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May 2010 Blog Archives

Monday, May 31

7:21 PM More persecution in India. The response from the Christians?

"While persecution is not uncommon and many of our people suffer greatly, the Lord has been so faithful to prove Himself by allowing our brothers and sisters to show love to those who need it the most," he said.

Along these same lines, I want to tell you about a perfectly astonishing fellow, our translator James. He accompanied Jason and me when we went to the war-like Gujis.

James was willing to sacrifice his life to go where he felt God was calling him and to stay loyal to brothers (like Jason and me) whom he had only recently met. And what was the danger? James is a Burji, and Burjis are not very welcome these days among the Gujis. It took both courage and Holy Spirit-sized faith to reach out beyond his comfort zone to people who both fear and hate the Burjis.

I recall our final day among the Gujis. Several Burjis had been shot and killed. As we were driving from Gujiland back to Burji, we passed several men armed with spears and rifles. James quietly slunk down in the car so as not to be seen. This was prudence, not cowardice, on his part. All of us have only one life to live, and it would be irresponsible to waste it unnecessarily. Eventually we arrived safely back in Burjiland. Immediately after that, the road was closed.

A few weeks later, James was murdered because he had dared to help us.

I find it encouraging that there are young men today who, like Epaphroditus of old, are willing to gamble their lives away for the sake of the Gospel (Phil. 2:30). They are fearless in making Jesus known, and motivated supremely by love. There are few things so moving as to see young Christians making a bold and costly investment in the kingdom. In the New Testament, the word "martyr" meant to be a witness. It did not originally refer to a person who suffered death for a cause. In those days, a man died because he was a martyr. He was not a martyr because he died.

Perhaps there is a lesson here for us. It is when we have really understood the actual cost of discipleship, when we have understood the plight of our enemies, when we have heard their cries and have shared their suffering and despair, then we will be able to proclaim the Word of God to them – but not until then!

6:45 PM Would you read a book entitled The Steward Leader that has a section called "Becoming a Leader of No Reputation"? I think I would. In fact, I think I will. For more, go here.

6:24 PM Jesus is not only to be obeyed; He is to be enjoyed as our constant Companion and Brother. Let me say it again, strongly: Jesus commands us to go to the world, but not in the context of dissension within our ranks. His overriding command is that we be committed to one another in love, affirming and strengthening each other as fellow workers in His kingdom. In this light I'd like to publicly affirm my friend and former student, Eric Carpenter. I'd do missions with you any day, brother. Church, too.

Friends, if our mission work does not flow out of the priority of mutual, unconditional love for each other, our exploits for God in the world will come very hard. That's why this Saturday I'm looking forward to being with our Ethiopia team for our final orientation before boarding our plane. It is no exaggeration to say that, without a deeply spiritually united team, our hearts can never be synchronized with God's.

1:41 PM LXX students, bookmark this

1:12 PM Arthur Sido says it well:

I don't care how many Spurgeon quotes or Calvin quips you post on Facebook and Twitter. If you don't love your brother, your theology is bad and if you say you love your brother but refuse to be in fellowship with them over a pet doctrine, you are a liar.

Read Bad theology or disunity. The fact is, we all have our pet theological beliefs and slants. It's so easy to talk about Christianity. But my question to you, thou who wouldst condemn thy brother for whom Christ died, what are you doing with your life that is sacrificial? Forgive me, but I will repeat here the story of an age-integrated church I heard about that decided to assist another church with its Awana program because the latter church needed people to whom their Sparkies could say their Bible verses. Imagine that! Here you are, a church that teaches that youth ministry, Awana, Sunday School, and Children's Church are all non-biblical, but when pressed with a need you do what you can to help. The truth is that children DO learn Scripture and DO come to Christ through age-segregated programs. Perhaps an even more important truth is the statement this age-integrated church was trying to make: We are ONE BODY in Christ, despite our theological differences.

By the way, Arthur, when it comes to saying one thing and doing another, the biggest liar and hypocrite is ME. At least that's the way I've lived most of my 57 years. Like Saul before he became Paul, I have been religious, informed, well-educated, affluent, ambitious, self-confident, and sophisticated. Oh God, make me blind! Blinded by you! As blind and as helpless and as lacking in pride and self-confidence as Saul was when he was led by the hand to the house of Ananias.

Arthur, I think you must have had me in mind when you wrote your essay, for no one has lived more for his traditions, for his religion, and above all for himself than I have. 

10:55 AM Does anybody really notice? I'm referring to those "Unreached People of the Day" banners you see on some websites (such as Bethel Hill's). Today's people group is the Ad Dharmi of India. Population 1,148,000. And the number of evangelical Christians? 0.00 percent.

I'm devastated when I read that statistic. I'm upset when I compare that with all of the churches in Roxboro, NC. The church is not storming the gates of hell. We are retreating before the world. Please do not talk to me about your "need" for a new building when God has ordained for us to demonstrate Christ sacrificially to a lost and dying world. We are living in a generation of Christians that is no more the Body of Christ than a corpse is. My book The Jesus Paradigm is a plea to live as Christ would. Here's my challenge to you: Determine right now that you will apply the principles of 2 Corinthians 8-9 to your financial affairs, both as a family and as a church family. "Your abundance should be a supply for their want," says Paul. I urge all of us to live a lifestyle that matches our responsibility to care for our bothers and sister worldwide so that the Gospel might penetrate a lost and dying world, the Ad Dharmi included.

Can I get a witness?

9:31 AM Becky has some excellent thoughts on Memorial Day in her essay Memorials for the Church.

9:25 AM Following up on yesterday's "sermon," I am struck by the eagerness of the church in Antioch to help the believers in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). From the outset the early church recognized that salvation was more than positional. It has a moral aspect. Luther's doctrine of justification by faith has been rightly criticized because of its overemphasis on the forensic aspect of salvation. He was primarily interested in forgiveness, and not in renewal. Hence his trouble with James. Pastor Jason was quick to point out to us yesterday that sola fide is a heresy if we mean by it faith unaccompanied by works. If I am opposed to the cult of Americanism, it does not mean that I am anti-American. Early Christianity was not aloof from society. It penetrated it with love and good deeds. But it was love of Christ, not of country, that impelled them to be involved in the affairs of society. Note the words of the second-century document The Epistle to Diognetus (5:1-5):

Christians are not distinct from the rest of men in country or language or customs. For neither do they dwell anywhere in special cities nor do they use a different language.... They inhabit their own fatherland, but as sojourners.... Every foreign country is to them a fatherland and every fatherland a foreign country.... They live on the earth but their citizenship is in heaven.

True Christianity never pits "Christian culture" against non-Christian culture. Instead, it infuses new leaven into the existing culture. The church is a people within a people, but it is never part of the sacral society that idolizes man or nation. When Luther put the trumpet of reform to his lips he was prepared to make a break with the state, though not a complete one. As soon as he joined himself to the secular rule, the Reformation came to a crashing halt as far as I am concerned.

I am greatly indebted to God for allowing me to live in these United States. But, like God's people of old, I "desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one" (Heb. 11:16). The kingdom of God transcends national borders, so why should cultural values craft the church's institutional forms?

If we were to view our holidays as human creations, we would be less likely to sacralize them.  

8:19 AM Quote of the day (Karl Barth):

Das letzte Wort, das ich als Theologe und auch als Politiker zu sagen habe, ist nicht ein Begriff wie "Gnade," sondern ein Name: Jesus Christus.

One could easily replace, on this Memorial Day, "Gnade" with "Freiheit."

Speaking of Barth, I'd like all of my current doctoral students to translate the following Barth Zitat without using a dictionary, and then email me your translation. This is VERY simple prose, and you should be able to nail it.

Wir sind Theologen und sollen von Gott reden. Wir sind aber Menschen und können nicht von Gott reden. Wir sollen beides wissen und Gott die Ehre geben.

8:10 AM The BBC reports about the crisis in women's health care in Ethiopia. One of the main problems is the obstetric fistula, usually resulting in incontinence (which is anathema in Ethiopian society). Our ultrasound machine will go a long way toward helping the women in Burji to monitor their pregnancies.

Below: When Zemete of Alaba needed fistula surgery, the Lord brought her to Addis Ababa for surgery at the world-famous fistula hospital there. Here she is before her surgery:

And here she is afterwards:

Glory to God!

For more on the horrible social consequence of obstetric fistulas, go here.

Sunday, May 30

9:44 PM This has got to be the ultimate in frustration. You're a dog, and you've just chased a squirrel under the tobacco barn. Nothing you do can winkle him out.

Nothing! Talk about the epitome of frustration.


9:33 PM All in a day's work:

9:20 PM Quote of the day (Eric Carpenter):

Please let me encourage you to avoid the trap of following any one man. We seem to have a tendency to do this when we are a part of a church that has one pastor as the main man. He may be a wonderful person, full of wisdom and insight. He may also be gracious, encouraging, kind, and selfless. He may be a servant in the biblical sense. It is because of all these positive traits that we have a tendency to follow him.

Let us instead, regardless of our church situation, follow the one true man: Jesus Christ.


5:59 PM Taking the dogs for a walk. Or is it the other way around? 

5:32 PM Does the Iwo Jima statue contain 13 hands? (The statue portrays only 6 men).

Many believe it does, stating that the 13th hand is God's. Nice story, but it's not true. For more, see this Washington Post article.

One more thought. The sword of the Spirit is the only sword the church of Jesus Christ knows. By bringing the sword of steel into the church we pervert the Gospel. It is like admitting a cancer into the tissues of Christ's Body. The Anabaptists assailed this perversion, and I for one am glad they did. No one can be coerced into the faith. And no nation is a "Christian" nation. It is only natural that people should want to honor their nation's war dead. But nationalism has no place in the church.

5:12 PM Car is washed, weeds are pulled. Everyone is happy.

2:13 PM One final post before I go outside and brave the elements. If you've ever read Roland Allen's classic The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, you will get a huge laugh out of Alan Knox's latest post in his series Scripture ... As We Live It.

For not only has the word of the Lord your “launch” plan sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God mass mailing has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. (1 Thessalonians 1:8 re-mix)

How true! Personally, I am inclined to do missions the way we read the early church did it. This was clearly brought out in brother Jason's passage from this morning, Acts 11:19-30, the story of the church in Antioch.

1) Missions is from local church to local church. (The believers in one place established churches in other places.)

2) Missions is guided by the spiritual leaders of these local churches. (The gift for the Judean churches was sent to the elders of these churches.)

3) Missions does not require "professional" or salaried missionaries. (The founders of the church in Antioch, as Michael Green once put it, were "uneducated nobodies.")

This is exactly why Becky and I do not work through any "church planting" ministry or organization. Our desire is to see missions returned to the local church, to see missions engaged in by every believer, and to connect local churches with other churches through their spiritual leadership, and indeed what we are seeing is more and more local churches discovering that they can send out their own missionaries without jumping through the hoops of someone else's brilliant program for church planting (which always seem to require mass mailings and, of course, donations).

Nice job, Alan!

1:47 PM The boss man is nowhere to be found, so I will buy up the time by washing Becky's fiery red chariot and weeding her vegetable garden, thus doing my best to fulfill the promise of Gen. 3:17-19:

Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.

Yea, verily.

1:38 PM A brief word about "sermons."

As a culture, the Western church is enslaved by a worship of preachers and preaching. This anthropocentricity is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to the Gospel. Know something? There were no "sermons" in the churches of the New Testament. The concept of a well-crafted 30-minute homily carefully alliterated with three points simply did not exist. Now, I am not denying that there were "messages" or, if you will, "words." And this morning during and after the assembly I heard several of these words -- you can call them sermons if you like. Brother Joel reminded us that the wealth and freedom that we enjoy as Americans has a greater purpose than to enable us to selfishly pursue "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." God has blessed America so that we, as Christians, might use our wealth and freedom in the service of taking the Gospel of King Jesus to the nations of the world. What a great "sermon."

Then Miss Kimberley, a member of our Ethiopia Team, shared with us how she became interested in going to Africa. Her point was very simple: As the Lord Jesus places His love in our hearts for someone (or for a nation), our job is to be obedient to that impulse. Another great "sermon."

Brother Jason then spoke a good "sermon" to us from Acts 11:19-30. These statements struck me:

  • "Even if we lived in a Communist country we would still have the freedom to worship Christ."

  • "Numerical growth is not the only thing the church ought to be interested in."

  • "Even though there are external pressures, the Gospel will not be silenced."

  • "The authenticity of a church is a faith that works."

  • "There is no kind of economy or recession that should stop the church from doing what it ought to do."

Them was some purdy good words, Jason!

Finally, I had great "sermon" this morning from brother Hermann, who told me how God healed him from pneumonia and congestive heart failure. This "word" even came to me in the German language. Ausgezeichnet!

Does this definition of "sermon" make you feel a little uncomfortable? I hope so! With love in my heart, the only thing I can say is let's not miss the "sermons" God has for us because we only listening for THE "sermon." As never before, we need believers who are willing to give, and hear, "sermons" like these every Sunday morning and every day in between. Amen?

9:13 AM Off to The Hill. B's feeling too tired to attend. She's trying to reserve her strength for Tuesday's treatment. Pray for her.

8:10 AM Am excited this morning to be revising Why Four Gospels? As I ask in my concluding chapter, "Could it not be, however, that the Markan priorists are wrong?" Indeed, I believe they are!

8:05 AM The humidity is already 90 percent, and the temperatures will be in the 90s today. And we're planning on working on the tin roof today? Somebody slap me.

7:49 AM Thanks to everyone who emailed me to point out my egregious typo of yesterday ("my deaf wife" -- see 8:02 pm).


Her blind husband

7:43 AM Don't know how I missed this: Congratulations to Dr. Greg Welty. Greg is my newest colleague at the seminary and I believe our very first Oxford Ph.D. Welcome aboard, brother!

7:34 AM I still agree with this statement:

Thus, while teaching is indeed a function required of elders (1 Tim. 3:2), and while the ministry of God's Word is essential to their shepherding task (Eph. 4:11), this provides no excuse for the kind of pastor-dependence we are witnessing today.

Read Every Member a Bible Scholar.

7:30 AM Nothing reveals the bankruptcy of modern evangelicalism like our addiction to comfort and extravagance. 

7:24 AM SEBTS students, if you're taking my Hebrews exegesis class this fall be sure to check out this wonderful site.

7:18 AM I remain deeply inspired by the story of 13-year old Jordon Romeo's ascent of Mt. Everest. Here is a fascinating and frightening insight into the human heart and our desire to excel in something even when great risk is involved. Paul dared to tell the Philippians, "I can do all things in union with the one who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). Notice that we are never called upon to do anything for God in our own strength but in the power of the living God. That's my desire! I long to do something of significance for Christ. A Christian is not to be a spineless, fearful individual, shuffling around doing meaningless things. We are to invest our time and talents in "doing good and sharing what you have" (Heb. 13:16), even if we do so in utter obscurity. What mountain does God want me to climb? You to climb? No Christian need be ashamed of a spirit of adventure, even of risk-taking, not when it is for the good of the kingdom.

Speaking of mountain climbing, the only real "mountain" I've climbed is Mount Olomana in Windward Oahu. The view from the top is spectacular, as many climbers have found, including these:

Boy does this bring back memories!

Saturday, May 29

8:46 PM Can we really "pray without ceasing"? Becky thinks so. Read Breathe a Prayer.

8:40 PM If you think that baptisms ought to be PUBLIC professions of faith (as they seemed to be in New Testament times), then you will enjoy reading this story: Revival of outdoor baptismal services connects churches to communities. I was baptized at the age of 8 at Kailua Beach, the same place where everyone surfed and swam. A few years later my church built a baptistery, and I thought: Why do we need this contraption when we have the beach? I still don't have a good answer to that question.

Below: My baptism in 1960. Waiting her turn to be baptized is my mother. We were saved a week earlier on the very same evening.

8:18 PM Guess the language (the text is from Luke's Gospel):

Di ienjel go tu Mieri an se tu ar se, "Mieri, mi av nyuuz we a go mek yu wel api. Gad riili riili bles yu an im a waak wid yu aal di taim." ‘Wa Gabriel se kanfyuuz Mieri an shi staat fi wanda wa im miin. So di ienjel se tu ar se, "No fried Mieri, kaaz Ga riili riili bles yu. Yu a go get prignant an av wan bwai pikni, an yu fi kaal im Jiizas. Im a go ton wan griet man an dem a go se im a di pikni fi di Muos Ai Gad. Di Laad Gad gwain gi im di chruon wa im faada Dievid did av. An im aalwiez a go ruul uova Jiekob piipl, Izrel; an im a go ruul fi eva an eva."

Answer: Jamaican Patois. This is so much like Hawaiian Pidgin it's scary!

8:02 PM Just back from 220, our favorite seafood restaurant in Henderson, NC. Great dining, and the price is right -- cheap! What a great date the Lord gave us. Just put Becky to bed. She has been feeling very tired of late so I'm asking God to give her a long and deep rest tonight. Her latest blood tests have been above normal so we are anticipating returning to UNC on Tuesday morning for her final chemo treatment. Please pray for my dear wife. She is such a stalwart hero of the Gospel. She gives it all she can, and then more. Above all, ask God to keep our hearts pure before Him. All the work and labor and sacrifice we accomplish can never be pleasing to the Lord unless it is done from a pure and sincere heart, with no other motive than to be His obedient servants.

4:47 PM Time to get cleaned up and take my bride out to dinner.

4:34 PM Post of the day (James Tucker): A Memorial Day Musing.

4:15 PM Barn update: Our goal for the day was to finish framing in the new long barn. Our first priority was to see that all of the roofing slats were nailed up securely in preparation for the tin roof.

Then we needed to cut a suitable opening for the barn door, which has to be wide enough to allow ease of movement of hay in both directions.

The next step? Framing in the doorway. Even though we've already got gobs of old doors, none of them is suitable for an old barn, so we'll build our own out of scrap lumber.

The final step was to build the threshold.

And here's the barn in all her glory, a little bald on the top but nothing an afternoon or two of roofing can't solve.

P.S. Listen to this wonderful sound. In my opinion, the only thing sweeter than the noise of a chain saw is the purring of a Massie-Ferguson 135.


11:42 AM Kregel has let Why Four Gospels? go out of print and has returned all rights to me. I am planning on revising the book and adding a section addressing the responses to my obscurantist and fuddy-duddy views on the Gospels. Lord willing the book will be out in time for ETS and SBL in November (which I plan on attending). In the meantime, constructive criticism is always welcome, but don't dawdle in getting it to me.

(BTW, do you know the difference between "constructive criticism" and "destructive criticism"? Constructive criticism is whenever I criticize you; destructive criticism is whenever you criticize me -- lol!!)

11:06 AM For this holiday weekend: A tribute to OUR FLAG.


The Cross!

10:03 AM Jesus never apologized for calling His disciples to make a clean break with the clinging attachments of this present world. 

9:55 AM Am making arrangements to attend the SBC annual convention in Orlando, June 15-16. Plan to spend lots of time at the SEBTS booth, so if you're a prospective student I hope you'll stop by and introduce yourself. I'd love to meet you!

BTW, anyone know of plans for a meet-up of bibliobloggers this year? I'm also free at mealtimes if anybody would like to get together. Shoot me an email soon.

9:48 AM Clinic update: Here's a portion of an email Becky sent out yesterday to our Ethiopia email list.

Attached you will see a portion of the report of the clinic work that was received today.  In the picture of the boy lying on the floor of the car, that boy was found collapsed in a field.  He was treated successfully & is now returned to his family.  The day after his collapse, a pregnant woman was gored repeatedly by a bull; they got her in the ambulance, but she died en route to our clinic.

You will see that much spiritual fruit is gained from this clinic, as well as lives saved.  Thank you for your part, thru prayer & financial giving & other kinds of work.  God bless you for that!

Thank God for this ambulance. What a marvelous ministry it is having for the glory of God and the good of people.

9:28 AM As promised, here are a few pictures from yesterday's work in the hay fields.

And take a peek at this video. Man, ain't nothin' like good old-fashion farm work!


9:08 AM Included among the hundreds of people who have influenced my life and ministry over the years are my college, seminary, and post-grad professors. I can still remember their names: Sturz, Ebeling, Saucy, Mitchell, McDougall, Barth, Lochman, Reicke. These and many others went out of their way to disciple me and instruct me in the things of God. Today, as a teacher, I am no less grateful for the thousands of students I've been privileged to instruct and mentor through 33 years of teaching. If you could meet them, you would quickly discover that most of them are men and women of deep spiritual passion. They have become impatient with pseudo-remedies for what ails the church and have a burning desire to return to the basics. With single-minded determination they are eager to see the church around the world grow for the glory of God. It was my honor to "lead" them through their commencement exercises yesterday.

I put "lead" in quotes because a blind monkey could have done my job, it was so easy. I'm reminded of a definition of leadership I once heard: Leadership is finding out where everybody is going and then getting out in front! In any event, our president brought a wonderful message from 2 Corinthians 5 and reminded us that the only way out of the fantasy and illusion of so much that seeks to counterfeit Christianity today is by actively pursuing the "ministry of reconciliation" that the Lord has entrusted to us. May I challenge you to join our grads on the road to servanthood in the name of King Jesus?

I'm talking about people like Lesly and Thomas Hudgins, who will soon be leaving for Latin America (and who, by the way, are responsible for the outstanding Spanish translations of my essays). God has ordained them -- and all of us -- to demonstrate Christ to a lost and dying world. What an honor and privilege to serve Jesus together. What a mighty God we serve. Graduates, let's forget about becoming the next superstar of American religion. Let's place all of our abilities at the feet of the Lord Jesus and rediscover the glory, authority, and power of His majesty.

Friday, May 28

10:11 PM Graduation services were SWEET. Got back home at 5:30 pm, just in time to rake hay and pick up bales. We barely finished our work when it got dark. The darkness was immediately followed by a huge downpour and lightening show. Much to be grateful for today. Worn out. Pix tomorrow.

6:59 AM There will be many unsaved in our commencement exercises today at 10:00 and 3:00 in Binckley Chapel. Praying for a great day of celebration and salvation.

6:53 AM I extend a warm welcome to the newest members of the 5-Minute Greek Club: Blake, Nathan, Kyle, Seth, Justin, Nick, Joshua, Ronnie, Jeremy, Joel, Mike, Jesse, and Jonathan.

Thursday, May 27

9:48 PM My good friend David Allen of SWBTS is interviewed here about his forthcoming commentary on Hebrews as well as his new book defending direct Lukan authorship of Hebrews.

David is an outstanding expositor and exegete, and I am eager to get my non-nicotine-stained hands on both volumes when they appear this year. Of course, David is completely wrong about Lukan authorship, but I like him anyway! 

9:15 PM You need to take a look at Eric Carpenter's entry about a Lifeway marketing gimmick. His essay is called What's Wrong With This Picture? Hey, I've got nothing against Lifeway. They've published several of my books. Their bookstores even sell them. Still, it's so easy to fall into the trap of "Christian" consumerism. For many, shopping is as addictive as alcohol or smoking or drugs. We cram our bookshelves with Christian books and tapes and DVDs. We can't wait to get to the next seminar or meeting. All the while our lives are barren. I don't know about you, but I want to stop living vicariously.

8:45 PM Summer "vacation" begins tomorrow afternoon for me officially. Unofficially, in the next 3-4 months I will work just as hard as I do during the rest of the year. I hope to make 3 international mission trips, plus work on 2 books projects, plus do a book signing in Florida, plus get up hay and build more barns here at the farm.

Jesus rarely took any "time off." He relentlessly pressed from one village to the next doing kingdom work. He knew that heaven and hell are real, and that the time is short. He was gripped by a love for the lost. Friends, the concept of vacation is part of our culture, not part of the Bible. So is the 40-hour work week. When we see the world as Jesus does, our hearts will be broken with the concerns that break His.  

8:45 PM While God wants us to be shining lights in the world, missionary activity can never be a substitute for a close walk with God.

8:37 PM Huge thunderstorm just to our south in Granville County, NC. So far we are being spared.

5:15 PM Brother David Platt's words are music to my ears. They are so important I've even printed them in RED:

Now the Southern Baptist church I pastor is tempted to do everything except for what Jesus told us to do. Jesus never told us to construct church buildings, start programs, or organize Sunday School. He never told us to host conferences or events. Instead, he told us to get the gospel to all the nations. Therefore, as a church we have stopped construction on buildings, we are removing programs, and we are reorganizing our structure so that we can more intentionally focus his church on what he said is most important.

Every Southern Baptist pastor needs to read this quote and then read it again until it sinks in!  

4:53 PM Farm update: Nate has begun nailing up the roof slats on the new barn. He's also mowed a whole bunch of hay. Weather permitting, we hope to get the bales up this Saturday. In 90 degree heat no less. What fun!

4:46 PM Great news! Yet another one of my doctoral students has had an essay accepted for publication. This time the author is Paul Himes and the journal is none other than the Bulletin for Biblical Research (BBR). Heartiest felicitations, Paul!

Paul's article is entitled "Peter and the Prophetic Word: The Theology of Prophecy Traced through Peter's Sermons and Epistles." Paul will begin writing his dissertation on 1 Peter this summer.

4:22 PM Today my assistant and I calculated all of my final grades. Here's Andy inputting them into the seminary website.

If anyone has a complaint about their grade please feel free to come and talk to me. I am always happy to lower students' scores.

(Just kidding.)

3:55 PM In an excellent blog post called Spiritual Warfare and Missions, Jerry Rankin makes this statement:

Just as Satan is identified as the deceiver of the nations and has led them to embrace false and perverted religious worldviews, he has deceived the church to think of missions in terms of evangelizing countries. He has obscured the focus of the Great Commission to be "panta ta ethne" or people groups.

The Greek expression to which he alludes is almost certainly that found in the Great Commission of Matt. 28:19. But this raises a very important question of Greek exegesis: what do the words panta ta ethne refer to? The journey toward becoming an effective disciple-maker begins with understanding this vital expression. To answer this question, I turned to the ever-insightful Don Carson, who writes (Matthew, p. 596):

Adherents of the "church growth movement" have attempted to justify their entire "people movement" principle on the basis of this phrase, used here and elsewhere, arguing that ethnos properly means "tribe" or "people"…. The latter point is readily conceded, but the conclusion is linguistically illegitimate. Plural collectives may have all-embracing force, whether in Greek or English. Doubtless God may convert people by using a "people movement"; but to deduce such a principle from this text requires a "city movement" principle based on Acts 8:40, where the same construction occurs with the noun "cities." In neither case may missiologists legitimately establish the normativeness of their theories.

Is Carson correct? I think so. He concludes, "The aim of Jesus' disciples, therefore, is to make disciples of all men everywhere, without distinction." So how hard can we push this text to derive missiological principles? Too hard, I'm afraid. Note that Rev. 5:9 distinguishes between "tribe, language, people, and nation" (ISV) – a verse that clearly speaks to the situation in the Horn of Africa, where Becky and I work within the "nation" of Ethiopia among the "Southern peoples" that include the Burji and Guji "tribes" that speak the Burjinya and Gujinya "languages," respectively. That said, brother Rankin's point is surely well-taken. I have no desire to resort to hair-splitting distinctions when so much is at stake. As I have grown in my missions involvement, I sense my own weakness and the power of the Evil One. More and I more I realize the deceptive subtleties of my own heart and the malicious cunning of Satan to thwart the work of God in Ethiopia and elsewhere. Whether, therefore, we speak of evangelizing "countries" or "people," we are directed to take the initiative and submit everything to the Lordship of Christ, who has overcome the Evil One.

3:43 PM The University of Toledo announces an opening in philosophy/religious studies.

3:40 PM Quote of the day #2:

If a person of their free will decides to give a percentage of their income then of course that is their decision based on Grace and not out of fear of a curse ripped from a text and given new meaning. But as soon as giving is called a tithe that's mandated, forced, or becomes a requirement based on Malachi chapter three or Matthew chapter 23 or some other dubious implied command from the Bible, it represents poor hermeneutics and sloppy exegesis.

Read Moving from the Tithe to Grace Giving – One Man's Journey. The need for this type of thinking in our churches today cannot be over-emphasized. Thank you, Paul, for posting your thoughts.

3:37 PM Quote of the day (Craig Blomberg):

In our transient age, we need Christians from all walks of life to go to a place and stay for a long time.

3:33 PM Had a good time today at graduation rehearsal. I functioned as Faculty Marshall. I still have no idea what I'm doing, but it sure is a blast. Already looking forward to the fall semester. Here's my class schedule:

  • Greek I

  • Greek Exegesis of Hebrews

  • LXX (co-taught with Robert Cole)

  • Linguistics (Ph.D. Seminar)

This represents an overload as I normally only teach 3 courses per semester. Students, please note:

  • Th.M. students are welcome to sign up for the Ph.D. seminar.

  • The prerequisites for the LXX course are one year of both Greek and Hebrew.

  • The prerequisite for Hebrews is one year of Greek.

  • I'll be teaching Greek 3 (Syntax and Exegesis) in the spring of 2011 – although I don't know why anybody would want to take me for that course (it's very heavy).

3:21 PM Becky and I (mostly Becky!) are up to our eyeballs in preparations for our Ethiopia trip in 5 weeks. Leading a mission trip comprised of over 25 people involves three requirements on our part:

  • You must be omniscient. Only if you're all-knowing can you be sure that everything will go as planned.

  • Next, you have to become omnipresent. You will have to be with every team member every moment of every day to make sure the environment is perfectly suitable for their gifts and ministries.

  • Finally, you must master omnipotence. As team leaders we are expected to be able to do anything and everything to make the trip a success.

As must be perfectly obvious by now, these attributes do not belong to Dave and Becky Lynn Black. And for those of you who think you see them in us – one day you will wake up and smell the roses! Omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence belong only to the Trinity – and in very good measure I might add, perfectly in fact. Becky and I will do the very best we can to see that you are well-prepared for what you will encounter in country, but it's not our job to play God. Actually, you are not "our" missionaries at all. You are God's. And He has supplied you with everything you need pertaining to life and godliness. That's the promise of Scripture. I assure you that He will never fail you.

Tuesday, May 25

6:54 AM And now, a brief word to my students who will be graduating this Friday:

In the past few years you may have noticed something about your professor. I've learned to become better at listening. To be a disciple of Jesus you must be observant. Sometimes I'm too anxious to get across my own agenda that I miss the important perspectives of others. Thomas à Kempis once said, "What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity?" Jesus made it clear that if you want to be greatly used by God you can never think that you have "arrived." I've found it far too easy to allow subtle pride to slip in and interfere with my desire to genuinely care for others. More than ever I'm learning how to share my hurts, my defeats, my limitations with others.

After Friday you will be "graduates." But I hope you will never stop learning. Be open and honest with your limitations. Never put up a phony front. Make it clear to people that you are more interested in serving them than in being served by them. Push yourself hard, but be gentle with others (Phil. 4:5). Above all, God is doing incredible things in this world. Plug into His global plans. We are the conduits through which His cross-love flows. And remember: You can't lead people beyond where you yourself are spiritually.

Happy Graduation.

6:43 AM Life is too short to be an apologist for anything but the Gospel. That thought came to mind yesterday when I was asked to grant permission to someone to republish something I had once written on constitutional politics. My initial instinct was to give it. After all, the DBO byline reads, "Restoring our biblical AND constitutional foundations." I have long been a keen student of American politics, its process of development, as well as its relationship with biblical Christianity. Indeed, not too long ago I would have considered myself an "apologist" for the Constitution Party. Anyone who reads this website site knows that I have written very little lately on this subject.


The more I read the New Testament the more I see that it would have us hold tightly to Jesus Christ, to whom we must accord preeminence, and hold every other loyalty loosely, including our political affiliations. I have come to see that any political movement, perhaps especially one supported by Christians, is a part, not of Christianity, but of Christendom, which itself is a very complex mixture of truth and error. The tragedy is that this connection is not always acknowledged, and the resultant impoverishment has often made Christianity prone to syncretism and to an unwarranted and shameful triumphalism.

In order for the church to fulfill her glorious worldwide mission, its structure must be a global structure. This means that the church is essentially a trans-national body, centered in the Great Commission of her Lord and in the spiritual life and mission of its total priesthood of all believers, regardless of their political views or national loyalties. In this way our churches can be revolutionized by a partnership of grace in which every member has his or her own contribution to make and function to fulfill. No doubt when we begin to look at the Body of Christ universally we will find ourselves acting less and less like "apologists" for our own brand of national politics.

Truly, life is too short to be an apologist for anything but the Gospel.

Monday, May 24

9:52 PM Worked till dark, partly in the rain, but got the flooring done and all 7 of the trusses up in the new log barn. Came home to a wonderful supper of Chinese stir fry and rice. Awesome.

2:48 PM As you can see, we're back early from UNC. They canceled B's chemo -- low platelets -- so we've rescheduled for next Tuesday. If her blood counts are still too low then, they will cancel chemo #6 altogether. I'm hoping and praying that all will go according to schedule next week. Thanks for thinking of us today, for praying, and for emailing us your words of encouragement. Greatly appreciated!

7:55 AM Speaking of beginning Greek, Greek Syntax and Exegesis is being offered this summer and fall (two sections). Take it. A foundation exists for only one reason: To build a superstructure on it.

7:48 AM Gearing up for my final week of the semester. How do you tell your beginning Greek students you've over-simplified for the past year? 

7:40 AM Glory to God. Becky's final chemo is today.

7:34 AM Last Tuesday night I watched this program on PBS: The Wounded Platoon. A real eye-opener. Watch it if you possibly can and learn about the tremendous psychological toll on our troops and the invisible wounds of war. Then say a special prayer for our walking wounded.

7:28 AM Thanks to a tip-off at the ETC site (Luck on Conjectural Emendations), I'm ordering this book for our library:

M. Sanz Morales, M. Librán Moreno (ed.), Verae Lectiones: estudios de crítica textual y edición de textos griegos. Exemplaria classica: Vol. Anejo 1.   Huelva:  Universidad de Huelvá, 2009.  Pp. 414.  ISBN 9788492679140.  (pb).  

Ever since I published my study Conjectural Emendations in the Gospel of Matthew in Novum Testamentum I have become extremely skeptical about this course of action.

Sunday, May 23

7:43 PM Snapped these 10 minutes ago:

1) A full rainbow over the farm. Incredible.

2) Alpha (aka Alfie, Alfredo, Alfa Romeo, Alfred P. Newman) enjoying the front yard.

3) Social hour by the fence.

7:04 PM Need help with New Testament Exegesis?

6:54 PM Here's a glimpse of our health center in Galana. This video features our evangelist Solomon riding his new bike.


All of us do evangelism, but Solomon has a special gift in this area. He is a real gem. As Becky said in the assembly this morning, we are not worthy to tie the shoe laces of the Ethiopians with whom we work.

6:23 PM The latest from Ethiopia.

6:18 PM Just got an amazing report from our Gondar evangelists. Our 3 teams of 2 evangelists each have planted 4 churches in only a year and a half. God is at work. Of course, each evangelist is a native Ethiopian, comes from Gondar, speaks perfect Amharic, and knows the Ethiopian Orthodox Church inside and out. And still the U.S. sends American missionaries to plant churches in Northern Ethiopia. I don't get it.

5:49 PM "Fairest Lord Jesus" was the title of the awesome duet played today to the glory of God and the blessing of God's people. Thanks Becky and Leanna!

5:42 PM The answer to yesterday's puzzler? Roland Bainton (The Travail of Religious Liberty, p. 55). Bainton was professor of ecclesiastical history at Yale for many years. The Reformers' alliance with the state led to such intolerance that, while they required freedom of conscience for themselves, they often did not grant it to others. It is to the Anabaptists, and not to the Magisterial Reformers, that we owe the benefit of religious toleration that we enjoy today in the U.S.

8:22 AM Great to hear from a former student yesterday. His church wants to go missional. Blessings on you, Skip, as you begin your teaching series on the missionary lifestyle!

8:19 AM B's playing a piano-organ duet this morning in the assembly. Not by herself of course lol!

Saturday, May 22

7:20 PM Lawrence Vance just sent me this email:

Just published is my review of the third edition of Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek.

You can read the review here. Always glad to promote Mounce's excellent works!

7:11 PM Who said it?

The paradox of the monument is that it includes men who would have destroyed each other had they met in life.

Answer tomorrow.

6:05 PM Matt, Liz, and the boys are spending the week at the beach. Which means that their puppy Alpha is staying with us. Right now he's cuddled up at my feet. Sweet.

11:57 AM For a very brief but accurate glimpse into life in Addis Ababa, watch this BBC video.

11:22 AM In his marvelous essay The cross I've not picked up, John Meunier has this phenomenal quote. Read it, think about it, then practice it.

If you’re truly called to a people and a location, you won’t quit just because you can’t be paid anymore. God’s call is not tied to salary. Whether pastoral ministry or any other ministry – if you’re called, you’ll find a way to do it, even if it means working two jobs PLUS being in ministry. One of the many things I love about church planting – if you’re called to it, whether as a pastor, deacon, or in some other role, it sure won’t be for the money!

11:10 AM Brother Alan Knox offers up his latest efforts in the Greek text of Philippians: Philippians 4:10-14 translation. Here's a sample:

It's not that I speak about my need, because I learned to be content in whatever state I find myself.

If only our churches could say that. In chapter 2 of The Jesus Paradigm I quote Bonhoeffer's haunting words:

The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it would give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.

Awesome! The church is not a building. It is a group of radical Jesus-followers ministering to each other sacrificially and reaching the community about them with the Gospel in word and deed. Will we ever learn to be content with what we already have in the way of buildings so that we can live more sacrificially for the Gospel?

9:57 AM Congratulations to Jordan Romeo, the 13-year old who just scaled Mount Everest.

Alvin Reid (Raising the Bar) and I (The Myth of Adolescence) are in agreement: Teenagers are young adults who are eager to prove that fact to the rest of us. Why then should we marginalize them, tell them to go outside and play, and refuse to incorporate them into all the activities of the church, including global missions?

9:45 AM On Thursday Becky planted her garden, and today God is sending rain. He is so good to us!

9:38 AM Good day, bloggers and bloggerettes! I've got missions on my mind this morning. In the first place, Becky just left to practice our ultrasound machine on two pregnant women in Roxboro (friends of ours). Secondly, I just published a little piece that I've long wanted to write. It's called Life Is a Mission Trip. Take It!

Life is truly a mission trip -- and I want to take it!

Friday, May 21

8:06 PM Here's the latest on the Ethiopian elections from the BBC: Ethiopia tackles ghosts of elections past. And here's the latest travel alert issued by the U.S. State Department.

7:26 PM Blessed today with another wonderful end-of-year email from one of my Greek students. Made me think up this maxim:

Good Greek teachers never drive their students. They simply help them steer.

7:14 PM I have begun to make another pass through the entire ISV New Testament in preparation for the publication of the entire Bible next year. I welcome your comments and suggestions. One passage that will require a great deal of thought is Heb. 13:17. How should it be rendered? In other words, do elders rule? The Greek here is most revealing. Any thoughts?

7:05 PM Great to be back home again. Feel washed out. The chiropractor, do you think? Not to worry. Becky cooked up some great salmon for supper. Already I feel better.

6:58 AM Off to see a chiro today. For the first time ever. Being jostled about with 8 other people in the back of a Land Cruiser in rural Ethiopia takes a toll on the ol' bod.

6:45 AM In exactly 6 weeks, 26 disciple-makers from North America will begin their travels to Ethiopia. These include our sonographers who will give our clinic staff in Burji 2 weeks of instruction on our new ultrasound machine. With eternal gratitude I must thank and praise the Lord for His faithfulness to the church in Ethiopia and for giving B and me the privilege of experiencing His grace, mercy, and supernatural aid that always accompanies us to Africa -- even when we are struggling with our physical limitations. You realize, don't you, that just a few years ago neither of us would have ever imagined being involved up to our eyeballs in Ethiopia. Thankfully, as we began to rethink life's priorities, God shot up a few flares to get our undivided attention and to show us the way. This planet does not need another Dave or Becky, but it sure could use a few people who are like Jesus. And that's what our ministry in Ethiopia is all about. Jesus wants to involve all of us in "preparing God's people for works of service" (Eph. 4:12). Since God wants it done, He'll enable us to accomplish it. My prayer is that we will never become proud of ourselves as if this is our work. God's the one running the show. We are nothing but tools in His hands. So please do not set us or anyone else up as gurus. Our God is a jealous God, and He will not tolerate any substitutes.

6:39 AM My colleague Alvin Reid has just posted a delightfully thought-provoking essay on mentoring. Nobody does it better than Alvin. His peroration:

Your legacy will be in the few, those God allows you to shape more than just their minds, but to actually turn their trajectory of life in a direction more gospel-aligned. That, my friend, is a real education.

6:34 AM Will asks a powerful question: What does revival look like?

Thursday, May 20

6:04 PM As I type, Becky is planting tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cukes, and green beans. Well protected, I might add, from our persnickety puppies by the new fence.

5:55 PM Happy day! Amazon just fixed its site and is again selling the third edition of Learn to Read New Testament Greek. Happy day!

2:18 PM My colleague Ben Merkle is editor of a great new series with Kregel. The latest volume in this series is Robert Plummer's 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible. I've seen it -- and I like it. Note: This is the same Kregel that will publish Douglas Huffman's The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek this fall.

Keep up the great work, Kregel!

1:53 PM Alan Knox asks a very good question: How do we show more honor to one another? One way is to say, "Why in the world would you want to study with me when you could study with ____________ at ___________?" I've actually been known to tell prospective doctoral students that! I meant it too.

1:46 PM I don't see how she does it. I mean, gardening, sewing, prepping our Ethiopia teams, cooking, cleaning, public speaking, AND updating the BHBC blog. But somehow she gets the job done. Here's dizzying proof.

1:38 PM This morning I met with a prospective Ph.D. student here at the farm. We had a wonderful conversation. Reminded me of my first meeting with Bo Reicke. Scary.

1:30 PM Allan Bevere, who edits with me the Areopagus Series, has just had his latest book listed at Amazon. If you think the Old Testament is under-taught in our churches (I almost said "under-preached" -- bad habits are hard to break!), you might want to check it out.

1:24 PM Quickie prayer request (to be prayed in the Spirit, of course): Pray for the parliamentary elections to be held in Ethiopia this Sunday. The last elections held in 2005 ended in a disputed outcome and violence, which Becky and I witnessed firsthand. Pray for the peace of Ethiopia!

1:15 PM I'm pretty good at finding new job openings in religious studies, but brother Lou beat me to this one. Grad students, take a gander.

1:10 PM Calvin Miller:

Fragile trust is stronger than swaggering self-reliance.

1:03 PM This morning I received a beautiful testimony from one of my graduating seniors. What an encouragement. Who have you encouraged today?

Speaking of graduation, next week I will be serving as the faculty marshal during our commencement exercises. Would somebody please tell me what I'm supposed to do?

8:50 AM Greek students of mine, have you ever seen a giant sequoia? There's a huge lesson we can learn from it.

Be patient.

You will not be able to read your Greek New Testament overnight. It takes a lot of time for God to produce anything of true quality in us. A squash can grow in two months, but it takes about a thousand years to produce a fully mature sequoia. Don't get discouraged, friends, if your rate of progress isn't as fast as you'd like it to be. Can you imagine Becky and me planting a row of corn and getting upset a day later when the crop wasn't ready for picking? Instant maturity does not exist in any area of life, including learning how to master a foreign language.

Just a friendly word of encouragement from your Persecutor-in-Chief this semester.

7:13 AM In case you're interested in such things, a review of Using New Testament Greek in Ministry can be found here. Thank you, Jason!

Wednesday, May 19

9:27 PM That Rod Decker sure is proud of his ThD!

8:59 PM I'm seeing more and more good stuff coming from the capable pen of Arthur Sido. He even has the gumption to gently challenge the "accepted wisdom" of some of today’s leading authors and pastors. Respectful dissent is to be encouraged in the Body of Christ, if for no other reason than it gets us to thinking about things that really matter. In his latest post (Piper on Membership) Arthur writes:

If you want to show faithfulness to Christ lived out in community with the Body, skip the formalism. Skip the membership classes. Skip the miserly "tithe" envelope. Give yourselves to one another as the church. Take everything the world tells you us important and set it aside as meaningless.

I applaud Arthur's desire to rethink the wineskins. What do you think?

8:51 PM Nick Norelli raises a very good question: Should pastors get Ph.D.s? I invite those of my current (and former) doctoral students who are also pastors/elders to jump into the discussion. The main goal of a biblical education, I should think, is to produce spiritual leaders who are "teachable" (this, I believe, is the proper translation of didaktikon in 1 Tim. 3:2) and who have the necessary tools for digging deeply into the text of Scripture. But at the same time they must never lose touch with the "real" world in which the rest of us live. The Anabaptists of the sixteenth century believed that those who toiled with their hands (craftsmen) or who worked in the soil (peasants) were more receptive and teachable than those who had been corrupted by the folly of worldly wisdom. I believe they have a valid point. How many times have we seen people who were "educated beyond their intelligence"? Here a certain irony arises, of course, for among the radical thinkers of Anabaptism there were several university trained men whose knowledge of the Scriptures and of the original languages of the Bible were unsurpassed. One of them, Conrad Grebel, studied at the Grossmünster in Zürich for six years before becoming one of the 81 students to register at the University of Basel in the winter semester of 1514. At Basel he lived in the bursa (college) that was under the direction of the city’s leading humanist scholar, Heinrich Loriti (Glarean). From Basel he traveled to Vienna to continue his studies, and from there to Paris. But he is the exception that proves the rule. As I attempt to show in The Jesus Paradigm, the Anabaptists' attitude toward scholarship was based on their extremely high work ethic. Toil was considered a virtue. The peasant who worked with his own hands in cooperation with God’s nature was thought to have keener insight than the scribe with his multitude of books.

One more reason to farm, I guess.

8:34 PM The BBC does it again: Germany's motorway rest stops for the soul. Having driven on the autobahns in Deutschland I have no doubt that these chapels are needed. But, really, isn't this a bit of wishful thinking?

8:29 PM Next week I'll offer my beginning Greek students the opportunity of a lifetime. To do what, you ask? To join:

The Five Minute Greek Club!

Here's what my handout will say:

Welcome to the Five Minute Greek Club. Two things you need to know right up front: There are no dues, and we never meet.

What, then, is the club all about?

By signing below you commit yourself to translating two verses every day from your Greek New Testament throughout the summer. Start with an easy book (like finishing 1 John), then go on to something a bit more difficult (the Gospel of Mark, for example). If you don't read your Greek, you will lose it – guaranteed!

So sign up today.

"I, the undersigned, commit myself this summer to translate two verses every day from my Greek New Testament unless providentially hindered."


Note 1: This commitment begins TODAY.

Note 2: Please email me if you signed this form and let me know you've joined the club:

Note 3: If you fulfill your commitment, please let me know at the beginning of next semester. You might qualify for a free copy of my book New Testament Textual Criticism. I will test your proficiency in my office to determine your eligibility.

8:24 PM T. C. Robinson reviews Green Like God, a book on creation written by SEBTS grad Jonathan Merritt. Well done, T. C. For what it's worth, I once birthed an essay on this topic myself. It's called Enjoying Nature Without Worshipping It. At this point I am cheering on the green movement within evangelicalism – to a degree. Mostly I'm busy trying to care for my own little "Green Acres."

8:20 PM Today I gave a student this final exam in Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin. Want to try your hand at it?

A. Please translate into good English, without the use of any helps, the following passage (Augustine, Confessions, 1.2.2.):

Et quomodo invocabo deum meum, deum et dominum meum, quoniam utique in me ipsum eum vocabo, cum invocabo eum? et quis locus est in me quo veniat in me deus meus, quo deus veniat in me, deus qui fecit caelum et terram?

B. Answer these questions:

1. What tense is invocabo?

2. What case is deum?

3. What tense is fecit?

C. Extra Credit: Translate into Latin "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

8:15 PM Nice serendipity: The Jesus Paradigm is now available in Nook. Whatever that is.

8:12 PM Brite Divinity School announces an opening in New Testament. An oddity in this sentence caught my eye:

Primary teaching competencies should include Pauline literature with significant publication record and teaching experience, and with competency in secondary areas that may include among others: Paul and politics, social context, NT archeology, gender studies, queer studies, and racial/ethnic studies.

8:09 PM I recently stumbled upon John Anderson's excellent site and was so impressed with one of his posts that I simply have to link to it here: Some humble suggestions on writing a dissertation. I hope that all of my doctoral students will read it.

8:01 PM A belated congratulations to Armin Baum upon his appointment to full professor of New Testament at the Freie Theologische Hochschule in Gießen. Here Rektor Helge Stadelmann acknowledges the promotion. Helge, by the way, is a fellow Basler.

7:55 PM The 65th General Meeting of the SNTS will be held in Berlin, Germany, July 27-31, 2010. I will have to miss the meeting since I will be in Ethiopia the entire month of July. Had I been able to go, here's the seminar I would have attended: The Greek of the New Testament (chaired by Profs. C. C. Caragounis and J. W. Voelz). The following papers are scheduled to be read:

Albert Hogeterp (Guest, Nijmegen), "New Testament Greek as Popular Speech: Adolf Deissmann in Retrospect". Respondent: David de Toit (München).

James W. Voelz (St Louis), "The Greek of the New Testament and its Place within the Context of Hellenistic Greek". Respondents: Rollin Kearns (Tübingen) and Jan van der Watt  (Nijmegen).

Chrys C. Caragounis (Lund), "Perfect for Aorist. Subtle Nicety or Indescrimination?". Respondent: Jarl Ulrichsen (Trondheim).

Not a bad line-up, eh?

Tuesday, May 18

5:57 AM Happy Birthday, Liz. I remembered this piece by John Rutter when I thought of you today. Enjoy your day and God bless you.


5:50 AM Becky asks, Which Part of the Ethiopia Team Are You?  Team work gets the job done every time.

Monday, May 17

7:16 PM The other day I mentioned that B & H Academic has asked me if I would begin revising my The New Testament: Its Background and Message in view of the publication of a third edition of the book. My editors tell me that this work continues to be by far their best-selling New Testament introduction. That doesn't mean that we can't improve the book, however.

I am offering a free copy of The Jesus Paradigm to anyone who is willing to carefully read through the current (second) edition of the book and then send me specific suggestions for its improvement -- topics you'd like to see omitted or expanded upon, debated issues you think I've treated poorly or unfairly, etc. Again, please be specific and comprehensive in your recommendations. This offer will stand throughout the summer, as I plan to begin work on the revision during the fall semester (assuming I complete my revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness by then). I really do want to see this work improved (and I'm sure Tommy Lea would have agreed with me!), so please do consider helping me.

Note: The title is also available as a download at the Logos website.

6:44 PM Shame on me. I forgot to mention that the Lord God sent us a couple of inches of soaking rain overnight and all day today. Our fields are as pleased as they can be. And I am as grateful as any farmer in Mecklenburg County, VA, or anywhere else in the world for that matter could possibly be. Thank you Jesus.

6:26 PM I've had an awesome time teaching my Intermediate Greek class this semester. A great group of wonderful students has blessed my socks off. We've got only two weeks to go, and this is by far the best part of the entire course: student presentations. On the docket tomorrow are these 3 papers:

  • Preparing to Teach: Using the Definite Article

  • A Survey of Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek

  • An Exploration into Discourse Analysis and the Extension of Its Method into the Exegesis of John 17

Again, guests are welcome to join us at 12:30 in Adams 211.

6:18 PM Just back from visiting with Matt, Liz, and the boys. One of our presents for Liz was the current issue of National Geographic Magazine, which just "happens" to feature the eruption of Mount Saint Helens that took place exactly 30 years ago tomorrow. Liz, I see your birth wasn't the only spectacular event to occur that day.

Yep -- count 'em! One per year.

This is the truth: We DO love you!

Ice cream cake to celebrate with. Life doesn't get any better than that.

I take that back. Getting royally hugged on by Micah takes the cake any day!

12:36 PM Off to buy a present for our daughter Liz's birthday, which is tomorrow. In celebration of the God who gave her life and who has sustained it, of course. (Wink, wink.)

12:30 PM Every day I survey the blogosphere to see what posts I might want to link to. This practice has had an incredible impact on my life. God's Word often comes alive to for me when it is repackaged in someone else's words. I love it when blog posts call us to base our lives unswervingly on the Word of God. Bonhoeffer once put it this way: "To deviate from the truth for the sake of some prospect of hope of our own can never be wise, however slight the deviation may be."

I am convinced that the more time we spend simply reading and meditating upon the Word of God, the more we will understand Job's declaration, "I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food!" (Job 23:12). Over brunch Becky and I talked about blogging. (She herself is becoming quite a prolific writer.) "A blog," she said, "is a window that allows us to look at what the Holy Spirit is teaching or impressing upon another person." What an excellent definition of a good blog. A blog is a little like a testimony one hears when the church gathers. Gradually we learn that there are certain people in whose lives we trust the work of the Spirit and others we distrust. And so we keep going back to those blogs again and again. All of us who have been blogging for any length of time will identify with what Becky is saying.

Two blog posts from today brought a special joy and delight to my heart. This is because I believe the Lord can use them to teach and transform His Body. Like all good blog posts, they are guides to the Ultimate Guidebook. If you take a moment to read them, perhaps you will be challenged by the Lord Jesus to greater obedience in your life, just as I have been this morning:

1) Another poor defense of the traditional church as the only valid expression

2) Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters

Meanwhile, my thanks to all of you who are honest about your journeying of faith and are blogging as the Holy Spirit leads you. You are a great blessing and encouragement to me.

12:05 PM Almost ashamed to say that I arose at 10:00 this morning from my slumbers. Almost but not quite! B and I just enjoyed a late brunch consisting of scrambled eggs (with green peppers and avocados) and the juiciest papaya I've had in a very long time. Brought back happy memories of Hawaii (for me) and of Ethiopia (for Becky Lynn).

11:33 AM Yesterday was a day of "rest" for us. This doesn't mean that it was spent doing nothing. I love Jesus' words to the Pharisees when they had clobbered Him for letting His disciples pick heads of wheat on the Sabbath: "The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath!" (Mark 2:27). Elsewhere we read that Jesus' yoke of service is sized perfectly and always guaranteed to be light (Matt. 11:28-30). My "yoke" yesterday was twofold:

1) I accepted the Lord's invitation to visit a dear friend of ours who is in the Duke University Hospital for congestive heart failure and pneumonia. The Lord prompted me to have the Bethel Hillions sign a get-well card for brother Hermann which I then delivered in person during the Sunday School and church hours. How can I "sit and soak" when I have an opportunity to serve?" I thought to myself. So off I went to Duke. Hermann and I had a good long talk, some of it in German (he immigrated to the States after the war). I don't know about you, but I love listening to the testimonies of our elderly saints of God. I got a glimpse of Hermann's life journey from war-torn Wiesbaden to his tour of duty in South Korea as a U.S. serviceman (he and I had seen many of the same sights there) to the time when he was his wife's primary caregiver, gently feeding, dressing, and bathing her for 7 long years. As he talked I could see on his face the peace that God provides even in the midst of a hospital room:

"Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything that I need" (Psalm 23:1).

Last night, as I fell thankfully into bed, I thought about Hermann and his invincible love for his wife, and I smiled.

2) Many of my friends have reminded me in recent days that had I worn gloves I would not have as many blisters on my hands as I do. Blisters or not, yesterday Becky and I set out to put the finishing touches on her brand new garden fence. This means that she will now be able to plant her crops with complete peace of mind that our rambunctious Shelties will no longer be able to romp and play among our tomatoes and squashes. (Deer and rabbits are another story.) We were both sorely in need of rest yesterday but we knew that rain was on its way and that the job could be postponed no longer. Amy Carmichael once talked about using the word acceptance instead of submission, for more and more she felt that that word opened doors of infinite peace. Thus Becky and I gladly accepted God's plan for us and plodded on until dark, eager to bring our project to a closure. The fruit is what we think is a very lovely garden and, even more, another wonderful time of bonding as a married couple. We worked together in the midst of weariness to accomplish yet another God-sized task. Married love always expresses itself in actions, but these qualities must flow from the heart, for then it is God's love that is put on display, not our own. Years of journeying together with Him, day by day, project by project, side by side, slowly but surely begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. How wonderful the grace of God!

I trust my activities yesterday brought God glory and accomplished His purposes in my life. His incomparable character makes for an incomparable journey.

Oh, I thought you might like to see some pix of our fence project. The fencing that we bought was a bit too tall for our tastes so I shortened it by about 4 inches.

Here I am putting up the last section. How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F?

So, what do you think? Becky can't wait to begin planting.

Sunday, May 16

9:12 AM Geoff over at My Blog reviews Allan Bevere's new book, The Character of Our Discontent

9:03 AM Quote of the day:

The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son.

Read What Is the Gospel?

Saturday, May 15

8:55 PM We have now planted all of B's birthday presents: rose bushes, a gardenia bush, and a butterfly bush. Speaking of Becky Lynn, I was surfing the net a couple of minutes ago when I ran across this statement and shared it with Becky:

Dr. Black is a pretty smart guy but the wisdom in his wife (and mine) often makes us look like amateurs.

You are SO right, Arthur! To get the context, go here.

Tomorrow it's back to The Hill, where after the church meeting we will enjoy a pig-pickin' and lots of good fellowship all focused on the glory of God in Ethiopia.

1:50 PM Reminded of Oswald Chamber's classic quote while praying about and planning my international trips for the remainder of this year:

Doing God's will is never hard. The only thing that is hard is not doing His will.

1:15 PM I love the NLT's rendering of 2 Tim. 2:22: "Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts." Becky has been a wise and loving traveling companion for 33 years now. Working out in the backyard garden with her today brought back happy memories of the first garden we planted in La Mirada many years ago. Today our first priority was digging the holes for our 17 posts.

Each had to go down into the sun-hardened clay about 8 inches.

Can you tell that yours truly hasn't used the post hole digger in a while?

Eventually we placed and set each of our posts, with Becky holding the level and me setting the concrete. This is how far we got today.

We'll let the concrete set overnight before putting up our fencing. Lowe's Lawn and Garden guarantees that this here fencing is the best Anti-Sheltie protection out there. We'll see (smile). 

8:55 AM Glad I checked the ETC website this morning and thankful for their plug for the Greenlee Festschrift, which is on sale at Eisenbrauns.

From the reviews:

  • "...a well-deserved tribute to this well-known scholar, teacher and missionary, whose wide-ranging contributions are evident in the brief biography and full bibliography with which the volume opens....Readers of this stimulating collection of essays will no doubt wish to join the contributors in extending congratulations to the recipient of this well-deserved tribute."-- Michael Holmes

  • "On the whole, the essays are refreshingly interesting and succinct. One gem in particular merits close attention: Moises Silva's study of the earliest manuscripts of Galatians.....Professor Greenlee has been well served."-- Bart D. Ehrman

In many ways Harold Greenlee has been for me the prototypical New Testament scholar: Well-versed in his discipline, using his vast knowledge in the service of the church. For a sampling of his numerous publications, go here.

8:43 AM Becky has long thought that we need a "paradigm shift" in the way we think about birthdays. Her thoughts have reached fruition and are free for the picking here.

8:39 AM Had a thunderstorm last night. Grateful for every drop of rain the Lord sent.

Friday, May 14

5:36 PM Our work on the new hay barn is coming along. We salvaged this old beauty from Person County, NC.

The price was right: "You get the barn off my land and you can have it for free." The wood is very well preserved for being so old. We figure the barn was originally built in 1910 or so.

A barn built after that would have had framing -- ours has none. We don't plan to use any chinking on this barn, though we are going to build two sheds off either side. This would have been the height of the original doorway.

Men were a bit shorter back then, I reckon. We had to do very little adjusting; the logs have a good fit despite having been moved.

And thus our day drew to a happy end.

If was tough working outdoors but Becky kept us well supplied with water and Gatorade.

Next step: Roof trusses and flooring.

1:25 PM Right now it's 85 degrees, going up to 90 this afternoon. The humidity is 65 percent. Not the most pleasant day to be working outside. Here's a new rose bush we've planted (a Mother's Day gift from Liz).

Last night B got two more bushes for her birthday (a butterfly bush and a gardenia bush) but they'll stay indoors for now. Earlier Nate came up and helped us troubleshoot some odds and ends, including a problem we were having with our dish washer.

Right now I'm fixin' to join him at the site of our new hay barn, where at least we'll enjoy some shade from the heat of the day. After that I need to dig 17 holes for our new garden fencing. In the meantime Becky is deep watering the holes I've started, where the ground currently has the consistency of hardened concrete.

1:16 PM It's nice to know that not everybody overlooks basic principles of linguistics in the battle over gender and the church:  See "A Man of God"; and Can she be a man of God? What's at stake is something fundamental to biblical Christianity. I hope, however, that such quixotic jousting doesn't get in the way of the real purpose of every "man of God": to advance the Cause of causes.

10:22 AM If life is a series of periods, last night was an exclamation point as we celebrated Becky's birthday with a surprise party here at Bradford Hall. It was a ladies-only affair, with the men doing all the preparation, cooking, and cleanup. My co-conspirators were Matt and Liz. How does one even begin to describe the gourmet meal that Matt prepared and served? Or the great outpouring of love for Becky? I had asked each participant to write a word of testimony about Becky, and these were compiled by Miss Rachael of the seminary and put into a booklet. It was uniquely beautiful, as was the Waldorf Astoria cake she baked. Cindy Bush decorated it as only Cindy Bush can do. I couldn't help but think of Russ Bush, my former dean at SEBTS, who passed away from cancer a few years ago.

It was an astonishing evening. Becky's surprise was total. The conversations (so I am told) were incredible. Becky said to me that she felt she like was in a worship service the whole evening, so Christ-centered was the conversation. There's so much good, God-stuff going on in our lives how can we ever be dissatisfied with our great God?

A "few" pix, of course.

Thursday, May 13

9:38 AM Please take note that Amazon is, for some inexplicable reason, selling the second (expanded) edition of Learn to Read New Testament Greek rather than the new third edition. I've contacted my publisher to straighten this out with Amazon. This is not the first time Amazon has done this, though I certainly hope it will be the last time.

9:26 AM It is dark and gloomy as a light rain falls on our parched fields. How melancholy. But things will cheer up when Matt, Liz, and the boys come over this afternoon for a visit. I am trying to get some writing done this morning on Godworld. I am gradually learning to mistrust archaic expressions or grammatical forms and to use mostly words of everyday speech, though not necessarily words of only one syllable. I have been reading a great deal of German and French these days with much pleasure, though German theologians can be very somber. My great new friend is Barth (Friedrich, that is) -- marvelously lucid and intellectual. Later this morning Becky and I will plant her new rose bushes. I love these works of nature, which really do put works of art to shame.

8:55 AM Don't forget: All this week The Jesus Paradigm is on sale for $10.00 at Energion Direct.

8:49 AM Quote of the day (Will Willimon):

I’m not the greatest preacher in the world and you’re not the greatest church in the world but that’s OK because the greatest God in the world is surprising the world with God’s ability to create something out of nothing, right here in this congregation. So on this our first Sunday together pray for me that I would, week-after-week keep real clear about why we’re here, that I would look to Jesus and not to myself to make this a faithful church. Pray that on my last day here, when I’m preaching my very last sermon to you, I’ll be able to say, “When I came to Trinity Church, I didn’t come preaching lofty words of wisdom, fancy spiritual stuff and highfalutin theology. I preached Jesus Christ and him crucified. I preached the simple, unadorned Good News that God is saving the world through us. My only boast is the wisdom and power of God.”

Read My First Sermon.

Wednesday, May 12

9:13 PM Eric Carpenter thinks he's "old" at the ripe young age of 39.5. How does that make me feel? I had Eric as a student at SEBTS! Seriously, aging has its benefits, as Eric notes. We realize more and more than our sole business here on earth is to glorify God. The difference is that we do so now perhaps more through illness than through health, more in the drab of daily life than in the days of thrills and frills, even possibly more by death than by life.

One thing is certain about aging, though: It's a good way to learn that true significance has nothing to do with earthly "success." In fact, glorifying God may drop us to the bottom rung of the ladder. Eric, the desire to glorify God at all times cost John the Baptist his head and Jonathan Edwards his pulpit. Are you ready for that? Am I? We had better mean it when we say that our one desire is to "honor Him here through living out a Christian witness in a lost world."

8:38 PM Tonight was a double-header: First to Ruby Tuesdays, then to Lowe's to plan our new garden fencing. We start working on it tomorrow.

4:57 PM Taking my sweetheart out for her birthday dinner.

4:49 PM Quote of the day:

Does anyone outside of the Seminary bubble actually talk about how your soteriology matches your ecclesiology? I find myself laughing at the stupidest Seminary geek jokes (Like the guy wearing the t-shirt that read, "Arminianism.  I chose this shirt") and wondering who I have become.  I am simultaneously glad that I am learning so much and also bitter that I have relinquished what semblance of non-social awkwardness I had left.  When they finally hand me my diploma (oh please let it be December!), I'm convinced it will read: MA in Zombie Studies. 

There's a lot of truth in what Heather says. Seminary Greek professors: Take heed.

4:42 PM Heartiest congratulations to our SEBTS students who were honored in our awards chapel yesterday. I especially want to call your attention to 3 of them and their awards:

  • Andy Bowden: John & G. Henton Davies Old Testament Award

  • Enoch Kwon: Edward A. McDowell Jr. Greek Award

  • Seung Park: Paulino do los Reyes and Joseph Block Greek Prize

Andy is my current assistant and Th.M. student. Enoch is my former assistant. And Seung is applying to do his Ph.D. with me this fall. I'm very proud of each of you gentlemen.

4:34 PM I'm in trouble now. Big time. Henry Neufeld has a serious problem with my book The Jesus Paradigm. And he's the publisher! The controversy brews here.

4:30 PM If you're into dissing blogs and bloggers, watch out. Dan Phillips is on to you.

4:24 PM  Columbia Theological Seminary announces an opening in Evangelism and Church Growth.

4:17 PM If you're thinking about doing a Ph.D. in New Testament, here's some very good advice.

Note: There's a lot of discussion in the comments about German. I have a slightly different take on the subject. I would suggest that you learn German as a living language rather than as theological subject. This means your goal would be a spoken mastery of the language, not just the ability to read German. Remember, language is essentially a spoken phenomenon, and we learn best when both the ear and the eye gates are involved in the learning process. Thankfully, German pronunciation is relatively easy to learn. Of course, having a native German speaker nearby will help the process considerably. But the online helps will aid you also. I've seen so many students struggle to learn theological German only to pass the exam and immediately forget to use the language. Mastering a foreign language has a lot to do with one's purpose and goal. I hope your goal in learning German is to be able to really understand the language and not just produce rough translations.

4:12 PM A Fuller prof asks What Is Seminary? I have struggled with this question for many years. The local church in America seems to have forgotten its responsibility to disciple its members. "After all, we have our seminaries." That is a dangerous attitude. The seminary classroom can be a place of magnificent learning, and often is. But every care must be made to avoid a learning experience that fails to give our students an idea of what it costs to follow Jesus. We must not forget that the early church had no formal educational institutions or professionally-trained academics, and yet it turned the world upside-down in a mere 30 years. There were many good reasons for this. Someone once said that the three greatest dangers of a seminary education are extraction, expense, and elitism. A clerical culture develops. Writes Abbé Michonneau in his book Revolution in a City Parish (pp. 131-32): 

Our seminary training … has put us in a class apart…. Usually it means that we feel compelled to surround ourselves with those who will understand our thought and our speech, and who have tastes like our own…. We are living in another world, a tidy clerical and philosophical world.

"Clergy" becomes a whole way of living, an ecclesiastical subculture. The church, however, predates the seminary and will outlast it. The book of Acts reminds us that the earliest church leaders were homegrown nobodies. They were not parachuted in from the outside with all of the proper credentials. They were already full participants in their congregations – they had homes, they had jobs, and they had solid reputations. If at all possible, I think we too would do well to train people for leadership in our local churches, equipping them for evangelism and other ministries, thus complementing the work of our seminaries and Bible colleges. The early church knew that leadership is best learned by on-the-job training, not by sending our most promising leaders off to sit behind a desk.

4:06 PM I'm really enjoying reading the Bethel Hill church blog. Not just because Becky is the main writer. No. My mind tends to focus on the events but not the significance of those events, so my outlook is often more on the what rather than the why. Becky often takes the conversation in a whole new direction. Perhaps the epitome of this is seen in this brief comment she made in her blog post about last Sunday's "Mothers' Day" service.

Mother's Day means great joy to some folk, and great sorrow to others.  On the Hill, we put things in perspective…by remembering that the core of life is not Motherhood, but Christ-hood, and the rearing of children is best done alongside a father, with both focused on the commands of Scripture. 

She raises one of those foundational issues about church and the whys and wherefores about our goals in gathering together as we do. I'm super glad that we have the technology to blog about our experiences on Sundays, and I get totally overwhelmed at times by the love that my church family shows me and Becky on a regular basis. It's a grace thing, and that’s for sure. Glad the rest of you can "join us" cybernetically from time to time.

4:00 PM Can women serve in church? The answer may not be so obvious. Join the discussion over at brother Alan’s blog. One of the things that surprised me when I began to study the New Testament teaching on this subject was that it talked so much about the way women participated in the ministry of the early church. We know that the wives of the apostles accompanied their husbands in their evangelistic ministries (1 Cor. 9:5). Commenting on this verse, Clement of Alexandria concluded that the apostles’ wives were "fellow ministers," that is, co-laborers with their husbands as they ministered to other women. We also know that women in the early church opened their homes for church meetings. (It is interesting that Scripture gives us the names of the women in whose homes these churches met more than the names of the men: see Acts 12:12; 16:40; Rom. 16:3-5; Col. 4:15). Moreover, we know that Priscilla (Rom. 16:3) as well as Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3) were Paul's "co-workers." The latter duo went so far as to share Paul's "struggle in the cause of the Gospel," possibly meaning that they were exposed to the same suffering and opposition that the apostle Paul faced.

Seeing the renewed discussion at Alan's blog makes me think of how much I enjoy working with Becky in the Gospel ministry. On the one hand, there's no end to the constant work and sometimes fatigue. On the other hand, there’s an extraordinary joy to know that you doing something to further the Great Cause in this old world of ours. The other day a good friend of mine said he always referred to our work in Ethiopia as "Becky and Dave's ministry," intentionally mentioning B's name first. I told him I would want it no other way. Her labors are incredible and make mine pale in comparison.

Tuesday, May 11

7:16 AM Just a quick word before leaving for campus. I want to say thank you to those of you who are so punctual in answering your emails. That means a lot to me, and it says a lot about you. One correspondent I have is actually the president of an institution of higher learning. He never fails to answer my emails promptly. I wonder, Where in the world does the man find the time? I just wanted all of you to know that I do not take that character trait for granted. It is rare -- and appreciated. Thank you.

Monday, May 10

8:47 PM Last minute preps for classes tomorrow and Wednesday. Awesome subjects, even more awesome students.

8:23 PM May I bore you this evening with an anecdote from farm life? An analogy occurred to me today while picking up bales of hay. When I first started in this business I was so excited that I would practically run from bale to bale. Gradually I learned that if I was not going to burn out I would have to pace myself. You walk up to the bale, grab it with both hands, then walk (not run) to the trailer. Then you walk to the next bale, grab it, and walk to the trailer.

If this sounds monotonous -- it is. Just like much of life. Here's my point. It takes lots of grace to live life in the monotonous trudge. Yes, there is the occasional mountain top experience, and the occasional valley too. But most of life is so, well, "daily." In the New Testament we often see this word "daily." The early church "continued daily," the Lord added "daily," we are commanded to take up our crosses "daily," we pray "Give us this day our daily bread." I don't know about you, but I'm learning to find grace in the daily grind of life. Haying is no longer anything spectacular for me, yet it is still deeply satisfying. Those of you who have studied a foreign language (German, say) and have forgotten it -- is it perhaps because you have forgotten the importance of keeping up with your languages daily? My advice? Pace yourself. Don't let your daily work go undone. If you blog, blog regularly, daily if you possibly can. If you are learning French, read it every day of your life. This is the only way I've kept up with my languages. If you do what I suggest, you will find that His grace is sufficient for it all, even for the "daily."

Daisy agrees!  

4:41 PM The kingdom transcends earthly borders and passports. The church in Ethiopia and the church in America are one.

And this church will grow, not because we have devised a "strategy" (finely honed, of course), but because believers in both places live in Christian community. We serve one another in an alternative social reality, and as we give corporate witness to the love of God others are drawn in to join us.

I can't wait to see my Ethiopian brothers and sisters again. Only 7 more weeks!

(For a larger version of the above picture taken by NASA, go here. It is phenomenal!)

2:50 PM Becky's found an Amharic program for our computer. Which means ... coming soon: Essays in Amharic!

2:45 PM Quote of the day (source):

Paul made himself an enemy of the culture and the state by being a vocal evangelist for Jesus Christ. His job prospects were dramatically hampered by his public stand for Christ. As a spokesperson and a frequent target and also as an apostle, Paul had more right than anyone to demand remuneration for preaching but he didn’t.

2:12 PM Two simple sentences, but my how much truth they contain!

The early church, guided by the apostles, listened to the Holy Spirit testify to the truth of the scriptures (the OT at that time) and the teachings of Christ.

They never looked to one man for "the vision for the church."

Read The Pastor and "God's Vision for the Church." If this is not getting "radical" (going back to the roots of Christianity), I don't know what is.

2:05 PM This is a test! Mark provides this wonderful quote from Karl Barth:

Was beschreibe ich da? Die Genesis und Existenz eines Propheten?  Nein, schlicht in ihrer ganzen Kuriosität die des Theologen!  Irgend eines grossen Theologen?  Unsinn: Was heisst da “gross”? Es mag grosse Juristen, Mediziner, Naturforscher, Historiker, Philosophen geben: es gibt aber—das gehört beiläufig auch zu den “Existentialien”  der Theologie—nur kleine Theologen.

May I ask all of my doctoral students to do me a favor and see how easily you can render this passage into English without using the helps that Mark provides? Then grade yourselves on a scale of 1 ("Great difficulty") to 5 ("No difficulty at all") and let me know via email. Thank you!   

1:28 PM M.A. or M.Div.? The discussion continues here. For what it's worth, I opted for the M.Div. as my pre-doctorate degree. Of course, as I said below, I also wrote a major thesis in my M.Div. program, which was very good preparation for my D.Theol. studies in Basel.

1:21 PM And the winner is: Jon Glass. The passage, of course, is the opening verse of 4 Maccabees. Can you tell I'm trying to drum up interest in the LXX (and in my fall class lol)?

11:46 AM Contest Time! A free copy of Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism to the first blogger who can correctly identify the source of the following:

φιλοσοφώτατον λόγον ἐπιδείκνυσθαι μέλλων εἰ αὐτοδέσποτός ἐστιν τῶν παθῶν ὁ εὐσεβὴς λογισμός συμβουλεύσαιμ’ ἂν ὑμῖν ὀρθῶς ὅπως προσέχητε προθύμως τῇ φιλοσοφία.

11:36 AM So, there's some competition out there to Herr Skubala? I don't think so, Andy. But nice try.

11:21 AM Hay report: Nate says the grass will likely be dry enough to rake and bale today so it looks like we'll be getting up a few hundred bales this afternoon. As you know, I LOVE picking up hay and putting it into the barns, maybe too much. The Lord allowed me to come down with back pain last night. Not too bad yet, but if you see me stooped over on campus tomorrow you'll know why. Oh the delights of farming -- and aging!

11:03 AM Just talked to Becky and Lizzy. They are having a blast. They've been told they can stay as long as they want so I may not see them for a few days!

9:53 AM Thank God for young pastors like Eric Carpenter who are actually reading their Bibles and therefore are in the throes of having to make important decisions about how to do church (see Starting to See Past Traditions). Once again a dog and tail question faces us. How do we relate the dog of Scripture to the tail of praxis? Does the Bible really make any difference in our lives and the ways we relate to other people? Or do our traditions wag the dog of truth? Does reading and studying the Bible (NOT the works of human authors) nudge us toward boxes marked "This needs changing" or do we play biblical games like those who claim to espouse biblical authority but in whose lives and churches tradition always seems to have the upper hand? As Aussie John implies in the comments, only the Spirit of Jesus can penetrate our tradition bubbles. Decades of "We've always done it this way" crumble in His presence. All are invited to pour their precious wine into the new wineskins. The only question is: Are we willing to become radical? Eric is so right: We need to learn how to "see" again and stop merely following the blind.

9:32 AM In Intermediate Greek class this week we'll have 3 student presentations:

  • A Matter of Semantics: A Lexical Semantic Approach to Solving the Problem of 1 Thessalonians 4:4

  • Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek

  • Prepositions in Composition with Verbs

Looking forward to it! If you'd like to hear these papers feel free to join us tomorrow at 12:30 in Adams 211.

Sunday, May 9

8:00 PM My prayer for Becky Lynn tonight:

I love you, honey.

7:45 PM Jonathan Edwards once wrote:

Resolved: Never, henceforth, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God's.

God is asking us to relinquish all control of our lives. I am doing this as I type. There are areas in my life right now I cannot control. Conformity to Christ demands that I lay aside the need to be in control. It's not only in Ethiopia that I need to be flexible. In fact, my daily existence here in comfortable America seems like a crash course in flexibility. My work is not my work; it is God's. I must accept His plan for the journey. I must never forget that He lovingly takes responsibility for my life.

God, take control. Set my pace. Again, I give you permission to be Lord of my life. I love you Jesus, and I'm not afraid to shout it from the rooftops!

3:52 PM Think I'll get some writing done while the Mrs. is away. As I think about my books it occurs to me that some of mine have done exceptionally well, while others have been abysmal failures in terms of sales figures. I'm learning to leave these matters in the capable hands of the Lord. Oswald Chambers once said, "It is only possible to be humiliated when we are serving our own pride." He's right. As an author I want to be in control. I want to make sure that all of my brilliant pieces of literature receive the credit they deserve. Writing pulls on my time -- and my integrity. A good question to ask myself is: "Do I write in order that I might be noticed or in order that God might be noticed?" We writers spend our lives in vain if we live to call attention to ourselves.

Of course, this whole blog post has been about me. Argh! Will I ever get this right?

3:37 PM Just sent Becky on her way. The best wife a man could ask for.

2:30 PM Here's a Mother's Day shout out to Nora, our server at our favorite Mexican restaurant in South Boston. Nora is new to the area and hails from Kosovo. She met her American husband when he was stationed in Kosovo with the U.S. Army. Welcome to southern Virginia, Miss Nora!

Here Becky sports hew new outfit. Lovely. And what did we order, you ask? B: Chicken fajitas. Me: Arroz con pollo. Becky, by the way, got a nice discount for Mother's Day. Gracias, Mexico Viejo!

Spiritually, we were well-fed also today. Brother Joel taught us from Deut. 6:1-9 about "Training Gospel-Centered Children."

A few notable quotes:

  • "God expects our obedience out of love.

  • "We have given our training and teaching to schools, to church, and to other areas of life."

  • "If our children don't love God, it won't be fixed by bringing them to church."

  • "We parents should be the ones training and teaching our children to love the Lord our God."

Joel did make a snide remark about his Greek professor at one point during his talk but I'll overlook it (for now!). What a blessing to be so well taught. As someone once said, "The Bible is the only book in the whole world that when you read it the Author shows up." As an aside, the youth led in all of the public activities in church today -- except for the sermon. (Sorry, Joel; I know you're young, but you're not THAT young.)

9:48 AM Plans for the day: Take Becky to Bethel Hill then out to dinner. Then send her packing (LOL!). Hope she and Liz enjoy their Bed & Breakfast tonight! (Jessie is not feeling up to going. You will be missed, Jessica!)

P.S. Right now Becky is putting the finishing touches on a new dress she hopes to wear today. I tell you, it's beautiful. If you twist my arm I just "might" publish a picture!

8:50 AM The word "mother" has several important uses, including "mother country." Below are the mountains of Burji, the womb in which my wife developed many years ago. Yet the strong feeling of attachment has never left her. I will be eternally grateful to God for allowing me to visit Burji 7 years ago to experience firsthand the wonders of Ethiopia. It was love at first sight. Ethiopia will never be "home" for me like it was (and is) for Becky, but it will always hold a deep place in my heart. Thank you, honey, for introducing me to your people and for allowing me the joy of serving King Jesus there with you.

8:30 AM I've just published part 3 of Becky's series on suffering -- the Spanish version, that is. Go here to read it. To read the English series click on these links:

In her latest essay Becky asks what our objective in life ought to be. Here's her answer. I couldn't agree more.

Debemos considerar nuestro objetivo en la vida. Vivir sin el dolor y el sufrimiento no es un objetivo digno. Pero vivir una vida creciendo en santidad, creciendo en intimidad con nuestro Salvador, creciendo en solidaridad con su plan- ¡Esto vale cada precio!

8:04 AM Elsewhere I have written:

In the book of 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul is very careful to lay out principles governing Christian gatherings. He makes it plain that believers did not gather for public witness to the outside world. These were not evangelistic services at all. Rather, the church gathered for fellowship and mutual edification. It was a type of gathering in which believers came together with differing gifts. Just read 1 Cor. 14 and you will see that this was a bona fide fellowship meeting. Everything that was done was done in order to build up the church. Whether you came to this meeting with a psalm, a teaching, or some other contribution to make, you exercised your gift in the interest of those around you. “Let all things be done for edification” was Paul’s watchword. This same view of the church is to be found in Ephesians 4, where Paul emphasizes that the church is built up only as each member of the Body does its part. He is emphatic that the fullness of Christ can never be attained by any one Christian. Each believer has a gift, and each one must give that gift away to the whole church.

Do you agree? If not, why not? If so, are you putting this truth into practice?

7:44 AM A very happy Mother's Day to Betty Lapsley ("mom") and her eldest daughter Becky Lynn.

How I thank the Lord for bringing us together over 33 years ago. You both are much more than a mother and a wife to me -- you are dear sisters in the Lord. Your continual love, prayers, and encouragement have blessed me in countless ways. Thanks for your amazing ability to love the unlovely, for always maintaining your integrity even in the midst of a senseless world, and for your wonderful sense of humor. I hope each of you enjoys your corsages today, which are a small token of the great love and esteem in which you are held by this son and husband. A. W. Tozer once said, "The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him." Thank you both for following hard after God. Your example has deeply enriched and shaped my own life. I trust that on this, your special day, you will be refreshed with the assurance of God's everlasting love and that you will be drawn ever closer to His tender heart.

I love you mom!

I love you honey!


Saturday, May 8

9:50 PM Praises and a prayer request:

1) Evangelist Melesse has fully recovered from his bout with Malaria, Typhoid, Typhus, and a major stomach problem.

2) Baby Tiblett is doing fine, as is her mother Bogalech. Evangelist Wolde thanks everyone in the States for their love and prayers on his family's behalf.

3) Becky talked with Oshe in Burji today and he reports that the heavy rains are hindering the construction of our new Ultrasound building. Please ask the Lord Jesus to make it possible that we can finish the building in time for Ed and the construction team to install sinks and other items this July.

I trust that all of you will have a wonderful day tomorrow as you meet with other believers. The Bible says, "As each has received a gift, employ it for one another as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Pet. 4:10). The Bible says plainly that the meeting of the church is not to be focused on any one person or any one set of gifts. Our humility serves us badly when we shrink away from our responsibility by hiding our gift under a bushel. The day is coming when each of us will have to give an account to God for how we have exercised our personal gifts in the body of Christ. We cannot be excused from our responsibility just because we go to a church that has good teaching and preaching. To be a steward of God's varied grace is a great privilege, but it is also a grave responsibility. Let's all exercise that responsibility wisely as unto the Lord.

8:25 PM One of my doctoral students sent along a link to this provocative essay on China's increasing role in Africa: The Next Empire. The author, Howard French, notes:

In its recent approach to Africa, China could not be more different from the West. It has focused on trade and commercially justified investment, rather than aid grants and heavily subsidized loans. It has declined to tell African governments how they should run their countries, or to make its investments contingent on government reform. And it has moved quickly and decisively, especially in comparison to many Western aid establishments.

The Chinese are is in a full court press to become Africa's number one trading partner, and they are succeeding.

7:04 PM Haying is done for the day. We got up 4 fields. Actually, most of the hay was sold in the fields and people loaded the hay themselves (for a discounted price). The temperature was a perfect 85 degrees, but the wind was unpredictable. Gusts meant that I would have to rake the same row twice before Nate could bale it. But all's well that ends well. Nate cut another 10 acres today that we hope to get up on Monday. You agrarian types out there might enjoy these pix:

1) Nate baling the field in front of our home, Bradford Hall.

2) Team work does the job every time!

3) A customer loads his own hay. Future cuttings will likely go into our barns to be sold this winter, when the demand will be the greatest.

4) Already it seems like a drought year, which means people are needing lots of hay for their horses and cattle.

5) The end of a satisfying day. Here I'm parking the rake...

6) ...while Nate parks the baler. We'll need both again soon.

7) Nolan surveys his vast estates! His latest game is squinting whenever he sees you. Cute!

I try not to glamorize farm life on this blog. It has its harsh and unforgiving sides. But mostly it is just plain good old-fashioned hard work -- a healthy work, however, one that puts to you bed at night feeling at peace with yourself.

1:30 PM Alan Knox's rendering of Phil. 3:17-4:1 contains this statement: "with tears in my eyes." How that reminded me of the time I first met Tesfai in Alaba, Ethiopia. His 8-year old daughter had just been "slaughtered" (that was the term used by the church elders) and her headless body had been thrown down the village well. All because Tesfai was a follower of Jesus Christ. I cried. You would have too. I wept for a man who was stooped over with unspeakable grief. But I also wept for the "enemies of the cross" who did this to them.

Despite the persecution, Tesfai has remained strong. Here he is today. He insists on loving his enemies and forgiving them. He practices scandalous love toward the enemies of Christianity in Alaba. I urge all of us to follow his example.

1:06 PM Tomorrow is a big day around here. But the praise can begin any time. When I see this picture I can hear the Master say: "This is my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased."

12:53 PM Interest in my Greek DVD course seems to be growing exponentially among private individuals and home schoolers. In case you haven't seen it yet, here's a teaser. (And yes, I can get a bit excited about my subject!)

12:44 PM Just had a great lunch with Becky. The whole time we talked about Ethiopia and how difficult and fulfilling the work there is to us. Believe me, we work with some real gems in the kingdom. What joy! 

11:27 AM Thanks so much, Eric, for raising again the perennial question about the Reformers' insistence on maintaining medieval ecclesiology. I attribute today's neo-sacralism directly to the Reformers and their faulty theology of the church, against which the Anabaptists inveighed. Under the tutelage of such sacralism church leaders today continue to accommodate biblical Christianity to the Constantinian distortion. Not least is this seen in the return to medieval theology in which "the Son of Man goes forth to war, a kingdom to subdue." I continue to maintain that the Anabaptists were not indebted to the Reformers, were indeed not even a part of them. I spend a whole chapter in The Jesus Paradigm on this subject mostly because missions cannot thrive in a climate of sacralism. The Anabaptists were oblivious to national borders, and so am I. The New Testament plainly teaches that every Christian is a fulltime minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, a missionary even, and that every true believer will experience something of the cross. To this day there is a hesitation, even on the part of Christians who plainly acknowledge a debt to the Anabaptists, to import biblical ecclesiology into their churches. I say shame on us. We should know better.

11:04 AM The Defoliator has done his duty and the fruit trees are visible again.

You know you're a redneck when you run out of time building a gate for your new fence line and use a farm vehicle instead. Too funny!

Right now Nate is cutting another field. Baling later today!

9:23 AM Gearing up my ninja lawn mower to mow the orchard, where the grass is becoming knee high.

9:12 AM This is a bit dated, but Josh Mann has posted an interesting comparison of New Testament introductory texts and how they deal with the synoptic problem. (My own introduction is included in the discussion.) Josh concludes:

Perhaps what is needed is an analysis of how subsequent revisions of textbooks alter their discussions of the synoptic problem. In other words, have recent revisions started to take into account the view of Goodacre and others? In this small selection of texts, I found Blomberg and Carson/Moo to treat non-Q Markan priority with the greatest fairness [add Kostenberger here; see below], introducing the reader to the appropriate sources in the debate. The Lea/Black treatment is brief, but Q is certainly not assumed. Ehrman virtually assumes Q, though a student might reasonably access opposing arguments such as The Case Against Q via the “suggested reading” section. In the end, I think a ’survey’ textbook by its nature will tend to treat consensus more thoroughly than dissenting views, but Goodacre makes a strong case in his post.

I'll keep this discussion in mind when I begin revising The New Testament: Its Background and Message this fall. (That's right. B & H Academic just asked me if I would be interesting in producing a third edition.)

Friday, May 7

10:05 PM I'm keeping my eye on a series of storms that are moving eastward over the Ohio River Valley. I wonder: Did farmers of yesteryear watch the almanac as closely as I follow the radar?

9:55 PM Brian Fulthorp is so right when he says that "the 'best' translation of the Bible is one people will actually read." When I was in high school that Bible was the Good News for Modern Man, with its superb line drawings and glossary.

Today, at least in the New Testament, it is my Greek New Testament, from which I do most of my preaching and teaching. I don't care whether my students use the ESV (the faddish Bible these days, or so it seems), the NASB, the NIV, or any other standard version as long as they will read it. Of course, I also want them to learn the original languages so that they can test the accuracy of their translations.

9:28 PM Just put Becky to bed, in pain.

9:15 PM "Zacchaeus ... you come down!" (Luke 19:5). What a great invitation!

SEBTS students, I extend it to you as well. Jesus is not looking for spectators but participants. Don't be an onlooker when it comes to the Great Commission. Don't be up a tree when you could be down in the crowds serving Jesus. Frankly, I'm tired of bloggers and others who do nothing but criticize and pontificate. Secure in the cyber-trees, they never come down and do anything for the Cause of Christ. Their job is to look, observe, criticize, and do everything they can to maintain their status as bibliobloggers. They are onlookers, period. What a waste. As long as Jesus' work is unfinished, ours is too. He said to His disciples, "You must be My witnesses." It was that truth that changed the life of Hudson Taylor. It was that truth that changed my life. There is an unfinished work of Christ. Blogging can assist that work but it can never replace it. It is a scandal for us to talk about the battle when we refuse to enlist in the army.

When God calls us, we had better come down from the tree.  

7:31 PM Scot McKnight just posted this fantastic picture at his website. It shows the supposed "backside" of Mount Rushmore.

Our lives are a lot like that, aren't they? Our front sides are all so presentable, so beautiful, so perfect. But go to the back side and you might see a very different picture. Junk and rubbish do not normally accumulate where lots of people can see them. We keep up a good front. But a tour along the backside of the house would be an embarrassment. God knows what is in the front and in the back of our lives. We are naked before His eyes. And it behooves us to clean up our backyards from time to time. Professions of perfection won't cut it for very long  --  not, at least, when God is watching.

5:58 PM Nate and Jess just called from South Boston to say they were finishing up a painting job there, which means that our haying will be postponed until tomorrow or even later (depending on how dry the grass is).

Meanwhile I've been intending to spread flea and tick granules in our backyard, though the grass will need to be watered afterwards. I think I'll just wait until the next thunderstorm! While in the backyard I did notice just how awfully pretty Becky's roses looked today. (That smooching couple is Becky and me.)

Finally, I noticed that the jets were playing tic-tac-toe above Bradford Hall this evening. I could spend hours watching contrails, couldn't you?

Off to Clarkesville again. My bride is in the mood for a key lime pie, and I am happy to comply. Food Lion, here I come!

5:34 PM I see that the Contemporvant video is making the rounds this afternoon in the biblioblogs (go here, for example). I watched it, and indeed it provides some comic relief from the tedium of the day. Of course, pointing out the evils of "contemporary worship" (and emergent worship seems to take the brunt of the criticism) actually misses the point. We are experts at magnifying the trivial. The problem with contemporary worship is not that it artificially whips up joy among Christians -- the same kind of enthusiasm that was whipped up at my high school football games by the cheerleaders. No, the problem is the unbiblical notion that the purpose of the gathering of believers is for worship. It most certainly is not, as Paul makes clear in 1 Cor. 12-14. Would that Christians learned what it means to worship 24/7, as we are commanded to in Rom. 12:1-2. How the old nature wants to take off after every distraction that comes our way. Sorry, but I doubt that contemporary worship is "contemptible." I much rather think that what is contemptible is our eisegesis of Scripture. We must somehow get over the idea that we gather in order to worship, as well as the idea that we cannot be "church" without our worship centers and our worship folders and our worship teams and our worship leaders. We enter to serve and depart to worship!

If you'd like to read more, go here.

1:54 PM Just washed B's car in preparation for her gallivanting on Sunday. Also washed our dog Sheba.

It was a Mother's Day present for her (Dayda is her offspring). I figured she had had enough of that fancy new French perfume she'd been wearing ("Eau de skunk").

11:30 AM Becky's cheerfully sewing some new summer dresses. I'm off to Clarkesville to get a Mother's Day gift for one of my precious daughters. Haying will probably begin around 3:00 pm.

11:21 AM Quote of the day:

Giving is so misunderstood and so poorly practiced that I wonder if the way we practice it is even Scriptural at all. In the church “tithing” or giving is seen as a line item, a budget item. I allocate X percent of my income to giving at the local church, taking into account my other expenses like car payment, mortgages, etc. The picture in the New Testament is complete surrender and abandonment.

Read The New Testament Tithe Is 100 %. (And thanks, Arthur, for the courage to publish this fine essay.) Incidentally, one of our SEBTS Ph.D. grads has just published a book on tithing. You need to read it. It's called You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe? I wrote this blurb for the publishers:

Are Christians obligated to tithe? David Croteau thinks not, and argues that it is only our traditionalism that prevents us from following the biblical instructions about giving. The New Covenant foundation for giving is always relationship-driven, grace-driven, and love-driven. "Radical obedience is required," the author states. But Christians who give less than 10 percent "do not sin." I am impressed with Mr. Croteau's work. It offers valid, profound, and inspiring direction to all and especially evangelical Christians.

Glad to see more and more of our students rethinking the wineskins.

11:12 AM Still watching TV? Then check this out.

11:05 AM On this day in 1839 Elisha Hoffman was born in Pennsylvania. He is the composer of one of my favorite hymns, "I Must Tell Jesus."

For the story behind the hymn, go here. Hoffman wrote, "I cannot bear these burdens alone." Boy, if that doesn't describe me. I've said this before and I'll say it again: I could not make it through a single day without Jesus in my life. I am utterly hopeless and helpless without him. I am not just saying that. I've had so many failures, so many disappointments, so many regrets in life -- and still do -- that I find myself depending on Jesus daily just to get by.

You say, "Boy is Dave co-dependent."


11:00 AM Just finished painting ALL of the porch boards. Congratulations to me!

8:26 AM I wrote a masters thesis at Talbot before beginning my doctoral studies in Basel. I could do this because the Talbot M. Div. program had a thesis option. I think this is such a good idea that I've proposed it to my faculty colleagues at SEBTS. I'm not promising the idea will get anywhere but at least I've floated it. I would call it an "Honors Thesis" and would limit it to select group of graduating seniors who possess a high GPA and show potential for doctoral studies. This would enable many of my students to go right into a Ph.D. program without having to earn a Th.M. first (as I did). Good old eccentric me loves the idea, but will it fly? Stay tuned....

8:19 AM Congratulations to Andy Bowden and his wife Hannah-Joy on their announcement. Andy is my "grader" and will begin his Th.M. studies with me this fall. Let's be sure to keep Hannah-Joy in our prayers.

8:06 AM As a huge dog lover even I find this appalling. Just appalling. Besides, how can you determine whether a mutt is "well-mannered"?

I tell you, religion is going to the ....

7:48 AM This morning I'd like to introduce you to yet another Alaba evangelist. Remember: these men work in the midst of virulent opposition. The following information comes from a prayer card that Becky prepared:

Kassa ("Kah-sah") and his wife Tegeshech have 5 children. He leaves his wife and children in Alaba Town because it is safe for them. Every 1-2 weeks he returns from ministering in the town of Beshano. This town is very, very anti-Christian. It has been featured many times in Voice of the Martyrs news. Its citizens have expelled all Christians, have murdered Christian children, have burned Christian homes, etc. It is very much under the control of the Evil One. 

Now the Alaba Town church has established a "school" to teach the children of Beshano. This school is designed to serve as a bridge of goodwill, to soften the heart of the parents thru the children.  Kassa is the teacher for these children. They meet in a rented room from 8:00-10:30am. He has 84 children, which he teaches alone. They are learning the alphabet, writing, and math...and he is evangelizing them as he teaches. They pray with each class. We asked him how was his evangelism/praying received. He told us: "My students' academic ability is much better than the government students. So the families are very happy. Some of the families don't like the evangelism, but those parents who want the education tell them to bring their complaints to them. So they handle each other, and in the end, I am free to teach the Gospel through this school."

The Beshano Town government has refused permission to build a church there, but the Church Leaders are hoping that in time their hearts will be softened. There are about 30 believers in the town; they are currently meeting quietly in each other's homes, knowing that at any time they could be evicted.

Kassa's favorite verse is John 3:16. He has two prayer requests: 

1) He wants to establish churches as the Lord opens the door in both Goba village and Beshano town. 

2) He has kidney and stomach problems that nag at him. 

He has a message for the American believers: "There is a movement among our opponents to attack Christians. We are trying to legalize our worship in Beshano town.  Now our names are on the 'hit list' of these opponents. Please pray for protection and courage as we continue the work of Jesus on earth."

Kassa, we are praying for you!

7:33 AM The discussion about the importance of the biblical languages continues at the Western Seminary blog. Read The biblical languages in life and ministry. Interestingly, just yesterday I got yet another email from a student who plans on teaching beginning Greek in his home church this fall. May your tribe increase!

7:26 AM Denver Seminary's Daniel Carroll Rodas wants to reframe the immigration debate. This is a very good read on a very difficult subject.

7:21 AM Mark Goodacre has opened a can of worms with his post Is the Synoptic Problem tedious? For what it's worth, I've given the matter some thought (even though I can be hardly called a "Gospels scholar"), and the results have been published in Why Four Gospels? A reviewer at Amazon had this to say about it:

I applaud Professor David Black for holding his own against the grain of "scholarly" source and form criticism of the gospels. Black's thesis and presentation truly lifts the spirits of those who have felt uneasy with the nonsensical explanations of how the gospels developed that are so popular among New Testament scholars.

Black identifies the trend among scholars who approach the New Testament and especially the gospels with a dogmatic presupposition that any explanation other than what the Church Fathers, early church, church tradition and faithful Christians have believed and passed down is to be preferred regardless of its unsubstantiated speculation, lack of logic and rejection of historical context.

Here Black gives the patristic Fathers their due credit in validating the gospel origins. Irenaeus, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Tertullian, Augustine, Justin, Jerome are all cited by Black in support of his thesis that Matthew was the first gospel written amidst the Jerusalem church during the apostolic era, Luke's gospel followed at the behest of Paul as a gospel to the Greek Christians, Mark was written as a record of Peter's oral narration using Matthew and Luke and Peter's elaborations, and John authored his gospel to give his account of Jesus' ministry, teachings and claims.

Black does not have to ignore loopholes, reject early church writers, make leaps of conjecture, rely on speculative form/source criticism or a fictional document (i.e. "Q" or "L"). His theory fits perfectly into the historical expansion of the church, the teachings of the apostles and 2nd&3rd generation church leaders. His theory supports the acceptance of the four gospels and the rejection of the pseudographic and gnostic gospels by the church. This I think is the theory that an objective, faithful study of the gospel origins leads one to accept.

I applaud Professor Black's work. This is a book written for a lay audience but welcome to professional scholars and theologians who have not felt comfortable with the tenuous theories put forth among academia since the Enlightenment eschewed the supernatural and ignored church Fathers and tradition as being irrelevant.

Is it asking too much of students of the Gospels to take a careful look at the external evidence that deals with the question of synoptic origins? I think not. In short, I'm all for dispensing with Q. (Thanks to Mark for his lead in this area.) And for dispensing with "M" and "L" for that matter. I'm not for rejecting out of hand the patristic testimony, however.

Thursday, May 6

8:48 PM I just witnessed the most beautiful cloud formation as the sun was setting over Rosewood Farm. This clip hardly does it justice. Dayda is chewing on something, a piece of cow hide probably. Spectacular evening!


7:45 PM Were the people of Burji happy to see their Becky again? You bet! 


It was a wonderful trip, our visit to Ethiopia a few weeks ago. It revived in us memories of the land that once belonged to my wife and to which she once belonged. How many more years we will be able to return to Burji, we do not know. But one thing always happens whenever we visit Ethiopia: we realize we can never look into the faces of our fellow believers there and then close our eyes and turn the other way. Our visit confirmed in us a faith in God that may have been dimming. It was a positive affirmation that the good work of the Gospel goes on and on, if not serenely, then inevitably. These singing believers are a symbol to us of the great work of reconciliation that the Good News affords. We are one with them through our union with Christ, whose kingdom transcends all cultures, indeed creates a new culture. And for that we give thanks.

7:12 PM Slowly, slowly, I am gradually realizing how much I do love farm life. This, despite the constant aches and pains that come from the incessant work projects one always has. With my tennis elbow constantly "talking to me," I plowed ahead with the painting of the porch floor boards, although I am disappointed to inform you that I only got about 20 of them done today (I average 5 an hour).

I reckon I've got about 50 more to do, and I hope to get a few more primed tomorrow morning. But it is definitely slow going. This is, as I've often said, the third time we've built our porches, and it would be wonderful if our primed and painted and treated pines lasted for a few dozen years this time around.

I love our animals too. Here are Chloe's pups -- out and about, defending "their" home turf from my dogs Sheba and Dayda when we paid them a visit this afternoon. To their eminent satisfaction, Daisy came to their rescue and added her daunting presence to the defense.

Odd, how territorial people and animals can be. Dogs must defend their territory, and I love them for it! I continue to enjoy the Angus and their calves too. Nate somehow managed to move them into the new pasture, and here they are, reveling in tall stalks of orchard grass and fescue.

Sentimentalist that I am, I miss having goats around, but these cows evoke a peaceful ambiance that is simply unforgettable. Becky often says, "One can't worry while watching cattle." She's right, of course. If it seems very farfetched that I am an incurable animal lover, I'm sorry. You see, I grew up without animals of any kind (sand sharks don't count).

They say it will rain on Saturday, which means that we will likely be getting up the hay tomorrow, from 4 fields no less. So many of you have said to me that you'd love to pick up bales with us sometime. How can something be so brutally tiring and yet so restorative at the same time? I'll never understand it.

Well, that's the farm update for today. Don't forget, gentlemen, that this Sunday is a very special day for our wives who are mothers and for all the other mothers in our lives. I can rarely find a good Mother's Day card, but the one I got today is, I think, the perfect one. My hope is that Becky, Jessie, and Liz will have an unforgettably happy time this weekend on their getaway to yesteryear.

5:06 PM Good news! Becky is up from her nap and feels much better. Pain level a mere 3! Yall have been praying, haven't you?


1:55 PM Becky just gave herself a Nulasta shot and has gone to bed. Her pain is increasing by the minute it seems. I will monitor her carefully. As we say in Ethiopia, "God knows." Earlier today Bec was working on preparations for our June-July trip. Here are some Bible verses in Amharic she laminated today.

They are for use by our fulltime evangelist Solomon as he shares Jesus with the clinic patients and the local villagers in Galana. I once heard someone say that 80 percent of people in Africa do not have access to even elementary medical care. In addition, medical staff there tend to be poorly trained. What good is it to have medical equipment unless it can be operated properly and efficiently? Becky has therefore been working tirelessly on preparing teaching materials for our clinic staff in the operation of the EKG machine, the Pulsometer, the Ultrasound, etc. We have a good staff, but are they proficient? That is the question.

(Is the situation in America any different? Our hospitals are full of doctors and nurses and staff who hardly seem healthy. Many are overweight, even obese. Our affluence and unhealthy lifestyles can be very debilitating. Our Western world is as much in need of health education, it seems, as the poorer Majority World.)

Our small clinic in Ethiopia provides good health care, but our primary desire is to see people possessing the new life that Jesus came to give us -- life of a totally different quality about it. It is the cross, not the stethoscope, that is at the heart of Christianity. Below is a picture of our evangelist Solomon. Last March I had the privilege of spending a day with him as he went door to door sharing the love of Jesus with the villagers of Galana. I cannot thank God enough for giving us a Timothy/Epaphroditus/Barnabas all rolled into one. And I can't wait to return to Galana to meet the new believers that Solomon and the other clinic staff have led to the Savior.

10:14 AM Plans for the day include running to the bank and post office, mowing/edging, painting floor boards, and getting some writing done on Godworld. And this is my "day off"!

Oh, did I mention blogging?

10:04 AM Quote of the day (Aldous Huxley):

Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you.

9:55 AM Drew University announces an opening in Homiletics

9:45 AM The latest edition of The Christian Century is reporting that enrollment figures at the nation's seminaries are holding steady despite the souring economy. Of special interest to me was this statement:

The 13 largest schools (with enrollments above 1,000) are all known for their theologically conservative perspective. The largest is Fuller Theological Seminary (4,038), followed by two Southern Baptist schools—Southwestern in Fort Worth, Texas (2,591), and Southern Baptist in Louisville, Kentucky (2,585). Dallas Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary are fourth and fifth largest in size at 1,974 and 1,892 students respectively.

The report also discusses the role of extension campuses (such as Fuller has in the Pacific Northwest, where I have twice taught during summer school sessions).

9:41 AM Jon Glass recently tweeted this cool picture he saw in a school parking lot.

9:32 AM Andy Bowden is an excellent blogger (as well as a great personal assistant), as can be seen in this post: Mastering Your Theological Education. The money quote:

Seminary does not make you any more spiritual than other Christians, is not your ticket to unlock the mysteries of Scripture, will not make you any holier or more spiritual than your fellow Christians.

And yet we call it a Master of "Divinity"!

Wednesday, May 5

8:46 PM Guess what Nate, Matt, and I are doing this Mother's Day? Sending our wives off to a Virginia Bed & Breakfast! We intend to spoil them royally. Nolan will go along as their "chaperone."

This ante-bellum home built in 1855 includes a spacious, secluded, family-friendly suite with two bedrooms, a sitting room with queen sofa bed, two rollaway beds, a kitchenette and laundry, a private tub and shower bath, private entrances, baby's crib, and a covered brick-lined patio. It is located in the middle of Nowhere, VA, and is perfect for a ladies' get-away. On Monday morning our brides will be treated to a delicious breakfast prepared just for them by the proprietor. What fun!

8:33 PM Have you ever seen a prettier picture?

Nate just cut several of our fields, including the "front yard" of Bradford Hall. Soon we will rake and bale this hay, and then put it up in our barns. Yep, "It's harvest time!" and I couldn't be more excited. It's the payoff for all the work we did over the winter fertilizing our fields.

Did you know that the seasons are the same for the farmer and the church? When it is harvest time in the world, it is also harvest time among the nations. I'm haunted by a verse in the book of Jeremiah: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!" (Jer. 8:20). Folks, the night is coming when we can no longer do the work of world evangelization. I have only "one candle to burn," and I would rather burn it out where people are living in darkness than in a land that is flooded with light, to paraphrase Falconer. Students, if you want to sit around debating theological puzzles, you will need to find another teacher.

Come ill or well, the cross, the crown/The rainbow or the thunder/I fling my soul and body down/For God to plow them under.

The only way to outlive yourself is to be a harvesting Christian. We are debtors to everyone to get the message out. We owe it to them; we owe it to God.

Incidentally, while I'm thinking about global missions, please pray for my president, Danny Akin, who is currently in Sudan doing bush evangelism and church planting along with the local pastors there. To follow him you can go to his Twitter account. Meanwhile,

It's harvest time, folks!

7:57 PM Just enjoyed a great supper (Becky cooked curried chicken -- yummy) and am off to take the dogs for a walk on their farm.

7:55 PM Three days after her chemo Becky reports NO PAIN! Praise the Lord and thank you so much for praying!

7:37 PM Quote of the day:

It is not our Bible knowledge, our seminary education, our buildings, our programs, our dress, our music, or all the oodles of other things that enter our daily lives that separate us as a testimony of being His disciples, that tells others Jesus is the Sent One. 

No….it is our love & unity.  Love for each other, and Unity in the Gospel.

Read Unity …. why is it so important?

7:30 PM Bruce Walker gives his opinion on birth control. A taste:

In reality, if the intention of using a birth control method is to better plan and provide for one’s family (i.e., number and timing of children) then what is the difference between using a natural method as compared to an artificial one? Personally, I see nothing in Scripture which forbids the use of artificial methods and no reason to introduce some new “law” and the beginning of a Christian “Talmud”!

7:24 PM Read the Playdough version of 1 John 2:14. Alan, I think you may have met your match.

7:21 PM Mark Goodacre links to the latest Bibledex video on Hebrews. Oh my, how I wish we would stop misquoting Origen as though he were agnostic with regard to the authorship of Hebrews. Really, scholars should know better. To wit:

De Principiis 1:

And therefore I think it sufficient to quote this one testimony of Paul from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which he says [Heb 11:24-26], “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of the Egyptians.”

De Principiis 3.2.4:

And the apostle Paul warns us [Heb 2:1]: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest perhaps we should let them slip.”

De Principiis 4.1.13:

In another Epistle also, when referring to the tabernacle, he [the reference is to Paul] mentions the direction which was given to Moses [Heb 8:5]: “Thou shalt make (all things) according to the pattern which was showed thee in the mount.”

De Principiis 4.1.13:

Moreover, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, discoursing of those who belong to the circumcision, he [Paul] writes [Heb 8:5]: “who serve for an ensample and shadow of heavenly things.”

De Principiis 4.1.24:

For Paul openly says of them [Heb 8:5], that “they serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.”

De Principiis 2.7.7:

And the apostle [Paul] says with reference to the law [Heb 8:5], that they who have circumcision of the flesh, “serve for the similitude and shadow of heavenly things.”

De Principiis 2.3.5:

I will show, however, from what statements of Paul I have arrived at this understanding. He says [Heb 9:26], “But now once in the consummation of ages, He was manifested to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

De Principiis 3.1.10:

To show more clearly, however, what we mean, let us take the illustration employed by the apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where he says [Heb 6:7-8], “For the earth, which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, will receive blessing from God; but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned.”

Against Celsus 7.29:

And it is in reference to this Jerusalem that the apostle [Paul] spoke, as one who, “being risen with Christ, and seeking those things which are above,” had found a truth which formed no part of the Jewish mythology. “Ye are come,” says he [Heb 12:22], “unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.”

Against Celsus 3.52:

For the word is used by our Paul in writing to the Corinthians, who were Greeks, and not yet purified in their morals…. Now the same writer, knowing that there was a certain kind of nourishment better adapted for the soul, and that the food of those young persons who were admitted was compared to milk, continues [Heb 5:12-14]: “And ye are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

To Africanus 9:

For the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in speaking of the prophets, and what they suffered, says [Heb 11:37], “they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword.” …some one hard pressed by this argument may have recourse to the opinion of those who reject this Epistle as not being Paul’s; against whom I must at some other time use other arguments to prove that it is Paul’s.”

7:14 PM Publisher Henry Neufeld reflects on the release of his latest book. I could wish that all publishers were as forthright about their thoughts and emotions.

7:12 PM Fred Danker reviews A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (.pdf). Danker concludes:

Users of this lexicon will surely conclude that Professor Muraoka has given lexicographers a much-needed stimulus for creative engagement in their craft and that he has in particular taken on the challenge of septuagintal semantic hazards with panache. He has indeed produced what will serve as fundamental material for editions that are certain to refine what is already very choice grain.

If you’re planning on taking my LXX class this fall, you will want to consider purchasing this resource. For the Amazon link, go here.

7:06 PM The KJV-Only debate is the topic of Arthur Sido’s latest contribution to cyber-world. What are these people thinking! Of all the weird notions Christians can come up with, attacking modern translations has got to be one of the dumbest. Arthur extends the discussion (rightly, in my opinion) into the area of academic credentials. If you’re going to brag about your “doctorate” you should at least have the gumption to tell us it’s from an unaccredited diploma mill. And to think of all the gullible believers who will glom onto the KJV-Only fallacies.

7:01 PM Over at The Accidental Blog, Sarah briefly reviews Post-Charismatic by Ron McAlpine.

I’m seeing more and more of these books that are being honest with the excesses of the Charismatic movement. It is a mistake to ignore the power of the Holy Spirit, but we should never detach His work from the scriptural context in which it alone can be understood. If we do we will create a gravely distorted spirituality.

6:51 PM Greek students, take a look at Geoff’s beatitudes:

Blessed are those who stink at religion because they get God's promised rule anyway.

Blessed are those who don't fight back because they inherit what everybody fights to get, the world!

Blessed are those who are not the life of the party, because they will be comforted.

Blessed are those who feel the lack of justice, because they will be filled.

Blessed are those who show mercy, because they will be showed mercy.

Blessed are those who do do right from their hearts because they will see God.

Blessed are those who make peace because they will be adopted by God.

Blessed are those who are destroyed outright for the cause of justice because they get God's promised rule anyway.

Geoff’s writing reverberates with such passion that I want to stand up and shout “Yes!”

Monday, May 3

8:52 PM Nate delivered 100 bales to Bethel Hill, NC, yesterday. Tonight, as the sun set, we loaded another 100 bales for delivery to Durham, NC, tomorrow. God is good.

7:38 PM You simply must read Allan Bevere's The Prodigal Son -- in the Key of F. It's a good chuckle! By the way, Allan's newest book is about to be released. Here's the blurb I wrote for the publisher:

I think increasingly that the whole trouble in the church today is that our idea of God is so tragically inadequate. We forget who God is, and this is partly due to our neglect to study the Old Testament Scriptures. Now that is exactly the opposite position taken by the early church. They found in the Old Testament the revelation of God and His ways. This is why I commend to you Allan Bevere’s latest book, The Character of Our Discontent. You will realize that the disuse of the Old Testament is a serious neglect that has far-reaching consequences. You will also be reminded that all the essential elements of the Gospel are present in the Old Testament revelation. Read Allan’s book and be drawn back into the depths of the heart of God!

For more information on The Character of Our Discontent, go here.

7:21 PM A thousand thanks to our hosts on Sunday at Olivet Baptist Church and Mount Anderson Baptist Church. Becky and I enjoy nothing more than connecting local churches in the U.S. with local churches in Ethiopia. This was our first visit to Olivet.

I spoke on "Jesus, the Model Missionary" during a church-wide breakfast, then we spoke in the men's and women's Sunday School classes as well as in the morning service.

Becky showed our slides, then I wrapped things up with a challenge to become fulltime missionaries.

Olivet's new pastor, Matt Rummage, served with us in Burji. It was a joy to get reconnected with him.

In the evening we spoke at Mount Anderson.

I enjoyed manning our display table and watching people try to play a tune on the thumb harp. It requires talent I don't have!

Again, Becky and I challenged the congregation to greater involvement in global evangelization. Our message is very simple: As the Lord opens doors, we are to walk through them in obedience and love, whether in Ethiopia or elsewhere.

Again, a huge thank you to all who so warmly welcomed us!

7:08 PM Becky had her penultimate chemo session today at UNC. I am amazed by the demands her treatments have made on us. The arduousness of the regime, the sheer tenacity it requires, demands a stamina I never thought I had in me. Some days I feel much older than my 57 years. It's as if I've lived two lifetimes. I am stunned by the power of something so small and evil to destroy. As I try to wrap my rational mind around this reality, the path becomes all the more confusing when one sees chemo patients who are there because their nightmare has recurred. The initial diagnosis was a smackdown, and every ensuing week of treatments tests our perseverance. Lance Armstrong, who survived testicular cancer, put it well when he said about his own illness: "What it teaches is this: pain is temporary. Quitting is forever." I've been involved in some heavy crises in my life but nothing as trying as this battle with cancer. It continues to be hugely demanding. But I also get to see the power of sheer dogged Holy-Spirit inspired tenacity and the warm reality of God's strength that overcomes our weakness. I often think to myself: Which is more "newsworthy" -- that B should be healed of her cancer miraculously, or that we should endure the hammer blow together? I desire to have the wise eyes to delight in God and the courage of Job who after suffering went on living. By faith I perceive the cross within the mysterious plan of God for our lives.

I trust God. I know He cares for us. But I can't wait for the ordeal to be over with. I'm a little nervous about our meeting with the oncologist in 3 weeks. It will be the end of one long road and the beginning of another. What will become of Becky? The answer is unknown to me. So I wait. My goal is to be as trustworthy a husband as I can possibly be. In the meantime, I want to savor all the good things in my life -- my relationship and fellowship with God, my heavenly treasure, my citizenship above, my family and friends, and the privilege of bearing the Gospel to others. The pain is indeed temporary, and I'm not about to give up.

Saturday, May 1

1:59 PM I would like to introduce you to two of the best pancake flippers in the entire world: Caleb.

And Isaac.

Earlier it was wake-up time on the front porch.

Then it was off to Caleb's soccer game, at which Mama B outdid herself in cheering on the home team.

Sunny days call for suntan lotion, which Isaac gladly applies to his Mama B.

In an hour or so we leave for the mountains of western NC, where we will be speaking 4 times tomorrow. Then we rush home for B's 8:30 chemo treatment on Monday morning. All in all, a great weekend, and it's not over yet.

7:32 AM Aloha! Maikai kakahiaka! May Day is "Lei Day" in Hawaii. Everyone wears leis on this grand day, even the alpha males. Nice tradition. 

6:58 AM We were up with the sun. Had a quiet night under a full moon, despite a rather exciting story (something about $100 surfing lessons by a beach bum on the Outer Banks who didn't even know to surf and who captured the hens who then got away by playing "Spooky Jooky"....). Right now we're picking up our bedding and gettin' ready to make the most deliciousest pancakes this side of the Mississippi.

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