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May 2012 Blog Archives

Thursday, May 31

10:08 PM Very grateful tonight for the help of my former Greek student Richard Sugg. He took an hour and half of his precious day to set up my external drive and also to trouble shoot an issue we were having with Word. Also grateful that Becky's platelets are on the rise, which means we might be able to continue with her next chemo treatment on Monday. I'll be on campus tomorrow for meetings and to pick up Nigusse. I bet he's having a glorious time in the book of Isaiah. I was dreadfully sorry I could not sit in the class myself but work on the farm took precedence. I've labored diligently and hectically every day this week. Of course, not everything went smoothly. This evening, as I was driving Becky to town for dinner, we encounter a road block and I was cited for not having a county sticker on my car. "County sticker?" I asked the officer. "What is that? Never heard of it." "Well," he replied, "don't you read the local newspaper?" "No, Sir, I don't." "Well, perhaps you had better subscribe." So there you have it: I am required to pay money for a "country sticker" that I would have known about only by subscribing to the local rag. I recount this horror to you only to impress you with the fact that country living is not always what it's made out to be.

Well, the crickets are chirping mercilessly, which means it's time for me to pick up my book on the Battle of Chancellorsville once again. Hooker is just about to be wounded at the Chancellorsville mansion, while Lee and Stuart have begun to drive the Federals back across the Rappahannock. Incidentally, it was on this day in 1862 that Lee took over from the wounded Joe Johnston during the Battle of Seven Pines in the Peninsula Campaign -- a substitution that made a huge change in the direction of what was now to be called the Army of Northern Virginia. Just what the point of this digression is, I do not know, but anyway I do know that I thoroughly enjoy American history and I am beginning to learn the really important lessons and to distinguish wheat from chaff. I think more and more that that is what life is all about -- to keep on rooting all the time for the really worthwhile things.

Gute Nacht und Schlaffen Sie wohl.  

1:05 PM I'm writing this after spending 4 hours working outdoors. It's gotten hot, as in over 90 degrees, so I think I'll work indoors for a while. Yesterday and today have been wonderful, relaxing days, filled with work but good work, relaxing work, work that puts you to bed with a good tired, if you know what I mean. (You farmer types will understand me perfectly.) Becky just finished painting all the porches -- et voila!

And I ran across these beauties today -- promise of good things to come.

Well, I have nothing further to say, so adieu!

8:15 AM Interested in missions? Then take these words of Craig Keener to heart (via Brian Fulthorp): 

We should be motivated to share the good news because God desires everyone to receive salvation. When we think of unreached people groups, we remember that Jesus already paid the price for their salvation. However, they still must believe to be saved. This necessity invites us to follow our Lord’s sacrificial example to do whatever necessary to bring the unsaved the message that God loves them so greatly that He gave His own Son.

Amen. Life is a mission trip. Are you taking it?

8:12 AM Loved this quote by Craig Bennett

Thanking people is but one side of the encouragement coin that leaders are required to have. The other is to be an observer: not just what is done wrong, or done poorly – but even more important is to observe and comment on what is done right. While its true that there will be times when butting heads will happen, those occurrences should be a rarity and not the norm.

I know I need to do a better job of expressing my thanks to others. How about you?

8:01 AM Thomas Hudgins reminds us that there are more than two rules in textual criticism

7:55 AM Here's something to brighten up your day:


Wednesday, May 30

9:42 PM Tonight our family at Bethel Hill -- and we are family! -- enjoyed an evening of food and fellowship as we celebrated God's goodness to us and to our pastor Jason Evans in allowing him to finish his Ph.D. at the seminary.

Two things I love about brother Jason. First is his humility. He is truly teachable, sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, open to pursuing biblical (and sometimes unpopular) courses of action. I've enjoyed watching Jase develop spiritually and intellectually over these past several years. The second thing I love about Jason is his heart for people both here and abroad. I'll never forget the week we spent among the Gujis of Ethiopia. Jason is motivated by an overwhelming sense of love for Christ because He died for him and others on the cross of Calvary.

Jason, my prayer for you is that God may give you ever-increasing sensitivity to His voice, quicken your conscience to obey Him in all  things, enable you to discern more and more the things that will be a blessing to you and the things that will harm you in life, give you eyes as you read His Word so that you have supernatural knowledge of spiritual truth and can apply it to your life, satisfy you at the deepest level of your life, fully meeting the most profound desires of your heart, and finally grant you many more years of earthly service until you dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Jason and Molly and family, thank you for being such great friends, colleagues in the kingdom, and examples of Christlikeness. Becky and I love you!

11:16 AM Over at the Gospel Coalition site Trevin Wax has a post up called Lessons from the Megachurch Pastor Who Killed a Man. It is outstanding. If you are a pastor, you simply must read this post. The "megachurch pastor" is, of course, Frank Norris of the First Baptist Church Fort Worth, who shot an unarmed man in his office. Trevin draws 5 takeaways, including this golden nugget:

"Results Do Not Equal Fruitfulness."

Of course, Trevin is writing from a very traditional perspective in which your typical local church has but one pastor (or one lead pastor, one senior pastor, etc.). If I could be so bold as to add a sixth takeaway, it would be this:

"Jesus Christ Never Entrusted Leadership in His Church to a Single Individual."

There is great safety in numbers, in a "fellowship of leadership." The danger of superstardom is mitigated considerably. When no single man is "in charge," there is less tendency to place him on an unrealistic pedestal. In my essay Recovering Paul's Perspective on Pastoral Leadership I wrote:

Recently I read a book that contained this quote: "leading the church is the most difficult job in the world." The church being envisioned was one led by a solitary pastor upon whose shoulders the weight of preaching and administration was placed.

Is this how the Lord Jesus planned for His church to operate, however? Perhaps our difficulties are self-induced.

If pastoring a church is the most difficult job in the world, it is not because our Lord designed it to be that way. Jesus never entrusted congregational leadership to a single individual. He gifted His church with pastors (note the plural in Eph. 4:11) whose main responsibility was to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. Pastors and people are to serve together so that the gifts of the whole Body may be exercised. That is what pastoral leadership is all about – not buildings, budgets, books, and broadcasts.

Today I am glad to say that among many young Christians I know, careerism is beginning to take a back seat to humble, team-style leadership. I am beginning to see more and more students come to the realization that every Christian is a minister and that God has given each of His saints, men and women alike, gifts that make an important contribution to the health of the church (1 Cor. 4:7). These students are eager to begin working in a leadership team for the purpose of equipping the saints. They are anxious to labor among servant-leaders who differ in giftedness but who have equal responsibilities. They see themselves as a "fellowship of leadership" (I owe this wonderful expression to Michael Green) who serve as equals, not as CEOs in a chain of command. They understand that Christ is the only head of the church, its only Senior Pastor, and that under His leadership elders are always plural (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 20:17; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:17-25; Tit. 1:5; James 5:14-15; 1 Pet. 1:1; 5:1).

That essay was written back in 2007. I am all the more convinced of its truth today.

10:50 AM Our good friend in the great state of Texas, John Mureiko, sent me an email to announce a book giveaway at his website. He writes:

I think highly of the authors and titles below, and I've tried to pick some that anyone would be interested in (men, women, and children). My plan is to give away two books from below to two different people. If you are interested in entering the drawing, simply leave a brief comment in the comments section of this post. This contest will go on until June 16! So be sure to leave your name. :-)

Looks good to me. Especially his book selection. John, by the way, was kind enough to donate soap for our cooks in Ethiopia this summer. You can check out his homemade soap bars here.

Thanks for the tip, John, and best wishes on your giveaway.

9:59 AM These pictures are for our son Nigusse who is on campus all week taking a summer school class. Nigu, you have ordered mom to REST and I wanted you to see how well she is complying with your instructions. As you can see, she has made great progress on the puzzle you bought her for her birthday.

These two pieces, however have escaped her careful scrutiny.

She is saving them for you :)

Love, Dad

9:30 AM I am an indolent wrestler with ideas. So I had to smile when I read these words by Joel this morning: "By the way, Mark 16:18 is not original. If they would leave the KJV where it belongs, someone would still be alive." The "someone" here is, of course, the West Virginia snake handler who died over the weekend from being bitten by his pet snake "Sheba."

Now that is truly a tragedy. And, I would agree with Joel, an unnecessary one. However, in my opinion, the dogmatism one sometimes finds when it comes to the ending of Mark's Gospel is unhelpful. Of course, when I was in seminary I was taught there was no possible way that Mark 16:9-20 could be original. None. All the textbooks said so. I fear at that point the light of battle gleamed in my eyes. I reasoned as follows: If all the textbooks say one thing, all the more reason why a self-confident youth should take the other side. Today I personally believe there are good arguments that can be made for the authenticity of the ending of Mark. I have even said so print. I most emphatically do not agree that "Mark 16:18 is not original." And I am ready to debate the point against Joel and a whole bench of bishops if necessary. Think: Luther at the Diet of Worms, Athanasius contra mundum, etc., etc. Just kidding. But I really do not think dogmatism is called for here.

Now, I realize that most New Testament students have lost all interest in the question. They've gone on to something else. The fight is over, and the losers can sulk all they wish. I do not pretend to hold a brief for the old order of things, least of all for a KJVO position. But if you'd like to explore some options, if you are willing to take time to chafe over the details, it is possible that you might find this work helpful. The romance of teaching -- for I have always held it to be a romance and always shall -- requires that I ask you to do no less.

Tuesday, May 29

8:16 PM The next time you look up into the sky and see an airplane flying at a cruising altitude of 29,000 feet, just remember that this is how high Mount Everest is -- which was summited for the first time on this day in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

What a feat! What dedication! What an inspiration! What courage! What resilience! Think about it: If men could risk their lives for the sake of an earthy accomplishment, how much more should the followers of Jesus risk it all for the sake of His upside-down kingdom?

6:18 PM Would somebody please pat me on the back? I just took down a huge fruit tree, having had to do some major repairs on my chain saw first. Yes, Mr. Klutz is speaking here! I had no idea what to do until I had a stroke of genius. (You Tube is really something, eh?) That dastardly tree is now history and I am a local hero.

Life is good indeed.

3:56 PM Glad to see the synoptic problem being discussed again (both Mike Bird and Mark Goodacre have chimed in). I have examined many thousands of pages that defend the Markan priority hypothesis, and I don't regret a minute of it. No one but a blockhead ever ignored synoptic scholarship. But my best satisfaction is found in those bits of insights retrieved from the ancient fathers. In the tolerably long row of books that bear my name on their fading covers there is only one that evinces any research into the synoptic problem.

I have argued that Mark, using Peter's public speeches as his source, produced a vivid narrative of Jesus' life and teachings. This hypothesis is supported by the testimony of the earliest Christian fathers. In my view, this testimony has for far too long been underrated and neglected, but frankly I see no hope of things changing very much for the better, when one reads the kinds of discussion going on today in the blogosphere. If, however, we hold that Mark was simply a verbatim transcription of Peter's discourses, and if we agree with Clement of Alexandria that the Gospels containing the genealogies came first (viz., Matthew and Luke), then we could dispense completely not only with Q but also with all other hypothecated documents such as M and L. The Markan priority hypothesis is incompatible with the recovered statements of the fathers -- and thus I continue to be puzzled by the persistent faith, among many teachers and graduate students, in the value of theories and hypotheses that reject outright a source of information that can be of the greatest value in helping us to understand the original composition of the Gospels.

3:34 PM Garden update:

1) Beets.

2) Zucchini.

3) Squash.

4) Beans.

Yes, it is obvious that we need to start weeding again. I believe that's on tomorrow's farm agenda.

2:21 PM With the warmer weather upon us we've noticed an over-abundance of animals on the farm this year, from robins to woodpeckers to cottontails to frogs to ground hogs. Bird species are varied and plentiful. Today I saw a giant turkey flying across one of our hay fields, followed by a fleeting deer. The weather is so beautiful, and the spring flowers are ubiquitous. Makes you thankful for a God who could create such beauty, grateful that He gives us eyes and ears to enjoy it. George Washington Carver once put it this way: "I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, though which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." Sometime today be sure to take a minute and look at the flowers and the trees and the birds and the clouds and thank God for this most amazing time of the year.

7:55 AM Elder update:

Before we start our farm chores I thought I'd pass on a few additional thoughts about eldership. This Sunday our church will be "ordaining" our elders. Just what is ordination? It is not the conferring of special grace (as in Catholicism). It is simply the setting apart, the commissioning, the consecrating to a particular ministry in the church. As such, ordination is not in contradiction with the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. In the Body of Christ there is a principle of equality with functional differences without being hierarchical. From a scriptural perspective, a better word might be "dedication" or "consecration." Since all ministers in the Body have the same purpose -- to serve Christ in the ministry of reconciliation -- all believers are to be dedicated or consecrated to their tasks. The danger we must avoid this Sunday, I believe, is to give the false impression that only these 3 men are somehow "in ministry." In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 we find lists of the spiritual gifts that the risen Christ has given to the church "for the work of ministry." The basic idea of ordination in early Christianity was not transference of authority but conferring a blessing and petitioning for divine favor. Because the church is a priesthood of ALL believers, the recognized ministry is a representative ministry. To belong to this representative ministry, it is the call that is important and not any rite of ordination.

Elders are overseers, but as members of the Body of Christ they no doubt also have individual gifts that vary -- teaching, administration, etc. They are shepherds but, like the rest of us, they are also sheep. They are, as Phil. 1:2 reminds, not over the church but extensions of the church. Thus, from the beginning of church history, ordination has never been a cardinal doctrine of the church. Service is what the church is all about -- and all of us are to be servants of Christ. The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers would suggest that our elders should view themselves first and foremost as co-members of the Body, under the authority of Christ. Together, leaders and led alike are unified in a Christ-centered and Spirit-filled ministry. In such a setting, ministry does not create a hierarchical organization. The total ministry is the Body of Christ, and He alone remains the Head of the church. In this light, I fully expect that after this Sunday Ed, Jason, and Jason will continue to be called Ed, Jason, and Jason by the congregation, and that without any disrespect. For in the Body of Christ, there can be no higher title than that of brother (Heb. 2:11).

Monday, May 28

5:08 PM It finally happened. I've been surfing the net looking for a good story to link to on this Memorial Day and found one. Take a moment and check out this CNN story of despair and redemption: An Army chaplain's war at home.

It poses the age-old question: How can someone who does so much to help others brings so much pain and heartache to those who are closest to him? You love helping people, ministering grace even when it requires a huge investment of time and energy, and then you fail miserably to minister grace to your very own loved ones at home. The Army chaplain in this story knew this stress, this ambivalence. Finally, as his marriage was about to fall apart, he cried out "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner." The story goes on to show how this soldier, along with his wife, now minister to the walking wounded from our wars with a deeper empathy than ever.

Sometimes in our lives the right thing to do is to stop whatever we're doing, press the reset button, and let the light of God's Truth shine in us deeply, knowing that He has something real and healing and powerful waiting for us on the other end. The alternative may well be complete and utter ruin.

God bless this man and his wife. He is a true military hero in my book.

4:53 PM The other day I ran across a wonderful hymn called Dem Lamme Nach (Following the Lamb). It's a worship song written by Eberhard Arnold, founder of the German community called the Bruderhof in 1920. Like me, he was very concerned and troubled about the church's relation to the state. The Bruderhof communities are well known today for their nonviolence, faithfulness in marriage, and compassion for the poor. They claim to follow a lifestyle based on the Sermon on the Mount. Here's the hymn that has moved me so greatly:

Dem Lamme nach! O Brüder, Schwestern,
Wir fürchten uns nun nimmermehr.
Sein Weg führt sicher uns zum Ziele
Und zürnt der Feind auch noch so sehr.

Dem Lamme nach! Welch tiefe Einheit!
Nur ihm zu trauen ganz allein,
Ihm folgen treu in seiner Reinheit,
Sein eigen ewig, völlig sein!

Dem Lamme nach! Welch mächt’ge Stärke!
Von ihm geführet Schritt für Schritt!
Durch schwerstes Leid, die grössten Werke
Trägt seine Kraft uns alle mit.

Dem Lamme nach! Welch tief Freude!
Auf seinem Weg geeint zu gehn,
Im frohen Jauchzen wie im Leide
Ganz fest und treu bei ihm zu stehn!

Dem Lamme nach! Welch süsser Friede!
Auf ihm zu ruhen selig still,
Stets preisend ihn in Wort und Liede
Ihm lebend, ganz wie er es will!

Dem Lamme nach! Welch sel’ges Hoffen
Auf jene einz’ge Herrlichkeit!
Geschwunden, was uns einst betroffen —
Wir preisen ihn in Ewigkeit!

You will notice that it is based on Revelation 14:4:

Diese sind's, die mit Weibern nicht befleckt sind; denn sie sind Jungfrauen und folgen dem Lamm nach, wo es hingehet. Diese sind erkauft aus den Menschen zu Erstlingen Gott und dem Lamm.

They are those who have kept themselves as pure as virgins, following the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been purchased from among the people on the earth as a special offering to God and to the Lamb.

I marvel at how deeply this hymn touches me. Part of the reason is because it's in German, and I've always loved German hymnody. In Basel we'd sing the great German hymns every Sunday, sometimes all 12 verses! But I think it's more than that. I think it's because I'm learning just how difficult it is to follow the Lamb with my whole heart. This has been a year of triumph for me in some areas, but also a year of some pretty rough challenges. Discipleship operates at different levels. Some levels I'm really good at; others I stink at. One of my goals this year in following the Lamb is to develop deeper and healthier interpersonal relationships. Honestly, I long for better relationships. They make for such peace and strength. They are a precious gift from God. Yet I feel I am a failure in this area in so many ways. I'm amazed at how damaging my well-intentioned actions can be. It seems I am either too gracious where I should be firm, or else I am too firm where I should be gracious. So I've been spending much time examining my soul lately. The awesome power of God to change our lives is amazing. As a result of my reading and meditation, I've taken a first pass at a statement on disciplining our relationships. I hope to publish it soon on my website and am hoping to get some good comments to move it toward some level of adequacy. Lots to think about and talk about.

Let me finish this post by returning to Dem Lamme Nach. The heart of discipleship is not studying or proclaiming the Word of God but living it out powerfully in our daily lives. This thought is beautifully captured in the final stanza of Dem Lamme Nach:

Dem Lamme nach! Welch mächt’ge Stärke!
Von ihm geführet Schritt für Schritt!
Durch schwerstes Leid, die grössten Werke
Trägt seine Kraft uns alle mit.

Following the Lamb! What awesome strength!/Led by Him step by step!/Through the worst sorrow, and the greatest works,/His power sustains us all.


4:34 PM Looking ahead: This Saturday I have to give a 20-minute high school commencement address. Shock of all shocks. I can't do anything in 20 minutes. I think, then, I'll have to pass on this joke, even though it is very true.

After Graduating from High School, David moves away from home to study at University. One of his letters home reads:

Dear Father,

University i$ really great. I am making lot$ of friend$ and $tudying very hard. With all my $tuff, I $imply can’t think of anything I need, $o if you would like, you can ju$t $end me a card, a$ I would love to hear from you.

Love, Your $on.

After receiving his son’s letter, the father immediately replies by sending a letter back.

Dear David,

I kNOw that astroNOmy, ecoNOmics, and oceaNOgraphy are eNOugh to keep even an hoNOr student busy. Do NOt forget that the pursuit of kNOwledge is a NOble task, and you can never study eNOugh.

Love, Dad

Sunday, May 27

8:17 PM Elder update: Our 3 elder candidates (Jason E., Jason H., and Ed) gave their testimonies today. Elections will be held next Sunday morning. This morning Jason E. taught from Acts 14:23 and called the church to fast and pray next Saturday and Sunday. These are all baby steps of obedience but significant ones nonetheless. I couldn't be more pleased.

Otherwise nothing new to report here. I've been nursing a sinus headache all day. Nigusse and I finished building the rock garden beds for Becky and sanded and mopped the front porch for tomorrow's painting. Becky's cooked Nigusse's meals for the week. I'll be on campus morning should anyone like to meet up. I'm free the whole time except for lunch.

8:29 AM Happy Birthday to the Lady of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, which turns 75 today. They say it's the most photographed bridge in the world.

Driving on it is an unforgettable experience. While guest lecturing at Golden Gate Seminary in Marin County I would often drive to San Francisco via the bridge to enjoy Korean cuisine in Korea Town. If you're ever in the Bay area, you'll want to check it out.

Saturday, May 26

9:34 PM I see that Tim Gombis and others are continuing the discussion of whether teachers should allow their students to use laptops in the classroom. I've already chimed in (see below). My answer is a firm Yes. At least in the seminary classroom. (Grade school level is quite a different story.) Although I agree with Tim that the classroom ought to foster a sense of community, I also feel strongly that it should develop independent thinking and the ability to make sound moral choices. Students simply cannot make these choices unless they are given the freedom to do so. This is one reason why I have never required attendance in my classes. It is also why I do not penalize students for being tardy. It is also why I allow students to miss class and to make up quizzes and tests if they have a good reason for doing so. I could on and on. I try to treat my students like the adults they are. Or are becoming.

I have one basic rule in the classroom. It applies as much to the issue of laptops as to anything else. Let me explain:

In 1998, when I came to Southeastern Seminary, then under president Paige Patterson, I had no great desire to leave the West Coast. But since several eastern institutions had been courting me I decided to write Dr. Patterson and send him my resume. In November of 1997 Becky and I flew out to Wake Forest for an interview with Dr. Patterson and others. We were made at home in the spacious Lion House and feted night and day by various members of the faculty. There were many interviews, of course. In the one with the president I was able to ask any question I wanted to. I recall inquiring about office protocol. "How many office hours do you require for your faculty each week, Sir?" I asked. You see, I had been accustomed to being assigned by the administration a certain number of weekly office hours. I will never forget Dr. Patterson's answer. He smiled at me and said, "Dave, around here we have only one rule: We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Act accordingly." I thought to myself, This is a place I'd like to work.

And that's my simple rule for classroom conduct. I tell my students they are free. Free to do what is right. (The Christian is never free to do what is wrong.) So I tell them, "You are adults. I'd like you to attend class regularly (and I will try my very best to make class a place you will want to come to). I'd like you to be on time (and I will never keep you past closing time). I'd like you to use your laptops responsibly (knowing full well you will be tempted at times to use it in a less-than-responsible way). But I'm not going to hover over you, look over your shoulder, or be your conscience. You are personally responsible for your actions in this class, and one day you will have to answer to a much higher Authority than me. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Act accordingly. I will try my best to do the same. So with God's help, let's all work together to make this class a success."

Is this rule foolproof? Is anything in life foolproof? But I'd like to think that it has worked out pretty well in my classes. A good teacher earns the respect of his or her students, and never demands it. One good way to do this is by placing our trust in them and allowing them to make choices in such gray areas as the use of an iPhone or an iPad during class time. Of course, if I see a pattern of abuse, I am free to lovingly confront that student. This is rarely the case, however.

(I have not commented on the obvious need for students to be allowed to use their computers and other handheld devices for in-class note-taking, to do fact-finding, to read their Bible [in any number of languages], etc.). 

7:55 PM Two of the 16 going on the trip to Ethiopia this summer are elders from my home church. You guys are doing a great job of setting the pace. So proud of you.

7:15 PM Orientation #3 is now history. Or should I say "historic." Yes indeed, when we illustrated how to work with a translator, Jason Evans agreed to help out. He was doing a great job rendering my German into English until he translated my "I was 8 years old when Christ became my Lord and Savior" as "I used to surf 50 foot waves in Hawaii." Thanks for trying, though, Jase!


1) Prayer time.

2) Becky challenges us with some thoughts about Ethiopian culture.

3) Sister Tope teaches us about the importance of prayer and fasting.

4) Brother Jon (who pastors at Cresset Baptist) reading Scripture.

5) Maggie and Rachel loading their "ministry" suitcases filled with clothes for Ethiopian evangelists.

6) Brady joins us from Texas via video.

What it all comes down to is this: We are a bunch of nobodies who want to be used by a Somebody. The busier we are, the more we have to regroup and reorient ourselves to Him and His Final Commission. We are gradually discovering what the church is supposed to do to be the church. What an exciting pilgrimage!

Stay centered in Him,


7:48 AM As you know, from 10:00 to 4:00 today we're holding our third orientation for our July Ethiopia team. I italicized the word team on purpose. Missions is always a cooperative task. Think of the four men in Mark 2 who brought the paralytic to Jesus. It took real unity to get him there.

Mission trips are perfect laboratories for testing Christian unity. We must spend time together in preparation, we must pray for each other, we must unite around a common cause. If an obstacle arises, we are there to help each other. It took absolute unity to get that paralytic to the Lord. For example, they all had to walk at the same pace. Can you imagine what would have happened if one person started running while the others walked? Of course, unity does not mean sameness. I imagine one of the four was the initiator: "Hey guys, let's get Jacob over to Jesus." Others were more followers: "Great idea! I'm game!" Unity is not uniformity. Missions means using our individual gifts together in such a way as to accomplish a mutual goal. Sometimes it means surrendering our own agendas and opinions for the sake of the team. And sometimes it means going ahead and taking the lead (right, Mama Leigh?).

When Christians realize how long eternity is and how real hell is, they'll start working together for the Gospel. After all, that's what Scripture commands us to do (Phil. 1:27-28).

7:20 AM In a few weeks I'll be back in Alaba, Ethiopia, the proud home of malaria, typhoid, typhus, and lots of dust. I know you must get tired of me talking about our loved ones there so much, but I need to tell you what's happening there. The latest news leaves me breathless. For many months we've been praying that God would provide a new bus for one of our brothers in Alaba. For many years he had been using his ancient "machina" to transport our teams hither, thither, and yon all over the country. It was definitely time for a replacement. This brother, by the way, has a very special place in our hearts, as he has risked his life many times for the sake of the Gospel.

God heard our prayers! Here is God's provision, and it is enough to turn everybody's head.

Team, get ready to travel to Burji in style! It's just another reminder of how God is weaving together His perfect plan in our lives. It's just like Jesus to expand our vision to the whole world and then give us an inherence far larger than that. Everyone is amazed at this provision. That's what church life is like when brothers and sisters in Christ believe deeply in the power of the Gospel and commit themselves to loving one another in tangible ways. So please join me and David in his words in Psalm 103:1: "Praise the Lord, Oh my soul; all my innermost being, praise His holy name."

Time to put on your dancing shoes, church. Lift up your heads. Dance and rejoice.

Friday, May 25

5:21 PM A thousand apologies for not blogging earlier. I spent half day on campus in Wake Forest and the rest of the day mowing several acres of yard here at the farm. I did have time to surf, however, and here are a few links I thought you might like.

1) Roger Olson shares his impressions about the religion of the "founding fathers." He writes:

Anyone tempted to buy into the current flood of revisionism about the religious beliefs and practices of the founding fathers (I say "current" because, again, nothing under the sun is new) ought to read this book. Together with similar ones (e.g., Frank Lambert’s that I recommended the other day) it absolutely blows away (as in a wind, not an explosion) the whole idea that most of the founding fathers of the American Republic were orthodox Christians.

The bottom line is that the mixing of politics with religion almost always turns out disastrously for a nation. Let's keep the kingdom holy.

2) What Weight Watchers can teach us about doing church.

3) Allan Bevere reviews my latest mini-book.

4) Regent University is holding a great seminar for any of you interested in teaching English overseas. It's called A Survival Guide for English Speakers, Teaching English in a Mission Environment. The date is June 29. I wish I could attend myself but I've got to prepare for our fourth and final Ethiopia trip orientation the next day.

5) Nathaniel Simmons suggests ways you can become a better Bible reader.

Peace out (I know that's so 60s!),


Thursday, May 24

6:33 PM Just snapped these. In honor of my fellow gardener Mark Stevens.

6:20 PM Now that my fortune cookie is digesting I can take a moment and congratulate Jacob Cerone upon his acceptance into the Th.M. program at SEBTS. He will be focusing on the LXX. Looking forward to working you, Herr Cerone! 

4:56 PM This and that ...

1) Becky and I spent the morning pruning trees around the farm. Like kudzu, they will take over everything unless you stay on top of them. Then we worked on getting the porches ready for painting (sanding, sweeping, mopping). Earlier I ran into a swarm of bees who were a bit upset that I invaded their air space. Thank God for Benadryl. Tonight B and I are both too tired to cook so off we go to our big little town of Clarksville for some Chinese cuisine.

2) Greek students, my Greek 3 summer school syllabus has been posted on Moodle. Be sure to check it for details (textbooks, assignments, grading scale, etc.). I've also posted the study questions for our main textbooks (It's Still Greek to Me and Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek) on Moodle, so have at it. Finally, be sure to have the entire book of Philippians translated before the first day of class. It will be a busy yet fun class. Hope to see many of you there.

3) In exactly 7 weeks I leave for Ethiopia again. This Saturday our team will have its third orientation, this time at Cresset Baptist Church in Durham. Becky and I will try and illustrate how translation works by using our German. I hope I can keep up with her.

4) Tomorrow I rescue Nigusse from his summer school class on campus. Actually, he is thoroughly enjoying his Isaiah class with Heath Thomas, the new director of our Ph.D. program. Heath and I are having lunch together next Monday. I want to pick his brain regarding any changes he might have in store for the doctoral program. Personally I would like to see less course work and more mentoring -- but, again, I have been spoiled by the European system.

Off to dinner. God bless!


2:56 PM A reader sent along these thoughts:

I love your balanced thoughts on electronics. It is so easy to play fast and loose with some of the new technology, but I also agree that much of the distraction that student's face (me being one of them) arises solely from a lack of interest in what is being discussed in the classroom. When the teacher draws us in, we are all ears. When it is clear that he or she is talking to people he doesn't care about or in such a way that only he can understand, we shut off and start checking emails. Thanks for the pedagogical insight!

Well said!

8:11 AM "What hath God wrought?" These famous words were uttered exactly 168 years ago today by one of America's most famous inventors, Samuel Morse. His invention? The telegraph.

For those of us who yield to the temptation to review the past, this impulse to assess and analyze, to take stock, is very strong. It's clear to me that our modern interest in social media is largely the logical outworking of Morse's invention so many years ago. The future is set, and it is only too evident that electronic devises will continue to be used by the general population, including our students. I like to believe that a teacher's best work is an application of all of his or her experience to some immediate task. Many of my students find electronic tools to be extremely useful toward that end. Shall I require them to purchase hard copies of my Learn to Read New Testament Greek instead of an electronic version? Moreover, if one wishes to act globally in the cause of Christ, it is much easier to take your library abroad with you in electronic format than carrying a whole suitcase of books. I am glad, at 59, to tell students of the current generation, "Use your tools, but use them wisely." Yes, I am always a little afraid that the horse might run away from them. But there are far more subtle temptations in this area than the mere temptation to check one's email during class. Teachers can maintain their intellectual integrity without robbing their students of the right to make moral choices.

"God hath wrought" a good many things since May 24, 1844. Let's use them wisely, but let's use them all.

7:12 AM Once more: Who's your senior pastor? Thomas Hudgins chimes in.

7:05 AM So which U.S. city has the worst traffic congestion? Worse than Los Angeles. Worse than New York City. It's... Honolulu!

I'm not surprised. And I thought the traffic was bad there in the 60s and 70s. Urban sprawl has even hit rural North Carolina. Wake Forest used to be in the country. Now it's a suburb of Raleigh. Driving there during rush hour feels like I'm back in Los Angeles.

If you do have to commute in Honolulu I've got a tip for you: Ride "Da Bus."

6:52 AM Thrilled about the doors God is opening for missions. Ethiopia this summer. Back to Asia in the fall. Guyana during the Thanksgiving break. Odessa next spring. Possibly the Middle East this December. Any and every effort is worth it. Whether across the world or across the street, Lord Jesus, use me!

6:46 AM Good morning, friends.

As our church moves toward a more biblical model of leadership (plural eldership), I could not be more excited. I believe this is one of the greatest steps of obedience God even gave our congregation. I believe it will literally revolutionize our church life in many ways. Last night my thinking was confirmed by this essay on eldership by James Gunn. I appreciated this quote:

As of this month (May 2001) we ceased using the title "Co-pastor" for the elders who do most of the preaching. As we grew in our understanding of the church, we saw that we had created an unintended perceived hierarchy. Now all elders are called "Pastors," and the sign out front will reflect that equality.

This is profound. I believe that God has already given Bethel Hill leaders. They will have to work together in equality and unity. They will have to walk softly and not attempt to "control" everything as the Holy Spirit inspires godly creativity in our midst. Their leadership will be mostly to steer the flock, by teaching and example, into the three channels of church life that are indispensable: loving God, loving each other, and loving the world. When lesser issues become more important, I suspect they will also have to correct. Most of all, I'm thankful that God has blessed us with leaders who have given Christ carte blanche to lead His church. I even think it's even possible -- really possible -- that one day our church marquee will read:

Bethel Hill Baptist Church

Senior Pastor: Jesus Christ

Ministers: Every Member

Yes, I know this sounds crazy. But old men can dream dreams, can't they (Joel 2:28)?

Col. 1:18,


Wednesday, May 23

5:44 PM Off to Bible study. We're studying church history and the church fathers. Great stuff.

5:35 PM Michael Patton asks Can homosexuals be Christians? Good stuff here. Straight scoop from an honest guy. Better take a deep breath before jumping in, however. It isn't shallow.

8:32 AM Today I received a newsletter from a seminary in Odessa. In it I ran across the expression "Great Communion." I was puzzled at first, and then I realized that it was a mistranslation. The author had undoubtedly meant to say "Great Commission."

Never was a typo more revealing.

I agree completely that the Great Commission is the church's marching orders. But is it not predicated upon the "Great Communion"?

"Remember: I am with you each and every day, until the end of the age."

Surely there can be no greater promise than that. I have found mission work to be exquisitely enjoyable -- and full of pain, disappointment, and sorrow. My wife, whose instinct in such matters is so often truer than mine, constantly points me back to the Presence. The rational, academic side of me wants to figure everything out. Instead, I often find myself praying for strength from the One who is always in control. That is grace.

Every day we serve the Lord of the harvest. Every day we reach out to the hopeless. Every day we speak God's love into their lives. And every day we will be called upon to rest in the One who promised that He would never leave us or forsake us.

The Great Commission is impossible without the Great Communion. Once you realize that, you will never view missions in the same light again.

Tuesday, May 22

7:36 PM I'm really enjoying this post by Tim Gombis on laptops in the classroom. The discussion seems to suffer, however, from an assumption that the purpose of the classroom is to make students sit still, pay reverent attention to the teacher, and take lugubrious notes. (In seminary we use to call this the "You sit still while I instill" approach.)

In my 35 years of experience in the classroom I have noticed that students are usually perfectly friendly and respectful but sublimely indifferent to irrelevant niceties whether found in a dull textbook or in a perfunctory lecture. The classroom, it seems to me, is not the place for the simple dissemination of information -- this can be done in one fourth the time through reading. I knew a prof in Basel who could make any subject dull, and I formed the habit of jotting down notes for my dissertation during his lectures (this was long before the days of laptops). Most of us American students found our chief intellectual stimulation -- aside from our own work in the text -- in attending the lectures of some world-class scholar upon a subject we knew little about but which seemed to open wide intellectual doors. I can never forget Lochman's lectures over his hero Comenius. Most picturesque of all was the great Markus Barth, orating blindly (he could hardly see, even with spectacles) in his always crowded lecture hall about the glories of the New Testament and the inconsistencies of his own Reformed Church. All of us cheered him vociferously as he left the classroom.

No, I don't ban laptops or other hand-held devices in my classroom. If I can't make my teaching interesting enough to hold my students' attention, I suspect they would make much better use of their time on the Internet anyway.

3:34 PM The faculty of Houston Baptist University continues to grow. There is even talk about a new Ph.D. program in Biblical Studies. I'm not surprised, not with Robert Sloan at the helm. After all, not only is he the former president of Baylor. His doctorate is from the University of Basel. Can anyone be better qualified? (Wink wink.)

3:32 PM Having nothing further of genuine interest to impart to you, I may as well mention that Wipf and Stock has announced the release of several new books, including tomes by Daniel Block and Bruce Longenecker. My own Paul, Apostle of Weakness is slated for release in early fall. I thank God for this publisher.

3:28 PM I am taking the liberty of enlisting your help once again, this time on behalf of brother Youcef in Iran, who is facing the death sentence. I feel strongly that it would be desirable to have as many of us as possible sign the petition for his release.

3:25 PM Openings:

3:18 PM Yes, I have been working today!

3:12 PM Like you, I've been following the case of the North Carolina pastor who has denounced homosexuals in no uncertain terms. Odd, how some want to turn the church into a boxing arena. Take it from me, that's no way to act. Fighting belongs in arenas, not in a place that claims to model the message of God's grace. Let's review the basics of Christian ethics:

  • Be committed to truth and mutual respect.

  • Watch your words and guard your tone.

  • Be ready with a positive solution.

  • Make sure you're using the right weapons. This involves the Word, kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness.

In a blog post I read recently, I learned about a pastor in Oklahoma whose church was going to be picketed because of the pastor's stance against homosexuality as a sin. His response may surprise you. I know it will delight you. You can read the post here. It is profound.

Remember: When we attack the person rather than the problem, we are setting ourselves up for disaster. Make sure your weapons don't cause you to sin.

3:07 PM Fellow blogger Brian Fulthorp sent me this link to a fine essay on the authorship of Ephesians. Thank you, Brian. It makes a nice case for Pauline authorship.

9:22 AM This weekend brother Masih introduced me to the term Chrislam. The mainstream press largely fails to report on it, but several  Christian websites have picked up the story, including this one. What matters here is not Islam per se. What finally matters is the important difference between truth and untruth. If the church cannot tell the difference between truth and falsehood, or if it falls under the sway of a minority of well-known leaders incapable of making that distinction, it will quickly lose its way. It is entirely possible, and dangerously easy, to compromise truth in our quest to love all people to Christ. The church has historically been profoundly damaged by its readiness to say that black is white in order to appease its detractors. I, like John Piper (see essay linked to above), am profoundly concerned that the evangelical church is sending the wrong message.

What do you think?

8:58 AM Becky's chemo went great yesterday. Although they've lowered the dosage we feel the drug is working well. I think Becky's healing. We will have another CT scan in three months. I feel we might be moving from the cancer patient phase into the cancer survivor phase. Although Becky's never fallen into the "victim" mode of thinking, I think it's safe to say she's pretty excited about the prospects. I'm so thankful that Becky is tolerating the new chemo so well. And her doctor seems genuinely pleased with her progress. She compared Becky's chemo with the long shot horse that just won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness -- "I'll Have Another." Long shot, yes. Winner, definitely.

God is good to us!

8:45 AM I suppose you've heard about the policy at some universities of allowing students to check out dogs who provide a break from exam studying. They call it dog therapy, and before you laugh let me say -- it works. Dogs are great friends and companions. Our two Shelties enjoy my company and are content to be petted and taken for long walks. I never owned dogs growing up, or any animals for that matter. Now that I've experienced having dogs around, there's no turning back. I don't think my Shelties ever have a bad day. No matter how I may be feeling they are always cheerful. If I'm down, they seem to know it and cuddle up next to my feet. If I'm happy, they take off and wrestle with each and madly run in circles around me. They are hilarious. Dogs are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Call it "the power of wagging tails," but it works. They are really incredible. Fortunate art thou if you have one.

Monday, May 21

7:43 PM Well, it's Monday already and I still haven't updated you on yesterday's meetings at Bethel Hill with brother Masih from Pakistan. I love sharing these updates. It never gets old. My mind has snapped so many photos of the event that I really find it difficult knowing where to begin. Can't you just see it? A former Muslim teaching a group of Baptist country folk how to love their neighbors to Christ. As Masih put it to me in the car this morning while I was driving him to the airport, "Since we're not going to 'the uttermost parts of the world,' God is bringing the 'uttermost parts of the world' to us." I’m sitting here smiling and laughing to myself at all the good times we had with Masih over the weekend. Here are just a few of the quotable quotes I heard him utter while he taught us:

  • "If you are the Body of Christ, then when Christians in Ethiopia or Sudan are suffering, you are suffering too. The only time we won't feel their pain is when one part of the Body is dead."

  • "Remembering those who are in prison is not an option – it's a command (Heb. 13:1)."

  • "Muslims are acting in ignorance. It's our job to pray for them and introduce Jesus to them."

  • "It's going to take fearless love to reach all Muslims for Jesus."

  • "Let ISLAM stand for I Sincerely Love All Muslims."

  • "There is no testimony without a test, no crown without a cross, and no resurrection without crucifixion."

  • "I learned the stronger presence of God through persecution."

  • "We are not going to come back after death to preach the Gospel. This is our only chance."

  • "I am saved to save others."

And my favorite:

  • "No door is closed to martyrs."

Needless to say, Masih's messages were deeply convicting. Almost every word he said was directed at a target right between my eyes. I had already known that love was the greatest apologetic for Christianity, but now I see why it is such a powerful tool for leading Muslims to embrace our precious Savior. God has put Muslims in my heart as never before. Oh, how our God loves people! And if He is first in our hearts, we will love people too.

This weekend God began to stir up the embers in the hearts of His people at Bethel Hill. How easy it is to be absorbed with our own little church, our own little community, our own little country. In Acts 1:8, Jesus pushed us toward a larger horizon. He is a global Lord. All people are in His heart. And He is concerned that we love them too, that our hearts stay warm and tender even toward our enemies, even toward those are killing us in the name of religion. Let your church be stretched to grow and give itself away in reaching the needs of a lost world. Let it minister locally and globally. In this way, missions will become real and personal. You will never again think of soft pews ahead of Bibles in Ethiopia. You will never again place your church's needs above the needs of the church in suffering Pakistan or China. Missions will become real to you. Church leaders, you must lead the way by praying, fasting, preaching, teaching, giving, and going – and certainly by encouraging a spirit of generosity in the church toward believers in other nations. You can urge your congregation to part with its money for the great needs of the world. You can put feet to your faith by actually investing your vacation time by taking mission trips. That's what happens when we put Christ first in our hearts. We commit ourselves to love one another and to move out in unity and faith to the needy world all around us.

"You sound really excited, Dave," you say. You are right. God knew I needed a real, live reminder of just how much He loves the Muslim world. I thought the meetings would be good. They were great. Praise be to God! I left the meetings filled with a joy that's impossible to put into words. There’s something so right about the way God has made us to enjoy Him and then to live for Him by serving others. After all, "No door is closed to martyrs." Do I really believe that? More importantly: Will I act upon that truth? You're praying for me, aren't you? I know you do. Your prayers sustain me during the long nights of self-doubt and fear. Will I ever become sold out to Jesus? Pray that God would allow me to answer "Yes."

Lord, you know better than I do that I am growing old. Keep me from becoming self-absorbed in my comfort, my agenda, my happiness. Release me from the tyranny of the urgent and from the fatal habit of thinking that my problems are worse than everyone else’s. Seal my lips about my aches and pains and make me thoughtful, considerate, gracious, and generous. Lord, everything in our culture is geared toward avoiding sacrifice and suffering. May it not be so with me! Help me to exact all possible benefit for your kingdom out of my short life. There are so many great things you are doing in this world. Let me, Oh God, be part of them! In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

P.S. If you'd like to have Masih speak to your church, his website and contact information may be found here.

P.S.S. Is there an action step you can take today to help your suffering brothers and sisters around the world? You bet there is. Sign the call for mercy on behalf of our dear sister Asia Bibi in Pakistan today. It simply reads:

I, the undersigned, respectfully request the immediate release of Asia Bibi from prison in Pakistan and the dismissal of her blasphemy conviction and death sentence. We ask that you have mercy on our Christian sister. Please allow this wife and mother to be set free and to be reunited with her husband and children.

Saturday, May 19

10:55 PM This evening we had a wonderful time at Westwood Baptist with Pastor Masih. More on that tomorrow. But I will say this: I have already grown to love that man. He is a man of prayer if nothing else. He wanted to pray when I picked him at the airport last night. He wanted to pray after I had blessed our first meal together at Bradford Hall. He wanted to hold a prayer meeting in our library last night. (We did.) Matthew Henry, the great British Bible teacher, once said, "When God begins a fresh work of mercy, He sets His people a-praying." At tonight's meeting there was a lot praying, for sure. Much of it was the prayer of repentance. Pastor Masih is a fulltime missionary and preacher, and so am I. He has reminded me of the importance of asking the Holy Spirit to show us areas in our lives where application is needed. It is not enough to know the truth; we must receive it and respond to it as God would have us to do. As I said, I'll have more tomorrow, but thus far our brother's visit has been a great challenge and spur to me.

For now I'd simply like to share with you a picture of my teachers' class at the Chinese Christian Mission Church in Durham, NC.  When I first met this wonderful group of disciples last year I had no intention of ever leading a teachers workshop there.

But this is what I am increasingly being called upon to do, and it is always such a joy. So far as I know, no one has grouped the steps of exegesis together quite like I have. I do not argue that my method is better, but as I have taught New Testament exegesis through the years it seems to me that my steps lend themselves quite nicely to an educated lay leadership. All good exegesis of the Bible builds on careful observation and then leads into both interpretation and application. The final goal is always applying the text and living it out in obedience. Obviously this is lifelong process, but you've got to start somewhere and with some method. In one sense, the Bible is the most abused book in the world. Chances are that we all have read into the Bible what the Holy Spirit never put into it in the first place. The solution to this problem is not less Bible study but more careful Bible study. But even when we have correctly interpreted the Scriptures we can still give too little attention to application. This reduces the Bible to just another object of literary investigation. Bible study becomes little more than an academic exercise. We must have a responsive heart whenever we approach the Bible. We are to be, in James' words, "not merely hearers of the Word but doers." Luther once wrote that the Bible "is not merely to be repeated or known, but to be lived and felt." Does the Bible have relevance today? This is perhaps the ultimate question we raised today in class. How we answer that question will make all the difference in our lives and in our churches.

Thank you to everyone at CCCM who welcomed me so warmly today. May God bless all of you as you study, proclaim, and live out His Word.

7:10 AM Good morning, fellow thinkers, and thanks for blogging over to DBO. Here are a couple of odds and ends:

1) What do the earliest papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament look like? The answer is found at this fantastic website: Early Bible. I have to say how impressed I am with all the new language tools on the internet these days. At the same time we need to be careful that we don't get so caught up in the tools that we forget to do the hard work of language study and acquisition. Blessings on you as you negotiate the treacherous waters of infodom!

2) Duke Divinity School has an opening in New Testament.

3) Finally, yesterday was graduation day at the seminary. I certainly don't want to waste your time with oodles of photos, but would you mind if I shared a few?

1) The processional begins.

2) Nigusse had a great spot for picture taking!

3) Awaiting the arrival of our graduates. To my right is Mark Rooker, Professor of Old Testament, and to my left is Andreas Köstenberger, just named the seminary's first "Research Professor of New Testament."

4) Joel, you made it, buddy!

5) The now-behooded Jason (Ph.D. in Preaching). I love how he was introduced: "Dr. Evans is an elder at Bethel Hill Baptist Church." Fantastic, Jase!

6) Here Andreas and I hood my doctoral student Alex Stewart.

7) Joel and his lovely bride Kimberly.

8) Me and "my" pastor.

9) You know me -- always hanging out with our Korean students.

10) And here's Alex and his family (4 boys). He'll be teaching beginning Greek in Holland this summer.

As I noted above, Andreas has assumed a new role at the seminary. Directing the Ph.D. program now will be my Old Testament colleague Heath Thomas, who did his doctoral work in the UK. Congratulations to both of you on your promotions!

Friday, May 18

9:42 PM I will never forget that day, Friday, November 22, 1963. I was an 11-year old boy attending Kainalu Elementary School in Kailua, Hawaii. At about noon the entire student body was assembled on the playground to hear the terrible news that our president had just been assassinated. At the time I was one of only four members of our little school band. We had a trombonist, a clarinetist, a drummer, and me – a trumpet player. Just before the assembly I was asked to retrieve my horn from the band room. I was very proud of that instrument – a Bach Stradivarius, no less. Little did I realize that it was about to play a tribute to our fallen leader. There I stood, in the center of a crowd of grieving, weeping adults and children. Unbelievably, despite all the pressure, I managed to get through the entire piece without missing a single one of its 24 notes.

"Taps" turns 150 years old today. I feel so silly telling you this. If you're not a musician you probably don't care. Yet for me, playing taps that day so long ago was a sobering experience. The nation experienced a sucker punch, was sent reeling. The future looked so bright, so full of promise. And then … Dealey Plaza. That day was horrible in so many ways. It was a reminder that wherever you live, whatever you do, pain is always just around the corner. Yet somehow, in the minute it took to play 24 simple notes, my classmates and I had drawn enough courage to continue the activities of the day. Life goes on, even in the midst of death.

Be blessed,



5:50 AM I'm glad to see that the Gospel of Mark is being discussed on several blogs these days. The latest hubbub seems to have to do with something called Mark's "community." However, the elephant in the room, it seems to me, is the absence of any discussion of the church fathers. Of course, a full account of the patristic testimony would fill several volumes. I have made a partial case for Mark's Sitz im Leben in my book Why Four Gospels? Sadly, the patristic evidence is today hardly known in New Testament scholarship, although everyone claims to regard it with a certain respect. The average person doesn't have a clue because he or she hasn't done the reading. Such investigation would raise questions too complex -- and perhaps too uncomfortable -- for the sort of subjective and superficial overview one finds in the typical New Testament Introduction. I myself was ill-taught in this respect while in seminary. Not once were we asked to crack open a patristic tome, and thus I was ill prepared for vigorous debate on the subject. I don't mean to imply that students of the Gospels know absolutely nothing about the fathers. Certain New Testament scholars were famous for their knowledge (e.g., William Farmer). To become familiar with the field would ask a lot of your average student of the Gospels. In the eyes of some, I suppose, any interaction with the fathers is a subversive menace to the status quo. Those who (like myself) hold to somewhat traditional views of authorship and provenance are sometimes subjected to ad hominem innuendo ("Why Dave, you must be a Catholic!"). Merely questioning the consensus opinio can get you into hot water from the establishment. None of this is challenged front and center by the mainstream academy. Thus protected from all the evidence, many of our students have bought into what I consider to be a highly defective product. To call this merely a "bias" against the fathers is to understate the belligerent emotionality one sometimes encounters. The grain of truth which is the Markan Priority Hypothesis should not mean that we accept the theory without questioning it (the existence of "Q" alone should cause one to pause).

So let the discussion continue and expand. It certainly will in my New Testament classes, where students are exposed to the Mark-Q Hypothesis, Mark Without Q, the Two Gospel Hypothesis, and even the position espoused by their professor (the Fourfold Gospel Hypothesis) -- testing and thinking and pondering before coming to a conclusion, their own conclusion. Enough of this, however. I've got to get to campus for grading and for two commencement services. Heartiest congratulations to all of our graduates and especially to my doctoral student Alex Stewart as well as my pastor Jason Evans who also will be receiving his doctoral hood today. Well done, one and all.

Thursday, May 17

8:24 PM Today Becky finished putting together the entire border of her new jigsaw puzzle, so I rewarded her by taking her out for Mexican food. I said "the entire" border but that's not quite true. She tells me one border piece is missing. Curious. Seems to me that somebody has stolen it. It could be blackmail, in fact. "I'll give you back that piece if we go out to Ethiopian food."

Just a crazy suspicion....

4:52 PM Inspired by watching Becky working her jigsaw puzzle, I thought I should link to this encouraging essay called God's Great Puzzle. Enjoy!

4:32 PM Not much new to report from Mayberry.

1) I managed to mow all the yards today and then work on a project for Becky. She would like to place stone borders around the front garden beds. My job is to dig a small trench for the stones, which will come from our creek bed.

I did finish the north side of the yard before pooping out. The south side will have to wait a few days....

2) Looking ahead, I'm doing a teachers' workshop this Saturday at the Chinese Christian Mission Church in Durham, taking them through my ten step approach to go from text to Bible study outline. If case you're interested, my method has been translated into Mandarin. My approach includes textual analysis as well as rhetorical analysis, steps not often included in other publications but essential questions to ask every text, in my opinion.

3) Also, tomorrow I plan to post to Moodle the syllabus for my Greek 3 course that begins July 30 and runs through August 10. You will also find detailed study questions to help you wade through the two major textbooks we will be using: Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, and It's Still Greek to Me. Please note that the class will meet only two weeks instead of the usual three due to the fact that I will be in Ethiopia this summer. This means that there will be both pre- and post-course assignments. See the syllabus for specifics. Can't wait to get started.

4) Finally, do check out Arthur Sido's piece about Dirk Willems, the Anabaptist who saved his jailor from drowning only to be re-arrested by same and then tortured and executed. Arthur's fine essay is called A timely reminder, and that it surely is.

8:07 AM This and that ...

1) The picture below show's Becky's roses as of dusk last night. I've rarely seen a more beautiful natural arrangement. The rose bush was a Mother's Day gift several years ago (thank you, Liz!).

2) Yesterday was the first time in ages that I did not drive anywhere in my car. I declared a moratorium on automobiles. Felt great.

3) The weather is gorgeous and the flowers are in full blossom. The beauty of the Virginia Piedmont in the spring beggars anywhere else. Obviously I'll be working outdoors today.

4) Students, I think I told you that I'll be on campus tomorrow for commencement as well as to grade all of your exams and papers. Lord willing, your semester grades will be posted to Moodle by 5:00 pm tomorrow night. For calculating scores I'll be assisted by one of my graders who doesn't grade. When the final history of the world is written, the judgment may well be that the greatest invention of all time is the calculator.

Wednesday, May 16

7:16 PM I see that the city of my alma mater (the University of Basel) is in the news. Becky and I were two of about 8,000 people who lived in the historic St. Johann Quarter of the city. Our favorite sites? The Great Cathedral, Martinskirche, Café Spitz, the Rathaus (Town Hall), Kaiser Augst (the ancient Roman ruins) and, of course, MacDonald's. Here's a picture of the young doctoral couple taken in 1980.

The "Basler Fasnacht" is the biggest carnival in all of Switzerland and well worth getting up at 3:00 am to witness. The city has a thriving cultural life but we were too poor to enjoy it. Thankfully there were free organ concerts every Friday night in one of the city's many churches. And you won't believe this: The Basel Zoo is the second most visited attraction in Switzerland. It ranks just behind our one-room apartment in the St. Johann Quarter.

At any rate, three cheers for Basel!

6:55 PM Becky and I just got back from a hot date. We walked down to the mailbox and back. This scene greeted us when we returned to Bradford Hall.

Just some of the many wonderful gifts B received for her birthday. Ain't they pretty? In other news, Nigusse is on campus all week while we are "vacationing" here on the farm. He has finished his Hebrew final and is now writing the final for his "Church in the Twenty-First Century" class. Do pray for him. His dad prepared all of his meals for the week and, needless to say, Nigu is really suffering as he eats all of the leftover spaghetti from last Saturday's birthday dinner. Hope he survives.

5:18 PM Roberts Wesleyan College (New York) announces an opening in Religion.

5:14 PM Quote of the day (Bruce Ashford, referring to the philosopher Hegel):

The Linguistic Obfuscation Society should give him a posthumous medal of valor for his efforts…

Bruce, you are SO funny.

5:10 PM Looking for New Testament Greek resources in Spanish? Look no more.

5:02 PM Received this wonderful email today:

Dr. Black,

I just read your post about continuing with Greek and was encouraged by it. I graduated in 2010 and purposed to maintain both my Greek and Hebrew. By God's grace I have been continually edified in the process. I have been back through your grammar many times as well as through other grammars. I have had the opportunity to teach my son both Greek and Hebrew and continue to do it to this day. I look forward to the attempt to offer classes in the church. I took your advice from day one and still do not carry an English Bible to church with me (Olive Tree for iPhone helps this endeavor greatly).

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks again for the impact you made concerning the languages in my life which has translated into a world of spiritual edification for myself and others whom I have had the privilege to encourage.

4:44 PM Look at what Nigusse gave his mother for her birthday. He had her pick it out herself at Wal-Mart.

She picked a real doozy too! Guaranteed to keep both her mind and her hands working.

10:58 AM A blogger has raised the question about widows in 1 Timothy 5. Pursuant to that discussion, I'd like to ponder aloud with you the definition that Paul gives of a "true widow" in 1 Tim. 5:9-10. Men, please listen closely. Can these qualities describe your wife?

  • She must have been married only once.

  • She must have a reputation for good deeds.

  • She must have brought up her children well.

  • She must have received strangers in her home.

  • She must have performed humble duties for fellow Christians.

  • She must have helped people in trouble.

  • She must have devoted herself to doing good.

Again, marriage isn't complicated. It's not about finding the right person; it's about being the right person. The blessings described here have nothing to do with tangible possessions or external looks. Rather, Paul is describing the essentials that make a life full and meaningful -- things like good relationships, sacrificial living, and devotion to duty. Becky and I are now in the empty nest phase of our marriage where we are living alone until one of us dies. We have two options at this stage of the game: Become bitter, narrow-minded victims of self-pity, or become conduits of encouragement and ministry. I recall an elderly couple whom we knew when we lived in California. Both had been widowed, had found each other and fallen in love, and then remarried. I've never met a more alive, involved, and positive couple. Retirement did not mean inactivity for them. They "performed humble duties, helped people in trouble, and devoted themselves to doing good."

That's a life worth emulating, especially as we get older!  

9:30 AM Missions Update: This Saturday, May 19, at 7 pm, Westwood Baptist Church in Roxboro will host Pastor Mujahid El Masih, a representative for the Voice of the Martyrs. Originally from Pakistan, he will share about the faithfulness of God in his life and how we can love Muslims to Christ. Brother Masih has traveled to 45 states in the U.S. and has spoken in over 600 churches of all sizes. He will also be speaking at Bethel Hill Baptist Church this Sunday at 10:00 and 5:00. Becky and I will have the privilege of hosting pastor Masih in our home.

8:24 AM Over at Between the Times, yours truly tries to answer the question How can I keep up with my Greek?

Tuesday, May 15

6:40 PM Odds and ends ...

1) Becky had one of the smoothest and quickest treatments ever today. They did, however, decrease her chemo dosage by 20 percent over concerns about her platelets. Still, we couldn't be more pleased with the care we are receiving at UNC. Grateful.

2) Beginning Greek students: Today is the last day to join my "Five Minute Greek Club." Remember: there are no dues, and we never meet. But if you will commit to translating 2 verses a day from now until the beginning of the fall semester, I will give you one of my books for free. The deadline for membership is midnight tonight. So don't delay in joining this very exclusive club.

3) To read the latest review of my Why Four Gospels? go here.

4) Alan Knox will never change churches again. Good for him.

5) Quote of the day (Kevin Ezell):

"In order for the Southern Baptist Convention to see a real movement of church planting and a real movement of evangelism, we're going to have to get out of the mindset that it's going to have to be by a full-time church planter. It's absolutely going to happen through bivocational ministers, bivocational pastors."

Absolutely right!

8:51 AM Paul Himes has penned a very impressive review of Ken Mathews and Sydney Park's new book The Post-Racial Church (Kregel). A more justifiable cause can scarcely be imagined today. It has long been my feeling that our churches and seminaries can and should be marked by greater ethnic diversity. I was really uplifted and challenged by reading Paul's review and, before it, the book itself.

8:20 AM When we first moved to the South 14 years ago we were invited to participate in a Civil War reenactment in the historic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The Battle of New Market was fought on this day in 1864 and is famous because of the exploits of a young group of cadets from the Virginia Military Academy who were called upon at the last minute. I'll never forget the reenactment we did. Our unit was encamped alongside the Interstate the night before the battle. Needless to say, no one got any sleep that night. I was overwhelmed at first by the miserable conditions, but one incident, trivial enough in itself, comforted me quite out of proportion to its importance. During the reenactment a huge thunderstorm descended upon us troops, scattering the spectators to the four winds. We, of course, kept fighting. ("The show must go on.") In retrospect I reflected that this was only appropriate as the original battle had been fought during a severe rain storm. The scene was later dubbed "The Field of Shoes" since so many soldiers, on both sides, were deprived of their foot wear because of the mud. In these untoward conditions, the participation of the VMI cadets achieved a direct benefit for the Southern forces.

Likewise, it must be remembered that the youth in our churches are no less to be involved in the work of the ministry today. This summer, in fact, several young adults will be traveling with us to Ethiopia to serve under difficult circumstances. It will be the rainy season, and rain and mud will be our likely companions. But these "thorns in the cushion" -- as Thackeray once called them -- are not deadly, and indeed I find such obstacles fascinating and exhilarating. Young and old alike will face the elements, and a lot more. A friend of mine once said to me, "You know, Dave, there is no teenage Holy Spirit and adult Holy Spirit. There's just the Holy Spirit." He was so right. The VMI cadets at New Market delivered a sharp hammer blow to the Federals, enough force to do more than surprise. They turned the tide of battle. The extraordinary event that occurred exactly 148 years ago today is a stark reminder of what a group of young people can do when sufficiently motivated and equipped.

8:12 AM Good news! Becky's platelets are up, so it's off to UNC again.

Monday, May 14

1:44 PM Media philosopher Marshall McLuhan turned 100 yesterday. In absentia, of course. It was McLuhan who uttered the famous line, "The medium is the message." Of course, it isn't. But McLuhan was almost right. The media is indeed a big part of the message. That's why I study and teach rhetoric to my Greek students. I am a firm believer that how something is said is almost as important as what is said. I am convinced that the rhetorical level of language is a significant level for receptors. That's why I asked my esteemed colleague Michael Travers (an expert in English poetry) to lecture in my NT class last week.

His lecture emphasized several points, not least that the text is an object of study in and of itself, as a whole. Nor is the aesthetic level to be overlooked. Of course, many people object to this way of thinking. Denotation -- not connotation! they cry. It seems to me futile to waste one's energy trying to refute the obvious: the New Testament is as much literature as any other writing from the ancient past. For a profession already suffering from being atomistic and fragmented, it seems incongruous for New Testament scholarship to overlook the rhetorical nature of the text. The best protection against eisegesis is not suppression of tools but elimination of fallacies.

By the way, if you'd like a copy of my essay "Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews," just send me an email.

1:20 PM Names in the New Testament can be fascinating things. If you're suffering from onomatophilia (as I am) you'll enjoy a few examples:

  • Paul met in the school house of Tyrannus. Tyrannus, of course, is a euonym -- a name considered to be especially appropriate for a person, place, or thing. Who has never had a school teacher that could not be called a "tyrant"?

  • Someone who has many names is polynymous. Think of Peter/Cephas/Simon/"Rock Johnson" (Cotton Patch Version).

  • A cryptonym is a code name that is kept secret from all but a very few persons. Peter uses "Babylon" in this sense in 1 Peter to refer to Rome.

  • A person who has the name of a god is theophoric. Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30) was named, apparently, after the goddess Aphrodite.

More anon....

12:57 PM Becky and Nigusse are on their way to South Boston to have her blood work done. Her platelets are kind of iffy right now. I'm still hopeful we can go ahead with her chemo tomorrow.

As for me, I'm recovering from the weekend. It was truly a great blessing and a glorious weekend. Thanks to all who made it possible. Dolores "the Kidnapper" deserves a giant trophy for getting Becky out of the house. I got mom on the plane this morning and Liz leaves this afternoon. Today things are beginning to quiet down and get back to "normal," whatever that is. I had intended to take about an hour to get a flat tire replaced on Becky's van. It took me three hours instead. Welcome to Mayberry. If conscientiousness is any criterion for the future, I suppose I have something to look forward to.

Sunday, May 13

8:26 PM On this day, May 13, in 1940, Winston Churchill announced to Parliament: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

If our goal as Christians is to "disciple all the nations" and our neighbors, then it is critical that we adopt a strategy of sacrifice. Anything short of absolute commitment is truncated. The Great Commission provides a standard for evaluating our lives. The Lord's mandate forces us to acknowledge that a lifestyle of ease and selfishness is irreconcilable with Christianity. Just ask Miss Cindi, who was hospitalized last week at UNC for malaria which she contracted on her last trip to Ethiopia. Workers get paid for a product or service. Illness was Cindi's "payment" for serving Jesus. In offering others the love and forgiveness of Christ, she also offered the most precious commodity in the world -- her entire being, including her health. To help others we should:

  • model truth

  • refuse to be caught up in the American Dream

  • plan on experiencing pain and hurt

  • by sympathetic with the plight of others

  • live our faith through practical service

Churchill promised his fellow citizens nothing but hardship in their fight against tyranny. When our Lord deployed the 12 and the 70 He too predicted difficulty. Believe me, getting people to the foot of the cross is the most exciting and the most difficult thing you will ever do. I sit here at my computer wondering what advice I can give my students as they graduate this week. It is this: The most valuable thing you can do with your life is to give it away. Be a neighbor! Radiate the fruit of the Spirit! Be authentic and genuine! Be a peace-loving person! Have firm convictions without being judgmental! Risk it all for the sake of Jesus!

Engage yourself in using all you have to serve others at their point of need, and watch God be glorified every time.

7:20 PM As promised, more pix of Becky's birthday celebration. The highlight for me? Watching Becky Skype with our family in Ethiopia was right up there. But surely it was listening to the testimonies. Becky, you have meant so much to so many. May that only increase in the years ahead. I love you. Dave

Saturday, May 12

9:47 PM I'm afraid I'm about to be arrested. For kidnapping. Make that accessory to kidnapping. Today at 3:30 our friend Dolores "kidnapped" Becky and took her shopping while Nigusse and I arranged a surprise birthday party for her here at Rosewood Farm. Mom flew in from Dallas and Liz from New York. When Becky drove up at 5:30 these wonderful ladies were all waiting to sing "Happy Birthday" to her.

Our program was as follows:

  • Appetizers (5:30-6:00)

  • Dinner and Dessert (6:00-7:00)

  • Gifts and Testimonies (7:00-8:30)

  • Prayer Time, Hugs and Kisses, and Goodbyes (8:30)

The men folk cooked and served. Got gobs of pictures but they will have to wait for tomorrow. Nigu and I have one more surprise up our sleeve for the morning, then it's off to Bethel Hill and thence to enjoy Ethiopian food at the Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh. Just think: there will be four generations there. God is indeed good.

My thanks to Nigusse and also to Thomas Hudgins for their connivance and assistance in making this a very special day for a very special lady. Life has never been better.

3:23 PM It is a very pleasant day. The weather couldn't be better. This morning Nigusse took Becky to town to buy her a birthday present. Needless to say he was intensely excited. Yesterday he took his Greek exam which he "killed." And how is Becky getting along? We're still riding high following her CT scan. We've been working mostly outdoors in our gardens (we're growing both edibles and adorables).

I'm also trying to get caught up on household projects. Last week our instant hot water dispenser went on the fritz and the part I ordered for it arrived yesterday. Of course, I have no idea how to install it. I don't understand why "instructions for klutzes" don't come with these things. So off I went to mow and rototill another garden bed. Like I said, it has been an extremely pleasant day, and I do enjoy gardening and yard care. I regret intensely that I learned to like dirt so late in life.

7:59 AM Yesterday we enjoyed an evening of fellowship with Ben and Sheila Abernathy on their beautiful farm in Dinwiddie, VA.

The Abernathys are one of the humblest couples we know. They've gone out of their way to pray for us and the work in Ethiopia countless times. Whenever we send out an email prayer request their response is immediate. It makes us cherish the special cadre of prayer partners we have, and among those Ben and Sheila have a very special place. They are constantly reminding us that God is looking out for us. And that is enough. Thank you, Ben and Sheila. We love you.

7:44 AM Happy Birthday to You!!!!!!!!!!!!


Friday, May 11

7:52 AM Got time for a random reflection? How should we treat others with whom we disagree, even those who have wronged us? Spurgeon's sermon called God's Gentle Power provides some great insights into this question. (I'm so glad I stumbled on this sermon yesterday. I needed it. Reading it has been a great blessing to me.) Power plays do not often win the heart. Proverbs 15:1 states: "A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." Angry and/or harsh words and actions beget other angry and/or harsh words and actions. Who wouldn't agree with that!

Now, in case you hadn't noticed, it can be very difficult to be gentle when dealing with disagreeable, selfish people. Gentleness doesn't mean weakness, however. Not at all. It means being active rather than reactive. It means recognizing that all of us are fallen human beings. It means we don't have to push and shove to get our way. Saint Seraphim once said, "You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of one who gives and kindles joy in the heart of one who receives." And Paul wrote: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Of course, if you have power and authority, you can always insist on your way.

Not a good idea. Swat a gnat and swallow a bee. I agree with Lincoln who said, "Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived." (He should have known.) I have often taught through the book of Philippians, which contains one of my favorite (and most convicting!) verses: "Let your gentleness be known to everyone; the Lord is near" (4:5). Hendricksen translates the word "gentleness" as "big-heartedness." I love that! He goes on to say, "For big-heartedness one may substitute any of the following: forbearance, yieldedness, geniality, kindliness, gentleness, sweet reasonableness, considerateness, charitableness, mildness, magnanimity, generosity." He concludes: "The lesson which Paul teaches is that true blessedness cannot be obtained by the person who rigorously insists on whatever he regards his just due."

Read that again: "…true blessedness cannot be obtained by the person who rigorously insists on whatever he regards his just due."

It is certainly hard to act this way. In fact, it's impossible to do so in the flesh. But let's remember that "the Lord is near." He is near to the brokenhearted and to all who call upon Him (Psalm 34:18, 119:151).

The bottom line? We can display a joyful and unabrasive attitude under provocation because Jesus will one day right all wrongs and vindicate our cause. In the meantime, what say we all be big-hearted in the way we treat each other. Sound good?

Keep "practicing the presence" (Brother Lawrence),


7:32 AM In other news:

1) As you know, my former assistant Andy Bowden is on his way to Munich, Germany to begin doctoral studies in New Testament this fall. He's been blogging about his experiences in packing and preparing for what will surely be the experience of a lifetime. I predict that he will do exceptionally well – after all, five of MY books made their way into his stack of tomes to be taken with him to jolly old Deutschland. Way to go, Andy.

2) My esteemed colleague Ben Merkle answers the question Why elders? My own congregation is in the process of moving to eldership. Church leaders should not necessarily ask for a lighter burden but for broader shoulders.

3) Thanks to Nick Norelli I found this essay in The Master's Seminary Journal: Matthean Priority/Authorship and Evangelicalism's Boundary (pdf). The opening summary says:

The movement among evangelicals to embrace Markan instead of Matthean priority appears to be another first step away from the valued evangelical view of Scripture, because it assumes that someone other than an eyewitness of Jesus’ life composed the Gospel of Matthew.

It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, this now dated essay has on evangelical scholarship. I am very glad to see Matthean priority and authorship in the news – I have defended both in print, after all – but I'm not so convinced that Markan priority is the first step down a slippery slope to anything, least of all the denial of the Bible's inerrancy and authority. If there is a saving grace to all this it is this: Controversy gets us to rethinking old views again. It seems to me that a surprisingly strong case can be made for Matthean priority and authorship; but I freely admit that I may be wrong. Only in eternity will we ever know for sure the answers to many of the questions we ask in the here and now. Till then, let's keep our eyes squarely fixed on Jesus.

4) The University of Saint Andrews announces an opening in New Testament.

7:12 AM It's hard to know what to write just now. This week we received the best news ever about Becky’s cancer. Her latest CT showed that her tumors are either stable or shrinking – in her lungs, in her spine, even in her lymph nodes. This is the first positive scan since her diagnosis back in 2009. Here we were, on the verge of giving up on yet another chemo drug, wondering if we could or should continue, tired of all the side effects and all the driving and all the weariness. I couldn't understand why God was allowing this to happen to us. I would often look for a toehold, someplace to rest and hang on to. Something to hope for. A sign.

And now this good news.

That CT scan was God whispering to us, I am still your God. I have numbered every hair on your head. Every move you make, every step you take, I am watching you. I am God. I love you, and I still have work for you to do. I'm coming to realize that our God, the God of love, is in control of EVERYTHING. Yesterday. Today. And, yes, tomorrow – whatever tomorrow brings. The older I get the more I appreciate the character of our unchanging God.

For the rest of my life I will remember this week. I would not trade it for the world. I can't remember the last time I heard such good news. I'm shining like the sun.

Thursday, May 10

8:30 PM Hello, my brilliant blogging buddies! Yesterday was a historic day here at Bradford Hall. We finally got our computer connected to the Internet again. Whoohoo! It went down last week Tuesday – can you believe it? Sure is nice to be blogging again – and I say this as an exceptionally techno-challenged person. As all of you know I'm sure, the semester is ending and I owe a word of thanks to an awful lot of people. So here are my thanks – along with some other miscellaneous items of interest.

1) I owe a heartfelt thanks to my esteemed colleague and brother Keith Harper for his willingness to lecture in my NT class last week. Being known as a Baptist churchman who has his hand on the ecclesiastical pulse in the U.S., his insights into the "professionalization" of ministry hold special value. It is a privilege to be associated with such a fine gentleman and scholar.

Keith dealt gently but ably with an important question that deals with practical church life. Once again, he proved himself to be a top-notch church historian who has a burden to encourage Southern Baptists to face up to the full implications of the nature of the church and the abuse of ordination. In my opinion (and these are my thoughts, not Keith's), to a large degree church history is a judgment over the church's lack of adopting normative biblical principles that should undergird it and its ministries. The Magisterial Reformation, for all its positive contributions, maintained the clericalism of the Medieval Church. The pulpit replaced the altar, and the preacher replaced the priest. Yet the fact is that all Christians are called to ministry. No believer is called to a life of passivity, to the role of mere spectator in the life and mission of the church. The priesthood now embraces all who have experienced salvation. On this there is general agreement among Baptists of all stripes, but when it comes to the issue of every-member ministry we still find fundamental disagreements. To be a servant of Christ is to be a minister (see Luke 22:20-27). The early church practiced the doctrine of the priesthood of believers. The church is nothing more than the people of God seeking to serve Him under the only true Vicar. I owe much to colleagues like Keith for helping me understand the relationship between church history and theology, between culture and hermeneutics. This relationship is extremely important and calls for intelligent discussion, careful research, and long hours of training under competent guides. Am I serving Jesus Christ with my whole life? Or have I abdicated my responsibility to a "professional"? It will become clear to every thoughtful Christian that these questions are more than rhetorical. So, my message to my students, in a nutshell, is: Cherish your priesthood! It is a wonderful, precious, blood-bought gift from God. Be utterly uncompromising when someone questions whether or not you have been "called" to the ministry. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are in His ministry! All formal “ministers” are placed within the congregation and not above it. Together we are to “work together as a whole, with all members in sympathetic relationship with one another” (1 Cor. 12:25). I am deeply humbled and honored to be a part of this ministering, serving community we call the church. My prayer is that God may use us all in the kingdom movement He is stirring up in our day. May it be!

2) Here's a shout out out and a huge "Congratulations" to my student Matthew Meadows who received the prestigious Reyes and Block Greek Prize in our awards chapel on Tuesday. I can think of no worthier recipient. Well done, Matthew, thou good and faithful Greek student. (You're not too bad with a hammer, either!)

3) Speaking of our Tuesday awards chapel, Danny Akin's message from Heb. 12:1-3 was simply marvelous as he highlighted the life and ministry of one of Christianity's greatest long distance "runners" – Eric Liddell. Click here to watch the chapel message online. You will NOT be disappointed! Eric once said, "We are all missionaries. We either bring people nearer to Christ or we repel them from Christ." Now that’s a classic missionary quote! I also discovered that Eric had written a book called The Disciplines of the Christian Life. I am definitely planning on ordering it (if I can find it). As follower of Jesus Christ, I am called to manifest the reign of God in every area of my life, including my relationships with not-yet believers. Let's remember that every act we engage in is either a reflection of Christ's value system or the world's. Eric Liddell was one Christian who revolted against things in this world that were not consistent with the reign of God. He shows us the way.

4) Oh, another exciting thing this semester. In chapel two weeks ago yours truly was installed as the M. O. Owens Jr. Chair of New Testament Studies here at SEBTS. It was such a huge surprise that I am still suffering from whiplash. I am deeply humbled and honored.

My profound thanks goes to Dr. Owens, his family, and the good people of Parkwood Baptist Church for their generosity toward the seminary, and to Dr. Akin for conferring this undeserved honor upon me. Thankfully, in all these years there has been no diminution of the joy of the classroom, nor is there any lessening passion to see a generation of students living passionately for the Cause of Causes. So thanks to everyone who made that wonderful chapel service possible and especially to the many friends and family members who took the time to be with Becky and me that day. I can never thank you enough for your love and support. I love you back!

5) Finally, I have to say a word about the current fervor to get evangelicals involved in politics during this election cycle. The notion that we can "fix America" through electing certain politicians to high office is predicated upon a lie that had fueled politics throughout the course of human history – that there can be societal change part from the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I'm not personally saying you shouldn't vote. Have at it! But please don't confuse this with kingdom living. Kingdom activism is a far cry from what I'm seeing today in American politics. The same Santorum who ruthlessly excoriated his opponent (Romney) for being a heartless capitalist just a few weeks ago now gleefully endorses him for president. Of course, this is how politics works. But I'm not sure that evangelicals appreciate the vagaries, compromises, and (sometimes) downright dishonesty that characterize politics. My allegiance is not to any political party (it once was – ugh!) but to the kingdom of God. As I wrote when I launched this website many years ago, "I believe it is time to stop seeking God in the misguided and erroneous teachings of do-goodism, whether the source is liberalism or conservatism. Jesus Christ is the only answer to the malaise plaguing our families, our churches, and our society. You can idolize man-made institutions with the hope that they will solve the societal ills of our day if you like, but I prefer to stand by the Bible and the life-changing power of the cross."

I still believe this today. I grant the obvious – that some sort of human government is necessary until King Jesus returns. But when I see people saying that unless Proposition so-and-so passes America will go down the tubes I want to scream, "There's another way of going about this business of turning our nation upside down, the way of Jesus' selfless love!" There is simply nothing ambiguous about this. Jesus told us to return evil with good, to forgive even after multiple offenses, and to reject the natural "fallen" way of living life. In a self-centered world filled with dishonesty and violence, Jesus' scandalous way of life calls us back to the simple life-giving message of the Gospel. The hope of the world certainly doesn't lie in a marriage amendment. It rather lies in a Savior whose followers are surrendered to Him and who are willing to sacrifice everything for His sake. I am the first to admit that I do not follow Jesus this way or with this kind of high-level commitment. But that is my desire! So, as I said above, I encourage all of us to cultivate Calvary-love as we go about our lives in an election year. If your favorite candidate doesn't get elected, don't get too discouraged. Ditto with your favorite bill, position, or constitutional amendment.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and checking out this crazy old blog again. Thankfully we're up and running again – at least until our computer decides to go nuts and pull the plug on the Internet again.


Tuesday, May 1

6:28 AM For the past three days I've been touring the battlefield of Chancellorsville, Virginia. My mode of transportation has been Gods and Generals, the magnificent Civil War novel by Jeff Shaara. The first shots of the battle were fired on this day in 1863 at 11:20 a.m. as the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac collided at a little-known crossroads just west of Fredericksburg. It became Lee's perfect battle as he divided his greatly outnumbered force not once but twice and forced Hooker to withdraw across the Rappahannock. Lee's audacity -- and Hooker's timidity -- are well portrayed in Shaara's novel and the movie by the same name.

Hooker lost the battle through numerous errors, through the incompetence of his generals, but mostly because of his own lack of confidence. Lee, too, would "lose" -- Stonewall Jackson, shot by his own men, and later the Battle of Gettysburg, which Lee entered believing his army was invincible.

It wasn't.

You will perhaps recognize in the story of Chancellorsville several themes we often talk about here at DBO -- audacity, risk-taking, bravery, and hubris. I think I told you that we took Nigusse to visit Chancellorsville last year. How does one begin to describe the terror and desolation, the loss of life? Men have argued about the causes of the war for generations. Everyone takes some sort of attitude toward the matter. Chancellorsville resulted from a vast combination of false assumptions, gross human error, intelligence badly handled, and -- conversely -- meticulous planning, relentless training, and fanatical determination. I suppose the same could be said for Dec. 7, 1941 and 9/11. All of the players during those 3 fateful days in May of 1863 were, simply speaking, fallible human beings, susceptible to the same mistakes and weaknesses you and I prone to. The Battle of Chancellorsville was perhaps the turning point of the war. It was certainly one of the most daring and brilliant military operations of all times. Here men did their duty to the best of their ability.

It is so today. One cannot point the finger at any one factor in the church today and say, "Ah, that is why we are so weak and ineffective." Each of us is responsible, for we are all actors in the great drama. So let's buy up whatever opportunities God affords us. Let's admit our aversion to the cross, obedience, self-denial. We need a refresher course in Calvary 101 to straighten out our warped thinking when we measure success by the size of our church buildings and not by qualitative standards. Some of us are slow to get into action because we do not realize what time it is. The cause of Christ in these last days needs men and women who will stand like Gideon's 300, ready to fight at a moment's notice with the only weapon that can defeat the Enemy -- scandalous love.

Hooker blamed his generals, and we blame our leaders. But there can be no victory until each of us stops passing the buck.

6:15 AM Today is "Lei Day" in Hawaii. I'll never forget it -- the islands awash in the fragrant scent of plumeria.

6:12 AM Becky had a good treatment yesterday. And more wonderful news: Abigail's surgery was a success. God is good.

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