lee.
The 150th Appomattox event will mark the
final time Al dons the Confederate commander's uniform. I have admired
and respected the great work Al has done in the reenacting community for
some 20 years and wish him well in his retirement in Florida.
And now for some laughs -- me as Lee
(taken last August in Gettysburg).
The photographer said, "Look grim." So I
looked grim! The photographer, of course, was none other than Rob
Gibson, who is well-known for his Civil War portraits.
Next time you're on Steinwehr Avenue in
check him out. Watching Rob work
is half the fun!
AMTo all of my Chinese
friends both here and abroad:
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Archaeology Society is pleased to invite you on behalf of the
Catholic Biblical Association of America
to attend a lecture by BAS senior editor Ellen White titled
“Biblical Archaeology: Is It Really the Spade in One Hand and the
Bible in the Other?”
Ellen White, Ph.D.
(Hebrew Bible, University of St. Michael’s College), is the senior
editor at the Biblical Archaeology Society. She has taught at five
universities across the U.S. and Canada and spent research leaves in
Germany and Romania. She has also been actively involved in digs at
various sites in Israel.
The lecture will take place on
Saturday, March 21, 2015, at 4 p.m. at Virginia Theological Seminary
in Alexandria, Virginia. The lecture is free and open to the public.
I am planning on attending, not least
because of the speaker's obvious sense of humor.
AMJust read the
excellent article by Ken Dark (Ph.D. in archaeology, Cambridge) in
Biblical Archaeology Review called "Has Jesus' Nazareth House Been
Found?" He toys with the question, Does the cellar of the Sisters of
Nazareth Covent reveal the childhood home of Jesus? The original
building was constructed by cutting back a limestone hillside and then
adding rock walls. He dates the house "from the first century or
earlier." Dark concludes that the building is probably "where the
Byzantine church builders believed Jesus had spent his childhood in
Nazareth." Dark also talks about the possible influence the city of
Sepphoris might have had on Jesus' childhood. Sepphoris was located a
mere 5 miles northwest of the sleepy hollow of Nazareth and was a major
center of politics, culture, and art in Galilee. In his book Jesus
and the Forgotten City (1991), Richard Batey argued that Sepphoris
was Jesus' "city set on a hill" and that Jesus and His craftsmen father
and brothers might have worked there in one of Herod's many building
projects. I think this theory is possible if not plausible. For a
synopsis of Batey's views, see his summary in the May/June 1992 issue of
Incidentally, today I finally got around
to subscribing to BAR and its sister publication BR (Bible
Review) online. It is well worth the reasonable subscription fee.
The BAS Library Explorer contains a vast array of material on
archaeology and biblical studies. If you're interested, the archives
also includes a multi-part series I once wrote for BR from
1992-1994. The series is called "Greek for Bible Readers." Keith
Schoville (Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the
University of Wisconsin, Madison) wrote an accompanying series called
"Hebrew for Bible Readers" that you might enjoy as well. Schoville is
the author of Biblical Archeology in Focus (Baker).
Below: The Sisters of Nazareth Convent.
Wednesday, February 18
PMI stumbled upon this
picture of Becky tonight. It was taken at Nate and Jessie's wedding.
I gaze at it, as enthralled as when I
first laid eyes on it. Becky was a woman of prayer, that's for sure.
I'll never forget that about her. She was famous for her intercession --
what Elizabeth Elliott once called "the hardest work in the world." For
whom are you praying tonight? Would you include me please? Pray that He
would deliver me from the din and racket of life, grant me the strength
that comes from quietness, and continue to put a song of praise in my
mouth even though I still feel her loss deeply. Thank you.
PMAs I said earlier,
I've been reading Barth's classic commentary on Paul's letter to the
Ephesians. Once again I'm completely blown away by the author's
astuteness, brilliance even.
His section on Eph. 4:11-13 deserves a
reading by every Christian. Let me try to summarize it for you.
Remember, Markus Barth was no conservative evangelical. He wasn't a
Southern Baptist. He was a professor in a Reformed university in Basel.
Yet above all he was a biblicist. At some point, you are I are going to
have to become the same thing. But to my summary:
1) Barth argues that Eph. 4:11-13 is a
locus classicus on the church -- its order, origin, design, etc.
2) By separating "the equipping of the
saints" and "the work of the ministry" by a comma (as in the KJV), we
miss Paul's point completely. It leads to an aristocratic and
ecclesiastical interpretation that falsely distinguishes between the
mass of "saints" and the superior class of "clergy" who are distinct
from them. In this view, laypeople are only the beneficiaries of the
work of the ministry; they may benefit from it, but only official
ministers can carry it out.
3) The ministries of verse 11 are given to
the church so that the saints can become equipped to carry out works of
service and thus allow the light of God's goodness to shine in a dark
world. "All the saints (and among them, each saint) are enabled by the
four or five types of servants enumerated in 4:11 to fulfill the
ministry given to them, so that the whole church is taken into Christ's
service and given missionary substance, purpose, and structure."
4) Barth thus challenges the prevailing
"aristocratic-clerical and the triumphalistic-ecclesiastical"
interpretation of 4:11-13. These interpretations are nothing other than
"arbitrary distortions of the text."
5) There is, therefore, no biblical
distinction between clergy and laity. "Rather, the whole church, the
community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for
a ministry to and for the world." This means, among other things, that
we can't reduce church members "to the rank of mere consumers of
spiritual gifts," nor can we view the church as turned in on itself.
6) Each one of the saints is a recipient
of grace from on High. They should also be dispensers of grace. Even the
weakest members of the body are indispensable.
7) What, then, of the special call to
"the" ministry? "There is but one calling or vocation valid in the
church: the call of God into his kingdom."
8) This is not to undermine the necessity
for special ministers. "Their place is not above but below the great
number of saints who are not adorned by resounding titles. Every one of
the special ministers is a servus servorum Dei [a servant of the
servants of God]."
9) This means that the main ministry of
the gathered church is mutual edification. "There are needy people
inside the church -- and 'the lonely men at the top' may well belong
10) As for honorific titles, Barth argues
against their use. "Divers books of the NT show that all 'clerical'
titles available from Israel's history and literature have been
conferred upon Jesus Christ and comprehended in him."
I love Barth. I loved him when I sat in
his lectures and seminars in Basel and I love him now. He never treated
faith in an abstract, theoretical way. Yes, the church needs specialized
and gifted leaders. Paul says as much in our text. But the call of God
to fulltime Christian service comes to every believer who has ears to
hear. We are all "joints" in the body of Christ and connected to each
other. We may therefore choose to either edify or ignore our calling.
Will I abdicate my responsibility to the leaders or will I build up the
body by building up this brother or that sister? The special ministers
of the church may model equipping for us, but we can never delegate this
work completely to them.
How to flesh this out? Perhaps we could
I know this looks radical, but that's what
the church is supposed to look like! I think you'd have the most
interesting church marquee in town. And the glory would all go to Jesus.
And even non-believers might be curious enough to darken your doorsteps.
And the kingdom of God would advance.
PMFood for thought:
Why does NHCO have so many
different speakers giving messages on the weekend?
The primary reason is that it
trains us to hear from the Spirit of Jesus rather than become tied
or enamored with any one personality. The Corinthian church was
divided in this way between their favorite Christian personalities
and Paul rebuked them for this. A second reason is that it allows
for future generations of preachers to train and gain experience.
Dey not right kine
peopo. Dey ony do pilau kine stuff. Dey greedy guys. Dey get pilau
attitude. Dey all jealous. Dey like kill peopo. Dey like go beef
everybody. Dey sneaky buggas. Dey ony tink bad kine stuff. Dey tell
stuffs dey not suppose to bout da odda guys. Dey talk stink. Dey
everytime stay huhu wit God. Dey tink dey so high makamaka, so dat
peopo no can come by dem. Dey tink dey it. Dey talk big. Dey try
figga how dey can make everyting hamajang. Dey no do wat dea
mudda-fadda guys tell um fo do. Dey no like undastan notting. Dey
make promise, but dey no keep um. Dey no mo love an aloha, an dey no
give chance notting.
So writes Paul in Romans 1. I appreciate
the ability of Hawaiian Pidgin to get to the point. Growing up, this was
our "lingua franca." I still love reading and speaking it today.
AMWhat I'm reading:
Keep It Shut: What to Say. How to Say It. And When to Say Nothing at All.
It's by Karen Ehman. I'm on the section called "Blog Blather." Uh-oh.
Tempus fugit. Just think of all the "time passages" you've
If we are slow getting into action for the
Lord maybe it's because we don't realize what time it is. Our
Revolutionary forebears were called "Minute Men." We are to be "Last
Minute Men." Blessed are those who, under God's guiding hand, buy up the
PMAlex Montoya of the
Masters Seminary sent along this kind endorsement of our forthcoming
grammar in Spanish:
La iglesia del mundo
hispano sera bendecida grandemente con estra traducion del magnifico
libra de David Alan Black al espanol. Lo recomiendo para todo
estudiante del idioma del Nuevo Testamento en el conocimiento del
Palabra de Dios y preparacion del ministerio a Su sagrada iglesia.
Humbled and grateful.
snow and ice event, I left for campus yesterday to beat the storm. One
of my Th.M. students had his oral scheduled for this morning and had
come all the way from Washington State for this meeting, so it needed to
happen. And it did, praise God! He passed with flying colors. On the
left is one of his persecutors (Old Testament prof Heath Thomas).
Tracy McKenzie (another expert in the
Hebrew Bible) joined us via Face Time. Heartiest congratulations to
Jacob Cerone for producing an
excellent thesis and for defending it so well. By the way, this is what
the campus looked like this morning when I tried to walk from my dorm
room to my office.
Nothing but ice. But the Lord sent along
angels in disguise -- two guys who work on the grounds crew -- and they
grabbed me by the arms and led me across campus safely. (Picture Moses
with Aaron and Hur.) As more snow is predicted for tomorrow I decided to
brave the roads and return to the farm today. A big shout out and thank
you to both the NCDOT and VDOT for clearing the roadways so well.
In the middle of all of this, I did
something last night I hadn't done in years. I watched TV. A program
snuck up on me and now has me hooked. It's on C-Span 2 and it's called
Book TV. Great stuff! I saw interviews by the authors of 13
Days in Benghazi, Guantanamo Diary, and The Man Who Would
Not Be Washington. The first book shares the horrid details of what
happened when the U.S. Consulate in Libya was attacked two years ago and
how woefully (and inexcusably) unprepared we were to defend our
ambassador there. The second book tells an equally horrid tale of
injustice and cruelty. (Terrorism is terrible, yes, but surely we can
combat it in ways that are in keeping with American values.) The last
book tells the story of a reluctant warrior (Robert E. Lee) whose
decision to leave the Union Army in 1861 was anything but easy. I've
already ordered all three books through Amazon.
AMWhat I'm reading:
The Spirit-Controlled Woman. It includes an interesting chapter
called "Temperament and Your Love Life"! Walking in the Spirit is the
foundation for our relationship with others. I shudder to think of all
the times I have grieved the Holy Spirit because I have not "walked in
AMIf you're interested
in Gettysburg, here's a must read:
The Widow and Her Farm. I
snapped this picture of the Leister farm last August:
The site is off the beaten path but well
worth a visit.
a bi-vocational pastor in a small urban church in a low-income
multi-ethnic community (hilltopurban.org).
For our first 26 1/2 years we had a full-time professional pastor.
As we learned how to grow indigenous leaders from our neighborhood,
he came to feel that he needed to leave if our leaders were to truly
step up and take full responsibility for leading the church. He left
20 month ago. I became head of staff, but chose to not use the title
Senior Pastor, as the pastoral responsibilities were being shared by
about 10 people whom we call shepherds (the leaders of our house
churches), and I am not even the leader of the Shepherd Team. One of
our other shepherds is. Also, the teaching/preaching is shared by a
number of people. I preach about once a month.
At first after our pastor left, when people would
ask, "Who is your pastor?" our leaders would say, "We don't have
one." But they soon learned to answer, "We have ten pastors, and
you're looking at one of them."
This has been such a healthy transition for our
church. I think all of our shepherds agree that we have seen more
life transformation, including more baptisms, in the past two years
than in any other time in our church's life. This could not have
happened so long as we saw pastoring as something that is done
mainly by professionals.
This pastor has
found in Christianity a much different model of leadership than is
practiced in most churches. The church is a theocracy with Christ as the
only head of the body and with leadership provided through "elders among
the people" (Phil. 1:1) who encourage the ministry gifts given to the
whole church. In this model, all the people of God -- clergy and laity
alike -- are elevated to their true dignity as ministers of Christ.
What think you?
Sunday, February 15
PMWhat I'm reading:
Markus Barth on Paul's prayer in Eph. 3.
PMI know it's going
down to 9 degrees tonight but I still feel like having an ice cream
PMJust ordered Elton
The Company of the Committed.
Couldn't believe I didn't already have this book in my library.
Trueblood was known for his love for the local church and for
The more we study the
early Church, the more we realize that it was a society of
ministers. About the only similarity between the Church at Corinth
and a contemporary congregation, either Roman Catholic or
Protestant, is that both are marked, to a great degree, by the
presence of sinners.
PMIt's no longer a
Social media is no
longer a fad. It is established in our culture. And churches should
do everything they can to engage the public in this forum. As of
January 2014, 74% of all adults who have some sort of presence
online use social media—your church needs to be accessible there.
PMI see that
Harry Pfanz has died at the age
of 93. Pfanz authored a trilogy of books on Gettysburg:
Gettysburg: The First Day, Gettysburg: The Second Day, and
Culps Hill and Cemetery Hill. Prior to his retirement, Pfanz served
as the Chief Historian of the Gettysburg National Military Park and as
the Chief Historian of the National Park Service. Pfanz was one of my
favorite Civil War authors. Anyone wanting to truly get to know this
battle must read his books.
PMChapel note: This
Tuesday Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Seminary, will be
speaking. He has authored several excellent books on missions and global
Invitation to World Missions: A Missiology for the 21st Century.
PMThis morning, as I
was driving to meet with the congregation in North Carolina I'm
privileged to be a part of, there were branches scattered along the road
because of the 40-mile per hour wind gusts we experienced last night in
Southside Virginia. I thought to myself, "What would it look like if the
Holy Spirit were to invade our churches?" Wind is a very powerful force,
but what do its aftereffects look like? I imagine the evidence might be
dramatic changes. On the other hand, I wonder if the Spirit doesn't
often move in more subtle ways. This passage came to mind:
The risen Christ
gave as gifts to His church apostles, prophets, evangelists, as well
as pastors and teachers. Their purpose
is to prepare God's people to serve and to build up the body of
Christ. This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith
and in our knowledge about God's Son, until we become mature, until
we measure up to Christ, who is the standard. Then we will no longer
be little children, tossed and carried about by all kinds of
teachings that change like the wind. We will no longer be influenced
by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray.
Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely
in our relationship to Christ, who is the head.
He makes the whole body fit together and unites it
through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its
job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
"As each and every part does its job...." Could this be
what revival might look like in our day and age? A revival of quiet and
simple service to God and to others? Truly this wind is contrary to so
much of modern teaching that emphasizes professional ministry. We are so
often wrong in our presuppositions. Moses didn't draw up a blueprint for
the tabernacle and then present it to God for His approval. God's idea
of "worship" may be far different from ours. It's high time we reported
to Headquarters and took our marching orders from the
Commander-in-Chief. One would think that out of sheer desperation we
would see our churches filled with common ordinary men and women
humbling themselves before God and seeking His method for doing
ministry. The only answer to our apathy is a great awakening in which
the Spirit of God blows on His church. And perhaps the greatest evidence
for His moving among us will be in the monotonous trudge of our daily
AMProgram note: Don't
forget the concert next Saturday at Duke Chapel featuring Stile
Stile Antico, a superb
twelve-voice British chamber choir, return to Duke Chapel for a
candlelit concert, In Pace: Music for Compline. Hailed for their
masterful interpretations of renaissance and baroque choral music,
they are winners of a Gramophone Award and a Diapason d’Or for their
recordings on Harmonia Mundi. The performances of this exceptional
ensemble have been lauded for their liveliness, expressive lucidity,
and imaginative response to text. The New York Times called them “an
ensemble of breathtaking freshness, vitality, and balance.”
tranquillitatis est – "In nature there is tranquility." Glad to be
back home on the farm. I just can't get used to the traffic in northern
Virginia, or in Raleigh for that matter.
AMFor a while now an
idea had been forming in my subconsciousness. Yesterday I allowed it to
rise to the surface and examined it. The idea was this:
Greek can't be taught.
Now, I say that as someone who has been
"teaching" Greek for 38 years. Greek can't be taught. It has to be
learned. There are several implications of this:
1) Teaching can take place without
learning taking place. It's like evangelism. You can share the Lord with
others but you can't force their conversion. That's up to God. Likewise
with teaching. You can teach without people learning anything. I see
this all the time. In the past few months I have run into several of my
former students. They have had at least three semesters of Greek. They
are all currently pastoring churches. Yet each confessed to me, "I may
have consulted my Greek once or twice in the past few months, but that's
about it." Each admitted to me that they could barely read a word of
Greek. But I had "taught" them Greek, hadn't I? Yes and no. Learning
depends on the learner as much it depends on the teacher. Which brings
me to my second point.
2) All learning is self-learning. This
happens even in Greek class or in your typical lecture. We listen
selectively, we remember selectively, we retain selectively. Another way
of putting this is: Learning is not method-dependent. A person can learn
how to read Greek regardless of the method. There is no single method of
teaching Greek that works for everyone. On the other hand, it seems to
me that learning can take place no matter what method is used -- the
traditional approach, the living language approach, or a combination of
the two. No method can guarantee learning. The same holds true
for textbooks and teachers.
3) This means, thirdly, that there is no
magic "key" to Greek pedagogy. There aren't any "five easy steps." No
gimmick works to ensure that our students "get it." Without the
motivation to acquire and retain a language, nothing of lasting value
ever happens. The only reason I have maintained my Greek or my German
(or whatever other language) is because I have an intrinsic desire -- a
God-given passion even -- for languages. Sometimes people will ask me,
"Well, languages come easy for you, right?" Not really. I have no
special language aptitude. Language acquisition is hard work for me.
Always has been. But it has been joyful work, so joyful in fact that it
has never really seemed like work at all. I can take no credit for this.
God is the one who grants us both the desire and ability to do anything
(Phil. 2:13). If you have learned a foreign language, thank God for it:
it is a gift from Him. Your mastery might lie somewhere else. No matter;
they are all God's good and perfect gifts (James 1:17).
4) "But isn't there one trait that stands
out among those who have acquired mastery of a foreign language?" I
believe there is, and I can illustrate it by sharing with you a story
from the Battle of the Wilderness that occurred in May of 1864. On the
morning of May 7, both armies lay panting like two exhausted prize
fighters. They had just fought it out in the thickets near
Chancellorsville. The battle had been a tactical draw. 30,000 men lay
dead or wounded. Union corps commanders were awaiting the inevitable
command to retreat back across the Rappahannock, as on every former
occasion. Instead, Grant ordered his troops to move south toward
Spotsylvania Court House. He was determined to "fight it out on this
line if it took all summer."
Grant's strategy was a simple one. Through
dogged perseverance he would grind down the Confederate army by waging a
war of attrition. It worked. "Our spirits rose," recalled a Union
veteran who remembered the moment as the turning point in the war.
If you love something, if you're
passionate about what you're doing, you'll get it done. It's called
perseverance. "Find what you love to do and you'll never work a day in
your life." That has been true for me. But it is the blessing of God.
Yes, language acquisition comes at a price. But only the Lord can put a
love in your heart for Greek. If you discover such a passion residing
deep in your heart, thank Him for it. If your passion lies elsewhere,
thank Him for that too.
Saturday, February 14
PMAnd now for
something completely different. Well, maybe not so different after all,
since I'm always talking about my Virginia travels. But at least we can
talk today about different venues. As you know, I left Rosewood Farm
yesterday morning in order to visit the Wilderness Battlefield, to find
Ellwood Manor, and to have Valentine's Day lunch in Fredericksburg with
my daughter who lives in DC. I could write an entire novel on how
incredible this trip was and how obvious God's hand was on it. On the
drive north I decided to pass through historic Farmville, where I
enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the Riverside Cafe.
Sure enough, the diner lived up to its
reputation on Trip Advisor and Yelp. Great food, a super kind staff, and
a warm fireplace to sit next to on a very cold day. The mural behind me
depicts the Battle of High Bridge which took place in Farmville in April
of 1865 during Lee's Retreat.
Then I drove north to Orange and
Gordonsville, where I visited the old train station and snapped this
caboose pic for my grandson Nolan (who, like his dad, is turning into a
world-class train buff).
When I eventually arrived at the
Wilderness Battlefield I made a beeline for Ellwood, where Jackson's
left arm is located. Jackson's chaplain Beverly Trucker Lacy took the
severed arm to his brother's farm at Ellwood and buried it there.
The house itself was built in 1790 and has
been immaculately preserved.
Robert E. Lee's father is said to have
written his memoirs in an upstairs bedroom, and the Marquis de Lafayette
ate in the downstairs dining room during his triumphant tour of America.
The entrance was closed off so I had to walk about a half mile to reach
the site, but it was well worth the effort. When I finally arrived in
Fredericksburg I went straight to the Bed and Breakfast I had reserved
for the night.
My thinking is, Why stay in a modern
hotel when you can relive the 19th century?
Finally, since it's George Washington's
birthday on Monday, today I decided to visit Ferry Farm, just across the
Rappahannock from Fredericksburg. Here Washington spent his childhood
(and hacked away at some of the bark on his father's prized cherry
The Visitor's Center, normally closed, was
open just for the weekend and features artifacts found on the property
as well as an archaeological lab.
George himself just happened to be
present, and he and I got into a long but cordial discussion about the
propriety of armed rebellion against legitimate authority.
Currently the George Washington
Foundation has plans to rebuild Ferry Farm according to precise
dimensions. They hope to begin construction this year, so if you feel
like making a donation, go here. I fully support this
As I was driving north yesterday I had a
brainstorm. I remember exactly where I was at the time -- crossing the
Appomattox River just north of Farmville on the James Madison Highway.
I'll relate this rather profound (well, profound to me) thought
with you tomorrow. It has to do with Greek and General Grant -- an
interesting combo to say the least!
I think the
evangelical tendency to obsess over the Apostle Paul and his letters
for local church life has created this visionless, pastoral
inwardness. Pauline-obsessed pastors may demonstrate this
“I’m-in-my-study-don’t bother me” ivory tower view of the pastor
more than anything you will find in the life and ministry of Jesus.
Shepherds, pastors worth their salt, leave the flock, weather the
storms, fend off the dangers, even laying own their lives if
necessary. Pastors are, in essence, risk-takers.
Pastors: You can't lead by words only. Get
involved in missions personally and lead the charge.
3) Uplifting tribute to fellow
Neutestamentler Bob Culver:
The Old Man and His Big Book.
Imagine -- a New Testament scholar who lives on a farm!
4) I sent my first year Greek students
home this weekend with their first take-home exam of the semester.
Praying they do well. To all of my hard-working Greek students: Here's
wishing you a wonderful Greekend!
5) I plan to make a quick tour of the
Wilderness Battlefield tomorrow along busy Route 20. This is where Grant
and Meade began trailing Lee's army in the spring of 1864. The
Wilderness was a terrible place to fight a battle -- as Lee well knew.
Determined to strike at the Federals before they emerged from the tangle
of woods and brush, Lee sent Ewell's and Hill's Corps after Meade. I've
been to the battlefield many times but this time I want to see if I can
find Ellwood, where Union General Warren had his headquarters -- and
where Stonewall Jackson's arm is buried.
Lee's HQ was near the Widow Tapp's Farm --
a site famous for Lee's personal advance with his troops and their
shouts of "Lee to the rear! Lee to the rear!" I enjoy these visits to
Civil War battlefields, especially ones that are free of monuments.
(Visitors to Gettysburg often joke, "Why didn't Meade's men just hide
behind all the monuments?") The pressure to turn the Wilderness
Battlefield into a subdivision remains intense. Who knows -- if I do
locate Ellwood, a MacDonald's may be next door.
AMA friend sent me
Saw on your blog
that you were looking for Amos in the Pidgin Bible.
it is! Looks like they are done with the OT.
Whew! I can scratch that off my list of
things to do.
AMAs I mentioned
yesterday, I attended Daniel Block's lectures on worship this week. The
talks were smoothly troweled and passionately presented. Daniel believes
worship has three essential elements: Life, Cultic Service, and
Disposition. He began by noting evangelicalism's "skewed preoccupation
with music," which he felt was merely symptomatic of a much deeper
problem. True worship, he insisted, involves acts of submission to God.
I couldn't agree more. Yet his views on cultic worship I find a bit
wanting. I don't mean to challenge Daniel, but I would note that there
has been some lengthy conversation of late -- or even broadsides --
regarding whether New Testament worship can be defined as cultic. This
is clearly seen in Brian Anderson's essay
Discovering the Purpose of Church Meetings.
This is not a call to return to some sort of "pristine" New Testament
ideal. There is no such thing. But it is a call to biblical fidelity. A
study of 1 Corinthians 14 and Hebrews 10 raises the possibility that the
goal of the church gathering has quite a different purpose than either
that of worship or evangelism, as Brian notes. In this sense there is a
strong Anabaptistic impulse to view the New Testament as normative and
to look at an Old Testament model of worship as anachronistic. Perhaps
another way of saying this is that we need to realize, as Daniel himself
pointed out in his lectures, that worship must never be equated with
singing or praise music. At the very least, we must acknowledge that we
come to the gathering as worshippers and not simply to
worship. Of course, this is easier said than done, because each of us
has become accustomed to thinking of worship as something we do on
Sunday mornings during our "worship services." The practice of
participatory meetings at its best builds on and reinforces Paul's
teaching about spiritual gifts and the necessity of viewing every member
of the body as essential to its growth. Just as in the seminary
classroom it is important to champion a highly interactive teaching
atmosphere that builds openness and willingness to learn from each
other, so our gatherings as the body of Christ can be enriched by humble
and thoughtful interactions with a diversity of perspectives and
insights. Of course, this approach has its inherent limitations and
risks -- which have been discussed by Alan Knox in his series on
edification in the church.
Participatory meetings can be "messy," as Alan and others have noted.
Tragically, many church folk simply do not have a clue about what to do
at church and how the exercise of their spiritual gifts may joyfully
enhance their own lives and the lives of theirs brothers and sisters in
Christ. Of course, I do believe that Daniel's emphasis on worship as
"life" and "disposition" is indispensable for recovering a biblical
understanding of worship. But in practice, it remains all too easy to
resort to the "default" perspective of worship as an event.
Interested in viewing Daniel Block's
lectures? Simply go here.
AMLast night I read a
good book. A very good book. I liken a good book to a scrumptious
three-course dinner. First, the appetizers. The forward is the soup, the
introduction the salad. Then comes the meaty second course. The
conclusion and afterwards are the dessert. Every book should be as
delicious as this one was.
I also watched my favorite Hitchcock movie
-- again. North by Northwest ranks in the Top Ten of my all-time
favorite film classics. Two scenes drive the movie: the crop-duster
scene, and the dénouement atop (a faux) Mount Rushmore. In fact, in its
list of "1001 Greatest Movie Moments," Empire Magazine ranked the
crop-duster scene as the best.
In the movie, the scenario is set in
northern Indiana. It was actually filmed near Fresno, California. Here
is the precise longitude and latitude.
If I ever get back to Central California,
I will be sure to drive out there to stand where Cary Grant once stood.
Wednesday, February 11
1) My office building. Don't believe I
ever showed it to you before.
2) Enjoyed Daniel Block's lectures on
worship this week. I'll share more with you tomorrow.
3) Harry Sturz's The Greek New
Testament According to the Second Century. A thousand thanks to our
library staff for acquiring it for me through ILL. My personal copy is
still missing. (If you should have it, please return it to me.)
4) Yesterday both of my Greek 2 classes
reviewed the indicative verb. Here I am sharing with them Jacob Cerone's
excellent video series based on our beginning grammar.
5) Dinner last night with a good friend
6) This afternoon we enjoyed a wonderful
tour of Amos 2 led by Matthew and Nathaniel of our LXX class.
7) They left no stone unturned.
Jet lagged. Going to bed.
Tuesday, February 10
AMProgram note: Daniel
Block in chapel today and tomorrow for the Adams Lectures.
AMQuote of the day
relationship, much like the soul, is vulnerable and takes much
tending. So I invite us all to consider, how can we honor our
marriages as sacred space for forming souls? In what ways we can
invite kindness back into our interactions with each other? How can
our marriages become “seed beds” for our souls? And while married
people have made a promise to behave this way, any loving
relationship can create a context for soul care. How can we create a
similarly loving environment toward our friends, co-workers,
neighbors, and children?
PMLearning is partly
prophylactic. In the words of Chesterton:
Without education, we are in a
horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.
Amos 2 in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish.
(I also tried Hawaiian Pidgin but it isn't available. Can you believe
that? The Old Testament hasn't been translated yet! I might have to add
that project to my list of things to do after retirement.) It's always
amazing to me just how relevant the Old Testament is ....
1) In Amos 2, God condemns Moab because it
violated the corpse of the king of Edom by burning it to cinders. ISIS
is now the target of concerted bombing by both Lebanon and the Saudis
because of its desecration of one of their coalition pilots. What goes
around comes around -- or, as we used to say in balmy Hawaii, "Never
spit into the wind." Washington knows full well it helped to create
ISIS. Now we are paying the piper.
2) Israel is condemned for buying and
selling people. For them, people were only things, a way of making
money. As someone has put it, "They'd sell their own grandmother!" I
snapped this picture in front of the Duke Chapel yesterday.
Last year the State Department issued a
report about the evils of human
trafficking in Thailand yet their government claims to be fighting human
trafficking and forced labor? I don't get it.
3) The sins of Israel also included the
way they would try to make their godly youth stop training in the things
of the Lord and how they would even tell the prophets, "Don't you dare
prophesy!" But God's not flustered. "You won't get away with it," says
the Lord. "Off you'll be, running for dear life, stripped absolutely
Here's the incredible thing in this
chapter: if you look closely you'll see that "God's people" are the
worst swindlers of all. My takeaway? If you're living for the Lord -- I
mean really living for eternal things -- that's a miracle of God, pure
and simple. It's totally a God thing, since we are all so prone to be
self-centered and slothful and compromisers. When we give up our
possessions for others, we're doing this by faith. The reality of the
new birth is realized only when we allow ourselves to be dependent on
God and then choose to live in radical dependence on each other. Funny
how power and prestige lose their attractiveness when you're attracted
to Jesus. Human trafficking is heartbreaking. But even more
heartbreaking is our apathy. Without a doubt, the essential New
Testament value is a political act -- envisioning a radical
counter-culture called the kingdom. I am determined not to let this
message of Amos slip through the cracks of exegesis and lexical analysis
and translation techniques. We are called as Christians to be faithful
not to the American Eagle but to a slaughtered Lamb.
Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Amos.
PMTranslating Amos 2
(Hebrew and Greek) in preparation for Wednesday's LXX class. Plus doing
2014 taxes. Translating is easier.
University in Boone, NC, announces an opening in
Biblical Studies (Religion).
PMQuote of the day:
So, this Valentine’s
Day, celebrate love. If you are married, thank God for your spouse!
If your spouse has passed away, you have every reason to thank God
for the love you still share. If you are not married, then praise
God for those in your life who are celebrating.
AMLast night I took a
couple of hours to get caught up with some of my journal reading. Volume
18 of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was dedicated to
the theme of
Christian suffering. Hooked! In
his essay, "What Kind of Persecution is Happening to Christians Around
the World?" Greg Cochran asks why more Christians in the West are
failing to track the suffering of their brothers and sisters around the
world. His answer is fourfold:
1) Western Christians simply fail to
identity themselves with the persecuted church worldwide.
2) The topic itself is uncomfortable to
3) It requires hard work and research to
investigate the details of incidents and ferret out exaggerated reports
(think Brian Williams).
4) We Christians in the West suffer from
what he calls "good cause" fatigue; we are so busy with all of our
"causes" that persecution tends to be back-burnored.
The article goes on. Christians around the
world "are suffering in numbers exceeding historic proportions." About
one half of all martyrdoms in church history happened in the 20th
century. Then he discusses the world's "hot spots" when it comes to
persecution. He concludes that the purpose of his essay was to whet our
appetites and create a hunger for this important subject. We are one
with the suffering brethren around the world. We need to act that way.
Finally, in an
issue of the Detroit Baptist Journal of
Theology, David Doran describes the method of
discipleship in the Great Commission, noting that it maintains a proper
balance between proclamation and presence: "... we cannot fall prey to
the idea that the Great Commission means evangelism alone, especially if
it is cut off from discipleship." He then adds this powerful summary:
... the main, if not
exclusive thrust, of any missions program must be on the
establishment of long-term discipleship that results in an
indigenous and self-perpetuating church movement.
Read that again. "Indigenous and
self-perpetuating." Exactly! The fact is that God is already doing a
wonderful work in, say, Asia by His Spirit in culturally acceptable
ways, and the best we Westerners can do is to support what God is doing.
Then we will be able to win lost souls instead of trying to add numbers
and money to our own organizations.
Reading these essays will challenge your
paradigms of what it means to be a "Christian" in the twenty-first
century and expand your awareness of the actual persecution that is
taking place in many parts of the globe. Let's take responsibility for
praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters and humbly acknowledge
our massive ignorance of their plight. The simple fact is that we are
called to imitate Jesus, however difficult this might be. At the same
time, we're called to take seriously sound theology. I deeply appreciate
the tireless work of authors such as these to raise awareness in North
America of the challenges that evangelicals face in terms of orthodoxy
Sunday, February 8
PMSunday Wrap-up: Got
a sweet text yesterday from my granddaughter Katherine inviting me to
hear her sing a solo in church today ... I told her I wouldn't miss it
for the world ... then treated everyone to a Chinese buffet... and
watched the kids trying out their new bows and arrows ... made a
hospital visit in Durham ... and finally attended the Requiem at Duke.
If I grieve it's not because I have no hope. I know Jesus. But the
memory of what happened 14 months ago is still very much alive and
sharp. Which is why I find myself inexplicably drawn to requiems and
litanies. Far from being meaningless, pompous, and emotionally costly
"ceremonies," services to memorialize one's loved ones have their place.
When Stephen was martyred, "devout men buried Stephen and made great
lamentation over him." When Moses died, the people of Israel mourned for
him for 30 days. Yes, I dislike ritual in general, but memorials can
render "griefs more endurable" (C. S. Lewis). But I'm too tired to think
right now, so I'll leave you with a short photo montage. Blessings! Dave
1) Miss Katherine singing "You are God
alone, in the good times and bad...." Amen!
2) "Buffet"-ing our bodies.
3) I see the kids have mastered the use of
4) Target practice.
5) Bull's eye!
6) The chapel.
7) Reflecting on death and life
AMGot three hours of
sleep last night. I am a zombie.
AMLast night, on the
recommendation of one of my daughters, I watched The Conspirator
As you know, President Johnson issued an executive order directing
Lincoln's co-conspirators -- all civilians -- to stand trial before a
military commission. Their alleged crimes were military in nature, he
argued, and therefore they were "enemy belligerents" and not civilians.
A military trial would ensure that the process remained under the War
Department's control. Some, even in Johnson's cabinet, were opposed to
trying the accused before a military commission, but Secretary of War
Stanton insisted that a military court was the only proper authority for
the trial. This theme was the heart of The Conspirator. The
defense attorneys in the case argued strenuously against trying their
clients in a military court as long as the civilian courts were
functioning in Washington. Indeed, merely a year later the United States
Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, would rule that U.S. citizens
could not be tried by military tribunals in any jurisdiction where the
civilian courts were open and functioning. Years later when John Surratt
was tried in a civilian court as an accomplice in the murder of Lincoln,
the trial ended with a hung jury and Surratt was set free. Mary Surratt,
his mother and the first woman to be executed in the U.S., would likely
have met a similar fate had she been tried as a civilian.
you look at it, a horrid, sobering tale. I give it 3 stars (out of 4).
faithful movie critic,
Saturday, February 7
PMKim and Joel wanted
to have a little "Welcome Home" party for me tonight. We ate at one of
South Boston's finer dining establishments.
Man, them onion rings were to die for!
Thanks for the treat, Bradshers!
PMHave you been
outside yet? Gorgeous day!
My clock says it's 4:30 pm. My body says
it's 4:30 am. I'm confused.
PMBeen rethinking my
life goals. My thinking is preliminary at this point, but here are a few
ideas I've come up with:
1) I want to be the best classroom teacher
I can possibly be.
2) I want to teach my students by example
that Greek is about life and not about knowledge.
3) I want to mentor a future generation of
Greek teachers and students who will far excel anything I have ever
4) I want to support the work of my local
church through (among other things) generous giving and prayer.
5) I want to be resilient when
6) I want to promote a mission-shaped
church movement in North America.
7) I want to mobilize Americans to support
frontline missions, especially in India and Asia.
I will be 63 in June. At this season in my
life I am adjusting to the aging process. In the words of Gail Sheeley,
I am going through my "Second Adulthood." Since Becky's passing, I feel
like I'm staking out a new identity. I have new passions and interests
that are hard to describe, even to myself. My professional passion is
teaching. But even more important than that, I want to begin passing the
baton to the newer generation of Greek scholars. I savor every day. As I
grow older I'm going to enjoy life. I'm going to travel. I'm going to
enjoy the family God has given me. It's not about success or money. It's
about redirecting and enjoying the process. The Irish poet Seamus Heaney
put it this way:
-- to wake and
know/Every time that it's gone and gone for good, the thing that
nearly broke you --/Is worth it all ....
So ... what's your life vision? You might
want to take some time and make a list similar to mine. Life is too
short, and you are too important to God, to be uncertain about His plan
for your life.
PMGreek students! This
week we will review the indicative mood in its entirety (chapter 16 in
our textbook). Want to get a head start? Check out Rob Plumber's
PMHonored to be asked
to speak on global evangelization at the Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist
Church, Dallas, TX, Friday, March 13.
Exhiabiher malchameno, hulu gezay!
PMJust woke up. At
least I'm productive at odd hours.
Friday, February 6
PMQuote of the day on
leadership (Joel Bradsher):
What does this mean to
us? God is less concerned, if not unconcerned, with degrees and
accolades. His expectation is that His people have submitted hearts
to His purposes, pursues His kingdom, and thus walks obediently with
Jesus. Elders, pastors, and overseers, we must train and lead our
people to understand that we are all ministers. The qualifying
characteristic of such is a changed heart, a submitted will, and
surrendered life which walks with Jesus.
latest issue of the Detroit
Baptist Seminary Journal has appeared.
PMIt's so good to be
back to "normal"! I bought groceries today. Right now I'm washing and
ironing my clothes. Looking ahead, I've got trips to DC and South
Carolina planned for this month. I'm also working on my lectureship to
be given at Mid-America Seminary April 14-15. My theme will be the
downward path of Jesus. It's the path I've been on personally now for
more than 15 years. Very imperfectly. But gradually Jesus rips your
labels off and He becomes your only label. You are ready to become what
He wants you to become -- loved by Him, called by Him, empowered by Him.
The New Testament (in which I am supposedly an "expert"), in reality,
has very little to do with academic arguments. Not that the synoptic
problem or textual criticism are unimportant. Just read my books! But
the church, including the New Testament guild, is in great need of
rehabilitation today. When the Holy Spirit refocuses our eyes to see the
joy of simply walking with Jesus daily, realizing that nothing we do is
"secular," then we begin to worship God through our work and not
worship our work. I want to be seen as a man who loves God more that
anything else in the world. I want to be known as a scholar who fights
for the poor and the unevangelized. I want to be recognized as a broken
soul who has risen above heartache, who embodies the Gospel, and who
inspires others to use their God-given abilities for His glory
regardless of their vocation or location. I want to redefine "New
Testament scholars" as those who first and foremost are His ambassadors
to announce that the kingdom of God has come and that salvation belongs
to the Lord alone. I want to see an academy that embodies generosity and
defeats the American dream. As Jesus grabs our heart with His undeserved
grace, we begin to see others through His eyes. We see life itself as a
mission field. We even see our vocation as academics as one of advancing
Now to be perfectly honest with you, I'm
not sure how well all of this will go down in Memphis in April. But I've
been given carte blanche to speak on whatever subject I choose,
so here goes. Yes, I could talk about manuscripts and mummy masks and a
hundred of other timely topics, but honestly I'm too busy trying to
represent the King to a fractured world that is riddled with invective
and hate. If Karl Barth could say during his U.S. visit that "Jesus
Loves Me This I Know" was the most profound thought that had ever passed
through his brilliant mind, how much more should I? I love Jesus. I love
Him because He first loved me. To love ourselves correctly we must love
God wholeheartedly and love others sacrificially. That's the message of
this thing we call the "New Testament" -- and hence that will be the
thrust of my lectures on the New Testament. When you sign up to follow
Jesus, He brands your soul with a new label: "Giver." That's your new
identity in Christ. "Freely you have received; freely give." Simply put
my friends, if New Testament scholarship gets this wrong, it gets
Which brings me to Arthur Sido's
(love ya dude!). His site is basically a call to keep the kingdom the
kingdom -- which is the quintessential message of Jesus. The revolution
that Jesus unleashed into the world is a revolt against any human archy
that opposes the downward path of Jesus we've been talking about. (If
you're interested, see my
Christian Archy.) Arthur's blog
shines when it comes to this Gospel. The only standard that matters in
the church is whether we're imitating Jesus (Nachfolge Christi)
and obeying God. I'm proud and humbled to know several men and women who
live this way. Many have forsaken professional advancement and privilege
to advance the kingdom. I feel like I have a long ways to go to catch up
with them. But I'm delighted that there are bloggers out there whose
bantering cuts to the core of what's wrong with the church in North
America. Think about this: If our churches ever stopped expecting God to
act like a heavenly ATM machine and dared to form a vision of impacting
the entire world for Christ, I believe we could reach the entire world
with the Gospel in our generation. I mean that. God is calling
every Christian -- each one of us -- to learn the secret of sacrificial
service to a world in need -- not just in the emotions of our "worship"
services but in humble, behind-the-scenes service to the body worldwide.
Ok. Moving on. I see that my "Down Under"
friend Craig has linked to a superb article that says, in essence,
writing is good medicine. This
is so true. Just look at the Psalms. In the midst of our pain, God has a
plan. It involves three things at least: tears, music, and transparency.
Go on and cry. Let music soothe your heart. And if you can, share your
grief with others, if possible through writing. Those who lose a loved
one in death have a long journey of healing ahead of them. Somehow,
oddly, miraculously, as you write about your grief, the pain subsides.
Hope begins to replace despair. Yes, I realize that numbing can occur.
We want to be ALONE. We feel detached at times from those around us,
even our closest family members. That's normal. But it's unhealthy.
Share your grief with others so that they can understand. And what of
music? This Sunday I'll be back at the Duke Chapel. This one's a
no-brainer for anyone who has
lost a loved one:
Paul Hindemith: When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard
Bloom'd (A Requiem for Those We Love)
In time I will give up my
grief. But not now. It's too soon. At times, suffering even overrides
the ability to pray. And so I mourn vicariously, through the music and
words of others. And who knows how many of the singers and performers
are going through their own suffering even as they sing and play their
instruments? A public requiem is a reminder that we are not alone in our
sadness. Others are acquainted with grief. They understand. They're sad
with us. If you've been reading this blog since the beginning of our
cancer journey, you'll remember how traumatic the diagnosis was for me.
Yet in the past five years I have never seen so clearly God's heart for
His children. God is not silent when we endure suffering. Nor is He
idle. Humbled, I have watched Him grow me and stretch me as He takes the
shreds of my life and begins to weave them into a beautiful tapestry.
God is building me again from scratch, so to speak. My job now is to
worship Jesus through my suffering and grief. And to write about it when
I can. Like now. :)
So there you have it --
the bumbling cogitations of a jetlagged Greek prof. Could anything be
more dangerous? Perhaps only the
meanderings of a former doctoral
Thanks, Craig, for the tip.
AMWho'd ever guess I
just put 14,000 miles on this old bod? Here's to cycles of completion,
the latest of which in my life right now was completing a beginning
Greek course with a great group of students. The trip exceeded my
expectations in every possible way. And then there was this serendipity.
Yesterday I flew over the International Time Zone, an arbitrary line
drawn somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. I have no idea where that
famous line is, but I sure am glad it gave me an extra day to get
settled back in here on the farm. Thanks and kudos to my son for
watching over everything during my absence.
I enjoyed the break from blogging, enjoyed
being incommunicado. Thank you so much for your prayers. Despite flying
standby I was able to get a seat on all of my scheduled flights. I'll be
back in May and September to teach syntax and then exegesis. Whenever I
travel, I step out in faith entirely, as you do. Above all, I realize
afresh the special calling of God on my life -- to make disciples of all
the nations. It's sometimes easy to forget that this is the guy who
dropped out of his beginning Greek class in college.
Papa God, I'm so thankful you use
nobodies like me. Today I want to thank you for redeeming all of my
weaknesses and failures and using them to exalt the character of
your Son. By the Spirit's power, I look forward to the ways you will
make yourself famous in me and though me this day. Right now, please
help me to realize that I was sculpted for something more than work.
I need rest, rest in your peace, rest in your rest-producing
Presence, finding the sacred in my rest as much as I do in my work.
Open my eyes to see the joy of who you are!