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December 2010 Blog Archives

Friday, December 31

5:14 PM Rod Decker responds.

(No sweat about that non-blog remark, Rod. My idea was to send folk your way anyhow!)

4:45 PM Fellow Energion author Bob Cornwall offers a Scripture reading for the New Year. Quite appropriate I think. Do take a minute to read it.

4:10 PM My good friend and colleague (and yes, snake handler) Alvin Reid reflects on 2010 and examines the life worth living. Good stuff. Really good stuff. I especially enjoyed #9.

See you next week pal.

4:02 PM Mike Knox (no relation to the one and only Alan Knox) reviews Original Sin: A Cultural History.

3:52 PM Getting ready for a few dinner guests. B's cooking 3 kinds of soups. Yes, I said three. Can't wait to have a bit of all of them.

12:10 PM The answer to our fish quiz? Humuhumunukunukuapuaa. A famous Hawaiian song is based on it:

I want to go back to my little grass shack
In Kealakekua, Hawaii.
I want to be with all the kanes and wahines
That I used to know.

I can hear the guitars playing
On the beach at Hoonaunau.
I can hear the beach boys saying
Komo mai no kaua i ka hale welakahao.

It won't be long till my ship will be sailing
Back to Kona.
A grand old place
That's always fair to see.

I'm just a little Hawaiian and a lonely island boy
I want to go back to my fish and poi.

I want to go back to my little grass shack
In Kealakekua, Hawaii.
Where the humuhumunukunukuapuaa
Go swimming by.

Ain't that sweet?

P.S. I'm available to perform it for you with my ukulele. Cheap. Just call my booking agent: Dewey Cheatem.

11:38 AM Want to practice your Hebrew? Go here.

11:12 AM Fellow teacher, are you serving your students? Do you remember in John 21 how the risen Lord prepared breakfast for His disciples? I can't imagine how wonderful that meal must have been. The disciples had deserted Jesus only a few days earlier, and yet here He is serving them. Our challenge as teachers is not to disseminate information. It is model to our students what it means to take the role of a servant seriously.

10:30 AM Isaac just had his second water color lesson. Here's the original:

And here's Isaac's rendition of it:

Love it!

Anybody want to guess the name of this Hawaiian fish? (Answer to come.)

9:31 AM One of the biggest weaknesses in my life is ingratitude. Great character is known by its thankful spirit. Paul anticipated the need for gratitude when he wrote Phil. 4:6:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

It is time for me to learn how to pray thankfully, with a quiet confidence in the care and provision of my Heavenly Father. As the new year approaches, God seems to be saying to me:

If you let trivial trials wear you down, you will feel exhausted when you face the lion. Stop your needless fretting. You can bring everything under my all-seeing eye. Whatever this new year may hold for you. you can be sure of one thing: I, your Father, will hear and answer your every request.

Paul says, "Let God know your needs in prayers and requests while giving thanks." In 2011 may my whole life be one big "Thank You" to God, the living expression of my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for His inexhaustible goodness!

8:21 AM I see the discussion at Eric's site is broadening. I'm all for it. Perhaps there might be some benefit in something I wrote a few years ago. It's called The Paper Perfect Church. May the discussion continue for the glory of God and the edification of the church!

7:57 AM As the year draws to  a close, I encourage you to read Michael Westmoreland-White's excellent piece called Taking the Passed Torch: Theologians Who Died 2000-2010 As Challenge for Those Who Tarry. This is biblioblogging at its very best.

Update: For 2007 Michael notes the following death:

Vernard Eller (1927-2007). American theologian, pacifist, Christian anarchist, and minister in the Church of the Brethren.  A major interpreter of Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, the Blumhardts and Jacques Ellul, Eller had a folksy way of speaking and writing that led some to underestimate the seriousness of his theological writing.  He was a major critic of much feminist theology, especially the use of feminine imagery for God, which Eller believed led to a lapse into Canaanite fertility religion.  He was also a strong critic of materialism and nationalism in Christian churches, advocating for simplicity, reducing possessions, radical sharing of wealth, and critical of sacramental views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (which he believed would rob them of their ethical content).

I call this to your attention for the simple reason that the writings of Eller are practically unknown today in evangelical circles. For what it's worth, I have tried to popularize his thinking (and that of Jacques Ellul) in my book Christian Archy.

7:45 AM Lance Ponder asks How do you count it "all joy" when things are tough? I love his peroration:

Over time you can grow in faith to the point where trials aren’t distractions dividing you from the Lord, but rather they are the things that propelled you toward the Lord.

7:38 AM Now here's an interesting factlet: 46 percent of Germans are cremated when they die. This raises a question:

Wenn die Heilige Schrift für den Christen Richtschnur für Lehre und Leben ist, bleibt zu fragen, wie die Feuerbestattung aus biblischer Perspektive einzuordnen ist.

The answer?

Alles in allem bleibt bei mir folgender Eindruck:

- das AT u. NT geben keinen direkten Hinweis zur Kremation, insofern können Christen zu unterschiedlichen Auffassungen kommen

- der Trend hin zur Kremation kann vorsichtig als Symptom für den Verlust eines biblischen Anthropologie in unserer Gesellschaft gedeutet werden

- die Apostel, die Kirchenväter und nachfolgende Generationen haben wegen der tiefen Verbundenheit mit Christus und der Auferstehungshoffnung (vor allem hier die Auferstehung des Körpers!) die Kremation verurteilt. Warum nicht bei dieser Tradition bleiben?

Do you agree?

(I imagine our friend Rod Decker might have something to offer here.)

7:28 AM Snapped this two minutes ago:

The Psalmist wrote:

God's glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
   Madame Day holds classes every morning,
      Professor Night lectures each evening.

 Their words aren't heard,
      their voices aren't recorded,
   But their silence fills the earth:
      unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

God makes a huge dome
      for the sun—a superdome!
   The morning sun's a new husband
      leaping from his honeymoon bed,
   The daybreaking sun an athlete
      racing to the tape.

7:16 AM If you've signed up for my Exegesis of Mark class in the spring, take a look at this:

I was delighted to discover tonight that a new DVD edition of Max McLean’s one-man show, “Mark’s Gospel,” is now available. I interviewed Max about the production last year, when it was running as a live show in the Chicago Theater District. It is a word-for-word dramatic recitation of the entire Gospel of Mark.

I was even happier to discover that the whole performance is available for free online. Each video below represents a chapter of Mark’s Gospel. All said, it runs about an hour and a half in length. I think you’ll find hearing this interpretation—and hearing the whole book at once, rather than just piecemeal—to be an enriching, edifying experience.

I plan on watching each video myself. Care to join me?

6:58 AM In the latest issue of the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism there's an excellent essay on stylistic features in the Greek New Testament. It's called The Development of Style (Fifth Century BCE to Second Century BCE) and the Consequences for Understanding the Style of the New Testament (.pdf). The author makes a convincing argument that the rhetorical level of language is a significant level for receptors. I agree completely and, in fact, have made rhetorical analysis one of the ten steps in my approach to doing New Testament exegesis (Using New Testament Greek in Ministry). I've dabbled a bit in this field myself. If anyone is interested, I will be happy to send you a copy of my essay "Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews" (which appeared in Filologia Neotestamentaria) absolutely free for the asking. Just email me and I'll send it to you as a file attachment.

6:42 AM It is a fearful thing when the world enters the church. So argues Kevin Brown in his latest blog post A sign of the times. Kevin, writing about the issue of homosexuality, notes we live in the days of Lukewarm Laodicea where the church is rich and increased on the outside with goods and needing nothing. Eventually it will become the world-church of the Antichrist. Kevin writes:

We are living in a day and age that homosexuality WILL become totally accepted and even revered in the next 10-15 years. Why? Because it is “politically correct.”

I couldn't agree more. If you will recall, the exact thing happened with the issue of divorce. When I was a child, divorce and remarriage were consistently denounced by the church. Rockefeller was a case in point. For a Christian to vote for Rockefeller (who had been divorced and remarried) was unthinkable. However, all of this changed in the 1970s and 1980s when evangelicals had to come to terms with the fact that so many of their own had divorced and remarried and because of their support for Ronald Reagan (who was also divorced and remarried). At that time I began to notice a subtle shift away from denunciations of divorce and remarriage to condemnations of abortion. The Religious Right simply ignored or explained away the biblical inunctions about divorce and remarriage, so much so that where I live (the rural South) divorce and remarriage are almost AOK among Baptists. Evangelicals seem to be conspicuously silent about the matter today. I'm not saying we turn a blind eye to the problem. I'm just agreeing with Kevin that we have become guilty of selective literalism when it comes to applying biblical truth to our own lifestyles.

Kevin is also correct about the solution. Do not look for a great mass revival in Lukewarm Laodicea. It has no ears for the One who knocks outside the door. The problem is one of lack of genuine conversion, and the solution must therefore be the Gospel. Again, Kevin says it well:

So, should we march on Washington with signs and bullhorns? I believe we should lead people to Christ. We are told to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus said, we are to “teach them.” Friends, we’ve simply got to get back to giving people Jesus…not a petition to sign or a Senator to email or call. Yes, there may be a time and place for these things, but ultimately, I’m not called to do anything but to “go and make disciples.”

Sin is our problem, and when people are given less then the cure they are left in a worse state than ever.

6:17 AM A good word this morning from Thomas Hudgins about treasuring the Bible. I also note with delight that he has now completed translating chapter 13 of my grammar into Spanish. Only 13 more to go!

Thursday, December 30

5:12 PM The irrepressible Michael Green is scheduled to speak on campus at the 20/20 collegiate conference in February. Anybody interested in New Testament-style renewal will want to hear Michael's message.

4:51 PM Becky's making oven fried chicken for supper tonight. Ain't nothin' like her fried chicken. I may lose my self-control.

4:42 PM Guess what I get to do all over again on Monday? Teach Greek! I wonder if I'm an unusual teacher in that I never get tired of the classroom? I can't begin a new Greek class without being reminded of my own dismal failure as a Greek student. I lasted all of 3 weeks at Biola. And today I'm teaching the language! (God has a huge sense of humor.) Students, as you begin your studies next week, my advice is simple: know yourself. Recognize your strengths, your weaknesses, your danger spots, the things in your personality that will keep you from succeeding in the course. Keep close to the Lord and ask Him to help you at your weakest points. Work hard to present yourself to God as a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed. In Rom. 14:17-18 Paul says that "the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by people." This should be the aim of every one of us, whether teachers or students. We are to do our utmost to win God's approval and others' acceptance. For my part, this means that I will do my very best to:

  • make class interesting

  • motivate you to work hard

  • help you succeed

  • make the assignments as fair as possible

  • treat each of you as a unique individual

  • answer your questions as clearly and courteously as possible

  • be available outside of class

  • answer your emails within 24 hours

  • pray for you by name daily

  • keep my beard trimmed (ha!)

Of course, this is easier said than done. But these are my goals. My promise to you is this: If you complete all of your assignments and do well in them, the payoff will be the ability to read your Greek New Testament with the use of a lexicon. Beyond that, I hope you will be better prepared to recognize (and avoid) exegetical fallacies. Above all, I trust the course will help you to become a more obedient follower of the Lord Jesus.


Get ready to ruuuummmbbbbble!

4:20 PM William Gurnall was a Church of England minister who lived in the seventeenth century. In the introduction to his classic work on Eph. 6:10-17 he writes, in the elevated prose of his day:

Whet your courage at the throne of grace, from whence all your recruits of soul-strength come. Send faith oft up the hill of promise, to see and bring the certain news of Christ's coming to you, yea, and assured victory with him.

"Send faith oft up the hill of promise." We are all likely to need this word of encouragement today. I know I do. Gurnall's words ring so true. Whatever trials we might have to endure this day, we can face the battles of life with blessed assurance. We can enter our battles with genuine optimism and with complete confidence that we will emerge victorious. Gurnall was expressing his unflinching faith in one decisive fact -- that "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37).


3:50 PM Just back from UNC. Results tomorrow, Lord willing.

9:34 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Miracles. Off to get B's CT-scan. 

8:48 AM Eric Carpenter's latest essay deserves mention this morning. What he says in his closing paragraph is true, for indeed the gathering of the church in New Testament times was highly participatory. But you will notice that 1 Cor. 12 is followed by 1 Cor. 13. Let me say it plainly. I am suspicious of any renewal movement in the church that does not follow the law of love in all things. Follow Eric's advice and I think there's a strong likelihood that your pastor will accuse you of being exceedingly disrespectful and discourteous. And he'd be right. We could use a lot of plain, old-fashioned kindness in the church today. Alas, too many even of God's most godly people impress us with prophecy and knowledge but never learn how to be kind. A truly great Christian is always respectful. There is nothing weak or effeminate about it. Anyone can be confrontational -- and confrontational is just what I think Eric's method is. "You don't have to ask his permission to speak during the gathering, but it would be good to do so as a matter of Christian courtesy." This looks like hubris to me, plain and simple.

My suggestion? Here it is, for what it's worth. If you'd like to see more participation during or after the sermon time in your church, get to know your pastor. Pray for him regularly. Develop a close, personal friendship with him. Let him know how greatly you respect him, as you are commanded to do in 1 Thess. 5:12-13 (CEV):

My friends, we ask you to be thoughtful of your leaders who work hard and tell you how to live for the Lord. Show them great respect and love because of their work. Try to get along with each other.

Then, within the "safe zone" established by that relationship, you will, I believe, discover opportunity after opportunity to talk with him about church life. I enjoy such a strong and healthy relationship with my pastor at Bethel Hill that I feel free to ask him for the privilege of "saying a word" during the teaching time, and he is glad to grant me that privilege. And not only me. I've seen him gladly accommodate requests from moms and teens and just about anybody who has something the Lord has put on their heart. You see, the context is one of undeniable mutual love, and love makes all the difference.

Friends, if we rush into matters in a confrontational manner, we may soon regret what that does to our testimony. This makes for shallow and inadequate renewal because we have not touched the heart of the matter. It's easy to say to our pastor, "I believe I have the right to speak up this morning during the sermon time, and I'd like to know on what biblical basis you think I'm wrong." And, in some contexts, that may be the right thing to say. But -- and this is just my opinion -- unless it is spoken within the context of a healthy personal relationship, it will fail to accomplish its purpose.

A willingness to speak out on controversial issues is, I believe, a healthy thing. Eric does it all the time, and so do I. It is hardly the mark of a mature Christian to sink into an acceptance of things as things are when some of them could be changed. But it is just as wrong to engage in a "battle for the truth" under the false guise of greater spirituality. If we have fallen into this sin, may God cure us of our rashness and impatience and the error of youthful enthusiasm.

7:44 AM Quote of the day:

“Even within the church, there’s always ego,” Mr. Yi said. “It’s still human society.”

Yi is referring to a dispute between the Chinese and Latino congregations that meet in the same United Methodist church in Brooklyn. See Brooklyn Immigrant Congregations Clash. "Even within the church, there's always ego." Sad but oh so true.

 Wednesday, December 29

5:50 PM This email warmed my heart:

...thanks to b Greek comments I bought three of your books.

5:36 PM Bec's in the kitchen right now cooking supper. I have no idea what it is except that it will include rice. Yes, rice. Korean rice in fact. Sticky, gooey rice. That will make our dog Sheba very happy. 

5:22 PM Today I gave Isaac his first water color lesson. Would you like to attend his inaugural art show?

Here's the original photograph:

And here's Isaac's rendition of it:

I tell you, that Isaac has some God-given talent. Way to go, young man!

12:23 PM Great excitement is brewing over John Piper's next pastors conference in Minneapolis. And rightly so. The lineup of speakers is outstanding. Of course, the host pastor won't be doing all of the speaking. In fact, I imagine he'll be sitting there listening to other speakers, profiting from their teaching. And the attendees will enjoy a varied and multifaceted ministry.

Now I've got a question. Why shouldn't the same pattern apply in our local churches? Why shouldn't we be able to enjoy a varied and multifaceted teaching ministry? Think this is a crazy idea? Read Acts 15:35.

(I'll give you a minute to look up this verse.)

Note it carefully. Paul was not the only teacher in the church at Antioch. The text clearly says, "Paul and Barnabas, together with many others, taught and preached the word of the Lord." Did you get that? Paul and Barnabas weren't the only teachers in Antioch. They didn't monopolize the teaching ministry. My guess is that in most American churches this pattern is not followed, even though there may well be several gifted teachers in their midst. In fact, if your church has qualified leaders, then each of them is required to be able to teach the word of God (see 1 Tim. 3:2). Sure, in many Baptist churches these leaders are often called deacons, but if they are engaged in spiritual leadership then they are really elders.

So think about it. If the apostle Paul, who was one of the greatest Bible teachers the world has ever seen, was prepared to listen to others, why shouldn't we?

12:06 PM This has been a day for intense writing. I've gotten several pages written, and Becky has just finished an essay for our home page. I hope to post it later today. It's called "Miracles." You'll love it.

8:40 AM If you haven't had the pleasure already, you'll want to read Leeana Tankersley's Hating the war, loving my husband. And here's a tip of the kepi to all of you military wives who crawl into the trenches daily along with your husbands.

Tuesday, December 28

8:37 PM The intrepid Andy Bowden defends himself.

8:31 PM Okay, so maybe I should have an RSS feed. But have they designed one yet for someone who publishes a "My Space-Face Book-You Tube-Twitter-Blog-Journal-Diary"?

8:18 PM Just got an update from our son Nigussie in Alaba:

Today the Beshanos case apealed for the court case. We pressented  for investgeters witnesss  about the situaion. Tomorow it will continue. Tow brother are here with us for this situation.

No need to correct the grammar. You get the point. Nigussie also sent the following pictures. Tessema is recovering nicely from his head wounds.

On the other hand, our vehicle windows still need replacing.

Please pray for Nigussie as he handles this case on behalf of the church in Alaba. Please also keep in mind that the church in Ethiopia will survive, and perhaps even thrive, in the face of government-sanctioned opposition. Jesus didn't have the benefit of state sanction when He established His church, yet within three decades of the resurrection Christianity had reached the ends of the earth. The state sanctioning of Christianity that began with Constantine was hardly a blessing to the church. So do not pray for state endorsement of Christianity in Ethiopia or anywhere else for that matter. True faith can flourish even when it is not protected by the government.

Oh, how I wish I were in Alaba to stand with my brothers and sisters!

5:14 PM B and I enjoyed our drive into South Boston today to get her blood work done. Saw lots of pretty snowmen along the way. Tonight I'm taking her out for her favorite meal: prime rib. Thankful the roads are drivable.

By the way, does the above qualify as a blog post? Aren't you glad I don't have an RSS feed!!!

9:42 AM The Huff Post treats us to the cutest animal photos of 2010.

If you are not an animal lover, shame on you. Thou shalt heed the words of Saint Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (ca. 375):

Oh, God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail.

Okay, that's a bit over the top, but animals are special to me. God values all that He created, and we should too.

9:25 AM Is Harry Potter a good Christian? Danielle Tumminio thinks so. You can read it about it here.

9:14 AM Like kudzu or Jason in Friday the Thirteenth, some traditions refuse to die, but surely one that merits an early grave is the notion that reciting the pledge of allegiance to the American flag is a litmus test of one's faith in God. Thus argues Arthur Sido, and I think he's right. Read his essay Where should we direct our allegiance?

9:05 AM Yesterday Henry Neufeld called his readers' attention to a new series of essays on intelligent design at the Science & the Sacred website. Henry opines:

I’ve rejected the design inference on the grounds of garbage-in garbage-out. You can’t determine how likely a chain of events is when you don’t know what events constitute the chain. The probability of unknown events is, well, unknown, or so it seems to me.

Is intelligent design nothing but an attempt to cloak creationism in the guise of science? Is it, as someone once said, "creationism in a cheap tuxedo"?

As someone who took geology from Henry Morris and Duane Gish at Biola many years ago, I look forward to reading this series.

8:25 AM According to the Joshua Project, the Unreached People Group of the Day are the Afar of Ethiopia:

Population: 1,429,000
Language: Afar
Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.10%
Status: Unreached (1.2 )  

As never before, we need God's servants who are willing to risk their lives to preach the uncompromising gospel to the lost peoples of the world.

8:08 AM Caleb just walked into my office proudly sporting his new ukulele in its handsome carrying case. Then Isaac walks in holding his art set. Haven't seen Micah yet but I'm sure that as soon as he finishes his morning chores he'll be getting his Tinker Toys out. Looks like we chose winners as gifts (thanks to the advice of Liz!). 

7:56 AM It hardly seems possible. In just over a week the Rondeaus will be leaving frigid southern Virginia for the balmy climes of Upstate New York. Last night Becky and I gave the boys their "Aloha" gifts. (Aloha, of course, means both "goodbye" and "I love you" in Hawaiian.) There was a buy-in however. They had to figure out four clues before they could arrive at their treasure trove.

Eventually they found their way to Papa B and Mama B's bedroom -- and their gifts. Now Caleb will have his very own uke to take with him to his new home.

And Isaac, who loves to draw, has a nifty 80-piece art set.

Finally, Micah's found yet another outlet for his urge to build.

We'll miss these boys. What joy they've brought to our home!  

7:40 AM Feel led this morning to thank those who have encouraged us in our cancer journey. We accept this trial as a blessing from the Lord. It is for His glory and for our good. We simply pray that God would use it to conform us to the image of His Son.

Monday, December 27

3:50 PM Please join me in welcoming SEBTS grad Josh Honeycutt to the wonderful world of blogging.

3:44 PM Alan Knox hits it out of the ball park in his essay called Help Or Get Out of the Way. To be honest, given the control some pastors want to exercise among their flocks, I'd resign as an evangelical if I knew where to send the letter. I understand the impulse to channel efforts through the local church, but I'm not ready to concede absolute authority to local church leadership. One of my former doctoral students, Matthew McDill, wrote his dissertation on this very subject. He sought to rescue the pastorate from what he considered to be the abuse of privilege and status. (See his The Authority of Church Elders in the New Testament [.pdf]. Matthew, by the way, does not speak from the distance of an ivory tower; he serves as an elder at Highland Christian Fellowship in Boone, NC.)

As much as I love my local church, and as much as I respect the leaders at Bethel Hill, the Body of Christ is not limited to my local congregation or yours, and efforts to serve others apart from officially-sanctioned church "programs" ought to be lauded, not condemned, as Alan rightly notes.

11:45 AM Allan Bevere is feeling an awful lot like a resident alien. I can identify with him completely.

Living in the time between the times we experience the tension embodying kingdom citizenship in our present space that resists God's kingdom come. We do not live with one foot in the God's kingdom and the other in the kingdoms of the world. The Sermon on the Mount is meant to be lived in the here and now, but it cannot be fully obeyed unless we posture ourselves completely in the divine reign while confronting the current age with the Lordship of Jesus Christ, as we live as God's kingdom citizens in the present time between first and second Advents.

Read Living in the Time Between the Times and be blessed.

11:36 AM Just reviewed my blogging goals for 2011. They are found in 1 Cor. 14:3. I pray that everything I write speaks edification, encouragement, and comfort into your life. Praise the Lord -- what an opportunity the internet affords to do all three! Yes, we are called to conflict, but with our real enemy, not our fellow believers.

So ... do you have a theme verse for your blog? If so, why not share it with the rest of us?

11:32 AM POX90 has nothing on shoveling snow in your driveway. Whew! What a workout!

9:16 AM Some good reasons to study Greek

8:59 AM Looks like the Bowden Blog has gone off the deep end. Instead of publishing profound thoughts about theology, Andy is stooping so low as to post You Tubes of his baby's hiccups. Before you know it he'll be showing us pictures of him walking his dogs.

What is happening to the blogosphere!!

8:51 AM Before you write your next term paper, you might want to glance at the Constructive Curmudgeon's Some Woes Concerning the Writing of Papers.

8:28 AM Every seminary student needs to read Nate Claiborne's latest blog post called Theological Identity Crisis. Here's a sampler:

Being a seminary student, at Dallas Theological Seminary no less, I have the opportunity to talk to great repositories of theological knowledge on a semi-daily basis (and sometimes even to professors too!). It has been said you can tell a man from Dallas Seminary, but you can’t tell him much. An implication of this is that many of us think we know much more than we actually do. Honestly, I think this follows the stereotypical college path. First year Th.M students know they don’t know much. Second year students think they know a lot. Third year students are starting to get impressed with how much they know. Fourth year students either come out of it and are bewildered by how little they actually know, or they think they are destined to be the next Luther. If no one will play the pope, then they’ll just have to appoint someone to have 95 theses nailed to their door.

"Play the pope." I love it! It would be funny if it wasn't so true. Students, let's never forget who we are: fallen human beings. Wear your learning humbly.

7:57 AM Yesterday the Dallas Morning News profiled Ken Starr, the head of Baylor University, and his attempt to make Baylor a world-class Christian university. What struck me more than anything in reading this story was Starr's obvious leadership skills. Two components stood out: his inter-personal skills, and his commitment to encouraging others. The article states:

When asked what a typical day is like, he says: "Well, tonight I have to be at a dinner and then a lecture and then two basketball games. That's the 'encouragement' part...."

I like that. Students and faculty need to know how much we care about them. That's true on my campus and on yours. Simple tokens of courtesy go a long way. For example, when I have a student in my office and my phone rings, I never answer it. Why should I? The machine will take the message for me. I also leave my office door open at all times, except when I am in an important private meeting. Greeting students, even strangers, as you pass them on campus? Why not?

The teachers I remember from my seminary days were those with just such qualities as Starr seems to possess. I wish him and his vision well.

7:06 AM Quote of the day (Francis Chan, upon quitting his pastorate and leaving the U.S.):

I think there has been too much emphasis on me. I want to be used by God, but I think we have this desire to make heroes out of people rather than following God and the Holy Spirit.

7:02 AM Looking forward to welcoming Justin B., Josh C., John E., Chris E., John E., Kevin G., John G., Ben H., Chris H., Doug H., Minwoo J., Perry K., Andrew L., Moncy M., David M., Thomas R., Blair R., Chris R., Joel S., Mark S., Roch S., Scott Y., Joel G., Spencer G., Matthew M., Matthew J., Quinny S., Zach S., Bradley S., Savannah T., and Tim W. to my J-term Greek class on Jan. 3. The course syllabus is available at Moodle. Please email me if you have any questions. And if anybody wants to get a head start, you can read chapter 1 and begin memorizing the alphabet. That's not as difficult as you might think.

Sunday, December 26

6:14 PM It was dusk, and I still could not get enough of the snowy beauty, so I took all three dogs for a long walk.

I was amused at the antics of Alpha, who stole some of the bread we had put out earlier for the birds.

Have you ever seen a cuter thief?

When we returned to the Hall, Becky thoughtfully had the porch lights on. It was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Now we are ensconced again in a warm and happy house, the fire place blazing, Becky watching Wives and Daughters, and I reading an escape book. Looking forward to the return of the Rondeaus tomorrow from Roanoke. The house has been much too quiet of late.

4:34 PM Finally, a yearly Bible reading plan I like.

4:05 PM Double blessing: Becky's homemade corn chowder, then a long nap. Love this time of the year.

12:41 PM Becky and I just took Sheba for a leisurely stroll. Yes, outdoors. Amazing beauty. Enjoy the pix!

11:06 AM A snowy day is a good time for reflection. So, with your permission....

It has finally dawned on me. Just as nature has entered the period we call "winter," so B and I have passed the autumn of our lives and energy. We are glad to be doing so as a couple. How in the world would we ever be able to bear our trials alone? The older we get, the more pressing the question becomes: What shall we live for? On what shall we spend our flagging time and effort? In a nutshell: Why are we here?

We live in a society that is lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. Our "Christian" culture, like my household thermostat, is set on a comfortable 70. But if there is one thing Becky and I pray for it is this: God, deliver us from comfortable Christianity! A poor wretched world trembles from one catastrophe to another -- from cholera outbreaks to deadly typhoons to ocean-wide tsunamis. Nations arrogantly unleash more bombs than balm on earth. What to do? "Test all things," says Paul (1 Thess. 5:21). Ask ourselves, Have we truly come to terms yet with our godless society? Or have we agreed not to arouse its antagonisms? Have we become experts at coming up with alibis for not serving Jesus radically and scandalously?

It seems we have a built-in propensity to get by with shoddy stuff, using cheap substitutes of wood, hay, and straw. Our ambitious religious projects need no second-guessing and certainly no "testing." How old-fashioned it sounds today when someone asks, "Why are we doing things the way we do them?" Could it be we have not yet moved from Calvary to Pentecost? When we become followers of Christ we are set on fire. Perhaps, if we are to test all things and hold fast to that which is good, we need to stop quenching the Spirit. The greatest enemy of Christianity is not extremism but apathy. Nothing under the sun can be as tedious as doing "ministry" without the Holy Spirit. Paul says, in effect, "you can do better." We must do better.

We are forced, again, to rethink our priority systems. Christ demands nothing less than lordship over our whole lives, including the material blessings we enjoy as Americans. John Wesley once put it this way: "To lay up treasure on earth is as plainly forbidden by our Master as adultery and murder." A great need exists today for believers who will "test all things" -- their own ambitions, dreams, plans, and hopes. God is looking for men and women who will ask of Him, What do you want me to do? And how do you want me to to do it?

It is not easy to go from an easy-believism form of Christianity to a life of active service for Christ. I should know. For years I believed I had a conditional service contract with God. As long as I got my way (i.e., sufficient recognition as a scholar, a consistent income, good health, etc.) I was glad to be a "bondservant of Jesus Christ." Only gradually -- and grudgingly -- did I learn to turn my back on all of my excuses for disobedience.

One problem with "testing all things" is that we have so many things to test. There is hardly a person alive in North America who cannot boast about their abundance of education, clothing, food, and housing. We forget that all of these blessings are temporary and conditional. If we do not "test" them -- if we do not realize that the same Master who entrusts wealth to His servants will also demand an accounting and a profit from what He has given them -- we will certainly fail to respond with obedience to His grace and mercy. It is precisely because our lives have become so contrary to this "test all things orientation" that we have become easy prey for Satan and his demons. Our wills are neither submitted nor surrendered. We cannot let go of family, friends, entertainment, and a thousand other things because we have never tested them against the value system of the kingdom of God.

Test it, says Paul. Test all of it. Authentic Christianity is not reserved for super heroes. It is for every believer, whatever your circumstances. Selfless, Spirit-filled living begins when, like Moses on the Mountain, we come face to face with the living God and see our "things" for what they really are.

I just glanced out the window again. There is something so incredible about watching it snow. It's like I'm getting a fresh glimpse of this deeper beauty, this greater reality. Only God can take my motives and make them as white as the freshly-driven snow. And I know He's entrusted me with the task of living out the winter of my life by adopting the world as my home, doing hilarious, dangerous things for others despite the inconvenience and discomfort.

Let it be, Oh God of Winter, let it be!

9:16 AM In case you're a Bethel Hillian and are reading this blog, church services have been cancelled this morning. Stay safe. Be thankful and prayerful. Enjoy your time at home.

8:28 AM Just by way of an update, Becky will be having her CT-scan this Thursday. We should hear the outcome on Friday. There's a part of me that's afraid to hear the results, and another part that's eager to know if and to what extent the Adriamycin has worked. As soon as I hear anything I'll be sure to let you know.

8:22 AM I woke up this morning consumed with the thought of forgiveness. The need to extend it and receive it. It's all because of a story I read last night in the book God's Samurai, a story that I'm going to carry with me to the grave.

Shortly after the end of World War II, an American girl about 18 years of age came to a camp in the western U.S. where Japanese POWs were being held. She ministered to the prisoners with tireless energy and compassion. Her name was Margaret Covell. She spoke no Japanese, but the men knew enough English to communicate with her. She had both amazed and puzzled the prisoners. "Why are you so kind to us, your enemies?" they would ask.

"Because Japanese soldiers killed my parents," she replied.

The prisoners stared at her in astonishment. What on earth could she possibly mean?

She then explained to them that her parents were missionaries in Japan before the war. At the outbreak of hostilities they fled to the Philippines where they thought they would be safe. Eventually the Japanese found the Covells and beheaded them as spies. Margaret, who had been living in the States, didn't learn of her parents' fate until after the war. At first she was filled with hatred for the Japanese. But as she began to think about her parents' selfless service, she slowly became convinced that they had forgiven their executioners. Through Filipino sources she heard about their last moments. Blindfolded, with their hands bound behind their backs, they were forced to their knees. Just before being killed they prayed, "Father, forgive them for they know what they do."

I know this story doesn't make any sense. We feel we can reserve the right to withhold forgiveness from those who have hurt us. Jesus entertained no such thoughts. Neither did Stephen as he was being stoned to death. Neither did Mr. and Mrs. Covell.

Are you're looking for the answer to the question of the ages -- What can set me free from the shackles of hatred? If so, a teenage American girl has the answer. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" is a prayer to be spoken over and over again. There's an entire world of joy waiting for us on the other side of forgiveness.

7:44 AM "Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields, seems nowhere to alight: the whited air hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven, and veils the farmhouse at the garden's end. The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit around the radiant fireplace, enclosed in a tumultuous privacy of storm."  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

7:31 AM The year 2011 is slowly approaching, and with it the demands of a fulltime teaching and writing career. Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining. Every time I think of my work I pinch myself. I get paid to do this? And then I remember: With great privilege comes great responsibility. And that means writing and more writing. The good news is that I've got a running start going into 2011. I'm about 9 (out of 10) laps into my revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I've also decided to begin producing the third edition of The New Testament: Its Background and Message since the publishers requested an update and because it continues to be one of the most widely-used New Testament introduction textbooks out there (along with Robert Gundry's). Plus, if you add in my book on kingdom living (Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk) that makes 3 major writing projects I've set as goals for the new year, and this doesn't include the two (or three) books I'll be editing for our Areopagus series. Writing has become such a big part of my normal routine that I hardly notice it. I think it's just an extension of the classroom. I remember being asked to write Learn to Read New Testament Greek. I didn't have to get worked up about it at all; in fact, the book practically wrote itself. When you've been teaching a subject for decades, putting it down on paper (or into a computer) comes easily. Of course, kudos to my great publishers, who keep books in print and do great job of promotion.

What I am trying to say, I guess, is that I love what I do. Next year will mark my 35th year in the classroom. And so it goes. Year after year. Book after book. It all boils down to simple routine, really. Little by little, classes are taught and books are produced -- all in addition to the time it takes to keep up this little corner of the blogosphere. Thankfully, it's all a part of my "vocation," which means I do my best, but in the final analysis it's really God who gets the job done in and through a weak but (usually) yielded vessel.

The dignity of work. Life doesn't get any simpler than that. Stay focused on what God has called and gifted you to do. Surrender your future to Him. Then watch Him work.

Saturday, December 25

8:27 AM Still needing to do some last minute Christmas shopping? I have the perfect gift idea: A copy of my Paul, Apostle of Weakness. At a bargain discount price, too:


Order now!

8:06 AM Good Christmas meditation here by one of my favorite authors.

7:35 AM Where to start to describe our family celebration last night? It was a time of sharing.

It was a time of praying.

It was a time of eating.

It was a time of celebrating our oneness in Christ.

It was a time of getting reconnected as families.

It was a time of giving to the hurting among us. (B and I will distribute these non-perishables to a needy family).

The evening was so incredibly enjoyable it defies description. I felt woefully out of place in my own kitchen as I watched the ladies take over and handle the work of serving and cleanup. I can't even explain how fantastic the fellowship around the tables was as the food was served and the stories told and the prayers prayed and the discussions discussed. It was cool to hear all the testimonies and especially to join our hearts in prayer. Our prayer goals were simple.

  • We prayed for the family who would receive our love gifts.

  • We prayed for our brothers and sisters suffering for His Name.

  • We prayed for our own church's future.

  • We prayed for special needy ones in our midst.

  • We prayed for God's kingdom to expand and our focus to be on His kingdom.

  • And we prayed for our families and marriages.

It's hard to think of a better forever family than our brothers and sisters at Bethel Hill. I shared my heart with them about the 3 billion people who have never heard the gospel. I shared how my heart breaks that the American church spends 96 percent of its offerings on its own programs and comforts. Of course, I myself am a huge part of all this ecclesiastical machinery. I want to do better in 2011. What a glorious relief the gospel brings from the American way of life! 

Friday, December 24

2:45 PM I journeyed to Ethiopia today. In my mind, of course. The place was much as I remembered it. Especially at Christmas time. This is their summer -- dry, hot, dusty, malaria-ridden. We used to spend every Christmas in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia we're known as Papa B and Mama B. Or sometimes as the church's faranjis. We were more than pleased to be the only white-faced foreigners around. As the days go by here in the States I find myself realizing that I'm not the captain of my own fate. Never have been really. So instead of being in Ethiopia, here I am in Virginia, realizing that stronger and wiser hands than mine are guiding me. I realize that God doesn't need me in Ethiopia. Or anywhere else for that matter. I'm okay with that. One thing I cling to is that I have never doubted the goodness of God through all of this. He is not only near me, He is the heart pounding in my chest. I'm so grateful to Him for giving me wonderful memories of a past season in my life. I know this sounds jumbled, because it is. But I wanted to be honest with you, as honest as I've been with God today. I miss being in a place where one is acutely aware of one's whiteness. Where time does not exist. Where incredible pockets of natural beauty await you at every turn in the road. Where the needs are horrendous. Where the elders are beautiful and age is respected.

There is, I think, more work for me to do in Ethiopia. In the meantime, I mash the potatoes for supper while taking a long journey in my mind to a faraway place.

11:16 AM Christmas Eve shout out to Mary, Britanni, Katelyn, Bridget, Kimber, Nick, John, Rick, Wes, Karen, Victoria, Elizabeth, Bailey, Brittney, Taylor, Bonnie, William, Chris, Pam, Cindi, Abigail, Stevie, Kim, Leigh, Stephen, Lendon, Thomas, Marshall, Lavern, Sandy, Cecilie, Harry, and Woody.

We're eager to see you tonight!

Thursday, December 23

8:18 PM On a completely unrelated note, do you remember that I told you I was in the process of revising my doctoral dissertation, Paul, Apostle of Weakness, for publication? Imagine my delight when today I got an email from a complete stranger who had heard nothing about the revision yet who was interested in getting a copy of the book to read for himself. I told him that, Lord willing (and that is a big Lord willing), the revision will be published in late 2011. So that's the scoop.

Inquiring minds wanted to know....

7:45 PM Living at Bradford Hall has changed my perspective in so many ways. Growing up in Hawaii we did very little entertaining; we were much too poor for that. So there's something wonderful about being able to open our home to guests and entertain them royally. I'm sitting here by myself tonight, as Becky and her good friend Rachael have gone out for dinner (ladies' night out). Not that I'm lonely mind you; I've got my three dogs, plus Rachael's puppy, to look after while the ladies are gone. Probably a good time, I thought to myself, to grab some pictures of the table preparations for tomorrow's dinner. So here goes. This is what the breakfast room looks like:

And here's our formal dining room:

Finally, this is what we call the Lee Room (named after the good general himself):

Beside each plate is a name card that features (1) a Bible verse and (2) a picture of the cross. Because that's the message of Christmas, Becky told me.

That's my wife! I love her!

2:52 PM My sympathies to the Questing Parson, who lost his wife last week.

2:40 PM The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Seminary announces an upcoming conference called Baptists and War. I might very well attend it. Below is the schedule as it currently stands. My colleagues' papers are listed in red.

September 26–27, 2011

Monday, September 26

8:30am Plenary Session 1: Anthony Cross, (Regent’s Park College, Oxford University), “Anabaptists, Baptists, and Pacifism: An Overview”

10:00am Plenary Session 2: Larry Kreitzer (Regent’s Park College, Oxford University), “The ‘Valiant Old Lady’: The Story of the Eighth Whelp (1628–46) and her Baptist Chaplain John Pendarves”

11:30am Plenary Session 3: Keith Harper (SEBTS), “Baptists and the American Revolution”

1:00–3:00pm Banquet Lunch

3:00pm–4:30 pm Plenary Session 4: Paul Brewster (Pastor, SBC, & Junior Fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center), “Andrew Fuller and the War against Napoleon”

4:30–5:30 pm Parallel Sessions (six in total)

7:30pm–9:00pm Plenary Session 5 and panel discussion: George Rable (Univ. of Alabama), James Fuller (Univ. of Indianapolis), Tom Nettles (SBTS), and Greg Wills (SBTS, moderator), “Interpreting the American Civil War”

Tuesday, September 27

8:30am Plenary Session 6: Jamie Robertson (PhD student, McMaster University), “Baptists and the War of 1812”

10:00am SBTS Chapel

11:30 am Plenary Session 7: Gord Heath (McMaster Divinity College, McMaster University), “Canadian Baptists and the 19th century Wars of the British Empire”

2:00pm Plenary Session 8: Maurice Dowling (Irish Baptist College), “Russian Baptists and the Cold War”

3:30pm Plenary Session 9: Nathan Finn (SEBTS), “The Vietnam War and Baptist Witness”

2:30 PM I remember a couple of years ago when the Obamas began vacationing in Hawaii, where the president was born and attended high school. There's only one thing to do in the islands, and that is to enjoy the ocean.

Here the prez shows off his body surfing form. I say, that man's got style! Not that I'm jealous or anything. At any rate, I hope the First Family enjoys their vacation at Kailua Beach. It's MY beach, but I'm glad to share it.

1:50 PM I was driving to Duke University Hospital in Durham this morning when I heard a report that the Cincinnati "Bungles" were enticing next year's season ticket holders with the promise of a voucher for -- can you guess it? -- a free box of popcorn.

Plus, for a limited time only, if you purchase new season tickets, you will receive a voucher for a free box of popcorn to be redeemed at any home game this fall at Paul Brown Stadium.

If I were a Bengals fan (which I'm not) I would be offended. But are things any different in the church? We make a mockery of the gospel when we imply that becoming a Christian means health, wealth, prosperity, or blessing. The apostle Paul would have disagreed. Everywhere in his writings he seems to accept sacrifice and suffering as accepted and normal. Paul writes, "We are troubled on every side." We're taught to think the opposite. We live in a popcorn-promising culture. We believe that sacrifice and self-denial are only for special, unusual occasions. But Jesus is not the Santa Claus so many have made Him out to be.

He is the King of the universe who deserves our undivided allegiance. Our Christian bookshops are full of literature that denies this teaching, but it remains true.

8:43 AM In the first quiet moments of this new day my mind is drawn to Hebrews 2. Oh, how His voice speaks into my silence! The incarnation. Jesus becoming like us and sharing our human nature (Heb. 2:14). What a wonderful truth this is! Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity! God has lavished His love upon us, with all of our sin and rebellion and pride. That is how God acted toward us, and now we are called upon to demonstrate the fact that we are His children by having the same attitude toward others, including our enemies.

The identification of all of life with regard for the welfare of others -- this is the message of Christmas. If Christ is the "man for others" (Bonhoeffer), we are to be "men for others." And this means all of us, not just professional church leaders. I do not wish to abolish the clergy. I wish to abolish the laity. All of us are to be to ministers. We are, as Heb. 2:11 reminds us, "brothers." We no longer feel the need to address each other with honorific titles (Sehr geehrter Herr Professor Doktor Black!). "Brother" is quite sufficient. The burdens of life are now placed on as many shoulders as possible. The Christian and the social are effortlessly intertwined. Moreover, because the church is constitutionally one, all suffer when any part of the Body suffers.

I'll admit it: I didn't always believe this way or in this Jesus. Compassion is often hard to come by when one is building one's reputation. Reading the Scriptures this morning I feel like a child on Christmas Eve. Like God has oh-so-much-more to reveal to me if only I would keep silent.

Hush, child. Listen!  

Wednesday, December 22

7:48 PM Nice, quiet evening at home. B's in the kitchen carving up the turkey and otherwise having the time of her life. Talk about being in one's element. Earlier she polished the silverware. Yes, we're pulling out all the stops for Friday's dinner, including our fine china. As for me, Caleb let me strum and sing a few old tunes on the uke -- Aloha Oe, Hawaii Pono I, Little Brown Gal, Mele Kalikimaka, Little Grass Shack, and, of course Pearly Shells. Becky says I'm entering my second childhood. Right now I'm reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Dec. 1941, which is an hour-by-hour description of that fateful day in history.

1:18 PM Wow! Have you seen this list of forthcoming and recent commentaries on the books of the Bible? Would you possibly agree that there just might be a glut of such tomes? (The same could probably be said about books on New Testament Greek, but I won't go there lol!) Some are better than others, of course. For what it's worth, I just love Harold Hoehner's Ephesians commentary. It terms of sheer size (960 pages; Best's only has 674 pages), it is certainly comprehensive. But beyond size, the quality is unbeatable. Here is a man who dedicated most of his career to teaching the book of Ephesians at DTS. I like his "mature," seasoned perspective. This is where so many commentaries fall short and hence why so few commentaries say anything really new. Even where Harold's views aren't novel, they are well thought-out. And of course, Harold provides his own translation from the Greek text -- a must in all commentaries worth their salt.

As an aside, Harold was a friend of mine. Here we are in his Sunday School classroom at Grace Bible Church in Dallas, where my in-laws attend. He was a Swiss citizen and proud of it (we often spoke Swiss German with each other). When he passed away in 2009, I wrote these words in his memory:

Although he was only 18 years my senior, Harold taught me many lessons. Perhaps the greatest one is this: Rest is serious business. In our hurry-up generation, where everything has to be done yesterday, Harold showed me how to pace myself and to go no faster (or slower) than the One to whom I am co-yoked is traveling. There is a great truth here that is both relevant and practical. I believe that a new grace and glory would enter the church if all Christians ceased doing things by themselves and did them for and with God.

Harold enjoyed the respect of the entire academic community, and to him the community looked for guidance and inspiration. I have little doubt, however, that he would be content to be remembered, not as a great New Testament scholar, which he was most certainly was, but as a humble servant doing the bidding of his Lord, to whom he had so joyfully and willingly yoked himself.

This is how I would wish to be remembered. This is what I seek to model to my students.

12:24 PM  We snapped this picture while driving through South Boston, VA. Side by side we find ads for MacDonald's and Halifax Regional Hospital's cardiovascular services.

Quite an irony, wouldn't you say? This article is a reminder that we Southern Baptists need to watch our weight during the holidays.

But how did Southern Baptists and their compatriots become so big in just one generation (CDC statistics indicate the rate of obesity in America doubled between 1970 and 2000 to 30 percent of the population)?

It's no laughing matter. The authors add:

A T-shirt seen on a rotund man read, “If my body is the temple of God, I must be a mega church.” The initial chuckle gives way to a sigh as the truth of the declaration sinks in—the body of the believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to honor God with our bodies. Eating too much and leading a sedentary life can create a body riddled with illness and disease, hardly a laughing matter.

Good "food for thought" this week, since most of us will probably eat more than we planned to.

11:02 AM Bob Jones University now offers an accredited M.A. in Biblical Studies -- online.

10:52 AM Eastern Mennonite University announces an opening in Church, Cultural, and Interfaith Studies.

10:37 AM A post at the Evangelical Textual Criticism website (the practical use of Greek accents) is a good reminder, I think, for professors to maintain high standards when it comes to student papers. Don't hesitate to apply some loving pressure; nudge a bit. By and large, students who are careless about Greek accents will be careless about other matters as well. Effective communication is not only based on what we say but on how we say it. If you sense that a student is ignoring the details, it may a signal for a gentle reminder about those "little foxes that spoil the vines." Elton Trueblood once said, "Holy shoddy is still shoddy," and just because we do our work for the Lord Jesus (and not merely for a grade) is no excuse for sloppiness.

P.S. I'm surprised at how careless students can be with foreign language quotes as well. Yes, I do check for German umlauts and French accents!

10:19 AM Ya gotta love that Eric Carpenter! Is nothing sacrosanct to him (*smile*)? His latest post is called What Would Happen if Seminaries Began Teaching Biblical Ecclesiology? What a great topic to explore! What can we say about this?

I might suggest that a good place to start would be our New Testament Introduction classes. Here we could contrast the position that existed under the Old Covenant with life under the New. For example, in the Old Testament, sacrifices were a vital part of worship, so much so that a special building was set aside for that purpose. Moreover, only certain people (called priests) could perform sacred duties on behalf of the rest of the people. Finally, specific animals had to be sacrificed. Under the New Covenant, however, a new set of conditons exists. The emphasis is no longer upon a building (the people form the church), the sacrifices are offered by all (every Christian is a fulltime priest), and the offerings are now spiritual in nature -- praise and thanksgiving. (The book of Hebrews is explicit about all of this.) In addition to New Testament Introduction, what about church history classes? Could we not discuss New Testament ecclesiology when we are analyzing the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century -- those men and women who refused to be shackled by ecclesiastical tradition and who sought to return to the simple practices of the New Testament? Even in our Greek classes these questions could be tackled as we exegeted such passages as Roman 12 or 1 Corinthians 12-14. (I do.)

The simple truth is that seminary can and ought to be a place of genuine discovery. Questions about church life, even though they might make us uncomfortable, can and must be asked.  At the same time, let's realize that the main purpose of a seminary education is to acquire the tools necessary for self-study, realizing that all learning is ultimately self-learning. A SEBTS Ph.D. grad recently published his dissertation in which he argued against tithing as a New Testament requirement, and a current Ph.D. student is re-examining the question of why the church assembles. But having said that, it remains true that no amount of formal biblical education can ever bring us to a mature understanding of Scripture for the simple reason that education involves more than the intellect. God the Holy Spirit must do His work in our lives. The Good Shepherd alone can lead His sheep into truth. Are you off course? Allow God, through the Scriptures, to make you receptive to truths you may have previously rejected.

In the meantime, let's not forget that as Christians we are wonderfully bound to each other in a fellowship that goes far beyond the mere sharing of convictions about ecclesiology. It is a supernatural and spiritual reality of Christ-like love and mutual burden-bearing. Only when we learn to experience that kind of love will the world stand up and take notice that we are truly followers of the Prince of Peace.

8:23 AM I want to laud all of the fulltime ministers of the Gospel who will be serving the Lord tirelessly this Christmas holiday. I'm referring to the women in our lives. I can't overemphasize this point. Our wives are sterling examples of the true spirit of Christmas -- giving, giving, then giving some more. I know this is true in our home, where Becky and Liz are working nonstop to make this home a wonderful avenue of blessing to others. Men, we dare not sell our wives short. Cleaning a room or vacuuming a floor or preparing a menu -- all of these actions, done in the name of Christ, become Spirit-powered testimonies to the love and grace of Jesus. Becky's a great example. I often follow far behind in her wake. Her interpersonal skills far surpass mine. She is a superb networker. Most of all, she is a genuine friend who just loves people in very tangible and authentic ways. There is nothing in this world more powerful than a Spirit-filled individual who targets his or her gifts to meet the needs of others. Look at the earliest Christians. They had no formal religious education. Why, they couldn't even spell hermeneutics. They knew nothing about sermon preparation or homiletical outlines. They simply spoke about what they had seen Jesus do and had heard Him say. And they reached their neighbors for Christ relationally and relentlessly.

Christianity is a way of living. It's what spills over when you bump into someone. It has nothing to do with status or gender. The goal is to become a genuine friend to others, to penetrate our neighborhoods with the simple, authentic love of Jesus. And we can do this whether or not we have a Christmas tree in our living room.

Don't minimize the power of such deeds. Make a definite commitment to God that you will cultivate relationships this Christmas with a view toward evangelism. Pray for boldness and open doors. Above all, bathe each relationship in prayer. Christmas is not about us. It's about getting people to the foot of the cross.


7:44 AM Energion Publications announces the release of God's Desire for the Nations: The Missionary Theology of John Piper.

The author, Phil Hopkins, holds a Ph.D. from SEBTS, where he did most of his research for this book. It's a good reminder that evangelism is most productive when we root it in its theological foundation.

Tuesday, December 21

7:50 PM Quote of the day (source):

Jésus n’était pas en sécurité. Sa version du Royaume de Dieu n’était pas prudente. Pourquoi ma version de la vie chrétienne tourne-t-elle donc si souvent autour de ma sécurité et de mon confort?


7:19 PM Over at the Baker Book House blog there's a mighty fine review of Kent Yinger's book called The New Perspective on Paul.

7:12 PM I think everyone enjoyed their supper tonight. But we sat there with somewhat mixed emotions as last evening our three puppies vanished. Hours of searching for them today availed nothing. I spent the afternoon placing "Lost Dog" notices (with pix) in all of our neighbors' mailboxes.

In our home the dogs often lick our supper plates, especially after we've downed some of Papa B's yummy-licious Chinese fare, so it was Isaac, I think, who suggested that we put a plate of leftovers on the front porch to entice the dogs, wherever their were, to return to the fold. And before you could say "The puppies are back!" the puppies were back! Right now I am surrounded by three dead tired Shelties who, if they could only talk, would I'm sure have some tall tales to tell about their adventures out there in the "world." So thanks be to God for answering our prayers for their safe return, and may we never take for granted the little serendipities of life.

5:02 PM Time to cook Chinese food. Now where did I put my secret ingredient?

4:55 PM Rumor has it that all good things come in large packages. It's only a rumor folks, and I can prove it. Bob Cornwall's Ultimate Allegiance (my copies arrived today!) is a small bundle with lots of practical wisdom.

You'll be delighted to know this ain't your run-of-the-mill "How To" book about prayer. Bob cuts deeper than that -- which is one of the reasons Allan Bevere and I accepted his work in our series. One thing's for sure: We don't test God's promises until we attempt something impossible for Him. And that's where prayer comes in.

11:28 AM We are slowly getting the house ready for 36 guests this Friday night. I just finished my list of things to do for Becky. My mother used to always tell me that I had to finish my work before I could go out and surf, and life hasn't changed much since then. It's so much fun watching Becky clean and scrub and organize and plan and arrange seating etc. I want to share photos with you but I dare not intrude upon her bliss. Little by little the house will get into grand shape for our Christmas Eve celebration. I've put together a nice list of hymns to sing, and B has a menu you won't believe. If this turns out to be a success, we will definitely do it again.

Now that my chores are finished, what to do? I ought to write but I feel too dry and flat for that this morning. I am a shorn Samson on a treadmill. Do you ever feel that way? I feel that, right now, I need to talk to men less and to God more. He is still able to make all grace abound, even when we may be feeling tired and listless.  

Speaking of grace, over at the Bethel Hill blog Becky tells a wonderful story of forgiveness. Read it and be blessed.

Monday, December 20

6:36 PM This was a good day. UNC Hospital is an interesting place. I know it's filled with Someone who is full of compassion for the suffering. That includes the chemo infusion center. His mercy is new every morning, even to those who aren't even aware of His presence. The place was packed with Monday cancer patients, and we finally settled into a room shared with another woman, older than Becky, who clearly was struggling both physically and emotionally. In between it all the hospital psychologist eventually appeared to do what she could to help the patient. The curtain was drawn but Becky and I could hear the entire conversation without trying to eavesdrop. I remember studying psychology in college and thinking to myself, Is this all the world has to offer? It's never enough, really. A bit of holiday cheer here, a pep talk there. It just didn't seem fair. Here was a lady suffering extreme mental pain, and Becky and I were basking in the warmth of God's sunlight. Eventually the patient was removed to another location, and our hopes of befriending her were dashed. Her poor husband. It is never easy to sit at a bedside and watch your loved one suffer in such a fashion. I'm having a hard time myself sorting all of this out in my own mind. Why should I enjoy the love and care of a Heavenly Father and someone else not? Other than pray, I don't know what to do. God has impressed on my heart lately to interceded on behalf of others, even people I don't know well. I do pray for this precious lady. Lord, you are her only hope.

Meanwhile, here's what came in today's mail, and I am certainly not complaining about it. If I hadn't gone into Greek grammar, I'm sure I would have become a historian.

9:08 AM Off to UNC.

9:02 AM Today Alan Knox wrote:

Jesus is still "God with us," and he continues to bring peace to his people.

Read his fine essay called Immanuel: Peace. One day in Alaba the Muslims attacked a believer named Fetiye and her children with sticks and knives. She was fully pregnant at the time. God spared the yet-to-be-born infant, but Fetiye's one-year old son perished as a result of the attack. Later, when a son was born to her and her husband, they named him Immanuel, "God is with us!" What suffering. What faith. What an expression of confidence and hope in the God of all peace. Alan is right. God does indeed continue to bring peace to His people.

Below: Becky and Fetiye, two forever-sisters in Christ, facing adversity with the peace and joy of their Savior.

7:41 AM Speaking about supporting one another, have you seen my friend Richard Erickson's book A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Exegesis? This is absolutely the best book on Greek exegesis that I have ever seen -- unless one is talking about my own Using New Testament Greek in Ministry (ha ha!).

I've read every page of it, and it is priceless. It outstrips the competition when it comes to quality of information and quantity of examples. It is the Summa Cum Laude of exegesis text books. If you've had at least a year of Greek, this book is for you!

7:30 AM Please join us in praying for brother Kassa who is still recovering in Alaba. We must always remember that as followers of Christ we stand side-by-side with the persecuted church wherever it exists in the world. We need to work together and support one another in the common task.

7:15 AM New openings:

The HBU site adds the following information:

Houston Baptist University seeks two full-time faculty to join the School of Theology in 2011 and two full-time in 2012 who have expertise in any of the following areas:
  • Systematic Theology
  • Historical Theology
  • Biblical Theology
  • Biblical Languages

The successful candidate will be able to teach select courses in the liberal arts core curriculum, upper-level courses in the Christianity major and minor, and courses in the Master of Arts in Theological Studies and Master of Biblical Languages program.

Happy job hunting!

Sunday, December 19

7:16 PM A good pastor friend of mine is currently writing a book about raising kids to be wholehearted and passionate Jesus-followers. Recently he blogged about some of his crazy ideas. Get ready to be stretched. He writes:

We don’t have a nursery at the church I help Elder.  Why?  Because we sincerely want our children to be with us.  We want the children to experience everything in the worship service that they just can’t get in a room watching a video eating Cheetos.  My children get to participate in seeing people lifting hands in praise to the Lord as they lift their voices in song.  They get to hear testimonies of those that have come to Christ.  They see people weeping under the conviction of the Holy Spirit at the altar.  They see Dads praying over their families. 

I could add more -- so much more -- about this dear brother, but I will just say this: I admire any man who is willing to challenge the status quo and search the Scriptures for himself, even risking alienation and misunderstanding by others. True discipleship is always costly. Period.

Is he is process? Yes. Has he arrived? No. Neither has any one of us. It's three steps forward and two steps back. The real question is: Are we headed in the right direction?

6:52 PM Despite being a brand new daddy, Andy Bowden is not about to neglect his blogging responsibilities. One of his latest posts will really get you thinking. It's called Circular and addresses what Andy thinks is major circular reasoning in Carson, Moo, and Naselli's introductory textbook.

Of course, I've never been guilty of reasoning from one premise and then ending up right back at the original premise!

5:30 PM Becky's been sewing again, this time duvets for the boys, who got to pick out their own hues, buttons, even the color of the letters for their names. I was going to say that now the boys will have something to keep them warm up in frigid New York, but the duvets have come in handy right here in Virginia. Anyway, if you're a seamstress, I think you'll enjoy these pix.

5:03 PM I'm so excited to report that next month we're having our initial planning meeting for the next trip to serve the underserved in Ethiopia. I am (and always have been) an incurable infracaninophile (lover of the underdog). And the thing is, it's not just with issues like the synoptic problem and textual criticism that I root for the underdog. It's the Christians in Ethiopia who are harassed by the civil authorities. It's the people in Alaba who are left out of the food distribution program during a drought because they aren't Muslims. It's the evangelists in Gondar who are stoned by the Ethiopian Orthodox. Even in the States, I love to support underdog causes. I think it's just part of life, this ache in my heart for the oppressed, the ignored, the suffering. It's like I'm getting a glimpse of this thing we call the kingdom of God, this deeper beauty, knowing that even when a tiny sparrow falls our God attends its funeral. There's something wonderful about these "little ones," as Jesus called them. It defies my best efforts to describe what Aberesh or Ayelech or Tiblett (pictured below) mean to me. Waves of suffering humanity. Yet God has not forgotten them. Neither have I.

I love my life. I love my work. I love Ethiopia. I will never stop being grateful to God that He calls Becky and me to be the hands and heart of Someone who loves all people everywhere, and especially the underdog.

8:24 AM Don't forget tomorrow night's total eclipse of the moon.

8:10 AM A recent seminary grad reflects upon his time at the Master's Seminary in Southern California. I appreciated this remark (as you can well imagine):

Throughout my time at the seminary, my mind was trained not only to love the Word, but to learn it and handle it with caution, precision, and fear.  Those hours spent arduously translating Greek and Hebrew texts were painful, yes, but the pain was small in comparison to the fruit of now being able to pick up a Greek and Hebrew Bible and read from the original languages during devotional times.  Oh the riches and treasures that I now can gather whenever I open up God’s holy Word – even if it be just for my own personal growth. 

That just about says it all!

7:49 AM Oh, this essay is good. It's called Just Call Me Lonnie, I Guess. It's especially apropos to recent graduates!

7:38 AM Looking forward to studying the book of Acts again together this morning. Much of what we call "church" today originated, not in the New Testament, but in post-apostolic times.

  • The Lord's Supper has changed from a celebration to a ceremony.

  • Worship has changed from participation to observation.

  • Witness has changed from relationship to salesmanship.

  • Leadership has changed from servanthood to professionalism.

  • Mission has changed from being missionaries to supporting missionaries.

  • Body life has changed from edification to entertainment.

  • Buildings have changed from functional to sacred.

  • Child care has changed from the hands of parents to the hands of strangers.

The book of Acts shows us that the need great of modern Christianity is to return to biblical faithfulness and the profound simplicity of the New Testament.

7:20 AM The latest issue of the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism contains an interesting piece entitled Ancient Patterns of Reading: The Subdivision of the Acts of the Apostles in Codex Sinaiticus (.pdf). In it Greg Goswell reminds us how important it is for us to observe those "extra-linguistic" devices that scribes used to indicate unity and transition of thought in ancient documents. Paragraphization is only one of these devices. Likewise today, publishers have introduced into the text of Scripture various "readers' helps" such as paragraphization, punctuation, indentation, capitalization, and paragraph titles. Sometimes the publishers get it right, and sometimes they miss the mark by miles. This is especially true of paragraph titles. Luke 15, for example, does not contain three parables but only one (see v. 3) told in three stories: the story of the faithful shepherd, the story of the diligent housewife, and the story of the loving father, while Jesus never "cleansed" the temple (He "cleared" it). As Goswell has shown, extra-linguistic devices can have a "marked effect" on the way we read texts, and it behooves us to be aware of that potentiality.

Saturday, December 18

8:13 PM A The Joshua Project's Unreached People Group of the Day? The Bhuiya of India. Population: 1,865,000. Percentage of evangelical Christians: 0.0. All the resources of God are available for us to reach them. What is stopping us?

6:28 PM A final word for all of my SEBTS graduates, if I may. On Oahu there is a mountain we used to climb called Mount Tantalus. It is named after an ancient mythological figure. Because he had offended the gods, Tantalus was forced to stand up to his neck in water, which flowed past him furiously. At the same time, a bunch of fruit hung over his head, but the wind blew it beyond his grasp every time he reached for it. The promise was there -- but the fulfillment kept eluding him.

Wherever you go, dear graduates, please remember that our job is not to try and grasp the "fruit" the world offers us, often under the guise of "Christian" advancement. Run the race of status escalation, and you'll always lag behind. Instead, we are called to leave all of our personal ambitions behind and use our gifts and wealth to enrich the Body of Christ and promote a culture of discipleship that reaches out to the world around us with scandalous love.

If Jesus was willing to suspend His own rights and reach for the bottom of the ladder, how much more should we. Amen?

2:20 PM If I were in Hawaii right now...

I'd be doing this at the Banzai Pipeline. Christmas time always saw the best waves at the North Shore. Yes, I was a crazy surfer in my teens. And yes, I am hopelessly nostalgic today.

P.S. For pix of the just-concluded surfing contest at the Pipeline, go here.

1:15 PM Whenever I read Eric Carpenter's thought-provoking blog, I think of this statement I made in 2005:

The church stands at a crossroads. Either it will be radically theological and therefore radically obedient to God regardless of the puny ambitions of man, or it will be part of the “new” ideology that looks magnificent on the outside but on the inside is full of dead men’s bones.

My essay was entitled "Saying Goodbye to the Needs-Based Church." You can read it here.

12:56 PM Here are some suggestions you've sent me about observing the Lord's Supper with one loaf and one cup.

When our local church gathers and celebrate the Lord's Supper we use one loaf and one cup.  We usually have a lay person hold the cup while another lay person holds the bread and as the church comes forward a piece of the bread is given to them, then they proceed to dip the bread in the cup and partake that way.  It seems to work well for us.

The Baptist church I fellowship at uses the one cup and loaf through the individual coming up to the front and breaking a piece off and dipping it in the cup. 

Lately, we’ve been gathering around the Lord’s Table during our church meeting instead of after. When we do this, we meet around tables. We begin with the bread. Typically, someone bakes a loaf of bread. Someone breaks the loaf and places a piece on each table. The people at each table pass the broken piece around to each other and break off smaller pieces. Someone talks about the bread and the symbol of Christ’s body broken for us. This is a reminder that we are together only because of Jesus Christ, and it represents that beginning of our meal together with Jesus as our host. After we eat the bread together, we sing a few songs and pray. The person who will be leading our teaching/discussion time introduces the passage/topic for the day and usually gives a question for people to discuss while they are eating together. We fill our plates with food that people have brought (pot luck style), and return to our tables to talk and exhort one another. After most people have had time to eat, the teacher will go from table to table and ask what they discussed about the earlier question. A representative or two from each table will share what they talked about. Then, the teacher will begin his lesson and lead the church to discuss the passage/topic while we’re still seated around the tables. Afterwards, people will share prayer requests or praises, and we’ll pray for those. We’ll also discuss upcoming missions and service opportunities. Finally, we’ll pass a pitcher from table to table, and each person/family will pour some into a cup. While the pitcher is being passed, someone will remind the church that the cup represents Jesus’ blood that was spilled on our behalf. We pray and then continue fellowshipping together, sometimes for several more hours.

My thanks to all who have written. Any other ideas?

12:36 PM I've been asked by the publishers at B & H to consider writing an update to my introductory textbook: The New Testament: Its Background and Message.

I may have a sabbatical in the works, and if I do indeed decide to take one, I will probably make the revision of this book a top priority. So, can you tell me what you think are the most pressing issues in New Testament scholarship that I must include (or expand upon) in the revision? For sure, the NPP is one. Developments in New Testament Greek linguistics might be another. Are there any others that come to mind?

12:24 PM This is an interesting statement about leadership:

People often ask me what I think is the secret to Grace Community Church's phenomenal development over the past two decades. I always point out first of all that God sovereignly determines the membership of a church, and numbers alone are no gauge of spiritual success. In the midst of tremendous numerical growth, however, the spiritual vitality of our church has been remarkable. I'm convinced God's blessing has been on us primarily because our people have shown a strong commitment to biblical leadership. By affirming and emulating the godly example of our elders, the church has opened the door to extraordinary blessings from the hand of God.

Do you agree?

11:33 AM Brian Small recently linked to the audio from the recently-held preaching workshop on the book of Hebrews held at Southwestern Seminary. I just finished listening to David Allen's message entitled "Introduction and Structure of Hebrews." It is always a delight to listen to David, who is a masterful and eloquent public speaker. Of course, in his talk he refers to me as someone who still holds to the "delusion" of Pauline authorship of Hebrews (tongue in cheek, I hope). Know what? I think it might be time for another conference on campus. Perhaps brother David would be willing to engage in a discussion about the topic. Would it shock you to hear that I actually agree with David Allen that Luke may have written Hebrews? But authorship is a far different question. Despite what Mike Bird and others say, Origen was not ambivalent about the matter of authorship. His oft-misquoted statement about God only knowing who wrote the epistle refers to the book's writer, not the author. (See my examination of the evidence here.) In addition, for David Allen to point out the linguistic and stylistic affinities between Hebrews and Luke proves nothing more than Lukan penmanship. At any rate, the topic might be one for a conference on Hebrews that deals with more than just authorship but incorporates such topics as the literary structure of Hebrews, the use of the LXX in Hebrews, the theology of Hebrews, etc. If you might be interested in such a conference, let me know at

10:30 AM Jeremy Myers has published what is possibly the best review of David Platt's Radical I have seen to date. It's called True Radicals. I'll give you a little sample to draw you in:

Radical by David Platt never would have been published if he were not a pastor of a megachurch. Even considering that fact, publication is iffy. He says nothing new, and even what he says is not said in a new or creative way. It seems that it's almost part of the job description for megachurch pastors to write a book like this. So why did it get published? David explains why in the first line of his book: he was the youngest megachurch pastor in history

What a way to start a book! Sure, David goes on to say that he was uneasy with such a claim and wasn’t even sure that it was true, but still…how do you write a book which is supposed to be about taking back your faith from the American Dream and start the book by stating that you are the youngest megachurch pastor in American history? Really?

But there is saving grace to this, and here it is: We need to hold our leaders' feet to the fire. You see, I am skeptical, when all is said and done, whether anything will ever get done and not just said. And I am probably the chief of sinners in this regard. But we can -- all of us -- allow God to nudge us from where we are to where we ought to be. For David Platt, perhaps that will be begin with writing a book. For me? I have SO FAR still to go that it literally pains me. Writing The Jesus Paradigm was taking a baby step. But I want to do better.

God help us all.

10:14 AM I'm jazzed! Becky and Liz are off to see the Nutcracker Ballet in Raleigh. Then they will dine together at some plush restaurant. These ladies deserve being spoiled.

Incidentally, Matt and Liz will be moving to Upstate New York in January. Matt has accepted an internship at a church near Speculator. He will also be starting his doctoral studies. I couldn't be more excited for them, although we will miss the Rondeaus. Liz had been a daughter to us in so many ways. As for Matt, he is quite possibly the best chef (as distinct from a cook) whose culinary art it has been our privilege to enjoy for the past 6 months. Even his pancakes are the rave of the household. Then too, I can't imagine how quiet the house will be without the pitter patter of children's' footsteps in the early morning darkness or the sounds of Caleb's ukulele.  

With an empty house again it will be time to jump-start our retreat ministry. Becky has already scheduled overnight guests for January, and, pending her strength, there will be many more guests to come. We have always enjoyed opening our home to strangers and, indeed, hospitality was one of the main reasons we built Bradford Hall. (We have published our thoughts about hospitality here.)

In the meantime, have fun, ladies, and don't miss us men folk too much.

9:52 AM Here's a thought: Hardly anybody listens to a sermon with the expectation that they will hear anything they did not already know. Perhaps the solution to this problem is a good dose of biblical Hekastology (I made up that word!).

Please notice how Paul addresses himself deliberately to “every” believer. The Greek word for “every” is hekastos—hence “Hekastology.” This isn’t just an insignificant detail! Paul seeks to drive home the truth that every believer has a special service in the church. Every saint is to make his own contribution to the mission and unity of the church, each cooperating according to his ability. This truth is also evident in 1 Corinthians 14:26: “When you assemble, everyone (hekastos) has a psalm, teaching, revelation, tongue or interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” Unfortunately, many Christians meet together on Sunday without ever “assembling” as the body of Christ in this manner! But Paul is clear: every believer has a ministry, and everyone is to participate and give to others what God has given him.

You can read more here.

9:38 AM Please join me in welcoming Melody Bowden to the world. Melody's father is my personal assistant at the seminary.

9:22 AM Thanks to everyone who prayed for Becky during her colonoscopy yesterday at UNC. All went well. The test showed some hardening of the colon due to all the radiation that B has had, but nothing too serious, and certainly nothing calling for surgery. How merciful is our God! Monday is her final chemo treatment. The Lord will show us the next step.

9:16 AM Seminary graduates are a unique lot. They not only have a new degree and/or title, but they begin to speak in a difficult-to-understand jargon. Allow me, then, to unpack for you what I am calling "The Seminary Graduate's Lingo":

  • "The consensus of modern scholarship is..." ( = One of my seminary professors said...).

  • "It has been the teaching of the church since the earliest centuries" ( = We follow this tradition, but it doesn't make any sense to me).

  • "I've done some serious study on this subject" ( = Now where are those class notes?).

  • "I feel it's my duty to attend the annual scholarly convention" ( = Maybe I'll get some free books this time).

  • "In the words of the apostle Paul..." ( = I can't remember the book, chapter, or verse).

  • "My professors were challenging" ( = My professors were horrible, but I forgive them).

  • "I highly recommend my alma mater" ( = If I could scrape by, then so can you).

  • "Yes, I studied Greek and Hebrew in seminary" ( = Sure glad that's over with!).

  • "I strongly disagree with N. T. Wright" ( = I once read a book review that said something about him).

Just kidding! Love you grads!

9:03 AM Yesterday was our mid-year graduation ceremony on campus. It is no exaggeration to say that graduating from seminary is a milestone. For me, my Talbot commencement in 1980 (M.Div. in New Testament) was a time of self-affirmation.

I was discovering that perhaps I had a unique contribution to make to the Body of Christ. It was becoming clear to me that every Christian is a fulltime minister. I was also beginning to discover that Christianity is a lifestyle and not merely a set of dogmas. In addition, seminary confirmed me in my calling as a teacher. Although I have frequently failed to live up to that calling, I have always sensed God's hand in my work.

Yet I also discovered that seminary can give rise to an aberration that prevents our thinking about perspectives that might lead to unwanted insights. It was indeed startling to me to see how hard I fought against these unwanted insights. It was difficult for me to realize that I was guilty of academic group think and that I operated under a faulty set of suppositions about education. The goal of teaching is not to give our students an idea or a skill set. It is to give them a passion to become life-long obedient followers of the Lord Jesus. Amazingly, we have put such a high value on degrees that we are willing to entrust ourselves blindly to someone with an M.Div. or a Ph.D. who, a few weeks earlier, was struggling to pass his or her exams. It is no secret that people in America are more enamored with degrees and titles than with truth. The truth, after all, is always radical -- it goes straight to the root of our lives in such a way that there are few who really seek it, including seminary graduates.

In a time when we all have become a part of the gigantic American educational rat race, my prayer is that our graduates will never forget that Christianity is a way of living that can speak truth into people in such a way that it makes them free to follow Christ wholeheartedly. A hearty "Congratulations!", then, to all of our graduates. May you always serve the Lord with gladness.

Thursday, December 16

9:34 PM I need your help. Here's the need. I'm compiling a list of ways that churches can observe the Lord's Supper with one cup and one loaf of bread (see 1 Cor. 10:16-17). Any ideas? Have you ever done this? Please send your comments to me at Thanks.

P.S. This is not an academic exercise (only). My home church is interested in pursuing this option.

8:45 PM Check out the B-Greek Year End Awards. You won't be disappointed. My favorite:


Eta (η) Six.

1.  a as in bad (Restored Attic.) 

2. ay as in bay (North American Erasmian.)

3. e as in pet (British Erasmian.)

4. ay as in bay in open syllables, but e as in pet in closed syllables (French and Romanian Erasmian.)

5. ee as in feet (Modern Greek.) 

6. n as in not (People who are still learning the alphabet.)

7:24 PM A heartfelt "Thank You!" ("Gamsahamnida!") to Seung Ho Park and his wife for inviting me to dine with them on Tuesday night.

I do not hesitate to designate Korean cuisine the best food in the world because it satisfies both the palate and the need for a healthy, balanced diet. I had two servings of everything -- more would have been too much and would have required repentance in sackcloth and ashes.

The most sublime dish is, of course, Kim Chi, for the which the Koreans are justifiably famous. The main dishes were chicken, pork, and beef, along with rice, noodle soup, and various raw vegetables. Topping it all off was a delicious cup of green tea imported from Seoul. The Koreans are inordinately proud of their food and the beneficial dietary side benefits that accompany it.

Thank you again, Seung Ho, for your gracious invitation!

6:45 PM Good news! Ward Powers' The Progressive Publication of Matthew has been released by B & H Academic. You can read the website announcement here. The book comes with the following endorsement:

The Progressive Publication of Matthew is a tour de force both in its scope and depth. No serious student of the synoptic Gospels can afford to ignore it.

I guess you could say that I agree with this assessment, since I was the one who wrote it! Powers' work is both thorough and provocative. Breathtaking stuff, really. However you feel about Gospel origins, this is a very important book. Read it with an open mind and you will surely be rewarded for your efforts.

5:38 PM McMaster Divinity School student Andrew Rozalowsky lists 10 Reasons to Learn Greek. And they are good ones too. By the way, Andrew maintains an interesting blog you will want to bookmark. It's called A Living Sacrifice. There you will find many helpful Greek links, including this post called Word-Study Resources. Here he links to three recent works by Benjamin Baxter, whose M.A. thesis is entitled, "In the Original Greek It Says…. A Study of Hebrew and Greek Lexical Analyses in Commentaries." I printed all three off and eagerly look forward to digesting them.

6:32 PM I want you to meet three very dear colleagues of mine. Ned Mathews (center)and Julian Motley recently retired from our faculty. Together they have over 100 years of pastoral ministry under their belts.

Then there's Mrs. Nanette Godwin who teaches organ performance at the seminary. Nanette (who is a former Miss North Carolina) earned her Ph.D. in musicology from UNC Greensboro. She also has a "Keyboard Ministry" that has taken her to such countries as India, Thailand, and Brazil, using music in evangelism. Yesterday she played a magnificent Christmas program in Binkley Chapel.

The quality of her performance invoked emotions in me I had not felt for a long time. There is no greater solace for the soul than music. Nanette did an absolutely fantastic job of drawing our hearts and minds toward heaven. Molto bravi! My favorite part was her rendition of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah. I'm told that when the great composer had finished that piece, Handel's assistant could not get his attention knocking on the door. When he entered he found Handel with the sheet music in his hand and tears streaming down his face. Handel told his assistant that he thought he saw the face of God when writing this. I believe it!

5:24 PM Have you heard of John Byron? He teaches New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary. John has just reviewed Bob Cornwall's latest book called Ephesians: A Participatory Guide. I love the book of Ephesians. In fact, I love it so much that I wrote my master's thesis on it many years ago. It was entitled "The Address of the Ephesian Epistle." But beyond questions of introduction, Ephesians is full of great theology. Nothing is taught more firmly or frequently in this letter than the unity of all believers in Christ. Of course, that is easier to talk about than to model!

5:17 PM Our LXX students read vociferously this semester. They also translated Greek and Hebrew for every class session. The final exam covered the book of Ruth – translation and parsing from any of its four chapters. However, in lieu of taking the exam we gave the students an option: memorize and recite, in both Greek and Hebrew, the text of Ruth 4:13-17. I call this the "His Word in My Heart" option. Several courageous pupils selected this alternative and accepted the challenge. (In case you're wondering, they were given the option of using either classical or modern pronunciation.) Well, I thought you might enjoy hearing two of our students recite the passage, first in Hebrew, then in Greek.

Here's Jody Haupt reciting the Hebrew:


And here's Jacob Cerone reciting the Greek:

As an aside: The next time Bob Cole and I team-teach the LXX class we will probably make this a requirement for the course. What a practical "gift" we can give to our students! Another aside: You can listen to Ruth chapter 4 read in Hebrew here. The genealogy at the conclusion is actually sung. Too beautiful!

5:12 PM Alan Knox has spent years wrestling with issues concerning the church, especially why it meets. I was therefore delighted to see him chiming in on the house church debate. His conclusions may surprise you. 

5:09 PM Newsflash! Christmas trees are biblical! Read all about it here!

5:02 PM I love this quote:

Better to love God and die unknown than to love the world and be a hero; better to be content with poverty than to die a slave to wealth; better to have taken some risks and lost than to have done nothing and succeeded at it. - E. Lutzer

I found it at this delightful site. Jesus often pressed this point home. A disciple is not merely one who is recognized as someone who acquires truth, but who applies it diligently in his or her life. This is one reason Becky and I have stopped asking whether someone is a "Christian." Instead we ask, "Is he or she an obedient follower of Jesus?" If the response is, "Yes, they always attend church," we pretty well know where things stand.

4:49 PM As you might imagine, I'm not a huge fan of Huff Post. Still I strongly recommended this essay by Arianna Huffington. She comments:

But the government's legitimate need for secrecy is very different from the government's desire to get away with hiding the truth. Conflating the two is dangerously unhealthy for a democracy. And this is why it's especially important to look at what WikiLeaks is actually doing, as distinct from what its critics claim it's doing.

She also tips us to several excellent articles that pick their way through the controversy. If I may offer a prediction of my own, don't look to government to expose liars or encourage whistle-blowers. As John Barlow tweeted, "We have reached a point in our history where lies are protected speech and the truth is criminal."

Note in the margin: Republican Congressman Ron Paul's defense of WikiLeaks is worth noting.

Monday, December 13

8:24 PM And here's another good book review, this time by Joe Greene. Read The Brilliance and Blindness of Ferguson's (systematic) Theology of the Spirit.

8:10 PM Good history of Southeastern Seminary here.

7:40 PM This is a big month for Becky.

  • This Friday: colonoscopy.

  • Next Monday: final chemo treatment.

  • December 30: CT-scan.

In January we will have a vitally important meeting with her oncologists at UNC. Pray that we do not grow weary in well-doing -- and we are doing well. All praise to God.

7:23 PM Sheba must be half Chinese. She can't wait to lick out the rice bowl.

5:13 PM We're having Chinese stir fry for dinner again tonight. One guess as to who the cook is.

3:51 PM Jason Kees has just reviewed Gene Green's Jude & 2 Peter in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series. He concludes:

With outstanding scholarship and in-depth research, Gene Green has produced a commentary that is in a league of its own. This work provides the reader with a thorough, clear, and precise exegetical work on Jude and 2 Peter that not only meets the biblical scholar’s criteria, but will also equip the common layperson with information that is understandable. With careful exegesis, Green has provided a commentary that will benefit other for years to come.

3:43 PM Students, lookie here. My wife's been baking all day.

Yep, goodies for the last day of class.

You are in for a real treat this week!

2:55 PM Got a minute for a somewhat odd question? What do you love doing? Watching Monday Night Football? Eating Pizza? Blogging? Celebrating Christmas? Look at what Paul wrote in Gal. 2:10:

All they [the Jerusalem leaders] asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I have been eager to do.

Did you catch that? Paul was eager to help other people. He not only did it. He singled it out as the one activity in life he loved doing. To see how that worked itself out, read 2 Corinthians 8-9. Becky and I were talking about this just the other day. Where love is seen and felt, the message of the Gospel is heard. Paul made himself a servant to win as many people as possible. He loved, cared, gave, sacrificed, suffered, and eventually died to see the lost saved.

Is that your passion in life? Is it mine? I won't kid you -- there's a price to be paid for being a redemptive person. Get involved in the lives of other people and there will be pain. Lots of it too. Serve others and there will be opposition as well. Some of it will come directly from the pit of hell itself. Satan never gives up easily. But the rewards make it worth all the effort.

Friends, when you read this blog, I hope you can detect what my passion in life is. My goal is to be as totally other-oriented as I possibly can be. If that means waking up in the middle of the night and weeping, so be it.

11:51 AM So what did the great John Wesley have to say about persecution? In his sermon "The Mastery of Iniquity" he wrote that

the grand blow ... was struck in the fourth century by Constantine the Great, when he called himself a Christian, and poured in a flood of riches, honours, and power, upon the Christians; more especially upon the clergy .... Just so, when the fear of persecution was removed, and wealth and honour attended the Christian profession, the Christians did not gradually sink, but rushed headlong into all manner of vices....

This is one of the reasons, I believe, so many Christians find themselves defeated today. They forget that genuine Christianity is a warfare. We can never forget, even for a minute, that it is a life with terrible enemies, a path of conflict and confrontation. Plainly, Constantinian Christianity -- "comfortable Christianity" if you will -- overlooks this reality. It allows us to insist on our way rather than His way and think we are being "good Christians" by doing so. May God help us.

9:48 AM Spanish translation update: 8 chapters down, and only 18 to go. Thank you Thomas and Lesly!

9:30 AM 10 words for my graduates this week:

  • Make love the rule.

  • Never compromise basic Christian doctrine.

  • Don't divide over pet beliefs.

  • Let God break your heart with the things that break His.

  • With every activity, purchase, or relationship ask, Does this help to build the kingdom and fulfill the Great Commission?

  • Make intercessory prayer a daily priority.

  • Accept being a nobody for Jesus.

  • Remember that all positions and titles are irrelevant.

  • Escape the frenzied "earn and spend" syndrome that drives our culture.

  • Do something in the great task of world evangelization.

8:26 AM Read this story from Dallas, Texas, and you'll see why I wrote my book Christian Archy.

"It is high time we stood up for our beliefs about Christmas" just doesn't cut it. The true battle line is drawn elsewhere. It is obvious to me that even religious people can be destroyed by unsanctified love for earthly things.

7:58 AM Good morning bloggers!

As you know, the church in Alaba, Ethiopia, is undergoing persecution. When I say persecution, I'm not exaggerating. Needless to say, I stop often to pray for the brethren there. My prayer life is not not all it should be, but I'm pretty good about interceding in emergencies. And this is an emergency. I keep thinking to myself, It can't get any worse. But it can. How I wish I could be there to share the burden.

I am extremely reluctant to draw parallels between what is happening in Ethiopia and what occurred in Nazi Germany. But there is one parallel I think bears mentioning. In the 1930s, a German pastor named Martin Niemöller led the opposition against Hitler's "German Christians." He once wrote, "I hold myself responsible to the utmost of my ability for those who are persecuted on account of [their] confessional stand." He encouraged German pastors to stick with the "pure gospel" and to oppose the blood-and-soil teaching of the "German Christians." He preached fearlessly in the name of the "Jewish rabbi, Jesus Christ."

Niemöller was arrested on July 1, 1937. His arrest aroused international outrage. As a result, he was given an extremely light sentence. Happily preparing to be reunited with his family, Niemöller was seized by the infamous Gestapo and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp as the "personal prisoner" of Adolph Hitler. To the outside world he became a symbol of "the other Germany." During his stay in Sachsenhausen, Niemöller's father once visited his prison cell and told him that Eskimos in Canada and the Bataks of Sumatra were praying for him. They had also sent him their greetings.

Nigussie, Tessema, Tilahun, and the rest of you in Alaba -- I tell you, I assure you, you are being prayed for, maybe not by Eskimos or Bataks but certainly by thousands of North Americans who read this blog. You can draw on the bank of heaven even though you may be bankrupt and persecuted on earth. Great soldiers of the Lord Jesus are developed in battle, not in plush offices. This old world that hates you so much is your proving ground. If you find the going hard, remember that you can overcome because Jesus overcame. You can do all things through Him. Stand by the cross. Calvary is utter foolishness to this age, but Christ slain and risen again is the only true Good News this weary planet will ever know.

Never forget that we are interceding for you. We will not "mind our own business." Your suffering is our business. It may take another world to settle accounts, but there is always justice with God. May God grant a spirit of repentance to fall upon your enemies. May they see in your faces nothing but the tender love of Christ. May your constant prayer be, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." When a cloud arises between you and the sun, do you fear that the sun will never appear again? No, you must never doubt the reality of God's love and sovereignty. Continue to walk in the path of duty. And remember: You never walk alone.

Sunday, December 12

5:35 PM Arthur Sido redefines worship "service."

5:30 PM Just woke up from a nap. This wet day required one.

2:22 PM Our teacher's text this morning was Acts 20:17-38. Two verses jumped out at me immediately: "You yourselves know that I have worked with these hands of mine (can't you see Paul raising his calloused hands at this point?) to provide everything that my companions and I have needed. I have shown you in all things that by working hard in this way we must help the weak...." I thank God that Paul was not moved by lame excuses. He worked and paid his own way in life rather than mooch off the charity of others, and thus he set an example for elders in the church of his day -- and ours.

The other verse that struck me was Acts 20:24: "I do not count my life dear unto myself." I love this verse. I think of it every time my mind wanders to the persecuted church. Right now -- this very moment -- our son Nigussie in Alaba, Ethiopia, is facing death for the cause of Jesus. He does not count his life dear unto himself. Note that Paul does not say, "I do not count my life dear." Life is a precious possession. Thus Paul adds, "I do not count my life dear unto myself." He is saying that life is a wonderful gift from God, and because it is His gift we must all give an account for the way we live it. We can either live for ourselves, selfishly, or we can live for God and others, selflessly. Nigussie has chosen the better way. Like a grain of wheat, he is ready to die for Christ. What a choice servant of the Lord! Is there any greater honor than to suffer for the sake of the Gospel!

2:07 PM Had a wonderful time at The Hill this morning and afterwards at the Chinese Restaurant in South Boston. This morning Becky announced during our church meeting that on December 24 we will be having a "family dinner" here at Bradford Hall for our spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ. We will eat, sing, and pray as the Body of Christ. Many have expressed interested in attending. The focus will be on what the Lord Jesus taught us in Mark 3:31-15, namely that our true brothers and sisters are those who obey the Word of God as obedient disciples. Can't wait to hear the testimonies of the Lord's faithfulness!

9:06 AM Mitchell Powell uses an exclamation point! And for very good reason!

8:56 AM Calling all Koine Greek students and teachers! Miklal Software produces flashcards for Greek and Hebrew. Would you like to see my vocabulary (Learn to Read New Testament Greek) included in their lineup of products? If so, please send me an email at

8:13 AM Missions quote of the day (John Stott):

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

7:59 AM Did you know that the New Living Translation has an online Greek interlinear? I didn't until I read Jeff's post this morning. Bookmark it now.

7:35 AM LXX students! Please take a minute or two and read Roger Nicole's excellent essay called New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Among other important conclusions is the following:

When the New Testament authors appealed to Scripture as the Word of God, it is not claimed that they viewed anything but the original communication as vested in full with divine inerrancy. Yet their willingness to make use of the LXX, in spite of its occasional defects, teaches the important lesson that the basic message which God purposed to deliver can be conveyed even through a translation, and that appeal can be made to a version insofar as it agrees with the original. It would be precarious, however, to rest an argument on any part of the LXX quotations which appears not to be conformed to the Hebrew original nor to the point of the New Testament writers, for the mere fact that the quotation was adduced in this fashion was not meant as a divine sanction upon incidental departures from the autographs. In the quotations made from the LXX we have indeed God’s seal of approval upon the contents of the Old Testament passage, but the form of the citation is affected by the language and conditions of those to whom the New Testament was first addressed. Such use of the LXX was not a case of objectionable accommodation.

Nicole, who passed away yesterday, was a model scholar for my generation of students. He was one of the first evangelicals to seek (and earn) a doctorate from a prestigious "secular" university in addition to his doctorate from a conservative divinity school. He became a "critical" scholar without surrendering his faith in the plenary inspiration of Scripture. His was an evangelical voice calling us to remain true to the propositional Word of truth. Thanks be to God.

7:11 AM Good thoughts on Advent from Allan Bevere. Don't miss this classic one-liner:

It seems as if we have put most of our Easter eggs in the Christmas basket.

7:03 AM My friend Alvin Reid has written a great post about self-discipline. It's called Indulging in Discipline. I love the title but hate the reality. For the truth is that I am probably the most un-disciplined, sloth-prone person in the universe. Alvin writes:

Can one really be a disciple without discipline? Ask yourself how much you value discipline. Then ask yourself how much you value Jesus. No, we do not earn salvation or God’s favor. But Paul did tell Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. What greater way can I show my gratitude to my Savior than to serve Him with all the drive of my life?

Now if that isn't convicting. A good reminder for a certain Hawaiian-born and bred beach bum I know.

Saturday, December 11

9:29 PM Matt, Liz, and the boys just returned from an overnight visit to Roanoke Rapids. They were sorely missed. So it's back to normal (i.e., zany) living!

6:34 PM Check out the new Kailua Baptist Church website. The pastor there is a Southern grad, but that's forgivable :) If you're ever vacationing in the Paradise of the Pacific, you might check out KBC.

6:08 PM A little known fact about Karl Barth and his son Markus emerges.

5:40 PM Just prayed for my beginning Greek students, who are doing their final take home exam this weekend. Can't believe the semester ends this week. Looking forward to my J-term Greek class that starts January 3. Love this thing called teaching!

Speaking of Greek reminds me of my favorite ancient Greek joke: Eumenides the tailor is in his shop when the door opens and in walks a customer he vaguely recognizes, carrying a torn pair of trousers.

Eumenides asks: "Euripides?"

5:22 PM Quote of the day:

A great pastor understands brokenness. They understand that all sin is equal, while also understanding that not all sin has the same consequences. And because of this understanding, a great pastor is someone who knows their position in Christ and that Christ was comfortable in the presence of real sinners. And because Christ is comfortable in the presence of sinners they themselves likewise find themselves comfortable in the presence of sinners.

Read Good pastoring starts with true listening.

3:35 PM Sinus headache = Storm's coming. Who needs a barometer?

3:32 PM Hmmm. "Jesus is the exegesis of God." John 1:18. Sounds like a bit of etymologizing to me.

3:25 PM Brian Fulthorp's latest blog post (on the power of the biblical languages) is a good reminder why language courses are the most important classes you can take in seminary.

(Spoken like a true blue Greek prof, eh?)

3:16 PM My colleague Julian Motley sent along a link to his new book How Then Should We Think: In Pursuit of the Mind of Christ. The publishers write:

[The book] welcomes Christians and seekers of faith to immerse themselves in the Bible’s witness to the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. This pursuit will unveil inspiring and encouraging wisdom for all who want to discover and grow in the faith of Christ and experience the love of God in Him. Julian Morris Motley writes from experience—over six decades of ministry—offering seasoned guidance leading to faithful thinking and to life-changing interactions with the mind of Christ.

Julian and his wife Jane are precious co-laborers for the kingdom. I wish the book well.

10:28 AM Is Jesus the proper object of our prayers? This is an interesting question of theology. The debate continues here and here.

9:27 AM I know I wrote about Ethiopia yesterday, but, truth be told, there is so much going on there, both good and bad ("bad" from my limited human perspective) that I could blog about it nonstop. It seems like one thing after another since we returned last July. Strangely enough, knowing all the heartache I would experience, and even though the path has been anything but easy, I'd do it all over again. There is something so incredible about watching the flock in Ethiopia, pounced upon by savage wolves, doing dangerous things for Jesus, living life on the edge because that's what their Master told them to do. It hit me today, after reading the latest update from our son Nigussie in Alaba (whose life is in danger even as I type), just how unnecessary it is to be intimated by people or circumstances. We don't need to be on a roller coaster ride of emotions at each victory or defeat, because we know that God works all things together for good and because we know we are called according to His purpose. One of the most joyful things about being a Christian has got to be the relief it brings from the fears that come from persecution. Every true servant of Christ realizes, sooner or later, that obedience will be risky and unpleasant. If this sounds extreme to you, perhaps you should examine your heart to see if you're really born again. If the driving force of your life is anything but true servanthood, with all of its attendant risks, then it is unacceptable to the Lord.

I don't enjoy watching Christians being persecuted in a country that supposedly has freedom of religion. My heart sank when I heard that my dear brother Tessema suffered a head injury when he was stoned. It's so hard to know how to best help them. And the thing is, it is not just the Christians in Alaba. It's so many believers in so many lands. I get my heart all tangled up in their stories. Then I start thinking about their courage and faithfulness and the privilege I have to write words and put them on the internet for everyone (or maybe no one) to see. I can't get used to it -- this comfortable life in Virginia when all the while in my mind's eye I see heart-wrenching poverty and injustice and malaria and typhoid and typhus and ugly stares and sometimes rocks and sticks, simply because you love someone named Jesus. But I'm coming to realize that this heart-brokenness is a very good thing. When it stops, it will be time to stop being a missionary.

8:01 AM The concert last night was fabulous. I love hearing music that is written for the sole purpose of glorifying our Lord. So much the better if it's written and sung in Latin! Grace is such a powerful thing. I can't imagine the agonizing emptiness Jesus must have felt when He left His home to come to this earth. He knew something of the ruggedness of life. He also knew its joys. Above all, He was a man on a mission, and He calls me to be the same.

A couple of pix:

1) Saw lots of old friends. Becky and I "attended" the post-concert meeting of the chorale and heard John Boozer's pep talk. (They need more tenors.)

2) We talked with plenty of our former vocalist friends. Everyone put "mild" pressure on us to return to the fold, but they understood that for now that is just not possible.

3) John is an outstanding conductor and a great colleague and friend. Can't wait for their Spring concert.

Friday, December 10

12:15 PM Remember Ayelech? I figure it's time for an update. She's arrived in Addis for her double mammography. We haven't heard the results yet. We're so used to timely health care here in America. Not so in Ethiopia. Not even in the capital. Not sure what else to tell you except to keep on praying for her. Because we're in this thing together. You, me, Becky -- we are the Body of Christ, and when one part suffers, we all suffer.

10:28 AM Missions quote of the day (Nate Saint):

And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives…and  when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.

10:17 AM So grateful for Thomas and Lesly Hugdins, who are working diligently to translate my beginning grammar into Spanish. You can read about their husband-wife labors here. This is a huge blessing and encouragement to me.

10:12 AM Don't forget: Tonight the Northeast Piedmont Chorale is singing Vivaldi's Gloria in the seminary chapel. The program begins at 7:00. Orchestral accompaniment and free admission.

10:00 AM Good frosty morning one and all. Just been perusing the biblioblogs. It's mostly a waste of time. However, I do appreciate the openness of certain bloggers to the changing self-understanding occurring in churches today. They are not merely entering a historical debate. They are truly seeking to flesh out the Anabaptism of Zwingli's erstwhile (and, I would say, more committed) followers. They seek to "speak the truth in love." They aren't afraid to tell it like it is, warts and all. They are also discovering the deep unity in the Body of Christ in ways that put to shame modern Christendom. The Presbyterian Robert Baillie once called this willingness to change "mutability." Mutability seems sadly lacking today. Rare are those who say that the Holy Spirit must be followed, even if it seems foolish to the world -- and to the church.

Eric Carpenter and Alan Knox have got to be two of the most engaging of these modern Anabaptists. Want to think with them about all this? If so, you can check out their latest posts here:

Even if you are "that kind of a pastor" I hope you will take these words to heart.

Thursday, December 9

7:54 PM What a joy it was for Becky to bake cookies with the boys today. I thought you'd enjoy a few pix: 

6:33 PM Missions quote of the day (William Cameron Townsend): 

The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner.

6:22 PM So just what did I do today?

  • Fixed the front gate with Matt

  • Packed a trailer

  • Repaired the lawn mower's flat tire

  • Did a trash run with Caleb

  • Ordered new tires for Becky's van

  • Walked the fence line

The latter project was necessitated by the fact that this farm is inhabited by the world's greatest escape artists, aka, Shelties. Not to fear, however. Yours truly coyly followed the little recalcitrants and discovered where they were crawling under the fence.

Then I plugged the openings with whatever materials lay at hand.

I started out this afternoon with only my 3 dogs but was eventually joined by Nate and Jess's Shelties -- making a grand total of 6 devious POWs.

Life on a farm....

5:53 PM Just back from spreading a little holiday to cheer to all of our neighbors. We sang "Joy to the World," gave out a sack of goodies, then burst forth in a boisterous rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

The sack contained a brief letter containing these words, written by Becky:

John, who lived with Jesus, wrote a biography of Jesus' life. 

In it, he wrote: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God didn't send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that every person in the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." 

And later in his life, John wrote a letter to those who obeyed Jesus as Lord of their lives.  In this letter, he wrote: "This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. ... If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sisters is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters."

Life is busy and Life is messy.  In all that we have been through this year, know that we often think of you and pray for you.  Our prayer is that you might know the God of Life, who loves you, who has made a way for you to Him, and who one day stand either beside you or against you on the Day of Judgment.  If there is anything that we can do to help you know Him, please call on us!

Here at Bradford Hall on the farm, we are continuing the work in Ethiopia, helping people who are much more poor than us in the USA. We are enjoying the Family at Bethel Hill Baptist Church, north of Roxboro.  We often shelter others in our home.  Dave is continuing with the website and Becky's continuing with the website; we welcome you to visit us online! 

And we're continuing the treatment for Becky Lynn's cancer.  It has spread to her lungs.  Unless the Lord Himself steps in through a miracle, we expect her to go to Him sometime this year.  Her testimony? "I do not have long to live; my life is not precious in itself.  But I treasure faithfulness...I long to be a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus, so that whether I have 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 decades, my life is one of obedience to the heart of Jesus in serving others.  My Lord Jesus has made all things right between God and me.  I have no fear in dying, and what He has waiting for me in His Home is infinitely better than what I am enjoying here on earth, because He is there!  It is in Death that we really know what we believe, and I can say that the peace & even joy since my diagnosis has been something only a faithful God, who knows His people, can give!  I rejoice in Him, the God of my salvation!"

Rejoicing in the Savior, given to us from God's heart of love..... Dave, Becky Lynn, Liz, Matthew, Caleb, Isaac & Micah at Bradford Hall on Rosewood Farm.

2:40 PM Gordon College announces an opening in New Testament/Theology.

2:28 PM One word: BUSY.

Wednesday, December 8

7:26 PM In this video clip from Desiring God, Darren Patrick answers the question: How do you know if you're called to ministry? Watch it, and then read this essay by Jon Zens.

7:20 PM Wipf & Stock have done it again. They've just published Margaret Sim's Marking Thought and Talk in New Testament Greek. If you're into Koine Greek particles, this is the book for you. I just ordered a review copy for myself.

7:12 PM Openings:

7:07 PM Tired of reading biblical genealogies? Try this one on for size: Who Begot Whom?

7:00 PM The death of Elizabeth Edwards has hit me harder than I expected. I watched the story as it developed throughout the past few months. I can't imagine how difficult it was for her during her last days. How do you maintain hope and courage when your husband forsakes you for a younger woman (and bears a child with her) and then you are faced with a terminal illness? Recently I talked with a man who is undergoing a divorce. These situations are just another reminder that we live in a broken world. Life is messy. It would be nice to think that if we lead good lives, suffering will be minimized. But that doesn't happen. So I offer my condolences and prayers to Mrs. Edward's family during their time of grief. It's such a strange paradox, this thing we call life. My recent biopsy was a stark reminder that sickness and death are my ultimate fate, unless Jesus returns soon. Which means that, one must NEVER stop living and loving, no matter how difficult life gets. For the apostle Paul, Christ in His suffering and death was the model of all ministry. It is because of Jesus that Paul saw himself as nothing but a slave. Paul "shares" the sufferings of Christ, and thus proves that he is a true apostle of Jesus Christ. With the passing of Elisabeth Edwards we get to see the power of death. But we also get to see the power of life, the soft warm reality of the one who said "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they die, will live again."

6:49 PM Evening, bloggers and bloggerettes! May I share a few pix with you?

1) Last night's concert at the seminary was truly memorable. The Gettys performed music they had either composed or arranged themselves. Even traditional Christmas hymns sounded delightfully new  -- with an Irish twist to boot. There was also a lot of audience participation. Joyful indeed.

2)  Becky along with Liz and the boys joined me. Of course, we had to have pizza before the concert.

3) We were also joined by a couple of dear friends. Rachael is one of our faculty secretaries, while Ronnie is a former Greek student (and 110 Award recipient).

4) This morning my doctoral student Michael Rudolph led our Ph.D. seminar. He presented two papers, the first entitled "The Interpretative Significance of Intersentential Conjunctions for New Testament Studies: Are the Insights of linguistics Relevant?"

5) His second paper was called "The Collision of Two Worlds?: Toward a Reconciliation of Ancient and Modern Understandings of GAR."

I am blessed to have such capable students, and am always glad for the opportunity to hear them teaching. Mike did an outstanding job. Mike has just finished his mentorship with me and will take his comprehensive exams in January. After that -- it's on to the dissertation phase. Should be a great ride.

Tuesday, December 7

6:55 AM Today marks the anniversary of my generation's September 11. The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, will always be a date that will "live in infamy." If you only read one story about today's commemorations, please take a minute and read From Pearl Harbor to Calvary. It's the story of Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the attack that Sunday morning.

The airman ended up becoming a committed   follower of the Prince of Peace and a warm-hearted Christian missionary.

In an era of Osama bin Ladens, Fuchida's story shows how the Gospel can indeed transform a life from the inside out. More than anything, it's an awesome reminder of the power, grace, and sovereignty of God. Read it, then share it with a friend today.

6:43 AM New post Down to Earth Theology at DBO. It's on a topic I've been passionate about for years. Hope you enjoy it.

In the meantime, please keep the suffering church in Ethiopia in your prayers.

6:34 AM On the lighter side:

A life-long single man, Parker allegedly came close to proposing to three different women. The first two chose not to marry him, and when the third seemingly was willing, Parker did not want to marry someone who would want to marry him. Is this true?

“There is a grain of truth in that, and a nice dash of hyperbole too,” Parker said, smiling.

Read Southern Story: James Parker III.

Monday, December 6

1:50 PM After a hiatus, Matt Evans is blogging again. Why not send him a note and let him know you're glad for the return of Broadcast Depth?

1:12 PM Brian Fulthorp sent along a link to an excellent source of news and information about the persecuted church worldwide. It's called Compass Direct. It's a real eye-opener. Check it out daily, then pray!

8:54 AM The book of Hebrews contains many wonderful promises but none more precious than this one:

I will never, ever, ever, under any circumstance, leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5).

So the Greek text, which contains a very strong negative. It is a mighty promise and on its basis we can say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?" (v. 6). Therefore, we dare not heed the flesh's call to fear and intimidation in the face of opposition. I will not allow fear to control me. I will be content in the presence of the Lord. I will let God deal with my enemies. I am at peace in Him, no matter what happens to me.

I write this because my aching heart is in Alaba, Ethiopia, this morning, "remembering those who are ill-treated" (Heb. 13:3). I will not forget the shock that came to me when I first visited Alaba. Injustice and oppression are completely detestable to me. However -- and this is a point I wish to make crystal clear -- the church's job is not to issue proclamations about political problems. Our message is the Gospel, the Good News about the one who loves all people everywhere, not only the oppressed but their oppressors.

In chapter 12 of Hebrews the author says, "Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken." As violence increases, as indifference to law and order rises, as persecution of Christians abounds, more and more will we become aware that there is only one kingdom than cannot be shaken. The church passes through a fire that is designed to purify it so that we may learn to cry out with Job of old, "He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I will come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

Pray with us for Alaba. Pray for the believers there, for their courageous leaders who risk life and limb to protect the flock, and for their enemies "who know not what they do." And let all of us have eyes and ears and hearts that are open to the cries of the afflicted, whether they are in prison or otherwise oppressed or mistreated.

Below: Our son Nigussie (left) and one of the Alaba evangelists who was almost killed earlier this year. Behind them is the vehicle that was damaged in the most recent attack. May they, and us, continue to look beyond the visible and see the Invisible and trust in Him.

8:18 AM Missions quote of the day (William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army):

"Not called!" did you say? "Not heard the call," I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him  whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world.

Sunday, December 5

6:31 PM Brian Fulthorp hits it out of the ballpark with his latest essay: The Key to World Evangelization? He writes:

I believe the key to world evangelization is not necessarily through a specific people group but through a particular mode of living….

Complete and total sacrificial living is the key to world evangelization and nothing less.

I’ll only be when Christians are willing to give of themselves for the cause of the gospel and nothing else that there will be significant progress in world evangelization.  It will only be when Christians are willing to die to themselves, their own agendas, their own goals, even their own hopes and dreams, and leave behind security, money, convenience, even family to follow Christ wholeheartely.  Only when they would abandon everything for the gospel.  Only when we truely take up our crosses daily…

The challenge of world evangelization remains as great in the twenty-first century as it was in the first century. But it is time for action, not words, obedience not discussion. May God work in our midst, emptying and humbling us, and filling us with the Holy Spirit to accomplish this God-sized task!

4:18 PM After years of intense labor in China, Hudson Taylor finally baptized his first convert. "If one soul is worth worlds," he wrote to his mother, "am I not abundantly repaid, and are not you too?"

How well I remember the first fruit of our work in Ethiopia. How the angels rejoiced, and so did we!

2:22 PM Here's a question I'd like to ask. What does a person of faith look like? How do you recognize one?

My answer to this question goes something like this. A person of faith is one who repudiates manmade thinking and throws him or herself totally upon the teaching of the Scriptures. To enter into the new we must repudiate the old. But how do we recognize what is old? Through the Word of God. The Bible strips off the false. It exposes us to our false notions of God, the church, and the world. When we peer into the Word of God we see, to our horror, how false our "reality" is. The Bible itself teaches us that "the Word of God is alive and powerful." It can be, and often is, utterly ruthless. It backs us into a corner and allows us no wriggle room. Moreover, if we decide to obey it, it exposes how deeply entrenched the flesh is in us. We realize we are helpless to crucify the flesh or to throw off our vain traditions.

I am always amazed when I see this kind of faith in action. A good example is the blog of a former SEBTS student named Eric Carpenter. Read his entries -- like this one titled I Just Couldn't Do It Anymore -- and feel his pain. No, there's no pouting or cajoling or complaining or grumbling. All you see is a man trying to walk by faith. Parenthetically, Eric's Alexa Traffic Rank is a mere 2,437,710. Apparently bibliobloggers would much rather read about the latest fad in theology than about the knowledge of Christ. When Jesus came to this earth He said, in effect, I'm here to change everything. And the people said, Mug Him. I wonder how many times people have mugged Eric. But if I read Eric correctly, his attitude is one of humble acquiescence. The pain is worth the gain.

I tell you, I admire such simple faith. I wish I had it myself. St. Augustine once said, "God wants to give us something but He can't. Our hands are full and there is no place to put anything." I have discovered that sometimes the only way the Lord produces a sense of God-sufficiency in our lives it by stripping us of our smug self-sufficiency. And that process may be painful.

For those who want to be people of faith, it is my prayer that they will have an open heart to the voice of God. Sometimes that voice can speak to us through human messengers, especially men and women like Eric who have been broken by the Word of God, who have begin to rethink the wineskins that Jesus so often spoke about.

It is a tragic and shallow statement about the worth of our salvation when we trade it for a name on a church marquee.

1:47 PM Today at the Hill we prayed for the Body. The part that is hurting. Here and abroad. Becky shared the details.

Then we prayed.

Scripture says:

Others suffered mocking and beatings, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned (Heb. 11:36).

This is not fiction. It is not ancient history. This is today, and it is faith at work. Faith persists. Faith perseveres. Faith suffers. Faith longs to see God's purposes fulfilled on earth. We are called to judge the present by the future. We are called to weigh the permanent against the temporary. Our Ethiopian brothers and sisters in Christ have done just that. They have overcome by the blood of the Lamb.

Praise be unto God.

8:50 AM Special time of prayer this morning for the persecuted church in Alaba. Things have deteriorated. Our vehicle's windows have been smashed, and three of our evangelists have been injured. One has a serious head wound, the result of being stoned. Thankfully, God's amazing grace multiplies in times of trouble. To think how minor my trials are compared to the sufferings of these saints!

8:44 AM Missions quote of the day (K. P. Yohannan):

A tiny group of believers who have the gospel keep mumbling it over and over to themselves. Meanwhile, millions who have never heard it once fall into the flames of eternal hell without ever hearing the salvation story.

8:20 AM Another seminary-related item: This Tuesday evening at 7:30 the Gettys will be in concert in Binckley Chapel.

The theme is "An Irish Christmas." We're planning on being there. For tickets contact SEBTS. I am an unabashed promoter of the music and ministry of Keith and Kristyn Getty.

8:12 AM A heads up: This Wednesday one of my doctoral students, Michael Rudolph, will be the guest speaker in our Ph.D. Linguistics Seminar. He will speak to the class about the work he is doing on intersentential conjunctions in Koine Greek. All interested are invited to attend. We meet in Patterson Hall at 7:30.

7:44 AM Good morning, world!

Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

7:32 AM Last night was a first. No, there was nothing unusually about Papa B's Chinese stir fry.

The novelty was using chopsticks!

And the dessert? Eaten with forks of course.

7:21 AM So encouraged while reading Roger Steer's biography of Hudson Taylor.

Two quotes:

1) When applying to the mission board, Taylor "believed that he had stated his unorthodox views so freely that he would not be accepted. According to the clerk to the committee, the part which caused eyebrows to be raised the highest was where he said, 'I do not believe the division of the Church into clergy and laity. I believe all Christians have a right to preach, baptize and administer the Lord's Supper....' The committee's reaction is hardly surprising, for the majority of them were clergymen or ministers holding the opposite view" (p. 44).

2)  Steer writes, "He adamantly refused to accept the title 'Reverend" which many wished to thrust upon him" (p. 64.)

Stay tuned for more gems from the life of this lay missionary to China. Steer's book is giving me a lot to think and pray about. I highly recommend it to anybody who has a servant's heart. 

Saturday, December 4

4:26 PM While the dogs romp in the snow...

... the boys enjoy some delicious hot chocolate their mom made for them.

Yes, winter has arrived in Southern Virginia.

Oh ... I see the boys have just run outside with their heavy coats on to enjoy the snow. As for me, I think I'll stay indoors and enjoy my biography of Hudson Taylor!

2:44 PM IVP, which published John Sailhamer's latest book (see photo below -- note the subtitle) requires the use of the serial comma.

I always use the serial comma in lists of persons, places, and things, and when I find an author who doesn't I hate the ambiguity that often occurs.

Quite unfortunate - - and unnecessary -- in my humble opinion. My advice? Stick with the final comma in a series.

11:44 AM So, is the projected 24 million dollar scale model of Noah's Ark good stewardship of the Lord's money? This question was posed recently by Arthur Sido. What do you think?

11:34 AM Great news! Matt finally gets his Ph.D.*

*Post hole digger.

11:19 AM Old Testament students! Interested in the work of John Sailhamer on Old Testament theology? Then you will want to read Tracy McKenzie's take on Sailhamer's latest book, The Meaning of the Pentateuch. Go here for the review.

11:12 AM I can't figure out what was so special about last night. After supper at the IHOP in downtown Raleigh, Becky and I drove a few blocks to the Edenton Street United Methodist Church for their annual Messiah Sing-Along. Imagine yourself among 150 eager Messiah fans listening to pipe organ, soloists, and orchestra in a magnificent cathedral-like edifice.

We, the audience, sang all the choruses. As I stumbled through the bass part, the steady stream of trials in my life began to disappear from my consciousness. The church had become a hospital of sorts, and I was in triage. In the end, it wasn't about the beautiful music or the magnificent church building or the talented soloists or even Handel. It was about Him.

King of kings, and Lord of lords!

And He shall reign forever and forever!


Friday, December 3

3:26 PM In many churches tithing is not simply a tradition; it is almost a superstition. What does the New Testament teach about tithing? If you have ever worried your brain with such questions, David Croteau's You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe? is the book for you. I am currently re-reading it and can't put it down. Kudos to David (and his doctoral supervisor at SEBTS, Andreas Köstenberger) as well as to the publisher, Wipf & Stock, for being willing to take an unpopular stand on a controversial subject. As David notes in the preface to his book, "When my mentor (Andreas Köstenberger) approved this topic for my dissertation, I was not looking forward to the opposition with which the concepts would be received." He adds, soberly, "I pray that this work will be received by gentle hearts open to the attempt I have made to inductively analyze Scripture's teaching on this complex, important, and very practical subject."

I join you in that prayer, David.

3:14 PM The Areopagus series continues to expand. Today I finished editing H. van Dyke Parunak's Except for Fornication: Jesus' Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage. It is an elegant and serious piece of exegesis. From the preface:

Long ago, a wise Bible teacher counseled me and other young men who hoped to serve the church of God, “Be sure to figure out in advance what you believe about divorce and remarriage. Sooner or later, you will have to counsel people who are embroiled in this tragic situation. It's far better that you figure out what you believe now, while you can be objective with the scriptures, than when you are deeply immersed in the emotional trauma of those you love.” My sense of the serious responsibility of teaching, and my need to stand before God and give an account, has led me to invest many hours in understanding the biblical position as accurately as I can.

I suspect that van Parunak's work will delight some readers and offend others. But I don't think it will be ignored.

8:50 AM Though a bit dated, Nijay Gupta's discussion of verbal aspect is a must read. In essence, he both agrees and disagrees with Con Campbell, whose comment in response is a classic:

Thus, while VA [Verbal Aspect] may open a new ‘cans of worms’, they are better worms than the old ones! (if I can put it like that).

As I wrote yesterday, I see no reason to exchange my worms for Con's -- yet. I also think Nijay is correct about time (at least in the indicative mood):

For teaching purposes, trudging through this kind of linguistic tap-dance of avoiding temporal categories is daunting. Teach students to accept that the aorist often is past, but there are many exceptions and when past-time is not possible or logical, let’s look at ‘remoteness’ in some other way.

Incidentally, Nijay cites the example of Mark 1:11: eudokesa. I have a different take on why the aorist is used there (rather than the present). More on that later.

8:43 AM This essay by Michael Palmer on the distinction between acquisition and language learning should be read by all seminary students. His conclusion:

While it used to be thought that adults loose much of their acquisition ability and cannot gain language competence the way children do, this view has been discredited. Krashen argues that adults do not lose the ability to acquire languages the way that children do. In stead, adults add the ability to consciously try to learn language. Still, such learning can never be a substitute for acquiring the language if we really want to become truly competent in the language.

Currently I am trying to acquire a knowledge of Amharic (spoken widely in Ethiopia). Thus far I have only been able to "learn" bits and pieces of the language. It is an uphill battle for me and, I suppose, always will be until I immerses myself in the culture for more than my normal 1-2 months.

8:22 AM Openings:

Thursday, December 2

7:25 PM Hebrews 13:3:

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

3:12 PM Quote of the day (source):

As an evangelical interested in the global expanse of the Gospel, I have to ask the question, in light of such competition, is God calling many American academicians to think missionally about their scholarship? In other words, why not go to a land where the competition isn’t as fierce and advance scholarship for the cause of Christ there? This, to me, seems like a biblical paradigm that can be applied to the flooded market of North American (and European) evangelical scholarship.

Recently-minted Ph.D. students, take note!

3:08 PM Growing up in Hawaii, the word "wiki" was used almost daily. It meant something like "hurry up" or "quickly." When you really meant it you doubled up: "wiki-wiki."

Amazing to think that a little Hawaiian word could become so famous (Wikipedia, WikiLeaks).

2:55 PM Michele Napier asks What Is "New" about the New Covenant? An excellent reminder of the power of the indwelling Spirit to change our lives from the inside out.

2:30 PM A former student of mine just sent me a wonderful email, which included this line:

I follow your blog faithfully and find it helpful, fun, encouraging, thought provoking, and, dare I say, at times humorously and entertainingly weird!!!! 

To prove his point, this zany question just went through my mind:

Would the new Journal of Paul and His Letters allow an article on Hebrews?

Yep, I AM weird!

2:03 PM Exegesis of Mark students! You can access Steven Runge's excellent paper on the historical present here (.pdf). Please read this essay before we begin class next semester. The essay is also a good entrée into the latest debate about verbal aspect theory and the temporal (or non-temporal) nature of the Koine Greek verb system. For what it's worth, I hold that, in the indicative mood, Greek grammaticalizes tense. Hence, as Runge also argues, Koine Greek is essentially a mixed tense/aspect system (see chapter 2 of my Learn to Read New Testament Greek). I also argue that, in the Greek New Testament, one tense is never used "for" another (see chapter 26). As we begin our study of the Gospel according to Mark in Greek, we'll see that the present tense is not normally used in narratives, and that departures from the aorist tend to be exegetically significant. In Mark, the historical present stands out, adding prominence and perhaps vividness to the story line. So, we will expect the aorist, but recognize that a shift to either the imperfect tense or the present tense may be significant. Incidentally, the ancient scribes must have felt the same way, if textual evidence is any indication (for example, go here).

1:42 PM Warning! Another SEBTS student has started blogging. Check out Why start a blog? by Joe Greene.

1:22 AM Speaking in chapel today was Carrie McDonnall. Carrie and her husband David were serving the Lord Jesus in Mosul, Iraq when their car was ambushed and three missionaries were killed outright. Later her husband died from his wounds. Her website states:

The Lord’s work in Carrie’s life reminds us that His Sovereignty reaches into each of our lives, and it is His Love and Faithfulness that causes us to carry on in the work He has extended to those who are called children of God.

Amen to that!

May God bless all the Carrie McDonnalls of the world. And may their tribe increase. Jesus is worthy of any sacrifice we make for the Gospel.

For the podcast please go to

10:58 AM Right now it's 39 degrees. And they're calling this a la Niña winter?

10:46 AM Got an email this morning from Alaba, where Becky and I have worked for many years. Persecution has broken out again. A church building has been destroyed and one of our evangelists has been beaten. "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it" (1 Cor. 12:26). Privileged to suffer with the brethren there.

10:38 AM Thomas Hugdins asks, Where have all the Juan Mateos books gone? The answer is here. Another good reason to know how to read Spanish if you're going into New Testament studies today. My favorite Mateos book is:

10:14 AM Meet a pastor without worries.

10:02 AM One of my Latin students sent along this link to the online version of Nunn's excellent grammar of ecclesiastical Latin. We do not offer a course in Latin at SEBTS per se but self-study is a manageable way to master this vitally important language. I am also willing to design an independent study course for students who would like to get credit for their work.

9:26 AM This is going to be long.

Yesterday a colleague of mine sent me this link: Ethiopia Imprisons Christian Accused of Defacing Quran. It is a report about a believer in Ethiopia who had the courage to proclaim Yesus Getano -- "Jesus is Lord!" His "crime" is that he refused to hide the light of the Gospel under a bushel.

I find myself overwhelmed by the significance of this event. We in America are so often wrong about our Christian suppositions. Joseph and Mary were sure that Jesus was traveling to Nazareth with them when He was back in Jerusalem in the temple. Mary thought Jesus was a gardener. Paul once knew Christ according to the flesh. How gullible we are.

Being willing to declare "Jesus is Lord!" and being willing even to die for Him runs so contrary to the world of "New Testament scholarship" in which I live and move and have my being. I am (and have always been)  a lover of books, of writing, of teaching, of scholarship. Wherever I am, I love to read and learn. I enjoy listening to the reports from ETS and SBL and discussing the latest controversies in the field of religious studies.

I am comfortable.

Scholarship validates my need to be affirmed in my calling. And then I read a news story like the one I linked to above and God taps me on the shoulder and drops me to my knees. A man properly loves himself only when he sees himself as God sees him -- nothing but a lost sinner, bought with a great price, the personal property of the Lord whom he is called to follow and serve sacrificially. He is not called to debate the doctrine of justification. He is called to get right with God by confession and repentance. Then he is called to leave the 99 and search for the lost sheep of the world. He must be willing to risk all -- even his reputation in the eyes of the world -- to proclaim with life and lip, "Jesus is Lord!"

Jesus was accused of being out of His mind. So was Paul, the greatest New Testament scholar who ever lived. It is amazing to me how we so-called "New Testament experts" can study and teach the New Testament but somehow manage to keep it in one compartment of our lives while we carry on the daily affairs of life in another. As Christian scholars and bloggers it is not our calling to denounce organized iniquity. It is to be the kind of committed Christians who have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them by the contrast of our lives. We are so used to measuring everything by the yardstick of popularity that we make our dedication to scholarship the road to advancement and recognition. We have sought, like James and John, prominent places in the kingdom when Jesus is offering suffering instead of seats. I've said it before: If we really wanted to make an impact at ETS, we would have asked Schreiner and Thielman and Wright to serve for a day together in a soup kitchen in Atlanta's inner city, sharing with lost souls the Gospel of this Jesus whom we evangelicals claim to understand so well intellectually.

I am suspicious of any form of Christianity that does not arouse bitter hostility from the world. My brother in Ethiopia is in prison today not because he broke any law (freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Ethiopian constitution) but because he was willing to follow in the steps of his Lord, who refused the applause of the world. Christ does not want our patronage. He must have submission.

Funny how the imprisonment of a Christian brother in Ethiopia makes me so grateful. Grateful to know that in some parts of the world "the cost of discipleship" is more than a book title. Grateful for the reminder that the Christian life is not a set of dogmas but a revolution. Being persecuted will not stop the Gospel. Even in prison, Jesus is Lord.

I'm with Jesus on this one. Let the dead bury their dead. Sell out or get out. This poor world of New Testament studies to which I belong talks haughtily, like Pilate, as though Jesus stood at its mercy. We avoid the battle of truth under the false guise that we are explorers of the truth -- on a "quest" to discover the historical Jesus. But there is no doubt about who this Christ is. Yesus Getano. Jesus is Lord! In parts of Ethiopia, those are fighting words. Utter them and you may die.

The tragedy of our generation is that we are failing to get to the bottom of our troubles. Spreading Aspercream on cancer is idiotic. The professing church in America -- and this includes the academic guild that I know and love -- has become cluttered with hosts of superficial "believers" who have never settled the matter of obedience. They are disciples in name only, their hands on the plow, eagerly looking back.

Perhaps I will start praying for persecution to come to America. Many would fall away but at least it would separate the sheep from the goats.

Wednesday, December 1

9:20 PM May I share with you a couple of happy memory makers?

1) These cups arrived in today's mail. They're from Becky's mom in Dallas. What a thoughtful gift. Mom, every time we use these cups we will remember you and your love. Amasagenalo.

2) Josiah, a Chinese student of mine, invited me to his beautiful Wake Forest home last night, where his wife fed me the meal of a lifetime. It was an unforgettable evening. Thank you very much for your wonderful hospitality.

I have a special place in my heart for our international students, having been one myself. I really miss the ethnic diversity of Southern California. I thank God for each and every international student the Lord sends our way, but pray, Lord, send us more!

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