January 2013 Blog Archives
Thursday, January 31
1:32 PM Today, when I checked my emails, I got an email from a student informing me that another student of mine was in the CCU at Rex Hospital in Raleigh. I first met Marcus Twisdale in my New Testament Introduction class. He sat as close to the front as was humanly possible. He was always cheerful, even in his wheelchair. He was always the first to volunteer to read the paper which the class had been assigned for that day. Once I tried to help him hold up his paper while he was reading, and he gently rebuked me. "I can do it myself, thank you." One day the assignment was to discuss Paul's theology of strength-in-weakness. By the time Marcus had finished reading his paper, the entire class was in tears.
Marcus now lies in a hospital bed fighting for his life. This morning he began breathing on his own again, laboriously, a struggle. I find myself needing to write about him, regardless of whether or not anyone reads what I have to say. With his parents' permission, I post here a picture of Marcus that I took of him during a class break one day. His parents also gave me permission to ask my readers to bring their son before the throne of grace. They are firm believers in the power of prayer.
When I visited Marcus this morning, I held his hand. I chatted with him, prayed with him, kissed his forehead, and left. It's one of the hardest things about this career called teaching, this getting close to your students, this coming face to face with pain and suffering. So today, while you are praying for your loved ones, for your own friends and family members whose lives may have been shattered by sin or disease, please pray for Marcus too. I'm praying for a miracle. For wisdom for his doctors and nurses. For strength for his precious parents. That God would be glorified. That light would overcome darkness. And that peace would overcome despair.
Marcus, I love you. When you and I get to heaven, we'll see who had the most faith. And I can guarantee you that it won't be me.
8:20 AM Speaking of my colleagues, yesterday I met with Maurice Robinson to finalize our plans for next year's PA (Pericope Adulterae) Conference. Official invitations will be sent out shortly to the participants. As soon as the speaker schedule is finalized, I will announce it here.
8:10 AM I love the classroom. And I love it when we have guest speakers. Here are just a few of the lecturers I've invited to address my classes in the past two years. They include both colleagues and students of mine. They enrich the classroom like nothing else I know.
1) Alvin Reid, Professor of Evangelism.
2) Mel Winstead, former Ph.D. student.
3) Kevin Brown, elder at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro, NC.
4) Ken Keathley, Director of the Bush Center.
5) Paul Himes, current Ph.D. student.
6) Mike Rudolph, current Ph.D. student.
7) Andy Bowden, former Th.M. student and currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Munich.
8) David Lanier, Professor of New Testament and Greek.
9) Alan Knox, current Ph.D. student and elder at Messiah Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC.
What awesome men these are, and what great contributions they've make to my classroom. My thanks to each one.
7:40 AM Good morning, thoughtful bloggers! I have a question for you this morning: Why study Greek? And why teach it?
I asked this question to my Advanced Greek Grammar students on Tuesday. I am intrigued by that question. Why do we do what we do? It's an important question, and we must be honest about it. For many, knowledge is the goal. For others, becoming a great preacher or pulpiteer is what it's all about. (The same people love to talk about the "sacred desk.") Judging from my own seminary experience, passing the final exam was the main thing. Obviously, I disagree with each of these answers. I firmly believe that if we don't get this right, then we're missing the whole purpose of education.
I'll come clean: The one and only purpose of a biblical education is to fulfill the Great Commission. On the surface, there is something unsatisfying about this idea of global missions as being the object of our work. "Missions" is a word we use for the Evangelism Department, not for Greek. And that is precisely where we educators have failed our students. By compartmentalizing our disciplines (Biblical Studies, Theology, Missions), we give the false impression that we can study Greek and evade the larger question of obedience. That's why I've introduced in my classes this semester what I am calling a "Hermeneutics of Obedience." My idea is this: If the earliest disciples had lifestyles that matched their responsibility to a lost and dying world, why shouldn't ours to do the same today? Can you imagine what would happen if our seminaries and colleges in the West were to grasp the principle of sharing (2 Cor. 8-9) and begin applying it to the needs of the Gospel around the world? Within a few short years, we would easily be able to produce new missionaries by the thousands. The reason is this: All of us would become disciples and begin living according to the new economics of the kingdom.
Seminary is not simply about how Greek and Hebrew work, or who John Calvin was. There is something much broader, much more profound afoot. And I believe there is something about today's generation of students that is going to be qualitatively different from the students of previous eras: the seriousness with which they take their responsibility as global Christians, regardless of their vocation and location, regardless of whether they home church or attend the most traditional church out there. And that is why the greatest challenge facing Christian educators today will be to absorb this new perspective in ways that do not overwhelm people or leave them behind. It is the ambition of all my teaching to offer a framework for how to think about this task and leverage it for the sake of the Gospel.
God can even use Greek teachers to expand His kingdom. What an amazing thought! What amazing grace!
Wednesday, January 30
8:05 PM This week saw a change in personal assistants. Thomas Hudgins will return to being a fulltime student as he works on completing his doctoral dissertation in time for a May graduation. Working with Thomas has been wonderful. In addition to launching our new Greek Portal, he has assisted me in countless ways. His service will be missed, but as his major professor I certainly understand the need for him to focus on his dissertation. I am happy to report that one of my current Th.M. students, Jacob Cerone, has agreed to serve as my new assistant. I hope to be able, with his help, to continue my research and writing with undiminished vigor. It is a great satisfaction to have such brilliant and dedicated students at our school. I acknowledge with sincere thanks the work Thomas did for me, and I am confident that Jacob will continue the trend. If there is anything that either Jacob or I can do for you as it pertains to Greek, please do let us know. We are here to serve you. If, for example, you are a current student and are feeling like this:
We stand ready to offer you a helping hand.
So do let us know how we can help. We are in this thing together.
6:18 PM Good evening bloggers of the world! Yesterday and today were so full that I hardly know where to begin this update. It's horribly windy out there, and we are expecting a strong line of storms to pass through this evening, which means that we may or may not be without power in the every near future. I'll write now and leave the rest to the Lord.
Picture my pleasant surprise when my esteemed college and co-teacher in the LXX class, Shawn Madden, talked about discourse analysis today in class. I'm delighted to see that his approach follows the one long promoted by Robert Longacre, though I'm not particularly confident that linguistics, as a science, is making major inroads in all of our subjects at the seminary. Yet. For my part, I led the class in a recitation of the book of Susanna (as found in Alexandrinus), a splendid little writing with which I have an affair de couer. It's a sort of critique of institutional authority, illustrating the depravity of the human heart, the power of faith in God, and the importance of prayer. During my stay on campus I also read an essay in this volume:
It's entitled "The Authorship of Hebrews: A Further Development in the Luke-Paul Relationship," and it is written by Andrew Pitts and Joshua Walker. The essay is an epochal one, and I'm enchanted at the way the authors seem eager to restore the Paulinity to this letter. It even cites yours truly in a favorable light, a rarity to be sure. I'm positive the essay will do a lot of good provided that it is read, but I imagine that many libraries do not have the book. I regret intensely that I've had to back-burner my detailed comparison of Paul and Hebrews, but there is so little time for such luxuries these days, what with all the traveling I'm planning on doing this year (today I was invited to go to Guyana in September).
Becky cooked a really great supper tonight consisting of Chinese noodles and dumplings, and believe me, it rivaled anything I've eaten in Asia. Here's a picture of her cuisine:
Nigusse and I gobbled it up ravenously.
And so my two days on campus teaching four courses has come to an end. It is certainly very interesting work and I value it a lot, but I'll be glad to enjoy a little bit of rest tonight and tomorrow morning. I'm going to do my very best to loaf for the next 12 hours, for over-work is dangerous, and even Jesus had His down time.
Tuesday, January 29
5:37 AM Three cheers for Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who is giving up the throne to her son.
Gotta know when to fold 'em, as the song says. One day it will be time for me to take in the sails -- just a little. A few years ago I gave up cross-country riding. "I'm not too old to ride," I told my friends, "just too old to fall." When I was in high school, I never practiced my trumpet even though I was a band member. Yet I must have worked more or less on my instrument, for when the All-State Band was named in my senior year, I served as first trumpet, first chair. Today I couldn't play a note on the trumpet if my life (or yours) depended on it. Upon retiring at the age of 70, the president of Williams College said, "I retire that it may not be asked why I do not retire." The time comes when the older give way to the younger. It's just that simple.
I cannot affirm that I am facing that momentous decision any time soon. But that day will come. And when it does, the words of Oliver Cromwell will ring true:
5:25 AM Just had to show you a picture of last night's supper. It's a dish called raklettes, and it's one the Swiss are famous for. We got to love it while living in Basel. I'm told it's the sheep herder's favorite meal. And hearty it is -- potatoes, cheese, and spicy sausage. Becky served it along with a fresh salad. Nigusse, remember those ingredients so that when you return home you can cook it for Netsanet.
5:18 AM Hey friends! Got time for a brief thought about missions? In my essay The Future of Southern Baptist Missions, I argued that the revolution in modern-day missions is ushering in a new era of insourcing that will have a huge impact on global evangelization. The more I travel, the more I see this revolution at work. As I have observed this change in direction, it has become obvious that the most important dynamic is the convergence of three factors: (1) the realization on the part of local churches that they -- and not missionary boards -- are God's primary locus for Great Commission work in this age; (2) the acceptance by more and more so-called lay people of their biblical and God-mandated roles as fulltime missionaries; and (3) the rejection of the extravagance and waste of top-heavy missionary bureaucracies. The convergence of these three forces is what I am calling the Missionary Spring -- analogous to the Arab Spring the world has witnessed in the Middle East. The operative word here is "new." There is a new realization that the Great Commission will never be fulfilled if we continue doing what we are doing now -- hiring and sending out professional missionaries. At one time many of us felt that we could place a few dollars in the offering plate and fulfill our responsibility to evangelize the globe. But the need is far too great for this approach. So we had better understand the new era of missions we're heading into. And the longer we wait to embrace it, the steeper the ladder we'll have to climb. Does this mean that we won't need professional missionaries any longer? No. It means that we must join our efforts to theirs if we are to reach the unreached peoples of this world with the Gospel. Without your participation, and mine, the job will never get done.
Monday, January 28
5:17 PM A couple more pix:
1) Our carpenter Robbie and I finally got around to putting together this bunk bed/futon combo in one of the upstairs bedrooms at Maple Ridge. It can sleep 3 children. We got it at the Restore in Durham -- a great place to shop for high quality used furniture.
2) Becky and I purchased this beautiful buffet while we were living in Basel. We found it in the Salvation Army thrift store. It cost us more to ship it home than to buy it in the first place. Today we moved it into the dining room at Maple Ridge.
It is beginning to sink in that the house is almost finished and ready for occupancy. David Lloyd George's famous saying comes to mind: "There is nothing so fatal to character as half finished tasks." By the grace of God, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Praise His Name!
1:48 PM Been at Maple Ridge all morning. My project for the morning was removing the wallpaper in the upstairs landing.
Right now I'm back home for a bite to eat. Removing wallpaper is like having a rotten tooth pulled.
A lousy job but it's gotta be done. Of course, there are always surprises. "If only these walls could talk." Well, this one did.
I wonder what ever happened to Wendy and Pat.
Here's the progress I've made thus far:
This afternoon my goal is to finish sanding the flooring in the upstairs laundry room. Becky, by the way, is having a checkup right now with her skin doctor in Durham to see whether he got all of the cancer. Prayers are appreciated!
8:12 AM Yesterday at The Hill we were in Rom. 12:3-8, a wonderful passage about unity in diversity, and the need for all of us -- and each of us -- to exercise our spiritual gifts for the good of the Body. Those twin enemies of grace -- inappropriate pride and false humility -- must be dealt with and dealt with brutally. There is never a place for self-conceit, nor can we ever excuse ourselves by saying, "God can't use me!" I thought to myself, "Dave, what a liberating truth. What a relief from ever having to compare yourself with anyone else. I am me, who God made me to be. And I can be me -- the best me possible for the glory of God and for the good of the church."
As this thought welded its way into my psyche, I was reminded of a passage in Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, when General Lee reflects on the new leader of the First Corps -- Stonewall Jackson's old corps -- now led by Dick Ewell. Shaara pens these words (p. 148):
Now that's profound. Friend, there is no need to be puffed up with pride about your attainments. And, conversely, there is no need to ever say to yourself, "But I'm not Stonewell Jackson -- or John Piper." The process of sanctification requires that we use our talents, not someone else's. What a liberating truth.
I am nothing in myself.
But that does not mean I am nothing.
I am Dave Black.
I talk too fast and I talk too much. I love Civil War history. I am highly skilled at being a klutz. I love to travel. I hate being corrected when I'm under extreme pressure. I enjoy blogs that are thought-starters. I dislike blogs that aren't. I want to grow sweeter with age. I'm trying to uproot the "I'm worthless" weed. I have little patience with mediocrity. I delight in the beauty of nature. I'm ashamed of my failures. I consider the lessons learned from my failures priceless. I love serving hurting people. I find it easy to pursue selfish interests. I have a sweeping curiosity about life.
I am Dave Black. I am me. I am nothing in myself. But that does not mean I am nothing.
Friend, today, this very day, be the person God made you to be. And may your church, and mine, use every private gift for the common good, and may the Giver of the gifts alone get all the credit for anything that is accomplished.
8:02 AM Quote of the day (Jane Austen):
7:55 AM Did you know that 40 percent of all unengaged and unreached people groups are in India? Did you know that only 2.3 percent of Indians claim to be Christians? How many believers in North America are praying for India? Will you be one?
Sunday, January 27
3:45 PM Well, we made it to the assembly just fine despite a few slippery places and are now home again. We've finished our Sunday dinner -- Chinese cuisine prepared by yours truly (with his secret ingredient, of course). Over our meal Becky shared with us a report she read earlier on Fox News about the sentencing of one of our brothers in Iran to 8 years of incarceration in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. I hope you will join us in praying fervently for his release. As his story filtered through my mind my eyes grew misty -- and a voice from the depths of my heart rose up like a loud orchestra and said, "Lord Jesus, thank you for the kindness You still show our nation. But even as we meet and preach and teach the Word of God in freedom, please do not let us forget those who are suffering for Your name's sake." Once again, I pledged to pray for the persecuted the world over. Here's his picture:
You might want to print it out and put it on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator. I am not trying to put a guilt trip on anyone, but if we do not pray for this brother and his family, how can we call ourselves Christians? I'm so grateful that the living God is with brother Saeed there in that horrific place. May his imprisonment be a constant reminder to us in North America that we have an obligation to a dying world. I can assure you, God loves the Persian people, as He does all people of all nations.
9:50 AM If you know anyone who is suffering from cancer, you simply must read Thomas Hudgins' gripping post called A Letter to a Friend with Cancer.
9:44 AM Quote of the day (Becky Black):
9:12 AM The sun is shining brightly but the roads are still slick, so I think I'll wait an hour or so before heading out for the church meeting. Yall be careful out there.
9:06 AM Stop the presses! Now this is really amazing. So grab a cup of coffee and sit a spell, will you?
Yesterday we received this email from a prayer partner in the Land Down Under:
Now tell me if it isn't a very small world. Becky responded as follows:
So ... it appears that Becky and I have been working with the very same organization and the very same personnel in Australia that our friend wanted to tell us about! Here's an excerpt from the article Becky wrote:
Okay ... did you get all that? Amazing, simply amazing. Missions is more interconnected than ever, and we must take advantage of this provision from God. Plus, the technology for doing the Lord's work today is simply mindboggling.
If you get a chance, please read Becky's essay Sabers and Wordaya Village in its entirety and then pray for the Word of God as it goes forth in the most unlikely of places in Ethiopia.
7:49 AM Yesterday I recommended a book of mine to a bloke in Australia. This was his response:
7:46 AM Guy Muse has three desires for Ecuador. He'd like to see:
Well, how did you do -- those of you who had Spanish in high school? More importantly: What do you think?
7:42 AM More Christian bookstores are closing. I'm not surprised. Online shopping. E-books. The iPad. Do students buy their textbooks in brick-and-mortar stores anymore? I am thinking about publishing not one but two textbooks online next year. They are foreign language translations of my beginning grammar. The whole world is going digital. Welcome to the world of wireless. The playing field has been leveled, folks. Time to join the revolution?
7:33 AM Well, I've just finished reading the first half of Robertson's "Big Grammar." If you like, you can read it too, for like so many other books it is available online for free. That both thrills me and disturbs me. The proliferation of Greek tools, as I have tried to tell my students, has presented us with new opportunities but also with new challenges. It is important for us to find the balance among all of these. It is important that we "stand on the shoulders" of those who have gone before us in their study of Greek -- because if we don't we just might miss something of profound importance. And it is important at the same time that while we take advantage of this vast pool of knowledge, we do not let them keep us from our own study of the language. Most of all -- and I am speaking here as a teacher -- it is imperative that we nurture a new generation of question-askers and risk-takers with the imagination and verve of A. T. Roberson and J. H. Moulton. I refuse to settle for the status quo in Greek studies. Neither should you. Remember: The most important thing you can do as a student is to strive to get the most out of your studies and to make the most of your own individual research, and then act on it.
Someone has said, "One good example is worth a thousand words." That is very true. People change when they see that other people have changed. Roberson set out to revise Winer but realized he'd have to go his own way. And that, I think, is an example worth emulating today.
7:22 AM Just wondering ... do you know how to type? I don't. Never learned that skill. I hunt and peck, using the "biblical method" of typing -- "Seek and ye shall find." Slows me down a bit, but thank the Lord for spell check.
So, how typeth thee?
Saturday, January 26
8:30 PM Last Wednesday, in our LXX class, I mentioned in passing that I thought that the unmarked word order in New Testament Greek was VSO (Verb-Subject-Object). I see now that my position has been confirmed in a recent dissertation written at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Here's a quote from the author's conclusion:
7:38 PM Becky just cooked up the most delicious potato soup with homemade bread. I only regret that I have but one digestive tract to give for my country.
7:22 PM P.S. The answer to the contest question? James Montgomery Boice. Go here to read his biography as well as his testimony to his congregation upon learning of his terminal illness.
6:33 PM Curly here, folks. Nyuck, nyuck!
Oh look! We have a winner! Nick Norelli will receive a free copy of Dave's book Perspectives on the Ending of Mark. Whoop, whoop, whoop!
Will Dave have another contest soon?
5:34 PM Here I sit, surfing the web -- from the sublime to the pompous, from wonderful prose to the worst kind of demagoguery, from sweet-smelling flowers to leaky bilge pumps, from the well-spoken word to nauseous nonsense. Praise God for those bloggers who inject happiness into the American intellectual life. One such writer is Roger Olson, who has recently been posting about Karl Barth's famous "Jesus Loves Me..." quote.
The truth has again revived, and it is evident that order has once again emerged out of Chaos. As a Basler myself I have come to regard Barth with a great deal of admiration, and I suppose I will now use that anecdote more frequently than ever. But there I go, almost forgetting to link to Olson. Please do read the man, as he is honest, sincere, and always seeking the best of life and giving the best.
4:38 PM Quote of the day:
Read On "the Ministry."
4:33 PM Excited and humbled to see Arthur Sido's review of my Paul, Apostle of Weakness. Thank you, my friend. Grateful for you.
12:24 PM No words necessary:
Friend, isn't it time you gave that hug, issued that apology, said "Thank you, Lord," or took a moment to appreciate the beauty all around you?
9:55 AM This post is for anyone who is going through a tough time. Last night I finished reading Sears' book Gettysburg. Again, I was dumbfounded when I read about Pickett's Charge. How could soldiers make such a charge? What can propel a man forward against such great odds?
Take the struggle you're currently facing. "How can I go on? How can I make it? Just look at the odds!"
Are soldiers going into battle scared? I'm sure that every last one of them is. But when the leader says, "All who are afraid, go back now," almost everyone will go forward. By believing in the values of the group, by identifying with the unit, by following the leader, you overcome your fears.
I feel there is a grave danger today that while we emphasize the new birth we do not give corresponding emphasis to the new life. In our efforts to be seeker-sensitive we attract a great multitude of professed Christians but few disciples. As a consequence, these people do not "go forward" -- they do not grow up in Christ, they do not mature but remain children, they do not "enter the fray" that obedience always requires. Too many today avoid the battle under the false guise of "playing it safe." I have needed to be cured of this illness. I still do. Often I never get any further than my doubts. I live in the bondage of fear and uncertainly. It is a fearful thing to live out the rest of one's days in the swamp of unbelief.
I once published a study of Heb. 12:1-2. (It's here in case you're interested.) The text is emphatic: We Christians must get our eyes off ourselves and others and begin "off-looking unto Jesus." Faith is but the means to an end. It is the object of our faith that makes all the difference. Yes, I believe in the Gospel of Christ and I trust the Christ of the Gospel. But have I merely come to Christ or have I come after Him in trustful obedience?
Dear friend, it's time for you and me to awake out of our slumber, because the enemy works while we sleep. Whatever enemy you are facing this day, may God help you to go forward in the confidence that the Commander-in-Chief is there to help and guide you every step of the way.
8:30 AM Loved this quote by Tom Williams:
Also loved this quote by Scott Hahn:
7:12 AM Good morning! Here's some Greek trivia for you. Did you know that the great Greek scholar Basil Gildersleeve was a Confederate veteran? Or that he was shot in the leg? Or that when he was wounded he wrote, "I lost my pocket Homer, I lost my pistol, I lost one of my horses and, finally, I came very near losing my life"? Or that he was the founder of the American Journal of Philology? Or that he was the president of the American Philological Association? Or that he earned his doctorate from the University of Göttingen at the ripe old age of 22?
"I lost my pocket Homer." Imagine that. Reading Homer on the battlefield. Yes, Greek scholars (especially bearded ones) are eccentric!
Friday, January 25
7:10 PM Have you noticed? There's a volcano of sorts erupting in the Body of Christ. More and more of my current and former students are beginning to teach Greek in their local churches. Here's just one example. I didn't invent the idea, but I support it -- and I have done it myself. Why not empower and equip "laypeople" with this magnificent tool? Why should you and I eat all of the hors d'oeuvres, all the entrees, and all the desserts and then invite others for a cup of coffee afterwards? Students who are teaching Greek to their congregations and even online are popping up all over the place. If you don't believe me, go to this page at our Greek Portal. Some are using time-tested, traditional methods. Others are experimenting with a more conversational approach. All to the good. And remember -- we are just at the beginning of the online language-learning revolution. Wait until 2020, when 90 percent of the world will be wired. I simply share all this with you to underscore the pedagogical volcano that is erupting in the church. Who knows? I may even decide to teach Greek again in my local church.
6:53 PM Cold outside? That's right -- and icy. I walked down to the road to check the mail but didn't dare step out onto the road itself without crampons and an ice pick. Bills will have to wait till tomorrow. In the meantime, I've been reading the LXX for pleasure and today enjoyed a true literary masterpiece about Susanna, the wife of Joakim, whose beauty gets her into all kinds of trouble. The moral of the story is a delightful one: wisdom is not a right of those in authority (in this case, two "elders"); it is something that is granted by the Spirit of God to people of any age. The story reads like a Sherlock Holmes mystery and is filled with wonderful little word-plays. I think I may have the LXX class sight read it sometime.
Tomorrow we're expecting some guys from the seminary to help us do some odds and ends over at Maple Ridge, but we'll have to see how the ice is then. The only other news I have to report is that I purchased the tickets for our Dallas trip. Yes, Becky is accompanying me!
2:40 PM Here's a handy comparison of beginning Greek grammars. What better way to spend a winter's day than by comparing the much laborious periphrasis of your favorite Greek scholars?
2:25 PM I hope you will enjoy this short poem by Robert Frost. It's called "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening."
Whose woods these are I think I know.
1:24 PM Last night an emailer asked me how to go about doing Greek sentence diagramming. I told him that the best resource is my friend Johannes Louw's Semantics of New Testament Greek.
Read it, and you'll see why I prefer his method of colon analysis to anything else on the market. None of this means that you can't use other methods. You can. But they must work for you, not against you -- and they must be intuitive. Dorothy, this ain't Kansas: to master sentence diagramming in Greek will require a method that allows you to see the surface structure and where the author is headed. Without that, I can tell you what will happen. You will major on the minors, or else you will overlook the text's most salient point. And that will be really dangerous.
12:50 PM On Snowy Pond:
12:43 PM Quick question: In which country is Christian persecution on the rise? Answer: Brunei. Read and then pray.
12:37 PM How does divorce affect the lives of children? A series of studies published by the Center for Marriage and Families delves into this question. In brief, they conclude that "no divorce is an island." The legacy of divorce continues throughout one's life, and the story is rarely a pleasant one. There's a message in this bottle for the church: For too many years we have treated divorce as if it were AOK, and as long as we maintain this casual attitude toward the marriage covenant the worse the situation will become. It's time to stop kidding ourselves. Speaking out against abortion and the gay agenda won't cut it any longer. We need to roll up our shirtsleeves and help Christian couples cope with their failing marriages -- not by condemning them but by coming alongside and teaming up with them. If you've experienced the upheaval of divorce as a child, take heart: you are not alone. I have felt your loss and pain, as well as your hope and resilience. Jesus is still the only answer to what plagues our society.
9:17 AM On Frozen Pond:
7:46 AM I've always said that teaching is the most fun you can have legally. However, ever since I got into the "Gospel business" my views have changed a bit. Yes, teaching is still fun and rewarding. I love the classroom. But I'm not sure that's what work should be about. Teaching for me has become a responsibility to explore areas of Christ's lordship in my life. The one issue that motivates me more than any other is a desire to better understand -- and then obey -- Christ's Great Commission, His final marching orders for His church. This blog and my essays (and, to some extent, my books) are an attempt to capture and model that passion for the lost that Jesus had. As I mentioned at the Ph.D. colloquium last week, my teaching career has gone through several stages. I started by focusing on getting published (book reviews, journal articles), then on publishing my own textbooks. But the more I read the Gospels, the more I understood the larger story of the New Testament. Since then I have felt the freedom to bring together two of my strongest interests -- Greek and global missions -- while still doing my job as a teacher.
My hope in writing this blog is that it might provide you with some raw material for your own exploration of what it means to be an obedient follower of the Lord Jesus. I am a big believer in the idea of transparency, the notion that we all look at the world through the tinted glasses of experience. I only regret that I didn't start blogging sooner.
So thanks for stopping by, and let's all press on harder this year to not just talk about Jesus but to love and serve Him.
7:40 AM This morning I was checking the weather on WRAL's website and saw a beautiful sunrise on their live cam. Then I turned around and looked out the window and found myself staring at the exact same picture.
Praise our great God!
6:58 AM Superb insight here:
6:50 AM Just added to our Greek Portal:
6:43 AM Good morning from Bradford Hall, "far from the madding throng's ignoble strife." Yesterday was a day of peace and rest, but today it's back to work. I am stealing a moment to type a few of the "gems" I found while reading A. T. Robertson yesterday.
I'm so impressed by his sound wisdom and advice, even if he does pile up his thoughts voluminously. In short, if ever a man will pull you from the drudgery of grammatical study, it is A. T. himself. It makes for some pretty enlightening reading even for a corn-fed provincial like myself.
Thursday, January 24
8:08 PM Okay, let's have us another contest. A free copy of my book Perspectives on the Ending of Mark to anyone who can correctly identify my fellow Basel grad (D.Theol.) pictured below.
If more than one correct answer is received, I'll draw the winning name from a hat. Contest ends Saturday night at 6:00 pm.
7:51 PM It is a cold and leaden evening. Just finished a succulent dinner. Now that I have a few minutes let me mention that Becky and I are hoping in the Lord to travel to Dallas the first weekend of March. I'll be attending the regional ETS meeting at Dallas Seminary, and we'll both be staying with Becky's parents in the grand old city of Murphy. I also plan to get up with some good friends in the area, including the one and only Roy Metts of the Criswell College. I don't know why I'm mentioning all of this except that perhaps you are in the Dallas area and want to meet up. I always enjoy the frenzied discussions at ETS although I have no illusions that that they actually do much good. I want to assure you that I will not be presenting a paper myself, as a man of my advanced years should leave that job to younger scholars. Anyway, I hate that horrid word "paper" -- surely we can do more than read and listen to papers!
5:42 PM I just got back from checking the mail and stopping in to see Becky, who has been working up a storm at Maple Ridge -- painting, polyurethaning, etc. The house is looking great. Here's the new hardwood floor in the kitchen.
Thankfully, B's able to work in some warmth as she has the heater running, and boy is it needed. The temperature right now is 22, going down to 17 tonight. If possible we want to get some work done there tomorrow before the snow arrives. Meanwhile, I am keeping pretty busy preparing for my classes next week. It makes me think back to the time when I was myself in seminary taking such courses as Advanced Greek Grammar. I was certainly glad I passed all those classes. I think I got worse marks in English. I am also gearing up for my lecture on the Pauline authorship of Hebrews next month in Washington. I'm afraid I'll make a fool of myself, but it won't be the first time. It is certainly nice to be someone "in authority" on a topic, even if it's only for an hour. Believe me, I exercise my authority well. Well, I have nothing further to say that will interest you except that I haven't seen Nigusse all day. Jet lag? Studies? I think all that will change as soon as he gets a whiff of the delicious supper Becky is preparing.
2:10 PM Today Nigusse downloaded all of his Israel pictures to our hard drive. Wow. Brings back so many memories. Here he is atop Masada.
Becky is planning a private viewing for some friends in the not too distant future. Can't wait.
2:02 PM I've asked my Advanced Greek Grammar students to read half of this tome (required for all "Weightlifting 300" courses) by next Tuesday.
Their intrepid teacher is (re-)reading it along with them, of course. I just completed 300 (of 700) pages and am enjoying every word of it. There are three things one must do when reading a good book:
1) Read actively. Passivity is the lazy man's way of reading. When I'm reading Robertson I feel like I'm communing with the author, as though I were sitting right there at his writing desk as he was penning these words. He delights me, inspires me, amuses me, and displeases me. When you're reading a good book, respond to what you are reading. Muteness is not an option.
2) Read attentively. Try to make sense of Robertson's thick prose. Are his sentences nothing but a jumble of words to you? Read them again. And again if you must. Slow down. Savor the text. Reading a good book is a skill that must be learned.
3) Read responsively. You know me. I have an insatiable appetite for really good books. But I must never forget to ask myself, "Why am I reading this? To what good can I turn all this information and inspiration?" It's strange how seldom we ask ourselves these basic questions. Write notes as you read. Scribble in the book if you must (I do). Use what you learn to teach others.
11:56 AM This and that ...
1) Tell it not in Gath, but Greek grammarians have a sense of humor.
2) I see that Paul Himes (one of my Ph.D. students) has been doing more than just writing his dissertation these days. The latest issue of JETS contains a response to something he wrote previously in that journal and, as if that were not enough, it also contains a surrejoinder by Paul. A double whammy. Before long, we shall be engulfed in Paul Himes' essays, and a very pleased doctoral supervisor will be watching from the sidelines.
3) The key to effective evangelism is being intentional, relentless, and -- dare I say? -- relational. Kevin Brown puts it this way in his latest blog post:
I cannot tell you how much I resonate with that sentiment. Thanks for doing such a good job of verbalizing it for us, Kevin.
4) Quote of the day (Alex Stewart):
Wednesday, January 23
6:50 PM A few odds and ends on a frigid Wednesday evening…
1) Nigusse's former Bible teacher in Addis Ababa, Arthur Volkmann, now lives in the U.S. in retirement. He and his wife Sue have been traveling across the country, visiting their former students. Today they landed on the campus of Southeastern, and I was able to meet them. What a joy to shake hands with these choice servants of God and to see their lasting love for their (former) students. God bless you, Art and Sue, and may He grant you journey mercies as you drive back to Wisconsin.
2) I received this email today:
Looks like a great tool, and you can be sure it will be added to our revamped Greek Portal. I am always glad to promote a colleague's work.
3) Had a great conversation today with a colleague about commentaries on Ephesians. We both agreed that Harold Hoehner's is one of the very best. In addition to his many duties at Dallas Seminary, Harold taught my father-in-law's Sunday School class at Grace Bible Church. Whenever Becky and I visited the Big D we would attend Harold's class and listen to him exegete some passage of Scripture. Here was a man, I thought to myself, who taught not from the canteen of Saturday night but from a reservoir of Bible knowledge. But Harold was every bit as gracious as he was scholarly. And he was always fun to be around. Since he knew Swiss German, and since I had once lived in Switzerland, we would banter back and forth in that dialect as others looked on in open-mouthed astonishment. I always asked him what his latest writing project was. I ribbed him that it took him so long to finish his magnum opus on Ephesians. But it was all in jest. I knew that Harold would only write about what he himself had lived.
Although he was only 18 years my senior, Harold taught me many lessons. Harold willingly and eagerly placed all his gifts (and these were considerable) at the service of the church. And the church, in turn, needed every gift that he had. In everything he did he was faithful to his Master whose interests he always served. And it is because Harold trusted the Savior alone for eternal salvation that he is now enjoying an inheritance that is imperishable, undefilable, and that can never fade away. We miss you, Harold. We rejoice that you are with the Lord. And we rejoice that one day we will see you again.
4) Check out the Peter Conference to be held this summer in Edinburgh. I'd love to attend but I'll be in Ethiopia. As you know, I have a great interest in Peter's role in the composition of Mark.
5) Read Alvin Reid's powerful Prayer for Teachers. I always enjoy prayers that are based on Scripture.
6) During my free moments this week I've been reading Henry Thiessen's Should New Testament Greek Be "Required" in Our Ministerial Training Courses? (pdf). It was published back in 1934. His conclusion bears repeating:
Amen and amen.
7) After wrapping up my lecture today introducing the LXX, our class went to the library, where my co-teacher, Shawn Madden (professor of Hebrew as well as head librarian), treated us to a smorgasbord of delights, including an exact facsimile of Codex Vaticanus (which our library purchased for a mere $5,000).
He also showed us copies of Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus along with other ancient Greek and Hebrew texts. There's nothing more joyful to me than watching a group of eager students reading ancient texts in their original languages.
The heart of our LXX class is learning to become more proficient in the biblical languages so that we may better obey the teachings of the Scriptures. As we move ahead this semester, I am placing no limits on what God can do in each of our lives.
8) Finally, after school Nigu and I drove down to Raleigh to get some injera for tonight's supper. Becky cooked up four separate Ethiopian dishes, including Nigusse's all-time favorite (tibs).
Needless to say, I am more stuffed than a Strasbourg goose. Thank you, honey. That was quite a treat for two hungry seminarians.
Monday, January 21
7:30 PM We're off in the morning like a herd of turtles after frenzied preparations for my classes. Nigusse is still in his cave -- I saw him emerge once today. Becky and I went over to Maple Ridge this morning to work on various and sundry projects, but yours truly developed a sinus headache and had to retire early. Becky tells me, however, that good progress was made today by her, our carpenter, and our electricians. It's cold here -- and I'm told it will be bitterly cold tomorrow, whose high is expected not to top 34. I hate to start a new semester feeling so ragged but I'm grateful that I haven't had the flu yet this season and neither has Nigusse. I'm also glad that he enjoyed and appreciated his trip so fully, and I've concluded that he's got as much Wanderlust as does his dear old dad. Well, I've got lots more to say but it's getting on the late side and I've got to get my beauty sleep because we'll be up and at 'em long before dawn.
P.S. If you love classical music and have a chance, this You Tube of Canon in D will blow your mind:
7:55 AM Allow me to join Jason Evans in thanking Becky for the work she did during her tenure as the web administrator of the Bethel Hill Baptist Church website. You did a superb job for the glory of God, honey. All of us owe you a great debt.
7:50 AM Just saw this list of the 15 Best Colleges for Studying the Bible. I'm not surprised that my alma mater, Biola, comes in first. Its Bible major was the reason I left Hawaii to attend Biola back in 1971. Biola lacks only one thing: A Ph.D. in New Testament. Maybe soon?
7:27 AM Praise the Lord! Nigusse is back, tired but healthy and a whole lot wiser than when he left. "This trip has changed my life forever."
I can't tell you how many time we've heard those words. Right now he's enjoying his own bed, and I expect him to sleep all day. We got a small taste of what he'd experience on the drive home. And get this -- that rascal has even been to places in Israel that Becky and I never saw (Sepphoris, to name just one).
Welcome home, Nigusse. Enjoy your one day off before school starts again.
Sunday, January 20
6:20 PM I have at last determined to blog again before we leave for the airport to get Nigusse. Incidentally, we will both leave at the same time -- 8:00 pm. He will fly from Newark, and we will drive from Virginia. That's a thought to inspire some satirical poetry for sure.
The remarkable thing about today was how unremarkable it was. Great Sunday School class followed by a great service, dinner afterwards with some wonderful friends at La Cocina Restaurant in Roxboro, a visit to the nursing home to pray with a shut-in, feeding the animals, etc. Par for the course. It was all really delightful. Oh, Becky and Miss Mary did something they had been planning for some time -- wearing their birdie scarves. Purty, eh? Becky made 'em.
Tomorrow Becky and I are insisting that Nigusse rest up. After all, he's got a 7:30 class Tuesday morning. He'll get no sympathy from me, however, since yours truly is also teaching a 7:30 class. Things will get increasingly hectic this week, and I will undoubtedly end it with a touch of gibbering idiocy. I'm hoping to take delivery of our new calves on Friday as we begin to rebuild our herd. As long as prophecy is free and I am not running for public office (which requires exaggeration), I predict that this year we'll see our goat, donkey, and cattle populations fill out nicely. In the meantime, Becky has asked me if we could stop in London on our way to India later this year. Of course I said yes. Any excuse to penetrate the dusty corners of the bookshops in Piccadilly. When it comes to Becky's health issues, I've learned the importance of sensing her needs and going with them if at all possible. All things in our lives right now are in a constant state of flux anyway. I think the ultimate challenge will be stepping on that airplane and realizing that you just said sayonara to the American health care system. But that kind of thinking is simply diabolical. The fact is that our God asks us to trust Him when we are most vulnerable. So we go ahead with our plans as He leads us, which He, of course, is welcome to override at any time.
So how did your day go?
8:19 AM It was exactly 150 years ago today that Union General Burnside's disastrous "Mud March" took place. You can read about it here.
I suppose we could mock the good general for his failure. But I see things differently. I commend the man for trying. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." I can think of a spiritual analogy, if you please. Some Christians are just plain afraid to follow Jesus. They never venture out because of the risks involved. They're like the bachelor who never marries for fear he might get jilted or the businessman who never takes normal risks for fear that his business might go bust. Christian friend, we are not playing at war. Jesus told us that following Him would be risky business. You might succeed and you night fail. You might live and you might die. You might encounter dry ground or nothing but torrential downpours. But whatever the circumstances -- on bright or cloudy days -- we have to keep trying. Struggling Greek student: Keep on trying. Spouse of an inattentive husband: don't give up. Cancer patient: take one small step forward every day. Let's not get into a religious rut and fall into a mere form of godliness without power.
7:18 AM Just added to our Greek Portal:
6:31 AM Has Noah's ark been discovered? Read Archaeologist Responds: Do Prehistoric Sites on Mount Ararat Represent Noah's Ark? for the latest news.
P.S. I snapped this photo of Greater and Lesser Ararat (both of which lie in Turkey) on one of my trips to Armenia.
6:20 AM David Allen is one of my very best friends. I first met him when he was shepherding the Audelia Rd. Baptist Church in Dallas many years ago. Since then David has become the dean of my sister seminary in Fort Worth. We have sparred over the authorship of Hebrews (Luke versus Paul) through the years and have loved every minute of it. But we both realize there is more to life -- much more -- than scholarly debate. That's why I'm linking to his latest post over at Theological Matters called Nailed to a Bed of Pain: Lessons on Life and Death from John Donne. Yes, this is the same John Donne who uttered those famous words, "...and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." As David says, John Donne's life was "pockmarked with pain." Whose life hasn't been? Who, in one way or another, isn't nailed to a bed of suffering? And that's where 1 John 3:1-2 comes into play. But I'll let David tell you the rest of the story ....
6:08 AM Stop the presses! Important announcement ahead!
As you all know, as long as God permits, Becky and I will pursue the goal of being servant-missionaries to the world. There is no greater privilege or higher calling. No matter where we find ourselves, there is work to do and opportunities to seize.
This leads me to publish the following letter. Becky sent it to our email prayer list yesterday. (Please let us know if you'd like to be added.) In it she tells the story of how God has led us to "adopt" India as a mission field along with Ethiopia. We are already aware of the pressures and possibilities of working in a Majority World nation. We realize that the task of evangelizing India is enormous. But for too long now we have seen God work in extraordinary ways. We've learned to follow His leading and leave all of the rest in His hands. At the same time, the passing of years has sharpened certain instincts within us. These instincts were not acquired in a classroom but through years of ministry. Thus we are firmly locked into one goal: to make our last years on this earth the best years. So please read the following letter with these introductory thoughts in mind. And thank you for lavishing your encouragement and friendship upon us.
Here's Becky's letter:
Hello, everyone! I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus, the One we serve together.
Many of you have written asking how I’m doing, so I felt I should write an update. First, let me give praise to the Lord for restoring my physical and spiritual strength and for healing me so well from the “event” (stomach rupture and emergency surgery) on Oct. 24, 2012. Really, I cannot tell any deficit of strength or endurance or pain or anything. He has restored me fully, and I praise Him for that. He did this because of your prayers and according to His sovereign choice.
In the past weeks, God has reminded me much of Caleb in the Old Testament. Caleb himself tells his story to Joshua in Joshua 14:
“You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’
“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. ….”
There are several things about Caleb that impress me.
1) He followed the Lord whole-heartedly, even if it meant that he stood alone. He was single-minded as to who His Lord is, and who he would serve.
2) God sustained his strength; God over-ruled the laws of nature in order to empower Caleb for His purposes.
3) Caleb asked to conquer the difficult terrain, the mountainous region, the fortified cities. He was not afraid of difficulties. He was willing to push himself to conquer what others declined to conquer.
4) He sought this difficult work when all his fellow citizens were saying “enough is enough. We have earned the right to settle down in comfort. We’re tired for fighting to take possession of what God has promised” (Joshua 18:3-6 and Judges 1:27-36).
At this time in my life, I feel that God has miraculously restored my life, He has strengthened my body (contrary to the laws of nature), He has more “conquering” for me to do, and by His grace, I’m asking Him to give me the difficult terrain! I want to be a Caleb! Will you go with me to fight for the difficult areas? Will you join me to keep on fighting when others give out? Time is so short…it is a little flicker compared with Eternity. Time is the stuff Eternity is made of. Let us use whatever time He gives to us, not to hoard our resources, not to squander the minutes on recreation and indulgence, not to worry about the future, not to wallow in concern over our health, not to cling to our family….but to serve Him wholeheartedly!! God grant that it be so!!
In other news, Nigusse has had a wonderful 3 weeks studying in Israel. In a few hours, he boards the plane to come home. We just Skyped to him. He looks good…but very tired. He’ll have one day of rest to recover from jet lag and refocus before he starts the spring semester. Please keep him in your prayers.
Finally, let me share with you that the Lord has prompted us to expand the Gospel work to include India. This does not mean a slackening of work in Ethiopia, but rather an *adding* of work in India. The country of India has a population of 1.2 billion people; only China has more people at 1.3 billion. (Compare this to USA with a population of 315 million, or Ethiopia with 85 million.) It is the 3rd largest economy in the world, after China and the USA; this has generated a growing middle-class and great social upheaval.
But the most important statistic is the spiritual statistic. Although the apostle Thomas brought the Gospel to India shortly after Christ, and although India was governed by a Christian nation (England) for hundreds of years, only a miniscule 2% of the population claims any level of allegiance to the Savior. Only 2%!!! The vast majority of that 2% resides in the southern region. Most of the rest of India is totally unreached, lost in the blind hopeless of Hinduism or Islam. The story of Jesus and His love is completely unknown to them!
As in Ethiopia, we are working with the indigenous church of India, seeking to come alongside to help them take the Gospel to their own people. God has led us to a group of 200 very small churches in the northeast section of India, known by their group name Peniel Gospel Team. This work was planted by an Indian man named Mammen Joseph; almost 40 years ago he came to Christ in south India, and immediately was led by the Spirit into the north…without support, without a plan, without funding. Like Abraham of old, he simply obeyed and went.
For the first years he and his wife Alice suffered tremendously, often without food, often lonely, often persecuted. But they remained faithful…preaching anywhere people would listen. Today, the 200 churches, the 400 evangelists, the 2 children’s homes, the Bible school, and the miscellaneous other ministries are all the blessing of God because of their faithfulness. It sounds like a big ministry, but against the backdrop of that spiritual statistic, it is only a small little work. The spiritual condition of India is SOOOO desperate! And this group of churches in northeast India need our help!
So in the weeks and months ahead we look forward to communicating on the web, or in these emails, the specifics of the partnership God has appointed us in India. Will you begin now to pray that our Lord would be glorified and have complete control of this partnership? One thing on our heart is to help the work there to become more self-supporting. Currently 75% of the income needed is coming from abroad; this creates MANY problems! God is guiding us to help them establish a K-Grade 12 private school, which will not only allow a daily ministry to 2200 non-Christian students, but will also provide funds needed to feed the evangelists, clothe the orphans, support the Bible school students, etc. Please pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send Calebs…those who will serve the Lord wholeheartedly and dare to do the difficult work of the Kingdom with us and with these Indian brethren.
Know that you are greatly loved and appreciated. May our Lord bless you with a keen awareness of Himself…of His love, of His strength, of His faithfulness, of His justice, of His sovereignty…. And may you live the in the reality of who He is!
Saturday, January 19
7:26 PM And the answer to today's geo-quiz?
Sorry, but no winner. The closest correct answer was Romania. That's okay. Another contest is coming soon!
6:57 PM A couple items of interest:
1) Today we Skyped with Nigusse in Jerusalem. He told us he can't wait to bounce on Becky's trampoline.
2) Tomorrow I have a big announcement to make. I'll post it first thing in the morning.
3) This afternoon I did some research into the traffic at DBO. We are now ranked 561,009 by Alexa, the most popular website providing traffic stats for millions upon millions of websites. (You can check your own stats here. Simply type in your URL. The lower the number, the better the traffic.) I'm grateful for that number. Little did I know when I launched DBO that God would allow us to reach a worldwide audience through the internet. In November of this we will have been at it for 10 years. Thanks for your prayers and emails through the years. May the Lord Jesus be exalted by every word penned here at Dave Black Online.
10:14 AM Becky's been talking with one of her "daughters" on the phone this morning, while getting her bouncing exercises.
It's all part of her new treatment regiment. Talk about having the time of your life!
10:04 AM As you folks may know, our spring semester begins next week. Here are the courses I'll be teaching:
I want to make it perfectly clear from the outset that I do not consider myself to have "arrived" when it comes to any of these subjects. The fact is that I am a learner just like the rest of you. And, like you, I'm struggling to understand the parameters of our high calling to serve Christ with all of our hearts. That's why, fellow students of the Word, it's important for you to read my blog while you're taking my classes. It may sound a bit odd, but in these pages I want to peel back the primary layers of my life and share with you some simple insights I've gleaned from my own study of the Greek text. I try to be honest -- as honest as possible. Some of what I write may sound idealistic, but only because I want to become the person of God that God wants me to be. Perhaps you will see in my descriptions of the Christian life areas in your own life that are up for grabs and require greater surrender to God. Perhaps, too, you will discover that there are no easy answers to life's questions. Instead, we're forced to think for ourselves and to make difficult choices in the face of situations that often have no precedent. My own trek through the fire has brought me to a few life-changing discoveries -- nothing new or novel, mind you, but still my own discoveries.
And that, in part, is why I blog, and why I read the blogs of others. May God use His Word to shape the clay of our lives in those vulnerable moments so that Christ's beauty may burst forth in all its fulness.
9:38 AM In anticipation of next year's major textual criticism conference on campus (on John 7:53-8:11, the Pericope Adulterae), I'm offering a copy of my book Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism to the person who can correctly identify the country I was in when this photo was taken:
This was my hermeneutics class in the local Baptist seminary there. Any guesses? Contest ends tonight at 7:00 pm.
(Hint: I've made three trips to this country in the past 10 years.)
9:01 AM I want to take a moment and tell you how blessed and humbling it has been to teach Greek these past three weeks. Thanks to everyone who helped to make this time so profitable: My assistant Thomas, my secretary Miss Phyllis, and each and every one of my 40 students. I am overflowing with gratitude and appreciation.
Let's now move forward, friends and co-laborers for Christ. The previous generation is history. This is our turn to make a difference.
8:48 AM Nigusse, before the Sherut takes you to Tel Aviv for your flight, I thought you'd enjoy a few more pix:
1) This morning's gorgeous sunrise:
2) Bradford Hall:
3) Tinish Koi:
4) The goats and Sheba:
5) Canadian geese stopping by to enjoy our pond. I counted 12 of them.
Have a safe trip. We're praying for you.
6:42 AM This morning my body is in Virginia but my mind wanders disobediently to a town in Pennsylvania where a great battle took place 150 years ago. When the Union forces under John Reynolds (pictured) and the Confederate forces of Henry Heth met at Gettysburg on the first day of July, 1863, neither expected (or wanted) to fight a battle there. Military textbooks would call that a "meeting engagement." Neither side intended to fight there. Neither side held an immediate advantage. Neither side was happy with the circumstances in which they found themselves.
I've often asked myself the question, "What would have happened if Heth had broken off the action at Herr's Ridge and withdrawn to Cashtown?" Lee's instructions were clear: Not to bring on a general engagement. Could Lee have then slipped to the south of the Federals and forced them to fight on ground of his choosing? Heth had stumbled into a hornet's nest. John Buford's Union cavalry was prepared to resist the enemy's advance steadily and stubbornly. Neither side budged, and the result was inevitable. A rural market town named after James Gettys was burned into the national consciousness forever.
Friend, what "meeting engagements" have you experienced in your life? I can think of a few. They were battles I never wanted to fight. And, as at Gettysburg, victory usually went to the side that marshaled its forces most quickly and efficiently. The battle you may have "stumbled into" lately is not an accident, my friend. A Higher Power has purpose in it. And all He asks is that you surrender your all to Him. He will take care of the rest. He will see you through.
6:23 AM So Sydney is baking in 114 degree weather. That's awful. But check this out:
I snapped this photo during a visit to the Middle East a few years ago. And this was the low. The high that day was 134. I will never again complain about 100 degree temperatures in the U.S.
Friday, January 18
8:54 PM Salutations, fellow Bible students!
It is my firm belief that the basics of New Testament Greek can be taught without conversational fluency. They are taught well in countless Bible colleges and seminaries, and may even be imparted to students (like me) who failed to achieve proper instruction in language in their prior education. Year after year I have noticed that the best students are the ones who simply apply themselves to their studies. No man or women possessing self-discipline ever found it impossible to learn to read New Testament Greek.
To my J-Term students: A hearty "Congratulations!" for completing your first semester of beginning Greek. Your grades have now been posted to Campus Net. That many of you received A plusses amazes and delights me. I realize that the pace was a very stiff one, and that some of you may be experiencing severe side pains right about now. But do keep running the race, will you? The real obstacle to finishing is more spiritual than cognitive. I have had my share of difficult races to run in my life, and believe me, I know exactly what some of you are feeling right now. Studying Greek is a huge investment, but one that pays rich dividends. At the start of my own linguistic career, I was very rusty and at best an inept philologist. But at heart I knew this was something I wanted to do. And if you want to do it, you will.
And now a few pictures, especially for our son Nigusse in Jerusalem:
1) Nigu, here are some goodies mom prepared for my Greek students to enjoy while taking their final today. There was nary a crumb left over.
2) Here's your home sweet home-away-from-home as we found it this morning.
3) Mom's car -- after I finished scraping off the snow and ice.
4) Feeding Tinish Koi and Tolo Tolo -- your favorite donks in all the world.
5) And here's Maple Ridge in all her glory.
6) Our drive to campus this morning looked like this.
7) You missed this beautiful sunrise. I wonder what the sunrises have been like in Israel these past three weeks?
Take care of yourself, do well on your final, and we'll see you in two days, Lord willing.
Thursday, January 17
7:12 PM A current Th.M. student of mine writes:
Praying you have a great class, Jacob!
7:02 PM The more I read about General George Gordon Meade, the more respect I have for him as a Union commander. Here's Meade -- brand new to the job of leading the Army of the Potomac, heading it after two consecutive major defeats (Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville), facing the repercussions of the upheaval that Hooker's replacement brought to the army, yet eager to get at the enemy. On the evening of the Battle of Gettysburg, Meade wrote to his wife:
Likewise, there is a Heavenly Headquarters to which we are to report this year. Christ is at its head. But we are not automatons. We have the power of choice. We can go forward or retreat. We can obey our Commander-in-Chief or disobey Him. What will we do?
O God, may I obey you this year and place myself completely under your control. I hereby report to headquarters. Not so that I can save my nation but so that you can save the world. Help me to see that the Christian who accepts your total control is under no cold or callous dictatorship. Your Lordship is not a Lordship of bondage but of glorious liberty. Like Paul, may I be committed to one thing and press toward the prize. Let me live this year of 2013 to show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. There is work aplenty to be done. Make me ready for the work. Make me ready, too, for fire, dungeon, and sword if necessary. Make me a man with a mission. Evangelism is not something reserved for professionals and foreign missionaries. You told me to go, and to go soon, because "the night is coming when no one can work." Let me not be satisfied with anything less than total allegiance, total surrender, and total commitment.
I ask this in Jesus' holy name,
5:56 PM And the winner is...
The book will go out in the mail tomorrow, Josh!
5:36 PM Happiness, as many an impoverished student has pointed out, does not depend upon things. Yet who can deny the pleasure of travel? One student we know will be returning to Jerusalem from Galilee tomorrow, and on Sunday he will take wing and fly to RDU to resume his studies at the seminary. What enduring friendships has he struck up? What lasting impressions has the Holy Land made upon him? What new discoveries have captured his heart? Surely he will tell all when he returns.
Hurry home, Nigusse!
4:45 PM Great quote by Hugh Halter (AND: The Gathered and the Scattered Church):
4:21 PM Good news! If the Lord says okay, I'm bringing Becky to campus with me tomorrow. She's baking some goodies for my Greek students (always nice just before they fill out teacher evaluations) and meeting with a couple of her close friends before we attend the all-campus barbeque tomorrow night. We're looking forward to meeting the new students God has sent our way.
4:12 PM Our new provost, Bruce Ashford, sizes up his New Testament faculty here. I take strong umbrage with his assessment of Maurice Robinson's impression of Bob Dylan, but otherwise he is spot on.
2:26 PM Our "Gospels Quiz" is still open. The highest score so far is 72/100. You have until 6:00 pm tonight to enter. Free copy of Rethinking the Synoptic Problem to the winner!
2:18 PM Guy Muse, a fulltime Southern Baptist missionary, has written an outstanding essay called Church planting: Jesus way or our way? Really, missions is very simple. Just do what Jesus did, and what He told us to do. Don't need no edumacation (sic). No courses in missiology. No seminary degree. One example: When Jesus said, "Eat anything offered you," He meant, "Eat anything offered you."
Several years ago, when Jason Evans and I evangelized among the warlike Guji tribe in Southern Ethiopia, I was given a cup of coffee with about 40 roasted coffee beans in it. I was expected to eat them. All of them. That's just the way the Gujis do things. I had never before eaten coffee (have you?), but I did what was expected of me, what the Gospel required of me. I almost died in the process. Here you can see me in considerable discomfort, while my translator James is doubled over in laughter.
Eat, heal, and then tell. That's the divine order (Luke 10:8), as Guy points out. Not: Take a quick voyeuristic vacation to some impoverished country, never to return. Lots of practical applications come to my mind, but here's one maybe you've never thought about: At your family dinner table, do not let your kids decide what they will or will not eat. In our family, you take a little bit of everything. Even something you don't like. Especially something you don't like. We call it a "thank you serving" -- thanking mom for cooking that broccoli or okra or whatever it is that does not agree with your palate. Mom and dad, raise picker eaters and they will have a tough time adjusting to missionary life. So just stop doing it. Because Jesus meant what He said.
James, by the way, was suffocated in his sleep by the enemies of Christianity just a few weeks after this picture was taken. Here was a 24-year old who understood what Guy Muse is talking about.
Are you ready for that? To get down and dirty? To eat coffee? To sleep in a hut? To do missions Jesus' way?
1:34 PM Some odds and ends on a cold winter's day …
1) Calling all Greek grammar students! Possible topics for our Advanced Greek Grammar class, which starts next Tuesday, include:
Got another topic? Just let me know.
2) Poor Andy Bowden. He's been Englished. I know the feeling, Andy.
3) This morning I received some great news from a colleague at TEDS who is helping me translate my beginning grammar into a foreign language. Funny thing: I've never met the man, yet here we are, helping each other because of the internet.
4) I just sent a copy of my beginning Greek grammar to an inmate in a correctional institute. I told him that if he finishes it to let me know and he will get a copy of my intermediate grammar as well. Incidentally, I loved this list of 100 Bible Verses about Prisoners.
5) In the past few days I've been reading through Conybeare and Stock's Selections from the Septuagint, especially the part on grammar. The Greek of the LXX reveals many Semitisms. If you're interested, in 1988 I published a piece in The Bible Translator called "New Testament Semitisms." You can access a pdf of it here. This is one of several essays we'll be discussing in our LXX class this semester.
6) Is anyone reading these words going through a tough time? The entry for today, January 17, in Spurgeon's Daily Meditations reads:
Note these words: "If all the angels and arch-angels were with me. I might fail; but if He is with me, I must succeed."
7) Okay, so we've had two exams so far in Greek 1, and no one has received the much-coveted 110 Award (a free book). Cheer up: You have one more chance tomorrow. Do well, for the glory of God!
8) The current issue of Kindred Spirit, Dallas Seminary's magazine, is dedicated to the theme of "work." I especially enjoyed Chuck Helmer's essay called Your (Lack of) Work Matters to God. Here's a sampler:
9) Finally, here's a list of just a few of the many new links we've added to our new and improved and ever-expanding Greek Portal:
Lovelady's "Infinitive Clause Syntax in the Gospels"
Tyndale House Font Page
Porter's "Did Jesus Ever Teach in Greek?"
Caragounis' "The Error of Erasmus and Un-Greek Pronunciations of Greek"
Croy's A Primer of Biblical Greek Supplementary Material
Fundamentals of New Testament Greek Verb Charts
Fundamentals of New Testament Greek Pronoun Charts
Fundamentals of New Testament Greek Participle Charts
Fundamentals of New Testament Greek Noun Charts
Fundamentals of New Testament Greek Adjective Charts
Porter’s Greek Grammar Comparison
Porter, Reed, and O'Donnell's Fundamentals of New Testament Greek (Chapter 2)
Porter, Reed, and O'Donnell's Fundamentals of New Testament Greek (Chapter 1)
McCall's Metathesis, Deletion, Dissimilation and Consonant Ordering in Proto-Greek
McCall's On the Rise of Periphrasis in the Greek Perfect Medio-Passive
Rodney Whitacre's Elements of Fluency in Reading Greek
Wilson's "Greek Vocabulary Acquisition Using Semantic Domains"
Wednesday, January 16
5:40 AM It's book-give-away time again! Test your knowledge of the New Testament! A free copy of Rethinking the Synoptic Problem to the person who earns the highest score on the following "Gospels Quiz."
There are 50 questions. I ask that you do not consult any helps while taking the test. Answer from memory only. I might mention that the answers are all taken from Thomas Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament. Contest closes 6:00 pm Thursday, at which time I will announce the winner.
Here are the questions. Enjoy! Do the best you can!
1) The end of the OT saw Judea as part of the Greek Empire. T F
2) Who spread Greek culture throughout the ancient world?
3) The Ptolemies were rulers of Syria. T F
4) What does "LXX" literally mean?
5) The Maccabees regained Jewish independences after defeating the ____________.
6) "Pax Romana" literally means ____________________.
7) Who was the Roman Emperor when Jesus died?
8) Herod the Great was not a Jew but a/an ____________ by birth.
9) Which of the Herods ruled Galilee during Jesus' ministry?
10) Graeco-Roman religion was nonexclusive. T F
11) "Gnosticism" derives from a Greek word meaning "pride." T F
12) The Stoics emphasized pleasure. T F
13) What was the largest Jewish sect during Jesus' day?
14) The Jewish synagogue was led by a body of men called _______________.
15) Originally, the NT books were written on what kind of material?
16) What are the "agrapha"?
17) Name the three geographical divisions of Palestine from North to South.
18) What scholar launched the "Quest for the Historical Jesus"?
19) Rudolph Bultmann separated the "Jesus of history" from the "________________."
20) Jesus' birth occurred sometime around ____ B.C.
21) The word "synoptic" comes from a Greek word meaning ___________________.
22) What are the two sources of the "Two-Source Theory"?
23) Luke addressed his Gospel to a man named ___________________.
24) Luke's genealogy goes back not to Abraham but to ____________.
25) Name John the Baptist's father.
26) Name the angel who announced that Mary would give birth.
27) Jesus' birth is linked to a census being taken by a man named _______________.
28) Whose Gospel presents information about Jesus boyhood?
29) "Messiah" is the translation of a Hebrew/Aramaic word meaning ______________.
30) "Cephas" and "Peter" both mean ______________.
31) The expression "born again" may also mean _________________.
32) How many Beatitudes does Luke's Gospel record?
33) "Jot" and "tittle" refer to what?
34) An a fortiori argument argues from the __________ to the _____________.
35) In the Parable of the Sower, the seed represents the ____________.
36) The "fourth watch of the night" refers to what time?
37) The story of the Good Samaritan is found in what chapter of Luke?
38) The Feast of Dedication (John 10) is also known as ______________.
39) The Raising of Lazarus is found in John chapter ________.
40) The "Olivet Discourse" is found in what chapters of Matthew?
41) Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover on which day?
42) "Golgotha" means ___________________.
43) Jesus' first and last "words" from the cross began with what expression?
44) Matthew and Mark mention only one angel at the tomb; Luke mentions ______.
45) During crucifixion, nails were driven though the victim's hands. T F
46) Eternal life is both an "already" and a/an "___________."
47) Whose Gospel alone has the word "church"?
48) "Decapolis" literally means ___________________.
49) Palestine in Jesus' day was about the size of what U.S. state?
50) What are the three major "text types" in New Testament textual criticism?
5:22 AM A question came up recently about how Becky and I go about our missionary work. In a word, we do missions cooperatively. I can't over-emphasize that word. Becky and I have intentionally adopted a cooperative model of missions. We will gladly work with any Christ-centered evangelical church that is willing to answer Christ's call to obedience and self-sacrificing love. We don't have to see eye-to-eye on secondary issues to work hand-in-hand. John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace," once wrote to a fellow pastor:
Amen to that! Becky and I believe that the whole Body of Christ can and must submit itself its Head, the great Redeemer of mankind. This is the very heart of Christianity – disciples of Jesus following Him in obedience and love. In Him we are all one family in which each member is given a grace gift, a functional service to carry out for the good of all. We are all brothers in Christ, members of one spiritual family, parts of one spiritual Body.
Thus our desire as missionaries is simply to follow the Scriptures, which stress the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church – not organizations, methods, programs, or personalities. As a result, we seek to avoid the cult of personality or the emphasis today upon methods and programs. "This is the way the New Testament church did it" is for us more than a slogan. We have a deep conviction that the one essential for missions is prayer and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We see ourselves involved in a faith-commitment that cannot be explained by merely human factors. We therefore seek to do missions "from below," depending solely on the leadership of the Holy Spirit and seeking to work with other believers who are open to His prompting. Our efforts are not the result of large, well-financed organizations but the work of simple, everyday Christians who understand that the Christian mission today is the responsibility of the global church. We endeavor always to follow Jesus' model and to practice humble dependence on the Holy Spirit.
In short, the Lord Jesus Himself has commissioned Becky and me to be in the "Gospel business," even though we are not professionals. He has blessed us more than we could ever deserve with the honor of representing Him in the darkest areas of Ethiopia. This is no small task. But we are not alone. We're just two of a countless number of people who are fighting this same fight, all of us giving everything that we have to see the light of the Gospel come to East Africa.
So here's to many more years of working with our fellow Christians all around the globe. To long plane rides in cramped seats. To saving our dollars for our next plane ticket. To sleeping in strange places and eating strange food. To having a front row seat while watching God piece together broken lives.
Tuesday, January 15
5:50 PM We just got a postcard from Nigusse. He wrote in three languages: English, Greek, and Hebrew. If only he had used Latin. We could have started calling him Pilate.
5:44 PM Through the years I have come up with a few adages on education. Perhaps you might find them helpful.
1. Be willing to question everything. There is nothing wrong with a healthy inquisitiveness.
2. Do not be afraid to say, "The Bible says…." It is our ultimate authority in everything.
3. Emulate humble teachers. Prideful professors are not worth your time.
4. Read, read, then read some more, but never put books before people.
5. Assimilate thoroughly the different positions on a matter before making up your own mind.
6. Beware of the subtle influence of Gnosticism – the pride of knowledge. It is rampant in our day.
7. The failure to take oneself with a grain of salt is a major weakness.
8. Manual labor is a healthy antidote to intellectual laxness.
9. Do not contemplate beginning a doctoral program unless you have first written a master's thesis.
10. Do not write anything without first praying for guidance.
11. The best way to learn to write is to write considerably.
12. Intellectual independence and creative intelligence go hand in hand.
13. Remember that God knows exactly the field of service that will benefit most from your unique abilities. Don't try to be a 5-talent person in a 2-talent body or vice versa.
14. There are no fail-safe formulas in life, including these aphorisms.
5:32 PM In my spare time I've been working on my book Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. In the current welter of religious publication it might be helpful to explain why, with my latest book, I've decided to throw another pound of paper on the heap.
What really surprises me is that I had not thought of writing this book earlier in my career. For New Testament teachers, a subject as central as discipleship can be ignored only at our peril. In some ways, I've returned to my youth, when as a Jesus freak I extolled the Jesus way of life (while spouting the worst platitudes). But Jesus freaks never go out of style. If you think there are already enough books on this subject, you are probably right. I offer my own views not as an autonomous work but as an intellectual nod to my mentors, namely Ellul (pictured) and Muggeridge. "I planted, Apollos watered" – but neither of them mattered in the least. The essential thing is to get the message across, right? I must have the table of contents finalized before I leave for Europe in March. I will entrust the outline to a very select group of friends and colleagues whose criticisms I await like an anxiety-ridden mother.
Jacque Ellul once said, "Look at the one speaking, study that person's face, learn that person's life, and then take his or her words seriously – or don't." I like that. It's really the only way to judge a publication. A book is true only when we can trust the one who wrote it. Then again, only imbeciles will orient their faith and thinking toward mere men. Everything in our lives goes perversely wrong when we place our trust in any human author. Our faith must always and only be in Christ. So please do not expect too much from this little book of mine. In the end, the Logos made flesh is the only Word we can trust.
4:44 PM I'm hunched over my computer right now and I can barely contain my excitement. If you read this blog, you know we talk a lot about missions and about becoming a Great Commission Christian. Yesterday I happened across this quote by A. W. Tozer as I was preparing to speak to 50 of our Ph.D. students on that very subject:
If you ever want to know what I think about evangelism, Tozer says it all: Live the beautiful kingdom. Reenact it. Don't simply talk about it. Be Christ to others. In the past few years we've heard amazing stories about how Muslims are coming to faith in Christ in Ethiopia. Almost without exception, it has been due to a Christian who loved them. Friend: BE A LINK to someone today. Connect them to Jesus.
After I spoke I got this email:
I love this note. This is why I do what I do. "Leveraging our lives for the sake of his gospel." That's why DBO exists. That's why each student received a free copy of Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? last night. And right now I'm urging you, dear reader, to make a major decision to enter into a strategic partnership with Jesus to do ministry wherever He should lead you. There may be no darker spot on earth than where you live. Be a light there.
I am so grateful to God for our Ph.D. program and for our director, Heath Thomas. Thank you, Heath, for the honor of addressing our students last night. I counted it a great joy. There's such peace in knowing that God is able to direct our steps in ways that please Him. We’re not placed on this earth to live our own lives. Jesus got dirty and hurt in the world. May we all do the same.
Sunday, January 13
5:55 PM Quick update:
1) The Humphreys joined us for lunch today. Becky prepared a wonderful meal consisting of pork, taters, fresh veggies, and magnificent dinner rolls.
2) Then we Skyped with Nigusse in Jerusalem. He looked and sounded great. They leave for Galilee on the morrow. Lord willing, we'll pick him up at RDU next Sunday.
This will be a busy week. Hope yours is great!
9:08 AM I see my students are blogging up a storm again:
1) Jacob Cerone interviews yours truly.
2) Paul Himes thinks Rod Decker and I should co-author a book. "Black and Decker." Get it?
3) Alex Stewart (former Ph.D. student) talks about uncertainty in the Christian life.
4) Andy Bowden (former Th.M. student) describes his first Christmas in Munich as a doctoral student.
Keep it up, guys!
8:50 AM As you know, I have been invited to address the issue of the authorship of Hebrews at a conference of Catholic priests in DC next month. Well, I see that the official conference announcement has been posted.
It happens that the conference is named for a famous New Testament scholar, Marie-Joseph Lagrange, whose work in textual criticism is well known to all students of the New Testament and whose role in the founding of the famous École Biblique in Jerusalem will never be forgotten. The romance of biblical scholarship -- I've always considered it to be a romance and always shall -- is a never-ending process of thinking -- and then re-thinking -- the consensus opinio. Tomorrow I must return to work on my presentation, and there is plenty of work to do, for the question of the authorship of Hebrews is for me one of the most fascinating of those "outside" tasks that I seem to be destined to be carrying alongside all of my other scholarly pursuits. My work, if not influential, is always congenial, and I can't wait to enter into a dialogue with the audience at the conference next month.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that the last major defense of the Pauline authorship of Hebrews was by a Roman Catholic scholar, whose work, The Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews: Critical Problem and Use of the Old Testament, has long been out of print and therefore not easily accessible.
Saturday, January 12
8:08 PM I loved this quote about General John B. Gordon in Stephen Sears' book Gettysburg:
If you're going to teach Greek, you had better lead by example -- which means you should possess an excellent knowledge of the language yourself. If you're going to promote conversational fluency in Koine Greek, then you had better be conversationally fluent yourself. If you are going to require your doctoral students to know German, French, and Latin, then you had better be a master of those languages as well. If you are going to promote the Great Commission, then you had better be going to the nations. Christian education is likeness education. Like father, like son; like pulpit, like pew. Jesus put it this way: "When a disciple is perfectly taught, he will be just like his teacher." How grateful I am for those teachers in my life who practiced what they preached and whose walk matched their talk. I still feel their influence today.
6:46 PM How I praise God for His goodness in giving us such a great day. The way of missions is an exciting road, and today we sought the face of the Lord for His plans for the new year. Here's our planning team.
How these people love Jesus! What a wonderful group of co-laborers. We are ambassadors sent into this world from another kingdom. Our wills are submitted and surrendered. God was so good to us today. And He clearly seems to be leading us to send another team (or teams) back to Ethiopia this year. More details as the Lord makes them clear to us. Being on mission for Jesus is the most unearned and undeserved favor of all time.
Then it was back to pruning the fruit tress for Becky and me. My job was to take care of the larger branches that Becky couldn't cut with her pruning shears.
The trees look much better now, don't you think?
Then it was off to dump the debris in our farm burn pile.
Right now I'm going to settle down with a good book, along with my puppies.
Sheba loves sitting next to me on the sofa, while Dayda enjoys cuddling up near the fireplace. How dull and boring life would be without them.
And so it was a good day of working, praying, and dreaming. Friends, with every privilege comes a corresponding duty. Let's invest our time, talents, and treasure wisely this year. Jesus is worth it.
9:04 AM Good news! A sister has been released from prison in Tanzania.
Other prisoners still need our prayers, however. For a partial listing, go here. "Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are" (Heb. 13:3).
8:28 AM Here's a great quote Becky read to me last night. It comes from Elisabeth Elliot's A Chance to Die, the story of Amy Carmichael. Amy is writing to someone who wants to join her in India:
I don't think I've ever needed words like those more than I do now. I want to be at the end of myself so I can be in a place where God can use me. Something Bigger is at work in my life, if I would only listen. The world seems pretty big right now. But I'm called to reach it. And so are you. We are called to stand in the gap for one of the biggest battles this world has ever seen. Because it's a battlefield out there, folks. And so few are willing to pay the price.
Are you playing though life? Am I?
8:13 AM Becky just said, "I don't want you flying the Dreamliner any time soon, honey." I agree totally. Let's see ... oil leak, fuel leak, onboard fire, engine cracks, and a damaged cockpit window. Am I wary? You betcha. I think I'll wait a few years and let all the wrinkles get worked out of the 787.
7:35 AM Glad to be home again. It's been a busy and rewarding week. Lots of teaching, lots of time spent in one-on-one meetings with students, excellent interaction with colleagues, etc. Today Becky and I are hosting a few guests at the farm and also holding a planning meeting for missions, seeking God's face for 2013. I've already got international trips planned for March, April, and September, and that doesn't include India or Ethiopia. So ... what do we want to accomplish this year with the Lord's help? He will show us. We're waiting on Him for the answer.
Meanwhile, I just took this quiz: What Kind of American English Do You Speak? My linguistic profile: 60% General American English, 15% Dixie, 10% Upper Midwest, 10% Yankee, and 5% Midwest. I guess there's no "Hawaiian Pidgin" category.
Finally, the high today will reach 72 degrees. And this is January?
Friday, January 11
5:57 PM This headline caught my eye: Africa rises, China falls on Christian persecution list. Read the article for details. I can attest to the fact that many African Christians are making a conscious choice to deny the normal needs of the body for the sake of others' souls. When it comes to missions, somebody always has to pay the price. This will be my theme next Monday evening at the seminary when I have the privilege of addressing our doctoral students. The apostle Paul (one of my heroes) seemed to accept a life of terrible suffering and sacrifice as normal and necessary for the sake of the Gospel. Why should our generation be any different? Paul eventually suffered martyrdom for his faith in Christ, as have millions of others down through the ages. And you know what? They were common, everyday people, just like you and me. I think we have a tendency to dismiss their sacrifices as something that can only be done by super-Christians. But this just isn't true. There are people today who are willing to save a few dollars here and there for the work of the Lord. They are unknown to us but not to God. They are as faithful as any famous missionary, and they too will have their reward.
I urge you: Do not fail to pray for our suffering brothers and sister in Africa, India, China, and other regions of the world. Let us trust God that He will meet their every need. In addition, there are probably a thousand ways we could help them if we thought about it. Excuses won't do. Not when the need is so great and the doors are so wide open.
4:42 PM Just started reading a new book about Gettysburg and had to post these pix. Yes, it was very eerie standing on the very cobblestones where the good general had his likeness taken a few days after the surrender. The address is 707 Franklin Street. If you are ever in Richmond, you must check it out.
The photographer was my colleague at the seminary, David Lanier, a fellow reenactor and an expert on all things Civil War.
4:20 PM Millions have been asking: What's been happening with Nigusse? Well, we finally heard from him.
So there you have it. You will notice that he uses as many exclamation marks as does his mother. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post is reporting record snowfall in Jerusalem. Enjoy, Nigusse!
2:52 PM This and that ...
1) So thankful for my Greek 1 students. Today they surpassed the halfway mark in the course. Congratulations to all. Thank you for all your hard work, diligence, and devotion to your studies. May Jesus be pleased with your work.
2) Recently on my Greek Portal I linked to the You Tubes of Danny Zacharias on beginning Greek. Here's a sampler.
This is pretty good stuff. But do be discerning. For example, his explanation of the dative case as indirect object is poorly illustrated when he uses a prepositional phrase involving the Greek preposition eis. (Why a prepositional phrase? Why not a simple indirect object?) Moreover, did you notice the Greek is incorrect? He writes eis polei ("into a city"), which is impossible, as eis always takes the accusative case in Greek, not the dative. (I think he meant eis polin.) Little foxes like these make one suspicious that errors might well occur in other videos of his. All that to say this: Whenever I link to other websites, I am not necessarily endorsing everything these sites contain and am certainly not guaranteeing that everything they contain is factual.
3) East Texas Baptist University announces an opening in Practical Theology/Christian Ministry.
4) "Hanzeeeineshokee?" Even if you're never lived in Basel, you will enjoy My First Swiss German.
2:42 PM Today Becky was supposed to begin her alternative treatments. Due to a glitch with her equipment, she will have to postpone the "official" start date to next week. I guess you could call this the end to years of chemotherapy, which was literally killing her. The results will not be quickly seen nor felt. But I have no doubt we've reached a major turning point. As Winston Churchill said of the Battle of El Alamein, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." The decision to pursue non-chemo treatments was, of course, a Hobson's Choice . It was either alternative treatments or nothing. I liken it to Lee's invasion of the North in June of 1863. It was clearly a very bold move on his part, but it was a risk worth taking. Indeed, it was the only option available to him. And so we move forward by faith in our life with cancer. The results are all in His hands, and in this we rest. Actually, I'm pretty excited about how all this could turn out. I'll keep you posted.
2:34 PM Hey there, thoughtful internet readers!
I watched this on You Tube last night:
It's called "Amish: A Secret Life." I enjoyed it greatly. I definitely think you would benefit from viewing it, especially if you're interested in the movement of the Spirit of God among the Amish. It's a one-hour story that will keep you glued to your computer screen. You might even shed a tear or two.
The main characters, David and Miriam Lapp, are both very interesting. They were born and raised in the Amish Country of Pennsylvania. The video tells the story of their agonizing decision to allow themselves and their family to be filmed. Rather than suffer in silence, they openly speak out about their faith in Christ and their concerns about what they see as traditionalism in their order. Their dissent is at odds with their community, in which the old German adage "Lerne leiden, ohne zu klagen" ("Learn to suffer without complaining") is still accepted as the norm. Life for the Amish, at least for this Amish family, is anything but easy as they struggle with living out their Christianity amidst the tensions of keeping their evangelical faith a "secret."
There are no actors in this video. David and Miriam are real and honest. They took grave risks in telling their story. Lifelong relationships were at stake. Ultimately, they decided to follow their hearts. I suppose the Lapps' religious taxonomy would go something like this: Genus: Amish. Species: Old Order Amish. Sub-species: Evangelical Amish. Are all Amish committed to the Gospel of justification by faith only, which is an essential "evangelical" belief? I think the only honest answer is no. But the same thing could be said for millions of Protestants, including Baptists. I continue to be profoundly grieved by our evangelical subculture in America. Cultural Christianity is often reduced to a name on a church roll or a certificate of baptism. The Lapps are understandably dismayed by what they perceive to be the unthinking traditionalism of their Old Order peers. Like Luther and Calvin, however, they are reluctant schismatics who dream of a reformation within the church they love so dearly. By preaching the priority of evangelism (i.e., the necessity of the new birth whereby one experiences a personal encounter with God through Jesus Christ), they seek to preserve the purity of the Gospel. People are saved only by taking a stand on the Good News and by continuing to hold firmly to it. They put no confidence in the flesh or in human tradition for salvation. As David says at the end of the video, "There is no way of life that will bring peace and joy in a person's heart…. If you accept Jesus, that will be true happiness."
David and Miriam are two Amish people who appear to have grasped the finality of what God has said and done in Christ. It is inconceivable to them that they could ever add anything to God’s finished work in Christ. As John Stott frequently pointed out during his lifetime, the fundamental question in every religion relates to the matter of authority: By what authority do we believe what we believe? Like all evangelical Christians, the Lapps are Bible people. They make time for Bible study, since they realize that their spiritual health and growth are nurtured by it.
That is the stark alternative, friends. Either we look to the Word of God, or we are rebels against God. We must glory in the cross for our salvation, and in the cross alone. It is extraordinary how much hostility there is to the Gospel of grace – a theme that is traced throughout the video. The Lapps are willing to be unpopular to be faithful. I have seen the same attitude time and again during my travels to the persecuted church in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, Christians have been granted the privilege on behalf of Christ "not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him" (Phil. 1:29). Can suffering be regarded as a privilege? Just ask the Lapps. C. S. Lewis once said, "I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity."
Lots of other things could be said about the issues raised in this video. I guess the bottom line for me is this: The kingdom of heaven is a narrow road that requires following Jesus every day. His sheep hear His voice; they don’t simply run with the rest of the herd. We have much to learn from these Amish Christians. Their starting point is the cross, and they are willing to fight for the spiritual freedom that is only found in Christ.
Chew on it.
Thursday, January 10
5:49 AM This morning I am thinking deeply of the things I am thankful for. I find that I'm especially thankful for the delight that teaching is. To teach is to mold a new generation. I get to do that. I am so grateful for this privilege. In addition, Becky and I are enjoying our married life as never before. I simply marvel at the partnership in the Gospel we are privileged to have. We have a great time seeking God's face and asking Him to make us wise managers of His possessions (we own nothing). It's the presence of the Lord on our farm that makes the difference. I continue to be astounded by Becky's physical strength, a huge blessing. And then there are the churches I get to visit. I'm still in awe over an amazing weekend at Cornerstone. The Spirit made the services unforgettable. The atmosphere was electric. There's an anointing on that congregation, I tell you.
And what about the blessing of prayer? This morning I have already prayed for the Lord to work in the lives of my Greek students. Knowing that your prof cares is so important. We simply cannot master this language without God's help. I am praying for lots of things: for students to do well on their first exam, for Christians in China and Ethiopia and Iran, wisdom for our national leaders, finances for the work of the Lord in India, failed relationships that I'm aware of, the seminary, and so much more. I've been thinking a lot about my upcoming trip to Ukraine to teach hermeneutics in March. Without a doubt, it's going to be a hugely important time. My goal is to be as clear as possible that hermeneutics is simply the prelude to obedience. I have grown to love the brethren in Eastern Europe. If nothing else, I hope to help them ask the right questions. I can't help but praise God for the ordinary radicals I've met there on my previous trips. It ought to be an interest trip.
Well, that's my thanksgiving reflection for the day, and it's not even Thanksgiving.
5:33 AM Here are just a few of the new web pages we're added to our revamped Greek Portal. Check 'em out. My thanks to my assistant Thomas Hudgins for adding them.
Ken Berding's Greek Class Sing-Along
Wednesday, January 9
7:48 PM Odds and ends …
1) Thank you, Dave and Russ, for a copy of your latest book. Looking forward to reading it soon.
2) East Texas Baptist University announces an opening in Practical Theology/ Christian Ministry.
3) Could your course syllabi use an extreme makeover? I think mine could. Lots of good ideas here.
4) I am so grateful to Andrew, Catherine, and Blair for a wonderful supper last night in seminary housing.
Some students will do anything for a good grade.
5) Being the ultimate obscurantist, I've been asked (as you know) to present a case for the Pauline authorship of Hebrews next month in Washington, DC. As someone who frequently espouses minority points of view, I found this statement about conformity fascinating:
So what do I think? I think that all of us suffer from groupthink to a degree. The challenge is being open to healthy consensus-breakers while avoiding the cranks. In my own life, there were two anti-group-thinkers whose memories I still cherish today: Harry Sturz of Biola University and William Farmer of Perkins of School Theology (SMU). Neither had any desire to "go with the flow" in the areas of textual criticism (Sturz) and the synoptic problem (Farmer). Just because the majority discards an alternative doesn't mean that we should. The last thing I want to do today is encourage a culture of uniformity. But here's the clincher: "However, a minority that makes a strong, convincing case increases the probability of changing the majority's beliefs and behaviors" (see above quote). A strong case must be made. If it can't, there's no use in even trying to convince others you're right. Yet I can't deny that it's possible to change people's minds. Mine sure was after hearing Sturz and Farmer. So let's keep reading and thinking, and then acting upon the evidence. The scholarly world will be better off for it.
6) This afternoon Becky and I began pruning our orchards. Hope to continue this weekend. The weather has been perfect for working outdoors. Today I worked in my shirt sleeves.
7) Lord willing, Nigusse will be in Galilee all this week. I'm hoping for a big storm to arise over the Sea of Galilee, like the one Bec and I encountered when we were there. Sure made for some great body-surfing. If only I had had my board.
Tuesday, January 8
5:32 AM For the next few minutes, let's talk about fatherhood. To begin with, please listen to this audio called Dad, at Last that I heard on NPR's Snap Judgment show while driving to Cleveland, NC on Saturday. It will only take a few minutes of your time.
(Did you listen to it? Pretty awesome stuff, isn't it?)
Now stop and think about your own father. No, I mean really do it. For a long, long time, I've been thinking about mine.
Our first impressions of our heavenly father come from our earthly father. However, some of us never had this strong bond of love with our dads. I lost mine to alcoholism and divorce when I was 4 years old. The result was -- and, to a degree, still is -- an almost overpowering sense of loneliness and hopelessness. The pain, the guilt, the sense of inadequacy -- I've needed to get "unstuck" from all these in order to move ahead with my life. A relationship with my earthly father was never even remotely possible. I never experienced his loving words, his firm hand, his gentle spirit. Father hunger haunts me, and I suppose it always will. I miss my earthly father deeply. His absence created an empty spot in my life. Not even in my memories does he live on. The emotional damage is done, and it's like a deadly poison. The only antidote I know is believing that God wants me to be honest and pour out my broken heart to Him -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. I rarely speak of this pain, this loss, to others, even Becky. But I have learned to keep nothing from God.
You say, "Dave, why are you telling me all this?" The words need to be spoken. I can never erase what has happened or my memories of it. I can never begin all over again with my father. I am still working through the emotional turmoil, and I am already 60. But refusing to confront the pain doesn't help. Nor does it do any good to constantly dredge up old memories. I'm not through grieving. Yet through the grieving of that abandonment I'm discovering a new freedom. I thank God for the grieving process, because of the honesty it requires. I don't need a "strong face" or a façade.
I know that some of my readers who grew up without a dad may share my sense of loneliness, abandonment, insecurity, and lack of worth. An absentee father can influence a person on many different levels. How could I, for example, as a teenager, act like a man if I had never seen how a man acts on a daily basis? Fathers are teachers. Scarcely a day passes when I am not reminded of my need to rely on God's grace. My plea to anyone reading these words is that we claim His grace and allow it to set us free. Fearful bondage motivated by guilt can be replaced with a joyous motivation to follow Him in truth, simply out of devotion, not duty. The hole in our hearts can be filled with relationship-liberating grace. Grace that is totally free. Grace that God will never ask us to pay back. We couldn't, even if we tried. That's the way it is with grace.
There is one and only one password for entering the door called "freedom from the past."
Monday, January 7
8:11 PM Good evening, thoughtful bloggers!
I am a grateful man. I have every reason to be. This weekend I had the honor of speaking at Cornerstone Baptist Church, where I was surrounded by encouragement, missional excitement, and an abundance of good food and fellowship. I consider the people there new friends.
It was a challenging weekend because it was filled with soul-searching. The future of the church in America is wrapped up in one question: Are we willing to put off the manacles of evangelical tradition and enter the Promised Land of the Word? As I spoke, I was forced to examine my own priority system. What I have discovered is that I am part of a dying North American church and a people who have lost their vision. Still, I am more convinced than ever that God is going to breathe new life into the dry bones. We will learn to overcome the world and bear fruit. We will become leaven in society. We will become salt and light, the beginning of a new kingdom, even as the old one passes away.
I want to thank SEBTS grad Josh Grizzle and his dear wife Gina. Instead of having just another Baptist "revival" service, they decided to hold a missions conference, exploring what it means to run with the Master on a two-legged Gospel of personal evangelism and compassionate deeds. I agree with Josh that, in the midst of our materialism as Americans, people are awakening to the power of the Spirit and beginning to go all out in living out the mandate of the kingdom. If you are reading this blog post, it’s probably because you share my desire to transcend cultural Christianity and embrace costly discipleship. I am convinced that God has not given up on His church in America and even now is calling us to join Him in making our society radically new.
It's amazing how one small thing can turn your life upside down. My trip to Ethiopia with Becky in 2004 created within me a brand new desire to live out the ethics of the kingdom. My religious journey is not unusual. I am finding that people everywhere are coming to this same kind of holistic Christianity. Please do not think that I have given up on the world. I just have a different methodology for trying to change it. I contend that the most important tool for Christians is to establish countercultural communities that reveal to a lost world the kind of society that Jesus wants to establish on earth. I want to invite other Christians to participate in this commitment. Genuine conversion will always lead to involvement in missions. That's why I so strongly plead with Christians all across North America to become committed to doing Christianity rather than just talking about it.
I suppose you knew I was going to say all this: I have become the proverbial broken record. In reflection, it doesn't really matter what I say. The validity of what I am saying must be tested by action. Will we remain simply "converts" who have a ticket to heaven? Or will we become the people of God, committed to being agents of God’s beautiful revolution?
There's no telling what God can do if we will only let Him. If you're finding yourself yearning to be committed to something beyond yourself, all I ask is that you prayerfully wait upon God to show you how. Trust me, once you’ve tasted the freedom that grace living provides, you will never again be satisfied with cultural Christianity – and I mean never.
Saturday, January 5
11:50 AM So how's Nigusse doing in Israel? Here's the latest news:
Thanks for asking -- and for praying.
11:44 AM Quote of the day (John F. Havlik, People-Centered Evangelism, p. 47):
7:12 AM This is my text for tomorrow morning's message (Luke 3:23).
You'll notice it says nothing about Jesus "beginning His ministry." The idea, rather, is: "Now Jesus Himself, when He was just starting out, was about 30 years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph." What an odd idea: You're 30, and yet in some sense you're just getting a start on life. Yep. It's called the Age Thirty Transition and it has been studied by such psychologists as Eric Erickson. What exactly is the Age Thirty Transition, and what can it teach me about my Christian walk? Come tomorrow morning and find out.
7:06 AM Speaking of the Gospel, you simply must watch this Merv Griffin interview with Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander at Pearl Harbor, as he shares about his conversion to Christianity.
If you're anything like me, you'll be applauding along with the audience.
7:02 AM This evening, at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cleveland, NC, I will be showing pictures of our work in Ethiopia, a work that God planted in our hearts during our first visit together to Ethiopia in 2004. Since then I've made 16 trips to "Utopia" (as my father-in-law likes to call it). For about 8 years my thoughts have been directed to international missions more constantly than to anything except my professional work and my family, and on the whole I feel encouraged at what I imagine to be the steady although slow advance in our consciousness as American Christians that missions is for all of us, not only for trained professionals. In the dread of repeating myself, let me just say that our "call to missions" was one of the turning points in our married life. We began to ask two questions about everything we do as a couple: Does it help to fulfill the Great Commission, and does it help to usher in Christ's kingdom? I believe that every detail of our lives ought to be measured against these two yardsticks. I have long believed that almost every Christian in North America can find a way to get involved personally in missions by sacrificing something in his or her personal lifestyle.
Here is one of the first slides I will show tonight. Isn't my Ethiopian wife beautiful?
I am so glad she asked me to go with her back to the land of her youth. Neither of us thought we would ever return.
Boy, were we wrong.
Friday, January 4
7:35 PM SNTS is fast approaching. Here's the website of the local committee in Perth.
Perth sounds like a fascinating place. I would love to attend with Becky.
6:53 PM Good evening to you, friends!
Tonight Becky and I enjoyed dinner together at Mexico Viejo in South Boston. We love Mexican food. She got her enchiladas and I got what I love to get -- Arros con Pollo. Both of us practiced our Spanglish with the restaurant staff and, I must say, did pretty well. There is too much good stuff going on in our lives right now not to share. While I spent the day happily ensconced in the classroom, Becky was in her element painting the trim over at our old-new guest house, Maple Ridge. I love the colors, don't you?
Right now I'm going back to my weekend preparations and then I'm going to finish The Killer Angels. Over supper Becky and I shared our joys -- and our sorrows -- over several people and relationships that are really, really in trouble. It's far too easy for me to forget just how blessed Becky and I are or how joyfully dependent we are on each other. As we drove home we watched a beautiful sunset and were reminded that amidst the darkness of life there is always a light that is shining. And so we continue to pray for these people and situations.
As you know, this weekend I have the joy of teaching three times from my Greek New Testament. Tomorrow night, I get to tell about what God is doing in a faraway country that used to be called Abyssinia, and how He has stooped so low as to actually use little ol' me in that work. Simply because I am His. Simply because He loves me. Unreservedly. He asks me to follow in His footsteps, pure and simple. I want to save the whole world, and I'm awed by the size of the task. I feel like I'm on the edge of something hugely important in my life this year. It's like God is going to take Becky and me on the adventure of a lifetime, and we don't even know where we're going. It's getting crazy, this living the Christian life. I'm finding myself being willing to jettison anything in life -- including relationships that drag me down -- to follow Jesus to the weirdest places. And I want lots of people to share this crazy dream with me. I have to smile when I think of the 36 years God has given Becky and me. What makes our marriage work is that we share with each other at the deepest levels. We have no secrets. In strict confidentiality, I spoke with her at length over dinner about a personal challenge I am facing right now. Difficult decisions need to be made. What a joy to have a listening ear and some very, very wise counsel. There's nothing that I don't want her to hear or see or feel.
And so I live in faith, seeing the power of God keeping her alive, and I continue to dream big dreams and make big plans for us. I pray, "Lord, please use us this year to extend your kingdom as never before."
That's a good starting point for a new year, if you ask me.
2:46 PM Just back from a most wonderful day on campus. Right I'm prepping three messages for this weekend, so I don't have much time to blog. But I just had to show yall this photo:
Becky spent last night preparing the most delicious homemade break and soup combination to serve the "Goldston Boys" who have helped us so willingly with farm work. It was a bit of a short notice, so only three of them could join us (left to right): Luke, Johnny, and Laki. Honey, the meal was a huge success. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this labor of love. Luke, by the way, is in my Greek 1 class and today won our first Greek spelling bee, thus receiving a free copy of one of my books. Way to go, Dr. Luke, and keep up the good work.
Before I go I thought I'd show you this picture of the "Wailing Wall" in my office.
Students, these wonderful papers and exams from last semester are patiently awaiting retrieval by their beloved owners. And yes, I did grade all of them myself -- as you know, my graders don't grade for me.
But back to my Greek New Testament, my favorite book in all the world.
Thursday, January 3
7:52 PM Just finished watching the end of the movie Gettysburg with Becky. The Confederates may have lost the battle on the field, but I'd say they won the battle of the facial hair.
7:34 PM The 2013 Biblical Conference is almost here (Feb. 7-8). Speakers include:
My paper is entitled "On the Pauline Authorship of Hebrews."
If you live in the greater DC area and would like to attend, write me and I'll be glad to furnish more details.
5:16 PM Odds and ends ...
1) Here's my beginning Greek class taking their first quiz today. I don't think I've ever had a better group of students. Of course, I say that about every class.
2) The latest from Nigusse … he's been to the City of David, Hezekiah's Tunnel, and the Western Wall. Today he visited "New Testament Jerusalem." He writes:
3) Got this email today:
I responded as follows:
4) Check this out:
You go Steve!
5) Luther College announces an opening in Biblical Studies.
4:58 PM Hello blogerdom. Thanks for tuning it.
Last night I began to reread a superb work. It's called Violence, and the author is none other than Jacque Ellul. He's been talking about committing acts of violence toward others. Here's one quote that I underscored (p. 141):
Now, at the same time (as you know), I've been re-reading Shaara's The Killer Angels, a story about the Battle of Gettysburg. Let me point out one scene. I do so because it illustrates that there was something in General Lee's consciousness that seemingly prevented self-approbation for what he was doing. "Let us not speak of that now" – how often one reads these words coming from the lips of Lee or Longstreet. Both had broken their oaths; both had been propelled into the war by circumstances beyond their control.
Here's Shaara's description of Lee:
These words, of course, are those of the novelist, not of Lee himself. But I can imagine Lee having similar conflicting thoughts about the war. Christians of all stripes do so today. The point that Jacque Ellul is making in his book Violence is that followers of Jesus ought never to feel the need to rebel against governments. They are called to be the ultimate non-conformists. Lee, I think, knew that. I sense he felt that patriotism, true patriotism, could exist without militarism.
A warrior who lived many decades later would have agreed. The man I am talking about is Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Here he is, in his own words:
Now that is powerful. Fuchida had led the attack on Pearl Harbor, but God had brought him to faith in Christ and into the service of the Prince of Peace. Can any power be stronger than hate? Fuchida would say that such power exists in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I know there are any number of questions this blog post has left unanswered. But at least it's something to think on. The good news is that, on That Day, creation will be free of all diabolical influences and God’s will shall be done "on earth as it is in heaven." When the reign of God is fully established, violence will completely cease.
… and be kind to one another!
Wednesday, January 2
5:55 AM I have a wonderful day ahead of me. Ten points to anybody who can tell us why I'm so excited. I'm going back into the classroom! However, before I make the drive to the Forest of Wake, I wanted to share with you an insight God gave me. As I was reading Isaiah 6 last night, I realized something. Do you remember what Isaiah said when he encountered the Living God?
"Woe is me!"
And then ...
"Here am I. Send me!"
This is the biblical order of things, and it needs to be encouraged. Up to now, much of my blogging has been about the need to go. I can't afford to do that any longer. I think it's important to return to the Scriptural order:
Woe, then Go.
It seems to me that it is much easier to go than to be smitten with the conviction of personal sin. But before we are fit to serve, there must be conviction, confession, cleansing, and consecration. No one is ready to say "Send me!" who has not first fallen on his or her knees and cried out, "Woe is me!"
Our Lord gave us the command to go, the power to go, and the resources to go. All true. But the bottleneck is often our callousness to sin. A couple of weeks ago I made a deliberate choice to put an idol of mine on the altar and let God have control of it. Suddenly, a dam of tears overwhelmed me and I could once again feel the deep love of Christ for a lost world. I'm not saying that we should live in a state of perpetual introspection. I am saying that when lost souls are at stake, we can't let sin and greed and our idols call the shots.
And souls are at stake. Countless numbers of them. Winston Churchill once said of England's airmen, "Never did so many owe so much to so few." Today, when it comes to missions, we might say, "Never did so few owe so much to so many." We -- you and I -- are debtors to get the Gospel to every person on this earth. As long as Christ's work is unfinished, our work is unfinished. That we are NOT getting the job done ought to be cause of sorrow and repentance. When the needs of the world are presented, let us not overlook the fact that Isaiah first collapsed before a holy God before taking a single step of service.
And so I pray. I pray that the God of Service, whom I am getting to know a little bit better each year, would also be the God of Repentance. The more I read about God's Son, the more I realize that my motivation in missions means everything. I want to hate sin like He does. Perhaps then I can live as purely, as scandalously, and as sacrificially as He does.
And maybe, just maybe, I will finally get this missions thing right.
5:42 AM You really gotta hand it to Nick Norelli. When he promises to review a book, the man follows through. I am too preoccupied these days with my own book projects to produce many reviews, but I thoroughly enjoy Nick's work. I imagine very few of us could match his prodigious output. Nick, I commend you not only for the quantity but the quality of your reviews. Thank you for keeping the rest of us abreast, although the mass of publications today has now become so great that no one scholar can possibly be in touch with all of it.
So ... kudos, congratulations, and a hearty "Thank You!"
Tuesday, January 1
5:38 PM A few quick notes ...
1) The Ramiscals just left. We had a delightful time. Praise the Lord, God has taken care of them in wonderful ways during their stay in Wake Forest, and Jayson hopes to graduate this May. I guess that will depend to a certain degree on how well he does in the LXX class, which is being co-taught by the orneriest, most recalcitrant Greek professor in the history of the world.
2) Tonight I'm doing final preparations for my Greek 1 class that starts tomorrow. I never tire of teaching beginning Greek grammar. May God open our eyes to the need to be adequately trained to teach His Word.
3) We finally heard from Nigusse, who writes:
Sure will, Nigu. Sheba and Dayda say hi.
4) My goal for 2013? To learn how to be a disciple of Christ rather than merely a student of the Bible. I have shamefully hoarded Christian knowledge. I want to begin to internalize the commands of Christ and live a lifestyle of sacrifice, service, and suffering for His sake. Is this even possible? "For God has not given us the Spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7). In Christ, it is possible. Praise be to God.
11:05 AM Want to know what I think "scholarship" is? Andrew Rozalowski's interview has the answer.
10:36 AM As I said, even though Nigusse is away we're not alone, as Becky has filled our social calendar -- which is how we like it. Today we are blessed to have the Ramiscal family with us. Jayson is one of my students at the seminary and also happens to hail from the 50th State. What a delightful surprise when they showed up today with Kona coffee and a box of chocolate-covered Macadamia nuts.
Right now Bec is giving them the cook's tour of Maple Ridge while I'm adding a few items to the Greek Portal. (See the What's New? page.) Please, please -- if you see something we need to add, let me know.
P.S. Becky and I met in the cafeteria line at Biola when I offered her a chocolate-covered Macadamia nut. As the old joke goes, she's been nuts about me ever since.
8:52 AM Looking ahead, I'm scheduled to teach the Greek exegesis of Philippians at Calvary Baptist Seminary this summer. The dates are June 17-21 (Monday through Friday). If you are in the Philly area and would like to brush up on your Greek, I'd love to see you there.
The Philippian church was riddled with factions and rent by cliques. Unable to get along with each other, they took refuge in the alibi that unity was not really all that important. The fact is, their priority system was faulty. During WW II, our national leaders had a lot to say about "hyphenated Americans," German-Americans, for example, whose loyalty was divided between Germany and the U.S. Too many churches today have become hyphenated because their loyalty is divided between the Gospel and something else. We talk glibly about "God and country." Or else our loyalty is first of all to "our church" and then to the universal kingdom of God. We place temporal value on eternal things and eternal value on temporal things, like padded pews and lush carpets. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not calling for perfect Christians. Neither is the apostle Paul (see Phil. 3:12 ff.). There are no perfect Christians, but there can be undivided loyalty.
The real message of Philippians is not about joy. It's about priorities, about what comes first and foremost in our lives. "The only thing that matters," says Paul, "is that you live together as good citizens of heaven in a way that the Gospel of Christ requires" (1:27).
I'll try to flesh all this out in the class. Again, I would love to see you there.
8:04 AM Many of you are currently struggling with how to carry out your convictions about New Testament ecclesiology. I should know: I receive many of your emails. Believe me, I share the same struggles. Let me offer a brief word I hope will help us all as we begin a new year.
I've discovered through the years that there are two types of knowledge. The first is knowing WHAT. That is, before we can pursue a biblical ecclesiology, we need to assemble facts together. These facts come from the Scriptures, not from any man-made traditions. As we search the Word of God, we are confronted with the truth, with basic facts about church life. Of course, many evangelicals have never even taken this first step. They remain steeped in their traditions because they have never considered what the New Testament has to say about the church.
The second kind of knowledge is knowing HOW. That is, even if we know (or think we know) what the Bible teaches about church life, there remains the enormous task of actually en-fleshing this knowledge in our daily lives and in our congregations. This is a completely different kind of knowledge than just knowing the facts. This knowledge cannot be gleaned directly from the Scriptures. We gain this knowledge through the leading of God's Holy Spirit, who enables us to move ahead by showing us the concrete steps we should take and, just as importantly, how and when we should take them. This takes a lot of discernment, and this discernment can only come from God, just as truth comes from God.
As a history buff, let me an offer an analogy from the 1860s of what I am trying to say. When Union General John Buford arrived at Gettysburg at noon on June 30, 1863, he already had a general idea of the terrain. A glance at his map revealed that Gettysburg was a vital road junction. He knew that whoever controlled Gettysburg could out-maneuver his enemy. He knew all of this intellectually.
But once he arrived on the scene he had to move from a two-dimensional world of a map to a three-dimensional understanding of the actual terrain. And, as all students of the American Civil War know, by choosing to defend McPherson's Ridge, Buford and his First Cavalry Division were able to hold off the attackers until the Union Army arrived.
"The map is not the terrain," is how a military instructor at West Point might put it. And so it is in the Christian life. Change -- all change -- begins with the renewing of our minds as we study the pure Word of God and begin to wean ourselves from worldly or non-biblical traditions. But then, as we move from intellectual comprehension to practical implementation, we must also move from map to terrain, as it were. We are now "on the spot"; we are "boots on the ground." We are forced to make judgment calls. We have to decide such questions as where, when, by whom, and how fast (or slow)? There are no set answers to any of these questions. At least I haven't found any.
Certainly, if the church is to be the church, all of us must move from the map to the terrain. But therein lies the rub. And that is precisely where so many of us struggle. My hope is that as the Lord Jesus leads you along this wonderful but sometimes frightening journey, He will keep you challenged and occupied with healthy, positive, and happy thoughts and deeds.
7:45 AM The Greek Portal is live. I am jazzed. It's got about 50 times more stuff in it than the old portal. Anyways, why don't you mosey on over and have a look see?