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March 2011 Blog Archives

Thursday, March 31

9:18 PM Look who's having a little fun with Latin.

9:08 PM Katy Brown's essay Is He Enough? is a reminder that mission work is far from glamorous. Sometimes it's just plain dangerous for your health. She and her dad know. Read her testimony about the faithfulness of God and be blessed.

8:55 PM If you live in Dallas, you will want to try the Ghion Restaurant on Skillman Street. Never has Ethiopian food tasted better, especially the "tibs." Tell them I said so.

6:33 PM Odds and ends ...

1) Fresno Pacific University announces openings in Pastoral Ministries, Intercultural Studies, and Biblical and Religious Studies.

2) Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis show us that, when it comes to war making, U.S. presidents don't differ too much.

3) Steve Bedard links to some excellent works by Stanley Porter.

4) Aussie John asks (and answers) the question: What is church?

5) Jody Neufeld's latest devotional is awesome.  Read Lion Up!

6) Is Translation Possible?

7) Quote of the day (Graham Michael:

How we live out our finite, weak, and sinful understanding of greatness reveals that we don’t really believe Jesus’ understanding of greatness. In the Kingdom if we want to move upward we must in reality move downward to wash the feet of others. Christ modeled true greatness for us. We just must believe in Him and follow.

(Note: I'm partial to the author; he's in my Mark class.)

4:45 PM If you are a Civil War buff (as I am you) have probably seen the movie Gettysburg starring Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee and Jeff Daniels as Joshua Chamberlain. There's an unforgettable scene that takes place on the first day of battle. Union cavalry General John Reynolds is in the copula of the Lutheran Theological Seminary when General John Reynolds of the Union I Corps rides up. "Thank God," says a tearful Buford. "What goes, John?" asks Reynolds. "There's a devil to pay," replies Buford. "Can you hold?" inquires Reynolds. "I reckon I can," says Buford. At this point, Buford descends from the copula and the two generals ride off toward the sound of battle on McPherson's Ridge.

Actually, nothing like this ever happened. As General Reynolds, at the head of the Union I Corps, rode into Gettysburg that morning along the Emmitsburg Road, he passed through the town and then hurried on to the Chambersburg Pike in search of Buford. He found him on McPherson's Ridge with his men, attempting to keep the enemy in check for as long as possible. The dramatized account of Reynolds and Buford meeting at the Lutheran Seminary and their verbal exchange is based on a completely discounted account filled with after-the-fact embellishments.

Perhaps there's an application here to today's study of the Gospels. 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.

4:22 PM The donkeys we were interested in have already been sold. Speaks well for Craig's List!

11:05 AM Odds and ends ...

1) One of our SEBTS students has just been accepted into the Th.M. program at nearby Duke. Congratulations Jody!

2) My friend Jon Glass sent along a link to this excellent piece called Letter from a Minister about Patriotism in Worship. The next step, I suppose, would be to remove the American flag from our sanctuaries permanently. What a message that would send.

3) Speaking of misplaced patriotism, Allan Bevere writes that We Must Reject Christendom. Brother Allan is beginning to sound more and more like an Anabaptist!

4) "It was instructive to see that in 2009, based on survey results, the total value of congregational property in Southern Baptist Churches was….


Thus begins this amazing piece by Arthur Sido. If you are a Southern Baptist and are at all concerned about the extravagance and waste in our churches, you must read it -- then act in such a way as to bring some common sense back into the way our churches spend the Lord's money.

5) Becky and I are off donkey shopping today. She's wanted one for years. Yes, of course, it will be an African donkey :)

10:47 AM This year marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. If you only visit one site this year, it must be Gettysburg. Perhaps no piece of ground in America is more revered. Because of a program promoted by park superintendent John Latschar, the park has largely been restored to its original 1863 appearance (if a piece of ground was bare then, it is bare now). If you do visit Gettysburg I strongly urge you to take an hour or so and follow the steps of the Confederate troops across the mile of open fields that separated the Union and Confederate lines at Gettysburg on the third day of battle.

As you finally step over the low stone wall that marked the Federal front line, think of the troops of both sides that met there, men who determined the fate of the war, men fighting for something they believed in. I will not debate here the appropriateness or advisability of "Pickett's Charge," but as you stand on the ground where Confederate General Lewis Armistead was mortally wounded and where Union General Winfield Scott Hancock was shot down, I can guarantee you will sense something of the bravery of the men of both sides. Be sure to walk to the Bryan House, where you will see the newest monument on the battlefield, which marks the "high water mark of the Confederacy" -- the spot where the battle flag of the 11th Mississippi was found as it lay across the stone wall.

It is an irony in a war filled with ironies that this farm was the property of a freedman, Mr. Abraham Bryan, and thus the Confederate assault ended on the property of a freed slave.

There are many other points of interest at Gettysburg, of course, but few can equal the spot where the dreams of the South faded away.

Below: Reunion at Gettysburg in 1938.

Wednesday, March 30

7:58 PM More odds and ends ...

1) We had another superb faculty meeting today. I am blessed to a part of such a wonderful seminary community. Lord, help me never to take it for granted.

2) Over at the Bethel Hill Baptist Church website, Becky has written an outstanding essay called Persecution on the Hill. It is a must read (and I am totally unbiased).

3) Students: Don't forget that Student Day is this Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00, with lunch at 11:30. The weather will be perfect.

4) Read God has given us the spirit of love! Craig is absolutely correct when he says that love and fear cannot reside in the same heart.

5) Looks like Matthew McDill, a former doctoral student of mine, is becoming quite the agrarian. His post on raising chickens reminds me of that famous line from the movie The Great Escape: "Zer vil be no escapink fwom zis camp!" 

6:57 PM This morning somebody emailed me a couple of questions about my book Why Four Gospels. Here are his questions, along with my answers.


I did have a couple of questions on your book, if you would be so kind. In naming your/Dr. Orchard's hypothesis the "Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis," you compare it back to the "Two Gospel Hypothesis" advocated by Dr. Farmer, et al., which I take is similar to the original Griesbach. Would you say that review and analysis of the Patristic and historical data is the main differentiation between the two?


Yes. The Farmer group appears to have given the external evidence a back seat. Some of them even date the Gospels much later than I would. Then again, the term "Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis" reflects our desire to show that in the earliest church there was only ONE Gospel that was passed on in four different versions. Why there are 4 (and only 4) such accounts is a major question we sought to answer.


On page 22 you identify the 3 evaluation arguments as: i) the external evidence in the light of modern research; ii) the internal comparison of the gospel texts to discover their sources and their interconnections; and iii) show that no emergent hypothesis is credible unless it is viable in light of the know history of the church and the Roman Empire at the time. The first and third sound similar? The second sounds pretty much like the standard textual critical approach?


Indeed we feel that the internal evidence is important, but only to corroborate what has already been established on the basis of the external evidence, which (as you can see) overwhelmingly supports the priority of Matthew's Gospel. For example, we believe that the zigzagging effect is compatible with our theory – though it doesn't prove it.

Let the discussion continue!

6:42 PM As you know, my exegesis of Mark class is student-led. Here's an email from the student who conducted the class while I was in Texas.

Brother Dave,

Class was very enjoyable today, with a lot of lively discussion. We missed your presence, but I think all of us were also encouraged by how much you trust the word of God to speak for itself and for the Holy Spirit to teach us about Jesus. I was also encouraged by everyone's equal participation…. 

Thank you, again, for modeling for us a reliance upon the word of God and for sending us out (in a sense) to do what you have been training us to do. Today was a good lesson in discipleship, though without any threat of persecution.

What a delightful email. Sheer empiricism teaches us that all learning is self-learning, and that the more we teach, the more we learn.

6:34 PM Odds and ends …

1) The Ninth Annual International Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism will take place August 7-12 in Hoddesdon, UK. For information, go here. My thanks to Jim Sibley of the Criswell College for the tip.

2) Greek students! Check out some fabulous Greek vocabulary flash cards here. They are based on our beginning grammar.

3) James White writes: A Little Greek Is a Dangerous Thing. I concur.

6:29 PM The United Methodist Bible teacher and Scripture lover Henry Neufeld has published a book about Calvinism. He tells us why here. Henry's essay is a fine read. Case in point:

The Calvinists in my head aren’t necessarily the same as the Calvinists in the real world. One finds Calvinists involved in missions every bit as much as (and possibly more than) their Arminian brethren. I recall hearing John Blanchard, a Presbyterian evangelist, speak at a conference here in Pensacola. One of the questions he was asked was: "If you believe in predestination why would you be an evangelist? How can you accept both?"

His answer?

"Predestination is a doctrine, and I believe it. Evangelism is a command, and I obey it."

I appreciate that simple and straightforward reply. Once again, common sense wins out in the great debate over divine sovereignty versus human responsibility.

6:21 PM Andy Bowden, who is my right hand man here at the seminary and a superb blogger, is on his way to Germany this weekend to meet with potential doctoral advisors. His visit reminds me of my first meeting in Basel with Bo Reicke in the university library.

The prodigal son couldn't have had a warmer welcome. I can still remember how he shook my hand and said how glad he was that I had come to Basel. I knew immediately that I was glad too. If you think about it, pray for Andy as he travels to Germany. He will be in Munich, Bonn, and Göttingen. Ph.D. studies can be quite an experience. That experience can be bad or good – or even great. Mine certainly was the latter. Of course, that was all the Lord's doing. He knew I would benefit from studying under Bo Reicke. A kinder man never graced any university campus. No one could know the man without having his or her life touched permanently. I will be forever grateful to God for that wonderful experience.

Below: Becky and me about the time of our Basel days. 

6:12 PM Greetings, bloggers and bloggerettes! We had a good trip to Dallas but are glad to be home. I had lots of good conversations with my father-in-law who spent 10 years of his life as a missionary to Ethiopia. Today he continues his work for the Ethiopian people by publishing his website, Good Amharic Books. This is a remarkable site. It offers, for free, hundreds of Bible study books in the Amharic language.

As a Bible translator, I was delighted when Mr. Lapsley told me the following story. It seems that just after World War II the famous American preacher Donald Grey Barnhouse made a visit to Ethiopia and met with His Excellency, Haile Selassie. He asked the emperor what he could do for Ethiopia. The emperor said, "Send us Bibles." Then he handed Barnhouse a copy of the Scriptures in Amharic and gave him permission to have it printed in the United States. Eventually several shipments of Bibles were made to Ethiopia, and the copies were quickly distributed and widely used.


It seems that the version of the Amharic Bible they had printed contained a major typo. In Revelation 22:9, instead of the angel saying to John "Do not [worship me]" the text says "Do [worship me]." Upon discovering this mistake the Bibles were taken out of commission. Here's the notorious page:

By the way, the difference between the correct rendering and the incorrect one is infinitesimal: Indatasagadin versus Inditasagadin – a difference of only one letter and an easy enough error to make, though some have opined that it was an intentional error made in order to support the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's doctrine of the worship of angels.

Bible translation is truly an amazingly difficulty work!

Saturday, March 19

9:40 AM Bid D, here we come. If you want to meet up, email me at We'll be in Dallas until Monday, March 28.

8:46 AM Read How to Care for and Pray for Japan.

8:40 AM Was the apostle Paul a missionary or a theologian? Great minds want to know. More than anything, I think Paul was a missions mobilizer. God can use anyone who loves Jesus in the great task of missions. Paul's life is a tremendous example of that. I urge you to follow his example. See an open door for the Gospel? Respond. Use whatever tools you have to get the message out. We need to learn how to get on with the basic living out of the Christian life, mobilizing people for missions and presenting the Gospel to the whole world. Do all you can to bring your local church into the missions vision. You don't have to have a special calling to be a missionary. The Holy Spirit will enable every obedient follower of Jesus to obey His commission to take the Good News to others.

8:22 AM How important is it for us to welcome each other in the Body of Christ? Robert Jewett says extremely important. Read about his lecture on Romans 14-15 here.

Unconditional acceptance does not mean that one is allowed to stay in the same place, but that one is accepted where they are at and throughout the journey of being conformed into the image of the Son.

I devote a chapter to this topic in my forthcoming Paul, Apostle of Weakness. If you sign on for the long haul as a Christian, you're going to have to develop the capacity to draw near to others. "Where do I begin?" In the household of God, of course. This involves:

  • developing a loving, serving heart

  • being authentic and genuine with others

  • risking rejection and misunderstanding by your family, friends, and church mates

  • being an open, accepting person

  • being other-centered

  • refusing to be overly-critical or judgmental

You are committing yourself to "stick with the troops" in your battalion, sharing the risks and rewards of serving Christ. When you "mix it up" with others, expect to be misunderstood. Resist the urge to put everyone in a box -- yours. Acknowledge diversity of opinion within the Body. Get rid of your non-redemptive and distorted perception of the way others are to think and act.

Paul is clear in Romans 14-15 that there will always be lesser and greater amounts of freedom in the church, depending on the issues involved. Give grace, and don't allow your differences to paralyze your evangelistic efforts. On the other hand, don't give in to "professional" weaker brothers and sisters. The fact is, you will never be able to conform to their petty legalisms. Remember, the world is not black and white. Surrender your narrow, self-imposed list of dos and don'ts, and then get on with the huge task of living relentlessly and relationally for the Gospel.

Friday, March 18

6:30 PM Why are we so easily deceived into thinking that bigger is better? We take pride in the enormity of our church buildings, the number of people we have in our congregations, and the size of our budgets. Isn't this just selfish ambition? I propose to handle this issue in Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk, my book on kingdom living. It is a deep and difficult subject. But it is worthy of reflection and must be tackled. Lord willing, I hope to get much of this writing done while we are in Dallas.

The tragic truth is that the American church is very unlike Jesus. 

2:15 PM Odds and ends ...

1) Here's the latest update from Ethiopia. Many of you have been praying for the church there in recent weeks. Please don't stop now.

2) Guess what we did today? Finished our 2010 Federal tax returns. Glad to have that done and over with.

3) A year ago I was preaching in Ethiopia with my translator Nigusse. An ideal translator is so much in sync with you that he even mimics your movements and gestures. If I get excited, he gets excited too. Truly, translators are the unsung heroes of mission work.

4) The Internet offers a vast array of websites for those wanting to get to know their Bibles better. Here's a website I use all the time and highly recommend:  The Bible Gateway. Virtually every translation is found here (and not only in English), for free. You probably won't check all of them out, but they will definitely help you in your Bible study. It is an amazing resource.

5) Speaking of Bible study, check out the blog called Jon's Journey. It's all good, but I've linked to the section about Needing Hell.

6) Thomas Hudgins' post from El Salvador is a reminder that suffering and danger are the lot of the Messiah's followers. Inevitably we will share in His pain. The ancients had a saying: Per ardua ad astra, "through trials to triumph." We are called, not to hide from danger, but to publicly confess who Jesus is and what He has done for us. This may mean suffering. It will mean taking up your cross and dying to yourself. For those of you who are serving Christ in the hard places of the world, I say: Thank you for the reminder of what it costs to follow Jesus.

7) A book on the Lord's Supper that I co-edited is featured here.

8) Tomorrow Becky and I are on the road again, this time to Dallas to enjoy the hospitality of her mom and dad and get some R & R. I hope you'll be praying for us.

Wednesday, March 16

7:12 PM My interview with Andy Cheung has just been posted.

6:30 PM Lloyd Ogilvie, former pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church and a popular speaker and writer, once spoke at a large convention. The woman who introduced him began with the words,

We have a very unusual privilege tonight. In our midst is without a doubt the world's finest communicator. He is extremely sensitive, alert, compassionate, and wise. He can sense a person's true needs immediately and speak just the right word to heal a hurt.

Dr. Ogilvie would later confessed that he felt both flattered and frightened at that point in the introduction. How could he live up to all that?

He didn't have to.

As the woman came to the end of her introductory remarks, she said,

We are in for a tremendous experience tonight because this supreme lover of people is in our midst. Who is He? He is Jesus Christ. And now here is a man named Lloyd Ogilvie who will tell us about Him.

What a superb introduction!

6:21 PM Andy Bowden is on a writing spree. His latest essay is Preparing for studies abroad. It's a great start if you're thinking about studying overseas, as Andy is. You may find what he says about tuition in Germany a bit surprising.

6:13 PM Last night I checked out from the seminary library and read a wonderful biography of Mary Lee called Mrs. Robert E. Lee: The Lady of Arlington. Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee was a remarkable woman. A published author, she read Greek and Latin fluently. When she ordered a copy of Les Miserables she told the bookstore owner to send her a copy in either English or French, whichever was more readably available to him. But I was especially impressed with her deep relationship with the Lord Jesus as witnessed in her daily diary. Here's but one of several unforgettable quotes I found:

"Lord, let me suffer any thing rather than have my heart turned away from Thee." Mary Custis Lee, Prayer Journal, February 29, 1832.

It was her faith in Christ that sustained her through years of separation from her husband and the deaths of two of her children, not to mention the heartbreaking transformation of her estate into a military cemetery.

The book is available through Amazon here. I highly recommend it to all Civil War buffs. I will be ordering a copy for Becky.

6:05 PM Oklahoma Baptist University announces an opening in Religion.

Monday, March 14

5:30 PM Great news from Ethiopia: Just got word that the team designated to repair our water system at the Galana clinic is traveling to Burji this week. Clean water is a must in any health clinic but especially one in southern Ethiopia.

5:23 PM Just had a hot date with Becky. We walked to the mailbox and back.

5:10 PM A reader sent along these comments:

I liked your post about the church having a healthy post natal environment and think that it's important for our churches to have the Ananias and  Barnabas ministries. Its been my observation that people need encouraging...and I'm yet to meet someone who doesn't need it.

How very true.

9:59 AM Monday Morning Miscellany ...

1) Take the blogoholic test!

2) I thought I would work on the final French drain today but my back thinks this is a very bad idea and my back won the argument.

3) Alan Knox explains why children should be part of the church gathering.

4) Over at the Bethel Hill website, Becky has published two essays in recent days, one on the Lord's Supper and one on Being China in the Lord's Service.

5) Finally, pix of the cutest grandson you've ever seen:

9:43 AM Tomorrow our Greek class picks up in Mark 7, which contains three pericopes:

1) Jesus Upsets the Traditions of the Elders (7:1-23)

2) Jesus Commends the Faith of a Syro-Phonecian Woman (7:24-30)

3) Jesus Heals a Deaf-Mute (7:31-37)

The first point is significant: God's Word always takes precedence over human tradition. Always. We need this reminder today, not least in our Baptist churches in which we passionately defend our traditions.

The second pericope is brilliant. It reveals the greatness of Jesus. Let others argue about washing hands. People matter more! Don't you just love the wit and humor of this little cameo?

The third story is peculiar to Mark's Gospel. But the miracle is nothing unusual for Jesus. It is wonderful that Jesus truly cares about the sick and suffering.

I am eager to see what the class does with the word pugme in verse 3. What in the world does it mean to wash one's hands "with a fist"?

I'm also curious to see what the class says about the variant readings in verse 4, where our beloved Aleph and B are clearly wrong, not once but twice!

9:32 AM Does your church have a healthy post-natal environment? In a healthy church you'll find both an Ananias to help you get started out as a new believer and a Barnabas to come alongside you and keep you encouraged and growing.

In Hawaii I suppose my Ananias was Rudy Ulrich. He was a mainland haole who had come to Kailua to lead people to Christ. He also pastored the First Baptist Church Windward. I shall never cease to be grateful for the help he gave others. I saw his concern for his converts over and over again -- even for an 8-year old boy named Dave.

Later on, during my teen years, the Barnabas who took me under his care was Pastor Jim Cook of the International Baptist Church of Honolulu. He and his father had started a little Bible school in their church, and I and several other 16-year olds looked to them to help us grow roots of our own. Jesus lived the life of a servant, and so did Pastor Jim. It is an astonishing thing that he made such an effort to be a Barnabas to young men like me. Both Pastor Rudy and Pastor Jim were men who really cared and took trouble over people. I needed the strength, the encouragement, and the intellectual stimulation their lives offered.

Today it could equally be said that my church family at Bethel Hill displays that same kind of  love and affection for me and Becky. It's very much the kingdom on display. Sunday School classes always start out with the Body sharing with fellow Christians some of the burdens in their hearts or the answers to prayer they are experiencing. And so the fellowship continues to grown, both spiritually and numerically.

Is personal caring important to you? It was to the earliest followers of Jesus. Have you been the recipient of such care? Then become its dispenser.

Sunday, March 13

5:58 PM Odds and ends ...

1) Shout out to our dear friend Mrs. Montague of Bethel Hill. This precious sister in Christ turned a young 92 today. Happy Birthday to you!

2) Becky accompanied her mom this morning at church. Mrs. Lapsley played both the prelude and the offertory. I snapped this pic while they were practicing before the service. Mom played "Fairest Lord Jesus" and "Beautiful Savior." Great blessing.

3) Rain is on its way tomorrow. No, I didn't get this information from a meteorologist. My head's telling me loud and clear. Thank the Lord for Maxalt.

4) Glad to see that Thomas and Lesly are back in El Salvador

5) One of my Greek students reflects on Mark 7 and The Traditions of Men.

Saturday, March 12

6:12 PM One of my doctoral students, Paul Himes, knows some very special people who live in Japan -- his parents. That will make you sit up and listen to him when he bares his soul about that great nation. Read Prayer and Compassion for Japan

5:57 PM New essay on our home page: Why We Should Study the Gospels.

12:30 PM What are Baptists in the U.S. doing about the disaster in Japan? Go here to find out.

11:11 AM Alan Bandy's essay Imitating Paul the Missionary is well worth your time. With impeccable and engaging prose, Alan writes:

I guess that I had unwittingly imprisoned Paul in the dusty office of a professor where he spent his days pouring over ancient texts and scholarly tomes. Professor Paul would eloquently expound on the finer points of theology and praxis as he writes to distant congregations. Missionary Paul, however, studies while traveling or during his visits to various cities. (perhaps he would frequent the library in Ephesus). Missionary Paul does theology in the context of communities of diverse ethnicity and background.  Missionary Paul seeks to stay connected to congregations of believers with a fierce devotion and parental concern. The letters of Missionary Paul, then, reveal numerous insights into the Gospel that he preached, his concern to demonstrate the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God, the challenges he faced from opposing teachers, and various issues affecting congregations.

Just think: The great apostle Paul was a missionary first and foremost. Before he was a theologian. Or perhaps, because he was such a great theologian.

I want to be like Paul, don't you? 

9:06 AM Don't forget: Tonight's the night.

9:01 AM Quote of the day:

But there is to come a sight more grand, more terrific, more sublime, and more disastrous than anything earth has yet witnessed; there is to come a fire before which Sodom's fire will pale to nothingness; and the inferno of continents will sink into less than nothing and vanity. In a few more years, my friends, Scripture assures us, this earth and all that is in it, is to be burned up. That deep molten mass which now lies in the bosom of our mother earth is to burst up—the solid matter is be melted down into one vast globe of fire; the wicked—shrieking, wailing, and cursing, will become a prey to these flames that will blaze upward from the breast of earth; comets will shoot their fires from heaven; all the lightnings will launch their bolts upon this poor earth, and it will become a mass of fire. But does the Christian fear it? No. Scripture tell us we will be caught up together with the Lord in the air, and will be forever with the Lord.

Read Charles Haddon Spurgeon's Do Not Fear Disasters.

8:48 AM Yet more fallout from the devastating earthquake in Japan: The governor of Hawaii has declared a state of disaster in the islands. Below: a house floating in Kealakekua Bay.

In the meantime, the spiritual needs of the Japanese continue unabated. For a prayer profile, read The Japanese of Japan.

7:53 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Jay Voorhees has a big problem as a pastor: he's also a web designer.

2) My trip to the Wheaton Theology Conference will allow me to hear these speakers.

3) In his latest book, Pope Benedict calls violence in the name of God an instrument of the Antichrist.

4) Check out the website for the Voice of the Martyrs. Among other things, we discovered that VOM has speakers who are glad to come and talk in your church about persecution worldwide.

5) Speaking of persecution, Said Musa has been released from prison in Afghanistan and has left the country, according to this report. This is a huge answer to prayer. In prison Musa wrote, "I can't deny my Savior's name. Because my life is just service to Jesus Christ and my death is going to heaven [where] Jesus Christ is. I am a hundred percent ready to die."

6) Thomas Jefferson's scrapbook Bible is sent to the conservation lab.

7) Virginia Union University announces an opening in Christian Education.

Friday, March 11

8:31 PM Allan Bevere is certainly no flibbertigibbet. Once again he produces a rock solid essay, this time on forgiveness. The money quote:

We sure want to receive forgiveness when we know we need it, but to forgive those who ask us... that can be asking too much depending upon how greatly we believe we have been wronged. Perhaps our difficulty in forgiving is found in the unspoken assumption that the sins of others are more grievous than our own. Perhaps in a culture where it has become commonplace to demonize those who believe differently than we do, whose politics is other than our own, whose selfish motivations are labeled as nefarious whereas ours are simply mistaken... in that kind of culture it can be so very hard to forgive.

6:48 PM NPR just reported that many Japanese in Tokyo have taken refuge in Buddhist temples which have been opened as emergency shelters for the general public. I think it could be said that our churches in America have switched into a shelter/survival mode. We are running into temporary survival shelters called Christian concerts and Christian workshops and Christian Praisercise and Christian radio stations. This massive retreat from our post-Christian, secularized culture is due to a basic misunderstanding about the Gospel. The only kind of churches we want are the pragmatic kinds that show us how to be successful and how to have a perfect Christian family. Let's face it. Why do we insist on planting yet another church in Raleigh when there are hundreds of churches there already? What motivates us to construct our extravagant and inefficient buildings at all? For many of us, Churchianity is as addictive as drugs or alcohol. Tonight this meeting, tomorrow that seminar. Where is the fruit that would authenticate our profession? But the good news is that we don't have to remain in this retreat mode. There is a way out of the mess we have created for ourselves. We can get serious about Christ's command to take His Gospel to the ends of the earth. What a great God we serve! We are attached to the Head so that we can be His Body in the world!

6:27 PM Just bathed the dogs. I don't know who got wetter, them or me.

6:02 PM P. T. O'Brien's 2010 commentary on Hebrews is reviewed here. This made me smile:

On authorship, of course, the jury is still out, perhaps forever. Clearly it was not Paul (Heb 2:3).

5:36 PM There's much truth here:

Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.

So said Goethe, and so say I.

4:58 PM Jeremy Zach identifies 11 Ridiculous Things That Keep Youth Groups From Growing. I'm no expert on the subject, but I do have a question for youth pastors and other youth leaders: Why are we entertaining our youth just at the moment in life when they most need to see biblical reality?

What would happen if we threw out all of our gimmicks for growth and instead treated our youth with all seriousness, exposing them to real-world mission field experiences? How about serving on the front lines of the Gospel? How about loving and sacrificing for others? The haunting question that must be asked about today's youth ministries is this: "Isn't it time to get out of the rut of self-development and raise the bar so that every young person who knows Christ is asked to go all out sharing Jesus with the publicans and sinners of our day?"

4:42 PM If you're at all interested in Greek discourse analysis, take a look at this interview with Will Varner of the Masters Seminary about his new commentary on James. In a nutshell...

My discourse analysis shows that James had a consistently applied idea of the Jewish “two ways” schema that is portrayed in what I call his  “peak” paragraph: James 3:13-18. There James portrays a bi-polar contrast between wisdom from above and anti-wisdom (wisdom from below). I believe that such a schema is stamped then on every other paragraph of the book. The readers, addressed as “brothers,” must choose to follow the Divine way or the human way. Each paragraph is opened by “brothers” plus an imperative command or a rhetorical question that provides the topic which is then applied within the paragraph.

1:02 PM Miscellany ...

1) In case you didn't know, we have a section on our website devoted entirely to the work of the Lord in Ethiopia. We tell it like it is -- the good, and the not so good. It's called Ethiopia Files.

2) Not sure that it matters very much, but the recent tsunami in Japan brought back plenty of memories of growing up in Hawaii and hearing the tidal wave sirens blaring at all times of day or night. We took those warnings very seriously in those days and left for high ground just as thousands did yesterday in Waikiki.

3) I haven't forgotten about one of my doctoral students who is interviewing next week for a fabulous teaching position in another state. I couldn't be happier and will be praying constantly for him.

4) I spent several hours yesterday going through my ms. one last time and still found mistakes. Nothing odd about that, by any means, but it's still a little unsettling.

5) I'm taking the plunge and (Lord willing) will be traveling to Wheaton for this year's theology conference. If you're a blogger and/or prospective SEBTS student and would like to meet up, just let me know:

Thursday, March 10

8:06 PM Odds and ends ...

1) Took Becky out for Chinese buffet tonight. Lots of shrimp on the menu. I like shrimp. Shrimp will be in heaven. Guaranteed.

2) Praying about attending the ETS Southeast Regional Meeting March 25-26. Also about attending the Wheaton Theology Conference April 7-9. The latter's theme intrigues me: "Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective."

3) Becky's mom arrives tomorrow for a week-long visit. You know what that means. Ethiopian food. 

4) Enjoyed a visit today from Jon and Matthea Glass (erstwhile missionaries to Burji). They came to pick up some beef. Took a long walk with them on the farm.

Note: As you can see, B's hair is growing back nicely. In fact, she now has more hair on her head than I have on mine and I am seriously jealous.

9:10 AM Today God is calling every Christian to bondservant service to the world, even among our enemies. Please, please stop denouncing Islam. God is not interested in your demagoguery. He is looking for a lifetime of humble, behind-the-scenes service to the persecuted church --  and to its persecutors. Denounce Islam all you want, but that won't make a whit of difference unless you are willing to put your own life on the line. Today God is calling out an army of radicals who will feel His heartbeat and accept His call to live a life of Christian servanthood.

8:53 AM Persecution quote of the day:

We often think of persecution and martyrdom as something that happens to Christians in pagan lands at the hands of Muslims or some tribal people or Communist governments. It is vitally important to remember that for much of Christian history, most Christians were put to death by other people who claimed to be Christians.

Read The Death of Balthazar Hubmaier.

8:34 AM Hard for me to believe that it was exactly a year ago during my spring break that Becky and I spent two weeks in Ethiopia. Unlike our trip last summer, when we took 21 others with us, this time it was just Bec and me, and our purpose was singular: to get reconnected to the people. Seems a huge waste to take so many photos and not share some of them with you, so here goes.

First off, here's Becky Lynn being greeted in a village in faraway Burji. Young and old alike turned out in swarms to welcome "Mama Becky" back home.

I do not recall just who this woman was, but when she saw me she made a beeline for me and hugged and hugged on me.

I may never see this precious saint this side of heaven again, but God knows exactly who she is. He knows her entire past history -- her sorrows, her burdens, her griefs, her joys. He understands her. He loves her. The poor women of Ethiopia: they are often treated like scullery maids. How precious they are to Becky and me.

I'll never forget this reunion in Burji:

Because of timely medical intervention, Becky was able to provide emergency care for this precious wife and mother. She lost her baby but she herself survived. Here she is overwhelmed by joy to see Becky again. Note, too, the older women waiting in the wings to hug on their daughter. This is how it is everywhere we go in Ethiopia. Becky is truly an Ethiopian, though this fact is somewhat obscured by her white complexion.

In Burji we went to the clinic to pray over a young lady named Ake who had been shot by the Gujis while out in the fields.

When Becky examined her I could tell the case was desperate: sepsis had infiltrated her entire body. The next day our sister departed to be with the Lord. While in the clinic we noticed this patient holding her infant.

Turns out the lady was Bogalech, a leader among the women of the Burji church. Her child had stopped growing and refused to put on any weight. The Lord allowed us to bring bring Bogalech and Tiblett to Addis. I am glad to report that today Tiblett is doing well though her development will never be "normal." Have you ever seen a sweeter baby?

B and I had plenty of opportunities to address the flock everywhere we went. Here Becky speaks to a group of believers in Alaba, where (as you know) the persecution has been severe of late.

Here I am sharing the Good News to a group of villagers in Burji. My teaching in group settings is very simple -- usually a Scripture and a parable/story.

Of course, everywhere we went Becky's wig was a huge hit with the ladies.

I wish I could tell you how precious and dear these three men are to us. Time would fail me.

Here they are picking up the Sabers and loud speakers for our churches in Burji. (For a report, go here.) On other trips we've picked up Amharic Bibles in Addis for distribution down south. Our Bible Memory Program is rigorous (you must memorize and recite perfectly 9 passages of Scripture), but that has not stopped thousands of Ethiopians from completing it, many of them children.

Speaking of children, it is a fact that over half of Ethiopia's population is under 17 years of age. Children are ubiquitous. And they are always eager to practice their English. Let's see, what to teach them....?

Well, I hope you enjoyed your visit to Ethiopia. We need to be praying for the church there as it faces opposition from the enemies of the cross. We also need to be praying for God's guidance as to how we should use our vacations and holidays. Can this time be used for kingdom work instead of being used selfishly? Satan has a thousand little traps to keep us from being about the Father's business. We need to compare our lifestyles continually against that of the Scriptures. Remember: Only those soldiers that go to the battlefield get shot at and wounded. If we were submitting our time to the Lord of the harvest, how would our lives be different? 

Wednesday, March 9

5:35 PM Since I first published Paul, Apostle of Weakness way back in 1984, the church has seen many changes. Many of these involve technology. My dissertation was typed on a machine called a typewriter. Today the typewriter is a museum piece. Today we enjoy so many advantages I lacked when I was a student: the internet, Twitter, Face Book, blogging. These changes have all been for the good, and I embrace them.

Still, some things never change. Here are a few of them:

  • Christian education is still likeness education. We become like those with whom we study. So let us choose wisely.

  • Power to love the lost is still a supernatural thing. Only the Spirit can impart such love. He alone stirs us out of our apathy and into service.

  • Persecution is still a mark of the normal Christian life. No true follower of Jesus can die and rise with the Master and still live peaceably with this world.

  • Barriers still exist. The educated versus the uneducated, the haves versus the have-nots, Republicans versus Democrats. Christians truly comprise a third race -- and we should live that way by rising above these barriers.

  • Education still opens doors. If you're well-educated, use your degrees for the Lord. My Basel doctorate has opened some unbelievably wide evangelistic doors for me. Of course, in the Body of Christ, degrees mean nothing. The kingdom is flat.

  • We still need to share our faith with the lost. Relationally and relentlessly. The Christians who brought the Gospel to Antioch (Acts 11) were impelled by one thing: their concern for others.

  • The ministry of the Word is still necessary. And not just by "preachers." I mean individual Christians wrestling with what they read in their Bibles. I mean small groups giving priority to Bible study. I mean using the Scriptures both as a guide for daily living and an instrument which which to share Christ with others.

  • We still need to care for new believers. The goal is not decisions but disciples. We Baptists should be ashamed of our inflated membership statistics. New converts must get settled in the basics of the Christian life.

  • The church must still care for the hungry and needy. My preaching among the fierce Guji tribe of Ethiopia did not take place in a vacuum. Seeds were distributed to the villagers, and our acceptance was at least partly due to the loving practical assistance that was offered in the name of the Savior.

  • Shared leadership remains a priority. It can make a huge difference in our churches not least by preserving us from the idiosyncrasies of one person.

In a word, the times may have changed, as well as the means by which we communicate with each other, but there are certain aspects of basic Christianity that will never be passé.  

5:03 PM Bradley McLean of Knox College announces that his new Greek grammar will appear this year. I wish it well!

2:10 PM It seems beyond question that the evangelical church in America is divided beyond repair. (This is not the case in many other countries in the world, including Ethiopia, where evangelicals work side by side and hand in hand for the Gospel.) I think we can agree that the topic is an important one. Perhaps I'm being unduly optimistic, but I think Arthur Sido points us to the correct answers in his latest blog post called How to change a culture of accepted disunity.

12:33 PM Right now I am paying our household bills. Luke 14:30 reads, "This person began to build but couldn't finish." I assume the person ran out of money and couldn't pay the bills as they came due. Beginning Greek students, may I apply this to our class? It is not enough to start. Yes, I realize it's costing you more than you had anticipated. The first flush of the new venture has long since worn off and Greek class is now simply putting one foot in front of the other. Perhaps the cost is more than you thought. But I beg you to believe me -- the rewards are worth the investment. And if I can help you in any way please let me know. I am here to serve you. Even during my week off.

12:14 PM Tim Challies' review of Love Wins by Rob Bell is a reminder that exegesis matters. Greek matters. The seeds of this debate may well have been planted in a faulty understanding of language and linguistics.

12:03 PM Pat Buchanan wants to know where we get the moral or legal right to attack Libya. In my opinion, it is impossible to know whether violence will be effective toward the ends that are posited. This is self-evident when we look at Iraq, where the government in recent days has been clamping down (with the use of force) on innocent protestors. We ask, "We spent our blood and fortune for this?" Buchanan is correct: a no-fly zone over Libya will require us to attack a sovereign nation that has never attacked us. At the very least this would require a congressional declaration of war. As for us Christians, I see in Libya a reminder of two things:

1) The power of weakness. There is a strength involved when the weak and oppressed masses begin to protest.

2) The weakness of power. Power corrupts, and governments that wield it unjustly will one day have to answer to the people.

What might a Christian response look like in Libya? Based on my reading of the Gospels, Christians are under no obligation to enforce what governments sanction through violence. We do not ask, "How can we defeat the pro-government forces?" Nor do we ask, "How can we support militarily the anti-government forces?" Instead, Christian doctors might volunteer their medical services to treat the wounded (of both sides) in the name of the Prince of Peace. They would show a watching world that Jesus' kingdom transcends political boundaries. Indeed, Jesus renounced the justified insurrection of the Zealots of His day. In my view, this is not the time in human history to give up on the claims of the Jesus of the Gospels that Christian ethics must be transmuted in apolitical forms.

11:26 AM During the American Civil War the cavalry tactics of George Armstrong Custer became the stuff of legend. Of the Union's Generals, only Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan were held in higher regard by the public. The Boy General had found his calling, and he was very good at it. Why am I mentioning this? Because Custer graduated at the very bottom of his class at West Point. And he earned his worst grades in -- want to guess? -- cavalry tactics! By all accounts, Custer hated book learning. On the job training suited him much better.

Although I am a classroom teacher by profession and have been at it for some 34 years, I assure you, everything of significance you will ever learn you will learn from experience, not in a classroom. The crucible of life is realistic, nontechnical (usually), and free from perfectionistic demands. Essentially, Christianity is a Way of life. Biblical principles work. If they didn't, I would never waste your time or mine by writing this blog. Life is a place for biblical truth to be fleshed out, regardless of our educational status or attainments. It's lengthy, costly, messy -- and just plain hard work. But when you consider the alternative, it's well worth the effort. 

11:12 AM I began my revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness well over a year ago. It's one thing to say, "I'm going to republish my dissertation." It's another thing entirely to get the thing finished. One famous author put it this way:

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him about to the public.

Winston Churchill's comments on book writing are certainly fitting. Now it's on to other writing projects!

Tuesday, March 8

7:57 PM More on the church burnings in Jimma, Ethiopia.

5:58 PM Odds and ends ...

  • The Germans have a saying: Aller Anfang ist schwer ("Every beginning is difficult.") That includes getting started in blogging. Here's proof.

  • Justin Stratis, a Ph.D. student under John Webster at the University of Aberdeen, responds to the Rob Bell controversy with If There Is a Hell.

  • How does your seminary shake out? Find out here.

  • Matt Capps has published his introductory sermon to Philippians. Well done, Matt!

  • More Resources for Greek students.

  • Arthur Sido reviews Mere Churchianity ("This is a book for those who see more to the church than pulpits, pews and handshakes in the foyer").

5:42 PM Today I finished, by the grace of God, my revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I had lots of barriers that had kept me from this task, mostly specious ones, i.e., lame duck excuses. I have found that growing older has its challenges that are impossible to escape. Strange things occur. What once was easy becomes a bit more complicated. Writing requires more mental energy than it did when I was a freshly-minted D.Theol. Age breeds tendencies that must be brought under control. Procrastination is one of them. So is the tendency to kick up one's heels and say, "I've paid my dues." One thing is for sure: I'm a lot more weather-beaten now than I was when the first edition of the book came out. Still, I have an enormous desire to write books that God has placed within me. Writing is a lot like physical exercise. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Yesterday I set a "workout" goal, and today I'm done. I hope to have the book off to the publisher by the end of the month. I've updated both the bibliography and each chapter. I've also used inclusive language throughout and have transliterated all Greek and Hebrew words. It's been a fun, painful, frustrating, and extremely rewarding process, all at the same time. I still can't believe that this was my very first published book, and that it is to have a "phoenix" moment. I'm warning you, though: Studying about God's strength-in-weakness goal for Christians can be dangerous. I am not a new Christian. I have been walking with the Lord Jesus for 51 years. Yet there is no single area of my Christian life that does not need significant improvement. If the result of this book is to drive us all to our knees and to a reexamination of our weaknesses in the light of the Scriptures, then I will be well satisfied.

Below: The old (left) and the new (still in manuscript form):

Monday, March 7

8:23 AM Wow, if this isn't true!

Is there a ministry in your church or something at your office that you just do to be doing, yet it is bearing no fruit? Why do you keep doing it? Habit? Security? Fear of change? If it isn’t bearing any fruit, then you and I are wasting time aren’t we? I no longer fear pruning. Sometimes it just has to be done.

Read Pruning.

8:12 AM Still more on the clashes in Jimma. The report concludes:

Jimma and its vicinities are not new for such religious conflicts. Hundreds were killed after clashes between Muslims and orthodox Christians six years ago. Currently a number of Protestants are fleeing the conflict areas and sheltered in the compound of the office of Union of Evangelical Churches Ministry in Jimma. Kale Hiwot church is hosting another 27 families who fled from the violence. Some people are also sheltering in Mekane Yesus church.

Note: "Kale Hiwot" is the largest Protestant denomination in Ethiopia and is baptistic in its structure and polity. "Mekane Yesus" refers to the Lutheran church in Ethiopia. 

7:58 AM Odds and ends ...

1) "Tomorrow morning I begin my new job with JCB." Thus begins this powerful blog post by Eric Carpenter. We wish you well, Eric, as you begin your new job today!

2) My colleague Bruce Ashford asks, Missions and Seminary Education: A Match Made in Heaven or Hell?

3) Time to get the lawn mower out again. Green is back!

4) Before I forget, here's Bloomberg's take on the persecution in Ethiopia.

5) Graham Michael mounts an assault on "Celebrity Christianity" in his excellent essay Labels and Division.

6) My goal this week (it is spring break) is to finish my revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness. This has been a wonderful project for me in every way, but I just can't seem to wrap it up!

7:35 AM Quote of the day (Dietrich Bonhoeffer):

The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential.

Sunday, March 6

7:12 PM This email prayer came today:

Brother Dave. I praise the Lord for you and sister Becky's continued love for all the saints. I praise him for your continued remembrance of his body which is persecuted and your stepping out to support them. I praise our Lord for your continued hospitality for those who are in need and the ministry of encouragement that you both have. I pray that the Lord will quicken his hand of healing over your lives; that he will continue to cause you to be fruitful and effective in love; through your combined ministry of impacting and imparting wisdom and grace to those you teach and serve in the many ways you do. 

I continue to pray that the Lord will cover you with a blanket of peace; which will allow your minds and bodies to rest. May our Lord give you the ability to truly be able to give Him all your anxious thoughts; tell him about your fears and doubts in any area that troubles you and that only the peace he can give will cover, fill and flow through you both and not only you; but your family. Today I also join in and say Amen with your prayers for any family and friends whom have not yet come to know the grace of our Lord. 

Nice little serendipity. I print it here with permission of the author. To him and to all who pray for us regularly: thank you very much for your love for us. We feel we do not deserve your love. But we accept it with gratitude.

6:48 PM Persecution alert: Just received an email from friends in Ethiopia that Muslim extremists have attacked and burned down 40 church buildings and a Bible school in and around the city of Jimma. Two people are known to have lost their lives in the rampage. I'll have more news when I receive it. Pass the word and pray. 

6:36 PM End of a very busy day. This afternoon was spent in major moving operations here at Bradford Hall. I just calculated that we completed 17 tasks today. These included moving one buffet cabinet, one shrank (i.e., standup closet; these first two items we brought back with us from Basel in 1983), one clavinova, two bookshelves, two file cabinets, two dressers, two bunk beds, one desk, and --outside -- we loaded two huge trailers with lumber. Five families from Bethel Hill joined us in the work. A huge Rosewood Farm THANK YOU to Leigh, Marshall, and Thomas Humphries (along with their friend Carson); Woody and Lendon Jacobs; Chris Jacobs; Marshall and Sandy Clayton; and Jason, Stacie, and Garrison Hatley. Becky and I want you to know: You are family. Feel free to drop by anytime, not only on "work days."

We all got quite a workout today. We'll feel it tomorrow I'm sure. Our goal in rearranging the furniture? We wanted to make it easier for when B's mom and dad come to visit us. Now their sleeping quarters will be downstairs. Also, this fall we plan on providing free room and board for two seminarians. They will be international students, each from a different nation. Becky and I have a special place in our hearts for foreign students since we ourselves were international students at one time.

Pix (of course):

7:44 AM I am very excited for my friends Alvin Reid and Matt Capps, both of whom are beginning a series on the book of Philippians today. It is amazing to me how an understanding of the entire structure of the book helps to clarify and disambiguate lower level constructions such as phrases and clauses. Here are but three examples:

1) In 2:12, Paul says "work out your own salvation." Dos this refer to one's individual spiritual salvation or to something bigger and broader? Well, remember that this letter is addressed to the church as a whole, and that Paul has just warned the believers in Philippi to do nothing from selfishness. Instead, they are to regard others as more important than themselves and look out for the interests of others (2:1-4). Hence "salvation" here seems to be a reference to the health and corporate well-being of the church, which has been under duress because of various factions in its midst. (Note 2:14: "Do all things without grumbling and complaining" is but a very practical example of the outworking of their corporate wholeness.)

2) In 2:16, are we to render the Greek "holding forth the Word of life" or "holding fast to the Word of life"? The Greek permits either rendering. The participle epechontes may mean "hold on to" something, but the emphasis of the entire book is on living for the sake of the Gospel, putting the Good News first in our lives (1:27). This we do by "holding forth" the life-giving Word. In Homer the term is used for holding a cup to a thirsty person's lips or the offering of a breast to a baby. Clearly, then, the reference here is to missionary activity in spreading the Gospel.

3) In 4:5 we read: "Let your gentleness be known to all people. The Lord is near." The Greek term epieikes, translated here "gentleness," means (according to BDAG) "not insisting upon every right or letter of the law or custom; yielding; humble, kind; courteous; tolerant." The NEB renders the term "magnanimity" while Hendricksen prefers "big-heartedness." Paul is saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff. Be willing to meet others half way. Stop insisting on having everything your way." After all, the Lord is near; He is coming soon to right all wrongs. The Philippian church, divided by backbiting that had left deep teeth marks, surely needed this word of exhortation.

Alvin and Matt, I'll be praying for as you exposit this wonderful epistle. Please keep us updated on your Twitter accounts as to how things are going.

7:15 AM An Open Letter to my Exegesis of Mark class:

Dear Students,

I hope you're enjoying as much as I am our study of the Gospel of Mark and its bold look at what it means to follow Jesus. My own study of the sixteenth century Anabaptists forever changed the way I looked at Christian discipleship. As John Howard Yoder was fond of saying, the Anabaptists did not reinvent Christianity; they simply rediscovered its radical character. For example, they were content to call each other "brother and sister" because Jesus had made it clear that honorific titles had no place in His kingdom. They refused to slavishly follow church traditions. In Zürich, the Anabaptist movement began with the expectation that the Zwinglian movement might indeed "go all the way" with reformation. For them, the New Testament provided no warrant for infant baptism or for the union of church and state. They "saw things differently" you might say -- and that is precisely my goal for you, my Greek students.

My prayer is that this course might be a training ground for cultivating an ability to see things differently and, thus, to see things truly. We can no longer aim to live "the good Christian life" as advertised in Christian magazines. I'm convinced that, if we would adopt a truly Christian lifestyle, we would turn our world upside down for Christ. Jesus' disciples knew this. They lived a lifestyle that matched their responsibility to a lost world. It showed as they went forth, two by two, to preach and heal. It showed by their detachment from the worship of earthy things. It showed.

Jesus made no apology for demanding our ultimate allegiance. If we're not putting His kingdom first, then why in the world are we studying the Gospels?

Yours in the Lamb,

Dave Black

Saturday, March 5

6:14 PM To our good friend Aussie John and his dear wife Valerie:

Happy Wedding Anniversary!

6:04 PM Mark Stevens has rediscovered the value of the NRSV. Mark, in Scribes and Scripture: New Testament Essays in Honor of J. Harold Greenlee (which I was privileged to present to Harold at the annual SBL meeting in 1992), Bruce Metzger contributed an excellent essay on translational issues in the NRSV New Testament (he served as General Editor). If your theological library has a copy of this book, I think you'd enjoy reading Metzger's essay. Among other hot button issues he discusses is the use of inclusive language.

3:30 PM More odds and ends ...

1) Alan Knox thinks the head of the church should be paid more than others. I'm not making that up. He really does.

2) One of my favorite writers on the relationship of church and state answers the question: How should Christians view the political process? 

3) Kevin Baker provokes thinking in his Why I like FB (but am still giving it up for Lent).

4) Craig Bennett comes up with the million dollar quote of the day.

5) I'm pleasantly surprised to see this essay over at Cryptotheology: Reading Greek without translating in your head.

6) It's been a while since I linked to anything by Greg Boyd, but his latest essay provides some valuable insights into Rob Bell's latest book (which Greg has actually read).

7) David Ker wants some help in interpreting a couple of passages in Philippians. (A peripheral comment if I may: Wouldn't a perusal of the major Greek exegetical commentaries on the book be a good place to start?) 

2:16 PM I wrote the following report after attending the 2010 SBC Convention in Orlando. I believe what I wrote then is still relevant today. 

The Future of Southern Baptist Missions

This summer I attended the SBC convention in Orlando. How was it? Expensive. The seminary very graciously put me up in the Hilton. Not cheap. However, I noticed a nearby Days Inn whose rooms went for half the price. That's where I spent my second night. Felt good to be able to save the school some money. Besides, little David had something Goliath lacked: An internet terminal in the lobby where guests could check their email. Gotta have that! I met lots of people, both colleagues and students (former and prospective). Jason Hall did an absolutely phenomenal job of setting up and managing the SEBTS booth. David Allen sauntered by one day, as did many other good friends.

Multiply these encounters a hundredfold and you'll understand why these conferences are so much fun. I don't know how many messengers attended this year's meeting but the place was packed solid. The SEBTS luncheon on Wednesday, at which both Danny Akin and Johnny Hunt spoke, was fantastic. I came away from the convention with a new realization that a Great Commission resurgence will not begin at the denominational level. It will end there. A Great Commission commitment must begin in our homes and marriages, and then in our local churches, each one of them. This is clearly the pattern of the book of Acts. The church at Antioch, the world's first missional church, is proof of that. As I came to this realization, I was filled with excitement. Clearly missions is now possible on a scale as never before. I'm not talking about professional missionaries only. The work of the Great Commission will certainly include them. But the work is much broader than that. The playing field has been leveled as never before. It is level in the sense that everyone can now be a player, and in venues once thought impossible. Just do a Google. I did so the other day and found an interesting site, in Iraq of all places. A new American University has just opened there and is willing to pay you to be a fulltime missionary to Iraq -- as long as you are willing to teach business or English. Here education, as it so often has done in the past, is leading the way in breaking down walls and knitting the world together. The dynamic behind this globalization in education is practically begging us North Americans to capitalize on it. (I am tempted to grab a quick degree in ESL and apply for the job myself.)

Let's say you want to do missionary work in China. Did you know that secular Chinese universities are hiring Americans to teach courses in biblical studies? A couple of years ago I got an email from an American scholar who was taking a sabbatical in China and teaching at Shanghai University. He wrote to tell me he was using my beginning Greek grammar in one of his courses. I was flabbergasted. Here was an American evangelical teaching both Greek and New Testament Introduction in a Chinese university, at the expense of the Chinese. In Dalian -- China's silicon valley -- there are 22 universities and colleges with over 200,000 students. Most of these ambitious young people are eager to study English. The era of top-down missions -- where all missionaries are professionally trained -- is rapidly vanishing. Something infinitely more satisfying is arising alongside the traditional model. The faster the transition, the greater the potential for involving larger and larger numbers of "laypeople" (you and me) in the cause of the Great Commission. This flattening of world missions has the potential to unlock pent-up energies for hundreds of thousands of North Americans, Southern Baptists included.

It is impossible to exaggerate how important this development is. Couple this with developments in communications and transportation and the world has become not only flatter but a lot smaller. Becky's missionary parents traveled to Ethiopia for the first time in 1954. Their trip by freighter took 6 weeks. Today we can fly from Washington DC to Addis Ababa in a mere 19 hours. Moreover, wherever you're going, there's probably a job skill God can use. Working in a secular job while actually being a fulltime missionary may sound rather routine and dull. But these jobs often pay well, and you have a natural venue for establishing relationships with a view toward sharing the Good News. In addition, biblical education is possible as never before. It's is no longer campus-centered, and you can easily educate yourself -- even in Greek and Hebrew -- online. When Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, his goal was to provide every individual "IAYF" -- information at your fingertips. His success is obvious.

The global information revolution has impacted missions. The world is now connected, and it seems that nothing will stop the digital representation of practically everything. Back when my in-laws were working in Ethiopia, this infrastructure was missing. Now everyone is online -- writing, blogging, tweeting. (Personally, I believe HTML is the greatest invention of the twentieth century, since it has allowed average people like me to author web pages with ease.) We have reached a point in missions that almost any of us can become personally involved, whether it's by going or informing or teaching via one's website. The great thing about modern missions, as I heard over and over again at the convention, is that anyone and everyone can be involved. Indeed, everyone ought to be involved. Even a Facebook page or a Twitter account can become a powerful evangelistic tool in this day of social networking. In other words, once the idea that every Christian is a fulltime missionary is accepted, the work of missions will advance with much less hierarchy -- and much less wasted money. In time, I think we will see a new equilibrium emerge in which professionally-trained missionaries will work side-by-side with an army of volunteers in a low-friction environment that enhances cooperation.

For me, working in Ethiopia is a dream come true. When Becky and I went to Ethiopia in 2004 our sole purpose was to see the places in her childhood that shaped her. Today we make two trips a year. There are many professional missionaries working in Ethiopia, but Becky and I have still found plenty of room to maneuver in places where most foreign missionaries would never think of going. As with blogging, where an army of citizen journalists has matched the official media outlets in the information gathering and disseminating routine, today there is an army of citizen missionaries harnessing the power of the Spirit and channeling it into significant ministries. And as never before, these ministries can stay connected. It is impossible to gauge the impact of the internet on the SBC, but when you hear Johnny Hunt say that he read hundreds of tweets during the Orlando convention it is clear that the social media are successfully monitoring the news. My generation had to adapt to the internet, but the current generation is growing up online. (I once read that one third of grade school students have their own email addresses.) The bottom line of what I am saying: It's time for us to wake up to the fact that there is a fundamental shift talking place in the way many of our churches are thinking about missions. We face the potential of tapping into the energy and abilities of five times as many people as before. As missions becomes flattened, local churches will realize they can plant other churches or send out missionaries themselves. The missions "connection" will move from vicarious support of foreign missionaries via missions giving to raising up local personnel and sending them forth. "Let's get the job done!" is a rallying cry I'm hearing from more and more Southern Baptists. And the students I'm seeing these days in seminary are like Swiss Army Knives -- sharp and adaptable. This is what happens when the missionary enterprise is no longer outsourced. Collaborative innovation flourishes -- and the result is expanded involvement on all levels in the Great Commission.

The point I took away from Orlando was a simple reminder: We are all fellow missionaries. The Body of Christ is moving into a world where less and less of the work of global evangelization is being outsourced. When we develop a missional mindset, we get rid of the notion that missions is only for others. We are moving into a world where more and more of us will do the work of an evangelist. In the meantime, missionary communications are being revolutionized. During the Orlando convention I kept up with a friend's mission trip to Greece via his tweets and twitpics. (I imagine he was keeping up with the convention as well.) In short, my two days in Orlando showed me that there is potential for our priorities to get completely reshuffled -- with an accompanying awareness that missions is ultimately the responsibility of local churches -- yours and mine. As I said earlier, a Great Commission resurgence will not not happen in the convention without it happening in my own life. Let's face it: We can say we are "Great Commission Christians" until we are blue in the face. Meanwhile, the world is going to hell. Recently the BP chairman apologized for the oil spill and added: "We made it clear to the president that words are not enough. We should be judged by our actions." Southern Baptists need to hear that loud and clear. More and more of us are asking which of our values are worth preserving and which should disappear. I hope that all of this gets sorted out at the denomination level (and I predict that it will). But even if it doesn't, there is nothing to keep me and my local church from doing all we can to help advance God's kingdom on earth, both through our support of the CP and through our personal involvement.

1:24 PM The news you've all been waiting for:


But I'm getting ahead of myself. After a trip to Ace, I laid out all my tools like a good surgeon.

Then I fitted together the new pipe and coupling to the old copper tube and threaded it through the holes into the crawl space.

Working mostly by feel, I then glued together the two pieces of PVC.

After a few minutes to let everything dry came the moment of truth. I turned the water back on and everything worked. And it wasn't that hard either -- no harm, no foul, no blood, no ambulance (as Chick Hearn used to say during the Lakers games in Los Angeles).

Thanks to everyone who wrote in to sympathize with my plight. One of you asked:

Brother Dave, how is your son and daughter-law and Nolan? You don't speak much of them any more is Nathan not around to help you with the pipe?

To which I replied:

Extremely busy. Saw Nolan and Jessie yesterday. Both looked great. Nolan is beginning to talk. Nate is gone almost every day from dawn to dusk on construction projects (his building skills are in great demand). So I'm giving them lots of space and privacy to establish their own business, family style, boundaries, identity, etc., as every new family deserves.

We've divided operations: Nate, Jess, and Co. will do the farming, and I will simplify (in my "old age") and stick to Bradford Hall repairs -- since I'm so good at them. Right now I'm watching Nate on the tractor spreading fertilizer in the fields getting ready for haying. Beautiful.

As you can see, I'm trying to step up to the plate when it comes to home repairs and such, which I should have done years ago. It was always so much easier to lean on my capable son. But those days are gone forever -- and for the better!

P.S. No, I didn't forget to water Becky's flowers.

9:54 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Becky's attending a women's conference in Roxboro all day today. Praying it is edifying for everyone in attendance.

2) Just received an email from a missionary in Asia who has been using our Greek DVD set. He writes: "The DVDs, yes I received them in mid-January I believe and have been thoroughly blessed by them! Reading the chapter once, watching the DVD lecture, and reading again has been very fruitful. " What a blessing!

3) Here's the latest on the brouhaha over Rob Bell's new book. The author raises some good questions: "Is the blogosphere the new council?  Where is the authority?  What are the boundaries as to how the discussion should proceed?  Should we be airing our issues for all the world to see in such a public format?"

4) I ran into Lloyd Williamson at Ace Hardware yesterday. Lloyd went with us to Alaba back in June of 2007. I'll never forget the first time an Ethiopian held his hand while walking. The Ethiopian in question was a man, not a woman. There was brother Lloyd, outdoorsman, hunter, farmer -- the ultimate Alpha Mensch -- walking hand in hand with another male. He took a big swallow and then carried on as if nothing unusual had happened. The things you have to do to be a good missionary!

5) Our library at SEBTS is a wonderful repository of books, and I have profited from its proximity to my office on campus. In case you're interested, I checked these books out on Tuesday afternoon. They were all read by Wednesday morning.

  • The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Where They Are, and Their Politics, by Christopher Catherwood.

  • Doing Ministry in the Igbo Context: Towards an Emerging Model for the Church in Africa, by Cajetan Ebuziem.

  • Falun Gong and the Future of China, by David Ownby.

  • L' identité de l' Eglise dans les Actes des apôtres, by Simon Butticaz.

  • Philippians and Philemon, by Charles Cousar.

Note: I am gravely suspicious of any book that claims to speak for "Africa," which, after all, is comprised of some 54 different nations and untold numbers of separate ethnic groups.

6) How's your home repair project going, Dave? you ask. I need to get back to the local hardware store and purchase a couple of wrenches, then I should be good to go. And just in the nick of time, too. Becky asked me to water her freshly planted flowers in the front garden beds, and it might help if I had the spigots working.

7) You have to feel sorry for Andrew Rozalowsky, a student at McMaster Divinity School. He wasted good study time by reviewing a book on the Gospels that is nothing but a "fanciful historical account." Or is it? Read his review and find out.

Friday, March 4

6:05 PM Walking down to the mailbox has its advantages when you can encounter views like these. 

5:54 PM Got the parts but now lack the proper wrenches. Can't do the work without the right tools. It's like trying to interpret a Greek letter without knowing anything about discourse analysis.

1:55 PM I went to turn on the water to the outside spigots today and lo and behold one of them had a tremendous leak.

Did I call a plumber? Are you kidding? I may not be the brightest light in the candelabra, but I am bound and determined to do minor house repairs by myself!

The first step was to determine the exact source of the leak. So into the crawl space I slithered, as nimbly as any snake you've ever seen. And sure enough, Watson, the leak was coming from the inside and not the outside!

Self, what to do next? I inquired. Aha! I'll grab my handy hacksaw and cut the PVC pipe close to the leak but also in a place where I can work on the project easily. Eh voila -- the pipe came out easily!

Now the next step is going to be a little tricky but at least I'll have the advice of the experts at Home Depot. I predict I'll need two items: (1) A new section of pipe, and (2) a connector of some sort to hold the pieces of pipe together. I believe they make couplets that are somehow glued onto the PVC. Am I right? We're about to find out.

Stay tuned for Part Two!

9:28 AM Speaking of Greek, the registrar has set the dates for my summer school Greek Syntax and Exegesis class. We'll meet from July 5-22 for three weeks, 9:00 to noon daily. Textbooks include It's Still Greek to Me, Using New Testament Greek in Ministry, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, New Testament Textual Criticism, Metzger's Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, and Jerry Sumney's Philippians: A Greek Student's Intermediate Reader.

We'll be translating the entire book of Philippians plus improving our syntax plus learning how to do exegesis plus studying linguistics plus increasing our word power. Small wonder students call this course "Greek on Steroids." 

P.S. If you can't make this session, I'll also be teaching a section of the course during the fall semester.

9:12 AM After Wednesday's Greek class a student came up to me and said, "Greek is awesome. It's so exciting to be reading the text in the original language." Enthusiasm was splashed all over her face. And the thing is: Greek is not required for her degree program. She's taking it as an elective. May her tribe increase!

9:08 AM Found these thoughts over at Jody Neufeld's blog: 

Take a moment right now and remember your mistakes from yesterday. Maybe you didn’t speak to your spouse with kindness but with sharpness. Maybe you didn’t call your friend because you just didn’t feel like hearing her/his problems. Maybe you griped about having to work on a past holiday and didn’t get any extra pay. God forgives you. Yes, He does. Just ask Him. He does. Every time – because of Jesus. Now – let it go – and let’s learn from our mistakes and move on and not repeat that one! God is faithful.

Read Looking to God.

8:42 AM How did the great C. S. Lewis learn Greek? The answer might surprise you. It did me!

Thursday, March 3

5:40 PM Once again it's my privilege to call your attention to the work of the Lord in Ethiopia. What an opportunity the believers in Zobechame have to influence their Muslim neighbors for Christ! Yes, being a Christian in Alaba is dangerous, risky, and often unpleasant. But servanthood in the name of Jesus is the normal Christian life. Bond-slavery, like marriage, implies total allegiance!

So please read Urgent Need for the Lord's Church in Zobechame, Ethiopia and then ask the Lord Jesus how you can help!

5:25 PM Speaking of Andy Bowden, he's just expanded his list of German-speaking universities offering the Ph.D. in New Testament. Check it out below or at his website. Let's all wish Andy well as he flies to Germany next month to interview at several different schools.

Berlin (Humboldt)
Cilliers Breytenbach
Focus: Literatur, Religions, und Zeitgeschichte des Urchristentums

Jens Schröter
Focus: Exegesis and Interpretation

Günter Röhser
Focus: Gospels, Paul, New Testament Ethics

Lukas Bormann
Focus: Luke, Paul,

Peter Pilhofer
Focus: Philippi, Acts, archeology

Stefan Alkier
Focus: Hermeneutik und Theologie des Neuen Testaments, Paulus und Synoptiker, Wunder und Auferstehung, Religions- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Palästinas, Biblische Intertextualität / Intertextualität jüdischer und frühchristlicher Schriften, Bibel in der Gegenwartskultur, Semiotik und Methodologie, Forschungsgeschichte

Michael Schneider
Publications (see above)
Focus: Paulinische Theologie, Neutestamentliche Hermeneutik und Methodologie(n), Biblische Intertextualität, Bibeldidaktik, Bibel in der Gegenwartskultur, Bibel in Liturgie, Predigt und Kirchenmusik

Werner Kahl
Publications: (see above)
Focus: Intertextuality between OT and NT, Missions, Miracles, Charasmatics

Werner Zager
Focus: Apokalyptik, Mark-Q, Albert Schweizer, sermon on the mt.

Reinhard Feldmeier
Focus: Religionsgeschichte der hellenistischen Welt, Synoptische Evangelien, Katholische Briefe und Aposteltraditionen, Biblische Gotteslehre

Christfried Böttrich (This website has all the information you need, including a biography, publications, et.)

Christine Gerber
Focus: Paulus, Paulusschule, hellenistisches Judentum (Flavius Josephus), Exegese unter dem Gender-Aspekt und feministische Theologien, Methodenfragen.

Martina Böhm
Focus: Lukas; Matthäus; Samaritaner; Philo von Alexandrien; Schriftrezeption; Hermeneutik und Exegese im frühen Judentum

Peter Lampe
Publications (see above)
Focus: Christian origins, hermenuetics, Romans, Philippians

Matthias Konradt
Publications (see above)
Focus: the Epistle of James; Paul; the Gospel of Matthew

Jens Herzer
Publications (see above)
Focus: Romans, Catholic Epistles, Theology and Exegesis

Friedrich Wilhelm Horn Publications (See above)
Focus: 1 Peter, Romans,

Ruben Zimmermann
Publications (See above)
Focus: Synoptic Problem, Gospel of John, Ethics

Friedrich Avemarie
Focus: Übersetzung des Talmud Yerushalmi, Martyrdom in Ancient Judaism, der Geschichte des Antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums

Angela Standhartinger

David du Toit
Focus: 1. Research into early Christianity in the conditions of Graeco-Roman culture (particular emphasis on the construction of the cultural encyclopedia presumed in early Christian texts); 2. Semantics and lexicography of early Christian Greek; 3. The historical construction of specific sub-aspects of the history of theology in early Christianity (esp. Jesus research, the development of Christology, theologies of the synoptists); 4. Application of findings and methods drawn from linguistics, literary analysis and semiotics to the interpretation of early Christian texts.


Klaus Wachtel
Focus: Geschichte des Byzantinischen Textes des Neuen Testaments

Christina Hoegen-Rohls
Focus: John, Paul

Hermut Löhr
Publications (see above)
Focus: Hebräerbrief , Clemens Romanus und Apostolische Väter, Frühchristlicher Gottesdienst, Neutestamentliche Ethik, Agrapha, NT und antike Philosophie

Holger Strutwolf
Publications (see above)
Focus: Patristik und neutestamentliche Textforschung

Hans Joachim Eckstein
focus: Paul, resurrection

Christof Landmesser
focus: Paulusforschung, Hermeneutik und Theologie des Neuen Testaments im interdisziplinären Dialog, Synoptikerforschung, Ethik und Soziologie des Neuen Testaments, Kommentar der Thessalonicherbriefe für den Theologischen Handkommentar zum Neuen Testament (ThHK), Edition des wissenschaftlichen Briefwechsels von Rudolf Bultmann

Hermann Lichtenberger
Focus: Qumran, Ancient Judaism and Hellenistic Religions

Anna Maria Schwemer
Focus: Geschichte des frühen Christentums, Paul, Synoptics

Basel (Switzerland)
Ekkehard W. Stegemann
Focus: Paulusforschung, insbesondere Römerbrief, Sozialgeschichte des Urchristentums, Entstehung des Christentums im Rahmen antiker Kulturen, Antisemitismusforschung

Lucern (Switzerland)
Walter Kirchschläger

Freiburg (Switzerland)
Luc Devillers
Publications (see above)
Focus: Gospel of John

Max Küchler
Publications (see above)
Focus: archeology, Judaism, Synoptic Gospels

Zürich (Switzerland)
Samuel Vollenweider
Focus: Paul, Phil 2:5-11, Interreligiöser Dialog

5:19 PM Yet another "Student I Supervise":

Mr Andrew Bowden, BA (Toccoa Falls College), MDiv (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary)

ThM student under Dr. David Black


I am a ThM student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Before beginning my current degree, which involves a thesis relating to discourse analysis and the Epistle of James, I completed a BA at Toccoa Falls College, Georgia (2006), and an MDiv at Southeastern (2010). Upon completion of my current degree, I hope to pursue doctoral studies in the field of New Testament.

Research Interests:

·         The Epistle of James

·         Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation

·         New Testament Greek

·         New Testament Exegesis

10:32 AM Slept 13 hours last night. I think I'm fighting a head cold or something. Time for Vit C.

9:25 AM Robert McQuilkin, president of Columbia International University, resigned from his post in 1990 to care for his wife who had been battling Alzheimer's disease. Someone "just happened" to record a portion of his resignation speech. Here is that recording of Robertson sharing about why he resigned.

It is reminder to me that love is always a choice. I can choose to care about my relationships. The choice to do so often leads to great pain but also to great rewards. Robert McQuilkin knew that demonstrating a selfless love for others is the strongest base for building lasting relationships. He recognized his wife's need for companionship and for a feeling of togetherness and harmony. What a man values he takes good care of. Christ put it this way: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Watch the video and be blessed -- and challenged.

9:18 AM The blogosphere is abuzz with posts about the value of New Testament Greek in ministry:

You'll enjoy both essays and especially the comments at Rod's site (Carl Conrad jumps into the discussion). It's funny, really, how we Greek students can get carried away sometimes. We make such a big deal about this word or that tense and get all worked up over it, when we are possibly just over-exegeting the text. Recently I've been studying the New Testament passages dealing with reconciliation, peace, harmonious relationships, etc. Many of these texts come from the hand of Paul:

  • Rom. 12:18: "If at all possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people."

  • 1 Thess. 5:13: "Be at peace among yourselves."

  • Rom. 14:19: "So then let us pursue the things that make for peace and mutual edification."

  • And the clincher (2 Cor. 13:11): "Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with each other, and be at peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you."

You might get the idea that Paul pursued peace at any price. But that's clearly not the case. Acts 15:39 refers to a disagreement he had with Barnabas. The disagreement was so sharp that they parted ways. I was reading one commentator who emphasized the Greek word translated "sharp disagreement." He likened it to volcanic eruption. Paul and Barnabas, he insisted, had had a violent disagreement.

That's a little strong, I think. The same Greek word is used in Heb. 10:24 where it is rendered "provoke" or "stir up." Nothing violent or angry there! Don't get me wrong. Paul and Barnabas may have had a violent disagreement. They may have even yelled at each other. But there is nothing in the text that would demand this interpretation. Nor does the Greek word require it.

For whatever reasons (and they were probably theological in nature), Paul decided that he could not agree with Barnabas about Mark. Either side could have compromised. Paul could have taken Mark along on probation. Barnabas could have given in to Paul, just this once, and gone without his cousin. The fact is, Paul and Barnabas had a legitimate difference of opinion, and neither was willing to yield. A rift was unavoidable, yet God used it to send forth two missionary teams instead of one; and, of course, Paul and Mark were later reconciled.

Carl Conrad is absolutely correct when he wrote, in the comment thread to Rod's post:

There is just so much more involved in understanding a text than being able to read the text in its original language. I’m glad to be able to read the GNT, but I think it would be presumptuous to think that for that reason alone I have greater insight into what the original writer intended.

In my study of the New Testament concept of peace and reconciliation, I intend to make full use of my Greek New Testament – but not, I hope, to the exclusion of some old-fashioned common sense.

9:07 AM Baby Nathan is three years old!

If you're wondering who Nathan is, Becky has written about him in her essay Putting Sacrifice into Perspective.

8:58 AM A colleague of mine is beginning a series on Philippians in his local church. He asked me, "If you were to say in a paragraph or less what we must take from this precious letter what would it be?"

What a great question!

I wrote back:

The only thing that matters in life is to live as good citizens of heaven in a way that is required by the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1:27). Life boils down to one purpose: To live for Christ. To know Him, and to make Him known. I must put the Gospel first in my life, which means that I must act like Jesus, who deliberately put himself in the humblest human condition because he loved others more than he loved himself. By losing my life I will find it! Dying, I live! I have the privilege of not only believing in him but of suffering for him! As David Brainerd (died at age 36) put it, "I wanted to wear myself out in service for his glory. I cared not how or where I lived, or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls for Christ." I want to live that way. I want to be an Epaphroditus who gambles his life away in the cause of the Good News.

I've asked Miss Phyllis to send you a .pdf of my study of the discourse structure of Philippians. It's all about the progress of the Gospel (and not joy, which at best is a by-product of living for Jesus!).

I'll be praying for my friend's series on Philippians. I plan to do one myself at Bethel Hill this summer. One last thought on Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30). The text says he gambled his life away, "daringly exposing himself to danger" (Hawthorne). Are you willing to take enormous risks for the sake of the Gospel? To aid a friend in need?

8:47 AM Enter your typical Baptist church and you are likely find a fulltime pastor with an assistant or two. In a New Testament church you would find nothing of the sort. The earliest Christians practiced team leadership. The responsibilities were shared, and the benefits must have been enormous. At my home church our pastor is going on sabbatical – which is the perfect opportunity for our deacons to step up to the plate (as they are eager to do). It is the perfect time to transition to elders (as we are in the process of doing, under the direction of our pastors and deacons). It will cost a lot, of course – caring for the Body is time-consuming. But at least the burden will be shared. How wise the early Christians were! How much we have to learn from them!

8:40 AM I get impatient with myself when I read excellent blog posts like the one by David Williams on the use of ekballo in the New Testament. Well done indeed!

8:32 AM In Mark class we discussed ever so briefly the way the apostles went out 2 by 2 and how they were instructed not to take anything for the journey except what was absolutely essential. We compared what the Didache has to say about traveling prophets who were in it for the money. Here's a summary:

  • If a visiting teacher remains somewhere for three days, he's a false prophet (11:5).

  • If he takes anything from God's people except for a loaf of bread, he's a false prophet (11:6).

  • If he asks for money, he's a false prophet (11:6).

  • If someone says in the Spirit, "give me money," do not listen to him (11:12).

  • Christian workers should work for their own bread (12:3).

  • "In no way should anyone live among you unemployed as a Christian" (12:4).

I have never stated this before on this website but I mentioned it in class yesterday so I'll mention it here. Becky and I have never charged a set fee for speaking. Never have, never will. If we do receive an honorarium we put it right back into the Ethiopia work.

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