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June 2014 Blog Archives

Monday, June 30

3:18 PM Just got back from lap swimming and what should I find?

To all you contest winners: the book is in the mail!

P.S. Yes, it was Golda Meir, and the winner is none other than Mark Stull. Thanks to all who played!

9:36 AM Yesterday I enjoyed a brief conversation with someone about wealth. Can I think out loud with you for a moment?

Wealth and possessions are always subordinate goods in the New Testament, and neither their pursuit nor their acquisition can ever be considered a worthwhile goal for the believer. Our possessions are to be regarded merely as a trust to be used for the good of others. Otherwise they become our curse (Matt. 5:42; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 6:27-36; 10:25-37; 14:12-14; 16:19-31; Acts 4:32-35; Heb. 13:5-6). The problem is that it is very easy to speak about wealth in this manner only in the abstract. Many wealthy Christian Americans simply do not believe that wealth has seductive power. In the New Testament, relating to the poor involves relating to specific persons rather than an abstract class called "the poor." Simply stating platitudes such as "God loves the poor" or giving some money to charitable causes costs us almost nothing. To actually identify with the poor requires a different kind of commitment -- a costly commitment in terms of our time, agendas, and personal resources.

To put this another way: Genuine repentance always has an economic dimension. This is rarely seen in our American megachurch mentality. Upward mobility is where it's at. As Paul writes in 2 Cor. 2:17, there is money to be made in peddling the Word of God. In 1 Thess. 2:5 he states that piety often masks as a cover for greed. In 1 Tim. 6:3-5 he notes that many think that "godliness" can be lucrative. In 2 Pet. 2:1-3, Peter shows us how "Christian" teachers are motivated by greed to minister. Like Judas (John 12:1-8), we are not genuinely interested in the poor but are only using them for personal advantage. The solution to our problem is found in 1 Tim. 6:17-19: Believers who are rich are to be commanded not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth. Instead they are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, and to be willing to share. This will require nothing less than a total conversion to Christ's view of possessions.

May such repentance begin in my heart. May I move out of ownership and into stewardship. May I learn to be generous with my possessions. May discipleship cost me something.

Sunday, June 29

6:18 PM I love blog posts with catchy titles!

6:12 PM In case you didn't know, we are praying about overdubbing my Greek DVDs into another language. To do this, we've had to transcribe the videos into English, from which the overdubber will work. I thought you might enjoy the transcription I received of chapter 4: Nouns of the Second Declension. What fun! By the way, here's the "live" class where we videotaped the course (at the Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa). A great bunch of guys and gals, I tell you.

And now ... here's the beginning of chapter 4!

DB      Please take your textbooks and open to chapter 4.

Chapter 4 is the second speed bump, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the second hurdle, it’s the second peak. The first, listen, the first hurdle was understanding inflection in the Greek what? Verb. Got it? In the Greek verb.

Let me ask you a question. Did you get over it? Did you make it? Some of you have and some of you haven’t. But you have to get over that first hurdle. You have to understand how inflection works in the what? In the Greek verb.

Now, this lesson is the second … Mount Everest. And I recognize that it’s a huge hurdle. I couldn’t get over it in myself. I could never master it. And that is, the concept of the inflection, not in the verb, but in the what? In the noun. Nouns in Greek do not work like nouns in English. That’s the problem. However, nouns in Greek work just like nouns in German. You say, “Great!” that doesn’t help me. I don’t know German. So, we have to start at the beginning, right? We can’t assume that you know German. We can’t even assume that you know English that well. And we know that you don’t know Greek that well. So we’re going to start at the beginning, ok? We’re going to start at the very beginning.

Now what is the title to this lesson? The title is “Nouns of the Second Declension.” Okay. You’re saying, what do you mean by second declension? Greek has three ways of forming nouns. These ways of forming nouns are called the First Declension, the…Second Declension and the…Third Declension. Let me repeat. Greek has three different patterns of forming nouns. The first pattern is called the First Declension. The second pattern is called the Second Declension. And the third pattern is called…the third declension.

Now you say, “Wait a minute, Dr. Black. Why do you start with the Second Declension? You should be starting, logically, with the First.” First, Second, then Third. There are two reasons, ladies and gentlemen, why we are starting with the Second Declension. Okay.

Number one: The Second Declension is the easiest of all the three. It’s the easiest. It’s not that hard. So we’re going to go from what’s easy to what is a little more difficult, okay.

Secondly, the great majority of nouns in the New Testament belong to which declension, would you guess?

ST       The Second

DB      The Second Declension. And that’s why we’re starting, not with the First Declension, that’s going to be the next chapter, we’re going to start with the…Second Declension.

            Now what this. The object of this lesson is not to memorize ἄνθρωπος, ἄνθρωπου, blaa blaa blaa blaa blaa. No. Now, you’re going to have to do that, yeah, just like you had to memorize λύω, λύεις, λύει…You had to memorize that, but that wasn’t the goal of that lesson. The goal of that lesson was not to memorize λύω, λύεις, λύει. The goal of that lesson was to understand how it works, right? To understand how it works. I’ve, I’ve had people come up to me yesterday who have had four semesters of Greek say, “Now I understand it. For the first time, I understand how it works.” You see, we can all memorize, but memory is not the goal. It’s comprehension. So the goal of this lesson is understanding the concept of inflection in the Greek what? Noun. The Greek noun.

            Let me give you an illustration. Let me give you a sentence, an illustration, of what I’m talking about. This is a sentence in Greek. How many words does it contain? How many words?

ST       Three

DB      Three. What kind of a word is the middle word right here? We call this a …? A verb, right? This is a verb. This sentence is comprised of one verb, and two, what we call…nouns. Two nouns.

            Now, forget about the two nouns for a minute and just look at the verb if you will. See if you, on your paper, on your scratch paper, see if you can correctly translate βλέπουσιν. Okay. On your scratch paper, see if you can correctly translate the verb, βλέπουσιν. Can you do that? And write down your translations. Write it down. You should be able to do this, βλέπουσιν.

Alright. Βλέπουσιν contains how many morphemes, class? Two. What does βλέπ mean?

ST       See

DB      Good. See. What does ουσιν mean? They. So please translate βλέπουσιν for me into English. Go. They see. No problem, right? Because you have understood the concept of inflection in the Greek what? The verb. See that? That’s how that works, okay.

2:42 PM Today I woke up with a major sinus headache, stayed home from church to nurse it, but my mind has been racing in a thousand different directions so I got out the old writing pad and jotted down a blog post, which I thought I would share with you now. It's about my new book on the church and, in particular, how short and "incomplete" someone might call it. If I were to entitle my reflections, I would call them, well, "Reflections on theology." Here goes nothing:

"How long is your book on the church?" I've been asked that question dozens of times it seems. "Oh, it's very short. Could read it in one sitting I suppose." A number of topics have been left over, like crumbs of bread or the edges of a piece of pizza. Actually, my main goal in writing this book is to get people to reflect intellectually on the Scriptures. I have often told my students that sound theology is merely the byproduct of creatively stirring together the Scriptures with one's continuous experience of ministry, as if in a mixing bowl. The "spoon" that makes it all happen is reflection. Reflection, of course, involves risk. For most of my teaching ministry (38 years) I have been a practitioner of reflection. I believe that assuming responsibility for one's own beliefs is something clearly different from theorizing about it in the sterile halls of academia. Knowledge comes from doing, and learning from having done it. Perhaps this is why I tend to be so disenchanted by the lectures and sermons I hear these days. So little genuine reflection seems to be involved. Same old same old, I tell myself. But why should this be? A seminary education at its best helps us to recover our theological heritage, and to recover from it. You read Luther and Calvin, but how about Balthazar Hubmaier? The pursuit of theology is like two basketball centers jockeying for position under the basket. Reflection is a contact sport in which fouls are often committed (and rarely called) and where contact can never be avoided.

The first step in reflecting theologically is humility, creating a climate in which theological thinking can take place. There are many ways of doing this, but one of the best is to pick up a book and read it, especially one that requires reflection. The second step is a comparison of what you are reading with everything God has said in His word. There are a good many rules of "theological basketball," and He invented them all. The third and final step of reflection is stepping out of your comfort zone and making a personal judgment about what is right and wrong, Scriptural and unscriptural. It is this kind of reciprocal dynamic between Scripture and reason that I find most exciting about theology. Its final product is always seen as being in-process and incomplete. But if you put in the time -- if you really and truly reflect -- theology can be one of the most exciting things you engage in.

No, my latest book is not my magnus opum. But I do hope you will read it, and read it reflectively. My greatest is fear is that I've said something really stupid and laughable -- as when Union General John Pope told his troops, "My headquarters shall be in my saddle." One can only imagine the number of jokes about that!

10:58 AM I'm in a contest mood again today. The first person to name the face will receive a free copy of Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.

Email me at

10:08 AM As promised, we now have a complete parsing guide to my first year Greek grammar, Learn to Read New Testament Greek, thanks to the tireless efforts of Jacob Cerone. Go here, then scroll down until you find it in the section called "Beginning Greek."

And just a reminder: Jacob's tenure as my personal assistant will come to an end this summer as he begins to devote his time exclusively to finishing his Th.M. thesis for me. If you are interested in applying for the position (it is halftime with a handsome stipend) kindly let me know. I am looking for web-savvy post-graduate level students who are currently enrolled at SEBTS.

9:54 AM Good morning, intelligent bloggers! The theme of this post is quite simple:

The purpose of the church is to be God’s missionary people in the world.

Missions is not an afterthought in the mind of God. There is no partnership in Christ without partnership in missions (Phil. 1:5). But is this really the top priority of your local church? Of mine? In his outstanding book on the church called The Household of God, Leslie Newbigin writes (New York: Friendship, 1954, p. 165):

It is taken for granted that the missionary obligation is one that has to be met AFTER the needs of the home have been fully met; that existing gains have to be thoroughly consolidated before we go further afield; that the world-wide church has to be built up with the same sort of prudent enterprise.

Such thinking, he points out, is a sin against the truth. The church is to be missionary because that is its divine design. Thus it is vital that the church be other-worldly and this-worldly at the very same time. Only as our congregations intentionally live out their nature as God's missionary people will the church begin to emerge to become what Christ is creating it to be. This missionary focus of the church as a sent group of people is stressed in Johannes Blauw’s classic work The Missionary Nature of the Church (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962, pp. 121-22):

If one wants to maintain a specific theological meaning of the term mission as "foreign mission," its significance is, in my opinion, that it keeps calling the Church to think over its essential nature as a community sent forth into the world. Seen in that light missionary work is not just one of its activities, but the criterion for all its activities…. It is exactly by going outside itself that the Church is itself and comes to itself.

In other words, missions is the inevitable and indispensable expression of the church's essential nature as a fellowship of Christ's disciples. The church is not a hierarchy or an institution but a people in community whose mission is to spread the rule of Christ. The purpose of the body of Christ is to make Jesus visible in the world. In fact, in the present age the church is uniquely the instrument of the kingdom of God in the world. Thus service to the kingdom means service to the world through missional activity.

There is great practical significance to this truth. It means that local congregations must live out their spiritual life not only as church but also as God's people in the world. Our calling and assignment is to preach the Gospel of the kingdom to the whole world (Mark 16:15). Once again, missiologist Leslie Newbigin captures the essence of what I am trying to say (The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society [London: SPCK, 1989] pp. 232-33):

[I]t has to be said that there can be no going back to the “Constantinian” era. It will only be by movements that begin with the local congregation in which the reality of the new creation is present, known, and experienced, and from which men and women will go into every sector of public life to claim it for Christ, to unmask the illusions which have remained hidden and to expose all areas of public life to the illumination of the gospel. But this will happen as and when local congregations renounce an introverted concern for their own life, and recognize that they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument, and foretaste of God's redeeming grace for the whole life of society.

That's some strong language -- "renounce an introverted concern for their own life" -- but it is absolutely true. What Newbigin is saying is vitally important. Congregations must no longer follow an introverted, self-serving agenda. Our priority must be to become the Master's messengers in the world. Local congregations must begin to see themselves as satellite offices of the kingdom of God. Each member must consider him- or herself a strategic player in missionary work as both salt and light. Jesus spoke only of the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Both elements must be dispersed if they are to be effective. Churches must get out of the saltshaker – out of their self-centered fellowships that negate their very reason for existence. If you want a good example of what this might look like, check out what Mount Pleasant Baptist Church is doing in Mexico.

I have written elsewhere that Christian marriage has a higher purpose than marital happiness and even marital compatibility. Believing husbands and wives must be partners in the Gospel (Phil. 1:5), intentionally creating perspectives, attitudes, priorities, and goals that are in keeping with the Great Commission of Jesus. The same truth can be extended to our families, churches, and seminaries. As members of Christ's missionary body, our purpose is to build up the community of the saints in mission to the world. This missionary perspective will color, direct, and motivate everything the church does. Evangelist Tom Skinner once said, "Let's be honest. We tithe to ourselves." What he meant is that most of the money we contribute to the offering plate is used for facilities and programs designed for ourselves and our families. Very little is dedicated to evangelism or social action, whether in our communities or in the rest of the world.

It all boils down to priorities. And there is absolutely no reason why our priorities should not change. We must ask ourselves, "How would God have us use the resources He has given us to have the greatest possible impact on the kingdom?" In practical terms, this might mean using the Bible instead of quarterlies in our Sunday School classes. It could mean renting a facility to meet in rather than building an expensive sanctuary. It will certainly mean using all of our resources with a sense of global responsibility. As Paul said, stewardship requires us to ask how we can use the resources God has entrusted to us more equitably (see 2 Cor. 8:13-15). Each of us must examine our lifestyles for wasted resources that could be invested in the kingdom. We must become better stewards of our time, budgets, homes, and physical recourses. Some time ago a woman contacted Becky and me about sending us gifts for Ethiopia instead of giving Christmas presents to her grandchildren. The gifts were made out in their names. What would happen if 60 million American evangelicals did the same thing and gave presents to Jesus every Christmas? This is the kind of creative planning that is required if we are to respond to the challenges of global missions.

This readjustment process does not mean falling into the trap of legalism. It does not mean establishing additional "programs." It is the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, who must be at work so that we may see what the church must become as it emerges from its cocoon and into ministry in the world. Unfortunately, trained seminarians are not always eager to assist their congregations to think about their missionary commitments. It is far easier to maintain the status quo than to involve all members of the church in the work of a missionary community. But ministry is the work of the church among its entire membership and never the exclusive responsibility of its ordained ministers. I strongly suspect that only a grassroots movement in many of our congregations will be able to successfully conquer the forces of inertia. But if we take seriously the idea that every member is a minister and that the clergy-laity distinction is unscriptural, then it follows that we cannot limit theological education to a select few. Ministerial training belongs to and must actively involve the whole people of God.

And what should be the goal of our training? The people must be trained in serving rather than being served. This means that theological education must be "inside-out." Its purpose is to equip God's people for works of service to the world. The goal is to teach, train, encourage, apprentice, and mobilize the people of God for the work of the ministry. Church leaders, whether seminary trained or not, will be deemed "successful" to the degree that the church becomes the missionary people of God. Leaders will be judged, not by their rhetorical prowess, but to the degree to which the people's spiritual gifts are expressed in ministry. Pastors are not called into ministry any more than any other church member. But they are charged with the solemn obligation of preparing God's people for works of service (see Eph. 4:11-12).

Notice that I have said nothing about leadership as administration or management. Lawrence O. Richards and Clyde Hoeldtke correctly point out in their book A Theology of Church Leadership (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980, p. 6) that the church "is a living body of the living Jesus. Since we are part of a body, not an institution, the task of body leaders must be distinctively different from the management task of institutional leaders." Leadership, thus defined, calls for people who will be catalysts to mobilize the people of God for mission in the world. These people lead best when they themselves model, illustrate, and perform service to the world. On the other hand, leaders must be wary of assuming a "clergy" role in ministry. One reason the so-called laity are so passive is because leaders have made "ministry" and "missions" the professional roles of a few ordained people. Leaders lead best when they do the tasks and teach others to do them. Effective ministry calls for participation by all.

Think about it.


Saturday, June 28

7:40 PM Well, I was supposed to be on a plane for DC today but the plane had mechanical issues. After a three hour delay the flight was canceled. No, I'm not complaining. Rather have a mechanical breakdown on terra firma than at 35,000 feet. So what did I do all day? I cleaned out the van, washed two loads of clothes, ran the dish washer, got caught up on finances, replaced a few light bulbs, and otherwise did my house work interrupted only by moments of blogging to maintain my sanity. I'm not saying I don't enjoy working around the house. It's just not, well, me. (I promise not to complain about housework -- too much.) I love this place called Rosewood Farm, and I'm going to try and let God do His thing here, whatever that might look like. Over the past few weeks I've been struck by all the little details He is working out in my life. I'm left in awe of the way He orchestrates our lives, weaving a beautiful tapestry out of the good and the bad, the sorrow and the joy. We are, after all, citizens of His kingdom (and people who refuse to become high priests in Caesar's court). He's called us as the church to take up His cause and partner with each other until the lost of every nation have heard the Good News. As some of you may know, this is a huge admission for me -- the man who gave the sermon at the Constitution Party's presidential convention in Valley Forge a mere 10 years ago! Anyway, back to what I was doing today. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my book Godworld (viz. kingdom living) and how our main duty as Christians is to live in such a way that manifests the beauty of Jesus dying on a bloody Roman cross because He loved others more than He loved Himself. I'm proud to know a lot of Christians who live just like that. They're a model of kingdom living for the rest of us. They're just obeying God and imitating Jesus. They are serving the world, including their enemies. A lot more could be said and needs to be said (see my book The Jesus Paradigm), but this post is getting far too long. As I walked through the house today I couldn't help but think of Becky, whose presence fills every room. At every turn, no matter what happened, God overcame evil with good in our relationship. He used everything that came into our lives to further His sovereign purpose, and I am looking forward to the day when the two of us will again embrace as we celebrate the goodness of God in our marriage and family and ministry.

Can't leave you without this:

Aloha au i uka me/Ke kahakai o Pupukea.

I love the uplands/and the seashore of Pupukea.

Sorry, folks - I'm in a nostalgic mood again, and Pupukea was probably my favorite big wave beach in all of Hawaii!



6:38 PM A USA v. Brazil final? Muito bem!

6:30 PM Last week I received this email from a professor of New Testament and Greek in another seminary:

I'm switching to using your Learn to Read NT Greek for my Elementary Greek classes next semester. Thanks for writing this helpful and clear textbook.

Thank you. My pleasure. He added:

I like my students to check their parsing on their own.  I wonder if you have a more extensive answer key available - one that includes parsing. If so, would you be willing to send me a copy that I can make available to students to check themselves?

Consider it done. Well, almost done. Give us a few more days. I'll post the parsing key at my Greek Portal. And thanks for the suggestion.

6:16 PM Jacob Cerone is blogging again, and his discussion of the chapter divisions in 1 Thessalonians is outstanding. You can read it here. He writes:

In the above photo, you can see that HCSB, LEB, and NASB believe a division exists at 1 Thessalonians 3:1, whereas the ESV, NLT, and NRSV see it as a continuation of the section begun in 1 Thessalonians 2:17. This tool allows students of the Bible to know where there is unanimity and disagreement over pericope divisions. Though it doesn’t provide the reasons that influenced the translators’ decisions, it will give the student a starting point for further investigation.

Interesting debate, don't you think? Should a new chapter division begin in 3:1 or not? If you'll permit me to enter the fray:

Beginning with 2:17 Paul takes up the topic of his continuing relationship with the Thessalonians. After his hurried flight from Thessalonica he desired to return (2:17-20), but being unable to do so he sent Timothy to them (3:1-5), who reported on the faithfulness of the Thessalonians (3:6-10). This news leads Paul to pray for them once again (3:11-13).

See how this section of the letter (2:17-3:13) all fits together? If I am correct, the editors messed up a bit when they introduced a new chapter division in 3:1 since the division interrupts the train of thought.

P.S. How many times have you heard, "The Parousia is the key to interpreting 1 Thessalonians. Every chapter of the letter ends with a reference to the Second Coming of Christ." Hmmm. Could it be that the editors put the cart before the horse? Could it be that their idea that the Second Coming of Christ is important unduly influenced their choice of chapter divisions? Just askin', folks. By the way, my quote was taken from an essay I wrote years ago for the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology called The Literary Structure of 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Below: The section in question in my GNT.

5:30 PM Three centuries ago a man lost his job and went home to tell his wife Sophia. Rather than being disappointed she beamed at him and said, "Now you can write your book!" He answered, "Yes, but what will we live on while I'm writing?" Sophia went to a drawer and pulled out a large sack of money. "I've always known that you were a man of genius," she said. "I knew that some day you would write an immortal masterpiece. So every week from the money you gave me I have saved something. Here is enough to live on for one whole year." The amazed husband went to his study and began writing. His name was Nathaniel Hawthorne, and his book was The Scarlet Letter.

Husband and wife, do you believe in each other? If so, how are you showing it?

5:22 PM Dr. Seuss wrote a book called "Too Many Daves." It tells of a woman named Mrs. McCave who had 23 sons all named "Dave." When she calls out for Dave, all 23 of her sons come running at the same time. The story comes alive when Dr. Seuss begins to speculate about all the silly names Mrs. McCave might have chosen for her sons instead of naming them all "Dave." His point is that when everyone has the same name there is chaos, not order. It is the same in the Body of Christ. The church could not function if everybody had the same gifts. Each of us brings to the group a variety of different gifts that together sustain the Body, and the result is order and not chaos. Every-member ministry is therefore an integral part of that way we call "faith." God's kingdom is designed to be a place of spiritual wholeness, individually and in the community. In my judgment, the external form does not matter that much as long as there is genuine community and body life.

6:46 AM Have you ever heard of John Glas? He lived from 1695 to 1773. He was an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland. That is, until he was stripped of his ordination in 1727. His misdeeds?

1) He called for a plurality of local church elders instead of leadership by a single pastor.

2) He taught that the Lord's Supper should be observed weekly instead of monthly or quarterly.

3) He said that ministers should be chosen on the basis of their character and Bible knowledge rather than because of a degree from a theological institution.

In short, John Glas was defrocked because he attempted to establish a church along the lines of the New Testament. He also called for other Christians to join him in the restoration of primitive Christianity. Later on, in the nineteenth century, the weekly observance of the breaking of bread and the ministry of all believers became the foundation stones for the Brethren movement. So what do you think of John Glas? Is the modern church in America ripe for new religious formation? I have a hunch that it is, and that men like John Glas are tragic heroes from whom we have much to learn.

Incidentally, in case you're interested in studying the history of restoration movements in the Western church, there are no better resources than Donald Durnbaugh's The Believers' Church and Donald Kraybill's The Upside-Down KingdomOh, did I mention that I've just written a book on this subject myself?

Friday, June 27

8:32 PM William Barclay tells an interesting story. Someone was once talking to a great scholar about a younger man. He said, "So-and-so tells me he was one of your students." The teacher answered devastatingly, "He may have attended my classes, but he was not one of my students." What did I want my students to learn from me in our Greek class this summer? Among other things, that:

  • Knowledge without obedience is downright sinful.

  • Saving faith is always working faith.

  • Greek is essential but not the Open Sesame of interpretation.

  • Don't argue theology with me if you are blind to the lost people all around you.

  • God is best glorified not when we talk about "Christian hedonism" but when the Body of Christ rallies around hurting people and serves them with the love of Jesus.

  • Life is a mission trip. Take it! (I stole this from my colleague Alvin Reid.)

As an educator, I love reading the Gospels and watching the Master Teacher at work. Jesus called His disciples not only to learn the truth from Him but to be with Him. In other words, truth can't be learned in a classroom. Jesus called Peter not merely because He wanted to teach truth to Peter but because He wanted to model truth for Peter. In other words: Christian Education = Likeness Education.

Tonight I'm rereading a book called Luke 6:40. I encourage you to read it and try to think through your philosophy of Christian education if you haven't done so already. Seems to me that Thomas nails it in this book.

7:53 PM Oh, the power of a good metaphor! In The Killer Angels, I read this last night. The Confederates are pulling back after Pickett's Charge.

Goree was down and Longstreet reigned up. The bony man was scrambling, trying to get to his feet..... Bullets still plucked the air; song of the dark guitar.

As a guitar player, I know: the word picture works. One of my favorite metaphors from author Richard Kadrey (Kill the Dead) is "Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces." I reflected: The thoughts of a grieving person are not immune from pain.


Her memory is often like that bullet. You can't schedule your response like you can a business trip or a vacation. It just happens. The dark strings are plucked, and your reactions are not like recipes, predictable, guaranteeing certain results. You are swept away, just like your surfboard at Sunset Beach after a wipeout. You see, when death strikes, all of life is reexamined. You become more acutely aware of your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and failures (real or imagined). Grief is never logical. Tears are not just helpful; they are necessary. You ask, "Will the sadness ever go away?" The loss of a spouse is a long trek through a barren wilderness. The good news is that He is acquainted with our grief. He's sad with us. And because of Him, hope gradually replaces despair. No, you never forget the emotional pain of your loss -- those bullets quietly plucking the air -- but you do begin to move on with your life, just as Goree and Longstreet had to after their crushing defeat at Gettysburg.

Yes, you go on. You realize again and again that God loves you. He has provided more than you could ever ask or imagine. And He is always with you. Sometimes He shows up in a gorgeous rainbow. Sometimes He shows up in the face of a pet dog. And sometimes He shows up in a novel you are reading. I'm learning to find Him in all these places.

7:23 PM Congrats to Patrick and Chip for winning the prestigious 110 Award on their final exam today. Here they are with their free books:

6:58 AM Beginning Greek comes to an end today. The real exam has nothing to do with paradigms and parsing. The only question is: What will you do with your knowledge? Throughout Scripture, we see only one legitimate response: obedience. God gives us knowledge of His word so that we might become channels of blessing to others. I would submit to you that the single most important hindrance to global evangelization is the lack of total commitment on the part of members of the body of Christ. "Abundance of idleness" is the way Ezekiel puts it (Ezek. 16:49). Beware of knowledge, my friend. I say this as one who has an earned doctorate from a prestigious foreign university. Intent on building "our" churches, we fail to see how Jesus Christ is building "His church" in every nation on earth. In some way, which I still do not fully understand, a seminary degree rarely translates into a lifestyle of radical obedience and scandalous love. But that must be the goal of our instruction.

Thanks to all of my students for their hard work in Greek. While the class is dismissed, the real course is just beginning.

Thursday, June 26

10:32 PM It's past 10:00 pm and I should be in bed reading my book about Gettysburg. But my mind keeps racing to the memorial service for Baby Kai tonight in Durham.

I tell you, his parents sure are some resilient people. How do you need to be touched by God today, friend? What loss have you experienced recently? Tell God. Hold your weary arms out to Him. Let other people know that you need them to hold you as well. There was an awful lot of hugging going on tonight after the service. Death is a terrain many of us don't know about too well. It can be so vast and unfamiliar that we can easily lose all sense of direction. But when we hold on to each other, somehow the uncharted waters are easier to negotiate. Experiencing Becky's death has depleted my heart. Still today I feel numb and raw. I can only imagine what losing a child must feel like. I have no wisdom, no insights, no words of comfort to share that could even begin to dull the razor's edge of this tragedy. Still, in my talk tonight I tried to communicate what real joy is, that joy is not merely a human emotion but an understanding, an understanding that the God we serve is a sovereign and loving Master who does everything for His own glory and our best good. Everything. I cling to that truth, as I know my son and daughter do tonight. "God's voice is the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising Morning Star in your hearts" (2 Pet. 1:19). Is it any wonder that the Bible calls Christ the Light of the World? He is our light when we walk through the deepest darkness. Grief is difficult. But it is not impossible to face. We must let go time and time again. Yielding is a step in our grief journey, and a very necessary one. And it occurs when we are ready. Children, don't rush the process. It's a process that is repetitive. And some days it is easier than others.

Will you ever be able to move on? Yes. Definitely, yes. You have already begun. All glory to God.

9:15 PM Thanks to all who entered our little contest today. The winner is:

Tim Price

Congratulations, Sir! The face? News anchorman Harry Reasoner.

7:17 AM Contest time again! The first blogger to correctly identity the face will get a free copy of Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.

(Feel free to make a brief note on your blog about the book when you receive it.)

Wednesday, June 25

8:12 PM A brand new video reveals how the crash of Asiana 214 unfolded at SFO. Go here to view it. It is absolutely frightening. I am amazed at the fact that Lee Kang Kuk, the pilot who was landing the 777 for his first time at San Francisco, stated that it was "very difficult to perform a visual approach with a heavy airplane." This is a trained professional? The person who thinks that performing a visual approach on a crystal clear summer day is "very difficult" has absolutely no business piloting a commercial jet. As an educator, I see certain parallels between piloting and teaching. To become a seminary professor, students transit from being pupils to teachers largely by completing certain degrees and completing an increasingly complex series of courses in their subject with yet another "box" checked off. Yet we've all known "qualified" professors whose classroom skills weren't worth a bucket of warm spit. "Qualified" does not necessarily mean "skilled." I've often wondered why teachers at the graduate level do not have to be credentialed like their counterparts in K-12. At least we could take courses in, say, "College Teaching Procedures" or "Tests and Measurements." I took both of these courses at Biola College during the semester I began Greek teaching there as a fledging M.Div. student at Talbot. More importantly, why aren't successful classroom teachers mentoring the younger generation? I would love to see this kind of mentoring taking place in our seminaries. (When cutting my eye teeth as a teacher at Biola, I was kept under wing by one Harry Sturz, whose classroom skills were off the charts.)

The point I am trying to make is a simple one: a set of credentials doesn't make one skilled. Qualified (in the eyes of the credential watchers), yes; but able to fly (or teach), no. One would hope there would be a one-to-one correspondence, but this is never guaranteed. 

7:52 PM This and that ...

1) Only two days to go in our summer Greek class. Six weeks have never gone by faster. It's been a good class and the best part is happening right now: translating our Greek New Testaments (the book of 1 John).

2) Eager to see Thomas and Lesly Hudgins this weekend up in Maryland/DC. "Friendship doubles our joys and halves our grief," said Dolly Madison. It will be good to get reconnected. Ethiopian food, here we come!

3) Markus Barth audio files here. I had the wonderful opportunity to hear the man himself lecture on baptism while taking a course from him on Mark's Gospel back in 1981. A treasure trove indeed. I double dare you to listen to the fourth lecture and not be totally blown away.

4) I'm enjoying reading the Michael Shaara novel Killer Angels again. The key point to remember is that these kinds of books are novels. The dialogues are purely fictional and imaginary, and it would be fruitless and even dangerous to draw any conclusions about the individuals portrayed in them. Imagined conversations are just that -- imaginary -- and therefore are only moderately instructive. Or at any rate they are to be read with a grain of salt. As much as I like Martin Sheen and the movie Gettysburg (based on the Shaara novel), I must read history if I am to be accurately informed, say, about Lee's conduct and strategy at Gettysburg.

5) According to Hansung Kim, "Acts 6:1-7 may provide some valuable insights for the cross-cultural conflicts between Western missionaries and Majority World missionaries." I hope that everyone interested in cross-cultural missions will read this fine essay.

6) Double rainbow not 10 minutes ago. What a glorious God we serve!

Tuesday, June 24

8:53 PM Hi folks,

I hope you all have had a great day. I just got back from the local Mexico joint having had dinner with a pastor who is staying with me on the farm for a few days on a personal retreat. It was wonderful fellowship around God's Word. We talked about the Christian life. Satan has woven a masterful web of lies and deceit to confuse the church and ensure that millions of lost people around the world will go to hell because we insist on outsourcing "the ministry" to professionals. As Christians, we must follow the example of the Lord Jesus. We must love our neighbors as ourselves in each and every area of life. And, while we should do all we can to alleviate their misery and poverty, we must never minister to the body at the expense of sharing with them the Good News, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. God is obviously moving mightily in our churches in America. Now is the time for the family of God to unite as never before just as the New Testament church did to share the work of evangelism and edification. Averting our eyes from the need will not eliminate our guilt. It is the highest privilege in the world to serve King Jesus as an ordinary, run-of-the-mill layman along with thousands and millions of other every-day born-again Americans who love lost souls who are perishing daily without Christ. Tonight we especially talked about our need to support native evangelists in places like India who will bring Christ to the lost millions who have still to hear the Gospel. This is why I believe the West is crucial. I can tell you from personal experience that these native evangelists are men and women of the highest quality. They are determined to witness even though they know it will mean suffering. If these evangelists cannot go because we do not support them, the ultimate shame will belong to the body of Christ in the West who could have helped them.

In Him,


7:12 AM "Christianity is the land of beginning again." W. A. Criswell.

Monday, June 23

1:04 PM The Diane Rehm Show had a fiction author on today and something he said fascinated me. He always titled his books after they were written. Which got me thinking. I've written a few books. When have I decided on my book titles? For example, my next book is, as you know, called Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. Why seven marks? Why not eight? Or six? Or nine? The fact is that I never set out to write a book about a certain number of "marks." I actually began with only four (which are mentioned in Acts 2:42 -- a very famous verse): the apostles' doctrine, the fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers. But then I looked at the context. I dropped a pebble, as it were, into the pool of 2:42 and watched as my study expanded from that single verse to encompass 11 verses (2:37-47). It quickly became clear to me that evangelism was the first mark of the early church (since Peter's sermon is the most prominent subject of the first part of the chapter), and that the chapter ended up by focusing on the way the early believers cared for each other (sacrificial living). From beginning to end, then, there seemed to be but seven characteristics that Luke was emphasizing, neither more nor less. Interestingly, I found nothing here about expository preaching or church discipline. I found nothing about the "sacraments" either, though both baptism and the Lord's Supper are mentioned. Thus it was that I titled the book only after I had researched it. Honestly, the idea of "perfection" or "completion" (based on the number seven) never occurred to me, although many have asked me about that. Nevertheless, the frequency with which the number seven is used in Scripture with the meaning of fullness is striking, as in the seven days of creation, the seven feasts of Israel, the seven priests who circled Jericho seven times with seven trumpets, Daniel's seventy sevens prophecy, the seven "I am" sayings in John, and the seven churches of Revelation. Was perhaps the idea of completion in mind when Luke penned these verses? Possibly, though I am not making that claim. Seven is simply where the text seemed to end.

At any rate, book titles are extremely important. A good title can generate interest and a bad title disinterest. Ernest Hemingway considered two titles -- The World's Room and They Who Get Shot -- before settling on A Farewell to Arms. I dare say the latter is far more interesting and provocative! If you are a writer, never underestimate the importance of a title. The title should not be too long and should always be accurate. The catchier the better, too. And you may have to wait until you've written the book before coming up with just the right title.

6:44 AM "The dew of compassion is a tear." Lord Byron.

6:40 AM "There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up." John Andrew Holmer.

Sunday, June 22

6:50 PM I visited with my daughter and her family today in Durham. They are doing well. They're practicing the Presence of Christ amid the confusion of the world they're facing today. One thing they have most definitely decided not to do is play the "what if" game. Good for them. Part of Jesus' reason for coming to earth was to raise up a people for whom living would not simply be an act of faith but a trusting way of life, who could say "I am God's child" and smile when they say it, whose ultimate security in the face of stress and heartache would be Someone much bigger than themselves. There are no "what ifs" for the Christian. So why play the game? For example, as a Civil War reeenactor I've often heard the words "what if." If only Ewell had taken Cemetery Ridge at the end of the first day of battle; if only Stuart's cavalry had been present to feel out the enemy lines and screen Lee's preparations for an assault; if only Longstreet had attacked at midmorning on the second day or at any time except when he did, there would have occurred all kinds of rosy results. It's a tantalizing game, this "if" game, but it gets you nowhere. No matter what happens to us as believers, we carry on. That's why Jesus left us here when He ascended to heaven. He left us behind to serve for Him, love for Him, and speak truth for Him. We are His body, His eyes, His feet, His hands, His heart. If our actions fail to mirror His character, who around us will want to know Him? I think it's important to remind people of that from time to time. And this family is doing a good job of that.

2:34 PM As I spoke last week to a group of Hispanic pastors taking a course on campus, I noted a phenomenon among the attendees, namely their use of hermanos as self-designations. In the Majority World relationships are very important -- even for Christians. One does not have to be fluent in Spanish to realize how beautiful this custom is. To be sure, as believers we have our superficial differences in customs, experience, temperament, gifting, and outlook. But the love of Christ brings us together in the fullest sense and unites us in one family with one goal: to glorify God together in fulfilling the Great Commission. Imagine a church -- or a seminary for that matter -- where we took Jesus' words about honorific titles literally and seriously (Matt. 23:1-12). When we see ourselves as mere servants of Christ, when we realize that Jesus is our brother and God is our common Father, when we remember that the kingdom is flat (unlike so many of our manmade boxes into which we force people), we will be free to break with our culture, and cultural differences will become insignificant. Brotherhood is primary; gifts and callings are secondary. God calls us to exercise the variegated gifts He gives us, but our primary identity in the Body of Christ is not based on status and function but on essence and ontology: we truly are brothers and sisters.

Satan will continue to do all he can to destroy our unity and fruitfulness through pride and division. Why give him the opportunity? Above all, let us never forget that God has chosen the nobodies of this world to do His work (1 Cor. 1:27-29). The weak, the lowly, the foolish -- that's us, folks! Can we truly thank God for the privilege of being "nothings"? If not, then we're ready to learn a bit of humility.

2:22 PM My colleague Nathan Finn raises an interesting question: Should You Pursue a Ph.D.? In my book It's All Greek to Me: Confessions of an Unlikely Academic, I shared my impressions of what studying for my doctorate in Switzerland looked like. For me, Basel was the kind of institution I wanted to be in: ancient, renowned, and a place where one could tap into a vast theological library. I am convinced that doctoral programs in the U.S. should be just as challenging, rigorous, and -- most importantly -- mentor-led, rather than course/seminar/colloquium driven. The reason I say this is very simple: Christian education is essentially likeness education. We become like our mentors, for good or for ill. American Ph.D. programs tend to be heavy on coursework and light on mentoring. In particular, I think it's essential that a budding New Testament scholar be tutored and apprenticed by an accomplished one. This means that I normally do not recommend prospective doctoral students to study under an unpublished scholar (the expression is, perhaps, an oxymoron). That is, of course, if your goal as a student is to become a lifelong student of the Word. In that case, the least important book you will ever write will be your doctoral dissertation.

Be that as it may, students intuit whether their doctoral programs are meaningful or just another hoop to jump through on the way to employment by some college, seminary, or university. So please think and pray hard before entering a doctoral program. As well, be sure to give a lot of prayerful thought as to what kind of a program you are looking for. It should be both challenging and enjoyable at the same time. I hope yours is!

9:43 AM What's up with me and Hawaii? Last time I was there (December) they closed the North Shore because they said the surf was too big. That was a first! And now, just as I'm getting ready to return again, they say Mauna Loa is about to erupt. Makes you wonder. Watch them run out of shave ice and plate lunches while I'm there.

9:22 AM "Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isa. 41:10). Joy doesn't depend on good news. It doesn't have anything to do with good times. It doesn't need make-believe smiles. Joy, genuine joy, depends on only one thing: He is with me. He is my God. He is strengthening me. He is helping me. He is upholding me.

Christian joy is as deep as the soul and as wide as the universe.

Psalms 9:9    The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Psalms 10:17    O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear

Psalms 18:28    For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.

Psalms 23:4   Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalms 34:18    The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalms 46:1   God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalms 48:14    that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.

Read more:

Saturday, June 21

7:54 PM Just stumbled across this essay by Danny Zacharias: Your Intro Greek Teacher Was Wrong: deponent verbs don't exist. The author argues that the two leading beginning Greek grammars in use today (William Mounce and David Alan Black) incorrectly teach deponency. Instead, argues Danny, these verbs should be identified as middle in meaning: "they are regular old middle verbs."

This point is well taken. For a long time there has been a movement among Greek scholars toward viewing "deponent" verbs as true middles. Can I give you an example? Here's a discussion that was originally published a good many years ago:

Some deponent verbs can be explained as true middles in which the subject is being emphasized in some manner. The following categories seem to be involved:

(1) Reciprocity. These verbs describe situations in which two parties are involved and, if one were removed, no action would be possible. Examples include δέχομαι (“I welcome”), λυτρόομαι (“I redeem”), χαρίζομαι (“I forgive”), ἰάομαι (“I heal”), μάχομαι (“I fight”), ψεύδομαι (“I lie”),ἀσπάζομαι (“I greet”), and ἀποκρίνομαι (“I answer”).

(2) Reflexivity. In these verbs the verbal idea turns back upon the subject. Examples include τυφόομαι (“I am conceited”), ἐπενδύομαι (“I put on”),μιμέομαι (“I imitate”), and ἐγκρατεύομαι (“I abstain”).

(3) Self-involvement. These verbs describe processes that the subject alone can experience. Examples include ἔρχομαι (“I go”), διαλογίζομαι (“I ponder”), ἡγέομαι (“I consider”), ὀργίζομαι (“I am angry”), and βούλομαι (“I wish”).

The author? Yours truly. In the very beginning grammar (chapter 12) that is cited by Danny! This is all very curious to me. Did he not see this discussion? If he did, why did he fail to mention it? Was Danny being fair when he claimed I was wrong about deponency? Yes and no. He is correct that I used the term deponency in my grammar. However, my discussion was intentionally nuanced to suggest that the category "deponency" may well need correction or modification. Middle voice seems to be in view instead, at least in the verbs I cited and perhaps in many others as well. Danny seems to have either misunderstood, misrepresented, or oversimplified my position.

That said, I have no substantial disagreement with Danny or the works of Pennington that he cites in his essay. I also agree with him that it's probably time to "set aside" (deponere!) the term deponency and put it out to pasture, and the next edition of my grammar will reflect that change. It's been five years since the third edition came out, and five years is a long time when it comes to Greek pedagogy!

My hearty thanks to Danny for all of his hard work in trying to make Greek accessible to students. May your tribe increase! I also wish his new grammar well. And if this is a topic that interests you, I encourage you to read the articles listed by Danny in his essay.

6:38 PM This just in: 

Hi Brother, I lift your daughter, her husband, family yourself and friends to the Lord this morning. I imagine Becky holding onto the precious baby hugging it tight before the Lord. 


6:22 PM One of the topics I'm sure will be discussed at the apologetics conference in California this September is the historical origins of the Gospels. As you know, I argue for Matthean priority because the church fathers held to this view. My view is that there are two apparently conflicting historical understandings of the order of the Synoptic Gospels, what I call the Clementine view (named after the church father Clement of Alexandria who stated that the Gospels containing genealogies -- Matthew and Luke -- came first), and the Augustinian view (which represents the canonical order found in most of our Bibles today). As I note in my book Why Four Gospels?, it is possible for Mark to be regarded from two different aspects as both the second and the third—third in order of actual composition, but second in order of authority as the work of the apostle Peter. Thus the canonical order of Matthew-Mark-Luke places the works of apostles (Matthew and Mark = Peter) first. In this way, the Gospel of Mark functions as a "canonical bridge" as it were between the church's earliest Gospel, that of Matthew (written primarily for Jewish Christians), and the next Gospel to be written, that of Luke (written largely for Gentile converts stemming from Paul's missionary efforts in the larger Roman Empire).

Does this sound strange? It shouldn't. Much the same phenomenon occurs with the position of the book of Acts, which is the second volume of Luke's history of the church (Luke-Acts). Why did the church take Acts, which was written before John, and place it after that writing? The reason apparently lies in the desire of the early church to provide an explanation of how the church got from the ministry of Jesus (as portrayed in the Gospel accounts) to the organized ministration as seen in the epistles. Acts alone provides the bridge of understanding between these phases of the development of earliest Christianity.

Acts also provides an insight into the dynamics of early church life in Jerusalem and elsewhere. As such, it makes the perfect backdrop for our understanding of what a New Testament church should look like. Which is why I am so excited about my forthcoming book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, which draws heavily from Acts. I am told the book is now at the printers. That's pretty cool, considering that my life has been crazy of late. I do hope to take this talk on the road from time to time. Any excuse to talk about the beauty of Jesus in contrast to the ugliness of church politics is fine with me. Which reminds me: I got this email today:

Dave, from time to time when I've skimmed through your teachings, I seem to come across a common theme. It is about churches being pastored, not by one man, but by many. I know that you have probably written books on the subject, and you quote other books, but do you have an essay you could send me? I am really studying 1 Cor. 14:26, with the emphasis on "each of you" and would like far more information from one who has studied this subject for years.

That's a great question. Of course, I devote an entire chapter to this topic in my book The Jesus Paradigm. But the question was about essays, so let's see if I can come up with a couple:

How's that for starters? Of course, it really doesn't matter one whit what I think. But -- I do feel like God would have me speak and write on the subject. Anyway, start searching the Scriptures for yourself and your life is likely to be thrown into a vortex of business. We never outgrow our need to grow!

9:24 AM Last night I was at the hospital with one of my daughters and her husband. They had taken their as-yet unborn son, at full term and due any day now, to the doctor's yesterday for a checkup. The doctors couldn't detect a heart beat. A few hours later, labor was induced and he was delivered. He had gone to heaven a few days before. The "Way" lived up to its name as all around me stood people who understood that following the Way of Jesus doesn't preclude us from suffering and terrible loss. Yet hope shone in the darkness. Genuine, tangible hope. Sometimes things are great and we hardly think about the evils all around us. Sometimes things are hard, terribly hard, and there's no way to make it better. Sometimes life wins. Sometimes death intrudes its ugly face. But death never really wins. It feels selfish to even say this in the face of death, but I think I understand what this loss feels like. For a man who is 62 years old with a huge irreparable hole in his heart, I think I can imagine what my precious daughter and her husband are experiencing right now. There are so many things I love about life. Just yesterday I took 5 of my grandkids and their mom to the pool where we swam and played till we were exhausted. Such unadulterated fun. I assured them that this wouldn't be the last time Papa B took them swimming. That same day I made a trip to the hospital. It seemed so surreal. I realized again how incredibly fragile all of life is. It's all something much bigger than any one of us. And yet there is hope. There is always hope. "Look! Look!" wrote the apostle John (Rev. 21:3-4). "God has moved into our neighborhood, making His home with men and women! We are His people, and He is our God. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be gone for good -- tears gone, crying gone, pain gone. Look! I'm making everything new!"

Every single day, no matter what is happening in our lives, whether good or evil, whether gain or loss, whether it happens at a public pool or in a hospital delivery room, He is making everything new, and we are part of this new creation every single day we are alive on this planet. Which is why I am hopeful this morning in the midst of the tears I'm shedding. Once again, I've realized that my life is not ruled by "circumstances." I am His son. I wear His worth like a crown. And it is He who is ultimately responsible for life, for our lives. Thank goodness for that.

Thursday, June 19

4:14 PM With summer school drawing to a close, I'll be free to resume my travels, and boy am I looking forward to it. Not that anyone is interested necessarily, but here are some of the trips I hope to make in the coming months:

1) Not this but next weekend, I plan on flying to Dulles to hang out with Thomas and Lesly Hudgins for a couple of days. I have a suspicion they will drag me into DC to see the sights as well as to eat at their favorite Honduran restaurant. Hey, I'm game!

2) On July 7 I leave for the shores of Hawaii to spend a few days surfing in Kailua before holding a conference on the myth of adolescence at Calvary Chapel West Oahu. The conference date is Saturday, July 12. They have also graciously asked me to speak in their Sunday services on the 13th.

3) My August trip has me a mere 10 miles outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to speak at the Middle Creek Conference Center both Saturday evening and Sunday morning, August 30-31. Prior to that, I plan to fly up to New York to see Liz and Karen and all the Rondeaus.

4) In September, 412 Church of San Jacinto, California, is hosting its first annual apologetics conference on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 13-14. I am one of the three panelists who will be fielding questions on Saturday night, then on Sunday morning I have been asked to bring all three messages. Somewhere in there I'm hoping to catch a wave or two at Huntington Beach to remind me of the "good old days" when I was a student at Biola. September will also see me on a plane flying back to Asia to continue a Greek class I began there a couple of months ago.

5) The big event for October is a four-day Bible conference at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest. Looking forward to spending time with my good friend and former student Michael McCray.

6) In November it's back to Odessa to teach at the seminary there ...

7) ...while December has me returning to Asia to continue my Greek class.

I've neglected to say very much about my trip to Australia that is planned for March of 2015, but I am told it is coming together quite nicely. I will be lecturing in several theological colleges (both in Sydney and Adelaide), then teaching a 3-day class in Fiji, Lord willing.

I begin all of these travels fully aware of how blessed a man I am. It's not that I wanted to live a single life or be a bachelor, but I want to go forward with eyes wide open to the opportunities to serve King Jesus as He makes me aware of them. I don't want to be seduced by my culture into thinking that with the loss of Becky I am destined to slow down and give up on life. On the contrary, life has never more intense or thrilling. No matter how difficult it is to live without her, I can't convince myself to slow down and put the gears into neutral. At the end of the day, there are far worse positions to be in. I am still healthy enough to travel. I am still young enough to dream big dreams. I am still stubborn enough to shrug off all the little aches and pains one gets when one turns 62. I have no idea what surprises my walk with Jesus holds in the future. But I find it all so incredibly satisfying.

Praise be to God.

3:44 PM "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas Edison.

3:32 PM Today our Greek class had quite a treat. Alfie and Joseph Mosse shared with us about their ministry in Ukraine as well as updated us on the political situation within that nation.

Be sure to check out their website, Running the Race. We also reviewed for our take-home exam over chapters 17-21. Tomorrow is the last day of week 5. Only one more week to go. Hang in there, yall!

Wednesday, June 18

10:03 PM I'd like you to meet Alfie and Julie Mosse and their three children who are just back from Ukraine on home assignment for the year. First stop? Rosewood Farm for some R & R. I had Alfie in my Greek class years and years ago in Southern California. He has remained a good friend ever since. He teaches at Odessa Theological Seminary, where I will be teaching again this November, so der Herr will. Here we are enjoying Mexican cuisine in South Boston tonight.

Here's another great picture from today's activities -- a class in Spanish for our missions students from Latin America.

I had the privilege of sharing with them my pix of Ethiopia this afternoon. Thank you, Edgar Aponte (far right), for the kind invitation. I know I'm not unique; all of us have missionary stories to tell. But I think the stories of God's goodness in Ethiopia are marvelous and I never tire of sharing them with others.

Finally, more haying today. First cutting is finished, praise the Lord -- and without it raining on the hay once!

All in all, a great day. What made your day so great? Have you thanked the Lord for it yet? How ungrateful I can be at times. What a great tragedy that is!

Till tomorrow, Dios te bendiga.

Tuesday, June 17

6:50 PM I swam laps again today. Trying to get in shape for the Hawaiian surf I'm likely to encounter in a couple of weeks. The heat index got up to 100 degrees today but when work has to be done it has to be done.

Tomorrow will be even hotter. Tough life, eh?

6:30 AM How long has it been since you prayed the prayer that Jesus must have prayed daily: "Father, please use me to reach the lost today"?

6:26 AM "Love is not blind -- it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less." Julius Gordon.

6:13 AM "Popular opinion is the greatest lie in the world." Thomas Carlyle. 

6:03 AM The sky last night:

Monday, June 16

7:24 PM In a couple of weeks I return to Hawaii. Can't wait. It happens that recently I was reading a book on Christian leadership that contained one of the funniest examples of etymologizing I think I have ever run across. The author had taken a trip to Hawaii and noticed how he and his wife were constantly greeted with the word "aloha." The author noted:

"Aloha," we discovered, means so much more than "hello." "Alo" means presence and "ha" means breath. Literally, aloha means the presence of the divine breath. To say "aloha" is to quite literally ask, "How may I be the presence of the divine to you?" It's a wonderful prayer, rooted in the creation story of God breathing life into man, and an awesome representation of what I must do for the next generation -- breathe life into them (Jeff Myers, Handoff, pp. 76-77).

Just think! All those years I spent growing up in Hawaii I thought "aloha" simply meant "welcome" or "goodbye" or "love"!

7:10 PM I'm über-jazzed about the release of Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. It's the most exciting thing I've written in a long time blah blah blah. Seriously, there are few aspects of Christianity today that require a more radical reappraisal than our ecclesiology. For example, we tend to think of ministry as something exercised only by the proper authorities, whereas the New Testament views ministry as belonging to the entire church. If you look squarely at the New Testament you will also see that there is no place for status and its accompanying titles. (We Baptists love to point the finger at an Anglican bishop reveling in the title "My Lord" while conveniently overlooking our own use of such titles as "Reverend" and "Senior Pastor.") In the New Testament, we find that ministers were not normally paid for what they did. This would seem to be true of elders as well (see Acts 20). And practically nothing is said in the New Testament about parachuting our leaders in from outside the church. Leadership in the New Testament was home-grown, and leaders were trained on the job, not farmed out to seminaries. I know of nothing today that would prevent us from returning to these New Testament practices other than our own tired adherence to tradition. If it seems that the New Testament patterns are radical, this is so only because we have been disobedient for so long. I have a suspicion that the place to start is learning how to ask the right questions.

Of course, it is one thing to recognize what the New Testament teaches. It is quite another to actually do it. The cup must be emptied and washed before it is filled again. And only the Spirit of God is capable of doing that. The Holy Spirit imparted power for church living in New Testament times. And He will do the same for us if we but ask.

2:12 PM Just back from campus. I have more house cleaning to do before our guests from Ukraine arrive tomorrow. Needless to say, this will be a very busy week. I loved having lunch with Edgar Aponte today at the Olive Garden.

Edgar is the director of Hispanic Leadership Development at the seminary. He hails from the Dominican Republic. We talked about missions and missions and then some more about missions. Loved it! He also saw to it that the seminary's blog (Between the Times) now has a Spanish edition (Entre los Tiempos). You can read it here. The latest entry asking whether pastors should also be counselors will really get you thinking. Unlike me (who was tweeting long before there was anything like Twitter), you can find him on Twitter. I am eager to get better acquainted with Edgar in the years ahead. Gracias por tu amistad, amigo!

Today, as you can see, we cut all the fields and will bale shortly. I'm doing all round bales for the first cutting, saving the more leafy grass for the second cutting (if the Lord provides one this year).

As I sit here, the farm is quiet all around me. I know deep down that this is the place for me, the place where I can recharge my batteries and also minister to others in the name of Jesus. Needless to say, I owe a lot of this to Becky. It was her vision that we start our own little "L'Abri" patterned after Edith and Francis Schaeffer's retreat center in Switzerland. Meanwhile, I am so grateful for all of you. Just know that I read and reread your emails and take courage from your thoughts and messages. Thank you for walking bedside me during this crazy journey called "life without Becky." I'll keep you posted as the journey continues.

6:28 AM "By perseverance the snail reached the ark." Charles Spurgeon.

6:20 AM "I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Edison.

Sunday, June 15

2:36 PM I woke up this morning and stared at the blank space next to me, the space that used to be occupied be her, the mother of my children. On Father's Day she would always cook for me my favorite dinner -- fried chicken and mashed potatoes. But today she is nowhere to be found. The brightest light in the sky, the wisest of the wise women I've ever known, the most dedicated follower of the King has gone to her eternal reward, and I am without her today --  and feeling it. There is a big difference between the decision to go on with your life and the feeling as though you are going on with your life. It is a merciful Father who strips us of what we need to be stripped of when we need to be stripped of it, just as a rose bush needs to be stripped of its fading blossoms. Relinquishment is always a part of the grieving process, and some days I do better than others. But I can tell you this: No child of yours can ever take the place of their mother. No woman can take the place of your wife.

I just had to get away today, get away from the house and the memories, so I did something I had not done in a very long time. I used to be an avid swimmer. In fact, I was a California life guard at one time. So today I found an Olympic-sized pool in Halifax County and swam laps, lap after lap after lap, crawl stroke mostly (my best stroke), turning my mind away, willing it away like a man swivels a gun barrel. But then I thought of her again, powerless to stop that vision. I saw the life ebb out of her emaciated body. At the time, the thing was almost too much for me, but no one knew it. Oddly enough, as I was swimming today I had tears in my eyes. All of a sudden I was aware that I was crying, weeping tears of joy for her and tears of sorrow for myself. I kept telling myself it's not true, that she's not really gone, that I will soon hear her voice calling me to the dinner table to munch on a juicy drumstick. I don't know how to type about this without being totally honest. A half of me has been taken away, and I will never be whole like I used to be.

And that, my friends, is why this Father's Day, my first without Becky, is so special to me. Once again God is asking me to do the impossible, just as perhaps He is asking you to do the same thing today, whether that means moving from a much-loved neighborhood or giving up an unhealthy relationship or retiring from a job you feel yourself absolutely irreplaceable in. I am being forced to learn again not only the pain of renunciation but the sweetness and joy of a yielded heart. That empty space beside me in bed, that voice that will never again call to me from the dining room -- I can choose what to make of them. I can even learn to make them an offering of love. Oh, how the flesh hates this thing, this giving up and giving back and surrendering! But there is no other way except the cross. A servant is not greater than his Master. If we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him.

When you are experiencing grief it is hard to think of anything but grief. Amy Carmichael once wrote of being so disabled by grief that she could not think or pray but instead, like the Psalmist (Psalm 141:2), could only lift her hands towards heaven and cry out in pain. One of the most soul-fortifying pictures I have of Becky in my mind is of her lifting her feeble hands toward her Savior and whispering to me in a soft voice, "He is trustworthy, He is trustworthy." Becky was a remarkable woman, wife, and mother, not because she never suffered, but because she responded to that suffering (even on her death bed) with trust. Neither she nor I understood why God was taking her away from me. It was not our business to know. Our job was simply to accept His answer -- the grace that He gives in time of need.

And so here I am, certain that I'm not the same man I was a year ago on Father's Day. I think I've grown since then. I hope I have. I've learned to weep more freely and serve more sacrificially and love more deeply. I hope it's okay that I shared all this with you on this special occasion, because I want you to know that He truly cares about me and He truly cares about you, whatever pain you are facing. Healing might take a long time, but it can come to even the most shattered heart.

Saturday, June 14

8:20 PM Here's hoping that all of you dads out there have a wonderful Father's Day tomorrow. They say that publishing a book is the closest thing men will ever come to giving birth. If that's the case, I'm passing out cigars. Seven Marks of a New Testament Church is now available for preorders!

Go here to check out the special preorder price. If I counted correctly, this is now my seventh publication with Energion Publications, not counting Becky's autobiography (which I edited) or the forthcoming Spanish version of my Learn to Read New Testament Greek. That makes Henry my favorite publisher (Baker Book House has only 6 of my titles)! My life is filled with blessings. I am grateful beyond words.

Of course, in my new book I take the "Christian" position on what a New Testament church should look like. Maybe, maybe not. That's for you to decide. A lot of nonsense has been written about how the characteristics of the book of Acts are impossible for churches today. Impossible, yes – unless the Spirit of God is at work! I believe there is an incredible awakening sweeping across the churches in our nation today. People are realizing just how far today's institutionalized church has departed from the New Testament. They are convinced that the Scriptural patterns for doing church are as valid in 2014 as they were in the book of Acts. When I was born again at the age of 8, I had no idea that following Jesus would be so demanding, so radically life-changing. Today, like then, I need to simply take God at His word. I must realize that my once-for-all decision many years ago now involves moment-by-moment choices to do things His way or my way.

Friends, it's one way or the other. His way or my way. May it be no to self, and yes to the Lord Jesus!

And now for that cigar ....

11:05 AM Can I bore you with yet another very kind endorsement, this time from Thomas Hudgins?

Just when I thought I had read my favorite book by Dave Black, out comes this one! Whether God just saved you or you’ve been walking with Jesus for many years, this book is for you. Jesus says in Matt. 16:18, “I will build My church.” From Jesus’ perspective the church was future, it was his possession, and he was its architect! Today, we are tempted to forget about its inception, to view it as someone else’s possession, and to build it with human minds and hands. Second to a wrong view of the gospel, nothing can hurt the Great Commission more than a wrong view of the church. Black's Seven Marks of a New Testament Church is a necessary reminder that we are to "do" church on God's terms, not our own. I, for one, have greatly benefited from Black’s careful study of Acts 2:37–47. Believe me when I say, we can’t afford to neglect these eleven verses if we hope to see God turn the world “upside down” in our day (Acts 17:6).       

9:48 AM Live on Oahu? Please join us on Saturday, July 12.

The event is being hosted by our good friends at Calvary Chapel West Oahu. Like I said before, I'll also be spending a few days just hanging out at Kailua Beach where I used to live and surf all the time. It's funny, but when I'm in the Islands I feel like an entirely different person. I go from being a hard-working professor to a lazy beach bum in no time whatsoever!

9:18 AM Three cheers for Lesly, America's newest citizen! Whoo-hoo!

8:42 AM Yet another endorsement has come in, this time from one of my elder-pastors, Jason Evans:

I believe it is fair to say that I know Brother David Black. He has been my professor, and I have been one of his pastors. On a trip to Ethiopia, I recall asking his wife (Becky), “What are Dr. Black’s strengths?” She responded, “Seeing the big picture and making it simple for everyone to understand.” Seven Marks of a New Testament Church is such a book. Clear, concise, engaging, and oozing with heavenly wisdom that will stir your heart and mind to want “gospel-maturity” for the glory of Christ.

Appreciate it, Jason!

7:52 AM Yesterday in Greek class, a student asked me how and why my perspective on missions changed so radically. "When did the Great Commission become a priority in your life"? Well, as most of you already know, for years Becky and I tried to live out the Great Commission in our marriage. (See my essay, A Great Commission Marriage.) I teach in what is intentionally and unapologetically called a "Great Commission Seminary." I have a seminary president who argues that every professor at Southeastern ought to be a Great Commission professor, and that every student who attends here ought to be a Great Commission student. (Please see his response to the accusation at the SBC convention in Phoenix that SEBTS has a "Calvinistic" agenda. His answer hits the ball out of the park.) And what is that commission? What were Jesus' final words? What were His "final marching orders" (Danny Akin)? It was not to gather but to go. I like to put it this way to my students:

The gathering exists for the going.

And I do not mean "going" in a purely theoretical sense either. For many years I did not go. I was of course doing many things for Christ, such as preaching and publishing and teaching my classes. It was for others to go, not for me. My job was to support missions, not to be a missionary. Then God began teaching me that the Great Commission is for every Christian, and that includes me. When we learn to run to it and embrace it, when we can habitually plan our lives and schedules in such a way that we become intentional about sharing Jesus' love with others, then, I think, we've begun to live the life of reasonable service described in Rom. 12:1-2. We must be willing to be more than good Greek teachers, good churchmen and women, good givers and supporters of missions. We must do more than meet together to pump each other up. We must be willing to let our lives be broken and smashed in order for the light of the Gospel to break out. We must be willing to stand alongside our suffering brothers and sisters in the world.

There are many practical ways we can enter into this fellowship of suffering without ever leaving the borders of North America. The biblical requirement is that we should voluntarily go out of our way to leave our soft, cushy pews (or, for you home churchers, your sofas) and accept assignments that involve suffering and sacrifice, inconvenience, discomfort, and more. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not promoting agnosticism when it comes to the gathering of the Body. Paul is clear that the purpose of the assembled church is mutual edification. But why assemble if it is not to spur each other on to love and good works, to encourage one another to serve the expansion of the kingdom? I think Paul is a good example of what I'm talking about. He didn't have to experience beatings and imprisonments and afflictions. I don't believe he ever desired suffering for its own sake. Instead, he took a calculated risk. Here's what he said: "I do not count my life dear to myself so that I might finish my course with joy and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). Paul is saying that his sufferings as a missionary authenticated or validated his ministry. For Paul, suffering for others is the proof of discipleship. All but one of the original twelve apostles were martyred for their faith. They were simply walking in the footsteps of their Savior, who said that a servant is not above his master.

The bottom line for me? Let's get the salt out of the salt shaker! Let's live lives that are a positive sacrifice for the good of others outside of the church. Jesus says to us, in effect, "All I have to offer you is what I have had -- loneliness, rejection, suffering, hardship, pain, sweat, death. I have set before you an example of what it means to be a Christian -- putting others before yourselves. Above all, I came to seek and to save that which was lost. Will you do any less?"

It is the Great Commission that ought to drive everything we do as followers of Jesus. Some people think they can be good Christians by attending the fellowship, singing songs, praying prayers, teaching one another, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. We must return to Jesus' revolutionary, cross-based ministry. How different is this kind of self-sacrificing Christianity from the comfort-seeking, self-serving, ingrown religion so often practiced in our churches. This Jesus who humbled Himself as a servant and who died as a criminal -- this same Jesus is the One who was always pressing on to preach the Gospel in the next village. His heart's cry was for the dead and the dying, for the lost, the sick, the undone. He was willing to let everything go for the sake of lost souls.

When I finally came to understand that this very same Jesus was desiring to live His missional life through me, I felt as if He had shoved a knife into my heart. But finally I knew the work He had for me. The true test of my commitment is not how much I give or even what I believe but how I live. God is not just asking us to give our money to missions but to make missions the core of our lives, the central passion in all we do. Hence, I must insist that Christ meant for His church to be primarily a missionary organism. The church is the living presence of a God whose heart throbs with love for the lost and a passion for dying souls. The church is Christ's Body, but it is a Body He gave for the world. I therefore ask my dear readers to consider: Are you willing, as was Jesus, to let everything go for the sake of lost souls and for the 1.6 billion unreached people in this world, to give your life to recapture just one inch of territory from darkness and bring it into the light? If and when the Great Commission becomes more than just another option for gathered believers, it is there that I believe I will be able to recognize the true church.

7:30 AM This week I hope to put the final touches on my ministry trips this year. In each of these places I will be speaking the Word. Between now and Christmas these trips include New York, Ukraine, East Asia (twice), and Hawaii, Lord willing. You can see where I'm going with this, right? I will pay for all of these trips myself. May I recommend to all of you a delightful book by Christopher Little called Mission in the Way of Paul (New York: Lang, 2005)? It's the author's doctoral dissertation at Fuller Seminary. His is one of several works reflecting recent advances in biblical theology centered on Paul and his work as a missionary.

Among other things, Little shows that any attempt to use Paul as a model for financially supporting cross-cultural workers is groundless. Though Paul granted liberty to others in this matter, he himself refused to operate in this way. Little is also convinced that contemporary Christianity has departed from Paul in its practice of providing for regularly salaried local church leaders, noting that salaries in the U.S. for pastors ($16.7 billion annually) is more than the total amount given by all Christians, globally, for foreign missions. I list here only a few of the many takeaways I got from reading this excellent book:

  • Paul never sought support from his churches.

  • At times he benefited from his churches in other ways (hospitality, lodging, love gifts), but these were in no way payment for services. Hence Paul can never be conceived as a hired worker of the church.

  • By offering the Gospel "free of charge," Paul was able to reach those at the bottom of the social ladder, seeing that his services did not entail a financial fee. In Paul we see a person willingly stepping down the ladder of social status in order to help everyone, including slaves.

  • Paul's financial independence enabled him to protect the independence of the Gospel. This independence did not come easily for Paul. According to first century sources, the usual work day consisted of daylight hours only. Paul claims that he worked "night and day" (1 Thess. 2:9), presumably beginning work long before sunrise and continuing through much of the day and evening. Paul thus showed how extraordinarily industrious he was. Paul’s practice of preaching free of charge is to be contrasted with that of his opponents, whom he can describe as "retailing" (kapeleuontes) the word of God (2 Cor. 2:17).

  • Besides his policy of working for a living, Paul must have viewed the secular workplace as a venue for sharing the Gospel. Thus Paul is best understood as a diligent leather-worker who was also busy preaching the Gospel and serving the churches.

  • Paul's life as a self-sustaining worker in service to the Gospel was intended to be an example for other believers to emulate. Paul’s life and labors were paradigmatic for the church. This is clearly seen in his Miletus discourse to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Leaders are to refrain from idleness, provide for themselves by working, and thereby gain the respect of outsiders. Paul’s practice of self-support is reinforced by Luke’s reference to an agraphon of Jesus (Acts 20:35). "It is more blessed to give than to receive" does not mean "It is blessed to give and cursed to receive." Neither Paul nor Jesus forbade accepting support. In Paul's case, the saying means that it is more blessed to work and thereby have something to give to the needy than to receive support from the churches. (In passing, this is one of the reasons Becky and I were fully self-supporting in our mission work in Ethiopia: Why should money be used to pay for our expenses when the needs in Ethiopia are vastly greater?)

  • The notoriously difficult passage in 1 Tim. 5:17-18 refers, not to pay for fulltime workers, but to tokens of gratitude for spiritual help received. Such honoraria, Little argues, are free-will offerings, the very antithesis to a regular paid salary.

  • In the case of other apostles who, unlike Paul, were not craftsmen but fishermen or farmers and who had to give up their work to missionize in faraway places, the "privilege of support" was an option. Apparently Peter and the other apostles made use of this right on their missionary journeys.

  • Finally, Little notes that Paul gladly received gifts from others (the Philippians, for example), but he never asked for gifts. In fact, in Phil. 4:10-20 (where Paul acknowledges receipt of the Philippians' gifts), he makes it clear that he is not asking for more gifts!

This is a wonderful book about missions that should challenge the church to its very foundations. Paul's one passion in life was to see God glorified by making His name known to the nations. Moreover, he sought to preach the Gospel in such a way that no one could accuse him of serving Christ for worldly gain. What a contrast to so much that today passes for "missions" under the control of bloated bureaucracies. Paul never established a missions agency, never lived on a missions compound, never built buildings of any kind. He had no "ten-year plan" other than to be obedient. Paul's style of working as an itinerant evangelist made it possible for him to urge the churches to take responsibility for their own life from the beginning. He modeled for them a relational lifestyle characterized by personal self-sacrifice. He expected the churches he founded to manage their own affairs and pay their own way, even though many of them were extremely poor (2 Cor. 8:2). Even though Paul was involved with the Antiochene church's famine contribution (Acts 11:27-30) and the Gentile collection for the Jerusalem church (1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8-9), he focused on the development of local resources for the growth of the churches as opposed to importing resources from elsewhere. Just as Paul was self-supporting, so were his churches.

I'll conclude this post with a real-life illustration. Recently I got an email from a professor who is raising $5,000 for an upcoming mission trip. I will not give him a penny. However, what I will tell him is this: I will match, up to $1,000, every dollar you take from your own savings/investments/retirement and apply to this trip. Folks, discipleship, if it is genuine, is always costly. If it's not costing us something, I rather doubt it's the kind of followership Jesus was talking about.

6:56 AM I love endorsements! This one comes from D. Kevin Brown.

Well, Dave Black has done it again! In his book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church he brings to light the fact that much of what is being done in our 21st-century churches bears little to no resemblance to what the Bible teaches. Ouch! But, it's true! Dave calls us to take a look at how we "do church" and seek to bring reform. It's not that we've chosen to be disobedient or unbiblical in an intentional way. Yet, much like ocean tides eat away a sand castle, biblical truths are being eroded by our man-made traditions and philosophies regarding church leadership, polity and fellowship. Anyone desiring to lead or be a part of what looks like a 1st-century church should heartily welcome the simple, yet profound principles outlined by Dave from the book of Acts. Thanks again for challenging the status quo Brother Dave!  

Thanks, Kevin. The check is in the mail.

6:45 AM This email arrived yesterday from one of Becky's Biola roommates:

Doug and I were saddened to read of Becky's home-going in the current Biola magazine.  I had the privilege of being her roommate one semester at Biola and respected her tremendously.  She was single-minded and focused even in college when many of us were just learning to fly on our own.  All she wanted to do was serve the Lord with a full heart. 

Amen to that. Becky's life was a very simple reminder to lay aside our schedules, our plans, and our schemes to serve Him in the power of the Spirit. He wants to carry us along to maturity and service, relying on Him for mercy and grace in time of need. 

Friday, June 13

4:55 PM Well, Father's Day is coming up this Sunday. I sometimes find myself regretting the fact that I never had a dad while growing up. I've spent a lifetime trying to come to terms with what my parents' divorce when I was 3 meant in my life. So for all you dad-less dads out there, I offer a few Father's Day thoughts. I hope it's okay.

1) You will never outgrow the heartache of being a fatherless child. Yes, I realize that you do outgrow your self-loathing eventually, but the pain of the loss never subsides. Today, even at 62, I still feel a bit of the sorrow. I still feel an emptiness that comes from never having had a dad to talk to. I am not "over" it completely but I have changed and have grown because of it.

2) Being a good parent to your own children (and grandchildren) never gets easier. You will always struggle with low self-esteem. But keep on doing your best anyway. It is enough for God.

3) Realize that you had absolutely no power over the circumstances that altered the course of your life. It simply happened -- providentially of course -- but it happened without your choice or say-so. Get over it. You have your own life to live. The divorce had nothing to do with your ability or goodness or lack of virtue. Divorces happen to humans, because humans are sinful. Do not let your life be defined by that tragedy or by any other tragedy for that matter. Your loss was no different than what was experienced by thousands and millions of other children. The loss is real; but you are greater than the loss.

4) Say it out loud: "God will see me through whatever I'm facing." You simply have to adjust to it, just like a returning army vet has to adjust to a severe trauma that swept over him like a wave in the war zone. God will use these experiences redemptively in our lives if we let Him. He promises to redeem our stories because that's just the kind of a God He is.

5) Remember, if you lost your dad in childhood, the pain of that loss will never leave you. No one can mitigate your loneliness for you. No one can face it for you. But you will always find people with whom you can share life together. They may have never lost a father in childhood, but they have mourned and suffered too. They understand. Together, we can experience the unconditional love and joy of God.

59 years ago I lost my earthly father to divorce. I am told that, just before he died of cancer, he received Christ. If true, this means that one day I will see him in heaven. I can't wait.

I love you, dad!

54 years ago I gained my Heavenly Father through faith. Today I luxuriate in His love for me. He gives me more security than I could have ever dreamed possible. And He'll keep on loving me no matter what. My story is really His story, the story He is writing in my life, pointing to a reality beyond itself to a reality as only He knows and sees it. Never have I felt so broken. Yet never have I been so whole. All because of that day in 1960 when He adopted me into His family.

Thank you, Dad! I love you! I love you!

2:40 PM Hey there, guys and gals! Hope you're still having a great summer. I'm having the time of my life. Right now I've got lots of pots on the fire. For one thing, I'm teaching 6 weeks of beginning Greek. For another, I'm finishing up publishing projects that have been simmering on the back burner for a while. In my newest book, It's All Greek to Me: Confessions of an Unlikely Academic, I made the following statement:

I never set out to become a professional Greek teacher. I "slid" into my teaching career, no doubt with more than a touch of foible about me.

That is absolutely true! Which is why I took no offense at a comment that appeared the other day on a website published by a fellow Greek lover:

I’ve just started at Bible college this year and I’m very disappointed with the Greek textbook we use (Black). I know a textbook has different goals than a reference grammar, but while it may be great at teaching people how to parse Greek it makes almost no attempt to teach you how to understand it. There are probably better textbooks, but I have to wonder why it was even published. And the back of the book says it’s one of the most linguistically informed ones!

Now that is quite a comment! I responded as follows:

Hi Dannii. You wrote, “There are probably better textbooks, but I have to wonder why it was even published.” Believe me, no one was more surprised than I when B & H asked me to write a beginning grammar for them. Recently I published a book called It’s All Greek to Me: Confessions of an Unlikely Academic that documents how I slid into my career path as a Greek teacher and how I ended up writing so many books on Greek. If you will send me your mailing address (my email is I will be happy to send you a copy of the book gratis. Best wishes and all the best with your Greek studies. Sincerely, Dave Black

So there you have it, folks. You won't find me whining about comments like that. Confessions of an Unlikely Academic is intended to be a comprehensive overview of how God took a boy from the beach at Kailua and made him into a guy who gets to do what he loves to do and even get paid for it. In this light, I just noticed that my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek has now been in print for over 25 years! To those who say I never had the right to write a book on linguistics, I say "You are absolutely correct!" I am deeply humbled and honored to have provided what many consider to be the first book that truly integrated linguistics and New Testament Greek at the student level. It opened a flood gate for others to follow, so that today there is nothing unusual about books on Greek that attempt to integrate linguistic insights. Honestly, I would not have written that book had another more qualified scholar come along and beat me to the punch. And I have no doubt that future writers will produce books that far excel mine. To quote Confessions again:

It is hoped that through reading my books the next generation of Greek students will produce their own texts that will far exceed mine both in quality and depth.

I truly mean that. Still, all this aside, I encourage you to stick with whatever Greek textbook you are using and try to master its contents. Most of us cover the same ground but do so with different nuances. Anyway, I encourage you to learn New Testament Greek. As you will see if you read my autobiography, anyone can learn the language -- even a surfer from Hawaii!


Thursday, June 12

6:53 AM Good morning to you! I've been preparing for my Ph.D. course on the exegesis of Philippians for the fall and have been jotting down some initial thoughts about exegesis. I want to be clear that I'm exploring this train of thought. Here goes:

1) In studying exegesis, the emphasis must always be on "praxis" as opposed to mere abstract thinking. We need to "do" exegesis and not just teach it.

2) This means that exegesis must be incarnational, must be brought down to earth, must always be oriented to the pastoral needs of the church.

3) In my view, exegesis and theology belong together. As Paul says in Rom. 12:1, we must present our "bodies" to God as living sacrifices because deeds can be done only through bodies. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, His heart and mouth.

4) Thus exegesis — the science of interpreting Holy Scripture — is an eminently practical discipline. The Bible itself stresses the importance of practicing the truth. The apostle Paul places an extraordinarily high value on deeds (see Eph. 2:10).

5) That said, exegesis, as I understand the task, is a high-risk enterprise. We study so that we may love and obey Christ. And He promises us trouble.

6) In short, exegesis is from beginning to end a way of life. Great theology must always produce relevant Christianity. Once this is recognized, we can begin to separate ourselves from the dark seductiveness of modern-day Gnosticism. At the heart of exegesis lie sacrifice and service, endurance and suffering, and above all fidelity to the Great Commission and a rejection of any lesser cause.

These are monumental issues. I trust that my students will leave the class championing the inextricable link between theology and spirituality, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, knowing the truth and practicing it. We need to rediscover the fact that exegesis does not mean merely the study of Scripture but rather the relational activity of trusting, living, obeying, serving, and glorifying God, through death if necessary. Knowing Scripture, in other words, involves obedience. It is the chief function of exegesis to unleash the power of the Lord in the midst of His people so that we do His will and thus bring glory to His name. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep My commandments." To live this way is to revolt against everything in our lives that is inconsistent with the reign of God. To honor the King rightly, we must never forget this.

Long live the King!


Wednesday, June 11

3:33 PM I'm taking a (much needed) break from correcting the page proofs for Seven Marks of a New Testament Church and my related insatiable obsession with writing to get some farm work done today. In between I managed to have my annual physical checkup and make a shopping trip to town. Anyway, the temps have turned way too hot to work outdoors anymore so I thought I'd update the blog. I am so proud of my summer Greek class. Here they are working in groups of two parsing verbs in preparation for tonight's take home exam over the entire indicative mood.

Undoubtedly the best approach to verb morphology is one that sees the morpheme and not the word as the minimal unit of meaning in language. I heartily recommend this approach if you've never tried it. Let me just say this about my textbook Learn to Read Testament Greek. You'll be memorizing much less and (hopefully) understanding much more when you have approached the verbs through the eyes of a linguist. At the same time, if you're a Greek student you can't just skip over vocabulary memorization. (Vocab is simply learning a whole bunch of lexical morphemes, by the way.) There's simply nothing illogical about the Greek language. It makes sense -- even the so-called "exceptions." At any rate, I've tried to teach the language in a logical way, but I suppose the real test will come tomorrow when the students grade their exams. My hat certainly goes off to these guys and gals who have sacrificed their summer vacation to mastering the language of the New Testament. God bless you, each one!

6:30 AM As the U.S. Open gets underway here in North Carolina, I'm reminded of a great golf victory about ten years ago by the unlikeliest of heroes. It's a story for all of us who have ever said to ourselves, "Why, I could never do that!" Really?

It was 2003, and American Ben Curtis had just won the British Open, beating such world-class players as Thomas Bjorn, Davis Love, Vijay Singh, and Tiger Woods.

The year before Curtis was playing on the Hooters Tour — you know, the restaurant chain that specializes in, um, fried chicken. However, when Bjorn's 35-foot birdie attempt on the 18th green failed, Curtis was the surprised and shocked Open champion. "Surprised" champion to everyone but the champion himself, that is. Throughout the competition, Curtis, ranked 396th in the world coming in, was confident and in total control. Not over-confident or braggadocious, mind you. Anyone playing in the Biggest of the Big would feel some nervousness. "I was shaking in my boots, obviously, but I was just out there very focused on what I had to do and let my work speak for itself," said Curtis. "And if it was good enough, fine, if not, I can live with it."

Here's the attitude that brought victory to Curtis: Focus on what you have to do, do the best you can, and be satisfied with the results — whatever they are. What a refreshing approach to professional sports. Listen again to Curtis: "I came in here this week just trying to play the best I could and hopefully make the cut and compete on the weekend. And obviously I did that and went out there and probably played the best weekend of my life." When he rolled in a 6-footer for par on the 18th, Bjorn was at 3-under but in the process of double-bogeying the 16th. Love, Singh, and Woods were at even par.

“When I looked up at the scoreboard when I finished and saw that I was two back, and [Bjorn] had three holes to play, and those are not easy holes—I knew 17 and 18 especially were playing really difficult—and I knew I needed to make that putt to have a chance," Curtis said, "I knew I needed that putt on 18 to win—to have a chance, at least, I should say. I didn't necessarily think it was going to be the winning putt. And then just on the driving range I just was having fun and just trying to keep relaxed and not really think about it."

"Just having fun." All the while outlasting Tiger Woods and a collection of super-stars to win his first major championship. "Many people are probably saying, 'Well, he doesn't really belong there,'" Curtis said after the tournament. "But I know I do, so that's all that matters."

Wow. Lake Placid all over again. David versus Goliath. "The last shall be first." Little guys can beat the big dudes.


  • Give it all you've got.

  • Have fun while doing it.

  • Leave the results to God.

And never forget: It's okay to be an unlikely underdog.

6:15 AM I was listening to Christian talk radio yesterday when a caller brought up Rom. 13:1-7. The host's answer was anything but definitive. So I'd like to remind us that our citizenship as Christians is not here on this earth but in heaven because we are members of a heavenly commonwealth (Phil. 3:20). We belong to the only Christian nation that ever existed because we are the people of God. Worldly nations contain Christians and may be influenced by Christian principles, but there will never be a Christian nation except the blood-bought children of God. Jesus offered high praise for those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. This is the same Jesus who said, "No one can serve two masters." There were times in the early church when there was ample opportunity for suffering. Then and now, many have become martyrs because they refused to bow the knee to the state. As in olden times, so today: God's people need to be what they are—heavenly colonials and holy nationals, a Master's Minority in a pagan land. I am grateful to be an American and I obey her laws, but America is not a Christian nation. America is a mission field.

Tuesday, June 10

8:56 PM Okay, this is the last (I hope) of my blog posts about my birthday, at least until next year. But hey, it's not every day you get a 6-CD set of Beach Boys music in the mail, and in the cover are their signatures to boot.

An awesome gift from an awesome daughter (and her family). Thank you, Lizzy Pie!

And then there was this little goody I found tucked away inside my freezer when I got home today.

Thank you, Nate and Jess! Aaaah. Makes me feel like a Christian hedonist.

Nite, nite, all.

7:38 PM God has been so good to me! I had a wonderful birthday yesterday, the highlights of which were enjoying lunch with our new librarian and then dining at the Queen of Sheba with daughter Rachael. How can I explain this picture to you?

It only represents my daily life for about 15 years -- Kailua Beach, where I surfed practically every day. Rachael snapped this photo on her trip there two weeks ago and had it mounted. I can see and feel it now -- the sand, the salt air, the sunrise over the Mokulua Islands, learning how to surf there as a child. It was so cool to be having dinner with someone who had actually shared a bit of that adventure.

It's getting a bit easier, this picking up the pieces and going on. There are a lot of "firsts" in my life right now -- first Mother's Day without Becky, first birthday without her, first Father's Day, etc. But my wonderful family won't allow me any time to mope. The rest of you, too. Thank you for all the cards and emails wishing me a happy and healthy dotage. As Rachael and I sat in the magnificent Duke Chapel last night, I stared at the vaulted ceiling and marveled at how big our God is. I was so awestruck I felt like shouting at the top of my lungs and running up and down the aisles -- jumping and leaping and praising God, like the man we read about in the Gospels. But you don't need a church pew to worship God. Open your eyes right where you are and there He is. "Take a long and thoughtful look at what God has created," wrote Paul in Rom. 1:20. Hear the mountains sing and then join in as the birds praise His name. You can worship Him any time, any place. In sickness or in health. In the kitchen or in love's embrace. Whether your spouse is still alive or only a dim memory. Indeed, even when you are old enough to enter the hallowed rolls of the Social Security Administration.

Worship HIM!


Sunday, June 8

8:46 PM As you might know, our daughter Karen is working at a Christian camp and family retreat center in upstate New York this summer, not far from where Liz and Matthew live. It seems this week the camp hosted a few hundred Episcopalians, so Karen was a bit surprised when I told her, "Well, I'm an Episcopalian. At least I was baptized as one." Curious, she asked me to blog about it, so here goes.

In was in 1952, and my father's faith was Episcopalian, so naturally their last-born son was baptized into the church. Here I am on that day with my God parents.

I have been told, and am ready to believe, that this was the first and last time I ever set foot (or baby stroller) in an Episcopalian church. Our family did not attend church, even after my parents' divorce in 1955. In 1960, however, a man named Rudy Ulrich planted a Baptist church in Kailua and as a result I came to personal faith in Christ. Here I am being baptized, along with my mother, in the waters of Kailua Beach at the age of 8 as my public "Pledge of Allegiance" to Jesus Christ.

You'll forgive me, I know, for being so nostalgic, but I remember it as one of the greatest days in my life. I could not fathom it. God as my Father? Could He really overcome the darkness in my life? Even at that ripe young age I prayed that I would become a living testament to God's grace.

And let's be honest: In my view, I was not "re-baptized" at the age of 8. I know that's a controversial thing to say. But for me, getting wet as a baby made absolutely no difference in my life. There are theological issues at stake here too, of course -- I realize that. I hope it's okay, then, if I quote from my forthcoming book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. Here's how I ended my chapter on baptism:

It would not be proper to conclude this chapter without drawing attention to two areas of disagreement concerning Christian baptism that exists among committed followers of Jesus. The first question concerns the proper recipients of Christian baptism: should infants be baptized as well as adults? The second question has to do with the proper mode of baptism: is immersion the only scriptural mode of baptizing a person, or is sprinkling also allowed? My own conviction is that scriptural baptism is for believers only, by immersion only. But how did I come up with that conviction? And how should you arrive at yours?

There are three reasons why I hold to my position about baptism: upbringing and background, training, and personal Bible study. I have always been a Baptist. I was converted in a Baptist church, and I have attended Baptist churches ever since. That is my upbringing and background, neither of which, of course, guarantees that my beliefs are correct.

In the second place, there is my training. My education has reinforced my personal beliefs about baptism. Both Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (where I received my B.A. and M.Div. degrees, respectively) were Baptist-friendly institutions of higher education. Even when I went on to the University of Basel in Switzerland for my D.Theol. degree, I still encountered Baptist theology. I will never forget sitting in Markus Barth’s lectures on the Gospel of Mark and hearing him defend believer’s baptism, not once but several times, and at considerable length. And this in a Reformed university! Markus Barth was hardly alone in his views. His famous father, Karl Barth, had long objected to paedobaptism (the baptizing of infants) and even published a book on the subject (The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism).

Finally, there is the matter of my own personal study of Scripture. What guidance can Acts offer? I argue that the book of Acts does not specifically refer to the baptism of infants. “Household baptisms” indeed took place on at least five occasions, but one cannot prove, just from Scripture, that these households included infants or young children incapable of faith and repentance. Whenever the book of Acts speaks of baptism, it is never baptism without faith and repentance. Infant baptism simply makes no sense if you believe that an informed decision is necessary to be saved.

What should your position be on these controversial issues? It seems to me that your view will be shaped by the same three factors that shaped mine: your upbringing and background, your training, and (most important of all) your personal study of Scripture. A good deal has been written on the subject, and it must be confessed that a good deal of it rests more on assumptions than on the wrestling with the text of Scripture. As we mature in the Christian life, doctrine sometimes becomes more confusing, not less. We would be wise not to make our decision without serious prayer and Bible study. And even if we must agree to disagree with our Christian brethren on these matters, this is still no reason for the dismembering of the body of Christ. When Paul and Barnabas fell out with each other (the Greek of Acts 15:39 implies a “sharp disagreement”), they still continued their respective missionary work. And so must we whenever we face in-house disagreements. I am so grateful for the example of Bo Reicke, my “Doctor Father” in Basel, who nurtured me as a young scholar. This amazing man was a committed Lutheran and yet he could work with a committed Baptist. He had not only a scholar’s mind but a pastor’s heart, and today I am glad to be able to pay him the honor he is due. Unity does not demand uniformity. But it does imply interdependence. If the church fails to exhibit it, it contradicts the very Gospel of reconciliation it preaches.

I truly hope this helps you to understand my position on the nature and purpose of Christian baptism. I'm hesitant to write about all this, but the matter can't be brushed aside. Where I live today, the culture is very "Christian." As the joke goes, "There are more Baptists in Mecklenburg County, Virginia than there are people." It seems everyone is on a church roll because at one time or another they were baptized. Recently, Paige Patterson nailed it when he said:

First, for 50 or more years, our churches have been in competition, each wanting to baptize more than the other churches in the association. A pastor with 300 or more baptisms comes to the notice of the denomination and often gets his ticket stamped for denominational preferment. In the process of this race for numerical achievement, our church rolls have become gorged with people who “walked the aisle” and were baptized but remained as lost to genuine conversion as Judas. The evidence? Consider the “non-resident” Baptists, who number in the millions.

The issue, then, is not baptism but the problem of cultural or even false Christianity. But God sees thorough our shallow facades and cover-ups. In His eyes we're all as guilty as the worst criminal languishing away in prison. But He has promised to forgive us and erase our record if we confess our sins and embrace the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Salvation, not any ritual, whether you are an Episcopalian or a Baptist. The only way to be acceptable in God's eyes is to admit our absolute unacceptability.

Eternal life is a simple decision. You say yes or no. What will it be, my friend?

7:16 PM Always enjoy being challenged by the Word, and this morning Jon hit the nail on the head and me between the eyes when he spoke from Joshua 3. I find I've become comfortable with life, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there are several Jordans God still wants me to cross. You're probably already getting tired of hearing me say this, but even though I am often dissatisfied with status quo living I find myself often living in that world. The thing is, we need to be asking God to give us bigger (not smaller) challenges, to expand our territory, just as Jabez prayed in 1 Chronicles 4. As long as we are not motivated by selfish interests, God has bigger challenges and greater opportunities for all of us. The problem is that I am all too often content with my own little ruts in life. I want to play it safe rather than ask God to expand my territory so that I can become more useful to Him. As Jon pointed out in his message, true faith isn't a matter of works and will-power on our part but a matter of trusting God's miracle-working power. I don't come close to this standard. But I want to.

Afterwards we enjoyed some "real" New York pizza in the great city of Durham and then I retreated home to get some work done in my office.

I thought the pizza was good but really, you gotta be in the Big Apple for the real deal. Thanks, Glasses, for the great food and fellowship. Matthea, only two weeks to go till number 5 comes along. Hang in there!

8:32 AM To those today who are struggling with their vocations: "The Lord will personally go ahead of you" (Deut. 31:8). He knows what lies ahead. He knows every detail of your struggle to find your life's work. You don't know where your future will lead, but He does. And He's right there -- at your side. He will "neither fail nor abandon you."

8:24 AM Talk about whine whine whine. The owner knew the rules of the Belmont before signing up. If you're gonna lose, lose graciously. Had CC won, the owner would have said nothing.

(Pet peeve.)

8:12 AM Sunday trivia:

1) Did you know that the ancient Greeks had a word for freckles? They also had computers. Them was some smart folk.

2) Tomorrow is my 62nd birthday. Which means I will officially become an old geezer. Just think: I can now retire under Social Security!

3) This was my California Chrome.

A pure Thoroughbred, I called him Traveler. He raced in California but only won a couple of races, so sold he was at the ripe old age of 6. To me. I loved riding. As someone put it, "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man." I never rode Traveler when I was tired. Because he was so high-spirited, he required all the physical and mental energy I could muster. We always went full out -- no walking or trotting. It was either a full gallop or a fast canter. I gave up riding a couple of years ago. When people ask "Why?" my answer is simple: "I didn't get too old to ride. I got too old to fall." Yep, had a few "unplanned dismounts" while riding that lean, mean racing machine. But I loved every minute of it.

4) Just got a publisher's catalog with yet another "Introduction to the New Testament." In my opinion, it was nothing but the same old, same old. Here's a report on secular textbooks that flunk the test:

"There's an incredible sameness about them. They're following the same script," she told reporters in a briefing on the study of a dozen American and world history texts issued Feb. 26.

Seminary textbooks can be just an indulgent of group-think and menticide. I for one am grateful that at least some textbooks are willing to challenge the status quo when it comes to long-entrenched views, say, of textual criticism or the synoptic problem.

5) How to choose a Bible version.

Saturday, June 7

7:30 PM Well, Tonalist has won the Belmont. No triple crown winner since Affirmed. Nine years ago I wrote this piece: The Heart of a Secretariat.

6:50 PM Man arrested for drunk-in-the-Spirit driving.

9:10 AM Yo folks! Got an interesting question for you:

Were elders/pastors/overseers in the New Testament itinerant? Or were they home-grown, settled, with jobs and families and reputations well-earned after many years living in their communities?

I thought about this issue this morning when I read a statement about pastoring by a highly respected United Methodist bishop:

While there’s much to be said for longer pastorates, there is also value in short, focused pastorates in which we pastors do the best we can to follow God’s leading and then high tail it out of town under the cover of darkness. Clerical desire for permanence, enduring legacy, longevity, and eternality are aspirations unworthy of those who work with a living, peripatetic, itinerate, always-on-the-move Trinity.

Of course, I am neither a United Methodist nor an elder of a local church, so what I have to say will probably be taken very lightly by many. But for what it's worth, here's my take. Let me frame the discussion by identifying myself as someone who has lived in the Bible Belt for 16 years now. I love where I live in the southern Piedmont of Virginia near the Carolina line. As a farmer, I feel a real part of my rural, agrarian community. One of the things I marvel at, however, is the constant turnover of pastors in our area. (I am speaking mostly of Baptists now; I know very little of the local Methodist congregations in my area.) Typically a pastor will remain in a church for only a handful of years before moving on. Very few put down any roots in the community. Contrast this with what appears to be the New Testament pattern. In the early church we find local men leading local churches. They came from within the local church and were committed to that church. Permanence, far from being something negative and to be avoided, seemed to be part and parcel of what it meant to be a pastor in the early church. Thus the link between the church and the ministry was maintained. However, in our modern system, where "the ministry" is often considered a profession -- not always, but often --  men sometimes seek for themselves, or are sent by authority, to occupy this or that post without any regard to this relational/community link, which is thus broken. All too often the danger is that pastors will look upon churches as places that simply offer them opportunities to exercise their ministry gifts or else as steps up the ladder of employment. In addition, seminarians often have to leave their local churches for seminary training and then rarely return to their own congregations for ministry. As Erik Svensen writes:

The purpose for calling attention to all of these passages is to show the apostolic pattern of training elders.  Far from insisting that a prospective elder uproot and move his family to a new location to receive this training from the apostles, the reverse is true–the apostles went to the prospective elder.  This pattern is by no means confined to the book of Acts but is also found in the pastoral epistles.  Paul left both Timothy (in Ephesus, 1 Ti 1:3) and Titus (in Crete, Tit 1:5) for the purpose of setting the churches in order.  A major part of this responsibility entailed the selection and training of elders (1 Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5).  Again we find that this training takes place within the church and by church leaders.

When pastors are thus "parachuted" into the community, they know that, should they fail or get tired or bored, they can always move on to another location. In the city, where the population moves from place to place with ease, this practice is perhaps not so apparent. But in the country, where generation after generation has lived in one locale, the link between the church and its ministers is, I think, of greater importance. The "importation" of a minister who does not know the people to whom he is ministering can become a serious problem. In an excellent article entitled Leadership in the Church, Paul Winslow, former pastor/elder at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, has noted:

In the letters to Titus and Timothy we are given the qualifications for elders, that is, the means by which they can be recognized. If you look closely, you will see that potential elders have already been at work in the body with their gifts of teaching and hospitality, etc., so that the body is already responding to them. It is on that basis that they are identified as elders. I would say further that the Holy Spirit has a direct action involved in identifying elders. In Acts 20:28, where the Apostle Paul is talking to the elders of Ephesus, he says to them that “...the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” So the Holy Spirit is involved in identifying these men we call elders. They are qualified, as I have said, on the basis of spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit has placed within their lives. Through faith they have begun to respond and act on the gifts they have; they have begun to serve others. It is only on that basis that they can be so identified as elders, not because they belong to some particular ethnic group, or they happen to be the local banker or whatever.

Wise words. (I encourage you to read the entire essay.) Remember, folks, in the first century of the church’s existence the spontaneous growth of the church depended not only upon the freedom of all its members to preach freely, but also upon the freedom with which churches could provide for any new groups of converts by giving them an organization like their own. Any new congregation chose its own members to assume pastoral roles, men who probably were already employed and thus providing for themselves and in a position to go on doing so. The church may or may not have paid a personal salary, since the practice was made a charge against the Montanists. At some point, however, the congregation may have offered these men some gifts in money to compensate for any loss of time through their pastoral efforts. Either way, whether they were paid or not, these men considered themselves a part of the community in which they lived and labored. Thus, when a couple of years ago our very traditional and very rural Southern Baptist church was led by the Holy Spirit to have elders, we had no difficulty choosing men from among our own number who had lived and worked in our community for many years. We did not "make" them elders; we simply recognized them for who they were: shepherds whom the Holy Spirit had already placed in our midst to give us oversight.

Here is what I have found, living as I do in the countryside. A professional class of "ministers" does not easily encourage the spontaneous zeal of local men who are not members of their profession. The New Testament church was a family in which all members were mutually responsible for the well-being of the whole. Together believers learned to grow in grace under the guidance of their most experienced and respected elders, men who had deep roots in the community and were therefore far less likely to uproot and leave once things turned sour. Today the apostolic conception of elders as local pastors of a local flock, every member of which they knew by name, has been lost. It is difficult to believe that our current practices are either healthy or wise. Put all this together, and you arrive at Winslow's conclusion:

It seems to me that in the kingdom or structures of the world, the standard for greatness is really, how much power do I have, how many people do I control, how much money do I make? Those are the bases for any future advance. In the Lord's kingdom, however, the criterion is, How much service can I give?

I am deeply humbled and honored to be part of a local church that has home-grown elders whose greatest delight is to serve and not be served. Theirs is a time-consuming, difficult, and demanding task. My fervent prayer is that God will use their godly example to inspire other area congregations to fulfill the vital role of local church leadership in the kingdom movement He's inspiring in our day.



P.S. If you're interested in reading more about what I have to say about this subject, see chapter 4 of my book The Jesus Paradigm: "The Priestly Kingdom: Communal Ecclesiology and Every-Member Ministry."

Friday, June 6

7:15 PM I am a Hebrews lover, as you all know, and have even had the audacity (or naïveté) to publish a brief defense of the Pauline authorship of this New Testament treatise. Which is why I just had to read a recent essay that claims to examine the recent research being done on Hebrews in the areas of authorship, use of the Old Testament, and theology. I am, quite frankly, not too surprised that my publications are not mentioned. My views are too far out of the mainstream! But I am indeed glad to see that my friend David Allen's defense of direct Lukan authorship is given a through going over.

Now, if in fact you would like to see what I have to say about the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, you can go here.

Time for the dogs and me to watch The Longest Day.

6:54 PM Would you have blown this Wheel of Fortune puzzle?

Probably not. But still -- I wonder how many of you know where surf city is. Probably only a very few of you. And I've surfed it oodles of times!

Of course, the one, the only --  Jan and Dean!

5:42 PM Never has the farm looked more beautiful. But I will need lots of help once the blackberries start to ripen!

5:35 PM Go here for some high-quality color photos of Normandy.

4:45 PM Hi folks. Thanks for blogging in.

People have been asking, so here goes. "What does your fall Greek 3 syllabus look like?" Well, as of yesterday, it has been posted to Moodle, so anyone enrolled for the course can access it. I've also posted our weekly schedule. If you have not yet signed up for the class but would like to know what the course is about, here's a brief description.

As everyone knows, at SEBTS Greek 3 combines both syntax and exegesis into a single course. (These two subjects should ideally be kept separated and doled out into a two-semester sequence, but such is life.) In the past, I gained quite a reputation as being the toughest Greek 3 teacher out there, and for good reason. Quite simply, I did not feel that I could skimp on anything that had to do with either intermediate Greek syntax or exegesis, and I still feel that way. However, for this fall's class, I've made two major changes (improvements, I hope). First of all, I am no longer requiring my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek as a text for the course (leaving that book for Greek 4 students to suffer through instead), and I am no longer giving weekly quizzes over the reading and translation work. Instead, the class be will conducted like a graduate seminar, and I will make the (huge) assumption that students are in seminary because they want to be there and therefore don't need the albatross of weekly quizzes hanging over their heads to keep them "honest." Personally, I believe the content of the weekly readings is so interesting that students will be eager to see what I have to say and then come to class prepared to discuss the topic. So ... the only two assignments for the class are two exams, the first from Metzger's vocabulary word lists, and the second being a final translation exam anywhere from the book of Philippians (which we will have thoroughly discussed in class throughout the course of the semester). Our main textbooks will be my:

  • It's Still Greek to Me

  • Using New Testament Greek in Ministry

  • New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide

Each week we will discuss a paragraph from Philippians, then I will lecture through each of the steps of exegesis: historical analysis, literary analysis, textual analysis, lexical analysis, syntactical analysis, structural analysis, rhetorical analysis, tradition analysis, theological analysis, and finally homiletical analysis.

I am already feeling really connected with this class. I have their pictures and have begun praying for them by name. Oh yeah. I'm thinking about including a lot of stuff about the church in our classroom discussions. After all, the theme of Philippians is ecclesial unity in the cause of the Gospel. Evangelicals seem to be wrestling these days with how to do church, and I want us to go with biblical principles rather than the older professional standard. One example of what I am talking about comes right from the opening verses of Philippians: Paul writes to all of God's people who are in Philippi, "along with those who oversee and serve." I think we should go with this emphasis on activities rather than titles because I think a very weak case can be made that these were technical terms in the first century.

Well, I'll end by stating that I'm delighted that Energion Publications has been able to move forward the publication of Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. I'm even hopeful I'll have copies with me when I fly to Hawaii next month. The church is not supposed to be the clericalized monstrosity it is today. It is supposed to be one big Jesus family, a community of people who manifest His beauty and revolt against every notion of worldly power and status. This, my friends, is the church Jesus said He would build.

Rats! Now you've got my writing juices flowing, but I have to grab the dogs and check the mail.



7:23 AM D-Day, the moment of discovery. (Pluskat is one of my favorite characters in the movie The Longest Day.)


7:12 AM From another reader of my new book: 

Enjoyed every penny I spent on your book :) Thanks! 

Thursday, June 5

7:54 PM So what does a bachelor do on a quiet Thursday evening? He sits on the front porch with the dogs and answers emails and makes phone calls. Then he cooks supper, eats, and washes the dishes. He pays the bills and balances the checking accounts, then sits down with a good book. He prepares for the morrow and the weekend, and gives thanks for the past week. He reflects on the chances God gave him this past week to learn a little more of the meaning of the cross. He reflects how God is meeting him in ways human psychology knows nothing about. He prays for those in need all around him. He thinks about his book Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk, and how easy it is for conservatives to be traditionalists and blind to those things in the church that displease God and should therefore displease His people too. He feeds the puppies their cookies, pats them on the head, and ascends to his upstairs room, relinquishing the day to the Father, surrendering again his wounds to the Lord, knowing full well that His purpose is love.

5:54 PM Hey there fellow bloggerites! I am one of those souls who loves the outdoors, and since we were able to fix the bush hog it was back to work today, with hopes of baling within the week.

I've never seen our hay looking better than it does now, praise the Lord.

I write as one who desperately needs a refuge these days, and I have a farm that exactly fits the bill. Our Lord, you know, is like a Farmer and a Shepherd. He was and always will be my best Friend. As His sheep ("bleat, bleat") I bank everything on His character. I may not be growing younger but I want to be growing better and more Christ-like every day. The only way to make sure of that is to live every day like it was my last.

To change the subject: I've been watching, almost daily, this YouTube of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.


The orchestra is good, but the conductor is superb. Watch him as he emotes the music -- quite the opposite of the meaningless, pompous hand waving so common among orchestral directors. When a couple of my daughters and I heard this piece performed live a couple of months ago in Raleigh I was so totally affected by the music I could not stand to my feet with the rest of the audience at its conclusion. I had been slapped senseless by the visible sign of those glorious invisible realities that we believe with all of our hearts. I gazed into the faces of the bass players (we were sitting in the first row). Sorry, I said to them through my tear-filled eyes, I can't even try to explain what I'm feeling right now. That was some performance you all did. It brought back the memory of a very dark night of my soul. Where would I be if He had not risen, if He had not taken Becky by the hand and led her into glory? His resurrection means that I no longer have to plot and reason and cogitate and plan how to handle my feelings. My feelings will simply arise out of my life in Jesus Christ. And you, dear orchestra members, reminded me of that great truth tonight. Thank you so much. I would stand if I could but your music devastated me. Thank you.

This Monday is my birthday, and one of my daughters is helping me celebrate by attending a concert with me at Duke. The program is called "Choir of St. Martin-in-the-Fields: Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost." Go here for more information. Before that we will probably dine in some fancy restaurant and celebrate 62 years of the Lord's goodness and faithfulness to me. So you're growing older and want to know how to handle it? I've got the answer:

  • Recognize it.

  • Accept it.

  • Offer it back to God in gratitude and love.

  • Offer yourself along with it.

That's it. There's no need to fear the future because God is already there. Now that's cause for celebration!

6:56 AM Jim Wallace had penned a fine piece called How Can We Trust the Gospels When the Genealogy of Jesus Is So Different? Many New Testament scholars question the historical reliability of the four Gospel accounts of the life of Christ. They insist that the records are filled with after-the-fact embellishments -- a fact that requires scholars to search for the "historical Jesus" beneath the accretions of tradition, much like peeking an opinion to its core. For example, on one of the most important points of the Jesus story -- the resurrection and the empty tomb -- all the Gospels agree. Yet even when confronted with this evidence many people do not find the truth of the resurrection easy to accept. Nevertheless, belief in the resurrection of Christ is essential to our faith. Apostolic preaching confirmed it and even made it a condition of salvation: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9). 

I wrote my book Why Four Gospels? not so much to argue for Matthean priority as to affirm the complete historicity and apostolicity of the Gospels. Early in my Christian experience I discovered that the Gospels were -- and needed to be -- central in my understanding not only of the Good News about Jesus Christ but of life itself. Only the cross of Jesus can supply meaning to life, and that is because the cross and the resurrection are an interwoven reality. Of one thing I am quite certain: Christianity is a historical faith. It is rooted and grounded in historical fact. No "leap of faith" is required to believe in Jesus. As I once heard Francis Schaeffer put it in Switzerland, you don't have to put your brain in park or neutral to become a Christian. His cross is the center of all history. It is the crossroads of the universe. No one can avoid confrontation with it.

It is my prayer that skeptics may come to the Gospels with an open mind and heart, for there the living Christ is ready to meet Doubting Thomases in their pessimism and the travelers to Emmaus in their intellectualism.

6:43 AM Week 3 of Baby Greek ends tomorrow with our final exam. So far, no 110s (and therefore no 110 Awards). But the final is the easiest of the three exams, so hopefully there will be a winner this time around. I'm eager to give away free books! 

Wednesday, June 4

8:42 PM Tonight I've been praying for my daughters. They are each in a different stage of life. One just started a new job. Another is buying her first house. Yet another is expecting her fifth child. I am praying for each of all, and for all of them together, that God would make them like their mother -- a woman who accepted her life situation, whatever it was, as from His hands and was quick to let go of the reins and place herself entirely at His disposal. Becky is a witness (Heb. 12:1) in modern times to the astonishing grace of God that carries faithful believers through all of life's dangers and toils. Even when she passed into a blackness she had never known before, she never lost the last shreds of her faith in God. Daughters, be like that. God has not forgotten you. In the Garden, Jesus too knew fear and weakness. Yet His "not my will" made all the difference.

I love you.


7:12 PM In one month I will leave for Hawaii for 8 days of rest and ministry. "For me," wrote Mark Twain after visiting Oahu, "its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woody solitudes, I hear the splashing of the brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago."

My sentiments exactly.

Below: Kanaka Dave in an official elementary school photograph. I had just chipped my tooth in a swimming pool accident. My attitude? Ain't no big ting, braddah!

6:55 PM Loved this quote (by a true gardener):

It is hard work (especially  when you endevour to do it organically) but gardening, above all else, is good for the soul. Even when the season is hard, when there are weeds to pull, and the yield is down, I find myself at one with God. As if God were walking with me in the cool of the evening. It is no surprise that God placed  Adam and Eve in a garden and not a city or big home.

6:50 PM Interesting piece here about the use of "children" and "kids" in American English. I'm reminded of Jesus' use of "Children" in John 21:5 in addressing His disciples. Now that would have gotten their attention! I wonder why some translations euphemize (e.g., Good News Bible: "Young men"). In fact, The Message leaves the term out completely. Not good. One version I saw had "lads," which is hardly any better (it's too archaic). Why not just go with "kids"?

P.S. Reina-Valera has "Hijitos." Me gusta mucho!

6:34 PM Free class in Spanish! Estupendo!

6:28 PM From the conclusion of Seven Marks of a New Testament Church (forthcoming this summer): 

It is, then, no longer possible (if it ever was) to assume that theology can operate apart from service to the world. The more we understand the Scriptures, the more we understand our responsibility to submit our lives and our futures to its radical teachings. Once this is recognized, then social compassion will truly be an apostolic focus of the church’s apostolic function. Instead of doing theology for theology’s sake, we will choose to bear witness to the Gospel in both word and deed, by both lip and life. We will, perhaps, also do less pontificating from our ivory towers high up in cyberspace and descend to the balcony, and maybe even to the ground floor.

6:25 PM So glad to see Becky's rose bushes in full bloom. Burji was her home for many years in Ethiopia. How good the Lord is to me to give me this reminder.

2:03 PM Power outage over. Can finally update blog with some very good news.

Tuesday, June 3

3:17 PM Riding. There's nothing I enjoy more, whether I'm riding a wave, a horse, a ride mower, or a tractor. Today I needed to bush hog the edges of our hay fields to get them ready for cutting and baling. The universal joint and jack shaft began giving me trouble half way through my mowing. I tried three times to fix them then gave up after cutting myself. Oh well. It's time to get a new bush hog anyway. I've had this one for 15 years and it was already a dinosaur when we bought it. I'm not very good at it, but I love very small-scale farming, from gardening to keeping livestock to selling organic hay. I guess I've been called a hobby farmer, and that's okay. There's a huge difference between what I do and agricultural producers. But if you could attach a price tag to personal satisfaction, I guess you could say I'm pretty much a millionaire. That's one reason I gave up TV years ago. Time not spent productively is wasted. Not that I don't watch a good DVD from time to time. There's not much sweat equity in what I do either. But still, I stand tall as a part-time homesteader, even though I'm the ultimate klutz and it takes me forever to get anything done.

Pix to bore you with:


12:28 PM Craig, an old friend, had this nice comment about my new book, It's All Greek to Me:

I just read your book. I couldn't put it down. Your concluding question hit me hard in the heart. Do I really allow the king to use my gifts, talents, abilities, goals and accomplishments as he sees fit? And to be honest, I have to say that I don't think I fully do. Praying that the Lord will use that question to challenge many others. 

12:12 PM Today I bid Nigusse a fond adieu after three years of living in my home. Nigu, mom and I invested much in your life. Remember: to whom much is given, much is required. May God bless you to be a great blessing to others. Happy trails and bon voyage!

Monday, June 2

7:18 AM So I was checking the fire alarms today at Bradford Hall .... 

7:06 AM Today it is exactly seven months since Becky died holding my hand. God has a sense of humor. Last year Becky and I watched the old Pink Panther movie in which the lunatic Dreyfus tells his shrink, "Every day and in every way I'm getting better."

That's my usual response when people ask me how I'm doing. Every day there is gradual improvement, but I have a ways to go. Thank you, fellow prayer warriors, for standing with me.

7:02 AM "Si Stephanus non orasset, ecclesiam Paulum non haberent."

6:56 AM Calling all Kindle lovers! It's All Greek to Me is now available. But you'll have to pay through the nose to purchase it. 

Sunday, June 1

7:16 PM Just had the groomer bathe and trim the dogs. And get rid of the skunk smell :)

 Yes, puppies, now you may come inside.

5:22 PM A very kind note:

You may recall selling me a set of your DVDs.  I am writing to express how thoroughly pleased I am with the content.  I must admit I was a bit skeptical as to their value, having already made my way through both your book and Mounce’s text.  My skepticism was unfounded.  The DVDs contain a wealth of great information.  I particularly like your digressions into the origin of the language.  The DVDs deserve a five star rating. 

Thank you!

4:32 PM Today at church we had a PARTY! Nigu gave the message, then we ate, swapped stories, had the Lord's Supper together, and said our goodbyes. The testimonies were f-u-n-n-y. Oh, and Nigu, about that money tree. Jason forgot to tell you that dads get a 50 percent cut. Sorry about that.

Pix (naturally):

9:02 AM Quote of the day (Mark Stevens):

The mission of God in the world, our witness, and our gathering as God’s people does not rest on our ability to do things in Jesus’ name. Likewise, just because God will bring about a new heavens and a new earth does not mean we can act like bad tenants of that which has been entrusted to our care in the meantime.

8:42 AM Have a spiritual gif? Here's one of mine. This is one of my grandsons. His name is Graham. I might title this picture "passing the love of Christ from generation to generation."

Do you have a spiritual gif you can share with us today? If so, we'd love to see it.

7:58 AM I appreciated this devotional about friendship. In the end, I'd rather have only one or two buddies like Henry than a dozen fair-weather "friends." We've got a lot in common, not least that we are both aging. Most people think growing old is life's greatest tragedy. Not at all. It's just that we know something others don't. Life is a voyage that is homeward bound. Our home-going is drawing nearer and nearer, and so is yours. But the thought shouldn't bother us. We get to see the Lord face-to-face on the other side. And in the meantime, if we are really blessed, we get to enjoy a few genuine friendships along the way.

7:36 AM Today, after our morning service lets out (say 12:15-ish), we are all gathering in the social hall to bid a fond adieu to Mr. Nigusse Denano Erkeno, who flies back to his homeland Tuesday morning. Join us if you can. You can find Bethel Hill Baptist Church near Roxboro, NC, on Google Maps or Bing. Ethiopia Cookie Cutters are especially welcome as going-away gifts.

7:22 AM New Testament scholars have been investigating the literary artistry of the book of Hebrews for years. Now comes one of the best, if not the best, treatments of the subject.

In his newly published dissertation The Characterization of Jesus in the Book of Hebrews, Brian Small takes the rhetorical side of Hebrews seriously. Close attention to both content and style begin to illustrate the rich variety of rhetorical devices used by the author. These include (as Brian summarizes on p. 16 in a footnote) alliteration, anadiplosis, anaphora, antistrophe, antithesis, aposiopesis, assonance, asyndeton, brachylogy, catachresis, chiasmus, circumlocution, climax, cyclosis -- and that's just for starters. I love this approach! After all, I'm the author of Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Brian's work is a masterpiece. It is about as good as a book of this genre (dissertation) gets. I give it two thumbs up.

Dave Black, literary critic at your service.

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