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November 2012 Blog Archives 

Friday, November 30

10:22 PM Gordon Fee's new commentary on Revelation is reviewed by my former Ph.D. student Alex Stewart. Kudos, young man!

Alex and his family will be moving to Tyndale Seminary in Holland, where Alex will begin training leaders from many different countries. You can keep up with their saga at The Stewart Chronicles. Hope you're well, Alex. Let's stay in touch.

8:54 PM Here's a bit of advice for you new bloggers out there: Do not let your blogging interfere with your other responsibilities in life. This will be a huge temptation for you, especially if you really take to blogging and enjoy it. I say this because I have recently spoken with several of my M.Div. students who admit to struggling in this area. Blogging takes a great deal of time if it is done well. Not only must you write your post, but (in most cases) you will need to read and interact with any comments that come your way. If, like me, you enjoy linking to blog posts written by others (see the preceding post), you will quickly find your time online taken up with scouring the web for interesting posts. Add Face Book to the mix and you may find yourself neglecting the paper you should be writing or the exam you need to be studying for. The other day one of my students was inspired to begin blogging. He asked for my advice. "Your main calling right now," I said, "is to be the very best student you can possibly be. There is no reason you cannot get an A in every class you take here. If you must, postpone blogging until you have completed your education."

"Postpone blogging."

Did I actually say those words?

I sure did.

8:43 PM Here's a great quote about the purpose of the gathering of the local church:

Church meetings are for believers only and, specifically, for their spiritual edification and development – not for the purpose of converting the few pagans who might be present! This explains why there is such a strong emphasis in the pastoral epistles upon teaching or doctrine, since it would serve as the mainstay of the believer’s diet and because it was necessary for their maturity (1 Timothy 4:13,16; 2 Timothy 2:2,24-25; Titus 1:9; Colossians 1:28). If we continuously focus our church meetings on converting the unbeliever, those who are already regenerate will not grow and learn the deeper truths of their faith. They will remain weak and stunted. God desires that we progress in our spiritual walk and grow in the deeper realities of the Christian life (Hebrews 5:11-14; 6:1-3).

Good stuff, eh? This quote comes from a series of superb essays called Problems and Limitations of the Traditional 'Sermon' Concept. I grew up in a Baptist church where sermons were almost always directed to non-believers. Very little edification was in view. I see now why this was so unbiblical, and the error is due partly to our misunderstand of two very basic terms we find in the New Testament: "preaching" as opposed to "teaching." As the author of this essay points out, preaching is directed to the unconverted, not the converted. And yet pastors take courses in preaching, read books on preaching, and even earn degrees in preaching. Can our local churches do a better job of trying to correspond to the pattern of the New Testament church? We can and we should. At my own church, we have taken great strides in this direction as we are beginning to raise up from within our congregation "pastor-teachers" (Eph. 4:11) who are "able to teach" (1 Tim. 3:2). I know we will have succeeded when Jason is no longer "the preacher." In the meantime, I praise God for the elders He has given us and for their willingness to do the hard work of teaching the Scriptures week in and week out.

7:02 PM The internet contains some pretty awesome Greek websites. Our Greek Portal is designed to help you negotiate these sites with fun and ease. This morning I asked Thomas Hudgins about the work he is doing on our new and updated portal. Here are his answers. Please note his invitation for you to help us!

6:18 PM Stopped by the grocery store on the way home from the hospital. Had to buy fresh veggies for Becky. In a fit of nostalgia, I went hunting for Hostess Cupcakes. Alas, none were to be found on the shelves. It's just as well. They're probably more toxic than vinyl chloride.

6:12 PM So there are 33 days before the budget deadline. And we've got a 16.4 trillion dollar debt. I say, go over the cliff. It's the only way we'll cut spending. No pain, no gain. The term "cliff," of course, is nothing but hype to spread fear. I live on a budget. Why can't America? Cut or fall.

Now where's my fiddle ...?

6:04 PM Please pray for my good friend and colleague Steve McKinion, whose son Harrison (who has been battling leukemia) is back in the hospital at UNC with the flu.  

5:13 PM As we pulled into the driveway of Rosewood Farm this evening, a beautiful sunset greeted us. Yes, all of heaven seemed to be celebrating Becky's return home. You heard me right. Becky's back, two days earlier than I had expected. I guess we can chalk that up to her being a former ICU nurse. She'll be giving herself shots twice daily for a few days until she switches blood thinning medications.

So there she is -- can you visualize her? -- all snuggled up again in her own bed. What a wonderful serendipity. But we serve a serendipitous God, don't we?

Thursday, November 29

6:43 PM I'm home to prepare supper for Nigusse. While the rice is cooking, I've got a few words for my Greek exegesis students. So we've studied the book of Philippians in Greek. Will it make any difference in our lives?

We cannot treat our Greek New Testament as a collection of intellectual insights. We distort its message when we use it merely as an exegetical tool. Truth alone, not knowledge, leads to lasting change in our lives. Jesus is the only answer to what ails us. In Philippians, Paul is not offering us a philosophy. Read 1:27. Think about what Paul is saying here. It's not, "I have great kids! I got that job!" It's about putting the Gospel first and not allowing our lives to be hijacked by other agendas (homeschooling, "Christian" agrarianism, conservative politics, etc.). The sad fact is that we can read and even exegete Philippians and still not be biblical in the way we live. We simply don't understand its message or, if we do, we refuse to obey it. Personal fulfillment remains our number one goal in life, and our lives remain unchanged. Need-driven, we rob the Scriptures of their vitality.

Fellow student of the Greek New Testament, we must opt for something better. If the entire goal and orientation of our lives is wrong, we need more than a seminary degree to make things right. We need Someone who will change us from the inside out, a Savior who will empower us to do what He calls us to do. There is no hope or power for change in education. Let me repeat that: There is no hope or power for change in education. None. Our only true hope is in a personal, daily encounter with the risen Christ. I am amazed at how often we have so little sense of the God of the Gospel whose love for the world should cause us to gladly accept suffering as a tool of His redemptive love. Suffering? Not for me!

Two things always hit me when I finish teaching the book of Philippians. First, I am struck by the sheer simplicity of Christianity. It is not complicated at all. It is simply a call to have the selfless mind of Christ and to serve others. It is living in humble obedience as good citizens of a heavenly kingdom (and not the U.S.). It is loving as Christ loved -- sacrificially and even scandalously. It is basically a call to die.

At the same time, I am struck by the utter impossibility of anyone ever living this way. Our hearts are closed to such a way of living, our eyes blinded to its beauty. But opening blind eyes is at the heart of the Spirit's work in us. I sympathize with students who are caught up in the rat race of being "good Christians." I hope the message of Philippians will penetrate to the core of their beings. I hope our Greek class will be a soft paint brush in the hands of a Savior who wants to complete His painting is us, his masterpieces. We cannot faithfully represent His message until His grace has reclaimed our hearts.

Students, I am holding you accountable. The book of Philippians is nothing less than a call to live a daily life of serving and suffering for the sake of others. This lifestyle doesn't require any more knowledge. It calls for a response. Like all true educational endeavors, exegesis must be incarnational. God is calling us to the same incarnational ministry that Christ had by the power of the same Holy Spirit. We must not merely claim to be followers of Jesus. We must love people like He did. Students, that's what I'm asking you to do.

You do not have to live as you are living. You have been given something much better in Christ.

12:15 PM Hey there, bloggers! I'm home to check up on things and thought I'd give you an update. (Yes, I still live in the Pleistocene Age and can only update my blog from home.) Becky is doing fine. She's sitting up, walking, and eating normally. And reading your emails, one of which she read aloud to me:

I wonder sometimes if Peter and Paul and John wondered what they could do for the Kingdom when they were in prison and banished to an island. Isn't it awesome that we have the stories of their prison time and those who came to know Jesus because of that time? It is so simple --be willing -- and yet it isn't easy for me to "just be" in God's hands. I am praying -- breath prayers throughout the day and night for you both, instruments of the Most High God. We love you!

This from a dear Christian couple who live in Florida. Keep 'em coming, folks. Today and tomorrow Becky will be resting and adjusting to her new medications. The danger is, as I said, a pulmonary embolism, though Becky's also a prospect for bleeding. So please keep praying for her.

A few other notes I assembled while in the hospital:

1) Grateful for this review of my Perspectives on the Ending of Mark.

2) A church website I was perusing the other day made an interesting distinction. It listed (under "leadership") both "elders" and "pastors." Some names made both lists! I wish we could go simply with elders and deacons. Distinguishing between elders and pastors does not help and is simply unbiblical (see Acts 20, where "elders," "overseers," and "pastors" are used interchangeably). Our elders at Bethel Hill all serve as pastors. That's because they are pastors. Moreover, according to the New Testament, eldership is non-hierarchical. Each elder shares the load of responsibility, and all are to "pastor" the flock. I just couldn't help jump with excitement when our congregation voted to recognize elders. Talk about an extreme makeover for a traditional Baptist church. I laughed aloud for joy. I suppose part of my excitement was watching our "pastor" willingly, humbly, and joyfully recede into the "eldership" group. This is part of what makes Bethel Hill so special to me. I'm in constant prayer for our elders. They are a dedicated bunch of guys. And they gladly submit to Jesus and point everyone to the Senior Pastor (1 Pet. 5:4), the One to Whom I alone pledge my allegiance and in Whom I place my trust in the midst of a very uncertain future even when I don't understand Him or my situation. One must NEVER stop seeking to follow the simply patterns laid down in Scripture for the church. He who has called, blessed, and commanded us has the amazing ability to take even the most traditional church and create new wineskins.

3) Quote of the day (Ron Scates):

Did you know that Christ hates religion? Religion is orthodoxy gone dry and stale. Religion is worship turned into entertainment. Religion is being busy but going through the motions. Religion is when you believe all the right stuff on the surface, but you’re really leading a double life. You’ve got your life at church and then you’ve got your other life over here. Religion is when the church turns from being a missionary society into the spiritual annex of the country club. Religion is when your zeal for making disciples devolves into making yourself comfortable. Jesus hates, despises, religion. When you and I lose our first love, that’s what we’re left with.

Religion spells salvation D-O. Christianity spells salvation D-O-N-E.

4) Last night I happened to read through Toshikazu Foley's Biblical Translation in Chinese and Greek: Verbal Aspect in Theory and Practice. I found the book to be very frustrating.

The author assumes rather proves his views on verbal aspect. I was going to write a review when I discovered that one of my doctoral students already beat me to the punch. For Paul Hime's thorough response to the book, see:

Part One

Part Two

I agree with Paul when he concludes:

[I]n his zeal for furthering Porter’s VAT [Verbal Aspect Theory], Foley is often too heavy handed in his critique of translations that do not measure up to his standard. He assumes the validity of his particular view of VAT and is fairly dogmatic about it.

Once again, I see no reason to change my view that there are three aspects in Koine Greek and that these should be called imperfective, perfective, and aoristic (unmarked). By the way, I'm still waiting for a book on Greek verbal aspect that is:

  • a page-turning read

  • a practical guide

  • written for novices

  • humble

  • not needlessly inventing new nomenclature

Anyone up to the challenge?

5) Lord willing, I will be participating in the 2013 Biblical Conference in Washington, DC, February 7-8. Speakers include:

  • Fr. Klemens Stock, SJ - Pontificio Istituto Biblico, Roma

  • Fr. Abbot Denis Farkasfalvy, O. Cist. - Our Lady of Dallas Cistercian Monastery

  • Fr. George David Byers, CPM - Holy Souls Hermitage

  • Fr. Thomas Lane - Mt. St. Mary's Seminary

  • Dr. Joseph Atkinson - Pontifical John Paul II Institute

  • Fr. Carlos Pereira, IVE - San Bruno Vescovo di Segni Centro di Altri Studi

and me, of course. I will be dialoguing with the group on the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. I would be deeply grateful for your prayers.

6) There's a quiet revival going on in New England. You can read about it at Slate. Its opening paragraph:

The pastor of a small church in rural Vermont is not the kind of guy you’d expect to speak with a slow North Carolina drawl. But Lyandon Warren felt a calling to New England ever since he heard a speaker in his college Christian Studies program explain that less than 3 percent of the region’s population is evangelical Christians. By his denomination’s definition, those numbers indicate an “unreached people group”—a whole population without a viable Christian community. “My heart was opened,” he says. “To be a foot-soldier on that battleground is a joy and a privilege.”

Well, that's all the news for now. Time to check up on the work at Maple Ridge and get back to the hospital.

Until we "meet" again in cyberspace, keep centered on Him.

Wednesday, November 28

8:46 PM Good evening, cyber-friends!

I'm home from the hospital, grabbing a few items for Becky. This morning she awoke with pain and swelling in her lower right leg. The Home Health nurse, who came today on a routine visit, suspected a blood clot and suggested an ultrasound. The physician in residence here at the Bradford Hall Medical Center (a certain Dr. Black) insisted that Becky visit the emergency room and have her leg checked out. Glad we did. Becky has been admitted to Halifax Regional Hospital with a deep vein thrombosis under her right knee. They've started her on blood thinners, and tell us we can expect a few days of vacation under the watchful care of the hospital staff. This means I'll have to cancel Becky's 3 doctors appointments at UNC tomorrow and her one visit on Friday. We're good with that. God is not surprised by this development, and we are TOTALLY at peace with His plan. Our God is all about change. He's constantly changing lives, including our own. Our goal during this time will be to share with others the greatest story ever told, the story of Jesus. We're resting in His sovereignty and seeking to live with a trusting attitude. Our agenda in life is bigger than ourselves or our health. There's no deeper joy than to live committed to His glory and kingdom. Our lives are in His sovereign hands. My prayer is that He will be glorified as we reach this new mission field and bring His Word to others.

On a more personal note: This had been a week of victory and yet also of some pretty hard stuff. I'm so glad for a pretty wife who loves me despite all my ponderings and introspective moods. Honestly, I'm not sure I see a way forward through all this. Where do we go from here? Where does the Lord want us to be? It's moments like these when I simply fall on my face in my prayer closet. The fact that we covered Phil. 4:6-7 in Greek class yesterday could not have been a coincidence. My heart sings when I read these words: "Don't fret or worry about anything, Dave. Simply ask God for what you need. Let Him know each of your concerns. As you do, remember to thank Him. Then watch what happens! His peace will begin to envelope you like a cloud on a misty day, guarding your thoughts and emotions. Calmness will replace worry. This is His promise to you." And so I keep trudging along. Somewhere, in the background, I can almost hear God laughing at me. Not in derision. It's like the chuckle of a father who's watching his child take a few steps and then stumble, knowing full well that his little boy is doing an amazing job of learning how to walk. Today Becky and I started a new leg on our journey, relying on each other, relying on you, scattered all over the world, relying mostly on our Daddy, who keeps whispering in our ears, "Get up and try it again, children. You're doing great. Don't stop now."

Please pray for Becky, that her clot will not break loose and embolize to her lungs. And please pray for me as I try to oversee her health care. I am not a medical type. You all know that. In fact, I have a long résumé documenting my scientific incompetence. As I drove home tonight I kept praying, "I can do this, Lord, but you're gonna have to help me." So I'm humbly admitting my inadequacy while laying hold of my adequacy in Christ. Besides, I can't very well say no to the task and go in another direction, can I?

Love you guys and so grateful for your prayers and emails,


Monday, November 26

6:57 PM In his Commentary on Psalm 2 (p. 142), Erasmus, referring to Hebrew and Syriac, writes that "there is no need to cudgel our brains with the complexities of these barbaric languages!"

Students, just because the great Erasmus never mastered Hebrew during his lifetime doesn't mean you shouldn't. Our LXX class this spring may be just the thing to get you back into it. See you then?

Below: Bob Cole, my co-conspirator.

4:33 PM Exhilarating. Invigorating. How else to describe working outdoors on a perfect fall day? This shed needed organizing, big time.

We had to rewind each roll of woven wire before restacking them in a different shed.

The rolls look much neater now, wouldn't you say?

Plus, look at all the space this "organizing" provided.

Always good to be organized.  

8:08 AM What did commencement look like at Harvard in the mid-1600s? Charles A. Wagner writes in Harvard: Four Centuries and Freedoms:

The academic procession on that far distant September morning of 1642 counted the nine "commencers," four junior sophisters, and eight or ten freshmen, with a motley audience of visitors from Boston and all the settlements nearby; ministers, Indians, residents, parents, and gloating familiars. The people made it a holiday of annual joy in learning. And there were orations by the commencers in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Then, in the afternoon session, came the series of disputations in Latin between commencers on many of the age-old topics of the theses philosophicae and philologicae.

So...what has changed? Could any of us today given an oration in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin? Could of any us today, whether teacher or student, dispute anything in Latin? Have we somehow forgotten the "joy of learning"? When I arrived in Basel, there were no exams to test one's proficiency in French or German. It was simply assumed one knew the languages. In my dissertation, I was expected to quote Kuyper in Dutch and Barth in German.

Are our expectations as teachers the key, perhaps?

7:35 AM Quote of the day (the apostle John): 

This is how we can know the love of God, because He laid down His life for us. We too should lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Whoever has this world's goods and sees his fellow believer in need and shuts up his compassion for them -- how can the love of God dwell in that person? My dear children, we must love not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

7:33 AM How many ways can you write "Jesus loves John" in Greek? The answer might surprise you.

’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ.

ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς ’Ιωάννην.

ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς.

’Ιωάννην ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιησοῦς.

’Ιωάννην ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ.

ὁ ’Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ ’Ιωάννην.

7:23 AM Since it's term paper time, I thought I'd repost a list of 20 rules for English composition I assembled several years ago. My students are required to follow them punctiliously.

1. Always avoid alliteration.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. Avoid clichés like the plague.

4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

5. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

7. Foreign words and phrases are hardly apropos.

8. Never generalize.

9. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

10. Don’t be redundant or use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

11. Be more or less specific.

12. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

13. The passive voice is to be avoided.

14. Even if a metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

15. Who needs rhetorical questions?

16. Employ the vernacular.

17. Analogies are like feathers on a snake.

18. Contractions aren't proper.

19. Eliminate quotations; as Emerson once said: "I hate quotations."

20. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

7:15 AM This came in yesterday's inbox:

Dr. Black, I enjoy reading your blog, and I try to check it out weekly. You had a post on November 22 where you commented on your "patented 10 step approach" to exegesis, and I'm curious if you could share your steps of exegetical wisdom with me? I'm currently working on an exegesis paper myself (for personal edification and not school-related), so I would appreciate some helpful hints. Thanks for your time.

I am glad to share, as a pdf., these steps with anyone who will take the time write and request a copy.

7:04 AM An interesting discussion has been taking place between Roger Olson and Frank Beckwith about "approved denominations." It all seems rather puerile to me.

My colleague, Roger Olson, has published this post on his blog, “My List of `Approved Denominations.’” One commentator says: “I’m disappointed that you have nothing to say about the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.” Roger replies: “Would any faithful Catholic or Orthodox theologian put any Protestant denominations on his or her list of approved denominations to recommend to people? Not in my experience.”

My answer: Roger’s correct. We wouldn’t, since we don’t think it’s up to the individual Christian to treat communion with the Church as a matter of spiritual consumerism. The Catholic (or Orthodox) is, or ought to be, more concerned with the Church approving him rather than him approving it. At the end of the day, the whole idea of “church shopping” sounds like a brief for ecclesiastical promiscuity, which, in my experience, always leads to unsafe sects, no matter the advertised effectiveness of one’s theological prophylactic.

Reminds me of a joke I heard yesterday on A Prairie Home Companion while driving back from church with Nigusse. Seems a man was stranded alone on a desert island for many years. When he was finally rescued, people noticed that he had built many structures during his period of isolation. "That's my house over there," the man said with great pride, adding: "And there's the shed and the stables. Oh, and this is my church." One of the rescuers spoke up, "Well, what's that building over there? That looks like a church too." "Oh," said the man, "that's where I used to attend."

Sunday, November 25

7:24 PM Check out the Deliberate Agrarian's Whizbang Firewood-Cutting Holder. That's quite a contraption, Sir!

7:12 PM Yesterday I posted this picture on my blog:

I added:

I once spent many enjoyable hours in this building. I will send a free copy of Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek to the first blogger who can correctly identify it and who will agree to post a brief book note when he or she receives the volume.

Tonight I am happy to be able to announce a winner:

Good afternoon, Dr. Black!

Someone probably beat me to it but I think I've got a good guess regarding the mystery photo you posted to your blog (the one asking for a location). It's the Faculty of Theology Library at the University of Basel! I even found what I think is a picture from the opposite direction on the street (picture attached). I don't currently have a blog, so I understand if that disqualifies me for the book contest. But, I'd love to read and review Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek sometime.

I love a good scavenger hunt. Thanks for the post!

You bet, my friend. Even though you have not started blogging (yet), the book is on its way!

By the way, when I said, "I once spent many enjoyable hours in this building," I meant it. It was here that I hung out with my fellow Doktorands at the university. It was here that thoughts were thought and chapters of my dissertation were written. I usually grabbed a desk by one of the outside windows; the Swiss are notorious for their Sparsamkeit and would never think of turning on a light (think "green"). It was also in this building that Markus Barth's seminars took place in which I, the only non-pipe-smoker in the group, felt like I was back in the smog of Los Angeles. Perhaps my favorite room in the house at Nadleberg 10 was the dissertation room, which reputedly holds a copy of every dissertation written at Basel since its inception in 1460. Them's a  whole lot of books. I suppose my own work is sitting there today, though I have never checked. Karl Barth once wrote (Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century), "The Basel theologian is from the start and in all essentials conservative.... At the same time, however, he takes secret, almost sympathetic delight in the radicalism and extravagance of others." Hmm, sound like a bit of that philosophy might have rubbed off on yours truly.

Below: Karl Barth's study in Basel. 

4:10 PM We've enjoyed the many meals people were so kind to bring us during Becky's convalescence. But there is nothing like a home-cooked supper. Last night, for the first time in many weeks, Becky was able to serve up for dinner one of her very own home-cooked meals. Her lasagna is out of this world. Tonight she's asked me to cook Chinese food for dinner. Be glad to. Anything to create a semblance of normalcy. Plus, Nigusse loves my Chinese cuisine, even though he himself does not know what my secret ingredient is. Do you?

4:02 PM Email is such a wonderful blessing of the Lord. Someone sent me an email the other day and included his website underneath his signature. I love it when people do that. Especially when the site is called Gospel for Czech. Previously I wrote an essay called Europe Is Still a Mission Field. Indeed it is. Is it possible that God still has a great kingdom work for you and me to perform in post-Christian Europe? Dare we hope for a miracle? I believe that the principalities and powers under Satan's dominion today shake whenever they see humble Christians taking up the cross and sacrificing for the sake of the Gospel. I wish the Vahala family well as they obey Christ's call to take the Gospel (back) to the Czech Republic. The Antiochian pattern of Acts 13 is being repeated, and for that I am truly grateful.

2:20 PM Newsflash! Our "Greek Portal" is about to be re-launched! I can't wait to share with you our newly-designed and vastly updated portal into all things Greek. Our launch team, led by Thomas-the-web-guru-Hudgins, is working day and night to make this the most accessible and complete source of information for Greek students online. (How's that for hype!) There will be lots of new material that wasn't on the old site. So stay tuned -- launch date is January 1.

1:15 PM Going to Bethel Hill church is always totally worthwhile. The message today on Rom 9:29-10:4 was fabulous.

It defies my best efforts to describe it. It seems that I forget at times just what Jesus Christ has done for me. Jason's message was like a sucker punch to the gut. Christ is the end of the Law to everyone who believes. He is my righteousness. And He has called me to live in community with others, to carry one another's burdens as together we walk in the kingdom way.

We also prayed for Becky. I mean, really prayed. For strength. For wisdom. The time we spent in prayer is a treasure I'll have deep in my heart for a long time.

I love that my life includes sweet times of fellowship with God's people, that no matter how tired or discouraged I become there's never a single day when I am truly alone.

Church, I hope you will forgive me for not raising my head after we prayed. I didn't want to cry in front of everybody, even though they were tears of unadulterated joy.

7:57 AM Good morning, joint-heirs of the King!

I've got missions on my mind this morning. If you will allow me to rake over the embers of the past a bit ...

I have striven, in the past decade or so, to work alongside my brothers and sisters in Ethiopia as equal partners in the task of Christian discipleship. I have also striven, perhaps less successfully, to empower and equip church leaders in Ethiopia with the tools necessary to do their own work in the text of Scripture. The church in Ethiopia has a very special place in Christian history. This is undeniable. Less clear to me is how far the evangelical church in Ethiopia has established its own identity as distinct from the West. I know personally many of the young evangelicals in Ethiopia. I have taught in their schools -- Beginning Greek at the Evangelical Theological College, Intermediate Greek at the Mennonite College, the Gospel of John at the Ministry Training Center in Dila, etc. -- and spoken in their chapels. Several I have supported for education. Many are, as the apostle Paul wrote, circumcised on the eighth day, a Hebrew of Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, and all the rest. Their Western credentials are impeccable. They are shaped, many of them, by Western intellectual discourse and values, yet they are trying to pioneer new methods and disciplines in an Ethiopian context. These young men and women represent a massive shift of the center of gravity of Christianity from Europe and North America to Latin America, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Because of this shift, I believe in the coming years we will begin to see works of theology composed in Amharic (not simply translated from the English) and addressed to the setting in which they are produced, a setting that concerns itself with questions that matter to Ethiopian Christians. The indigenous principle of missions guarantees that each Christian community possesses in the Scriptures a God who speaks directly to its own situation.

I am so privileged to be able to watch this shift taking place up close and personal, not only in Africa but in Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. There is no time to renew the old debate about colonization, nor to argue over who gets the credit for any progress that is made in this regard. The real test will come when Western-trained and educated Ethiopians (and other foreign nationals) return to their homeland. Never before has there been so much potential for mutual enrichment between East and West, American and African, as God removes cultural blinkers from us both.

I can't possibly put into words what Ethiopia means to Becky and me. Let's just say we are totally excited about what the Lord Jesus is doing there among His people. May He bless you to be a blessing to your fellow citizens and the world.

Ethiopia, we love you!

Brother Dave


Saturday, November 24

6:40 PM I know it's a bit late for a Thanksgiving present, but since I'm in a giveaway mood....

The first 20 DBO readers to email me will receive a free copy of Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? No strings attached. Just write me and request a copy, and I'll have your signed book in the mail on Tuesday as a way of saying "thank you" for your readership.

Thanks, and blessings on all of you!


P.S. Be sure to send along your mailing address when you write.

2:43 PM I once spent many enjoyable hours in this building.

I will send a free copy of Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek to the first blogger who can correctly identify it and who will agree to post a brief book note when he or she receives the volume.

1:22 PM Today it was back to work, this time in the really cold (as in frigid) air of the Piedmont. After fixing fence posts, Nigusse and I drove around the farm paths picking up stacks of (greatly neglected) firewood.

This stack will be split mid-December. Care to join us?

Finally, it was time for another trash run, and I had Nigusse snap this photo lest you think I never do any work.

Now, on a completely unrelated note, I rejoice with great joy (how's that for a biblical idiom, eh?) that one of my students will be offering a free -- as in gratis -- Greek class in the Raleigh area beginning this January. For the announcement, go here. I love students who teach. And I'd take a dozen just like Jacob.

If you live in the Raleigh-Durham metroplex, I do hope you will take advantage of this wonderful offer.

10:20 AM Arthur, you are not the only one reading Paul, Apostle of Weakness (see When I Am Weak). I still have so much to learn about this subject, if not intellectually, then emotionally and spiritually. This passage greatly challenged and encouraged me this morning:

Therefore, rather than plead for release from his "thorn in the flesh," Paul has learned to glory in it as a means to the realization of divine strength (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

And this one:

In the midst of his inadequacy and apparent disabilities is at work the grace of God that enables him to be a more-than-conqueror (Rom. 8:37).

And this one:

Satan had desired the thorn to constitute a source of great discouragement to Paul and a hindrance to his work, but the Lord had graciously made provision to sustain Paul in the midst of it.

And finally, this one:

The thorn and its attendant weakness afford Paul the unique opportunity to witness the power of Christ residing in his life and expressing itself through it.

So much to think about. So much to learn. So much to apply to my own life. God bless you, Arthur, as you and your wife take your own journey with cancer. May Jesus be closer to you than ever before.

9:15 AM I have been invited to teach a course in Advanced Hermeneutics at the Odessa Theological Seminary next March. This will be my third trip to Ukraine. I am really looking forward to teaching in Europe again, especially in a former Soviet-bloc nation. A few years ago I had the wonderful honor of giving the second annual Cornelescu lecture in Romania. (Doug Moo had done it the year before.) My translator was my good friend and colleague at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Radu Gheorghita, who hails from my mother's hometown of Cluj, Romania. (Yes, I am half Romanian.) Here we are standing in front of Count Dracula's castle trying to look like monsters.

Radu is no fool, however. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Cambridge and a masterful memory (he is memorizing the entire New Testament in Greek), he matched my lectures word for word and even gesture by gesture. Below I am speaking to a group of pastors in Oradea.

Then we traveled from West to East, giving lectures and speaking in churches. Eventually we ended up in the capital of Bucharest, where I taught a course in hermeneutics. This was my class.

In many ways, traveling to Romania was like going home. Ample are the opportunities to teach abroad. Recently minted Ph.D. student, are you game? I know one who is!

8:52 AM Brother Jeff, the "Scripture Zealot," recently posed an interesting question:

I don’t understand why we need to prepare ourselves to worship or pray or whatever. I just read today somewhere about preparing ourselves for (T)hanksgiving. Isn’t this something we should be doing all the time (1 Thess 5:16-18)?

"Now let us prepare our hearts for worship this morning" is perhaps the most-repeated sentence you'll hear when you enter church on Sunday mornings. It is, of course, completely unbiblical. Worship is 24/7 (see Rom. 12:1-2). We don't come to church to worship; we come as worshippers.

Theologically, the church has no "place of worship." God already dwells within the community of His followers. A church building can never properly be called a "worship center" because that title has been reserved, under the New Covenant, for God's people. For me, having a "call to worship" is a witness to a deep lack of biblical understanding. True worship, real biblical worship, takes place Monday through Saturday as much as it does on Sunday.

If you'd like to explore this topic in greater detail,  you might want to look at Enter to Serve, Depart to Worship. Yes, the well-known saying "Enter to Worship, Depart to Serve," is backwards.

8:10 AM The news of Larry Hagman's death at the age of 81 from cancer struck me harder than I thought it would. On Face Book, Barbara Eden reflected:

I, like many others, believed he had beat cancer and yet we are reminded that life is never guaranteed.

Which prompts me to give you an update on Becky's situation. Right now we are working through some pretty big scale issues. We have now pursued traditional medical interventions for 3 years. We have seen, up close and personal, the truth of the maxim, "every action creates a reaction." There is so much I can't say here, but the chemo, the radiation, the numerous surgeries, the side effects of her treatments (stroke, stomach perforation) -- all these have taken a heavy, heavy toll on her body. Like everyone else in the world who has a loved one facing cancer, I've been trying to make sense of all of this with my theologian's brain. Meanwhile, Becky's been online looking into alternative methods of treatment. We seem to be at a crossroad. (Or it is crossroads?) She needs our prayers as never before. As for me, I need the courage to add my insights to the process as needed and the wise eyes to delight in the Lord, who has never, ever forsaken us. Becky's resilience has never failed to amaze me. She has been as brave as brave can be during these past 3 years. But she is tiring. I would too had I been through what she's been through.

So, what shall it be? Shall we continue the chemo option? (If indeed there are chemo options left for her.) Or shall we pursue a different course of action? If so, which one(s)?My prayer this morning was a very simple one: May God be glorified in all we do in His name, whatever we do. He is the Light in the deepest night, the unwavering Yes that there is a way forward, no matter how difficult the path may be. Thanks be to God.

In her most recent essay (At a Fork in the Road), Becky wrote:

So, there you have it. My perspective of where I’m at in the Journey. I’m at a fork in the road. One fork leads to miraculous healing, and one to physical death. If God puts me on the path to healing, then I pray for it to be done in such a way that He (and only He) gets the glory for the healing, and that the healing issues forth a life that accomplishes His purposes. If God puts me on the path to physical death, then I pray that He will allow me to do more damage to the Enemy of our souls than I have done throughout all my life.

Will you join me in these prayers? And let us watch together as my Lord continues to accomplish His purposes in my life.

Yes, honey, we will join you in these prayers.

We promise.

Friday, November 23

4:58 PM It was a lazy, laid back day today, unless you happen to live at Rosewood Farm. I had four projects on my plate today: 1) install drain pipes in the road leading down to the Valley Field, 2) take down more unneeded fencing, 3) reinforce the cedar posts along the fence lines, and 4) begin to level off the Rabbit Ear fields. Thankfully, I had lots of help, including brother Danny from Bethel Hill, Johnny from the seminary, and Nigusse. Best of all was Godzilla, Danny's monster tractor with front end loader. I couldn't have done it without you guys. Once thing is for sure: We worked off our Thanksgiving dinners. Tomorrow: more farm projects. Sure keeps one in shape.

Pix (to bore you with):


7:30 AM A few odds and ends on "(Dave) Black Friday":

1) Thomas Hudgins make a really generous offer.

2) Want to teach theology at the University of Heidelberg?

3) Excellent online resources on 1-2 Thessalonians here.

4) Leaders are readers. Amen!

5) Care to read the fathers?

Thursday, November 22

8:33 PM Becky just asked Nigusse, "How's your paper for Daddy coming?" Well, as an eyewitness, I can attest he is working very hard on it and, in fact, surfaces occasionally to eat and drink.

He's using my patented 10 step approach ("Hello, my name is Nigusse, and I am a recovering Greek student") to exegete Phil. 1:27-30. He's just finished step 4 (lexical analysis) and is working on step 5 (syntactical analysis). Wish him well. After all, he's up against the orneriest, most recalcitrant Greek professor in the history of the seminary.

7:50 PM So sorry to see SBL come to an end. Does this mean that Jacob will stop blogging now? I hope not!

7:43 PM It doesn't take a smart student to learn Greek. (I am proof of that.) It just takes a hard-working, motivated student. Greek has impeccable logic to it. It has mathematical precision. Do not be intimated by the subject. As I often tell students, "Greek is easy. It's just us teachers who keep getting in the way."

Make the good doctor happy. Learn Greek. You can do it. I know you can.

3:34 PM The Lord gave us a wonderful Thanksgiving as we hosted 5 students from the seminary. (Well, 6 if you include Nigusse, who snapped this photo.)

Right now I am declaring Rosewood Farm to be a "Blue Zone," which means, of course, that I must take a long nap.

10:02 AM Indomitable. Persevering. Hardheaded. That's Mark Stevens. You gotta love the man. He wants to become proficient in Koine Greek, and he's asking for help. Mark, I will simply say this. I know you already have my Greek DVDs. If you will organize a class and go through the grammar and videos (weekly, bi-weekly, or whatever you all decide), I will do three things:

1) I will send you my quizzes and exams over each chapter in the textbook. (I normally do not do this.)

2) I will be willing to grade them myself. (Just send them to me as pdfs.)

3) I will be available at any time for advice by email or Skype.

So ask around and see if another couple of blokes (or blokesses) might be interested in learning or reviewing their Greek. Start with your pastor friends. But don't limit attendance to professionals; so-called lay people often do just as well if not better in Greek class. If and when you get this up and running, contact me. I am ready to help. But make sure you do this as a group (even if it's only two of you meeting together). You need the accountability.

Best wishes, and Happy Thanksgiving!



8:58 AM Having just published a book on weakness, I was drawn to this essay called Power in Mission, written by the African missiologist Harvey Kwiyani. Incidentally, the essay appeared in a new online journal called The Journal of Missional Practice. I was stunned by the honesty of this statement in the essay:

In this regard, I have always wondered about the authenticity of short-term mission trips to Africa and other parts of the world when most Western Christians do not see the non-Western Christians living in the ir own cities. If you cannot work with the African Christians in your own Western neighborhoods, the honesty of your short-term mission trips to Africa stands questionable.

Recently my seminary, SEBTS, held a colloquium on race in Southern Baptist life. The conclusion was striking. Our churches are still far too white. I couldn't agree more. Especially as someone who has invested a decade of work in the Horn of Africa, I am now more convinced than ever that if we do not seek greater integration in our churches here in America, we have no right to take short-term trips to Africa, as Dr. Kwiyani notes. My constant prayer is that the Lord would give us churches here on earth that look like the church in heaven (Rev. 5:7). As Roland Allen once wrote, "We have allowed racial and religious pride to direct our attitude towards those whom we have been wont to call 'heathen'" (Missionary Methods: St. Paul's Or Ours?, p. 142). "We have done everything for them except acknowledge any equality" (p. 143). Allen's quiet voice has a strange relevance for the church today.

8:07 AM Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers!

So, what are the most precious gifts for which an old man ought to thank God?

I have not the slightest doubt that the answer is: the blessing of God Himself. Everything else pales in comparison. Domestic happiness, public recognition, wealth and health -- the Trinity is in a different class from all other sources of happiness in life.

I suspect that I am not alone in thinking this way. I am childishly fond of a good meal, a happy fireside, a pleasant vista. To climb the Acropolis and marvel at the symmetry of the Parthenon, to ride camel-back to the pyramids of Sakhara in Egypt, to saunter through the ruins of ancient Rome, to linger in the streets of Paris, to marvel at the Great Wall of China or the Herodian fortress at Masada or the grand temples in eastern Korea or the ancient churches of southern India -- all these bring a kind of ephemeral happiness which, though merely passing, are still pleasures. I have always had a roof over my head, always food and family and friends, to say nothing of the joy of a good day's work whether in a classroom or in a hayfield. But that transcendent relationship we call "Christianity" -- that is something to be enjoyed and not to be talked about. I certainly have nothing to complain about under this heading.

The kingdom of God is a place of safety. When you love God first and others second, every other priority of life falls into its proper place. The true disciple of Jesus is someone who is most definitely not looking back. He is concentrating on where he is going and not where he has been. He is looking forward to the day when God will make all things new. Every day it becomes more and more crucial to me that I forget those things that are behind and reach forward to those things that are ahead. Small tasks remain to be done -- and maybe a few larger ones too.

I guarantee that no matter how old you are, God still has a new work He wants to do in your life. Tell Him you intend to keep on running the race set before you in such a way as to win the prize. Set high goals for yourself -- you'll never reach higher. Don't be afraid to make those really tough decisions that glorify Him. God can use you today to be a blessing to others around you. But following God's will doesn't happen automatically. That's because He has given us a choice as to whether we will seek His will and do what He says. We must decide. We must step out by faith. At this season of the year, perhaps a good place to start is by "giving thanks in all things" (1 Thess. 5:18). Thank the Lord for preserving you to this point in the race. Ask Him to guide your every step. Only He knows the way you should go. Align your heart with His, and watch Him bring your little dreams to fruition.

As for Becky and me, 36 years after I slipped a ring on her finger, we are still moving forward, still passionate about the Gospel, ever seeking new ways to serve King Jesus together. Because of Him, our best years are still ahead.

Now that's something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 21

7:15 PM Oh, you've just got to read the final paragraph in this blog post. It got me laughing. Out loud. I'm still laughing.

And to think that this "cute little gringo" is my personal assistant! 

5:58 PM When I was a student in Basel I read every volume of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics. Nobody asked me to. It was not a requirement. It was a joy. You may not always agree with Barth's conclusions, but his exegesis is well-nigh impeccable. Today you can purchase all 14 volumes of the original English edition of Barth's Church Dogmatics for a mere $89.99. That's $905 off the normal price. These volumes are not easy to read. Barth was a profound thinker and writer. But if you are tired of sugar-coated exegesis, you will not be disappointed with Barth.

5:54 PM In my book, Craig Bennett qualifies as a true "prayer warrior." (Believe me, I know). Thus, when he publishes anything about prayer, I sit up and listen. His latest post is no exception: Power of intercession. If you struggle with your prayer life as I do, learn from a master and read his essay. Craig does not merely "say prayers." Like Epaphras (Col. 4:22), he wrestles in prayer for others. I should know. He often sends us his prayers for Becky by email. He has been a great encouragement to me to keep on wrestling in prayer for Becky's healing. Most often my prayers are not noisy. My wrestling is usually done silently. But the conflict is unrelenting. There is a great battle going on here. And if I do not fight the battle, how can I ask others to join me?

Prayer is a dark mystery to me. But pray I must, and will. And to those of you who, like Craig, have enjoined the battle with me, may God bless you.

5:42 PM I guess it's okay to comment on your own blog post, because Jacob Cerone just did and thus cleared up for me the question I had asked earlier today.

HERE IS A QUOTE FROM PENNINGTON (I transcribed from the recording):

“In preparing for this, I thought I would go back and read many of the standard grammars of today that all of us use and see how they present the middle voice and particularly deponency. I’m happy to report that I was generally pleasantly surprised that there is actually more nuance and sensitivity in the way that most of these authors present middle voice and deponence. I think of Dan Wallace, Richard Young, and David Alan Black, in particular, that I looked at, and I would still disagree at a few crucial points. But I think that there is no need to be on the attack against the existing older grammars.”

So it's not that Dave Black is old, it's just that he's written an "older grammar." I can live with that.

Thank you so much for the clarification, Jacob. For a while there I was thinking that the best solution was to posit, in good scholarly fashion, the existence of a hypothecated document called Ur-Pennington. 

4:33 PM We've been getting the house ready for a few dinner guests tomorrow. Nigusse did a fantastic job of cleaning the front porch.

I tried my best to spiffy up the library.

The rest of the house has been vacuumed and cleaned. Now, I know some of you are thinking, What is Becky doing having dinner guests? Well, you see, she's had lots of help, and she is only preparing the turkey and ham, and she is letting the guests bring the rest of the fixings, and, well, you can't keep a good lady down.

Get the picture?

She promised me she wouldn't overdo it. And I am here to see that she doesn't!

1:48 PM Please help me! I am exegeting the following words in Jacob Cerone's latest post, which I linked to earlier today:

Pennington was also generous to the old grammarians. He specifically cites Dr. Black’s Learn to Read New Testament Greek and others and says that he was encouraged that they have treated the category with nuance lacking in previous grammars.

Now, my question is this:

Who is calling me an "old grammarian"?

Was it Jonathan Pennington himself -- das Sitz im Leben des Sprechenden?

Or was it Jacob -- das Sitz im Leben des Hörers?

Or was it someone in the seminar who might have spoken up but whose words are now lost to us -- das Sitz im Leben der Audienz?

Sure glad I studied source criticism in seminary so I could know the right questions to ask. Or perhaps, the best answer to the question "Is Dave Black old?" might be the line Cullmann was famous for: "Schon, noch nicht"!

12:32 PM More good stuff from the pen of Andy Bowden: Fluency in biblical languages.

Fluency, I think, is a key component that is missing in the teaching of biblical languages. Most (American) students who learn the biblical languages can only speak their mother tongue (English). They have probably had four years of high school Spanish, which they studied because they had to, and have all but forgotten it. Personally, I’m finding that the process of learning to speak and communicate in German has greatly improved my Greek (I am currently living in Munich, Germany). Learning to speak this language has pointed out rough edges and sloppy areas in my biblical languages; it has created a greater precision in my approach to Greek. I wonder how the process of learning biblical languages would be different if students could draw from fluency in a second language.

12:20 PM In light of Jacob Cerone's latest blog post (We've Killed Deponency! Where Next?), I make the following offer: If you, dear Greek teacher/student, will take the time to read my discussion of deponency in Learn to Read New Testament Greek and tell me how you would change anything I've said there, I will promise to turn it to the improvement of my grammar. I am asking for your help. If you need a copy of the section covering "deponency" and the middle voice, I will be happy to send it to you as a pdf.

FYI: Here's Jacob's synopsis of the discussion over "deponency" at this year's SBL meeting in Chicago:

The session was interesting. I thought it was a little rash to pronounce deponency dead. I just showed up to this party; but it turns out the party has dragged on like a bad SNL sketch. For this reason, I’m not capable of providing a lucid account of the proceedings here. Instead, I will give a few highlights.

Pennington argued that the MP forms communicate subject effectedness.

Deponency was never a category Greeks used to explain “deponent” verbs. It only came around after extensive contact with the Latin language.

Pennington was also generous to the old grammarians. He specifically cites Dr. Black’s Learn to Read New Testament Greek and others and says that he was encouraged that they have treated the category with nuance lacking in previous grammars.

I will conclude with this. I eagerly await Dr. Black’s Advanced Greek Grammar class. We will be discussing current issues in Greek Grammar. On second thought, Dr. Black, I’m not sure if you intended to address the matter of deponency next semester…you might want to reconsider… it isn’t all that current anymore…its…well…dead.

12:02 PM Update here from Henry Neufeld on Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? Grateful to work with publishers who put ministry above profits.

11:53 AM Nice serendipity: While I was driving into town to do some grocery shopping for Becky, NPR's the Diane Rehm Show was interviewing the author of a new book on the world's 5 "Blue Zones" -- places known for their longevity. (One of them, by the way, is the Seventh Day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California.) Commonalties?

1) A healthy, plant-based diet. (Yes, some meat, especially pork, is consumed, but mostly fresh vegetables.)

2) Regular exercise. (Not as part of an "exercise regime" but as part of daily life -- working in the garden, say.)

3) Regular naps. (I totally agree here!)

and the most important of all:

4) A supportive eco-system based on faith and family.

The latter point struck me. If there's one thing these societies have in common it's that their elderly are valued. Most Americans celebrate youth. Blue Zones celebrate age. Elders are respected and loved. They are cared for, not by an institution, but by their own family members who are directly involved in their daily care. As one centenarian said when she was interviewed, "I wake up every morning knowing that I am loved. But more than that, that I am needed." The interviewer went on to state that Blue Zone centenarians had a "purpose-based vocabulary." That is, they had a reason to live.

So, how am I doing? I have aging in-laws. How often do I tell them I love them? How often do I visit them? How often should I call them? (Personally, when your parents get into their mid-80s, I don't think a daily call is too frequent.) Am I celebrating with them their little daily successes? Am I there for them when they need me?

These questions challenge and haunt me. I know I can do better. I must do better.

As for Becky, I think the one thing that is keeping her going is her strong sense that God still has work for her to do down here. I know, too, that your cards, emails, and phone calls make a huge difference. Can we do better? Probably. But thank you, yes thank you, for trying, for reaching out, for making us feel loved -- and needed.

10:45 AM Earlier today I spoke of Harold Greenlee and his wonderful talent for taking complicated subjects and making them understandable to the common Christian. For me, Harold was a role model of what a New Testament scholar should be. As I said in the preface to the Festschrift I edited in his honor, Harold masterfully combined the best of humanitas and pietas.

He was a great New Testament scholar but he was first and foremost a Christian gentleman who had a heart for the world that Christ Jesus came to die for. He did not see or feel a dichotomy between the two callings. Neither do I. Ultimately, my scholarship means nothing unless it is placed at the feet of King Jesus in service to His followers, be they present or prospective disciples. The whole is evangelism, if you will, and discipleship. Now, I am not saying that I have always held these two callings in balance. Nor am I saying that I am always right or that all of my answers to questions of biblical interpretation are correct. What I am saying is that the New Testament scholar and the New Testament churchman can and ought to be one and the same person. It has got to be the whole man giving his whole effort to the whole task. To me there is a unity of callings that goes beyond being a "scholar" on the one hand and a "churchman" or "missionary" on the other. Unless I am greatly mistaken, this is the point Mark Stevens is trying to make in his response to Brian LePort (Does the Church Need, Or Want Academics?). Yes, indeed! The church needs and wants academics, living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the whole of life and not just in their private offices. In fact, I wonder if "New Testament scholarship" that does not lead people to come to Christ or to obey Him in a greater way can be called New Testament scholarship. Scholarship, perhaps, but not New Testament scholarship. To me, there is no such thing as New Testament scholarship that does not touch all of life.

I am so grateful today for men and women like Harold Greenlee who sought (and, to a great degree) achieved that delicate balance between humanitas and pietas. Our minds are so made that we often think in terms of antithesis. But when one sees a true synthesis, when one discovers a truly integrated soul, I think this is cause for great rejoicing.

9:24 AM Pedagogy quote of the century (source):

...teachers have to be willing to relinquish some of the "talking" time. When teachers teach, they should do audibly what they encourage students to do in papers. Use the amount of words necessary to communicate the material the best possible way...and not much more.

Teachers, read Stop Acting Like You're the Only One in the Classroom. And then do it!

9:14 AM As you know, Jacob Cerone has been discussing the place of the Living Language approach in the teaching of Koine Greek (Where to Set the Bar in Biblical Languages).  I thought Andy Bowden's comment was profound:

Just a thought: I’m finding that the process of learning to speak and communicate in German has greatly improved my Greek. Learning to speak a language has pointed out rough edges and sloppy areas in my biblical languages; it has created a greater precision in my approach to Greek. I wonder how the process of learning biblical languages would be different if students could draw from fluency in a second language (and no, 4 years of [American] High school Spanish does not count).

Andy, you are so right. If I could make just one recommendation to anyone who wants to master the Greek of the New Testament, it would be this: Learn a modern foreign language. Nothing will increase your facility to translate more than that. Nothing will make you more careful with the way you handle words and concepts. Nothing will make you more linguistically oriented in your entire approach to language.

So, can you speak a modern foreign language with a high level of fluency? If not, why not? I repeat: Nothing will increase your ability to understand and translate Koine Greek more than that.

9:02 AM Thomas Hudgins sent me a list of changes in the new NA 28.  (Thank you, Thomas!) As everyone knows, the only differences between NA 27 and NA 28 occur in the Catholic Epistles. And even here the changes are few and far between. Of course, all of this is absolutely unimportant for the serious student of the Greek New Testament. Students, it is irrelevant which reading is printed above the line and which reading is printed below the line. It matters not which reading scholars have relegated to the textual apparatus. A Greek New Testament with an apparatus is nothing more than a repository of readings. I repeat: A Greek New Testament with an apparatus is nothing more than a repository of readings. You, the student, are the decision-maker when it comes to deciding the reading you will teach and preach. You, the student, are in the driver's seat of text-critical decisions.

When I was in seminary, I was taught to accept the reading printed above the line, the "assured results" of scholarship. Of course, I had been ill-trained to do anything else. That's why textual criticism is part and parcel of my Greek 3 (syntax and exegesis) course. How could it be otherwise? It's hard for me to understand how an evangelical, Bible-believing church can fail to get pumped up about the text of the New Testament. The embarrassment of riches we have today should make us overwhelmingly excited. Nevertheless, even with all of the helps available to us today, New Testament textual criticism is hardly an exact science. It behooves us all to learn the tools of the trade in this field, and to become our own researchers to the degree God enables us. But there is never a time or place when it is proper to surrender one's intellect to the guild.

At this point I would suggest you read one of the basic guides to New Testament textual criticism available today, including Harold Greenlee's masterful Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism or my own New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. These books are accessible and readable. Their goal is to equip and empower you to do your own study in the Greek text of the New Testament. Our primary calling is to truth as it is rooted in Scripture. But the search for truth takes place in community, a community in which all of us should be participants, not merely observers. I want to invite you to become involved personally in this exciting task.

Tuesday, November 20

6:10 PM Very impressive study of participles in Philippians here

4:38 PM Let's see... been a long day. While Becky was having her blood work done and her drain removed, I had to sit in the waiting room listening, ad nauseum, to Christmas music. Christmas before Thanksgiving. Does that qualify for insanity? I spoke many silent prayers during that time. Hours later, when Becky finally emerged, the first words out of her mouth were, "Well, did you hear me scream?" Actually, I hadn't. The long and short of it is that her drain came out most reluctantly, you might say, and, yes, she felt it. On the drive home I kept pondering what had happened. I had prayed and prayed for the absence of pain, but I had always qualified my intercession with the words, "if it's Your will." I suppose in a perfect world all would have gone painlessly. But in a sin-marred world, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. Why not me? Why couldn't I have had the cancer? The stroke? The stomach perforation? I don't know why. But He does. And when Becky screamed, did He not scream along with her? Yes! I'm sure He did. He feels our every weakness. And right now I am weak. Right now my faith is being tested, again, for the umpteenth time, as if the questions will never go away and the soul-searching will never cease. Yet there is a peace. He is my Peace. And hers. Thanks be to God.

Sweetheart, the countertops look great. I knew you would want to see a pic.

I love you, honey.

8:36 AM Off to have the drain taken out at UNC. The first one hurt. So say a prayer, will you, that there'll be less pain this time around. Thank you!

8:33 AM If you haven't read Joel's SBL paper yet, what are you waiting for? It is simply outstanding. His peroration:

I want to close this paper by suggesting that those scholars who are standing in the educational space beckon their colleagues into the open field, to get a blog, to get a co-blog, or even to make regular contributions to current blogs. We do not expect you to be our teachers for even less than you are making in now; but you will be in the educational space known as the internet. We will be in your classroom, awaiting your posts. We will buy your books; we will engage you; we will praise or disparage you, Tom Wright or Tom Wrong. Some of us will be unappreciative of you while some of us will wait up all night, sitting in a corner, awaiting you to comment back to us. But, you will be in this educational space. Here, perhaps, you will learn as much from one another and from us as we learn from you.

The message is simple. Student/teacher of the Bible, if you aren't blogging, you need to start. Today. It's just that important.

7:56 AM This will come as no surprise to anyone who has read the book of Philippians: Selflessness Leads to Spiritual Maturity

"We saw most say they were serving in some way, but far too many are sitting down on the job – particularly when the Bible says everyone should ' . . . use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God' (1 Peter 4:10; HCSB). There is a huge gap between this passage and most churches' practice."

This is a report by Southern Baptists, and Southern Baptists would do well to heed its call. If we want to see the laity released into service, we should ask ourselves what we would be willing to do to make this happen. Would our churches be radical enough to change the order of our Sunday morning services and allow for greater participation from the Body? Spectatorism will not go away until we confront it head-on. Neither will passivism. Leaders, why not try it? It may rock your boat. In fact, it may tip you out completely.

Monday, November 19

9:28 PM Tonight I'm enjoying the world's greatest WW 2 escape story, Free As a Running Fox. Tommy Calnan made four escapes from the clutches of his German captors, the last of which was successful. His book is dedicated "to the 50" -- the airmen shot by Hitler's henchmen after their escape from Stalag Luft 3 in Sagan in March of 1944. A Cambridge University historian has taken up the mantel of trying to recreate that Great Escape. You'll find his work fascinating. I often think of what it would be like to visit the actual site of the former POW camp in Poland.

While you're at The Telegraph, here's a story that caught my eye, being the child of divorce: Children suffer effects of parents' divorce into adult life - study. No surprises here. And yet, don't we all have odds we've had to overcome?

See you tomorrow.

7:52 PM Just a word of appreciation to my Th.M. student Jacob Cerone, whose blogging from Chicago has been outstanding and ever so much better than the pabulum being offered by more experienced bibliobloggers. Each of his entries has been meaty, au courant, and just plain interesting.

Now if we could only convince him to take more pix.

6:28 PM Exciting news:

1) Tomorrow the kitchen counter top will be installed at Maple Ridge. And I remember when we were gutting the floors. My, how tempus fugits when you're having fun.

2) I will take Becky back to UNC tomorrow morning and she will hopefully have her Jackson-Pratt drain taken out. Finally. One small step for mankind but a giant leap for us.

3) Henry Neufeld wrote to inform me that he is willing to slash the price of Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? to the bones in honor of Black Friday -- er, just because he's a nice guy.

6:07 PM Thank you, Miss Mary and Miss Kim, for the wonderful meal you brought with you today, along with those unforgettable smiles. As you can probably imagine, I'm beginning to get fat, but no one will notice, as gluttony is the one sin we Baptists love to overlook.

1:20 PM A thousand thanks to my good friend and provost Bruce Ashford for his shout out today: David Alan Black on Global Missions

Black’s book is not an academic treatise, but a personal challenge: “will you join the cause of global missions?” It is written in such a manner that it will connect not only with pastors or seminary students, but also Sunday schools and small groups who are seeking to better apply their lives to the Great Commission.

Readers, please check with the publisher Henry Neufeld for discounts:

And, while you're at it, you can keep up with Team Guyana here.

12:47 PM Today was fence mending time. Literally. I had taken down more of the external fence line than I had intended to, so we needed to reset the cedars and reattach the woven wire fencing. Not having wire stretchers (and being too cheap to rent a pair for such a short job) we jury-rigged the wire to Robbie's truck, and it did the trick. Thus, once again all 123 acres are fenced in.

As for Becky, she's hanging in there. We've been trying all day to get her into UNC to have her Jackson-Pratt drain removed but to no avail. Maybe tomorrow or Wednesday. She had some stomach issues earlier today but was able to enjoy some chicken soup and milk. Right now we're working on getting a new water heater for Maple Ridge. Tomorrow the countertops are to be installed, Lord willing.

So work -- and life -- go on :)

10:38 AM The handwringing has begun over Black Friday and how capitalistic our society has become. Why we even have "early Black Friday [ = Thanksgiving Day] deals." I imagine a good number of the handwringers are the same people who lavish gifts upon their friends and relatives at Christmas time. Becky and I haven't brought each other -- or anyone else for that matter -- a Christmas gift in years. Well, it's not OUR birthday, you know. No tree either. The money thus saved goes to fund our trips abroad, which aren't cheap.

For what it's worth, I think some of the church's worst sins are being peddled in caricatures in pulpits and religious bookstores across the nation.

10:23 AM Much truth here:

Source. (Do read this essay, won't you?)

10:16 AM Looking for some good books to read over the holidays? Here is my list of the:

Ten Best Books for Studying New Testament Greek.

You can also read the list in Spanish:

Los Diez Mejores Libros para el Estudio del Griego Nuevo Testamento.

FYI: None of my own books made the list :) 

8:46 AM Contest time again! A free copy of Why Four Gospels? to the blogger who can tell us why he or she thinks this book is important for Gospel research. A brief post on your blog will do. If more than one of you responds, the first two bloggers to post their comments will get a gratis copy (based on the time stamp on their blogs). Contest deadline is 6:00 pm today (EST).

7:55 AM Noted Methodist blogger Henry Neufeld ponders the question, How to cure the UMC? He asks:

How much time needs to go into preserving the organization? Is such time well spent? Those are questions that concern me these days.

For what it's worth, Henry, I once pondered a similar question regarding my own denomination. The bottom of the bottom line for me?

I came away from the convention with a new realization that a Great Commission resurgence will not begin at the denominational level. It will end there. A Great Commission commitment must begin in our homes and marriages, and then in our local churches, each one of them. This is clearly the pattern of the book of Acts. The church at Antioch, the world's first missional church, is proof of that.

I hope that all of this gets sorted out at the denomination level (and I predict that it will, eventually). But even if it doesn't, there is nothing to keep me and my local church from doing all we can to help advance God's kingdom on earth.

7:24 AM I noted in the latest SNTS newsletter that several New Testament scholars were elected into membership during August's meeting, including John Byron (Ashland Theological Seminary), Roy Ciampa (Gordon-Conwell), Matthew Gordley (Regent University Divinity School), and Peter Williams (Tyndale House, Cambridge). Congratulations, one and all. There is no very tangible glory attached to this honor, but it is very pleasant to be remembered by one's fellow scholars in this way. I am proud to say that my Basel Doktorvater, Professor Bo Reicke, once served as the president of the society. I am still hoping to be able to attend the annual meeting next year in Perth, which would make it my first trip ever Down Under.

7:13 AM Fellow Greek students, have you had a chance yet to read Jacob Cerone's blog post called Where to Set the Bar in Biblical Languages? It asks some very interesting and provocative questions. Jacob writes:

My Greek is pathetic considering the number of semesters I have taken. But is the solution learning to hear, speak, and compose Greek? Is it our goal to revive a dead language. I understand that being able to think in a language is instrumental in understanding it. But the language is dead. There are no remaining speakers of koine Greek. The conversation has stopped. Anything that modern day “speakers” of koine compose will, by definition, be artificial.

Perhaps I could make a brief comment.

Have you ever noticed how easy is it for us scholars to mount one subject and ride round and round on it without being able to dismount? One such theme today is this: no one really knows Koine Greek unless he or she is able to speak it. Upon this excellent morality all the variations of forceful argumentation come into play. Teachers who know Greek much better than I do but who cannot speak the language might be imagined to have just squandered their lives away!

It is only fair to say that I am not at all unsympathetic to this call to conversation. I made myself clear on the subject when I was asked about it at the Criswell College a couple of months back. "What do you think of Daniel Streett and his approach to teaching Greek conversationally?" My reply was simply, "I don't use it myself, but I wish him every success." But after all, I was there to lecture on the discourse structure of a New Testament book, not as a purveyor of pedagogy. I suspect that the Living Language Method will prove less effective than its proponents claim, yet it is easy for a traditionalist like myself to be deluded as to the actual impressions made on the minds of students. I imagine there are some pretty striking differences between the modes of presentation of a Daniel Streett or a Randall Buth and a Dave Black. Greek students sitting on a hillside in Galilee asking themselves in Koine Greek "What is this?" seem a different order of beings from those in my classroom who can be heard rattling off person-number suffixes. Or maybe I am exaggerating the differences? As I said at Criswell, I suppose the proof of the pudding will be one's ability to soundly exegete a text of Scripture. That said, I wish the Living Language folk well, and (I suppose) Jacob does also. But I will let him have the last word:

The bar should be raised. Why are we not reading more Greek? Why are we not building vocabulary? Will we not be able to better understand the structure of koine Greek by forcing ourselves to read koine literature widely?

Sunday, November 18

4:42 PM Did I mention that Becky just got Nigusse registered for the spring semester? He will take three courses: Intro to Christian Ethics, Hebrew Syntax and Exegesis, and (of course) the LXX class. I will be teaching 2 sections of Greek 2, Advanced Greek Grammar, and co-teaching the LXX class with Bob Cole -- i.e., four courses instead of my usual three.

It's amazing when you think that Nigusse is almost half way through his M.Div. program.

4:36 PM Photo update:

1) I picked these roses for Becky this morning. The rose bush came from her mother. We think of her whenever we see these beautiful flowers.

2) My job du jour was to walk the fence line (all 123 acres worth) and post new signs, now that hunting season has started.

3) I don't know if I ever showed you a picture of the live creek that runs through the farm.

4) As you are aware, a couple of months ago the East Coast was hit by a huge wind and rain storm that caused a great deal of damage to homes and property all up and down the coast. This gate used to sit 300 yards to the north of where I found it today, a victim of the storm of the decade.


5) Finally, what would life be like without friends? Here the Prices and Miss Mary stop by to deliver Sunday dinner.

And a most delicious supper it was. Thank you!

9:54 AM Just cleaned the kitchen. "The work of a Beethoven, and the work of a charwoman, become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being humble 'as to the Lord'" (C. S. Lewis, Transposition and Other Essays).

9:08 AM This and that ...

1) We'll be staying home today. B's not strong enough to attend church -- yet. That day will come :)

2) Allow me to join Paul Himes in congratulating Joe Greene on his successful dissertation defense at SEBTS. His dissertation title? "The Realization of the Heavenly Temple in John's Gospel: Jesus and the Spirit."

3) "No Wait, No Weight." That's what Eisenbrauns is calling its PDF books, which they are now selling at SBL/AAR. Ya gotta love it.

4) Speaking of the annual conference, I vote for Honolulu as the venue for the next SBL. I volunteer to give free surfing lessons.

Saturday, November 17

6:00 PM Today I would have been flying to Guyana with the SEBTS team. But I have no regrets or complaints. As I told Becky this evening, "I am right where I want to be, here by your side." I remember so vividly sitting in the ED at Halifax Regional Hospital when Becky was first diagnosed with a perforated stomach (or perforated bowel, or whatever -- they weren't too sure what was perforated at the time). I suspected then this would turn out to be one of the wildest adventures of our married life, and I was right. Today she is able to get out of bed on her own, and I'm struck all over again at just how awesome our God is. Becky and I are incredibly close, despite the fact that we so are different and have completely different backgrounds. I am now, more than ever, convinced that God is not through with us yet as a married couple. I am, also, more thankful than ever. 

5:44 PM Becky's doing good. Or better. The day started out rough. It seems we have one good day followed by a not-so-good day. As I type she's laughing and enjoying talking with her mom and dad in Dallas. Did I tell you her temperature is back to normal again? Praise the Lord -- and thank you for praying. Yes, I know you pray. You love her as I do.

Not as much, though :)

3:32 PM This morning, when I awoke, I knew it would be one of those perfect fall days, with no trace of cloud in the sky and every blade of grass covered with a silver crust of frozen fog. The temperature was in the 40s but was improving rapidly as the sun rose higher above the horizon. It was obvious by 9:00 am that the weather would be perfect for working outdoors.

Caleb and Rob, both seminarians, showed up just then to begin their work of helping me clear the Rabbit Ear Fields, which had grown a bit unsightly through the years and desperately needed a haircut.

Here's Rob wielding his Farm Boss.

Ditto for Caleb.

Nigu and I did the grunt work of removing branches and stumps.

Then it was time for me to get out my trusty old razor blade (bushhog) and get to work trimming the edges.

Et voila! Looks a bit neater, wouldn't you say?

Makes a very nice backdrop to this very old barn (ca. 1790).

Maple Ridge is also getting a facelift, as you know. Here she is in all her glory. Not bad for an old house (ca. 1820).

That's all, folks! 

8:12 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Fellow Energion author Robert Cornwall talks about his forthcoming book, God Is In This Place: Becoming a Spirit-Empowered Church That Touches the World with the Love of God. He asks:

Whether you believe that God intervenes in the affairs of this world from outside or not, can you conceive of the possibility that there are events in time and space that reveal to us the presence and power of God? Can you envision points in time where the presence and work of God is revealed in tangible ways?

Yes, Bob, yes, in so many ways. Looking forward to reading your book.

2) Today a couple of seminary students are headed to the farm to help me clear some woods and do some bushhogging. I hope they don't work me too hard.

3) The end of Twinkies? Maybe we should end them in our sermons too.

4) "The evangelical subculture, which prizes conformity above all, doesn't suffer rebels gladly, and it is especially intolerant of anyone with the temerity to challenge the shibboleths of the Religious Right." Randall Balmer.

5) Grant Osborne will be honored with a well-deserved Festschrift.

Friday, November 16

7:20 PM One of my favorite bloggers does it again. Read Talking about the Millennial Generation. The money quote:

Just as Paul rejected getting paid for evangelizing because it was a stumbling block and a barrier to the Gospel, we need to tone down our political activism on both sides of the spectrum so that people don’t see an elephant or a donkey when they talk to us, they see Jesus.

It is more than an embarrassment for the evangelical church in America that we have gone forth into the world with gun and Bible, flag and cross. By the grace of God, I desire that my faith extend toward everything – my family, my country, my church, and all that has to do with the spiritual kingdom that Christ is building on this dreadful planet. Moment by moment, I am learning to be utterly dependent upon Him and committed to His "Gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15), not the idol of Americanism.

7:12 PM Here's Nigusse's fiancée, Netsanet.

She is currently experiencing a bout of malaria and could use our prayers. We love you Netsanet! We're praying for you! Papa B.

7:06 PM Greek students, here's yet another very useful online resource that I urge you to take advantage of: NT Greek Studies. A word of warning: Don't get lost -- there are so many interesting tangents to follow!

6:24 PM Tonight I'm sitting here thinking back to last summer, to my trip to Ethiopia (my 16th), to the crazy, zany, committed people I went with, people who would give everything to see the Light come to the Horn of Africa.

God is so good to me to allow me to know these people. I want you to see their faces, to feel the love they have, to get a visual of what it means to be a missionary in Africa.

There is no way I can ever fathom how much my Father loves me. The Love that opens doors for service. The Love that brings us to our knees. The Love that fills us as we pour ourselves out again and again.

Most of you know that Becky and I are fulltime missionaries to Ethiopia, even though we do not actually live in that country. One of the hardest things about being a missionary is spending time on "home assignment."

But I've got to remember that all ministry, whether of word or deed, whether there or here, is equally acceptable and pleasing to God as long as it is motivated by love.

Speaking about missions is a good start, whether in my classes or when I am invited to be a guest speaker in a church somewhere. No one better than a missionary can inspire people to a life of sacrifice for Jesus.

Our Ethiopia team members do an exceptional job of presenting missions in churches, clubs, and even public schools. Some are mechanics, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, but they each have a dramatic story to tell.

None of us is a "professional," but that hasn't intimated us in the least. We tell it like it is, good and bad, though we emphasize the positive simply because there is so much positive to report.

Being on "home assignment" is also an excellent opportunity for assessment -- taking stock of what has happened in the past and what lies ahead. Setting goals and objectives is an on-going process.

Has there been a "return on investment"? (The investor, of course, is God.) Have the results been God-honoring? What concerns need to be dealt with? Is the fruit "remaining"?

Success in each of these areas can be measured. But however we answer these questions, the bottom line is that "success" for a missionary is measured primarily by obedience to God's leading every day, whether one is in Ethiopia or Virginia.

I've never met anyone who has served Jesus as a missionary say that he or she regrets the experience. The missional life is a life that makes a difference. It's the greatest adventure and challenge in the world. It is the book of Acts being lived out in Technicolor.

Peter Wagner once said, "Once you ask Jesus Christ to take control of your life, involvement in world missions is no longer optional."

As I understand missions, the greatest need today is not to do the work of church planting. There are already churches in Ethiopia, in China, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Iran even.

We make the greatest difference, I think, by coming alongside our Christian brothers and sisters and partnering with them with our prayers, our pocketbooks, and, when possible, our presence.

"Wait a minute, Dave," you say. "I thought you were a Greek professor, not a missionary!" In a sense you're right. But we must not neglect the one for the other.

 Teaching Greek may be my job, but the Great Commission is my business. Fulltime.

The call to be a disciple-maker is our chief calling as Christians, whatever our specific employment night be. We are all called to "go and bear fruit -- fruit that will last" (John 15:16).

"If you love me," said Jesus, "you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). And that is the heart of the matter.

Our God is a sending God. "As the Father sent me, I am sending you" (John 20:21). Every Christian is sent, just as Jesus was sent.

If you are a genuine Christian, you are a missionary.

We are called to go even if it is only to the next block. The only question is: Are we going?

So, who does God use? These pictures have told us. He uses you and me -- but only if we give Him permission to do so.

Have you ever consciously chosen to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus? If not, perhaps this prayer will help you take that first step.

Dear Lord Jesus, I confess that I have loved my life more than I have loved you. I have failed to live that sacrificial lifestyle that you want me to live. Beginning this moment, I am willing to accept inconvenience and even suffering if necessary to serve you. All that I have and all that I am is now yours.


4:50 PM And now for a lesson from my surfing days in Hawaii.

Did you know that surfing is about 80 percent doing things other than riding waves? In other words, about 80 percent of "surfing" is actually spent either paddling out, waiting for a wave, or else swimming like crazy trying to retrieve your board (this was before leashes became popular). But the 80 percent made the other 20 percent possible -- and worth it. I mean, really worth it. Likewise, love has a price tag. A huge price tag. Gain comes only through loss, joy through sorrow, fulfillment by being unfulfilled, life out of death. And, may I add, it means giving up control of your circumstances. Like waiting for a set of waves, you must be patient. In fact, there are no promises the waves will ever come. You must accept, positively and proactively, whatever is given. If God is in control of our lives (and He surely is), then whatever is given to us is subject to His control and is meant ultimately for our good.

Husband, wife. What are you waiting for? Patience doesn't seem to accomplish much. But we can be sure that God is at work. So let Him finish the work He's begun in your marriage. I've got to believe that He's not going to let you just sit there forever.

1:30 PM Here's a wonderful post called Growing Older Gracefully. I cannot help but respond with a prayer of my own.

Lord, forgive me for being afraid of aging, for trying to hang on to health. Help me to realize what my real needs are, that beauty is more than external, and can only come from You. I am blessed to have so many older saints who love me and pray for me. Together, we are all on the same journey, but they are perhaps closer to Home. I glimpse, through their eyes, the startling brevity of life, the tremendous importance of doing now what I think I can postpone. Thank you, God, for the older saints in my life. May I take time to tell them how much they mean to me.


9:40 AM Just prepping you for the LXX course:  

Μακάριος ἀνήρ, ὃς οὐκ ἐπορεύθη ἐν βουλῇ ἀσεβῶν καὶ ἐν ὁδῷ ἁμαρτωλῶν οὐκ ἔστη καὶ ἐπὶ καθέδραν λοιμῶν οὐκ ἐκάθισεν, ἀλλ ἢ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ κυρίου τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτοῦ μελετήσει ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός.

8:17 AM If you're new here, just a reminder: There is indeed an "un-RSS feed" for my "unblog."

8:02 AM Can Wesleyans learn anything from Calvinists? Much in every way.

7:58 AM Quote of the day (Keith Essex):

In a zealous effort to be extremely accurate in explanation of Scripture with constant references to Hebrew and Greek, a young preacher can inadvertently create some anxiety in his church members by undermining trust in their own English Bibles. It may also engender feelings of inadequacy for those not trained in the languages.

Thank you, Thomas, for sharing it with us. My own advice? Leave the dust and debris of the workplace behind when you begin teaching. People aren't even faintly interested in "the aorist passive imperative." They are interested in 1) what the text is saying, and 2) what it is telling us to do. 

Of course, rules are meant to be broken occasionally!

7:43 AM How do you build genuine community in a church?

Jesus' disciples enjoyed community simply because Jesus and not a set of dogmas was at the center of their life. They never tried to "build community." They didn't have to. Community was the result of being united in the Christian mission; community emerged naturally when they committed themselves to something bigger than themselves. And so it is in the church today. It is my personal observation that most Christians begin to enjoy genuine community only when they begin to serve the poor, evangelize the lost, and plant churches. The glue that unites them is the missional task of loving their neighbors. A shared sense of mission drives them to community. Their congregations are mission-shaped. Like Jesus, they literally go. For them the Bible, not tradition, is normative, and they hold themselves accountable to each other in love even while they work closely with the surrounding neighborhood, developing strong links between Christians and not-yet Christians.

From Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?

Thursday, November 15

8:22 PM Have you listened to Biblical Hebrew being read lately? I just love this site. Listen and enjoy!

8:15 PM Can you believe it? It's contest time again!

But not mine:

Email me with your answers at and win a free copy of Dr. Black’s Using New Testament Greek in Ministry: A Practical Guide for Students and Pastors.

Hey, a free book, just for having fun! Check it out here.

7:52 PM My personal assistant Thomas Hudgins and I have written an essay called "Jesus on Anger (Matt 5,22a): A History of Recent Scholarship." It will appear early next year in a major Festschrift for a good friend and colleague in Spain. In 1992, H. Scharen wrote:

The Greek text of this verse [Matt 5:22] has no variant readings deserving serious consideration.

We would respectfully disagree with this assessment. Did Jesus forbid all anger or only anger "without cause"? This is not an unimportant question. By the way, ours has been a cooperative venture. Working with Thomas has been a fun and enjoyable project. I hope to do more of this -- much more -- in the years ahead as I train up a new generation of scholar-teachers to replace old fuddy-duddies like me. If Paul could have his Tertius (Rom. 16:22), I guess I can have my Thomas.

A final thought: Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, Sextus, Septimus, Octavius, Nonus, Decimus-- all of these Roman names are actually numerals. Seems a bit odd to us today perhaps, but I do have a brother-in-law named Quinton!

7:25 PM Our Becky has a slightly elevated temperature. I'll be monitoring it closely over the course of the next few days. Thank you, thank you, for praying.

Thank you, God, for our physical bodies. For all they can feel and do and touch and sense. For the sweet satisfaction of walking and working and relaxing. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, as You said.

Lord, Becky's body is hurt, scarred, battered. Oh Christ, bless those who have performed her surgery, even though it has weakened her body and made it susceptible to disease and infection. Now please heal and correct and ward off the threats. Let Becky rise from her sick bed with new energy, courage, and optimism. Help us both to remember that when life itself seems too much, You are always there for us. Tonight, as we lay down to sleep, let us flow softly and gently into Your healing rest.

In the powerful name of Jesus I do pray,


5:15 PM A Thursday shout out to one of my Greek students, Landon Metts, who is a published author. Here's proof:

I love that title. He and I have agreed to swap books. Looking forward to reading your tome, Landon.

4:58 PM Greek students, a reminder: Jacob Cerone has produced a set of fantastic vocabulary flash cards for my beginning grammar. You can find them here. You will need to find the section that says "Sets (92)" then scroll down. Try them -- you might like them! 

4:46 PM More reasons to love the Anabaptists:

Over the span of 31 years of teaching my understanding of the Christian faith and politics has changed in several significant ways. One of the most important is that I have come to identify myself not so much with the Reformers of the sixteenth century but rather with the Anabaptist dissenters whom they opposed (often to the death) – those simple men and women who believed that the church needed, not reforming, but rebuilding from the ground up. This process of rebuilding involved more than merely insisting upon believers (or adult) baptism as the only legitimate form of baptism. Of far greater significance was the fact that the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century, precisely because they held to believers baptism, taught that it was necessary for the church to be completely separate from the state, since the state included all members of society. Moreover, because in their theology the church consisted only of believers, the Anabaptists were convinced that every Christian was a Gospel missionary and therefore must preach and evangelize in order to bring people to faith. Indeed, since Christ had commanded His followers to love even their enemies, it was impossible for a Christian to restrict love and service only to fellow Christians.

From The Jesus Paradigm.

2:33 PM Want to help me solve a mystery?

Okay, put your thinking caps on -- you're going to need them.

Today I ran errands in town, one of which was to stop by Food Lion and do some shopping for Thanksgiving Day. Here's part of the list Becky gave me:

Note carefully the third item from the top:

packages of disg (2-3)

Can you guess what that means? Neither could I. So I stopped and asked an employee, and he didn't know either. Then it occurred to me: You need to ask a woman, dummy. And sure enough: After about 10 minutes of some serious cogitation she was able to decipher the riddle for me. At first she examined the entire list for clues about Becky's handwriting, so as to be sure we had correctly identified the disputed letters. That didn't help. The next step in her logic was to ask herself if there was any rhyme or reason to the order of the items in the list. And that's when the light bulb came on. The mystery word was:


Which, of course, stands for "dressing." See it now? Becky needed 2-3 packages of dressing (also called stuffing). The giveaway? The word "celery" of course.

So that was my excitement for the day. While in town I also took Nigusse in for his perfunctory haircut (a home cut is not good enough for him). I think Wayne the Barber enjoys preening over Nigu as much as Nigu enjoys being preened  over.

Finally, since Becky is feeling a bit stronger, I am able to return to my much-needed duties as the official Gofer of Maple Ridge. A pile of trash needed to be collected and gotten rid of, and who better to do that job than the world's greatest klutz?

Today I am working on two writing projects that must be completed by mid-January. One is an invited essay on the kingdom of God for the Southeastern Journal of Theology. The other is an essay on Greek for a new Bible encyclopedia. So students, you are not the only ones with writing deadlines.

9:42 AM This and that ...

1) "It is a great thing to be on the mount with God, and the mountains are meant for inspiration and meditation; but one is taken there only to go down afterwards among the demon-possessed and lift them up." Oswald Chambers.

2) This looks like a very interesting debate: Is Modern Israel a Fulfillment of Bible Prophecy? I am thinking about ordering the DVD, but I would first like to know if anyone has watched it. If so, would you recommend it?

3) It's been a while since my last shout out to my good friend Kevin Brown, whose daughter Katy was married last Saturday. (See Kevin's blog for a full report.) Nigusse was able to attend the ceremony and brought back these beautiful pictures.

I have greatly enjoyed getting to know the Brown family through the years. God opened the door for Kevin and Katy to travel to Ethiopia with us more than once. So grateful for you guys.

Congratulations, Katy and Josh!

4) Another takeaway from the book of Ephesians (which Becky and I have been reading in our morning devotionals). Paul says we are to "pray at all times, as the Spirit leads." That is a profound thought. Prayer has to cease being a do-it-yourself activity. If the Holy Spirit isn't praying, neither should I be praying. At the same time, I cannot pray unless the Spirit is praying (Rom. 8:26-27). Prayer, then, is sort of an inter-Trinitarian process in which God speaks to Himself through me. Do I understand how that works? No. But I want to learn what it means to "pray in the Spirit." Even when, like Job, I cry out against God to challenge Him. I've simply got to talk it Him. Especially in times of disappointment and trouble. I'm learning that to ask God to bless the day, no matter how bad that day is going, is somehow to improve it. Prayer allows me to tap into a mysterious source of energy. With God, there are no walls. He understands. Truly. He knows the good and bad of me. And from His understanding I receive understanding. In Him alone I find my reassurance.

Thank you, Lord, for this insight this morning. It bespeaks my lack of faith, my tendency to dress up my prayers to make them "acceptable" to you. Lord, help me to remember how good you are. And please, Lord, be tolerant of me in my struggles. Indeed, help me to be tolerant with myself.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

5) This pic is for my fellow gardener Mark the Green Thumb Stevens:

Our growing season is coming to end, sadly. The Lord is putting the ground to sleep for the winter. Another reminder that "to everything, there is a season."

Wednesday, November 14

6:40 PM In case you didn't know it, the SEBTS faculty is well-represented at this year's annual ETS meeting. So proud of my colleagues.

6:33 PM Years ago – in fact, exactly 32 years ago – Becky and I left for Basel, Switzerland to begin the adventure of a lifetime. I dreamed of travelling to historic places, meeting lots of new people, and having to master the German language. For me, studying abroad was a defining experience that changed my life forever. That's why I recommended it to a student yesterday – and, in fact, I recommend it to any student who is contemplating a doctorate in biblical studies. If you go abroad with a sincere desire to learn and grow, then you are practically guaranteed to return to the U.S. a better person with a greater understanding of cultural contexts. It will stretch you, that's for sure. So if you feel led to explore a NT doctorate overseas, here are two great links for you to peruse:

NT profs in Germany

UK NT Lecturers

Studying abroad will certainly challenge you on several levels at once, but it can really enhance your academic experience. Why not give it a look-see?

6:30 PM I saw something today I had never seen before. I was watching an online sermon and the pastor told his congregation he would allow for a time of questions and answers after his message. Now, that's not necessarily very earthshaking. But what WAS new to me was his invitation for people to text their question to a certain number on the screen. What an amazing thing. And what a great way to use social media. As my good friend Ant Greenham writes in his new book The Questioning God, God is not afraid of our questions. The publisher's blurb states:

The author finds that questions are not just valuable, they are essential for serious human interaction. "As questioning beings," he concludes, "there is no limit to what we might ask, but our questions must always be anchored in the questioning God’s enduring concern to engage us."

Pastor friend, do not fear questions. Allow people (at least occasionally, perhaps right after your message or during the Sunday School hour) to examine your words critically and closely. It is one thing to teach truth. It is another thing for truth to be understood. I'm simply asking you to allow people some input, a modicum of interaction. It will make you a better teacher, that's for sure.

Speaking of sermons, here's an interesting blog post called The absolute, most influential thing in our church is the pulpit. The author states:

If you do not think the pulpit is the most important part of your ministry, please repent in thought and/or action.

Here's a different perspective:

Someone who feels he/she must be in control of a church gathering or who must be the one speaking, teaching, preaching, whatever, then that person is not actually leading in the way that leading in described in Scripture. This is true even if that person has be [sic] placed in some type of leadership position. A leader among the church will both edify the church and will give plenty of opportunities for others to edify the church as well.

What do you think? Should the sermon be the most important part of the church meeting? If not, why not?

6:20 PM Do you remember what you were doing exactly 9 years ago? I know what I was doing. I was just starting this blog. It's hard to believe it was so long ago. For me, blogging is a great way of keeping everyone up-to-date on what's going on in my life without running up the phone bill. When I began blogging, I was prepared to update it frequently. I never dreaded "having to blog." I did notice that nothing has changed in 9 years about my blog's design and layout. I had lots of help in setting it up originally, and I've always felt it was a great blog design. Or maybe I'm just stuck in a rut. At any rate, I leave you with my first post ever with the hopes that you will continue to visit us once in a while:

6:00 AM Introducing the DBO blog: news, commentary, musings, and miscellaneous blatherings from your web host. I begin with a quotation from one of my all-time favorite authors, Malcolm Muggeridge, from his book Confessions of a Twentieth Century Pilgrim:

Changing from teaching to journalism, he discovers, is not as drastic as might be supposed. Both professions are exercises in fantasy; the instruction that teachers pass on to their classes is as dubious as the news and comment that journalists pass on to their readers. Such difference as there is lies in the time factor; within reason, the Teacher can devote as much time as he likes to expounding his subject, whereas the Journalist is exclusively concerned with the immediate present. The Teacher, that is to say, is liable to be a long-drawn out bore; the Journalist, an instant one. Otherwise, there are in the same business--as St Augustine puts it, "Vendors of words."

Being a de novo web journalist, in addition to passing myself off as a teacher, I find quite an interesting (and often challenging) combination. The sincere prayer of my heart is that of an ancient saint:

God, humble my pride, extinguish the last stirrings of my ego, obliterate whatever remains of worldly ambition and carnality, and in these last days of a mortal existence, help me to serve only Thy purposes, to speak and write only Thy words, to think only Thy thoughts, to have no other prayer than: "Thy will be done." In other words, to be a true Convert.

Do stop by often, as these ruminations will be coming to you at any time of day or night.

6:14 PM Got time for a brief photo update?

1) So glad to get my bound copy of Jesus and the Prophet Like Moses. David Coker did an excellent job on this, his Th.M. thesis. Congratulations, young man.

2) So grateful for Miss Kimberly staying with Becky while I was on campus today.

She also cooked a great supper for us tonight.

Kimberly and her husband Joel faithfully serve Jesus at Clement Baptist Church near Roxboro, NC. Her husband is one of the few students who have had me for Greek who can actually teach from his Greek New Testament. You guys are fabulous. Thank you for loving us so well.

3) Found these books waiting for me when I got to the office. Have already sent out most of them as gift/review copies.

4) Today I met with Robert Cole to hammer out the syllabus for our Spring 2013 LXX class. This will be the second time we've team taught the course.

Bob is an Old Testament expert, a real renaissance man who loves the rhetorical dimensions of the text. I'll try to handle the Greek side of things. I think it's good modeling for students to see their profs interacting and even disagreeing with each other (which Bob and I do a lot). I'm thankful for Bob's support of my crazy idea that we teach this class together. I know my own perspective on the text is always challenged (in a positive way) whenever I interact with him. I am only beginning to recognize the value of team teaching and, in fact, Alvin Reid (missions and evangelism prof) and I are now in the early stages of planning a team-taught course on Philippians (which is all about missions). There's an interesting dynamic that occurs when multiple teachers grapple with the text, and that includes our student-teachers (yes, each student will be responsible for leading a class discussion in the LXX course). It is virtually impossible to stick with a teacher-centered mentality when engaged in a team-taught course. The text itself becomes the center of attention, as it always should be.

A final reminder: the class size will be limited, so plan on enrolling early if you want to take the course.

5) The porch is finished. Whadya think?

Monday, November 12

7:20 PM Our thanks to the Collie family for their wonderful visit this evening and the meal they left behind.

It was a tough Monday for Becky, just in terms of being physically grueling, what with the drive and the challenge of all those staples having to be removed. We finished the last of her antibiotics over the weekend, so now we're on the lookout for infection to rear its ugly head. So far, so good, in that department, but please keep on praying for healing. Steady as she goes, steady as she goes, I keep telling myself. It's "only" been three weeks.

She is one tough cookie, I'll tell you that much.

6:22 PM So, who will win a free copy of Paul, Apostle of Weakness? Let me have the hat, if you please. Now the drum roll.... And the winners are:

Mark Stevens

Arthur  Sido

Gentlemen, if I may have your snail mail address, I will get the books out in tomorrow's mail.

5:34 PM Tonight for supper we enjoyed pork chops with garden greens and sweet potato salad ...

... compliments of Ben and Sheila Abernathy, dear friends from Central Virginia.

Homemade pecan pie awaits us for dessert :)

Thank you, Ben and Sheila!

We love you!

3:50 PM Hello friends,

I plan on getting back to the subject of Becky's condition soon, but this afternoon I want to share an insight I believe the Lord gave me about the church. As I prepare myself to go  over 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, with my Greek class (esp. verses 12-22), I'm struck by the emphasis Paul places upon the church as community. The "church" -- I believe Paul would say if we were to ask him for a definition --  is a charismatic organism rather than an institutionalized organization. The great danger for the church is for it to become encased in institutionalized structures. As I argue in my book The Jesus Paradigm, these structures may be helpful and in some cases even necessary, but they are never sacred. Throughout church history there has always been a tendency to absolutize the structures while at the same time neglecting biblical truth. But the Gospel requires that we prioritize truth over structures. Always. For example, if, in your study of the Scriptures, you should determine that there are 10 marks of the church (not 9 as you once thought, or, conversely that there are only 8 instead of 9), then it seems to me that you are scripturally obligated to change your structure. In other words, our manmade structures aren't necessarily valid, scripturally. And since all manmade structures are culturally-determined to a certain degree, they should be subjected to continuous re-examination to determine their fidelity to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. In short, organizations should always be willing to become "radical" (in the sense of being willing to return to the roots of Scripture). Hence, whatever organizations we establish will always be secondary to the church and redundant. It is the local church alone that must remain the locus of God's activity today.

One more question -- and one prompted by Arthur Sido's excellent review of Eric Metaxas' biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Since all of us are susceptible of being trapped in rigid institutional patterns, the question might be asked: Was Bonhoeffer guilty of this when he allowed himself to be drawn into the plot to assassinate Hitler? Bonhoeffer, at heart, was a radical Christian. He utterly rejected the platform of the so-called German Christians and instead aligned himself with the Confessing Church movement. His faith was vividly biblical. And yet I have always had the nagging suspicion that his support of the plotters was out-of-character for him. How in the world could he justify his actions biblically? As Arthur points out in his review, we may never know; even this latest "definitive" biography seems to shun such an uncomfortable question. I note, too, how quickly our "urgent" movements are discarded, replaced by another one. (As far as I know, there is no Confessing Church movement in Germany today.) The church will have to decide between an increasingly bureaucratic model for its life and a more charismatic one based on the simple teachings of Jesus (e.g., "Love your enemies"). As Paul makes clear in 1 Thess. 5:12-22, the Spirit must be free to produce the gifts that keep the church healthy and productive. If we do not learn to wait upon the Lord, to be sensitive to His Spirit's leading, we face the very grave danger of "quenching the Spirit."

I encourage all of you to read this latest biography of one of the most interesting and complex Christians of our time. But read it questioningly. In the meantime, imitate the God who is revealed in Jesus (Eph. 5:1-2), not the God revealed in your own traditions.

1:14 PM Becky and I just returned from yet another hot date to UNC.

And I've got some very good news. We had an excellent appointment at the wound clinic, and the word is that Becky's wound is almost healed. This news, plus the fact that Becky successfully had all 37 of her staples removed today, calls for great rejoicing...

... and a long nap.

6:06 AM I originally wrote this piece on Dec. 9, 2009. Today being a very important day for Becky and me in our earthly pilgrimage together, I think it's perhaps appropriate to repost it here: Sister Wife

Off to the hospital.

Sunday, November 11

7:55 PM Could I get a couple of you to be praying for Becky as we go back to UNC for a post-op checkup tomorrow? Just the ride there and back will be exhausting for her. Hoping to have her staples removed as well as a consult with her lead oncologists. Thanks.

6:12 PM The view from our porch this fine evening.

Getting ready to enjoy some homemade vegetable soup, courtesy of Miss Judy from church. Becky continues to improve. So much to be grateful for.

11:41 AM If you will be attending the annual ETS meeting this month, here's a helpful list of papers on the book of Hebrews. If I could make just one recommendation:

Benjamin Laird (University of Aberdeen)
Hebrews and the Circulation of the Pauline Corpus in Early Christianity

Yes, Ben is a former student of mine :)

11:33 AM Reading this list of forthcoming commentaries on the Bible will exhaust you.  If I may be allowed to unburden myself of some truisms:

1) Commentaries are indispensible tools of the trade for students of the Bible. This is not to say that no fields in this paradisiacal garden are susceptible of improvement. This applies mostly to commentaries that simply repeat the results of what other commentators say. (Yes, we know who you are.)

2) We expect too much, however, from commentaries. Students need to be taught to shoulder the burden of accurate learning for themselves.

3) One cannot make bricks without straw. The most useful commentaries are those written by scholars whose mature judgment has been proven by their previous publications and lifestyle. (Case in point: Harold Hoehner.)

Thank God for commentary writers. And thank God for students who use the commentaries judiciously.

10:12 AM Quote of the day (Chris Freet): 

Again, let us not forget that the Holy Spirit does not come in child-size. The Holy Spirit is one size fits all--even for the children.

Read "But what about the children?"

9:50 AM Good morning, friends! If you've just joined my blog, you know that I'm big into Greek and missions, less so into politics. I have no illusions about the value of my services as social commentator, but Armistice/Veterans Day seems to require at least a brief comment. World War I was the "war to end war." Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth. Like the nations of Europe, the U.S. became ensnared in a fatal cycle of suspicion, fear, armaments, and warfare. Our naive expectation that we could organize the world upon principles of goodwill and peace proved to be a gross underestimation of the power of national jealousy. Today there are far more armaments and nationalistic hubris than in 1914. As someone has said, war preparations get us nowhere -- but into another war.

We read much these days about nationalism, Pax Americana, a New World Order, "my country right or wrong." Such thoughts would have horrified our nation's founders. We so easily forget that our citizenship as Christians is not here on this earth but in heaven because we are members of a heavenly commonwealth (Phil. 3:20). We belong to the only Christian nation that ever existed because we are the people of God. Worldly nations contain Christians and may be influenced by Christian principles, but there will never be a Christian nation except the blood-bought children of God.

As in olden times, so today: God's people need to be what they are—heavenly colonials and holy nationals, a Master's Minority in a pagan land. I am grateful to be an American, but America is not a Christian nation. America is a mission field. This Veterans Day, let's remember that a holy nation lives to show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. The one thing we're supposed to be doing is imitating Jesus' sacrificial love for others. Whatever else we do this day, let's aim at replicating that love!

And now, on a totally unrelated note: Becky still has no spasms in her abdomen. Just normal belly pain. It's frankly amazing to see the power of prayer up close and personal. As one person wrote this morning in an email,

Praise God for the answered prayer when the elders prayed for Becky. What a blessing it is that your church indeed will put into simple practice what Scripture commands us, and leave the outworking of it to our Lord.

Amen to that.



Saturday, November 10

7:28 PM Becky has not had any of that horrible, spasmodic abdominal pain since our elders prayed with her. Is this the miracle I had been hoping for? God knows.

Right now we're enjoying Pride and Prejudice. My favorite part? The accents -- that, and Mr. Collins.

4:58 PM Contest time! I will be sending a free copy of Paul, Apostle of Weakness to two bloggers. Just write and tell me you will publish a book note or review on your blog when you receive the volume. If there are more than two requests, I will draw the names out of a hat. Winners will be announced Monday evening.

12:38 PM Please join Becky and me in praying for her mom, Betty Lapsley, who has just been admitted to a hospital in Dallas with a serious blood clot condition in her leg. She'll be hospitalized for at least three days while they treat her with anti-coagulants. You can imagine Becky and her mom talking on the phone-- each wanting to come to the relief of the other. Mom has always been very special to us. Nothing is too small or menial for her to tackle if it means helping others. Becky's urging her to get rest, and lots of it, since mom has a hard time doing nothing. If that isn't the pot calling the kettle black.

Mom, we love you! We're praying for you!

11:57 AM I dedicate this post to my elders at Bethel Hill: Jason Evans, Jason Hatley, and Ed Johnson. You guys are the greatest. So proud of our church that we even have men we can call elders. 

Today my elders (sans one, who is in North Wilkesboro attending the wedding of the century) came to Bradford Hall, anointed Becky with oil, and prayed over her. Do I understand all the ins-and-outs of this process? No way. Then why did I call them? Because I am commanded to do so in Scripture (James 5:14). The sick matter to God. Our prayers matter to God. Healing matters to God. And note: Not just physical healing. God cares about our emotional wholeness, our spiritual well-being, every bit as much as He cares about our physical health. The power, of course, lies not in our elders, or in the oil, or even in our prayers. The power resides in God alone.

What a joy it was for me to watch our elders praying over Becky in the name of the Lord. "If we ask anything in His name, He hears us." And He heard us. Already Becky is feeling much better.

"Pray for each other," James says. A praying church is a healthy church. I'm thankful today for a healthy church.

Below: My Aaron and Hur.

8:03 AM Becky and I have been working through Ephesians in our morning devotionals. Today we were in chapter 4. It's dangerous, says Paul, when we're okay with immaturity in our walk with God. We are to grow up into Christ, exercising our gifts for the good of the Body. I am wondering if Paul's analogy has something to speak into our circumstances. The human body cannot function unless every part does its job. Right now I am sitting at our computer, but Becky is flat on her back as her body tries to recover from major surgery. Each of the parts is trying to get back into gear, so to speak. As we read Scripture and pray together, we think of the goodness of the Lord, but we also think of the weight of the battle. If we could only get her pain under control, I often think to myself. It surely seems that she should be doing much better by now. When is the pain and discomfort ever going to end for her?

Join me in praying for Becky's healing, for courage and peace of mind in the midst of the struggle. We want our testimony to be powerful in the situation. God is at work. This we know. But it would be really nice if we could get some long-lasting relief from the pain.

Friday, November 9

3:21 PM So grateful for our carpenter Robbie. He's doing a great job on our porch deck.

It's almost done. Will be neat to see who gets to sit here in the evenings watching the animals drinking from the pond.

11:32 AM We just Skyped with our dear friends in Alaba, Ethiopia. (Thank you, Nigusse, for arranging this.)

There is no clear way for me to express what these people mean to us. It defies communication except for those who have been there and seen what we have seen.

Fishermen can't always be fishing. Sometimes they have to mend their nets. During this, our "net-mending" time, we rejoice in our friendships and the partnerships in the Gospel we have with so many people all around the world. God bless you, each one. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf. Hulu geze Exhiabiher malchameno!

9:20 AM Good entry here: How to Read and Understand the Göttingen Septuagint. And please don't forget: Robert Cole and I will be offering our infamously popular LXX course this spring. Class size is limited: first come, first served.

9:07 AM Got time for a confession? In the past several weeks I've had to say no to several people. Surprisingly, I did a fairly good job of it. I'm beginning to discover my own mental, physical, and emotional limits. I'm also learning how to terminate an unfruitful discussion when I feel it's necessary. I no longer accept every speaking or traveling invitation extended to me. Slowly I have become aware that some invitations really have little to do with kingdom priorities. I am wanting to train only earnestly committed people. Mistakes? I've made my share. But right now it's important for me to stay focused on getting Becky up and running. Some of the greatest marital strides forward can take place during times of illness.

8:39 AM Looking for a great definition of a follower of Jesus Christ? Look no further:

Un discípulo de Cristo es alguien quién obedece las cosas que mandó Jesús. Nadie puede ser un seguidor de Cristo sin guardar sus mandamientos.

It's just that simple.

Read Como sembramos nuevas iglesias.

8:26 AM Now available: A new book on the Armenian version of the Acts of the Apostles. You can read about it here.

Along with Ethiopic and Georgian, Armenian is one of the most important (and most neglected) of the ancient versions of the New Testament. I've twice had the privilege of visiting the Ancient Manuscript Museum in Yerevan, Armenia, and each time I've walked away with a new appreciation of this ancient language and its significance for the text of the New Testament. I am amazed and pleased to say that here at SEBTS we have a first-class text-critical scholar (Maurice Robinson) who can guide you through the intricacies of this discipline. Textual criticism is a great field of study. Interested? Send me an email and let's talk.

Below: Lecturing at the Armenian Orthodox Seminary in Yerevan.

The dean and I showing off our beards:

7:35 AM Quote of the day (David Brainerd):

We should always look upon ourselves as God's servants, placed in God's world, to do his work; and accordingly labour faithfully for him; not with a design to grow rich and great, but to glorify God, and do all the good we possibly can.

7:24 AM Odds and ends ...

1) The SEBTS Guyana Mission Trip Team Leader leaves today for South America to do advance work. I wish you well, Mark, and will be praying for the team as it prepares for the trip of a lifetime.

2) Tomorrow, one of our Ethiopia vets, Katy Brown, will be married in North Wilkesboro, NC. Nigusse will be able to attend, both as a friend and to represent the church in Alaba. Becky and I could not be more excited. Katy and Josh, may God richly bless you and may He make your marriage to be a testimony to others of His great mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

3) This Sunday Nigusse will be speaking at Cresset Baptist Church in Durham. I know he will be used of God to bless that wonderful congregation.

4) Becky had a good night last night. We've now got a daily routine. Good news: Her staples come out next Monday at UNC, Lord willing.

5) I am making plans to attend classes next Tuesday and Wednesday if Becky's condition permits. Students, send me an email if you'd like to meet up then.

6) This passage struck me today in our morning devotional from Ephesians 3:

I am less than the least of all God's people; yet God gave me this privilege of taking to the Gentiles the Good News about the infinite riches of Christ.

Can there be any greater privilege than taking the Good News to others? And isn't it amazing that God would use unworthy people like you and me to do that? So glad to be a part of Team Gospel.

Thursday, November 8

8:35 PM The most tweeted photo in history:

I have enormous respect for any man who faithfully loves his wife.

This photo has never been tweeted:

"We have this treasure in earthen pots of clay" wrote Paul (2 Cor. 4:7). Life is too short not to show how much we appreciate our spouses. Who knows what lies ahead for Becky and me? But no matter how many more years there are or what trials God should decide to take us through, I pray that we will never take each other for granted. May we grow more to be like Christ and empowered to serve Him in some portion of His great kingdom.

7:37 PM Brief review of my Christian Archy here. Thanks, Chris!

3:57 PM Everyone says, "Welcome home!"

2:51 PM Becky is up from a good, long nap. Her IV is still dripping and she is now sitting down eating a tuna fish sandwich and checking your emails. Just before I changed her IV, the ladies from the church delivered tonight's supper. Yes, I peeked. Chicken casserole, mashed potatoes, green beans, and dessert. I'm already getting hungry.

12:29 PM Just cleaned up the kitchen and am washing a load of clothes. How do ladies ever keep up with their housework?

12:22 PM The Bowdens are still enjoying their stay in Munich. Always a treat to keep up with former SEBTS students.

10:50 AM I just sent out an email and signed it, "Attending Physician, Bradford Hall Medical Center." Hmm, maybe I've missed my calling?

I don't think so :)

Sure helps when your patient is a former ICU nurse!

10:26 AM Just accepted an invitation to attend a scholarly conference February 7-8 in DC. Believe it or not, I've been asked to speak on the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. Glory be! Let the revival begin!

10:08 AM "Every day, and every way, I'm getting better and better." These are the unforgettable words of Chief Inspector Dreyfus. I mimicked them to Becky this morning and she pleaded with me to stop -- laughing gets her stomach muscles in big trouble.

But the fact is, she is getting better and better. Indeed, this morning she is sitting on her front porch enjoying the sunshine and reading -- of all things -- my blog. Can life get any better?  

We just started the Micafungin IV drip. Then it will be back to the Zosen. Progress, thank the Lord. 

8:38 AM I love Thomas Hudgins' structural analysis of 1 Thess. 4:9-12. If there was any doubt about Paul's high view of work, it evaporates with this text. Here he commands the Thessalonian believers:

Make it your aim to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to earn your own living, just as we told you before. By doing this you will win the respect of non-believers, and you will not have to depend on anyone for your needs.

There are few passages of Scripture that are clearer than this one. Is it any wonder that I'm an advocate of self-supporting missions?

There are many practical ways to flesh out this teaching. At the very least we can all agree that sloth and laziness have no place in the life of a Christian. Every able-bodied person ought to earn his or her own living – a point that Paul emphasized time and again when he was in Thessalonica. Why should this principle become null and void just because a person today enters so-called "fulltime Christian ministry"? A high work ethic is not reserved only for "laypeople." It is for every believer, whatever your calling, whatever your vocation, and whatever your circumstances. God has ordained that we demonstrate to a watching world the highest standards of personal responsibility. He wills for us to mind our own business and work for a living. If we don't, we will lose the respect of non-believers, plain and simple.

I often hear the complaint, "Thousands of missionaries are ready to go to the unreached if only support were available." This is not the greatest need facing missions, however. It is outstripped by the untold thousands of opportunities to reach the lost millions through tentmaking evangelism. Wherever you live and wherever you go, you can find ways of participating in this great work of world evangelization.

8:10 AM I often wonder what missions would look like if missionary agencies and churches actually worked together -- as in "cooperatively." I discussed this in my book Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?

Just one generation ago missions was largely the work of large organizations that established “mission stations” in foreign countries. Today, missions is more a partnership between local churches in America with local churches in other nations. We need to repent of our independent, “let’s do it our way” mentality. The goal is to build inter-church discipling relationships that last. Unfortunately, many U.S. mission teams fail to coordinate their endeavors with the churches of host locations. Recently a student of mine mentioned that his local church was going to plant a new church in China. I asked him, “Have you ever considered simply going to China and asking the existing churches there how you can come alongside them and help?” Failing to understand and connect with God’s already-at-work global purpose is one of the greatest mistakes we can make as churches. More and more local churches in America are forging effective partnerships with local churches in foreign nations, asking how they can best serve the needs in those countries. When done well, everybody benefits through this kind of beautiful partnership, and Christ is honored as His people submit to one another in love.

I know its sounds loopy. But it's possible. It really is.

Wednesday, November 7

6:58 PM I so resonate with Arthur Sido's Election Postmortem. Recently I was asked why I keep the words "and constitutional" in my website's byline. It's a rare day when you will find me commenting about politics. It wasn't always this way. What changed? Well, I wrote a whole book about it. Nevertheless, I have decided to keep those two words in my byline, if for no other reason than to remind me (and my readers) that people do in fact change their minds about such weighty matters as politics.

Arthur is at that point, it seems to me.

My advice? Let it go, Arthur, let it go.

6:50 PM Thanks, Thomas, for your post about my 1 Thess. class today. I too love that Pauline term theodidaktoi. The Thessalonians were "God-taught." What, then, is our role as "teachers" in the Body of Christ? To do all we can to facilitate the work of the Master Teacher. For those of you who share my passion (and Thomas's) for pedagogy, I've collected Ten Timely Tips for Teachable Teachers. I'm sure there are others. What would you add?

6:36 PM Interesting essay here: Obama to Business: Bring Jobs Home. It's all about insourcing, says the President.

For years now I've been studying the missionary movement in North America. I believe we are on the cusp of an era when the insourcing of missions will become the strategy for achieving global evangelization. A strategy that depends on outsourcing the work to paid professionals is not going to get the job done. Outsourcing will be around for a while longer because it is what everyone is used to. But insourcing will require a wholly different mindset.

It's not just about producing more missionaries. It's about creating a completely different kind of environment -- a collaborative environment in which you and I are constantly thinking about how to generate towel and basin ministries both at home and around the globe.

When you start insourcing for more effective mission work, all kinds of good things begin to happen. For Becky and me, this has meant a deeper working relationship with Christians the world over. It has meant getting to work side by side with local churches in Ethiopia, where resources and manpower are most needed. It has meant streamlining efficiency as top-heavy bureaucracies are bypassed. It has meant more sustainable relationships between churches in the U.S. and churches in Africa. Moreover, the more you are seen as insourcing, the more people will want to get involved as they begin to realize they too can play a part in global missions.

Insourcing. The wave of the future in missions? I fervently hope and pray so. How can you get involved? One way is to begin to see yourself as a fulltime missionary. Stop thinking of paid professionals as the only missionaries out there. I often introduce myself as a "fulltime missionary." "But Dave," someone will respond, "I thought you were a professor of ancient Greek." "True," I reply, "that's correct. But teaching is only my job. The Gospel is my business. Fulltime."

What is your business in life? The same as the Master's: To seek and to save that which was lost. Isn't it time we stopped outsourcing that job?

5:53 PM Kudos to SEBTS prof Maurice Robinson, whose latest book on the Greek New Testament is highlighted here. Love my colleagues.

5:35 PM Another milestone:

It had been weeks since we last ate together. Venison with carrots and potatoes. Scrumptious. Becky and I cooked it together.

I took a piece of avocado:

One glance at Becky and I returned it to the platter. It's reserved for her -- high in potassium.

These flowers were a gift from the housekeeping staff at UNC. Can you believe it? How generous.

Life goes on ...

2:40 PM Rod Decker reviews the new NIV Greek and English New Testament. His peroration:

The pastor will appreciate having one book open on his desk rather than two, and carrying one instead of two is also much more convenient. Many these days use only digital editions and even on the small screen of an iPhone one can have parallel Greek-English panes open. But I am still persuaded that reading is best done from a printed text where context is more prominent. There is a limit to what one can see on a screen, esp. on the limits of a laptop or tablet screen—and those monstrous displays in the 23–30″ range are not really “reading” screens; one can have many windows open on a large screen, but there is too much head movement required to read comfortable across that span, even if arranged in narrower columns. But that’s just the contrarian opinion of a book lover! Your mileage may vary!

Thanks Rod for the great review. And in case you're wondering whether or not I recommend the use of such helps by my own students, the answer is a resounding yes. To quote the old preacher, "Halitosis is better than no breath at all."

2:36 PM It won't be long before Becky will be back on the old golf cart and making the rounds herself. Until then, a few pix of the new porch to tide her over:

9:20 AM This email just arrived from Asia:

Hey Dave,

Got caught up on your blog tonight. Please let Becky know that we are praying both of you through this difficult time.

It is encouraging to know that there are so many joined together in prayer. It's not that more people means that God will act more seriously, He hears the prayers of a single child and acts to bring glory to His name. But, it is so good for His Body to come together and seek Him on behalf of one of His loved ones.

Be strong in the strength of His might.

And His Body is coming together, from the person who drove Nigusse to campus on Monday night, to the brother who is picking him up today and bringing him home, to the friend who picked up a prescription for us from UNC last night, to our carpenter who helped me install Becky's tub bench.

Thank you, one and all, thank you.

9:15 AM I love this statement in Hebrews 2:6:

“But someone has testified somewhere..."

Human authorship of the Bible is important but it is not all-important. The author of Hebrews was not forgetful; he was convinced of the divine origin of Scripture. It is truly GOD'S Word I need today, and I have it.

9:06 AM Encouragement from California this morning:

After spending the last 32 years looking after a wife with muscular dystrophy, all I can say is, "Welcome to my world, dude...."

But, I think you'll be surprised at how good a "doctor" you'll become, in time!

Last night I was contemplating words from the book The Last Full Measure. The book is drawing to a close, and Jeff Shaara is at his best when describing Robert E. Lee's love for his crippled wife:

There was another reality, and he thought more of Mary than himself, though it was clear to the children and to anyone who knew him well -- he was aging. Mary had become accustomed to the wheelchair, and the deterioration, the crippling effects of her arthritis, had slowed. There was even relief from the pain, and if she still could not walk or use her left arm, with the lessening of the pain came the return of the spirit, the hot anger, the impatience, the spoiled girl who took command of the household once again. Lee had never shied away from her anger before, had simply endured the jabs, her sharp comments. It was always a fair price to pay for the guilt he carried. He had not been there for her, for the raising of the children; with him, it had always been duty first, the long career in the army.

But now he was there, and there was time to be with her, to sit for long hours, have conversations with the children, or endure Mary's long and angry monologues about the politics of the day.

My point is not to compare Becky Lynn with Mary Custis Lee. I simply want to say how much I admire Lee's devotion to his wife, his realization that life is more than soldiering and career, his desire to be there for Mary as much as a man of his passion for the military could be there for anyone. This describes my desire too, and the desire of my correspondent from California. Life is more than teaching and writing and preaching and travel. It is a searching of the heart, to discover there something far more important, the love of one's spouse, the marvelous memories of days gone by, the hope of anticipation of things to come -- glorious things to come. You reach the crest of the long hill and feel a sense of relief. Your days are in His hands, and you are safe.

7:24 AM A friend in Dallas ended an email with this helpful paragraph:

YOU--have been deep in trials with Becky's health and it has been AMAZING to see God work and to witness the ordeal with you through your letters. WOW! God is tremendous and I stand with you in prayer for dear Becky's health. Thanks for letting us live it with you!

It has indeed been amazing to watch God work. Last night went much better thanks to Becky's new hospital bed and some heavy duty pain medication. God is taking responsibility for us. What an awesome thought. Our part is simply to obey, day by day, decision by decision, and to take one step of faith at a time. "We should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1). Lately, in my times of personal prayer, I've been praying "So that" prayers. When we ask God for something, there should be a reason:

So that You might be glorified.

So that others may know You better.

So that the Word of God may abound.

Here's an example from our own life:

Lord, please help Becky to find relief from her pain so that she might have the energy to answer emails and thus encourage others.

Praying like is is a reminder that God has a good purpose for us, even in our suffering. All in all, I do believe God has a very good plan in what we are experiencing these days. Oh, that they would be accomplished!

Tuesday, November 6

9:34 PM Two things I've learned recently (make that, re-learned) about life:

1) My schedule is unpredictable.

2) I am replaceable.

Below is a picture of my Greek 3 class that was so ably taught by Thomas Hudgins today. It seems like years since I've been in the classroom. But I'm grateful for each and every student of mine, including Thomas, who is working on his Ed.D. with me. Terrific heart, great teacher, follows hard after God. I'm blessed.

9:22 PM A book that I co-edited receives a favorable review.

8:56 PM Here's another update on Becky, one that I am very relieved to offer my readers tonight. It seems we had another very trying day but it has ended well, with Becky snuggled in her hospital bed with her wound bandages changed as well as her IV drip started (the doctor in the house is doing his part). For the rest of my life I will never forget this day. My thanks to everyone who made it "work," including Becky's physicians (the "real" ones) who jumped to when we requested heavier pain medication. I am (and always have been) a coward when it comes to watching people suffer. For that reason I could never be a doctor or nurse and have to inflict physical pain on another person, even if that would lead to their healing. So I guess it's okay to admit my surprise that I am learning my role without making too many mistakes. Mistakes at this time, and with this patient, could be very costly indeed.

There were many little serendipities the Lord sent our way today, not the least of which was Becky being able to take a shower bath. When was the last time you had a shower? For my poor Becky Lynn, it had been 15 days. Listening to her enjoy herself so much was priceless. I wouldn't have traded it for the world. And so we made it through another day, clean and drugged. I'm beginning to realize that this is the most I can really ask for from the good staff at Bradford General Hospital.

P.S. Here's the bathtub bench. Sweet.

P.P.S. Yes, I got Bec to the voting both today. Nobody there but us. That's one advantage of living in Mayberry.

10:10 AM Right now home health is here. I'm also working on getting a hospital bed delivered to Bradford Hospital today. It seems that even with the two of us working on it, the project of getting her up and out of bed is just too difficult.

Did I tell you that Becky is determined to vote today?

7:55 AM Wasn't it just yesterday?

When we ran along the beach at Kailua together?

When we bodysurfed the Sea of Galilee together?

When we stood atop the Sakkara Pyramids in Egypt in together?

When we climbed the steps of the Acropolis together?

Wasn't it just yesterday?

Last night started just like any other. But once Becky got into bed, once her pain begin kicking in again, once she had to lift herself up and walk to the bathroom, everything changed. Of course I was scared. The first thing we did was pray. "Lord Jesus, help us!" I've said it before: This journey is the greatest adventure we've been on, and we've been on some crazy journeys together. As far as the emotional side goes, I read Ephesians 1 to Becky this morning and wept when I prayed over her. Coming into this experience, I knew it would be challenging, would tax us emotionally and physically. So many more steps to take. So many more mountains to climb.

But with God's help WE WILL DO IT.


Monday, November 5

7:54 PM It’s just after 7:15 pm and the house has settled into a quiet hush. Today Becky came home. Do you know how thrilling it is for me to say that? Somehow that seems like a milestone worth pondering. Here are three ways of describing our 13-day sojourn at UNC Hospital.

An exclamation point. More accurately, a double exclamation point. No human being could guarantee how things would work out when we arrived at the hospital two Wednesdays ago. Becky could easily have ended up on a ventilator and a feeding tube. No matter. We would have loved her still. Last year Pat Robertson made the remarkable announcement to the effect that divorcing a spouse with an illness is justifiable because it's "a kind of death." The kindest thing I can say in response is that he is profoundly misguided. "In sickness or in health." These are not mere words. As far as I know, God intends for us to keep our vows. Even when our lives go through double exclamation points.

A parenthesis. The past 13 days have been an interlude, a hiatus from chemo and Becky's "normal" life as a cancer patient. For a while, I thought this parenthesis would never end. (Oh, ye of little faith.) It turns out I was wrong. The thing is, we weren't sad to leave the hospital. To say that we were touched by the goodness and generosity of the staff there would be a gross understatement. I've often had to choke back tears as I've watched Becky and the nurses relate to each other. They love her, really LOVE her, and she them. Becky may have left the hospital a little more broken, a little more disfigured than when she arrived there 13 days ago, but underneath the scars there will always be the love.

An ellipsis. I have to keep reminding myself that our journey is not over yet, not by a longshot. It is so overwhelming for me to contemplate the steps we still need to take to get Becky back on her feet. How fragile, this thing we call life. It is hard work, not because we do not have the Lord, but because He will not let us wallow in self-pity.

Thank you, all of you. I’m SO grateful. For all 700 or so of your emails. For people all around the world who are praying for us. Please, don't stop. We are at the beginning of a long road, but He has shown us the way thus far. Becky's coming home today is nothing less than a miracle. Our God is a God Who Heals. I can't really fathom that. But I know it's true. I have come to the end of myself and discovered that He is enough.

P.S. I know it's so unlike me, but here are a few pix for you to enjoy!

1) One of our favorite infusion nurses comes to say goodbye to Becky. We love our chemo nurses!

2) Sister Tope (from Cresset Baptist Church, where Nigusse will be speaking next Sunday) is an Ethiopia vet and a good friend who works at UNC. Today she visited with and prayed for Becky.

3) Our home away from home: The UNC Women's Hospital.

4) Learning how to start an IV drip. Even without a scientific mind, I am determined to take good care of Becky.

5) Becky's" Last Supper" at the hospital. Tonight, after we got back to Bradford Hall, I cooked for her Chinese food (with my secret ingredient, of course).

Yes, we're loving having her home.

Sunday, November 4

8:44 AM Just for Becky.


7:06 AM New every morning.

6:54 AM Shawn Blanc has written 50 Things I've Learned About Publishing a Weblog. Bloggers who read his post will have to agree with many of the things he says. These caught my attention:

Show up every day.

Always be honest.

Always be sincere.

Don’t be rude.

Take your work seriously.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Have an ideal reader.

Give credit to your readers. They’re smart.

Take risks.

Good food for thought.

6:45 AM I'm so amazed at the little "arrow prayers" people have been shooting up to heaven for Becky. (We read them in their emails to us.) A sample: "Thank You Lord!!" Here are a few arrows I've launched recently:

"Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner."

"Lord, help me!"

"Thank you, Jesus."

"Give her a good night's sleep."

"Please take away her pain."

"Wisdom, I need wisdom right now!"

"Forgive me."

There is nothing wrong with brief one-sentence prayers. After all, the Lord's Prayer is comprised of six short petitions.

6:40 AM Almost forgot. I now officially have a research assistant. He comes as part of the new chair in New Testament that I have the privilege of holding. My thanks to Southeastern for this generous provision, and to Thomas for accepting the job. Among other things, Thomas will sub for me this week while I care for Becky at home. He will also help me with various projects that have lain fallow far too long. "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today" (Chinese proverb). Got a few trees I still feel God wants me to plant.

6:28 AM Excited to be speaking at my home church this morning. There's no place quite like The Hill. My topic? The persecuted church. (Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted.) Many people do not realize that Christians are still being killed for their faith. I have met personally with the father of an 8-year old girl who was beheaded in Ethiopia because her family members were followers of Jesus. I have prayed with the parents of a 19-year old Ethiopian who was stabbed to death because he was a Christian. I had the privilege of leading that man's murderer to Christ in an Ethiopian prison. Consider what Jesus said in John 15:18-20:

If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? "A slave is not greater than his master." Since they persecuted me, they will persecute you.

Jesus is teaching us that if we live a life like His we are going to receive the same kind of treatment He endured. He is promising that His followers will be mocked, ridiculed, and worse. Persecution is par for the course for the Body of Christ. The question is, Are we going to try and avoid it? How you noticed how quick we are to claim God's promises of protection? But when was the last time we claimed the promise of 2 Timothy 3:12: "All who desire to live godly lives in union with Christ Jesus will suffer persecution"? When was the last time any of us said, "Lord, today I claim that promise!" When was the last time you were actually persecuted for being a Christian? When was the last time you placed yourself in harm's way for the sake of the Gospel? You say, "I've never been in places like that. I've never been to China or the Middle East. I've never been to the barrio." Well, why not? Both Jesus and Paul teach that persecution is not something to be avoided. It is a privilege, a great honor to suffer for Christ. That Jesus would count us worthy of being His representatives and facing the same kind of treatment He faced is nothing to be ashamed of.

All of the New Testament apostles were martyred save one. Suffering came to them because they lived for God and served the expansion of the kingdom. In the book of Acts we see how Paul preached the Gospel despite the fact that he knew that beatings, imprisonment, and sorrow lay ahead.

Dear friends, persecution will come to the church in America. It is as certain as death and taxes. My deep hope is that, when it comes, it will be for all the right reasons, and that we will accept it as from the heart of a loving Savior who suffered at the hands of angry sinners because He loved others more than He loved Himself.

6:10 AM Most of you are aware of my conviction that there is no distinctively "Christian" position on political issues. In this light, it seems to me that in principle there is no inconsistency in being a Christian and voting for a non-Christian (or a Mormon) for political office. (I'm not saying I would do this, only that I see no inconsistency in acting this way.) As I pointed out in my book Christian Archy, followers of Jesus aren't called to get (overly) involved in political causes or disputes.

At the very least, we have to resist the temptation to put our hope in any political solution to what ails our society. Our time, effort, energy, and financial resources should be invested in serving the world sacrificially and in sharing the Gospel both relationally and relentlessly. This is why I've gotten out of politics on my blog. (This is quite an admission for the man who gave the convention sermon at the Constitution Party's National Convention in Valley Forge when Michael Peroutka was running for president.) I think it's every Christian's job to be well-informed about politics, but I think it's fruitless and self-defeating to engage in movements and political causes. I suspect the reason so many American Christians are rallying behind their "values" candidate is because the church in America has largely failed to live up to its calling to be the conscience of culture. Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost, but most people do not realize this. They think Christianity is about rules and regulations and political platforms and social causes and have no earthly idea that Jesus can solve their greatest problems and meet their deepest needs. This sad state of affairs will likely continue until the church decides to take up the cross instead of the sword. In the meantime, I'll vote my conscience on Tuesday (or not vote at all -- that too would be exercising my democratic rights), but I won't waste my time or energy expecting government to do what the kingdom is intended to accomplish.

Church, let's get busy looking like Jesus, and this means sacrificially serving others. It is only as believers come together and lay aside our political differences in repentance and ask for God's Spirit to bind us together in love -- only then will the church be stirred out of its apathy into service. When people see that we have found treasure in Christ and are not ashamed to radiate His love; when they see us taking responsibility for homelessness and poverty and racism; when we begin to show solidarity with sinners, they will perhaps glimpse something of the radical love that Jesus has for each and every one of them.

Saturday, November 3

7:54 PM Good evening, virtual internet friends,

Hope you had a good week. Mine was exhaustingly blessed. Here are some of the highlights:

1) Jon and Matthea Glass stopped by the hospital for a visit.

2) Not to be outdone, Miss Ella from our home church (Bethel Hill) brought us great joy by her visit (thanks, Jason, for bringing her).

3) Here's Becky's first sip of broth after they pulled out her nasogastric tube. Never did food taste better.

4) Three seminary students stop by with a word of encouragement. (They also brought me a knock-dead lunch. Thanks, guys.)

5) Miss Karen loves Becky. She's visited three times.

6) Our dear sister Berhan. Here she's praying over Becky as only Ethiopians can do.

7) The handsome couple out for a hot date.

So ... how is Becky? She is sick. Very sick. She has good days and bad days. Today was about half and half. Becky continues to make slow but steady progress. If she continues to tolerate her food well, we will bring her home on Monday. Yesterday we met with her home health coordinator, her dietician, her physical therapist, and umpteen doctors. As her primary caregiver, I will be trained in giving her medications intravenously after she returns to the farm.

And how is Dave doing?

I'm feeling the reality of my humanness right now. One day, Jesus will come and destroy sin and death. In the meantime, sometimes it's frightfully difficult to cope with life. Even as I pray for God's healing power, I realize that ultimately my prayer must be Christ's: "Not my will but yours be done."

Being at UNC reminds me that we live in a broken, hellish world in which God's power is often hidden. As I type these words, Becky is still in pain. Her condition still moves me to much prayer and supplication. My feelings go way beyond words. I was thinking about how wonderful it is to have an outlet for my thoughts on this blog. Even in the midst of overwhelming business it is virtually impossible for me to refrain from emoting in these pages. I take joy in knowing that others are traveling the same path as we are, knowing that God enters personally into our sufferings and always works grace. I feel like it has been forever since anything has been "normal" in my life. Yet at the same time I feel God's very real presence, as if the same angels who ministered to Jesus during His temptation are sitting right here with me, with us, not the least bit shocked or concerned.

I'd be lying to you if I told you I wasn't hurting. At times I feel totally overwhelmed by the "bigness" of it all, choking back the tears, sometimes even becoming a petulant child who asks "Why?" I'm so glad Jesus understands us even when we don't understand ourselves, that He actually loves people like me, people who fall so many times it's hard to know when it's safe to get back up again. I have no way of actually describing what's been happening at the hospital. It's all over the faces of the physicians and nurses: This one was close.

Becky and I pray and read Scripture and just sit together in unspoken communion. Her fragile body is going to take time to mend. Lots of time. She laughs, says, "God has each of my days arranged in His day planner." And that's what's so awkward. I know what she says is true. Yet the raw hurt lingers, whispers, "Did God really plan this?" I think this is what it means when Jesus prays, "Not my will but yours be done," or "Your kingdom come." I think His heart breaks when He sees Becky. I know mine does.

So tell me: How am I supposed to feel right now? Is it okay to hurt?

Please keep praying for me. As far as I'm concerned, Jesus can't come back fast enough. But oh, thank God! He is my Light in the darkest of places. And He loves my Becky Lynn more than I ever could.

Oh, Becky.

How long will it be before you can walk normally again, go out again into a world twisted by sickness?

Why can't I do anything to stop the pain, to slam the brakes on this out-of-control train?

How can I possibly help you when I am so weak and inadequate?

Lord Jesus, all I can do today is give you my broken heart, for I am told that the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. Help me to accept, positively and intentionally, what You have given me. Help me to remember that Infinite Love never gives a scorpion in place of an egg. Help me to be strong, to live a life worthy of Your high calling, to fix my mind on Truth.

My Father, I now accept, in gratitude and love, what I cannot understand, and put my trust in You.

Thursday, November 1

7:20 AM Thus God greeted me this morning:

"The Lord, the only true God, has spoken. He has summoned the earth from where the sun rises to where it sets" (Psa. 50:1). The dominion of Yahweh extends over the whole earth, from the Piedmont of Virginia to the rolling contours of Chapel Hill. Remember that, Dave. Remember that He is Lord over all.

6:42 AM Got this email from a friend in Australia:

Hey Brother Dave.

Be as wordy as you have to. The more info we have, the more info we have to pray. Bless you my friends.

This one comes from Florida:

Your emails are good for those of us who are praying and good for you to truly lay out the needs and in hitting "send", truly laying them on God's altar and letting go as we are told to do. We will not grow weary in doing good or persistently crying out to our LORD for His promises. Aaron and Hur -- we are here, holding up your arms and Becky Lynn's. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

There are dozens more like them. Thank you, one and all.

6:38 AM The other day I heard someone describe Becky as "suffering for Christ." I respectfully disagree. Cancer attacks all, Christian and non-Christian alike. Our enemy the devil is always busily at work trying to distort our understanding of Christian suffering. Our God is wanting us to understand that suffering for Christ is something we can opt out of. It is something we choose because we are following in the path of Jesus. Yes, Becky is suffering. And yes, she is using her suffering to advance the cause of Christ. We cannot deny that reality. But let me show you what real suffering for Christ looks like:

Just what is this "Red Letter" Bible? According to the Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter (Nov. 2012):

“The blood-spattered Bible on the cover of this newsletter is a graphic symbol of what it means to be a Christian in northern Nigeria. The Bible was retrieved from the Deeper Life Church in Gombe state after a Jan. 5, 2012, attack by Boko Haram militants. Church leader Chenma Ngwaba was speaking during a Thursday evening prayer meeting when three young extremists suddenly began firing weapons through the church window. ‘They were shooting everybody there,’ said Chenma, who last his wife and 10-year-old son that night. Chenma’s six-month-old daughter survived, but eight other believers were killed, and more than 20 were injured.”

Now that's suffering for the sake of the Gospel.

Friend, the Christian life can be boiled to two things: faith in Christ and obedience to His Word. Need a visual aid of what this looks like? Look at the church in Nigeria, or Ethiopia, or China. Look at the life of an Amy Carmichael or a Jim Elliott or my translator James who was murdered after he served with me among the Gujis. These are people who laid down their lives for others. In a letter written in the Old Forest House in 1922, Amy Carmichael summed it up well:

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." How often I think of that ought. No sugary sentiment there. Just the stern, glorious trumpet call, OUGHT. But can words tell the joy buried deep within? Mine cannot. It laughs at words.

Imagine someone speaking of suffering as happiness! Is this masochism? No. Our God asks us to suffer with His Son. He could not have more fully or plainly shown what suffering looks like than in Jesus' own life and death. I too am called to suffer for Christ, given an assignment that carries on His work in His power. Take up His cross, and you WILL know what suffering is.

This coming Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I will have the honor of speaking at my home church, Bethel Hill Baptist (pending Becky's situation of course), on the subject of why suffering for Christ OUGHT to be a part of every Christian's experience. Here are some links that will help you become and stay informed about the persecuted church worldwide:

Christian Freedom International
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Christians in Crisis
Gospel for Asia
International Christian Concern
Iranian Christians International
Persecution Project Foundation
The Voice of the Martyrs

God can indeed show us what it means to take up the cross. My hope and prayer is that He will. The choice to be a Christian is a choice to be a burden-bearer. Becoming more aware of how the universal Body of Christ is suffering has made me more committed to standing with our brethren and even going to minister to them annually as the Lord opens the door. Someone has said that the only crown Jesus ever wore on this earth was a crown of thorns. To be a Christian is to make the kind of choices that allow us to willingly follow Him in the path of suffering. Do not look for an easy way. Seek to follow the downward path of Jesus. It will cost you a great deal, in fact, it will cost you everything you have. Yet is He not worth it? Yes, a thousand times yes.

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