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March 2014 Blog Archives

Monday, March 31

1:45 PM Loved speaking to the Board of Visitors.

My message? All we have is His. Our hands, legs, hearts, ears, finances, vacations, energy, goals, dreams -- everything belongs to Christ. If we are obedient, world evangelization can be done and, by God's grace, will be done.

Here I am with Dr. M. O. Owens Jr. I hold a New Testament chair named in his honor. He is 100 years young.

May I challenge you, dear reader, to pledge your allegiance to Christ in such a way that you'll surrender anything He asks?

7:50 AM It's time to stop going to church!

7:18 AM The Board of Visitors has assembled on campus.

So honored to be asked to share a word with them this morning. Grateful beyond words for their tireless support of Southeastern.

7:12 AM Please pray for me as I plan for my upcoming teaching trips to Asia (April), New York (May), Hawaii (July), India (October), Ukraine (November), and Asia again (December). There is only one harvest and one Lord of the harvest. We need to work together and support each other in the common task.

7:02 AM "You need to understand that you never graduate, you never stop learning, not until you die." Japanese sushi chef Yosuke Imada. Good word for pastors. 

6:54 AM NEWSFLASH! The Author of Hebrews Finally Revealed! It's John of Japan! Step right up and read all about it

6:45 AM A shout out to my friends at Clement Baptist Church. It was an amazing experience for me to share with people who are powerfully committed to taking the Good News to the ends of the earth. I want to see evangelicals go with the new standard of every-member ministry rather than the old method of outsourcing missions to professionals. We will always need professionals, but the job won't get done until all of us step up to the plate.

Sunday, March 30

8:08 AM It's all over the news. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are getting a divorce. She came clean on Tuesday, when she announced that she and her husband were undergoing a "conscious uncoupling" -- a New Age-y term that has the internet buzzing. They say it's a nicer term than "divorce." And it's supposed to be a less stressful version of breaking up. Some uncoupled couples even admit to being closer after the split than before.

Since I was recently "consciously uncoupled" from my spouse of 37 years, I had to stop and think. I have to wonder why we need to choose terms that are less offensive, less harsh, more euphemistic to describe what we're experiencing as human beings. When Becky passed away almost 5 months ago, I had no idea how weak I was, or how strong, or whether I would even be able to face her loss in a healthy sort of way. Even today, I just can't seem to get over it. It's taken me this long just to use the word "death" to refer to her "passing," her "Homegoing." Becky's death was traumatic to me. It literally disrupted the functioning of my heart and mind. I still feel its after-effects. I was asked to open my hands and release my grasp on a person who was precious to me. I was asked to acknowledge that He is Lord and I am not. "It's too much," I told myself. Four and a half years of watching my wife die. Six months of agony at the end. In the place of hope was substituted an event that pried my fingers open. And all of this is complicated by the fact that life goes on. It has to. There is work to be done and children to care for and books to be finished.

I am so grateful for each one of you. On Friday one of you wrote:

I've never grieved the loss of my sweetheart. I give you permission brother, to weep, lament, cry and sob for as many moments it takes.

Know that I read each and every one of your emails. I am strengthened by your words. Your walking beside me means more to me than you will ever know. I am not hesitant to share my journey with you. I just hope and pray you never get tired of it. On NPR yesterday a FedEx employee was interviewed. His advice? Never write "Fragile" on a package. It will have the reverse effect. The worker will think, "How dare they imply that we don't always take good care of our packages!" I know I run a risk in being so transparent, so "fragile" on this blog. But blog I must. Recovering from the death of a spouse is like having to get off the Interstate every hour or so because the main route is under construction. You have to pass through little towns and 2-lane roads before you can get back on the finished highway. The good news is that you're still heading in the right direction. The bad news is that it seems you're never going in a straight line. Last night I careened off the freeway. The trigger was a memory of my bride and me on our honeymoon in Hawaii. But this morning I am back on the Interstate. Why? Because I realize that my response to loss is normal. And because God has made me resilient. And because a hundred million little things make my loss more bearable -- like the email I quoted above. Believe it nor not, I am beginning to discover new personal growth from my grief. I am eating, sleeping, exercising, traveling, going out and doing silly things like taking in a concert or being lavish with someone I love. I am beginning to build new relationships. I am starting to experience life again. Trauma, loss, death, uncoupling -- perhaps one day I will be able to call it a simple transition. But I know there's a finished highway in my future. Hope will replace despair. Calmness will replace anxiety.

Of course, the best person to tell about my loss is God. Believe me, He hears it unedited! But you come in a close second. You don't mind, do you?

Saturday, March 29

8:02 PM Picked up Nigu from campus today and asked him what he wanted for dinner. "Ribs." Yep. That man is a carnivore. So off we went to Ruby Tuesday where the half slab with a baked potato will make you more stuffed than a Thanksgiving turkey. (I admit that I am a bit hooked on their ribs.)

We talked about how to translate the Great Commission, the theme and structure of 1 Thessalonians, Greek grammar, etc. Please pray for Nigusse as he is fighting a cold and is feeling a bit cruddy.

Blessings,

Dave

8:58 AM Big week on campus as we celebrate Danny Akin's 10th anniversary as SEBTS president. Our board of visitors and board of trustees will be on campus. I will have the privilege of addressing them on Monday morning. My topic? "'Go' or 'As you go'?" Monday night: banquet at Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville. Tuesday in chapel: The man who hired me 15 years ago, Dr. Paige Patterson. P.S. Don't forget Danny's Family Life Conference, April 4-5.

7:52 AM The concert last night was fantastic. Music is both an interior experience and an objective phenomenon. We are not just observers but participants. Luther put it this way: "My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary." Agreed!

Here's the orchestra playing that great Chinese classic, "Tu-ning."

Today it's back to writing. As some of you may know, I am OCD. I have an insatiable compulsion to think. At times, people say they appreciate what I write. On the other hand, the vast majority of my peers regard me as loony, but I don't really care. I write what I think. Here I stand; I can do no other!

Good Day!

Friday, March 28

2:04 PM Just back from Chapel Hill to see a rheumatologist. He tells me I have a stiff neck. Well, I could have told him as much. Humor aside, I've got some arthritis in my neck and a couple of muscles are out of whack, so he's actually given me a prescription for physical therapy/massage, which sounds pretty good to me. While there I was asked to fill out several forms, one of which asked me to identify my race, ethnicity, and language. Never one to rock the boat, I answered "Mongrel," "Redneck," and "Pig Latin." Well, not really. I just decided to leave all three of these offensive and inappropriate questions unanswered. And to think that this is 2014.

Okay, that's it for my whining. Right now I'm gonna rest up for tonight's concert with two of my daughters. I can tell you, I'm not going to make it through the grand finale (the great gate of Kiev) without tears. The music reminds me of the grand entrance into heaven the Christian makes after his or her earthbound journey is done. Once again, in my mind I'll say goodbye to Becky. It will be just another step in adjusting to life without her, of changing my relationship to her from one of presence to memory, of remembering the Giver of Life and the permission He grants grieving spouses to weep, knowing that one day He will wipe away all tears and hold us close and fill our emptiness. Can't you just imagine Becky in the presence of Jesus experiencing the joy of His closeness? Elizabeth Elliott wrote after the death of her husband Jim, "We are not given explanations, but to hearts open to receive it, a more precious revelation of the heart of our loving Lord." Mussorgsky may not have written Pictures at an Exhibition to cause us to think of heaven, but that's what I'll be doing: thinking of heaven and of a very special woman I still love.

8:50 AM In case you didn't know, there are 7 stages in the life of a biblical scholar vis-ŕ-vis journals:

1) Read journal articles as a student.

2) Publish book reviews in journals.

3) Publish articles in journals.

4) Become a journal editor.

5) Publish your students' papers in journals.

6) Link on your blog all of your journal articles.

7) Link to a website that keeps everyone current on the latest journal articles.

7:50 AM Good morning, thoughtful bloggers! Yesterday I noted how our relationships with animals are a significant part of our existence as human beings. God entrusts animals to us, and we fulfill our responsibility with joy and delight. I am so excited to link to this video of a dolphin. Becky's dad sent it to me yesterday.

The poor animal has a fishing line hooked around it. It seeks the assistance of a diver, who eventually sets it free. Amazing. Is this a foretaste of things to come? Does the "new creation" include animals? Passages like Rom. 8:18-25 seem to say yes. The new earth and the Garden of Eden are parallel, after all.

God's plan for a renewed Earth after the Flood emphatically involved animals. Wouldn't we expect his plan for a renewed Earth after the future judgment to likewise include animals? If the rescue of mankind in the ark is a picture of redemption, doesn’t the rescue of the animals in the ark also anticipate their restoration as part of God’s redemptive purposes?

So writes Randy Alcorn in his book Heaven. God cares for both men and animals (Matt. 6:26). As Alcorn points out, the Lord didn't just save Noah and his family but the animals as well. At any rate, do watch the video and marvel.

On a completely different note, tonight I'm going to hear the North Carolina Symphony perform one of my all-time favorite pieces, Pictures at an Exhibition. It's a work of extraordinary power and depth, subtlety and sensitivity. I think it's by far the best thing of its kind ever produced, going far beyond Buxtehude and Bach. If you have never heard it, you simply must. I don't think I've ever listened to anything that made me so profoundly admire and respect a composer.

Finally, let's talk about missions for a minute. My forthcoming book Godworld is largely a discussion of how to develop a kingdom/missional mindset. I do hope I can bring this off with some measure of success. The challenge will be to pass from obscure knowledge to conceptualized, utilitarian knowledge, to grasp the eternal in time. Speaking personally, writing has become for me what surfing and horseback riding once were. Each is a task almost too large to accomplish. The challenge in surfing a big wave is achieving harmony with something much more powerful than you are. In cross-country riding the goal is much the same: you allow the horse to provide the motor power while you provide the brain power. When harmony is achieved, the results are out of this world. When it is not, there usually ensues a disastrous wipe-out. Lately I have been reading books on missions – all good, but there is too much to read, and it so easily becomes a mere indulgence, a vice of the mind as deplorable as any other bad habit I have. I never feel I'm really learning anything unless I'm reading the Scriptures. So yesterday and today I've been meditating on these verses:

Acts 20:24 

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 

For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you.

1 Thessalonians 1:8 

And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

1 Corinthians 1:17 

For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.

1 Corinthians 9:12 

If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:16 

Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!

Romans 15:18-19 

Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum. My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.

Colossians 1:6 

This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.

Colossians 4:6 

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Philippians 2:14-16 

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

2 Timothy 2:8-9 

Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained.

These verses clearly illustrate the modern fallacy of supposing that Paul was a theologian. Paul was a missionary who wrote theology, not a theologian who practiced missions. I attempted to say as much in my book Paul, Apostle of Weakness. As Paul puts it: "My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God." Paul practiced what he preached, too. According to 2 Cor. 11:24 he received a scourging from the Jews 5 times -- 40 lashes minus one. I fear my life is a trifle boring in comparison. Really, Paul is the ideal missionary, and it is deplorable that we have people today who claim to teach "Pauline theology" yet who care nothing about missions. The Great Commission shaped and shapes me. It is the furthest thing from the pedantic preciosities of so-called Bible scholars. Biblical scholarship sans missions is a very bad business indeed.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to feed the animals.

Stay centered in the King. And in advancing His kingdom.

Dave

Thursday, March 27

6:06 PM Hi folks! Walking the dogs, I pondered the reality that I am the most blessed man in the whole world. When I checked the mail I found that we had received yet another check for the India school project, this one for $2,500. We're well on our way to reaching our goal of 1,000,000! Remember: God no need our kala, eh? He no make lidat! So no try be cheap when oddas need your kokua.

Oops. Sorry, folks. I lapsed into Pidgin there. I've got Hawaii on my mind these days. At any rate, it was good to get outdoors on a beautiful day here in Southside Virginia. The donks are so cute that it hurts. I found them waiting for their daily carrot. I have never seen animals that were more spoiled! And then there are the Shelties. I have never seen smarter creatures! They know exactly what our daily routine is, and so they always lead the way to the mailbox and back. I love them to death.

I ask myself the question: Does God look at me the way I look at my pets? Do I ever deserve His love? Of course not! But He just pours it out on me, over and over again, lavishly, without needing anything in return except the satisfaction of a "thank you." We manifest true kingdom love only when we experience the perfect love of God toward us and then pass it on to others just as He does -- lavishly, joyfully, scandalously. The hope of the world lies in us Christians getting this straight.

Below: Tolo Tolo and Tinish Koi. Aren't they such polite beggars?

The dogs walking me to the road. As you can see, I'm just a shadow of my former self.

Cheers!

Dave

10:14 AM No one is more intentional about loving the lost to Christ than my colleague Alvin Reid. Today in chapel he will be receiving a much-deserved Festschrift titled A Passion for the Great Commission.

I'm calling on believers everywhere to join Alvin in the way of the cross, living for others as Jesus did and still calls us to imitate today.

9:30 AM Have you heard of Parkinson's Law? It states that social organizations tend to grow ever bigger and, as they do, consume an unnecessary and disproportionate part of the total resources upon themselves. People asked Becky and me when we were going to "incorporate" or at least "name" our work in Ethiopia. We don't think either step is necessary to serve the Lord effectively. In all frankness, we preferred being just a simple mom-and-pop (literally) ministry, so that people would know that every penny sent to us goes to where the needs are and not to pay for our expenses or "overhead." If we ask, "What was the missionary strategy of the early church?" we will see that it did not establish mammoth, costly missions organizations to direct the work. Finances were not diverted to pay the salaries of the mission bureaucracy. No. Men and women simply obeyed the Holy Spirit and went through the doors the Lord opened. They preached the Gospel, gained converts, and gathered them into churches. Local churches and individuals were the agency of church planting, not paramission organizations.

Let me ask you a question: How many people in our congregations will ever attend an institution of Christian higher education? How many will be appointed as "career missionaries"? If every Kingdom Hall can become an effective training station for the Jehovah's Witnesses, why can't the average local church?

9:09 AM So it's been almost 5 months since "that day." What have I been doing to cope? What advice would I give to you if you recently lost a loved one? Talk to God. Reach out your arms to Him. But don't stop there. Tell your family or others in your life that you need them to hold you as well. If God and others did not shoulder the burden with me, all would be lost. Touch is often what is needed, not just talk. Presence matters. We need others. Let them hear your heart breaking. If you bottle up your feelings and don't let them out, you're headed for trouble. I'm so thankful for family. I don't have to bear the weight of Becky's loss by myself. I'm always talking to them, sometimes "with groans that words can't express"( Rom. 8:26). Above all, keep on serving others. It's in the blackest moments of life that God can use us the most. No matter what happens in my life, God is always there, able and willing to use me. The game ain't over yet.

Wednesday, March 26

5:34 PM Kevin Brown's latest book has been posted to Amazon. Kudos, friend. The title is To Date or Not to Date. The Kindle price is only a dollar!

9:46 AM Miss Jody's explanation of John 21:15-17 is fabulous! You must read it!

9:16 AM Finally! The church sign I've been waiting for!

Well, not really. I cheated. But I still hold out hope that one day I will see a real sign like this. Will your church be the first? 

8:22 AM I've almost finished writing Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. Odd, isn't it, that when we publish a book the author seems to get all the credit. Doesn't the publisher count? The editor? The proofreader? Do any of us really count? Shouldn't the Lord Jesus get all the credit? Recognition doesn't seem so important when you're all sitting at the feet of Jesus. It no longer seems important who went into the field first, who worked the longest, who bore the heat of the day, who was responsible for the "visible" fruit. The thought that this is all the Master's doing is enough to satisfy the heart of any true servant of God. In the end, it should not matter who gets the credit. What matters is that we not rob God of any honor. "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:5).

8:08 AM Saw a tweet today that said, "Religious freedom is a Gospel issue." No, it is not. Salvation is a Gospel issue. Making liberty and/or democracy into a god will not advance the Gospel. We must learn that it is impossible to mix worldly and spiritual goals without hindering the cause of Christ.

7:53 AM Buenos dias, amigos!

Today I'm working on my book Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. It'll be about the way of Jesus and about taking seriously our relationship to the Gospel, the Body of Christ, and the kingdom of God. I agree with Kierkegaard that too much of the Christian life is mostly an exercise in "playing Christianity" (Attack upon Christendom, p. 121) and that God is calling His church to begin to wean itself from the cheapened variety of discipleship it practices. I plan for it to be a nuts-and-bolts, down-to-earth kind of book characterized by everyday ordinariness. Here's my thesis: Christianity is a genuinely radical faith, a revolutionary struggle against all other revolutionary struggles. If my thesis disappoints you, I have no choice but to risk it. I will argue that discipleship involves suffering. Pain-free discipleship does not exist. I'll spend a lot of time, obviously, in the book of Philippians as well as in 1 Thessalonians. Like The Jesus Paradigm, it will take neither a liberal nor a conservative approach to Christian ethics, simply because I do not believe that Jesus can be claimed by either the Old Left or the New Right. Which means that no one will like this book. It is very legitimate to ask, "What is at the heart of the Gospel that requires that we keep it so pure?" To me Gal. 5:14 says it all: We are to enslave ourselves to one another through love. Orthodoxy without orthopraxy is insidiously deadly. In particular, I resonate with Paul's statement in Gal. 2:20 that I am crucified with Christ and live only as He lives through me, so that I might become His hands and feet in the world. There's so much more I can say, but for the moment let me suggest that a church can espouse a pure Gospel and still not live the Gospel. It looks like "theology for real life" is becoming my new motto. It definitely has been transformational in how I write. But nothing -- and I mean nothing -- can take the place of scandalous love and working to share the greatest message of love with others. Let's be honest. The infighting going on right now in the blogosphere is just plain ridiculous. In our heart of hearts we must surely know it's damaging Jesus' reputation. None of us is big enough or "orthodox" enough to reach the nations by ourselves. Why I am saying all this? Two reasons. First of all, I want us to be OCD over reaching the lost. Let's be characterized, not by fighting over tongues-speaking or Calvinism or Arminianism or worship styles, but by passionate proclamation of the Gospel. Secondly, if we are agreed on the major issues of God's Word, we should be able to agree on what that Word tells us to do -- go everywhere and share the Good News with everyone (Mark 16:15). So if we are going to get distracted, friends, let's get distracted by the crucified and resurrected Jesus.

I think we'd go a long way toward defining what the church is if each of our churches filled in the following blank: "Our church exists to ______." I imagine there are as many answers to this question as there are churches:

"Our church exists to promote the doctrines of grace."

"Our church exists to promote age-integration."

"Our church exists to promote elder-led congregationalism."

"Our church exists to promote the glory of God."

"Our church exists to enjoy God."

"Our church exists to fulfill the Great Commission."

I might perhaps answer the question this way: "Our church exists to embody the crucified and resurrected Christ by ministering to the world in the power of the Spirit of God." Sadly, many of us have made following Jesus all about being a "good church member." The church is drowning in the folly of worldly power, fortune, and success. The earliest followers of Jesus insisted that disciples prioritize God's kingdom rather than worldly self-seeking, even if that meant their martyrdom. They taught that "Jesus is Lord," far from being a meaningless catchphrase, is a radical claim. For them, Christianity was incompatible with allegiance to other authorities, be they political, cultural, ethnic, or even ecclesiastical. Christianity transcends all boundaries -- cultural, racial, political, geographical, natural, even national. Radical disciples of Jesus embrace those on the other side of the dividing walls of hostility, including our "enemies." Sometimes I forget what an awesome privilege it is to be a part of the Body of Christ. Jesus is up to something so big, so powerful, so transformational in our churches today that it boggles the mind. Thanks to the great mercy of God and the marvel of Pentecost, the church can be transformed from the sad parody of Christianity it has become into the glorious Bride that God intends for it to be.

Hasta luego!

Dave

Tuesday, March 25

8:46 PM Love keeping up with my former students, even if they do wear funny hats!

6:05 PM Quote of the day:

In so-called Christianity we have made Christmas into a great festival. This is quite false, and it was not at all so in the Early Church. We mistake childishness for Christianity -- what with all our sickly sentimentality, our candy canes, and our manger scenes. Instead of remaining conscious of being in conflict that marks a life of true faith, we Christians have made ourselves a home and settled down in a comfortable and cozy existence. No wonder Christmas has become little more than a beautiful holiday.

The source is Sřren Kierkegaard, Provocations, p. 229.

1:55 PM I'm with Ron Paul: It's no concern of the U.S. which flag flies over Crimea. And have we forgotten what we did to Hawaii in 1898? Wrote Grover Cleveland in that fateful year, "Hawaii is ours .... As I look back upon the first steps in this miserable business, I am ashamed of the whole affair." As a kamaaina, born and bred in Hawaii, I agree completely.

1:48 PM Spring has finally sprung!

7:58 AM Yesterday I blogged about using iPhones and iPads in church. Here's a follow-up to a forthcoming book called From Parchment to Pixel, edited by S. McKendrick and D. C. Parker. Can't stop change, folks. 

7:43 AM Good morning, one and all!

In Mark's Gospel, Jesus is the servant of servants: reaching, preaching, teaching, caring, healing -- tirelessly. I think Paul was the same way. Just read the so-called Peristasenkataloge (forgive me for using a term popularized by Rudolph Bultmann but it is a good one) in 2 Corinthians 6 and 11. "We have often been overworked." "I have worked much harder [than the pseudo-apostles.]" "Often I have gone without sleep." Where in the world did we get the idea that we are to work only 8 hours a day and only 40 hours a week? Not from the Bible. Paul says we are to "buy up the time" -- as if time were a precious commodity to be used to the full. Thomas Edison was a famous inventor. By the time he was 80 had had taken out 1,000 patents. He worked 18 hours a day and slept only when he was tired. This remarkable man once said, "Time is not a commodity that can be stored for future use. It must be invested hour by hour or else it is gone forever."

Student, are you making the most of your time in school? One day you and I will have to turn in an account of our academic stewardship (Luke 16:1-2). We are required to be stewards of God's gifts to us, and not just stewards, but trustworthy ones (1 Cor. 4:1). When I was in seminary I determined before the Lord that, with His divine enablement, I would get an A in every class I took. Did I always succeed? No. But we will never reach higher than what we aim for. To be a student is a great privilege. It is also a great responsibility. Let's be good stewards of our time and shake off all sloth.

Sermonette concluded.

Dave

Monday, March 24

6:23 PM I love the farm. I especially love having visitors over. Kim and the Fabulous Five arrived at 12:45 for the treasure hunt. Caleb couldn't wait to get started.

Nathan was able to read the clues all by himself (Kim's a great phonics teachers!).

One of the clues read: "Papa B has the next clue, but to get it you have to give your mom a big kiss and hug."

The final clue had the kids singing "Jesus Loves Me" to the delight of their Papa B.

Then -- finally! -- it was time to dole out the gifts.

In between all the hollering and excitement, it was heaven having the kids here. I love days like today. I'm so thankful for this precious family. Dayda is too.

5:34 PM One of my daughters sent this along. Thank you, Rachael.

"'Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.'
 John 17:24

O death! why dost thou touch the tree beneath whose spreading branches weariness hath rest? Why dost thou snatch away the excellent of the earth, in whom is all our delight? If thou must use thine axe, use it upon the trees which yield no fruit; thou mightest be thanked then. But why wilt thou fell the goodly cedars of Lebanon? O stay thine axe, and spare the righteous. But no, it must not be; death smites the goodliest of our friends; the most generous, the most prayerful, the most holy, the most devoted must die. And why? It is through Jesus' prevailing prayer—'Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.' It is that which bears them on eagle's wings to heaven. Every time a believer mounts from this earth to paradise, it is an answer to Christ's prayer. A good old divine remarks, 'Many times Jesus and his people pull against one another in prayer. You bend your knee in prayer and say Father, I will that thy saints be with me where I am;' Christ says, Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.'' Thus the disciple is at cross-purposes with his Lord. The soul cannot be in both places: the beloved one cannot be with Christ and with you too. Now, which pleader shall win the day? If you had your choice; if the King should step from his throne, and say, 'Here are two supplicants praying in opposition to one another, which shall be answered?' Oh! I am sure, though it were agony, you would start from your feet, and say, 'Jesus, not my will, but thine be done.' You would give up your prayer for your loved one's life, if you could realize the thoughts that Christ is praying in the opposite direction—'Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.' Lord, thou shalt have them. By faith we let them go." - Charles Spurgeon

You have no idea what an encouragement this was to me. It was Jesus who took Becky home to be with Him. The precise date of her Homegoing was written in the book of Becky's life. And yes, His mercies are new each and every day no matter how long the blackness seems to extend.

9:56 AM Here are three excellent suggestions for local church missions programs. The first is:

The local church needs a ‘world mission’ perspective.  That is, missions should not be reduced to the doing of ministry, such that it might just as well be done around the block rather than overseas.  A world perspective ties the local church into the long and deep missional narrative of Scripture: there is One God who wants all people to be saved. 

Do read the rest of the post. Good stuff!

P.S. This Sunday I will be speaking at the missions conference at Clement Baptist Church near Roxboro, NC, both morning and evening services. For directions, go here.

9:46 AM Yesterday in his message Jon mentioned the work Becky had done at Maple Ridge. It brought tears to my eyes. I wonder if you ever feel the way I do. I tell the Lord: I will not let go of my misery, at least not right now. I have every right to feel sorry for myself. You have taken away the most precious thing in my life. Your comfort doesn't matter to me right now. I refuse to accept it. Let me lick the wounds you're caused.

This is exactly how I felt yesterday. Sometimes I am in such pain from losing Becky that I can hardly think of anything else. Will I accept God's will? Can one ever answer that question completely? I know I can't. It's a roller coaster, this life of mine. But He understands. So does my family. In my heart of hearts I know that God's love will never give me less than the best.

I think a great deal about God's love these days. My guess is that I'm not alone.

9:28 AM I hate doing taxes. I have to go through each of these stacks. This is the true "March Madness"!

9:18 AM Only one hour until the Treasure Hunt of the Century begins. Kim is bringing her five (count 'em -- 5!) kids to the farm, and each is receiving a love gift from Papa B. But not without going through 5 clues first. Love being a grandpa! 

9:13 AM Yet another proponent of the Pauline authorship of Hebrews? Egads. What is this world coming to?!

8:46 AM Do check out what's happening in the world of Living Koine. Not my cup of chai. But if it works for you ...

8:23 AM Yesterday Jon Glass and I quipped about the use of iPhones and iPads in church. He tells me he opens his messages nowadays with the words, "Please turn to -- or turn on -- your Bibles to...." In 2013, the Barna Organization published a study called How Technology is Changing Millennial Faith. They asked, Should e-texts be used in public worship? The results? 70 % of U.S. Christians born between 1983 and 2000 read Scripture online or on a phone/tablet. Folks, the Word is not paper. And yet ....

... how simple, and yet profound is a hardcopy of the Bible, perhaps leather-bound and worn from constant use. Carried by Pastor Steve into the pulpit, this large, even cumbersome, book reveals he is ready to bring to the people a message from God himself.

So reads Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church. I see your point, friend, but thou convincest me not. Is there not a danger here? The danger of making a hard copy of the Bible into a sacred object? The fact is, Scripture is Scripture, whether the delivery vehicle is scroll, codex, or tablet. And yes, I have seen pastors preach from tablets. (It can be done.) When my pastor says "Now please turn in your Bible to ...," I simply click on a link. Access is immediate, and not only to one translation. At my non-nicotine-stained fingertips I have the Greek, the Hebrew, the German, French and (of course) Hawaiian Pidgin. And the cost? Free!

Folks, let's grant grace in this very gray area. If you want to bring your leather-bound ESV Study Bible with you to church, feel free. (I even contributed an essay to it.) But for now, I think I'll stick with Bible Gateway.

8:08 AM Is any language truly dead? Question asked -- and answered -- here.

These languages live on in the scholars who are passionate about their lives and literatures.

Sunday, March 23

4:34 PM Even though I'm tired and have other things to do rather than blog, I'm hitting the post button because this is just too good not to mention. At Cresset today, Jon and the congregation ordained four new leaders. Here's the thing: Not only were other leaders asked to come forward and pray for these men, but anyone from the congregation could do so.

It really is a good reminder that we are all called into ministry, and that the kingdom is, at heart, flat. I also loved the "worship" that took place today. It was so real, so genuine, so -- well-- Spirit led. There's something about spontaneous, Spirit-inspired singing that doesn't let you go. I credit that to the so-called "worship pastor." (I believe he prefers to be called creative arts pastor). In essence, he told us it's not his job to lead us in worship. It's not for him to tell us when to sit down or when to stand up or even whether or not to sing. That makes a lot of sense to me. I often wonder why we even have "worship" leaders when they themselves will be the first to admit they cannot lead us in worship. That's the job of the Holy Spirit. So what did he do? He just worshiped the Lord! And we joined him! I might add that the music was fabulous. Very simple. Very worshipful. Very unique. I really can't explain it. It was like Jesus was right there, in our midst, in the CENTER, while the pastors and the parishioners all lifted their tired eyes toward Him. Oh, Jesus, how I love the way you give us freedom to come to you as we are. There's plenty of room for diversity within our unity. Friends, repeat after me: Worship can't be conjured up. But when it happens, you'll know it.

Afterwards Jon and Matthea and Carter and Caleb and Katherine and Christian -- we all went out for Mexican food together. I love Jon and Matthea. In the deep darkness of the night they were there for me. They still are. Too often I take their love, their presence for granted. I'm starting to see how having a family (sons, daughters, grandkids) means giving up on yourself, means carrying their burdens and not just your own, means protection and care and love. I'm not trying to sound like super-dad/granddad here, but spending time with my kids and grandkids is one of the best investments I can make. I'm obviously biased, but I'm fairly sure I've got the best family in the world.

Finally, Jon shared with the congregation the vision God has been giving him and the other leaders at Cresset. Their first goal, he suggested, is to connect people to Jesus Christ. Jon based his point on the accounts of the Great Commission we find in the Gospels. As he was speaking, I doodled (shame on me). Well, I was doodling in a righteous cause! I began to write out the Great Commission in words I think even a non-Christian could understand. Here's what Mark 16:15 sounds like to me: "Go everywhere and share the Good News with everyone." And here's the more familiar Matt. 28:19-20: "Wherever you go, train everyone you meet -- the people in every nation -- how to be my followers. Mark them publicly by immersion in the triune name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them not just in knowledge but in the practice of everything I've commanded you. And as you do this, remember this: I will be with you, day after day after day, until the very end of the age."

So there you have it. Rarely have I enjoyed "going to church" more than I did today. Despite my spiritual sluggishness, the Spirit seemed to win out. I'm insanely grateful for the great God we serve. Life with Him is sweet. And always an adventure. Following Jesus is an amazing goal to strive after, wouldn't you agree? 

9:02 AM "Behold! How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133:1). Here are the deacons from CBC enjoying the back porch at Maple Ridge this weekend.

Great to see young and old alike sharing the work of the church. And great to see the porch being used for the kingdom. It was Becky's idea to add it to the house :-)

8:42 AM When you travel in ministry, take somebody with you. Even if they snore.

8:35 AM Excellent resource here: Joel Bradsher's series on Philippians. Joel sees the theme as "together for the Gospel." I couldn't agree more!

8:25 AM Here's a link to the words of one of my favorite hymns, Jesus, Priceless Treasure. My favorite stanza is the final one:

Hence, all thought of sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whatever we here must bear,
Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!

I was humming it to myself this morning so I thought, why not blog it?

8:12 AM What's wrong with modern approaches to "pastoral selection"? Go here.

8:08 AM Jon Glass and the leadership of Cresset Baptist Church in Durham held a retreat on the farm over the weekend. Looking forward to being in their morning service to hear their report. Exciting things are happening at CBC!

Saturday, March 22

8:53 PM Pray for missions. Get involved personally as the Lord leads you. Be sacrificial. Here's one way you can do this.

7:55 PM Hi folks,

I hope you all have had a great weekend thus far. Mine was fantabulous. Nigusse and I just returned from Baltimore, where we attended the ETS meeting being held at beautiful Saint Mary's Seminary. In fact, my assistant Jacob Cerone rode up with us and the three of us stayed at the Radisson. At the meeting, one of my doctoral students, Wesley Davey (to my right), was presenting a paper, as was Jacob (to my left), so I got to hear not one but two awesome presentations. Is that cool or what?

The entire stay in MD was wonderful. Well, mostly wonderful. In a fallen world, you can't expect everything to go as planned. The meeting was a bit disorganized, and I thought the plenary sessions left much to be desired. But that didn't spoil the party. Both Wesley and Jacob did a swell job with their paper presentations. I know that some folks think that only seasoned scholars should give presentations at scholarly meetings. But I have never agreed. I personally feel that the older generation needs to give way to these young bucks as they add to our knowledge. I'll end with a few comments about Jacob's paper. He showed that Origen's use of the different Greek verbs for "write" allow for the meaning "write on behalf of another person." I find his evidence entirely convincing. That said, there is no reason to doubt that when Origen said, referring to the epistle to the Hebrews, "who wrote the epistle, God knows the truth," he was referring only to the letter's penman, i.e., the amanuensis. Origen consistently quotes the letter as Paul's. The penman alone was unknown to him -- a fact that didn't matter in the least to Origen as the only issue that mattered was that of authorship (e.g., Paul authored Romans, but Tertius wrote it; Rom. 16:22). Anyway, I'm blown away by the ability Jacob has to tackle the details of a matter and then to communicate his findings in a way that is both interesting and provocative. This is an important point, because nowadays so much "scholarship " is simply rehashing what others have said uncritically. And so, folks, all of us have to keep growing, thinking, and challenging the consensus opinio!

Incidentally, while we were in Baltimore, the Southeast region of the ETS was meeting at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. Someone posted this pic of the book table, featuring a particular Greek grammar. Thanks, guys. The check's in the mail.

Also, in Baltimore a bunch of us met up for some Ethiopian cuisine on Thursday night. To say that the food was good would be an unforgivable understatement.

Blessings,

Dave

Thursday, March 20

7:32 AM The Greek prof at Tyndale Seminary in Holland (and my former Ph.D. student) writes:

At Tyndale the spring classes are going full-swing; I am teaching four days a week and spending every spare minute preparing for the classes. The morning Greek-reading discipleship group is thriving and we have around five students that voluntarily meet with me every morning for 45 minutes to read and discuss the Greek NT! This is a level of discipleship ministry beyond anything I have heard of or observed in the U.S.

Morning Greek reading sessions? Now that's a great idea. Might try it myself in the fall!

7:12 AM Just added to our Greek Portal:

The Septuagint Sessions.

6:54 AM Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Cary is everything it's chocked up to be. Last night Karen and I celebrated mom's memory over a delicious meal there.

A list, by no means comprehensive, of the things we remember most about her life:

Her love for people.

Her passion for the Good News.

Her willingness to suffer for Jesus.

Her priorities were biblical.

She walked the talk.

She was real; you got exactly what you saw.

She was intentional about missions.

On behalf of the hundreds and hundreds of people who were touched by her life, I want to say "Thank you" to the Lord for Becky Lynn Black. Her passing just makes heaven all the more desirable for those of us she left behind.

6:02 AM Up early praying for India. The needs are great, but our God is able. "Every animal of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10)!

He owns the cattle on a thousand hills,
The wealth in every mine;
He owns the rivers and the rocks and rills,
The sun and stars that shine.
Wonderful riches, more than tongue can tell -
He is my Father so they're mine as well;
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills -
I know that He will care for me.

Wednesday, March 19

12:54 PM Just made this photo the background on my desktop.

By God's grace I've made 8 trips there in the past three years. Next month, I will be there again for 10 days if He grants it.

Oh God, give the church in America a heart for Asia!

10:10 AM The results are in, folks. MY beach made the top spot, again (said in my humblest tone of voice):

1. Lanikai Beach, Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii
2. Ka'anapali Beach, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
3. Siesta Key Public Beach, Siesta Key, Florida
4. Hanalei Beach, Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
5. Wai'anapanapa State Park, Hana, Maui, Hawaii
6. Wailea Beach, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii
7. Hunting Island State Park, Beaufort, South Carolina
8. Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay), Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, Hawaii
9. Saint Pete Beach, Saint Pete Beach, Florida
10. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

9:55 AM You can probably guess that I took mom and dad to see Gravity in Dallas. I can't seem to get enough of this flick. Like many other Hollywood movies (Rocky, Braveheart) it portrays an average individual who conquers overwhelming adversity through personal sacrifice. The underdog becomes a victor. Weakness becomes strength. Obstacles lead to opportunities. Spiritually, the lesson is that God delights in using losers. In the world, it's the opposite. Everything is based on merit. You don't get a spot on the football team because you're the worst player. You don't get a promotion from your boss because you were the worst salesman that year. Grace doesn't work that way. In Christ, God transforms tragedy into triumph. He delights in turning the tables on the Evil One. Friend, what weakness or obstacle are you facing today? I challenge you: ask God to turn your struggle into victory. He can and He will, but we must ask, and ask expecting Him to work.

P.S. I would love to see a chapel speaker sometime whose church has gone from 200 to 35 in attendance and yet who has served Jesus faithfully.

9:44 AM The U.S. Airways crash landing at Philly compels me to ask yet another question of the aviation industry: Why aren't there cameras installed at all major airports at either end of the runway? There are at least a dozen live webcams in Raleigh just to see the traffic conditions!

9:36 AM Happy Birthday to a great guy!

Tuesday, March 18

6:05 PM Good evening, thoughtful bloggers! "Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" This is the question that Clarence asks George Baily in the Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life. Never was its answer a more resounding "Yes!" than when applied to the life of Becky Lynn Lapsley Black. Of her it can truly be said, "[S]he greatly helped those who had believed through grace" (Acts 18:27). One of my great joys during my trip to Dallas was to present a copy of Becky's autobiography to the librarian at the Criswell College.

I hope it attracts the reading it deserves. While at Criswell I was asked to lecture in their beginning Greek class. We covered third declension nouns (chapter 17 in my textbook). I could post a thousand pictures, but here's one of the class after we met:

I find myself already looking forward to teaching beginning Greek at my own seminary in May. God is doing a great work at Criswell. Thank you, Roy Metts, for inviting me to visit your class.

Afterwards the students asked me to autograph their textbooks. Then out to lunch we went -- or at least anyone who was able.

In the afternoon Roy had me field questions from the students in his advanced Greek grammar class. Now these are some sharp men and women!

I can't wait to see how God uses them. This is where I fit in, folks. I love standing shoulder to shoulder with students from around the world who are serious about God's Word. Of course, the real reason I went to Texas was to hang out with Becky's mom and dad. Here we are enjoying some great Ethiopian food at Sheba's Kitchen.

Becky often came up in conversation. We remembered wrestling with God so much during Becky's passing, and how over and over again God reassured us that His ways are always perfect, even when we don't understand them. Even if the miracle you prayed for doesn't happen, He is still a God of miracles. I did a lot of thinking and praying about stress while I was in Dallas. Dr. Google reminded me of the Homes and Rake stress chart, which shows how much of a bearing certain events have on our lives. On a scale of 100, divorce ranks 73 in the list, a jail term ranks 63, pregnancy 40, a foreclosure 30, a change in residence 20, and a minor law violation 11. Not surprisingly, the death of a spouse ranks an even 100. The thing I've been discovering about stress may surprise you. I know it did me. Stress can be positive. Like a smoke alarm, it can alert us to potential danger. If we can learn how to interpret the signs of stress in our lives, we can deal with our stress in healthy ways. Stress is an internal red flag. You don't handle it by ignoring it, denying it, or fighting it. Christians do get anxious and stressed out, but the anxious Christian has tremendous internal resources to deal with his or her anxiety. Much depends on how severe the stress is and what brings it on. Recently I've had to deal with several stressful situations I never had to deal with before Becky died. I'm making the needed adjustments, but it hasn't been easy. On the flight home today I jotted down several "resolutions" I've made about stress. If you are facing stress in your life today, perhaps you might want to make them your own:

I will not deny my stress.

I will not rationalize away a negative behavior or attitude and make it a positive one.

I will not project blame on others.

I will talk through my problems with people I love and trust.

I will live one day at a time.

I will cultivate an awareness of God's presence.

I will replace worry with prayer.

I will stay physically fit.

I will avoid making too many major changes or decisions all at once.

I will schedule regular down times.

I will realize that not all human relationships are healthy.

I will pursue an unhurried life.

I'm not naive enough to think that just by writing these resolutions down I will make a quick or easy transition to a stress-less life. The world in which I live is still very much broken. But I'm making progress. To return to the beginning of this post, I'm beginning to realize how much bigger the story of Becky's life and death is than the part I played in it. I really believe God has a great purpose in Becky's book. I am eager to see how He will use it in people's lives. You never knew Becky as I did. You never had a chance to hold her close and feel her hands on your face. I only hope that you will prize the moments God gives you with your spouse. I do believe it's high time we men got serious about our wedding oaths. Its the rightest thing in the world to do. Please, I'm no super-hero as a Christian or as a husband. But I did love Becky. And I know that I will go to her someday. One day broken things will be remade, and I will again hold in my arms something precious.

You're praying aren't you? You always do. Pray that I will learn the lessons of stress. God is making something new. In fact, He is making everything new, every single day, whether we are lying in darkness and thinking of a past lover, or we are part of a marriage bond that is finding unspeakable satisfaction in God.

Blessings,

Dave

Thursday, March 13

6:50 AM I know, I know. I am the ultimate obscurantist since I argue for the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. But thanks to Thomas Hudgins, I see that I am not alone. I'm stupefied that another human being actually espouses a traditional view of authorship. So starting today, I am truly, sincerely, and authentically going to give up my moniker as the sole obscurantist in the world.

Folks, the hope of the world lies in getting this matter straight.

*Not.*

6:30 AM Unsure of whether God is calling you to get involved in global evangelization? Then read my essay: One Person at a Time.

6:24 AM Had a discussion yesterday about multi-site churches. Can we really "shepherd" people when a group is so large that we cannot know everybody personally? True shepherds know their sheep. To influence people, you must reach individuals. It's probably fair to say that the average church in America views the congregation as a collection of isolated strangers. It's quite possible for this to be true even in smaller churches. So what to do? I'll just suggest two things.

First, identify your networks. To whom are you most naturally drawn? Who would be most responsive to your influence? Jot them down. Network relatives, associates at work, neighbors, friends, fellow students, and the other members of your church. Second, begin to pray that God will use you to bless your networks and even help you to build new ones. It's imperative that we get to know people as real persons and then recognize, respect, and act upon individual differences. As the relationships grow, you will begin to see affirming responses. In this regard, I often follow in the footsteps of my wife. Becky was a phenomenal networker. Her interpersonal skills far outpaced mine. Most of all, she was a genuine friend who just loved people in very real and tangible ways. And they responded.

Can you do this? Can I? Even in a large class on campus, say, of 100 students or more? I know we can. Pray that God will give you a serving lifestyle and the passion to shepherd those around you. Believe me, He can do it.

6:12 AM Currently memorizing Phil. 3:7-11:

Notes:

1) The shift from the perfect tense in verse 7 to the present tense in verse 8.

2) The amazing collocation of alla, men, oun, ye, and kai in verse 8.

3) Do we have a Granville Sharp construction in verse 10? (The answer will depend on the originality of the articles.)

4) Having mucked trailer loads of horse manure, I do believe I can claim to be an expert in all things skubala!

Wednesday, March 12

7:14 PM My thanks to Karen for preparing the most delicious dinner for me at The Hall -- Korean barbeque of all things.

She asked me if I was packed for my trip. The answer is no. I usually wait till the last minute to do that, but then again, I pack light. Earlier I walked the farm to check on the ice damage. It turns out I've got my work cut out for me when I get home.

Nothing the old chain saw can't handle, however. I'll admit something right now: I am lazy. I tend to do things when I have to. And the only reason I can procrastinate on fixing these fences is because the bulls are now history and the fencing doesn't need immediate repair. Not that I'm missing the bulls or anything...

Before signing off, just wanted to say how grateful I am for you, my blogging audience. I don't track you so I really know who's reading and who's not. But even if I was the only person in the world who read this blog, I'd keep on writing. Blogging is cathartic for me. It helps me to sort through my feelings. Somehow that makes everything in life a bit easier to deal with. So thanks for stopping by and putting up with tons of disjointed musings.

Gute Nacht! Schlaf wohl!

3:18 PM During my trip to Dallas this weekend I plan to reread this great biography of F. F. Bruce. Here are a few takeaways from my previous look at the book:

1) Bruce began writing his famous commentary on Acts in an air-raid shelter in Leeds while he was on air-warden duty during World War II (p. 33). Talk about killing two stones with one bird. Let's multitask to the glory of God!

2) Bruce once said, "I am thinking of no better foundation than a classical education for the professional cultivation of biblical studies" (p. 50). I couldn't agree more; and it is for this very reason that I now rue my undergraduate biblical studies major. I now wish I had studied English or history or classics before going on to seminary.

3) I love this quote about the great scholar: "For him there was no tension between critical study and Bible exposition; indeed, the former fed the latter" (p. 62). Like Bruce, I cannot separate critical study of the Scriptures from devotional study.

4) At Manchester Bruce "maintained a full teaching load" (p. 103). Still, he was able to write prodigiously. I can identify with this statement, not the part about being prodigious but the part about teaching fulltime and also writing. I have never enjoyed "release time" for writing. We at SEBTS are classroom teachers, first and foremost, and any writing we do must be done "above and beyond." Yet it can still be done.

5) Three fifths of Bruce's doctoral students at Manchester came from oversees, especially from the U.S., leading him to quip that "the PhD was invented so that Americans could take an advanced degree with them when they came to the UK for further studies" (p. 106). How true. Yet who has not benefited from this arrangement (think of Hagner or Silva)?

6) The author writes, "He was able to distinguish between academic disagreement and personal antagonism in a way that scholars have not always done" (p. 112). In other words, Bruce was a gentleman. It is what someone once called "the silent preaching of a lovely life." It is a virtue we can all aim to emulate.

7) Finally, on pp. 175-76 we read these words by Bruce: "The chief obstacle is Christian reluctance to advance, to leave the comfortable security of the familiar and traditional for the security of the revolutionary and unknown. If Christians showed half the resolution and dedication in the interests of the Kingdom of God that communists exhibit in the promotion of their cause, the scale of Christian advance would be transformed out of recognition." Let that one sink in!

Bruce died on September 11, 1990. Just before he entered the presence of the Lord he wrote an essay for me. Actually, the essay was to honor a dear colleague of ours, Harold Greenlee. It was one of the last essays Bruce ever wrote. I still have the type-written manuscript in my files. I will always treasure it. Thanks be to God for the life and legacy of F. F. Bruce.

3:05 PM This may sound a bit odd coming from someone who will be interviewed on Christian talk radio tomorrow, but the tragic truth is that American Christians have become spiritually codependent. We cannot seem to make up our minds about anything until we first consult Dr. So-and-So to see what he or she says. This is the day of the "expert," and we listen to fallible men more than the infallible Scriptures. The Good News is that through the New Covenant Jesus has set us free and we are His. We need no pope or prelate to tell us what course we are to set. We may legitimately make use of all the avenues of sound biblical teaching available to us today, but unless we have the mind of Christ and a clear conviction based on personal study of the Bible we will make no real progress. Finite Bible scholars cannot provide this conviction. Indeed, they need it as much as anyone else.

11:26 AM A friend asked me about John 20:22, where Jesus says "Receive the Holy Spirit."  The question was whether the use of the aorist imperative meant that the disciples immediately received the Holy Spirit at that moment. This was my response:

This thinking is still very common today, even though men like Frank Stagg ("The Abused Aorist" in JBL) and others have shown the folly of interpreting the aorist as once-for-all or immediate (see chapter 7 of my beginning grammar). As I note in my intermediate grammar, the significance of the aorist is that it has no significance. Period. It is SILENT as to kind of action. Kind of action must be derived from two things: The meaning of the verb itself, and the context. So when we read that "Christ died [aorist] for our sins," we might well conclude that His death was a once-for-all activity. But the tense itself does not demand this conclusion. It is the meaning of the verb and the context that does.

Now, the context in John 20 might well support the idea [of immediacy]. But the verb tense -- the aorist -- does not. Aoristos = not defined.

Hope this is as clear as mud!

10:02 AM Just back from the DMV. Feels good to have another item checked off my to-do list. Now the vehicles are in my name only, which means I can reregister them. I'm learning to pace myself folks and do one thing at a time. That's saying a lot for a guy who would run to first base even when given a walk. I wonder what sort of temperament Jesus had. What kind of a young man was He? Was He ever tempted to cut corners or do His work sloppily or over-schedule His day? Was He ever tempted to get impatient with His customers when He worked in His dad's construction business? Did He ever experience unfulfilled desires? Did He have to learn His construction skills? I am told that He whose hands created the universe grew in favor with God and man. Of course, the religious elite could not stomach Him. As they quibbled over doctrine, He served. He was scorned and rejected, but that was okay. His life purpose was much bigger than human praise. I love this Jesus -- not the Jesus of Hollywood but the Jesus who, as a builder (tekton), was dependable, courteous, prompt, faithful, and thorough. I want to be like Him. Don't you?

8:28 AM Good morning, thoughtful bloggers!

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's 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.

Keep centered in the truth,

Dave

Tuesday, March 11

8:12 PM I had dinner this evening with a good friend in South Boston. On the drive home I decided to take the scenic route. I left the four lane highway and sauntered along the back roads of Southside Virginia, occasionally slowing down for the deer who were crossing the road. I'm still smiling to myself over the whole experience. My kids have been telling me to slow down and smell the roses. I totally agree. I have to admit that I've been pushing a bit too hard lately. (Understatement.) Slowly but surely, the Lord is restoring my soul. Safe harbor is finally in sight, and I think the wind and the waves are beginning to listen to His voice. One thing's for sure. As Sandra Bullock puts it in Gravity, it's going to be one exciting ride back Home.

8:02 PM This just in from New York: The Rondeau kids and their monster snowman.

 Awesome, guys. Here's two thumbs up from Papa B.

3:10 PM Nice lunch in Oxford today with Jon and Matthea. What a great couple. Missed seeing the grandkids of course.

We ate at an all-you-can-eat place. I feel very virtuous that I only had firsts. (See my halo?)

10:40 AM Some good friends of mine will be attending an elders' conference shortly. For what it's worth, here are a few musings for anyone contemplating their ecclesiology:

1) The church has a head. He is Jesus Christ. None other. Not you or me. Not your "senior pastor." All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth.

2) The Holy Spirit has sovereignly placed each member in the Body of Christ.

3) Every member of the Body has a special gift. All members of the Body (male and female) are to exercise their gifts, and all gifts are to be exercised for the glory of the Head and for the witness and ministry of the Body (evangelism and edification).

4) Elders (undershepherds) are gifted to help the members discover and use their gifts. The biblical pattern is for a plurality of co-equal male elders who have been raised up from among those whom they serve.

5) Together these ministers -- leaders and led alike -- comprise the sum total of the activity of the Body. All members of the Body are "ministers."

6) For the Body to function properly, there must be a system of fellowship that permits intimate relationships to develop. This cannot take place during a depersonalized meeting. In the early church the Agape meal offered this type of fellowship.

7) Each member of Christ's Body has a solemn responsibility to serve the other members. The gifts of the Holy Spirit require us to live interdependently, serving together in the corporate life of the Body.

10:02 PM A good word from the apostle Peter (1 Pet. 4:8-11):

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God's generosity can flow through you. Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ. All glory and power belong to him forever and ever. Amen.

Dave, as you teach, teach as though God Himself were speaking through you! Dave, as you give of your substance to help others, do it with all the strength that God the Holy Spirit supplies! Manage His gifts well, Dave. Manage them well.

9:16 AM Now this is an impressive report from Time Magazine: The Top of America. The new World Trade Center is almost complete.

What struck me the most about the report? They had to build down to build up. I think there's a spiritual lesson there. Let's say you're having a marital problem. The problem is usually deeper than "marital." I recall reading about a skyscraper that had just been opened when a crack was discovered on the 72nd story. They called the engineers, who took the elevator to the third subbasement, where they found the problem. What we think is a mere crack on the 72nd story might well turn out to be a much deeper problem. Marital problems often reveal significant spiritual issues. Sometimes it's a lordship issue. At other times it might be a salvation issue. Marriage involves a death. Death to independence, to privacy, to one's childhood home and family, to unilateral decision-making. Married couples must die a thousand little deaths daily. That is what the Christian life is all about. It is the crucified life. God brings life out of death, gain from loss. Husband, wife -- have you died to yourself today? If not, your marriage will suffer for it. But when we accept the little deaths of marriage, a new joy and satisfaction is inevitable.

My counseling office is now closed for the day.

8:30 AM The sun shines brightly. I am wearing shorts if you can believe it. I just finished my morning devotionals. The Spirit led me to 1 Cor. 15:58. Here Dave is being told to do three things: Be steadfast, be immovable, and always abound in the work of the Lord. Here are my takeaways: 

1) I am to keep on keeping on. I am not to be shaken by the circumstances of my life. I am firm and solid in Christ.

2) I am to have rock-like faith. "I trust You" must be the continual expression of my lips toward God.

3) I must keep on advancing God's kingdom and promoting His glory. I must not only work for Christ, but my work must be of exceptional quality. I must overflow with good works for His sake.

Here's the paraphrase I wrote for myself:

"So then, Dave, keep on advancing in your Christian life and service. Don't let anything move you one inch from your faith in Jesus, least of all your problems. Throw yourself into the work of the Master as never before, despite your worries and weaknesses. He will never forget your work of faith and labor of love."

As all of you know, since Becky's death, life has begun a new chapter for me. I must learn to find my satisfaction in God, without her. And I am doing that. By God's grace, I am doing that. Yes, I am lonely, terribly lonely. Yes, I still grieve. But the peace of God comes, not through the removal of the pain, but by acceptance. My house on earth is a little emptier, but He is still here to sustain me and even use me if I will let Him. For each day's challenges, I find comfort in an old saying inscribed in an ancient church in England: Doe the Nexte Thinge.

Right now, the next thing is to love on my in-laws in Dallas. At the same time, I will get some much-needed R & R in their quiet home. And today? I will diligently and ungrudgingly do the work of my life, which, after all, is really His work, longing for that glorious day when I will see Him face to face.

7:55 AM Jody Neufeld has written a wonderful book on grief. She also blogs. Her post this morning blessed and challenged me:

God gives His comfort in any situation. He is so perfect to give comfort which fits that person in that situation. He provides to me what I need in order to continue to live and move on in my life. He does this first because He loves me. The second reason is so I may be so filled with His comfort – it leaks and flows out on people to whom God brings into my life. That could be a son or daughter. It could be someone I see in tears in the local store.

Whenever I ask myself, "What to do with my pain?", I know the answer. Express it. Sit and weep and reflect on the God of all comfort. Say to yourself, "I'm not unusual. This is the way of loss. Share your grief with others, Dave, so that they can understand. It may help them with their own pain and sorrow." Thank you, Jody, for sharing. Your journey has encouraged many others who now must walk the same path.

7:46 AM Did you know that 68 percent of all Japanese students learn German? I've never been to Japan, but I look forward to using my German should I ever visit there. I did try out my German once in a suburb near Paris (mon Français parlé est horrible), but it didn't go over too well. I didn't realize that the château I was staying in had been occupied during WWII.

7:42 AM "There is not an inch of any sphere of life over which Jesus Christ does not say, 'Mine.'" Abraham Kuyper.

7:36 AM The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

7:30 AM Two obvious questions in light of the disappearance of the Malaysian jet: Why don't airplanes have GPS trackers (instead of relying on radar), and why isn't the cockpit voice recorder transmitted live to a ground station?

Monday, March 10

5:44 PM The loss of a loved one is disruptive. You lose your equilibrium. I thought about this when Kim arrived at the farm today. Almost immediately after she sat down I began to weep on her shoulder. It brought untold comfort to me as daughter and father connected, shared, and talked to each other. I am finding that life has become stressful. It goes either too fast or too slow. Some decide not to share their grief with others. Silence doesn't work for me. I have never had to ask, "Where are my daughters when I need to talk to them?" They are always available. In a sense, they are one of my mainstays. Even before Becky died, life was busy. Now it is crazy busy. I'm concerned about writing and grading and reading dissertations and editing books and teaching and preaching and travelling and banking and animal care and taking care of a (large) family. Faith is required every step of the way. God's ways are not our ways. When we want Him to speak, He is silent. When we prefer not to hear from Him, He speaks. He is, however, "always near to the brokenhearted" (Psa. 34:18). Tears do not bother Him, not one whit. For me, tears are not just acceptable; they are necessary. Through them I can grieve over my loss. Through them I make a mockery of stoic tearlessness. I give myself permission for them to exist, knowing that they will diminish in time. This too I know: I am not alone. I will always have a shoulder to cry on, including His.

Friend, whatever loss you are facing today, remember the promise of Jesus: "I tell you the truth. You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy" (John 16:20).

5:28 PM Question: Can "young men" be elders? Should they be?

5:22 PM One more thought: Two years ago (as you know), Bec and I attended Danny Akin's marriage conference at the seminary. And we had already been married for 35 years! You never, ever outgrow your need to, well, grow. So, my dear pastor friend, the next time you lead a marriage conference, why not follow that up by taking a few of your couples to attend someone else's marriage seminar? Now that might be a teachable moment!

4:32 PM Another thought on didaktikon. If an elder/pastor/overseer must be "teachable," how much more the rest of the believers? You see, the role of leaders is not to undertake specialist activities from which the rest of the saints are excluded. Their task is to pioneer the work that the whole church is to be doing. If pastors, then, are to be teachable, that is, eager to be taught (and not just to teach) and even corrected (and not just to correct others), how much more the rest of us? Ordination, whatever else it might mean, must not be conceived as an act of setting apart a person from the priesthood of the entire congregation.

4:26 PM Travel update: Next Monday at 1:30 I will (Lord willing) be speaking in Roy Mett's Advanced Greek class at The Criswell College in Dallas. Eager to see all my friends at TCC.

4:22 PM So blessed. Daughter Kim stopped by to clean the house today. I was also able to get some more banking done. Then this appeared in my inbox:

Sir, just wanted you to know that I purchased and read Mrs. Black's autobiography this last weekend. It was a very moving and inspiring testimony calling us to faithfulness to Christ, surrender, truth, servant hood, love, faith, missions, and obedience to His Word by the Spirit. Praying for you and your family. Thank you!

God is good.

7:24 AM Had a wonderful dinner with daughter Rachael last night, at which I gave her a copy of mom's book and a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts -- the exact same brand I offered Becky 40 years ago in that cafeteria line at Biola.

What happy memories. Then we watched Gravity for the second time. I feel like I've been fooling myself (and you) into thinking that this movie made no impact on me when I'd be flat out lying if I told you that. When George Clooney said "You gotta let go" to Sandra Bullock, I almost lost it, choking on the fact that I will never again see my beloved this side of eternity. Rachael asked me what I missed most about Becky. "Her touch," I said. Even a simple hand hold. We would just sit on the front porch holding hands, looking at our circumstances through God's eyes, realizing that we were loved and lovely in His sight, precious to Him beyond all belief. There's something so wonderful about memories. It breaks my heart to go back in time, but all my memories are, strangely, positive. The hurts and disappointments are all forgotten. Four months ago my world quietly crumbled. As I sat numb with shock and grief, I was not alone, however. He was with me. And not only Him. I've spent the past four months being loved on and cared for and talked to and scolded ("Go see the doctor, dad!") and even pampered by my daughters. I'm now, even as I type these words, thankful beyond belief. Yes, I'm still hurting, if I'm being totally honest. Because I can't help thinking about her. But then His voice speaks into the silence of my pain. The strange thing is that His voice sounds an awful like one of my daughter's. And somehow, after that, the nights don't seem so long any more.

Sunday, March 9

8:38 AM Aah, the very first day of a brand new week. I feel like I'm trying to cover too much acreage for an old Massie-Ferguson 135. The wretched clock keeps chiming out the hours, and it seems that the law of diminishing returns is kicking in earlier than normal. This morning I'm busy answering emails while recovering my physical strength. I am beginning to feel less of a corpse, thank God. It is enormously reviving to see the pine trees free of ice and to hear the dogs barking in hopeful tones. The weather this week promises to be warm and nice. Meanwhile I'm busy with my writing, though inefficiently as usual. I often feel like a third-rate sophomore writing a college term paper, combining technical ineptitude with a total lack of common sense. In book writing, alas, I have to be more than usually solemn. And so I tend to put it off sometimes. This is what I call structured procrastination, which is an amazing strategy to postpone doing all kinds of things you may find less interesting or appreciable in life. It all catches up with you one day, however. I've also been perusing a couple of the latest English Bible versions -- one of them extremely popular momentarily on campus, especially among the Reform-minded students. They are all too literary for my taste, full of that exquisitely good writing that is, one feels instinctively, only another kind of bad writing. Otherwise, I have been sticking to my big fat Greek New Testament, which really takes the lid off and shows you the works. Very entertaining too (dare I say it?), that is, when one encounters the wonderful rhetorical devices in the text. It contains a bit of everything, and I never find it dull, boring, or pedantic. By the way, yesterday in the car we were discussing English pronunciation. As we all know, English pronunciation is an utter absurdity (cf. heard/beard, five/give, low/how, paid/said). I'm told that there is even a word to describe the science of English pronunciation: orthoepy. And get this: the word orthoepy itself can be pronounced in two ways. How anyone can learn English as a second language and pronounce it correctly escapes me entirely.

Today it's off to The Hill then out to dinner with Nigusse and his friend before taking him to the airport. Then I will get some work done at the office and take one of my daughters out to dinner. I'm told I will be interviewed again on the Pastor's Perspective radio show (KWVE) tomorrow at 6:00 pm EST. Seems they want my take on the adjective didaktikon in 1 Tim. 3:2 -- "able to teach" or "teachable"? If you can't tune in, I'll give it away.

Happy Resurrection Day.

Dave

Saturday, March 8

7:52 AM I dedicate this cartoon to the doctoral student who turned in his dissertation to me today:

7:38 AM Good news: Wycliffe is returning to South Sudan. And here's a trivia question for you: How many nations are there in Africa? Answer here.

7:30 AM So proud of Katy Isaacs, now a published author. Parents, check out what she says about dating and marriage. Teens, learn from her experience. I am sure that God honors an obedient faith. Thanks, Katy, for helping us see the Way.

7:22 AM Seen this note?

Good thing this duffer never met Becky. I always enjoyed watching men with insecure egos bristle in Becky's presence. She was the ultimate Proverbs 31 woman. If it needed to get done, she would do it, and do it well. Once, when Bec and I were landing at RDU in a severe thunderstorm, our jet had to make a go around. We landed safely on the second try, but it took some pretty skilled flying to do so. After we landed I made a beeline for the pilot to thank him. It was a her. Becky was a woman's woman. Just read her autobiography to see that. But a wall flower she was not. Becky was a Phoebe. In Rom. 16:2, Paul describes Phoebe as "a helper of many, myself included." The Greek term for "helper" (prostatis) is defined by Doug Moo as "one who came to the aid of others, especially foreigners, by providing housing and financial aid and by representing their interests before the local authorities." Moo thinks Phoebe was "a woman of high social standing and some wealth, who put her status, resources, and time at the service of traveling Christians, like Paul, who needed help and support" (Romans, p. 916). Becky's income from her employment as a registered nurse went almost exclusively to help finance our work in Ethiopia, much as Jesus and the apostles had certain women who "were contributing to their support out of their private means" (Luke 8:3). Becky and I were glad to be a team (though a frail and imperfect one) in the work to which the Lord appointed us. Together we sought to serve both in the practical ministry of meeting the physical and material needs of people as well as in the ministry of the Word. Together we were involved in church planting. Together we hosted visitors in our home on a regular basis. The key word is together. We were "co-workers" for Christ – and that without any diminution of our masculinity or femininity.

6:52 AM Off to Appomattox Court House later today with Nigusse and his friend from Omaha. They met in Israel when Becky and I sent Nigu to study at Jerusalem University College. It's a perfect day for sightseeing -- the ice is gone and the temps will be in the mid 60s. We lost our power yesterday when a fallen tree snapped two electrical lines on our farm. You gotta hand it to Dominion Virginia Power -- they worked until 1:00 am this morning to repair it. Thanks, guy, for a job well done.

Friday, March 7

8:12 AM Heartiest congratulations to my assistant Jacob Cerone, who has just accepted an invitation to work with Steven Runge of Logos Bible Software on their new Greek discourse handbooks. He and his family will relocate to Washington state this summer. Please take a minute and wish him well.

Thursday, March 6

1:45 PM Well, I survived the marathon at the bank. I feel like I'm rounding first base and heading toward second. Great feeling indeed. Afterwards, three of my grandsons (Nolan, Bradford, and Graham) invited me out to lunch.

They were kind enough to bring their mom and dad with them. Good time had by all. The Chinese cuisine was okay, but the coup de grâce was the bubble gum machine, for sure.

Nap time ....

8:10 AM Ah, the Banzai Pipeline. I once broke a board in half here. Enjoy.

8:02 AM Just a quick note to let you know I'm heading back to the bank for another marathon meeting this morning. For those of you who have lost a spouse, it's probably not news to you that settling your late spouse's affairs demands a good deal of time and effort. Here are my "stacks."

Each represents a different project I need to complete this year. My project du jour? The stack at the far left. I'm hoping to considerably reduce its size before this afternoon. To be honest, the hardest part is not the financial side of things. It's the emotional side. For example, one form I had to fill out yesterday asked for my marital status: single, married, divorced, or widowed. It felt so nether-worldly to check the latter box for the first time in my life. So here I am, more than a little emotional about a silly little box, yet at the same time filled with peace that I am exactly where God wants me to be at this stage in my life. I'm fairly sure this won't be the last time I'll be asked the marital status question. Health-wise, I'm not sure I have the energy to handle all of these demands today. I'm still feeling pretty rough and have an appointment to see the doctor in the morning (bronchitis again?). Time will tell how much I can accomplish this weekend, but my goal is to hack away at the stack. If you feel led to email me, please be prepared with words of love and encouragement because I'm a bit over my head right now. I've always been "good" at doing life. I've met and conquered a good many obstacles. This one is a bit trickier. Because, as I am slowly learning, grief is no respecter of persons, and it certainly doesn't care whether or not you're investment-savvy. It doesn't pause to ask how you're feeling or if there are other worries and cares in your life. Grief brooks no excuses. It's just something you have to push through. Thank goodness for the Gospel. Thank goodness for Jesus. So here's to all of you widowers out there. Here's to many more nights of filling out forms and emailing attorneys. And to little boxes that remind you that although you are now widowed, you were once married to a fantastic woman.

Wednesday, March 5

8:13 AM Can't wait to get back to SoCal and hit the beach with my new surfing buddy, Don Stewart. 

Tuesday, March 4

7:55 PM The weather here in Virginia is bi-polar. One day it's snowing, the next day the sun is shining. One day it's cold, the next day it's hot. One day we get five inches of snow, and a week later the temperatures are in the 70s. Of course, I'm never that way. I'm always even-keeled. Never up and down. Never hot then cold. I wish it were true. Caught up in the crossfire of circumstances, I sometimes become as unpredictable as the weather in southern Virginia. I suffer from a crippling disease: being a human. I have known despair – a life that Thomas Hobbes once referred to as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." I have also known extreme elation. Most days I'm striving to find a balance between the two extremes. Life is a psychic infirmity brought on by the reality of the struggle between darkness and light, flesh and Spirit. So I'm always grateful when I read how Jesus had compassion on people experiencing this kind of distress. The phrase "dark night of the soul" was coined by St. John of the Cross, one of the church's greatest theologians. I imagine that I struggle where many of you struggle – being preoccupied with the things I've done (or failed to do) in the past. So I run the film backwards, and misery ensues. Then I look into the face of the One who took the brunt of Martha's mocking words at the tomb of Lazarus: "Well, I see you finally made it. Don't you think it's a bit late to do anything about it now?” The Rabbi is not defensive. His face mirrors her own grief. The past is tragic, He seems to say. But there's hope. "I am the resurrection and the life." Through all the vicissitudes of my life I have discovered that the only answer to despair is hope. Hope made David get dressed and begin to act like a king again after his son died. Hope made Simon Peter a rock after he had denied his Lord. Life is impossible without hope. Jesus frustrates me. He will frustrate anybody who tries to live in the past. "It is finished," He says. "It's all under the blood."

12:38 PM Don't forget to "spring forward" this Sunday.

12:32 PM Teaching update: I'm eager to get back into the classroom. If you're a SEBTS student and still need to take beginning Greek, I hope you will consider joining me for 6 weeks this summer. Greek 1-2 will meet from May 19 to June 27, five days a week. We will work through all 26 chapters of my beginning grammar Learn to Read New Testament Greek, which currently sells for only $19.00 at Amazon. Thanks and God bless.

11:52 AM Texting while flying? I'm okay with that. But please, no voice calls.

9:56 AM Good to see that Rod Decker's book on Mark is now listed at Amazon. I wish it well. I always find Rod's materials useful and informative (see this page). His 2009 ETS paper called Markan Idiolect is required reading in my Advanced Greek Grammar courses. Rod discusses such features as Markan parataxis, redundancies, multiple negatives, periphrasis, and indefinite plurals. A feature I usually discuss with my classes is Mark's use of prepositional prefix morphemes with what appear to be an intensifying function. Examples include sullupeomai in 3:5, diarpazo in 3:27, diegeiro in 4:39, parakouo in 5:36, kateulogeo in 10:16, and (perhaps the most difficult one of all) kataphileo in 14:45. Perhaps Rod discusses these lexemes in his eagerly anticipated Mark Handbook. I would be very interested in his take.

9:45 AM Couldn't resist posting this pic of us when we were students at Jerusalem University College back in the 80s. "From Dan to Beersheba" was their motto. What a happy memory.

9:28 AM The schedule for this month's eastern regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society has now been posted. I've marked at least two of them as must-hears:

  • Wesley Davey (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary): "The Place of the Lion": A Critical Engagement with Non-Violent Readings of John’s Apocalypse.

  • Jacob Cerone (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary): The Use of grapho and its Compounds in Eusebius.

Wesley is a current Ph.D. student of mine, and Jacob is my assistant and also my Th.M. student. Proud of you gentlemen! 

9:02 AM Ben Witherington reviews the movie Son of God. Of interest to me is the inclusion of the woman taken in adultery passage (John 7:53-8:11), which most scholars do not believe is original (though I do). I am toying with the idea of seeing the flick myself and writing my own thoughts.

8:55 AM So I've been asking the question, "What does a healthy, biblical church look like?" I don't claim to have found the only answer to this question. The one thing I have tried to do is allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves. I've asked my question of the New Testament itself; and it seems to me that the New Testament has provided us with an extraordinarily clear answer. The more I ponder the book of Acts, the more convinced I am that the wonderful chapter describing the birth of the church makes a fitting starting point for the study of New Testament ecclesiology, in 11 brief verses no less. I am speaking of Acts 2:37-47, verses that describe at least seven basic characteristics of the newly-formed church in Jerusalem. Hence the title: Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. In case you're wondering, the seven characteristics I'll be discussing are:

  • Evangelistic preaching

  • Christian baptism

  • Apostolic teaching

  • Genuine relationships

  • Christ-centered gatherings

  • Fervent prayer

  • Sacrificial living

All over the globe there is a beautiful but powerful grassroots movement in the church asking the question, "What does a healthy congregation look like?" Many are looking for a simple, biblical definition of "church." Perhaps The First Church of Jerusalem can provide us with some answers. I hope so!

8:42 AM Danny Akin's Family Life Conference at SEBTS is fast approaching. Becky and I attended two years ago and even took six other couples from church with us. It was splendid. Danny spoke with great candor. His 6 one-hour talks were non-technical, believable, realistic, positive, and free from legalistic demands. He frequently mentioned his own marriage (warts and all) and showed us how he and Charlotte have managed to survive and thrive through 33 years of marriage. His talks were accompanied by amazing stories and moving devotional thoughts.

As for me, I came home battered and bleeding. My only hope is God's amazing grace that enables men like me to change almost every day into the image of Christ. Above all, we were immersed in the Word. Marriage is God's plan, not ours. He holds the patent on it, and all is in vain unless we seek His counsel first and foremost. If nothing else, the conference engendered a lot of biblical discussion about marriage among the seven couples that went from Bethel Hill. Thank you, Danny, for blowing the dust off of God's original blueprint for marriage and reminding us that He can restore and indeed improve any marriage.

8:24 AM Quote of the day (Jody Neufeld):

God doesn’t want to spend time with you because He is lonely. He wants to spend time with you for the same reason you want to spend time with your spouse or your children. It’s all about love. He wants to hear your troubles. He wants to hear what’s on your heart. He wants to comfort you. He wants to heal your bruised spirit. He wants to give you the wisdom and strength you need for each day.

God is with us like the air we breath. We need Him to hold us when our hearts are breaking. How do you need to be touched today? Tell Him.

Monday, March 3

7:53 PM So Ellen's live selfie-tweet is now the most tweeted tweet ever tweeted (over 2.6 million re-tweets).

Samsung, of course, loved it. But so did I. It's just another reminder of the power of social media. We live in an instant-message society. Twitter is just another tool that brings together the contributions of millions of people and makes them matter. The small guy is beating the TV moguls at their own game. Social media is not a bad word. In fact, I'm almost to the point of inviting people to "scroll down" to the passage I'm teaching from whenever I speak to a congregation. I never attend church without my iPad. And I love reading my colleagues' tweets during our seminary chapel services. Sometimes I am even introduced to my audience as a blogger (in addition to professor, writer, missionary, or farmer). The name of the game is using social media for good -- that is, for the Gospel. There's even a book called The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways. My friend and colleague, Alvin Reid, is an expert at this. Okay, so he only has 11,000 followers, compared to Ellen's 27.2 million. But it's a start. I strongly encourage all of my students to blog. Many have followed my advice. They are honing their writing and thinking skills even as they are taking exams and reading thousands of pages for class.

Blog and tweet for Jesus? Why not? 

5:36 PM My trip to the West Coast was a huge blessing but it did have a downside. I left my wedding ring at home. I feel like I somehow betrayed Becky. I felt naked and exposed without it. Because it is tight on my ring ringer, I have been taking it off at night and leaving it on my bed stand. The morning I left for California, I had to arise at 3:00 am. In the early morning "fog" of life, I simply forgot to put it back on. I think I've said it before, but I'm still in love in Becky. If someone asks me if I'm going to remarry, I look at them as though they have ten heads. Becky's death has rocked my emotional equilibrium to the core. But one thing it hasn't done is take away my love for her. I know that this feeling may leave me one day. Sometimes I say to myself, "I'm losing who I am." As my identity changes, confusion is the result. Is love an emotion? If it is, it's an unpredictable one. You become acutely aware of just how much of your identity was bound up in the fact of your husbandness. The companionship, the secret understanding, the intimacy -- all these are but fading memories. At times I struggle with unfinished business between me and Becky. How often I should have told her "I love you" and yet failed to do so. Thankfully there were never any harsh words between us. What can be done? I suppose there is only one thing to do. Keep on loving her. But it hurts. Differently. The loss of Becky brought with it the loss of so many other things. But it also brought a closeness with God and with my family. They seem to understand when I need to retreat and withdraw, and when I need a human voice, a touch on my arm, a phone call. Death is a terrain so vast and rugged that it's easy to lose all sense of perspective, like when you're driving across the vast deserts of the American West. But still, I have one recognizable landmark. She placed it on my finger 37 years ago. If I ever take it off for good, it will not be because I did not love her.  

7:06 AM "Evangelism is something intrinsic to the identity of the Church -- not an optional extra, but something part and parcel of its very being." Alistair McGrath.

7:02 AM Despite the violence, God is at work in Ukraine.

6:54 AM Forbes ranks pastor as fifth most difficult job. I loved this line:

The suggested "pro" for the pastor or other religious leader in this position is that he or she is "seen as a man or woman of God, and what [they] say gets taken seriously, at least momentarily."

6:50 AM Program note: This month (March 30) I will have the privilege of speaking at the annual missions conference at Clement Baptist Church in Roxboro, NC. Service times are 11:00 am and 6:00 pm.

Sunday, March 2

2:32 PM I think Sandra will get the top honors. I loved her interpretation. Her character overcame the odds, outlasting the death of her daughter. Grieving is not an act but a process. You must move through several levels of denial. You deal with it a little bit at a time. You may try to deflect or ignore the pain, but it stalks you -- until a George Clooney gets in your face and tells you to get on with your life.

Gravity is a parable of human existence. Often, when we least expect it, life comes crashing in on us. The loss is devastating. And the grief can't be shared with anyone. It's yours to deal with. But deal with it you must. Barbara Baumgartner put it famously: "Grief is a statement -- a statement that you loved someone." So your 4-year old daughter dies. Or your 60-year old wife. You just have to go on. And going on will change you as a person forever.

2:02 PM Spent a few minutes at Becky's grave after church. It's been exactly four months since she died. I'm still finding it difficult to grieve. It still weighs me down. But I can say this: the wind is subsiding. The dust is beginning to settle. All praise to the God of All Comfort. The gray sky that veils the sun is finally turning blue again. Becky, I said to myself, I miss you. Thank you for filling my heart with song for 37 years. I'm not going to pretend that I don't miss you. I do. Our marriage was so incredibly challenging and yet so incredibly satisfying. I do believe I'm getting over losing you to cancer. I just wish our marriage didn't seem so -- unfinished. But there's no way I'm going to let self-pity color my emotions, honey. I can tell you right now, God has always been faithful to us, even after your Homegoing. Last week in California I remembered so vividly our life together there. We saw God do many great things in our lives and ministries. And He is still doing great things. It's just starting to sink in that I will have to serve Him alone for a while. But I am now more convinced than ever that He is a good God, and that nothing can separate me from His love. Grief and weariness have no power over Him. So I am grateful, honey. Grateful for you. Grateful for the love He gave us for each other. And grateful for all the happy memories. Life is but a vapor. I'll be Home soon. Until then, I will do my best to honor your memory with my life.

9:25 AM Good read here: Arminianism and Providence.

9:12 AM If the things we do at church aren't intentionally missional, then why are we doing them?

9:08 AM Here's His Most Honorable Excellency Sehr Geehrter Professor Doktor Pfarrer Don in front of the Logos Building in Costa Mesa.

The KWVE offices are on the top floor with an incredible view. And to think: this is where Brother Don has to suffer for Jesus every Monday through Thursday.

8:56 AM Still flying high over my trip to Southern California. What's not to like about it? The weather was perfect (note the t-short I'm wearing), and the food -- well, you can find any cuisine you want, including German Jägerschnitzel -- a cut of lean pork that has been pounded thin, breaded, fried, and then smothered with a delicious sour cream mushroom gravy.

This was my favorite noontime meal when I lived in Germany and Switzerland. The restaurant was located, of course, in Anaheim ("Ana's Home").

8:54 AM Just got this pic from Karen, who is visiting Liz and the Rondeaus in upstate New York this week. What fun!

Can you find the deer in the picture?

8:35 AM During Wednesday's radio interview on KWVE, Don Stewart asked me about the poetry of the International Standard Version. Here's a link to an essay I wrote called On the Reading of Poetry. You'll also notice a list on the left side of page that features several other essays I wrote during my time as the New Testament editor, including Mustering the Mystery out of Musterion. Enjoy!

8:24 AM Grateful for this announcement of our Pericope Adulterae Conference on campus next month. And yes, the papers will be collected and published (yours truly serving as editor).

8:20 AM There was a lot of interest in California about my Greek DVDs. If you'd like more information, please go here.

 

8:16 AM The bulls are now history. I'm selling them today. Yesterday, for the umpteenth time, they broke down a fence and got into a neighbor's pasture. Well, fellas, that was the proverbial straw that broke this here camel's back. Sayonara and Auf Wiedersehen.

8:13 AM How can your iPhone help you learn Greek? iTunes has the answer.

8:07 AM I'm scheduled to be back in Ukraine in November to teach hermeneutics and to train teachers. Let's be praying for the Ukrainians -- as well as for the Russians and the Crimeneans. They are all on the brink.

Saturday, March 1

3:53 PM Who says it never rains in Southern California? I mean, the place has been inundated. This is today's national weather map:

Really been praying for my friends out there. Los Angeles has gotten more rain in one day than it has during the entire rainy season so far.

12:52 PM Travel update: Lord willing, I'll be back in Hawaii in July. I am scheduled to do a Myth of Adolescence Conference on Oahu on Saturday July 12. More details later. Also, if you live in western New York, I will be holding a Bible Conference May 2-4. Check back for more. Finally, if you live near Baltimore, I'll be attending the regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society meeting March 22-23. I'll be traveling there with my assistant, Jacob Cerone, who will be presenting a paper on Origen and the authorship of Hebrews. Lots of good, God things happening.

11:48 AM Are you ready for more from the pen of Kevin Brown? Ready or not, here he comes!

Oh, the privilege of writing books. What an undeserved blessing from God.

11:44 AM Randy Fouts gave me a CD with some pix he took while I was in Tustin. I just uploaded them to my computer.

I think I forgot to mention that Randy lost his wife Janice to cancer several years ago. He's been a prayer partner with me as Becky and I went through our own cancer journey. Well, I promised good old Randy I'd post some of his pix on my blog, so here goes. You will see that he has a "real" camera, and that he is quite a good photographer. By the way, heartfelt thanks to pastor Barry at CCT for allowing me to address the congregation "from the floor." I loved every minute of it.

8:52 AM I hold in my non-nicotine-stained hands Becky's book. Today I'll deliver copies to the staff at the local CVS Pharmacy, the Post Office, and the bank -- people who truly cared for Becky during her final days on earth.

8:40 AM Thomas Hudgins sent me this link about "Simon the Black" in Acts 13:1. Please read it, friends. The quality of fellowship in the early church absolutely amazes me. The church in Antioch had Barnabas (a Cyprian landowner and Levite), Lucius (from Cyrene in North Africa), Manaen (an aristocrat and an intimate of the Herodian family), and a fiery intellectual from Tarsus named Saul. But there was also a Simeon "the Black." If Lucius was also black (as seems probable), we are talking here about a good deal of ethnic diversity in the church at Antioch. And why should there not be? Fellowship was a deep reality in the early church. It transcended all barriers, including that of race and education. Today, if the world is to believe anything we have to say about reconciliation, this same quality of fellowship has to be seen among us. Calvary Chapel West Oahu was also the same way: Hawaiians, Samoans, Haoles, Filipinos, Chinese, African-Americans -- all worshipping our color-blind God. I sensed a welcoming spirit among them -- and why should I not, this being the Land of Aloha? They even use dance (the hula) as a vehicle of worship.

The church in Antioch believed in ethnic diversity. And they practiced it. They loved one another despite their differences -- and boy were there differences! It costs a lot, this diversity we are talking about. The main price is humility. I have a lot to learn from my Hispanic, Asian, and African-American brothers and sisters. I would never choose a monochrome when I could have diversity!

Below: After I spoke in chapel at the Los Angeles Bible Training School on Monday night, professor Brad Pixley invited me to address his New Testament Survey class. I spoke on marriage, of course :)

8:18 AM A shout out to my new friends at the Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant in Anaheim.

Great food, excellent service. This was Don's first time eating injera b'wat. He loved it Folks, check it out. Betam turuno!

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