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October 2011 Blog Archives

Monday, October 31

3:30 PM Farm update:

1) Being from Alaba, Nigusse is definitely not used to cold weather. Here he is doing his homework for Tracy McKenzie's Hebrew class, taking advantage of the warmth of our fireplace. (I think he enjoys living here.)

2) Becky told me to be sure to post this amazing picture of our grandson Bradford. He's wearing the same head cap our son Nathan wore when he was a baby. Truly, "The child is the father of the man."

3) My project du jour? To clean out the front flower beds.

They are now ready for the bulbs Becky is about to plant. Sure will make our front porch look purdy!

Life is awe-inspiring if you think about it.

9:29 AM Good morning and welcome to the last day of October. Over at DBO I just posted an essay called Reflections on Reformation Day. Hope you enjoy it. As you can imagine, it takes a pretty Anabaptistic point of view. (Sorry, all you Reformed types.) If you want to read something that is really good, however, scamper on over to the Bethel  Hill site and read Becky's The 4 D's of the Evil One. Bet you can't guess what they are!

Saturday, October 29

10:45 PM The music tonight was simply amazing. I especially enjoyed John Boozer's unabashedly poetic interpretation of the music. As for the chorale itself, they performed some really difficult music. Singing in a chorale is sort of like doing jumping jacks and eating cod liver oil, all at the same time. Both are difficult but good for you! There's no way I would even think about auditioning for this group. Their technical expertise was simply too good. Overall, the concert was like a canvas of Rembrandt. Can't wait for their next one! 

3:54 PM This evening the Raleigh-Durham Sacred Chorale is holding a concert at the Wake Forest Baptist Church. I'm taking Becky there after we enjoy dinner at the Olive Garden (one of her faves). The concert starts at 7:00 pm and is free. John Boozer is the director. Becky and I know "Boozer" well. He directed the Northeast Piedmont Chorale when we were members. Should be a great evening. See you there? 

3:36 PM Good afternoon, bloggers! If you're anything like me, you've been receiving oodles of emails from friends advising you to vote for so-and-so. "____________ is the last, best hope for America." Interpretation: Our side has all the answers and the other side just doesn't get it. I received one such email today. The blank happened to filled in with the name Rick Santorum. Now, Rick is probably a great guy and a wonderful American. But I don't think he's the best thing to come down the pike since the book of Revelation.

It's hard to figure out what's behind all the pom-pom waving. I suppose that, partly at least, it comes from our messiah-complex as Americans. We're hardwired to look to government to bail us out of our troubles. We're a zealous people, and zeal, when combined with religious fervor, is a powerful combination. As a citizen of a different empire (Phil. 1:27; 3:20), I don't feel I need to get too involved in trying to figure out whose political platform has the "best" solution to our political and economic problems. I stand by my long-held belief that there are no right "Christian" solutions when it comes to politics. (As an aside, Jesus seems to have deliberately refused to take sides  in politically-charged debates.) Unfortunately, because of our messianic view of politics in America, we tend to mistake our political opinions for the Gospel. And so we chase after our political gods and goddesses and spend much of our time misdirecting our energy on things that make us feel secure (though this "security" is futile). It is a day of conformity, and if everybody is jumping on the political bandwagon, why shouldn't I? It is amusing to hear of people boasting about being "different." The only thing different about the current generation of Americans is that we are all the same. The only way to be truly different is to be a New Testament Christian. I don't mean a good church-goer but a true rebel against this age because friendship with this world is enmity with God.

The Christian movement is a revolution. We are not out just to be different but to prove that there are no shortcuts to the kingdom. If, instead of taking the devil's shortcut and falling down and worshiping him, our Lord took the way of the cross, how can we do any less?

Think about it.


11:17 AM Photo update:

1) Look who got a new baby blanket this week. None other than Master Bradford Lee Black!

2) Don't he look as snug as a bug in a rug?

3) In other news ... Nigusse and Becky spoke at Bethel Hill Charter School yesterday.

4) Here Becky explains what an Ethiopian lunch pale is made out of. (The answer is goat skin, in case you're interested).

5) Nigusse told the story of Ethiopia -- its history, culture, religion, and even its Savior! I think everyone enjoyed having a real live African in their classroom while studying Africa.

6) To top it all off, we finally found a barber in South Boston who knows how to cut our son's hair. Don't Nigusse look handsome

7) Finally, only 18 more days to go before our Ethiopia Team 2011 leaves for Alaba. From left to right they are Katy, Dale, Abigail, Jason, Cindi, Kevin, and Kandace.

Please pray for them as they make their final preparations for the trip of a lifetime. Most are veterans (only Abigail and Kandace are fresh fish), but that doesn't make the work load any lighter. Here are their various ministries:

  • Kevin will be teaching the rural church elders and evangelists the book of 1 Peter.

  • Jason will be teaching the town elders the book of 1 Peter.

  • Dale will be teaching Colossians half day in the local prison and half day in the villages.

  • Cindi will be teaching the book of James to the women.

  • Katy, her sister Kandace, and Abigail (Cindi's daughter) will be teaching the Beatitudes to the children in the villages.

All told, about 150 church leaders will be trained in the Scriptures during this trip. In addition, on Saturday the team will be ministering to about 250 children in the Compassion International school in Alaba, teaching about the character of Jesus. In the meantime, we've sent "mug shots" of each of our team members so that everyone in the Ethiopian churches can get to know "their" missionaries ahead of time.

Remember: Becky and I do not take "individuals" to Ethiopia. All of these missionaries represent local churches in America that have developed a long-standing relationship with their sister churches in Alaba and Burji. Our goal is to connect local churches with local churches.

I close this entry with a great quote from missionary David Brainerd:

Here am I, send me; send me to the ends of the earth; send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort on earth; send me even to death itself, if it be but in Thy service, and to promote Thy kingdom.

So ... are you going?

Friday, October 28

7:58 PM Our first fire of the year. What better way to enjoy a cold and rainy evening?

And what better way to enjoy bread fresh out of the oven? 

6:38 PM This week our good friend Lorenzo ("Lori") experienced the life we call death. I will never forget his sweet smile and sparkling eyes. Lori served as an elder in the Alaba church for many years. (He is shown below, to my immediate right.)

Like his Lord, Lori was a craftsman and could build anything out of wood. Nigusse reminded me tonight of the many times Lori built simple pews for the church buildings in Alaba and beyond. In fact, just last year, after the Muslims had burned down a church building and murdered a believer in rural Ethiopia, Lori built replacement pews and delivered them, along with clothing to the needy Christians.

Lori died of colon cancer at the age of 50. He is survived by his wife and 4 small children. He will be missed, but he is in a far better place. Through the shed blood of Jesus, we will spend all of eternity together.

Farewell, Lori. Thank you for your faithfulness to Christ. I will never forget you.

5:13 PM One of the most enjoyable things about the Internet is its ability to keep people connected. Once again, then, allow me to give you an update on Becky, since we just returned from a visit to one of her doctors. Seems she's been having elevated blood pressure of late. The problem is, we don't know exactly what might be causing it. Is it related to her RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis)? Is it related to all the chemo therapy she's received? (Is her husband stressing her out?!!) Translation: We've got to run some tests before we can hope to get an accurate diagnosis. On Monday, as it turns out, we'll be back at UNC for her next Avastin treatment, so we'll move forward at that time with exploring the options with her oncology team there. My guess is they'll line up a good cardiologist for her to see, and we'll be good to go. As always, the goal is to get the best out of B's cancer treatments and to prevent the worst.

So why I am telling you all of this? I suppose it's partly to say "thank you" for all the prayers you've offered up for Becky (and me) over the past 2 years plus. (We just got another email this morning that said, "Praying for you and Becky.") And because I'd like to ask you not to stop now. Waiting on God is a gigantic act of faith. I don't have to tell most of you this. You've had to learn the hard way, as I have, to rest in the perfect confidence that He will guide in the right way, at the right time. This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long. Jesus Christ is my life. He's Becky's too. And I suppose that's why we can go on.   

1:26 PM Hope College announces an opening in Religion.

1:05 PM I continue to enjoy reading America's innovation-generating websites. These include Alan Knox's The Assembling of the Church and Daniel Streett's Kai Ta Loipa. Both of these young men, by the way, are products of Southeastern Seminary (to a degree).


Take the latter, for instance. Most of us older Greek teachers probably could care less about what Daniel is saying about Greek pedagogy. Why? Because we're comfortable doing things the way we've always done them. We teach traditional Greek grammar. And we're good at it too. But we typically don't think "innovation." Daniel's approach is not necessarily better, but it is innovative. And it too will work, at least with certain individuals. What makes Greek pedagogy so exciting is that new ideas are always surfacing. Verbal aspect theory arose out of nowhere a decade or two ago and is here to stay. Linguistics is now integrated in many of our recent studies of Koine Greek (though not as many as I would like). I am certainly encouraging my own students to come up with new ideas and to develop new approaches to teaching or new ways of packaging old information. At the same time, younger scholars (such as Alan and Daniel) are also questioning the innovations, as rightly they should. Just because hefty tomes have been written, for example, on verbal aspect doesn't mean that these books have anything worthwhile or lasting to contribute to the field. Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. Most innovations began as fads. Only time will time whether they stick, or even deserve to. The good news, though, is that young people today are being challenged to think outside of the box big-time. To put it simply: they have the potential to become genuine innovators. Put all the above together and you have the reason I love teaching today more than ever: there is nothing that can't be challenged, and there is probably much that can be improved. The gains are very much two-way. We teachers get to watch our students become collaborators in the teaching enterprise, and students are empowered to forge into the future, full speed ahead.

Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

11:34 AM Good morning, one and all. The other evening I snapped a few photos of the seminary grounds and buildings and thought I'd share a few of them with you. Photographing structures takes more skill and know-how than I possess, believe me. I have to rely on a completely untrained eye to get a sense of what I want to shoot. But hey -- the evening was so beautiful I just had to extract some images. This is absolutely the most beautiful campus I've ever been on, and I simply can't do justice to it. Like, I don't even know how a camera works!

At any rate, this is the center and heart of Southeastern, Binckley Chapel, where my NT 2 class meets every Wednesday (in the basement). Chapel services are held here twice weekly. I've had the honor of speaking here 3 or 4 times since I arrived at SEBTS in 1998. It's hard to take a really bad photo of Binckley.

Off in the distance is Stephens-Mackie Hall, where I office. I'm on the first floor facing the commons. Other than a few crazy quad-mates (ha-ha!), it's a fairly quiet place and very conducive for study and chatting with students.

Below is our main administrative building, called Stealey Hall (pronounced "Stay-ley"). My first office on campus was on the third floor of this grand edifice, smack dab in the middle of the campus overlooking the fountain and directly across from the chapel. With no working elevator at the time, it was excellent exercise climbing the stairs several times each day. I will never forget the day we played blue grass music in my room at lunch time and Dr. Patterson came up to sing along with us!

Below is our library. This has got to be my favorite building on campus. I've always loved good libraries, and we certainly have a good one at Southeastern, so much so that I gave up building my personal library years ago and now just use the library (and inter-library loan) for any of my research needs. At the same time, every once in a while I'll thin out my personal library and send a couple hundred volumes to some library in, say, Latin America, where the need for books is much greater than in my office!

Below is Bostwick Hall where Nigusse and I stay on occasion. Our room is on the third floor and has all the amenities of life including a microwave and frig.

Finally, this is Goldston Hall, a dorm for our single men. Lots of room out front for Frisbee and flag football.

So there you have it. I have no confidence that I will ever shoot the perfect picture but, like I say, it's hard to take a bad picture at Southeastern. Here's hoping you'll find your way to campus some day and pay us a visit. If you do, I hope you'll look me up. I'll be in Stephens-Mackie 107.

Thursday, October 27

5:50 PM In NT 2 class this week we spent some time discussing an assortment of theological topics along with how our churches could more effectively flesh out the descent-ascent motif ("down is up") we find in Phil. 2:5-11.

I obviously don't have all the answers, but I am blown away by the patterns we find in this passage. When Jesus poured Himself out He founded a radical new community. He didn't set up a new program but modeled a new way of living that showed us what the kingdom looks like. If you look at the early church you cannot help but be struck by the impact made by the Holy Spirit as He transformed the apostles and their followers into other-centered servants. Little wonder their churches had such an impact. Their mutual interaction showed Christian love in action, and there is nothing more attractive for the Gospel than that. Each year I have the privilege of traveling to countries where the church is truly salt in the midst of a disintegrating society, not (as in the U.S.) a pious subculture of conformity. Everything -- every single thing! -- we do should reflect Christ's self-abnegating spirit.

In a nutshell, reading Philippians is downright dangerous. It can easily get you into trouble. You will no longer be able to depersonalize the poor or needy of this world or shift your responsibility for global evangelization onto someone else's shoulders. Your lives will begin to shout the Gospel. And, as Phil. 2:5-11 shows, it's definitely a story worth telling.

2:16 PM Hello bloggers,

Got time for various and sundry?

1) Good to see one of my NT students, Brian Daniels, blogging again. In his latest post he asks a very important question: Would you rather be called "doctor" or "brother"? It's based on the story of one Luther's contemporaries, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt.

I think Brian knows where I stand on this one (*smile*). Here's my personal take: Conversion produces a changed life. If there's no change, there's been no conversion. And this includes the "little" things of life such as titles and status symbols. The descriptive words we use such as "doctor" or "reverend" are all man-centered. They are quite inadequate to describe the radical change in our relationship with God and with one another when we are converted. But when you are genuinely converted, you become increasingly bold to obey the teachings of Jesus radically. No, I do not insist that others do not call me Dr. Black. It's their choice. But I can at least introduce myself as Brother Dave. Because that's what I am at my core. So read Brian's blog post and ask yourself whether there are things in your life that breed elitism. Maybe for you, titles don't have this result. It may be something else. Whatever it is, let's all follow the example of Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt.

2) How religious are Virginians? A recent poll has the answer – very religious! 90% of us claim to be Christians.  42% are Baptists, 17% are Methodists, and a mere 13% are Catholics. 83% of us believe in miracles. Yes, we are a Commonwealth of believers! But are we behavers? This is the question Martin Marty of the University of Chicago asked in his book A Nation of Behavers. Civil religion is meaningful only inasmuch as it is rooted in genuine conversion, authentic relationships, and biblical truth. When we consider what it means to be "evangelical" (as our jargon goes), we must also ask what it means to be an obedient follower of the Lord Jesus. Then we will begin to see why rebirth and religion are inextricably opposed to each other. Otherwise we're operating out of little more than an "I'm a good religious person" mentality that can be fatal to genuine Christianity.

3) Here's a photo of my assistant Andy Bowden, who submitted to me the final draft of his Th.M. thesis this week.

It's entitled "Interpreting Microstructure through Discourse Analysis, with Specific Application to the Text of James 5:13-18." Congratulations, Andy.

Next step: Oral defense.

4) My colleague George Robinson (with whom Nigusse is taking a missions course this semester) says that all good Christians should celebrate Halloween. Here's his conclusion:

I sure wish more good Christians would celebrate Halloween this year by staying home and meeting their pagan neighbors – an option which I believe surely beats the "good Christian" alternative.

Amen to that. We do indeed have a missional God who delights in "meeting" pagans on their own turf. Thanks for the reminder, George.

5) Civil War buffs: check out this interactive app for the Battle of Chancellorsville. What will they think of next?

6) My thanks to Richard Smith and his lovely bride for inviting Nigusse and me to a fantastic dinner in their apartment on campus last night. The lasagna was superb, and the fellowship even superber (!). You two are wonderful hosts.

7) Had this email exchange this week with someone out in California:

Him: Dave: Do you have any idea how much WS [Wipf & Stock] is going to charge for the second edition of your Paul, Apostle of Weakness?  I ask out of curiosity because WS books tend to be on the pricey side.  With advance knowledge, I could save up my shekels (or is that staters?)...

Me: Should be no more than $100 USD. Seriously, I have no idea. But it will be worth every penny, I'm sure. 

Him: $100,000?  A bargain!  Does that include a DVD of the movie version?  Heh...

Me: Oh yes indeed. Even has a cameo by the apostle himself.

Him: Heh.  If Hollywood did a film, I cringe at who they would pick to play Paul!

Me: According to The Acts of Paul and Thecla, "he was a man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were projecting, and he had large eyes and his eyebrows met, and his nose was somewhat long, and he was full of grace and mercy; at one time he seemed like a man, and at another time he seemed like an angel."

Let's see … Pernell Roberts?

Him: Well, that's better than Dan Blocker - or maybe Jack Black.  Hey!  Jack Black is a wealthy actor - maybe you're related to him.  LOL

But seriously, Wipf & Stock's books are very reasonably priced. Check for yourself here.

8) Don't tell me that Allan Bevere doesn't have a funny bone (or a contrarian streak). Here he gives the barbeque police a McRibbing. Magnificent piece of writing. It's why I love the Internet.

9) This has got to be my favorite quote of the week:

In relation to leaders among the church (that is, whose example do we follow?), we should consider spiritual maturity first. Some can be highly educated (even in the subjects of Bible, Christian theology, missions, ministry, etc.) and still be very immature when it comes to living a life that demonstrates the gospel of Jesus Christ. Having a formal education does not indicate that that person’s example should be followed.

Read Formal Education and Spiritual Maturity by my doctoral student Alan Knox.

10) Kenneth Keathley spoke on Kenotic Christology in NT 2 yesterday. I had been looking forward to his lecture for a long time.

Ken provided a clear overview of the history of kenotic theories, their strengths and (especially) their weaknesses. I disagreed with some of his conclusions, but I was very impressed with the exegetical and logical force of his arguments. I especially appreciated how he tied the key expression "He emptied Himself" to its immediate context – how else would the original audience have understood it? When you pay careful attention to the syntax of the passage, Paul's meaning is clear: Christ emptied Himself by taking on the form of a slave. In other words, He emptied Himself by putting Himself at the disposal of others and placing the needs of others before His own – the very thing Paul has just enjoined the church to do in 2:1-4! The truth is, Christ's condescension is a highly important doctrine of the church and gives us a host of principles that apply at all times and in all places. This is precisely what the church is supposed to look like. At a time when God is clearly calling many back to the foundations of New Testament ecclesiology, Ken's lecture was both timely and helpful.

11) Finally, this is what I had for lunch today.

Delicious spaghetti prepared by my wonderful bride. Becky always makes such wonderful meals for Nigusse and me, week in and week out. If I have counted correctly, she prepares 4 suppers, 6 lunches, and 4 breakfasts every Monday. What a labor of love. Sure helps with the budget too (especially the way Nigu eats). So … thank you, honey, for all you do for us. Greatly appreciated!

Keep studying, praying, and loving!


Tuesday, October 25

6:16 AM Program note: In this Wednesday's NT 2 class we are studying Paul's letter to the Philippians. If you would like a copy of my 1988 Novum Testamentum essay "The Discourse Structure of Philippians: A Study in Textlinguistics" please do not hesitate to email me and I will send it to you as a .pdf. Our guest lecturer on Wednesday will be our seminary dean Kenneth Keathley who will speak on the topic: "Kenotic Christology: Is It Biblical?" His lecture begins at 2:00. Guests are always welcome.

6:12 AM Yesterday I spoke about my forthcoming book on missions called Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? I am told the work will be available possibly as early as January. Since we're on the subject of publications, you might be interested to know that the revision of my Basel dissertation, Paul, Apostle of Weakness, is also scheduled for an early 2012 release. The publisher is Wipf & Stock. Finally, in 2012 please look for the publication of a Festschrift in honor of a New Testament scholar whose name must remain a mystery for the time being. I am serving as co-editor of the book, which we hope to present to the honoree at next year's SBL meeting (where I also had the honor of presenting Harold Greenlee with his Festschrift back in 1992).

So ... I guess my students aren't the only ones publishing these days!

Monday, October 24

5:30 PM Daniel Streett is at it again, this time with an excellent essay called A Comprehensive Classroom Curriculum for Living Koine Greek. Much food for thought here, as usual. But one comment jumped off the page:

Wherever I have advocated for a communicative approach to teaching Koine Greek, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. There are always a few dissenters, but by and large people are very open to the concept. This is especially true of the younger generation of graduate students, adjuncts, and junior faculty who typically handle the lion’s share of basic Greek teaching.

Now that is a sad comment. No, I'm not referring to the approach being advocated by Daniel. I'm referring to the fact that so few seasoned Greek scholars teach beginning grammar in our schools and seminaries. Why should that be the case? I have no earthly idea. It seems to me that the most important year for teaching Greek is the first year. It's in first year Greek that you either fall in love with the language or you don't. It's also in first year Greek that you either begin to grasp critical concepts or not. I have no way to confirm this, but I have been told that the great A. T. Robertson, of Southern Seminary fame and the premier New Testament Greek scholar of his generation, insisted on teaching a section of baby Greek every year so as not to lose touch with beginning students.

Whether myth or truth, I agree completely with his philosophy! In 35 years of teaching Greek I have always been asked to teach at least one section of beginning Greek grammar, and I have always readily agreed to do so. Sometimes I am asked to teach 2 sections. Of course, during the same semester I may also be teaching Advanced Greek Grammar. I love beginning Greek students. I can readily identify with their struggles since I myself lasted only 3 weeks in my first semester of Greek before dropping.

God bless beginning Greek teachers. God bless them whether or not they use the Living Koine approach. But perhaps a few more of us old timers could find the time to pour our lives into fledgling Greek scholars. Might make a world of difference in their lives.

4:30 PM Exciting news. My friend and colleague Alvin Reid has agreed to write the Foreword to my new booklet entitled Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? I just sent the final manuscript to the publisher yesterday. Alvin is one of the most dynamic pluggers and players I've ever met. If I could offer you one person who embodies what evangelism is all about, it would be Alvin. (Okay, he's not so young anymore, but that man is a workout guru.) In my new book, it is my contention that professional missionaries and regular "laypersons" like you and me need to work together in a mutually enhancing fashion. Forget the outsourcing, though. That's so twentieth-century. Today, individual Christians are doing things missionally they had never dreamt of doing before. And every one of us has a part to play. Hence the book will close with a "Commitment to Global Missions" that the reader can sign and date. As I told Alvin, it's time to put our money where our mouth is. Glad he agrees.

2:06 PM Newsflash! We have running water again. Had to replace the water pump. How much did it cost, you ask?

Don't ask. 

1:56 PM Over at the Parson's Patch, Mark Stevens has just treated us to a guided tour of his garden delights. As in summer garden. (Remember that Mark lives in Australia.) In the same spirit, and drawing from the same agrarian impulse as does brother Mark, I offer the following update from Bradford Hall.

First off, we are happy to report that our tomato plants are still doing well despite the colder temps.

Becky thinks, if we're blessed, we'll still be eating garden fresh maters come late January (as we did this time last year). Time will tell.

Speaking of time, to everything there is a season, and the season for okra is definitely past, as these okra TREES clearly evince.

Who else to come to the rescue than the world's most (in)famous okra discontinuator.

A little roto-tilling, et voila!

The bed is now ready for Becky to plant winter bulbs.

Below are our garden greens.

In case you are not from the American South, greens are an old staple, high in vitamins and minerals. Many Southerners cook them with a ham hock, which I think ruins the taste. Just give me them greens cooked all by themselves. Our green peppers are also thriving, which is a very good thing as one of my favorite dishes is Becky's stuffed peppers, Romanian style.

Finally, here is today's harvest. Awful purdy, don't ya think?

Whether you're a novice (like me) or an expert (like Mark), I hope you're enjoying your garden today, wherever you may live.

10:20 AM Murdoch University (Australia) is seeking a lecturer in New Testament.

10:10 AM Students: The J-term 2012 and spring semester 2012 courses have just been posted at Campus Net. In J-term I will be teaching Greek 1. In the spring semester I will teach 2 sections of Greek 2 and New Testament Introduction 1. Next summer I plan to teach Greek 3 during the 4th summer session, though this is not set in concrete yet.

Just a heads-up for planning purposes.

10:06 AM As I said yesterday, I am so proud of our students here at SEBTS. Here's another reason: Students like Nathan Schneider who are committed to using what they learn. Nathan has decided to challenge himself to translate one verse every day from his Greek New Testament for the next 21 days. Habit-forming, he thinks. I say, Go for it. What better way to form a new habit. And what a good habit to form.

Brother Nathan, you da man!  

9:30 AM Good morning blogging buds! As I'm waiting for the plumber to arrive, I've been surfing the Net. As a Christian who has long believed in the merits of the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper as a full meal, I was delighted to see this report about Scot McKnight's recent lectureship at Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas. He's given us even more reason to reconsider the typical evangelical approach to the "Lord's Snack." We spoke about this last week in our NT 2 class. For me the key question is: Will we continue to rob Christ of His place of preeminence in the churches (Col. 1:18) by acting as though the Lord's Supper was a mere addendum to our weekly gatherings? In recent years we've seen not a few "Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail" (the title of one of Robert Webber's books) partly because of the centrality of the Lord's table in certain non-evangelical denominations. Think, for a moment, of the early church, a church where fellowship was very real, and at its center was the breaking of the bread. The table of the Lord transcended barriers of race, color, social status, and education. Home schoolers and guvmint schoolers got along just fine and dandy, as did those who voted for Obama and those who voted against him. Now it is this quality of fellowship that has got to be seen in our congregations if anybody is going to believe what we have to say about reconciliation.

This is, as Scot notes, an unfashionable doctrine today, but it is unquestionably the teaching of the New Testament. The early Christians found that there was no joy quite like the joy of celebrating the Fellowship Meal, which anticipated the Great Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I long for such joy in my own congregation. Don't you?

Now if I could only get my water to run again.

Sunday, October 23

7:55 PM I continue to be very proud of my doctoral students. In this wonderful piece about journal publishing, Paul Himes says submitting a manuscript for publication is like dating. Yikes! I had never thought about it in those terms before. And then he makes this comment:

The only reason I had the guts to send in my first article (the BBR article on Petrine theology) was because my prof encouraged me and told me that it was worth sending in, and I remain grateful to him. Encouragement can go a long way.

Yes, Paul, I agree completely. And I well remember when my very first journal article was published. The piece appeared in the Grace Theological Journal, and I had the nerve to submit it only after Dr. Harry Sturz of Biola University had pushed and prodded me to do so. I'm glad he did. It was just the "encouragement" (as you say) that I needed to get the ball rolling, publishing-wise. The day I received the page proofs in Basel will never be forgotten.

Thank God for profs who care enough to encourage. May their tribe increase.

4:32 PM I have spoken only rarely on this blog about brother Tilahun of Alaba who has now taken on the mantle of leadership that Nigusse left behind when he departed from Ethiopia to come and live with us -- the interruptions, demands, disappointments, deprivations, and burdens of helping to care for the flock there in Alaba. In some odd sense I feel very close to Tilahun today, as close as the time when his wife Aberesh gave birth to "our" grandson Nathan.

I know Tilahun finds daily ministry a challenge, as would anyone in his shoes. I would plead with him, as I often plead with myself, to remember that when we pray "Give us this day our daily bread" God always answers that prayer, always provides for us what we need spiritually as well as physically. He knows that we grow best when we are confronted by trials and conflict. We must learn to accept whatever He gives us, willingly, submissively, courageously, saying to ourselves, "This is evidence of God's love for me." In her novel In This House of Brede, Rumer Golden describes the monastery logo as follows:

The motto was Pax, but the word was set in a circle of thorns. Peace: but what a strange peace, made of unremitting toil and effort, seldom with seen result; subject to constant interruptions, unexpected demands, short sleep at night, little comfort, sometimes scant food; beset with disappointments, and usually misunderstood; yet peace all the same, undeviating, filled with joy and gratitude and love. "It is My own peace I give unto you," not, notice, the world's peace.

Peace in the midst of thorns. This is the way of Jesus. Will you accept that today, brother Tilahun? Will I? The very moment we feel so weak and hurt is the opportunity to put our faith on the line, to press on in that perseverance that He provides, to set our face like flint toward our own Jerusalems, filled with joy and gratitude and love.

You can do this, Tilahun. I know you can.

Pax Vobiscum.


Saturday, October 22

6:22 PM Student Day is now history. The weather was glorious. The day dawned with me trying to figure out why we lacked water pressure in the house. Could it be a dirty water filter in the crawl space? So off I went to change it and -- voila! -- now we have no water pressure. Zero, zilch, nada. Just when we're expecting a group of about 60 people. God really has a sense of humor, don't He? I try troubleshooting this and that but to no avail. So our guests are welcomed to Bradford Hall with signs on the bathroom doors that Becky made:

Women and children only may use the toilets.

Men will have to find a tree.

Do not flush. Dr. Black will take care of that.

So ... with this little detail taken care of, it was smooth sailing after that. A great time was had by all. I leave you with a few pix. Enjoy! Dave

Friday, October 21

8:23 PM The house and yard are ready. All that's lacking is YOU! Meanwhile ... enjoying this fabulous piece by Karl Jenkins. If you haven't heard it yet, watch out! It will blow you away.

1:20 PM Been a crazy day so far. Just returned from Clarksville (our fair city) where I went to CVS and Food Lion and had the oil changed in Becky's Odyssey. (No, I cannot change the oil in my cars. Never done it. Never will. Too mechanically challenged.) When I walked through the door Becky announced that she had lunch ready, and what a wonderful treat it was.

She tells me the whole meal cost her only 10 cents to make. The tomatoes for the soup came from our garden. The bread was homemade. The water is from our well. Even the beautiful flowers came from our garden.

Sure beats eating out, I tell you.

This afternoon my LOTTD (List Of Things To Do) is a mile long. But it will have to wait. First I'm gonna take a stroll with Becky down one of our gorgeous walking trails.

10:40 AM Great reminder by Arthur Sido this morning that we need to stop outsourcing ministry to professionals: Sitting around waiting for someone else. I am a huge proponent of lay involvement in ministry. We have an "FDR" mentality in our society and in our churches: if you need something done, you rely on someone else to do it.

Reminds me of the time my son and were driving in our rural neighborhood after a storm and came upon a large tree that had fallen across the road. Know what my first thought was? Call VDOT. The Virginia Department of Transportation. It's their job, after all, to maintain the roads in my state. Then I thought: Why don't we take care of that ourselves? We've got a chain saw, don't we? Besides, who knows how long it will be before VDOT can get here? It's getting dark, and someone could get injured or killed if they don't see that tree.

So we drove back home, grabbed our chain saw, and had that big old tree cut up and moved to the side of the road in no time. Good, old-fashioned self-sufficiency. I think we've lost that in the church. But it's not too late to recovery that spirit. Arthur puts it so beautifully:

The church doesn't really need more theologians or professional sermoizers, it needs more "regular" Christians to get out of their pews and comfort zones and go to those who actually need their love and their service. We need to put down our hymnals and pick up towels to gird ourselves for the loving act of washing feet. I pray that God will continue to burden me in a greater way each day to love my neighbor as myself and seek out ways to serve them rather than hiding in my comfortable religious shell.

I pray for that same burden, Arthur!

10:20 AM Tomorrow's weather is calling for bright sunny skies and a high temperature of 66 degrees. Perfect for Student Day. So cancel your surgeries and postpone your nervous breakdowns and come on out. The fish can't wait to be caught.

9:48 AM Odds and ends:

1) Here's a not-so-funny picture of someone's Bible filled with signatures of (I guess) the rich and famous.

If you can believe it, I've been asked a time or two to sign someone's Bible. "I only sign books I've written," I reply demurely. I wonder if this subject is covered in seminary. It ought to be.

2) On Wednesday my esteemed colleague Keith Harper (coffee maker extraordinaire) lectured in my NT 2 class on the subject of "Slavery and the Formation of the Southern Baptist Convention." And a mighty fine job he did too.

I always enjoy Keith's colorful, subtle style, his endeavor to always be fair. He loves to play the role of questioner – and provocateur. He raised the key hermeneutical question when he pointed out how the Bible has been used for ideological justification of extremist views on both sides of the issue. With a few expert holds, he pinned to the mat the ridiculous notion that slavery was merely a political issue in the 1800s. Naturally I was delighted by his historical acumen. When one has devoted his life and work to something, his words naturally gain credibility and weight. I especially loved his attack on those who offer cheap criticism from the secure fortress of their principles. If only Northerners and Southerners alike could forfeit all pharisaical attitudes toward their fellow countrymen. Don't hold your breath.

3) Just got an email from a student who tells me that Scot McKnight was interviewed in his evangelism class this week. Isn't Skype awesome?

4) Here's a huge shout out and congratulations to my assistant and Th.M. student, Andy Bowden. Andy just received notification that he is now an official Doktorand at the University of Munich in Germany.

His Doktorvater will be Professor David du Toit. Munich is one Germany's great cities – lots of green space, a fantastic S-Bahn system for getting around, and superb architecture. It's also not the United States. Be prepared, Andy, to take your own sacks with you every time you go to the grocery store and to do Kehrwoche in your apartment building. Oh, and Schwäbisch can be tricky. But with your linguistic acumen, you'll pick it up in no time. Keine Sorge. Das wird sich alles finden!

In the meantime, Andy, you'll get a kick out of this great video clip:


5) Last night we enjoyed "Fandisha" (popcorn) -- a gift to us from Alaba. Thank you, sister Etenesh!

6) My desk this week. Dissertations and theses are coming due.

7) Here's the duvet Becky just made for Nigusse's bed.

Aren't those hearts super cool?  

Thursday, October 20

8:50 PM Addendum to my previous post:

Recently I was speaking with a friend who confessed to me that he felt lonely. This, despite the fact that he is happily married and has a family. (Yes, there is loneliness even when one is married, and even when one has children. How silly to think that another human being could ever satisfy our deepest need for companionship.) Referring to Phil. 2:5-11, I told him that I thought the answer to loneliness is love. It is not in our finding someone to love us, but in our finding in God someone who loves us perfectly. We then express our gratitude to Him by a happy and joyful pouring out of our lives in love to others, without expecting anything in return. Fortunately, I think my friend understood this. I'm glad he did, because I myself am still panting to catch up in my emotions to what I know to be true in my mind. In dying, we live. That's the only way to experience true joy, writes Paul in Philippians. So let's pour out God's love on the undeserving, for this is the mind of Christ!

I hope you don't mind me sharing with you these practical thoughts from the book of Philippians. It's really one of my favorite books in all the Bible. How tragic it would be to study the Bible and fail to make a note of the lessons the Holy Spirit brings to our mind. We must yearn to become like Jesus, fall in love with Him, get to know Him intimately. That's my goal in studying and teaching Philippians!

7:10 PM Good evening, thoughtful bloggers of cyberdom! I want you to meet James. I thought of James while we were discussing Epaphroditus in Greek 3 class on Tuesday. James was my translator when I trekked among the Guji tribe in southern Ethiopia a couple of years ago. At the time he was a young and optimistic 24-year old, freshly graduated from the university. All who knew him loved him. His smile was infectious and so was his passion for the Gospel. Well, when Jason Evans (one of my elders at Bethel Hill) and I decided to minister among the Gujis, we needed a translator, but not just any translator.

He needed to speak excellent English as well as excellent Orominya (with a passable Guji accent). Not to mention the fact that he would need courage, in bucketsful. You see, the Gujis hate the Burjis. Not all the Gujis do, but certainly a good number of them. For centuries they have killed Burjis, often without any apparent cause. In fact, the last two evangelists to work among the Gujis were both murdered. So, the question of the hour: Who would translate for us? James stood up and volunteered. We told him, "Are you aware of the dangers?" "Yes," he replied, "but the Lord Jesus has told me to go and be your translator." And so for 7 days we trekked from Guji village to Guji village, living among the people, eating their food, sharing their life, and telling them of a Savior who loved them so much He sacrificed His best for their sake. After a week the fighting got so bad that the church elders told us to return to Burji, and thus our little expedition among the Gujis came to an end.

If you were to judge James by normal "American" standards of success, you would have to conclude that he was crazy or at least an absolute idiot. But kingdom people think differently. In the kingdom, "normal" just doesn't cut it any longer. What matters is that we're imitating Jesus and serving others sacrificially. That's what James did. And that's what Epaphroditus did. Paul writes, "He risked his life and nearly died for the sake of the work of Christ, in order to give me the help that you yourselves could not give" (Phil. 2:30). By these standards – living for Christ and helping others – both Epaphroditus and James were winners.

A few weeks after that mission trip was over, James wrote to us. His email was short and to the point. "They're looking for me," was all he said. He meant that the Gujis were hunting him down to kill him. He had fled to a larger city to try and lose himself in its anonymity. He failed. A week later we received the news that James had been suffocated in his sleep. He was the first martyr of our work in Ethiopia.

In the early church a group of brothers and sisters called themselves the Parabolani, a word taken from the Greek verb Paul uses to describe Epaphroditus in Phil. 2:30. They were Jesus-followers who were not afraid to get their hands mucked up, ministering to the sick and imprisoned of their day, sometimes even seeing that their enemies received an honorable burial. This point stands out in strong relief to an email I got yesterday from someone who was disgusted that two American Muslims had been appointed to the Department of Homeland Security. It is hard for us to see how deep-seated our ethnocentrism is. Muslims are our enemies, aren't they? Yet in Ethiopia scores of them are coming to Christ because of the love shown to them by modern-day Parabolani. A caring church wins and holds coverts. Unless a deep, practical, loving care is shown, unless we are willing to give our lives for the sake of others, the mere proclaiming of Good News will be useless.

I'm proud and humbled to have known James. Though he would have detested the moniker, he is a modern-day Epaphroditus. Thank you, James! We love you, we miss you, and we will see you in glory!

Got time for another takeaway from Tuesday's class? In Phil. 2:22, Paul writes about Timothy: "You yourselves know how he has proved his worth, how he and I, like a son and his father, have worked together for the sake of the Gospel." My son and I had a fantastic time building several outbuildings at the farm as well as putting up miles of woven wire fencing together. (Check out the blog archives for tons of photos.) The camaraderie itself was worth all the blisters and sore feet. Willing, enthusiastic cooperation toward a common goal – that's what Paul is talking about by using this analogy from the home.

If we apply this to the spiritual realm, things get even better. Paul and Timothy were interested in the same spiritual goal – the Cause of Causes! As someone pointed out in class on Tuesday, Paul always seemed to work in a team. He was willing to recede into the group to serve King Jesus. This is why, in Philippians, he pleads so strongly for Christian unity. Full of haughtiness and self-importance, we insist on doing things our way, of working only with other Christians who look and act just like us. How easy it is for us to exaggerate the weaknesses of other members of the Body! Paul says, NO! Stop it! With humble-mindedness, let's count others as better than ourselves. Let's outdo one another in showing honor to others (Rom. 12:10)! As fellow citizens of the kingdom of heaven (how's that for is "Homeland Security"!), let's all exercise our citizenship in a manner worthy of the Gospel, in one spirit, with one soul striving side by side for the sake of the Good News (Phil. 1:27). Think about it. A higher degree of unity and just plain old kindness on the Home Front might well do wonders on the Front Lines. Brothers attacking each other or belittling them is just plain ugly. No, it's more than that. It's sinful.

I don't think this means we can't have our differences of opinion when it comes to, say, ecclesiology. But it certainly means that we all have to take great care that we keep our personal convictions about the church distinct from our call to manifest the kingdom and, through our selfless acts of service and the Good News of Christ, to transform the world into a domain over which Jesus rules. Let's be careful about "Divided Loyalties." If our loyalty is to the King, and if we are all His subjects (despite our differences), then let's be sure we work together, like a father-son team putting up a new barn, for the sake of God's reign!



Monday, October 17

7:35 PM So I worked from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm today.

The woods and trails look much better, though.

My thanks to Chris and Nigusse for their hard work.

Great fun and fellowship (Nigu loves snakes -- just ask him!), and now we can all commiserate over our soreness.

Tomorrow morning, early, I've got to return the chipper and then it's back to school. See ya there.

Peace out.  

Sunday, October 16

6:34 PM So, what have you been up to this fine day? I've been on the road mostly. I spoke from 1 Cor. 15:58 this morning (on excellence in the Christian life) in Durham, then drove down to Raleigh, to the Abyssinia Restaurant to be exact, to purchase some injera for tonight's supper, where I found the clientele to be as pleasant and amiable as always. In our freezer sat languishing a dish of doro wat (chicken stew) that Nigusse had brought with him from Ethiopia. It practically begged to be eaten, so Becky pulled out all the stops tonight, cooking up a couple of her own Ethiopian vegetable dishes to accompany the centerpiece of the meal. The food brought back so many happy memories of so many happy times in Martha's house enjoying the unique cuisine of Ethiopia. Old friends and old faces swept into view as we scooped up mouthfuls of delicious food.

The following pictures are posted for the enjoyment of Martha, who honored us so greatly by taking the time to cook this dish and sending it to us via Nigusse. Martha, the ecstasy of taste we enjoyed this evening was due to your thoughtfulness and Christian love, and we thank you from the very bottom of our heart. I never feel quite so much "at home" in Ethiopia than when I am in your dining room there in Alaba enjoying the company of God's precious saints. I hope you are not surprised to hear that you are often the subject of pleasant conversation here at Bradford Hall, along with your husband Demissie and your sweet children and all the rest of the believers in Alaba Kulito. We're delighted to be sending you a choice group of God's servants who will minister alongside your church in Alaba next month, and although neither Becky and I can come personally, we will be with you in spirit and, more importantly, in prayer.

So thank you again, Martha, for this special treat. And can you believe it? There's just enough left over for us to enjoy this meal all over again tomorrow night. Now that's special!

And now for the pictures. Remember: These are for you, Martha, with our thanks.

7:58 AM Becky and I have been grieving along with the family of a young Navy man who lost his life in Afghanistan last week. He was killed by an IED. He leaves behind a wife and 2 young sons. Heartbreaking. Getting into Afghanistan has turned out to be much easier than getting out. The idea that we could just pour in troops and money and all would turn out well was absurd. And so another faithful husband and father dies. James Michener, in his novel Caravans, wrote, "Was there ever a land so overrun by terror and devastation as Afghanistan?" Think of the irony. The world is shrinking, becoming globalized, but we are politically and culturally as far part as ever. The Middle East is in a mess, and there is no end in sight to the misery, both there and here. May God help us all. We need Him as never before.

Saturday, October 15

8:54 PM Oh my, it was quite a day. I really don't think I've been so sore in all my life. But I can say with certainty and relief, "Mission Accomplished."

And my how much easier it is to work with a good chain saw. It's Stihl for me, all the way.

Say, have you seen John Armstrong's piece called The Debate in the SBC About a Name Change? I agree in a sense that a name change is called for, especially in light of the renewed focus in the convention on global missions. As I was preparing for my latest mission trip I was reminded of how exciting it is to be at Southeastern, where our passion is consciously and intentionally the Great Commssion. To be sure, our convention is top-heavy. People are talking about stream-lining our bureaucracies. This is healthy talk and needs to be encouraged. In effect, we need to make sure that we are doing missions as wisely and cost-effectively as possible. We can't afford extravagance and waste. Nor can we afford, as John points out, to be parochial. Sure, some will take pot-shots at us because we are so big, but as long as we keep our eyes on the goal -- the Great Cause -- it won't matter, whether or not we change our name. If we do change it, I vote for the Fellowship of Baptist Christians.

10:34 AM Good morning one and all! It's a beautiful, cool day here is the Piedmont of Virginia, and we're working up a storm. Becky's project du jour? A quilt for baby Bradford.

It features the four "Bradfords" in his life, including his great-grandfather (Becky's father), erstwhile missionary to "Utopia."

Et moi? The day started out with us cutting down a tree that had been struck by lightening.

I say "us" but my hat's off to Chris-the-tree-man for his spectacular use of our Stihl chain saw.


Our little Poulan is practically worthless, good only for limbing and cutting smallish firewood, so Becky has gone off to Ace to buy another Stihl Farm Boss. I tell you, I ain't gonna fool no mo wit dem Poulans!

As for me, right now I'm taking a break.

Hey, at 59, I need one!


Friday, October 14

6:05 PM Brief update:

1) My father-in-law sent along this picture and said, "Guess what it's made out of?" Answer below.  

2) Well ... I guess it wasn't indigestion after all. The book will be called Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? It will be available early next year, Deo volente.

3) Rice is cooking. Stir fry to come. Yes, your Chinese chef is at it again!

4) The rains have gone ... for now. Just in time too. Tomorrow is fire wood cutting day, while on Monday I've rented a wood chipper. Next Saturday is Student Day and we're trying to tidy things up a bit.

5) Just got another DVD order. If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here.

6) Looking forward to returning to the Chinese Christian Mission Church this Sunday. You have no idea how much I love other ethnic groups! 

7) And the answer is: flip-flops!

11:30 AM Odds and ends ...

1) I'm tired. But not too tired to enjoy some of Becky's homemade bread. Fresh out of the oven too. Yummy!

2) On Wednesday the president met with a number of evangelicals in the White House. (I wasn't invited.) Good for him. Again, I'm not against dialogue. BTW, thank you, Mr. Obama, for speaking up for Yousef in Iran.

3) Talking to a publisher today about a brand new book project the Lord has given me. Well, I think it was the Lord. Maybe it's just indigestion.

4) What do you think of Daniel Streett's midterm Greek exam? Hey, if it works ....

5) Check out my friend Alvin Reid's revamped website. Cool look, dude! (The website, not you, Alvin.)

9:22 AM Here's the sunrise Becky and I were treated to this morning as we sat on the front porch.

So, what does a couple that has been married for 35 years talk about? Well, Becky's trip to India next February for starters. And then the Indian evangelist and orphan we just began supporting in northeast India. How about our schedule for the day? Yes, lots to discuss and enjoy. The sunrise was just an extra serendipity.

9:17 AM Good morning, bloggerites! 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 "Christian" 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, to turn society right side up, 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 come next November (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 being the 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. We as American Christians need the power of the Holy Spirit of God as we need nothing else. 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. So, I believe, our focus this election cycle should be on being the church, not mobilizing political movements. Think of the moral and transforming power that lies behind such an attitude. But before the church in America can do this, the Spirit has to break us of the disobedience and lethargy that come so naturally to us. When He is allowed to have control in our churches, and in our individual lives, then the possibilities for societal renewal are endless. But only then.

Thursday, October 13

6:38 PM Odds and ends …

1) There is one thing necessary to be a missionary: flexibility. Everyone knows that. I was reminded of this on my last trip. I was to be met in a foreign airport by a "brother" (unknown to me by name or face) who was to take me to a hotel at another location. I was told, "Just look for a sign with your name on it when you exit baggage claim." Which is exactly what I did. Upon exiting I looked for the sign with my name on it, but to no avail. I mean: no sign, no nothing. No one there to greet me. So I stood there for about 20 minutes thinking that maybe my contact had forgotten me. As I was about to walk out of the airport to catch a taxi and find a hotel I was approached sheepishly by a young man. He asked me, "Are you David Alan Black?" With great relief I acknowledged who I was and asked him, "But where was the sign?" Then he held up his I-Pod where he had typed my name. It was, of course, unreadable at any distance. Dummy me. How times have changed! I assumed I was to look for a placard!

2) The Review of Biblical Literature performs another fine service by treating us to not one, but two, reviews of Porter's (and others') Fundamentals of New Testament Greek. The first, by Panayotis Coutsoumpos, is (in my humble opinion) a model of how not to do a book review; it simply summarizes the contents of the book. On the other hand, kudos to Lawrence Vance for his outstanding review, which is both thorough and discriminating. In essence, this grammar is "too much, too soon." (Agree.) It breaks a fundamental principle of introductory textbook writing as well: Less is more. (Agree.)

But you be the judge. Here's a link to the Amazon site, where you can "look inside."

3) Allan Bevere asks an important question in light of the release of Scot McKnight’s latest book The King Jesus Gospel: Is the Soterian Gospel the Gospel?                 

Good question.

My two cents: The earliest Christians saw dynamic evangelism along with selfless living as the twin purposes for which the church existed. They put first things first, but the "first things" involved much more than coming to faith in the Lord Jesus. Little wonder evangelism is a dirty word in many circles today. Our "Gospel" is an emaciated version of the New Testament Good News, the whole thing being largely a very human operation relying on technique rather than the Holy Spirit. If we are Christians at all, we will prioritize the kingdom of God and the kingdom lifestyle over mere churchianity. I've been noticing an intensifying pain among evangelicals who are eager for more than mere churchianity. If I'm totally honest with myself (and now with you), I have to admit that there's something to this angst I see in Scot's recent writings. The idols of our conservative evangelicalism – easy believism, altar calls, church membership rolls, cultural Christianity – have left our souls empty and alienated from God. And what this means is that I need to be totally honest with this God I claim to know and with His Gospel that calls me to live a radically other-centered life. In case anyone is interested, I tried to put this into words in my book The Jesus Paradigm. The conviction that the Gospel is only about forensic justification just won't cut it for me anymore. There are no shortcuts to discipleship. We might as well start getting serious about this thing we call the Good News and deal as best we can with that greatest obstacle of all, our apathy. One place to start might be with our vocabulary. Why couldn't we begin calling the kingdom "Godworld" or Christians "Christpeople"? I think even the expression "Great Commission" is overworked. The Great Commission describes what Jesus was talking about in Luke 19:10 when He said, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost," and when He said in John 20:21, "As the Father sent Me, so I am sending you." In a world of causes, this is The Cause of Causes – the "Great Cause" if you will. We are all in training in this Great Cause, learning what it means to turn the world right side up through the Good News of the transforming love of Jesus Christ. It means far more than just "coming to Christ." Which shows how dumb and meaningless our labels and stereotypes are.

I haven't read Scot's book yet but I plan to do so soon. I am honored to be part of a New Testament scholarly community that includes such thinkers as Scot and Allan. Sure keeps life interesting!

4) At Bethel Hill, we take persecution seriously. Which means praying for our persecuted brethren throughout the world. Here's an update written Becky called Our Imprisoned Brethren. Read it, then ask God what you can do to share in their suffering, as we are commanded to do (Heb. 13:3). 

5) Great interview here on NPR with Anne Graham Lotz about her "preaching" ministry. Nice to hear her verbalize her affection for her aging father.

6:16 PM Hello my blogging friends. Well, I had another fantastic time on campus. I'd like to share with you a lesson the Lord taught me this week as our Greek 3 class translated Phil. 2:12-18 together. In Phil. 2:12, I noticed that Paul does a remarkable thing. On the one hand, he commends the Philippians for their obedience to the demands of the Gospel when he had been personally present among them. On the other hand, he tells them, "It is even more important that you obey now while I am away from you." I wonder what led Paul to say this? It must have been because the Philippians were in danger of succumbing to a very real temptation for believers. They were leaning too heavily on Paul, on his physical presence, on his personal teaching and example. Hence Paul's concern that they continue to obey the truth even while he is away. What a testimony this bears to the wholehearted dedication Paul had to the Gospel! He was consumed with a passion for Jesus Christ. Christ was his Lord – and theirs. Christ was his first love – and ought to be theirs as well. Nothing else was so important to Paul.

I suppose this is a crucial reminder for any contemporary American congregation when it is considering the matter of teaching and teachers. When people find an excellent pastor or Bible expositor – in many Baptist circles today these are the young, the Reformed, and the restless (ha ha!) – they will sometimes hanker after them, place them on a pedestal. This is apparently what it was like at Philippi. With good reason, the Philippians could hardly wait for Paul to return to them, to listen to his very voice, to be in his presence once again. Paul, however, insists that they must learn to rely completely on God, must submit every important question to Him as Head, must take the initiative for their own Christian walk and move forward despite the absence of their favorite teacher. (Note: There is nothing wrong with benefiting from the teaching of others. But there is a huge danger here. There is a tendency to major on the minors, to exalt man above Christ, to rely too heavily on great Bible teachers while our Bibles themselves collect dust. If we are passionately in love with Jesus, then inevitably we will be drawn to Him through the teaching of others. And those from whom we glean so much spiritual meat will not be ashamed to give the glory where it is due.) Let the Philippians set their mind on Christ, writes Paul. Let them do this because it is unhealthy for them to do anything else. They must strive to take the initiative in their relationship with God, recognizing that they are only working out what He is working in them. "It is God who is always at work in you to make you willing and able to do what pleases Him" (Phil. 2:13). This is the supreme incentive for Christian obedience. Only God can carry our sanctification to its conclusion – not Paul or any other human teacher. It is salutary to remember that the Christian life operates on divine power from beginning to end. God is the Divine Energizer who by means of His Spirit works in the hearts of His people, nudging them from where they are to where they ought to be, thus bringing about their sanctification and ultimately their glorification. What a fantastic truth. How we need teachers in the church to remind us of this fact!

In other campus news: My doctoral student Mike Rudolph did a grand job in our NT 2 class yesterday, walking us through the longest sentence in the Greek New Testament. As usual, the local paparazzi were there to memorialize the event in pictures. See if you can follow his lecture by reading his slides:

Meanwhile, I taught on the discourse structure of Ephesians 5:15-6:9 and how the section on Christian marriage cannot be "divorced" (sorry!) from its context.

Understanding the literary context of Paul's teaching about the marriage relationship in Ephesians has forced me to re-evaluate much of my own thinking about marriage, submission to Christ, and what it means to love my wife as Christ loved the church. Most importantly, I began to study, in depth, what Scripture says about the issue of a husband's submission to Christ – which, of course, has only made me more aware of my own inherent selfishness, self-orientation, and self-love. It is a problem every husband battles with. It is the most basic of all sins. But there is a solution! And it is to be found in Ephesians 5:18 as we husbands start living up to the high expectations of the Scriptures and begin submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit in our lives. My hope is that my students, by reading the text itself, will begin to live up to these standards and ideals God has given us for marriage, which are far greater and better than most of us could ever imagine. Think about that the next time you are tempted to legitimize such unbiblical notions as the husband as dictator and the wife as doormat!

Finally, chapel on Tuesday was phenomenal. This is the most powerful message I have ever heard our president Danny Akin preach: "A Savior for All Nations. Do Southern Baptists Really Get It?" He remarked:

The fact of the matter is, at this particular moment, Southern Baptists are still a mostly middle class, mostly white network of mostly declining churches in the Southern United States of America. Those are the undeniable facts, and brothers and sisters, if that does not change, we will die.

I hope his message will inspire you as much as it did me.

Monday, October 10

10:19 AM Many have asked us recently, What are the challenges in Ethiopia these days? Glad you asked. Becky's latest essay will furnish the answer: Current Needs in the Ethiopian Church.

10:12 AM The view from my porch as I read Ecclesiastes this morning. Thank you, Lord.

6:52 AM Houston Baptist University, under the leadership of fellow Basler Robert Sloan, continues to expand its faculty. The latest announcement seeks to hire a director for its school of theology. I note, in passing, that Peter Davids now teaches at HBU adjunctively. Feather in the cap!

6:41 AM I just added the following website to my Greek Portal page: NT Greek Studies. Your host is a missionary to South America who obviously loves Koine Greek!

Sunday, October 9

8:48 PM Before I head off to bed (jet lag!), can I bore you with a few pix from today's activities? Here's Nigusse with two of his fellow Ethiopians (Katherine and Carter Glass), just before speaking to us at Cresset.

His message from Phil. 1:27-30 was BETAM TURUNO! "How can you recognize a heavenly citizen?" he asked.

The answer: When we persevere in unity for the Gospel, and when we persevere in suffering for the Gospel. Here are few quotable quotes:

"Persecution is a gift. It's a great privilege to suffer for the sake of God."

"When you have persecution from your opponents, you can enjoy the Lord. You can see Him."

"Persecution is not a curse, it's a blessing."

"Most of the time we are compromisers. We don't want to lose relationships."

"Whenever we pursue a godly life, those who don't start to hate us, speak against us."

"We can all pay some kind of cost for the sake of the Gospel."

Needless to say, Nigusse was warmly received by the brethren at Cresset. This congregation has partnered with us in the Ethiopia work for many years now.

These people have faithfully prayed for Nigusse and for the persecuted church in Alaba.

And now they got to meet, face to face, Nigusse in person. What a blessing for me to witness!

After the service we enjoyed lunch with the Glasses and then drove to Roxboro to meet Kimberly and Joel's latest addition, Caleb Bradsher, who turned 5 days old today.

Not to be outdone, Nolan Black invited us to come down to his farm house and pay him a visit this afternoon. We found him doing the bunny hop in the flower garden.

Mama B immediately got into a very one-sided wrestling match with her grandson: Nolan won, hands down.

Papa B's job was to assist the master agrarian in planting an acorn in his little garden plot. Nolan takes after his mama and papa and is quite the gardener.

Here Nigusse plays ball with Nolan. (I think he was trying to teach him soccer.)

Meanwhile, I got caught up with Nathan, who had just come in from replanting orchard grass, fescue, and clover in several of our fields. I tell you, he be one hard-workin' man.

At dusk we gave baby Bradford and little Nolan gifts I had purchased during my trip.

"Woof, woof, Nolan! Care to play?" 

All in all, a great day. I love to teach God's Word. I also love to hear it taught. Nigusse's message was a blessing to me. Even greater was the blessing of fellowshipping with the family of God. Tomorrow it's back to life and work, and lots of it. First stop: UNC for B's treatment. We'll let you know how it goes. 

7:58 AM This Wednesday's NT 2 class will feature a  guest lecture by one of my doctoral students. Mike Rudolph's topic will be "The Opening Benediction of Ephesians." All are invited to attend. Mike takes the podium at 2:00. Prior to his talk I will be discussing in detail the textual variant in Ephesians 1:1 -- whether or not the reading "in Ephesus" is original. I have defended the authenticity of these words in print. If you'd like a free .pdf copy of my journal article, just send me an email at

7:52 AM Billy Graham reflects on growing old. He asks, "Are you willing to be used by God regardless of being bound by physical ailments, financial constraint, or the loneliness of growing old?" Lots of good advice here, even if you're only in your late 50s!

Graham's latest book, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well, will be released on October 18.

7:28 AM Looking ahead ...

1) This morning Nigusse is speaking at Cresset Baptist Church in Durham, NC. The service begins at 10:45.

2) Tomorrow Becky and I meet with her lead radiologist at UNC and she has her fourth Avastin treatment. This is our mission field for the time being.

3) On Wednesday evening at 6:30 Becky teaches her fifth personal financial management class at Bethel Hill Baptist Church.

4) Next Sunday I'll be speaking at the Chinese Christian Mission Church in Durham.

5) Back to school this week. I've got two doctoral dissertations waiting for me to read when I return to the office.

6) Students, don't forget that Saturday, October 22, is our Student Day here at the farm from 10:00 - 4:00 pm.

Praying that these are all fruitful ministries.

Saturday, October 8

8:53 PM I see that the latest issue of JETS includes a book review by one of my former students at SEBTS, Benjamin Laird, who is now working on his doctorate at the University of Aberdeen. Nice to see our graduates publishing. Congratulations, Ben.

8:44 PM Just back from enjoying a hot fudge sundae with Becky at Appleby's. Got lots of catching up to do.

12:12 PM We moved the donks up to Bradford Hall today. This way we can enjoy them during the winter months.

The goats are now down in the pond pasture. Tinnish Koi and Tolo Tolo are the most affectionate donkeys you will ever meet. Of course, having a carrot or two in your pocket never hurts when you're around farm animals.

11:17 AM Interested in working with churches in other nations to further the kingdom? Then check out my latest essay: I Believe in the Indigenous Church.

10:27 AM My co-editor Allan Bevere's The Politics of Witness is now available on Kindle for only $2.99.

Our next release: Except for Fornication: The Teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage.

Note: If you have a book idea for our Areopagus series, feel free to contact me at

10:20 AM Brian Fulthorp calls our attention to Yousef Nadarkhani's Letter to His Church.

8:08 AM Openings:

Students, don't listen to the naysayers. Openings continue to appear from time to time. If God has prepared you for a teaching career, He will certainly lead you to the venue of His choosing.

Friday, October 7

7:57 PM What a blessing to get caught up with the family. Here Jon, Matthea, Nigusse, and kids enjoy dinner at the Queen of Sheba restaurant in Chapel Hill.

Nigu speaking at Cresset.

Becky and Nigusse built a barn door while I was gone.

I hereby relinquish all manual labor to my talented Ethiopian son!

Church visitation, not once ...

... but twice.

This morning I got to hold baby Bradford while Becky enjoyed loving on the Glass's 3-month-old Christian.

I grilled pork and chicken on the grill this evening ...

... followed, of course, by roasted marshmallows.

Nothing like a warm fire on a cool evening.

The dogs, of course, did their share of the cleanup.

I think Matthea enjoys s,mores, don't you?

Finally, isn't this an awesome photograph of the seminary chapel? I tell you, Nigusse has become quite the photographer.

Time now to read to the kids and then put them to bed. In case you can't tell, I'm glad to be home.

4:18 PM Odds and ends ...

1) While I've been gone the Bradford Hall clan has been anything but inactive. Becky has continued to teach her Wednesday evening classes on personal finances, and last Saturday she led the orientation for our November Ethiopia team. All of this in addition to maintaining the Bethel Hill website and writing some powerful posts there, including The Value of Memory. She and Nigusse have also done a good deal of church visitation during my absence. Speaking of Nigusse, last Sunday he spoke at the church of one of my faculty colleagues, Tracy Mackenzie (Old Testament and Hebrew), while on Wednesday and Thursday of this week he spoke 5 times at Cresset Baptist Church and Cresset Christian Academy, where he is also giving Sunday's message this weekend. One more thing: Becky had her latest CT scan on Wednesday and the news is all positive. Her cancer has not spread beyond her lungs, and the tumors that exist there have not grown since her last CT -- which means that we will continue her Avastin treatments at UNC Hospital, beginning next Monday. This is a tremendous blessing from God and an answer to the prayers of many of His people, for which I am most grateful.

2) The Jon and Matthea Glass family are visiting us for a few days. Jon pastors at Cresset and both Jon and Matthea have been to Ethiopia with us. Their 4 wonderful kids have livened up the house, I dare say!

3) This Sunday Kevin Brown will be speaking at my home church, Bethel Hill. I note that Kevin has been blogging up a hurricane of late, including this fine post titled Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church. But everything Kevin contemplates is well worth your time. Check out his blog if you haven't done so already.

4) Mark Stevens has some excellent thoughts about the problem of busyness. It's actually the first post on the subject of the Christian Sabbath. Being a fellow gardener, I can resonate with many of Mark's posts and I too am beginning to find my leisure in my labor. Looking forward to the series, Mark.

5) Finally, Richard Ousworth has published a fine piece called What Are They Saying about the Letter to the Hebrews? (.pdf). Much of it is a review of Alan Mitchell's recent commentary in the Sacra Pagina series. As someone who has published a number of essays on Hebrews, I was interested in this quote about authorship:

Let us begin, then, with authorship. It continues to be obligatory,
apparently, to quote Origen’s remark, cited by Eusebius (Church History
6.25.14) that ‘only God knows’ who wrote the Epistle, though in fact – as
Mitchell correctly points out – Origen did in several places defend the
Pauline authorship of Hebrews (see e.g. Letter to Africanus 8, Contra
Celsum 3.35 and 7.29). It is surprising, though, that Mitchell spends as
long as he does dealing with the only recent serious defence of Pauline
authorship, by D.A. Black in Faith and Mission 18 (2001). Some of
Black’s arguments are seriously flawed, and every modern commentary
offers a long and convincing list of reasons for thinking that, while there
are intriguing parallels between Hebrews and some Pauline theology –
and of course the reference to Timothy at the end of the last chapter – this Epistle simply cannot be of Pauline authorship in any meaningful sense.

I dare say I am honored to have been mentioned as someone who has given a "serious" defense of Pauline authorship. I strongly disagree, however, with the notion that Hebrews "cannot be of Pauline authorship in any meaningful sense." If you'd like to know why, see my essay. Suffice it to say here that the external evidence continues to be overlooked in certain circles, and it is the external evidence that, in my view, is probative.

9:58 AM An interesting discussion (debate?) has been going on among certain teachers of Koine Greek. You can read about it here. I have always enjoyed teaching Greek and learning from my fellow Greek profs. Not infrequently an insight about pedagogy jumps out that can be of value. If an article or a blog entry has been particularly stimulating to my mind, I will attempt to share it with my students. Thus I have enjoyed getting to know what people are saying about Daniel Streett and his radically new and different approach to Greek pedagogy. I am most grateful for the discussion. If Daniel is right, Greek pedagogy is on the verge of a major paradigm shift. He is certainly asking the right questions, and right questions elicit valuable insights for the purposes of growth. So why not meander over to his site and take a look at the discussion? We traditionalists in particular need to listen to the next generation of Greek scholars who are willing to take on big questions, often with brutal honesty. We can all learn from each other if we are only willing to sit at each others' feet and humble ourselves to ask the right questions. But be forewarned: You may emerge from the discussion feeling as though you've barely entered pedagogical puberty.

9:44 AM During my travels I prayed a lot for Yousef in Iran.

Centuries ago Augustine of Hippo wrote words that have provided comfort throughout the ages:

Martyrs are holy men of God who fought or stood for truth, even unto death, so that the Word of God may be made known and falsehoods and fictions overcome. Such sacrifice is offered to God alone, thus the martyr is received in heavenly honor. This means that God has rewarded the faith of the martyrs with so much grace that death, which seems to be the enemy of life, becomes in reality an ally that helps man enter into life.

Iran is anything but free of hostility toward believers. I hope and pray that this will change. I thank God for men like Yousef. He claims no special gifts or grace. He knows he is an ordinary man -- an "earthen vessel." His uniqueness lies in his circumstances. He must serve God, like the apostle Paul, in prison. He is called to invade the enemy strongholds. Daily he must face horrors that the rest of us can only imagine.

God bless you my brother. You are not forgotten.

9:04 AM The passing of Steve Jobs has got me thinking. What I remember most about him was his egalitarian approach to his business. "A great idea can come from anywhere," he insisted. He hired people, not to implement his ideas, but to release their creativity. Initiative was valued. So was simplicity. "Computers for the rest of us" was his motto.

"Ministry for the rest of us" might well be mine. Even as pastors labor long and hard over their Sunday sermonic masterpieces, they need to remember:

"A great idea can come from anywhere."

Even as some of my colleagues eschew the notion that doctoral students should publish their work before graduation ("What right do they have to say anything? They're not even Ph.Ds. yet!"), they need to remember:

"A great idea can come from anywhere."

Even as teachers monopolize classroom time in order to finish their invaluable lectures, they need to be reminded:

"A great idea can come from anywhere."

The church has eagerly and wantonly outsourced teaching to professionals. The Bible says we have much to learn from one another, even from the simplest among us. That's why pastors are required to be "teachable" (1 Tim. 3:2, didaktikon). The best teachers are always eager to learn from others, are they not? 

Steve Jobs taught the world this lesson, and for that he is justly remembered as a great man.

8:36 AM Got home last night from yet another trip of a lifetime to a faraway place where things are really happening kingdom-wise. Sure puts my little freckle of existence into perspective. There is nothing very complicated about loving and serving God. All we have to do is our duty as honestly and simply as we can. This I have tried to do in the past 2 weeks. Whether I've been successful or not, God will have to be the judge.

Oh, I did manage to get some writing done while I was traveling -- my yellow note pads are always with me. Not journal articles mind you -- those mindless nods to the academic community, essays read and pondered by one or two doctoral students at most, pieces destined for oblivion in the stacks of a library -- but web essays and even a chapter in my book Godworld. There is a biblical view of the kingdom that needs to be uncovered and examined, though I am hardly the best person to do this.

I'm afraid that in recent years I have written more about Christian living than I should have or that has matched the reality of my own experience. It's easy to talk about traveling the downward path of Jesus but, oh, how hard it is to practice it! Writing about the kingdom is an enjoyable experience for me, but it is to my soul like cotton candy is to the digestive system. The momentary pleasure does not last, partly because one realizes how short one falls.

I am, in a nutshell, a tired person. Tired of all the verbiage about being a Great Commission Christian, fatigued by the war of words about how to do church or how to live radically for Christ. (Yes, I am quite aware that I have only added to the cacophony of voices!) Few people realize how dry and barren the life of an author is. What is all of this for anyway? Writing drains the individual of joy and vitality unless it is accompanied by a fresh admission of one's own inadequacies to live up to one's ideals. Separating out the truths that are central to life is absolutely  essential when it comes to following Jesus. What "truths" are we talking about here? By what standards am I to live? I am the daily object of a bombardment of messages competing for my attention, loyalty, and labors. Read the daily blogs -- even the most interesting and provocative ones -- and you will be pushed and pulled in a million different directions.

I would propose that we need to get out of ourselves and out of our churches and out of our blogfiefdoms and get back into the "mire" of life. The world we claim to love genuinely needs Christians who are regularly overcoming the all-consuming thirst for ambition and who operate in that center where God is in full control. As I said before, I am well aware that everything I write may actually be something God can use to encourage His church, but I dare not presume that His Spirit is operative in the things I am thinking or recording. The main thing is that I put into practice what I'm trying to reach others or blogging about. Jesus insisted upon such practical Christian living. He set aside valuable hours for the training of the Twelve -- a few simple-minded men whom He knew could change the world if only their priorities were in the right place.

I need to be brutally honest with myself and with my students, many of whom are put out with someone trying to press enormous amounts of factual information about the Bible into their heads. They are eager to finish the entire race, to learn how to make independent judgments and to -- dare I say it? -- escape out of the garrulous and superficial world of academics and face head-on the present challenges of our suffering world.

I just returned from teaching a group of men of this caliber, men who realize that the inner life of devotion must be balanced by the outer life of service, men who take seriously the challenge of sharpening their mental capacities so that they can deal honestly with the truths of Scripture. The world is dotted with men and women like this. They emerge from the strangest places and are often unnoticed and unappreciated.

To the men I had the honor and privilege of teaching these past 2 weeks, I say: You are an inspiration to me. As the great Christian mystic Henry Nouwen once put it, may you always embrace littleness, hiddenness, and powerlessness. I love you.

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