October 2012 Blog Archives
Wednesday, October 31
6:30 PM As I mentioned below, tonight I'm busy working on farm-related projects. As I've been working, I've been thinking a lot about the Gospel -- what it is, what the church looks like, and how the Body of Christ is an expression of the heart of God. The Gospel, of course, is all about Jesus' death and resurrection. It is the way to heaven and to eternal life. But it's much more than that. It offers a life of faith in which we, as brothers and sisters, minister to one another because Christ has touched our lives. Here are three pictures that help illustrate what I mean.
1) After a rough morning, Becky seemed to turn the corner. I loved watching how the Lord brought little blessing after little blessing into her life today. Here is but one of several women from Ethiopia who work at UNC. She came to greet Becky and pray with her. It was great fun for me to realize that a woman from faraway Africa could meet her fellow African (Becky is a white-faced Ethiopian) and have such sweet fellowship together.
2) And here's Becky when we left the hospital today. She is up and about, getting her exercise and doggedly doing what she has to in order to recover from her surgery. Perhaps the epitome of this tenacity is the smile on her face. It is a beautiful expression of the Spirit of the living God within her.
3) Finally, when we got back to the farm tonight we rejoiced to see that the entire roof had been competed. There's lots of work that has gone into this project, and there's still many things to be done. But we've reached a milestone. This ministry/guest/refugee house is the Lord's for Him to do with whatever He wants to. Who knows who will be its first occupants!
Tonight our good friend Cindi (an Ethiopian vet, by the way) will be staying with Becky Lynn. God is continuing to work our His perfect plan in a very complex situation. I am praying and praying that her NG tube can come out tomorrow. That way, maybe, Becky can come home. It's much easier being sick at home than in a hospital, I think. My thanks to those who came from Bethel Hill and had the house spik and span when I returned this evening. It will make Becky buoyant when she finally walks up those steps and enters her home again.
5:44 PM Back at the farm to check on the animals and handle some business matters. This was the email I sent out this morning. Thanks for your concern and prayers.
Tuesday, October 30
5:44 AM Greek students, be sure to read Rod Decker's newly-revised essay called Preaching and the Biblical Languages.
5:29 AM From The Jesus Paradigm:
5:22 AM Over at Jesus + Nothing = Everything, my colleague Thomas Hudgins reports about the weekend's festivities. Thank you for all your help this weekend, Thomas. I could not have done it without you.
Monday, October 29
9:47 PM Greetings, friends and loved ones! Thank you again for all of your wonderful emails. You continue to affirm us with a furious love. These are days of great blessing for Becky and me. We have been plunged into a deep mystery, facing momentous decisions, longing for intimacy with our Lord, riding (as Becky says) "on a raft of mercy and grace down a mighty river." Because of His grace, we are staying on deck, surrendered in faith to His truth and character. He loves us whether in a state of health or illness, just as we are, not necessarily as we should be.
I just got home after some pretty heavy-duty ministry, a bit bedraggled and worn out, but shouting "Wow!" at what I have seen God do since I last updated you. Perhaps the gut issue is not Becky's health as much as it is Am I experiencing God on a moment-by-moment basis? In times like these, theoretical Christianity collapses. Becky and I have been swept up into the embrace of God, into His inexhaustible, unfathomable love. His outstretched arms exclude no one, not even a tired old Greek prof or a woman undaunted by cancer and its consequences. So what of these circumstances! I am David Black, and I am my Daddy's son. I am an eyewitness to the truth of the Gospel: God loves me! And Becky Lynn!
This evening I came home to check up on the animals and to take Nigusse to campus tomorrow, after which I will return to the hospital to be with Becky. A good friend from church is staying with her tonight in her room. (Thank you, Miss Bridget!) Our Becky continues to make slow but steady progress. Today they gave her more platelets, but no blood transfusions were called for, praise God. The contrast test revealed a deformity at the bottom of her stomach that may or not be surgery-related -- hence her NG tube will have to stay in for another day or two. Her leg wound continues to heal up quite nicely. However, not all is good news. The doctors have begun treating Becky for a yeast infection that resulted from the perforation in her stomach. Becky and I have often talked about possible dangers as a result of her surgery but, to be frank, a yeast infection was not on my radar. They have begun to treat it aggressively, and we can all be praying that it does not develop into anything more serious than it is now. (There is a real danger that it will.)
Last night at Colonial I taught from Luke 3:23 on Jesus' "age thirty transition." As I prepared to teach I realized that my message was really a brief summary of what discipleship looks like. Have you ever tried to communicate to other people what following Jesus really means in about 45 minutes? It's not easy to do, I've found. So I did my best, and was pleased with the results. Today was a day of some petty intense teaching at Shepherd's Theological Seminary on the need for knowing and using Greek in our lives and in our ministries. There were about 70 pastors and students there and we worked through several texts of Scripture. I resisted the temptation to go too deeply into Greek syntax, but pursued some rabbit trails as the subject came up. The utility of Greek is one of those themes that keeps resonating in my mind. It was a challenge to have to lecture several times in one day on the same subject, but I got it done and the whole thing was a wonderful, joyful experience for me. I find myself increasingly frustrated with the "normal" pattern of Greek studies: Learn and forget. Constant monitoring is essential if we are to use what we worked so hard to acquire in seminary. I did have some very interesting conversations about Bible translations, including the ISV project (of which I am no longer a part).
I was scheduled to preach in Columbia, SC, this Thursday but I've canceled that engagement. I'm totally thankful for the opportunity to stay with Becky in the hospital and ride out the storm with her. The days are getting shorter and shorter and darker and darker as Sandy makes her presence felt in the area, but these remain good days. Right this minute it is time for me to get some projects done around the house, so I will leave you with a few photos that hopefully will make you smile.
1) Here's Becky enjoying your emails. She doesn't have the strength to go through all of them at once, but sort of reads the highlights.
2) She has been sitting up and, not only that, walking about the floor whenever she has the energy. Yesterday, in fact, she made one complete lap around the nurses' station "at light speed" (her words), while I huffed and puffed trying to keep up.
3) Becky enjoys each and every visitor the Lord sends our way, and we deeply appreciate those of you who have taken the time and made the effort to drive all the way to Chapel Hill.
4) As you know, on Friday night I spoke to the men's group at Imago Dei church in Raleigh on "A Great Commission Marriage." I stole my sermon from this essay.
5) Oh yes. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to a good crowd at Colonial last night. I NEVER get tired of bringing simple Bible messages to God's people, wherever they might be assembled.
6) Speaking at Shepherd's Seminary is always an incredible time. My thanks to Doug Bookman for the invitation, and to all who came out to listen to a Greek fanatic. I am feeling really connected with the student body there. I wouldn't mind if some of them decided to do their doctoral work at SEBTS.
7) Finally, I wore out my hand signing copies of Why Four Gospels? today during the luncheon. Why anyone would want my John Hancock is beyond me, but it is really neat to see how much interest there is in Matthean priority.
So it's been one of those crazy, wild, hectic, enjoyable, satisfying weekends. I remember so vividly when all of this craziness started, with Becky literally writhing in pain last Wednesday, but since then God has done some really great things. I honestly can't say enough about the excellent care we're receiving at UNC. I am now, more than ever, convinced that truly nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. No matter how hard things get, He has given us each other and especially His Spirit to help us make it through all the weariness and frustration and heartache. So thank you, one and all, for continuing to lift us up before the Throne. Please, please be praying that we can get this yeast infection under control quickly. This house is awfully lonely without Becky.
Friday, October 26
8:58 AM Since Becky can't be here to see the progress at Maple Ridge, here's a brief photo montage just for her. Enjoy, honey.
8:22 AM I see that Paul, Apostle of Weakness is now available at Amazon. I found these words from chapter 5 strangely comforting this morning:
Please note: "These instances of illness show that the real issue in the matter of human suffering is our relationship to God rather than our own physical condition, as painful as it may be." Yesterday I talked a bit about this idea of God using our infirmities for His purposes. Thankfully, the crisis that began on Wednesday morning has resolved itself as well as possible, but there's still pain and there's still an opportunity for ministry. This whole experience has made me think of trust. My goal is to be as totally dependable for Becky as possible, to do what I can to be her medical advocate, and to see that her recovery goes as well as can be humanly expected. So I pray for wisdom and courage. I'm super glad for technology that allows me to inform all of you what is happening so you can be trusting along with me. We have so many blessings it's hard to know what to be thankful for. Often my feelings surpass words. Becky continues to inspire faith, brings out the best in those who come in contact with her. It's all glorious to see.
Marriage. Family. Loss. Illness. Friends. Change. Surprises. Life. Weakness. Strength.
Sort of make's one doctoral dissertation come alive.
7:50 AM "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness."
Thursday, October 25
7:31 PM In the past two days I had the incredible privilege of witnessing a divine miracle. Yesterday morning at 5:00 am Becky awoke with extraordinary pain -- and I mean a 14 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being worst) -- in her abdomen. It was clear that something had been perforated in her stomach area. If you've never watched your wife writhe with pain from every little jostle, you've never lived. The staff at Halifax Regional Hospital's ED was outstanding, but when I heard that Becky's surgery would be postponed because the hospital had no platelets (and they had to be ferried from a hospital three hours away), the Lord told me to request a transfer to UNC. The transfer was eventually arranged and off Becky went by ambulance while Nigusse and I followed in the car. Last night Becky underwent surgery, and today she is recovering beautifully. I sent out several emails, and the prayers of faith for healing began to ascend heavenward from every corner of the earth. I was filled with a sense of awe as I watched the event unfold. At first the surgeons could not find the perforation. Little wonder. It ended up being no larger than a millimeter. And its location was "perfect" by medical standards (if such a term can be used to describe a problem that was causing Becky such unspeakable pain). The doctors were very concerned that the problem might be in the colon and that Becky would need a colostomy. But there is a time in your life when you see miracle after miracle, and we avoided that bullet. (I smile as I type that sentence, because I can picture a colostomy bag trying to slow my Becky down. Don't count on it!). I was told the intubation process was going to be a special challenge and that she had to be awake for the procedure (ugh!), but each stubborn obstacle seemed to melt away one by one as the clock moved forward.
Today Becky is alert and talking (she was extubated, praise God). I'm here at home trying to grab a few items to take back to Chapel Hill, but already I'm missing her. She's got quite a hold on my heart and, I suspect, not only on mine. Today I realized for the millionth time that whatever the doctors do for Becky, whatever help I might offer, whatever prayers are sent up on her behalf, it's not us who sustains her life. This great God of ours -- it is He who does it all, and He does all things well. Becky's greatest risk now is infection, so please be praying that God keeps those little germs away. He is able. In the meantime, please accept my thanks for your prayers. Becky's future is uncertain, but God sees each curl in her hair and each freckle on her skin and each smile when she's asked, "How are you?" The Lord has brought His choice servant through again. All praise be to Him.
P.S. Tomorrow night's talk on "A Great Commission Marriage" at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh will continue as scheduled. Hope to see many of you there and at Colonial Baptist Church as I speak in their Sunday evening service.
Tuesday, October 23
5:02 AM Having been born and raised in the Islands, I thought I'd mention two recent essays about Hawaii that I found online. The first is about Mother Marianne who, as you know, made the news this week as one of six Roman Catholic sisters who volunteered to go to Hawaii to work with lepers. Two things struck me about this story. The first was that the Catholics were the only religious denomination in North America to respond to the plea for help. Where were my Baptist forebears? The second thing is a bit more personal. Sainthood is conferred by the Roman Catholic Church only after people have begun praying to that person and only after the Church has established that those prayers have resulted in two verifiable miracles. How I wish it were that simple. Just pin a relic from a soon-to-be-saint on Becky and it will result in her healing. I have this nagging feeling that I'm not doing everything I can to help Becky. I've finished many jobs in my life and was able to say, "I did my best. I've given everything I've got." But I can hear a small voice saying to me, "Have you really done everything -- have you exhausted every possible resource to help your Becky?" Is that voice from God or from the Evil One? I honestly don't know. For me, our cancer journey means several things. It means accepting the illness from God. It means facing my responsibility trustingly, not with fear, not with false bravado, but with simple faith in God. It means, finally, doing my job to the best of my very limited and inadequate ability with courage to face whatever consequences ensue. Does that mean I would pray to a "saint" on Becky's behalf? The answer is no. My theology precludes it. Yet I cannot claim that I don't empathize with those feel they must do that, who are so desperate they will do anything to see their loved one healed. My question is this: What room can there possibly be in the life of a true believer for desperation? Faith is enough, because Christ is enough. We can pray to Him, as the apostle Paul did and every humble saint of God who ever lived.
The second story is called The State That Doesn't Vote. Hawaii is very laid back. As I've often said, the only way I could live there today is if I were a fulltime beach bum. (Roll eyes.) Hawaii's a great place to live but I couldn't get any serious work done there. For me, Hawaii will always mean four things: hang loose, the shaka sign, shave ice, and plate lunches. Who knows -- maybe the President feels the same way.
If I lived there today I'd be known as a lolo buggah. (Ask a Hawaiian what that means.) Hawaiians make lots of time for recreation. We swim, surf, snorkel, and sail. It is not considered impolite to be late for anything, even church. So why vote? Especially when the race is decided before you eat dinner?
(This post was brought to you by Mahalo Airlines, where every plane is equipped with four emergency exits: two in the front of the cockpit, and two in the rear of the cockpit. Mahalo and aloha.)
4:50 AM Wow, I'm famous!
Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed writing that essay on Heb. 1:1-4 for the Westminster Theological Journal. A more interesting paragraph is not to be found in the Greek New Testament. I joined a good many of those exegetes who had tried to plumb its depths. Very likely I wrote too briefly, in the dread of repeating myself. But in reality I was deeply excited, too deeply to let the editors of the journal know it. Many people read Hebrews nowadays without ever thinking of the literary artistry in the text, but to those who take the time to observe, the book remains an unforgettable treatise. Enjoy your doctoral seminar on Hebrews, Andy, but remember: you are not required to agree with everything you hear. You are free to paddle your own canoe on any water you prefer.
Monday, October 22
8:49 PM Good evening, friends!
It was another full yet good day today, spent for the most part in the wonderful city of Chapel Hill, NC. We started out by purchasing (for a whopping $25 each) two toilets for Maple Ridge at the ReStore outlet. There we also found the perfect set of bunk beds for the upstairs bedroom as well as two standup clothes closets for a mere pittance. Then it was on to UNC Hospital (our home away from home), where Becky had her blood work done, another round of chemo (her platelets were high enough -- hooray!), an ultrasound of her legs and feet, and then a series of chest x-rays. Our final stop of the day was Sam's Club to get, among other things, dog food and printer ink. We left the house at 8:30 and stumbled over the threshold precisely 12 hours later. Nigusse reports that about half of the roof at Maple Ridge has already been completed. Now that's progress.
I've got so much more to say but so little energy with which to say it. However, I cannot let this day come to a close without congratulating myself (is that okay?). Next month will mark the 9th year that I've been blogging. Yes indeed, you can go back to November of 2003 for proof. Can you believe it? I have grown very fond of the medium of blogging. I think I can honestly claim that throughout my "career" as a blogger I've had enough self-discipline to keep me from neglecting the work for which I am paid, or the other responsibilities I feel are incumbent upon me. (Unfortunately, I know of people who blog at the expense of other duties.) But the impulse to blog is very strong, and whenever I have my other ducks in a row I want to be blogging about something or another. I have taken great pains to blog frequently. I write for old friends -- and occasional visitors. I try to paint an honest portrait of myself, but only my wife will be able to read all that is between the lines. To read some blogs, you'd think all was gloom and doom. I have found life precisely the opposite, mostly, I suppose, because I don't take life (or myself) too seriously. As one of my seminary professors once wisely advised me, "Dave, don't take yourself too seriously; nobody else does." I've also discovered, during these 9 years of blogging, that friendships, even cyber-friendships, are a significant part of my life. I don't mind being obscurantist or even obsolete as long as I am enjoying fellowship with my fellow travelers. As you know, I am childishly fond of escape stories, where one can meditate upon such ancient virtues as perseverance and optimism. These are precious gifts for which an old man like me ought to thank God daily. And I do.
No, I do not rank blogging as the best thing in life. But I certainly have nothing to complain about in this regard.
Till the next blog post,
Sunday, October 21
8:11 PM How many hats do you wear? Here are two of my favorites:
1) Here I get to speak in church. Whenever I do, I usually ask the host church three questions: (1) may I please sit with the congregation before I speak? (2) May I please speak from the floor rather than from behind the pulpit? And (3) May I do some simple Bible teaching instead of "preaching"? Today the answer to all three questions was "yes." My message was from Matthew 9 and was called "Jesus, the Master Missionary."
2) My second hat is trying to take care of the farm. I say "trying" because I still feel like a complete novice (aka, idiot) when it comes to all things agrarian. What else do you expect from a boy from Kailua Beach? Today I finished the bush hogging I needed to do as well as dug up some fruit trees we wanted to get rid of. I am so glad to see the weather cooperating, especially since tomorrow kicks off the chimney and roofing projects. Of course, I won't be here to witness any of that. Becky and I will be on another hot date to Chapel Hill.
Time now to curl up with Gods and Generals.
See ya tomorrow.
8:29 AM Honored to speak at Farrington Road Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, NC, this morning. One of my stellar Greek students, Jason Hughes, pastors there. My topic? Missions, of course. Becky will stay home and nurse her back.
Saturday, October 20
8:08 PM As always, Saturdays are work days at Rosewood Farm, and today we labored on two special projects: collecting bricks for the chimney at Maple Ridge, and taking down some unused fencing. Several students from the seminary were so sweet to come and help us. Everyone was so absorbed in their work that we scarcely had time to sit down and chat. It was a delight to work outdoors on such a gorgeous fall day and to see the trees beginning to put on their autumn garb. Had a special blessing in that brother Danny from Bethel Hill brought along his front end loader, and the result was an ease at pulling up old cedar posts and also at leveling the brick pile. The "brick pile" -- I am referring to the pile of old bricks that we left in a mound in front of Maple Ridge after we had built four fire places in the house and had run one of the chimneys through the roof. For some reason or other we were never able to finish the second chimney -- hence the brick mound. Well, I am determined to see that job (literally) "through," and on Monday the brick layer will be here to finish the job. I'm afraid that meant that our carpenter Robbie had to cut out the hole in the roof today in preparation for that job. I sure am glad he does not suffer from acrophobia (as I do). As for the fences, we want families who stay at the Ridge to have ample play space for their children, and since we are raising far fewer cattle than in the past it was time to discontinue the fencing in the "Rabbit Ears" field and in the old calf pen. I will never forget putting up the calf pen. This was the first fence we built at the farm when we moved here over 10 years ago. What a fiasco. The fencing was too short (3 feet instead of 4 feet) and we failed to stretch the woven wire. However, it was "live and learn," and subsequently we not only fenced in all 123 acres with 4 foot woven wire (with a strand of barbed wire on top) but cross-fenced the farm into several large pastures. Wish you could have seen us when we were putting up the fencing. We were veritable red necks. But I digress. If the weather continues the status quo, then we should be able to finish our projects this week, along with placing a new roof on the house. I'm sure all this physical labor will do me a lot of good, and I expect to apply myself very diligently henceforth, in the interest of the great outdoors. This week, then, will be an epochal one, and I can't wait to finish the inside of the house. Meanwhile, your deluge of mail continues to reach us, and we are mind-boggled by the outpouring of prayers on our behalf. I am delighted -- and grateful -- to report that Becky's pain is somewhat under control, and we are both determined to have her spine x-rayed tomorrow to see if we can find the cause.
The pictures that follow will give you a brief glimpse into the day's activities. It is impossible to do justice to our outing today in words and pictures for it was simply a succession of little blessings and amusing incidents, and we are all completely exhausted as a result. It's a good tired, though.
1) The Ramiscal ladies helping to collect bricks along the Valley Road, along with their supervisor, Nigusse.
2) We figure we will need more than 350 bricks for Monday's job, and no doubt we have collected more than enough. The brick layer will be able to choose the better ones, then, for his work.
3) That's fearless Robbie Dunn atop the roof. Be safe up there!
4) "Post. You come out!" And it came out. Hard not too when you are being pulled up by a front end loader. This wonderful attachment greatly accelerated our pace of work today.
5) Then Danny leveled off the (former) brick pile, which now only needs some grass seed to become part of the front yard at Maple Ridge.
6) Here Jayson Ramiscal and Seth Brown work at removing the fencing and barbed wire along the Maple Ridge driveway, being careful to save the wire for future use (we are the ultimate scavengers/salvagers).
7) The ladies prepared a wonderful lunch of barbecue sandwiches, chips, and dessert, but they (wisely) required everyone to clean up first. Here Nigusse, Danny, and Jayson have just washed their hands to the accompaniment of yours truly quoting Mark 7:3, "And the Pharisees do not eat unless they first wash their hands, (rubbing them) with the fist."
8) Finally, as the day was drawing to a close, and the sun was beginning to set (I'm mimicking Markan style -- can you tell?), I attached the bush hog to the tractor and cut three fields, leaving the field in front of Bradford Hall for tomorrow.
Well, that's all the farm news there is report. You'll no doubt think me getting awfully giddy but it's confined entirely to the weekends and makes Monday to Friday a little more bearable after a change of pace. That's all for now -- except to say "thank you" for stopping by.
8:21 AM Remember the story of Jairus' daughter? I had to catch my breath after reading it this morning in Mark's (Peter's) Gospel. "Rise and shine, little one," said he. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for that little act of mercy. The girl was 12 years old, on the verge of young adulthood. You squeezed her hand and she came back to life. I can only imagine the rejoicing of her mom and dad. "Give her something to eat," you reminded them. Ah, the ability to eat. What a divine blessing. Lord, the idea of healing is your idea. Either you are in charge of our lives, or you are not. Your omnipotence is not impaired when we cannot walk because of bone pain or when we cannot eat because chemo has taken away our appetite. One way we can lay down our lives is by praying,
Friday, October 19
8:45 PM So glad that Andy Bowden has been able to keep up with his blog after having arrived in Munich for doctoral studies in New Testament. That one should go to Germany to study for a Ph.D. seemed in the mid-1900s for more natural than it would today. It hardly occurred to any of them to go anywhere else. So it was for me. The very few graduate programs in the U.S. that appealed to me were all modeled on German methods and given by scholars who were trained abroad. No, Germany has never possessed the sole secret of scholarship. (Ditto for German-speaking Switzerland, where I ended up.) But at least you will never have to face quizzes over the weekly reading assignments. Andy is just beginning to discover the boundless intellectual horizons that await young Americans who study on the Continent. I'll be following the saga closely.
8:05 PM H. L. Mencken once noted that religion "is used as a club and a cloak by both politicians and moralists, all of them lusting for power and most of them palpable frauds."
Hmm. Was he thinking about the 2012 presidential contenders? Whether you're in the J.C. club or not, you've got to convince voters you are. So Mitt was a pastor? Visible relief. And Barack is a Protestant? Right. So loosen up, evangelicals.
Oh, politics. Alluring. Absolutely alluring.
7:32 PM Update on Becky: Her pain has greatly subsided, thanks in part (no doubt) to the medications she is on. Actually, we are both convinced it's primarily the result of the prayers of God's people. Here's just one of dozens of emails we've received.
Thank you for your incredible love for us. We are so blessed. We love you.
2:55 PM Happy 70th birthday to Paige Patterson. Paige brought me to Southeastern 15 years ago. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. Ad multos annos!
2:48 PM God is looking for a few reckless men and women possessed of an uncontrollable passion for everyday acts of kindness and love.
2:40 PM "I feel keenly my need of the mighty Fortress." (Jim Elliott in his journal.) I too feel that need today.
1:12 PM If I ever say anything as ridiculous as this...
... somebody please hit me upside the head with the stupid stick until I am senseless.
1:09 PM Update: Becky is now on her pain meds and is sleeping soundly. I greatly appreciate your prayers and emails.
12:10 PM Prayer request: Becky is currently experiencing extreme bone pain in her spine due to the chemo. Please watch and pray and hold her up to the Everlasting Arms.
9:45 AM You won't believe this: Mr. Romney is claiming to have been a "pastor." Did anyone else wrap their head around this political pickle while watching the great debate? Yes indeed. See Arthur Sido's exposé.
9:34 AM My Th.M. student Jacob Cerone deserves a word of congratulations. He has graduated his first class of Hebrew students. The student body? Two. Reminds me of the time when I taught beginning Greek in my home church a couple of years ago. We started with 55 and ended with 6. No matter. At least we gave people the opportunity. Jacob writes:
Way to go Jacob. And again, congratulations!
9:22 AM The good people at the Evangelical Textual Criticism site have done us all a great service by collecting the papers on textual criticism to be read at this year's Evangelical Theological Society meeting next month.
Interesting to note how many of the speakers are related to SEBTS. Abidan Shah served as my personal assistant when he was a student here. Benjamin Laird is a recent graduate, as is Jonathan Borland. Of course, Maurice Robinson is a well-established scholar in the field. Maurice's course in textual criticism is outstanding. SEBTS? Not a bad place to go if you want to study the text of the New Testament.
Thursday, October 18
6:53 PM Good news! I walked the fence line today before transferring the donkeys to their new pasture. And it was a good thing too. Several trees had fallen on the fencing and needed attention. Nothing my awesome Stihl chain saw couldn't handle, though. Then there was more good news: We were able, despite the rain, to set the posts for the porch at Maple Ridge. At the end we were sopping wet, but no matter -- we finished the job. But the best news of all is that Becky is feeling good enough to eat, so it's off to the big city of Clarkesville for Chinese food. Hooray!!!!!!
Pix (of course):
12:37 PM Farm update:
1) Here's the old barn we're working in today. I say "old" but we actually built it only a few years ago from scavenged lumber. The cedar posts came from the farm, as did the pine rafters. It's a beauty, ain't it?
2) Today's project is to urethane the ceiling boards that will go in the dining room at Maple Ridge. The rough sawn lumber we're using will help to preserve the "old" feel we want in the house.
3) Otherwise, we're trying to finish up the kitchen area. Here's where we are as of today. We still need to install the dishwasher, trash compactor, stove, and fridge. I think keeping the old chimney bricks visible is a very nice touch (Becky's idea).
4) Becky also wanted a gas stove for our guests to use, so we needed to run a propane line into the house from one of our outbuildings. That project, too, is now completed.
So we are making progress, steady if not very fast. Later today, if it doesn't rain, we're going to set the posts for the deck at Maple Ridge. On Monday we will run the chimney flue up through the roof and begin putting a brand new rolled tin roof on the house. Later in the week the electricians will return to finish their work. Lord willing, our "refugee house" will be open for ministry within a month's time. Praise God.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to move the donks to another pasture.
8:31 AM As a Greek prof, I remain keenly interested in matters of pedagogy. One question that is often raised regarding my beginning textbook is this: Why do you use made-up sentences in the first two-thirds of the book? I find the following explanation helpful:
You can read more here. I found the same thing to be true when I was teaching myself German through a basic textbook (a very traditional grammar too, I might add):
The same applies to French:
I even found this approach helpful in Switzerland when I was teaching myself Baseldytsch:
Being a Nitbasler, I found this approach very valuable.
My point is that if you haven't already studied Greek, you may want to consider a traditional approach that starts you out with some easy sentences and allows you to get the "feel" for the language. My recommendation is to take it slow and enjoy the learning process. As any Greek teacher will tell you, Greek grammar can be complicated (when compared with English), but this obstacle can be overcome at least partly by being able to translate very basic sentences that in the real world one might never see or utter.
8:05 AM A few more odds and ends:
1) Received the nicest letter this week in the (snail) mail:
What an encouragement! Thank you, Sir!
2) Thought you might enjoy seeing the dedication page of my new book, Paul, Apostle of Weakness.
3) Job openings:
4) My thanks to Tom Geears, a retired pastor, for his gracious gift of books for needy students. With his permission I will see that they find a good home in a theological library in the Majority World. Appreciate you, Tom!
5) Jody Neufeld writes What Does Jesus Do?
6) Best comment on Tuesday night's debate (aka slugfest): "Sincerity is the key. If you can fake that, you've got it made" (Chris Matthews).
7) My colleague Heath Thomas will be speaking at Calvary Baptist Church on Saturday Nov. 10 from 9:00 am to noon. Click here for more information.
8) This week I received a letter from an inmate in a correctional facility in Connecticut. It read (in part):
It will be my joy to supply this need.
9) We had a great chapel service Tuesday in which Danny Akin laid out his vision for Southeastern from the book of 3 John. You MUST listen to it, it was just that good. Go here and scroll down to Oct. 17.
10) Fred Danker’s Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament is now on sale. For details, check Rod Decker's blog.
13) The campus has just gotten even more gorgeous:
14) Finally, a shout out to my student Kevin Stone, whose presentation of 1 Thess. 3:6-10 was greatly enjoyed. I am so proud of each and every one of my advanced Greek students. Among other things, Kevin pointed out the somewhat unusual language Paul uses for prayer in verse 9. Paul does not say, "How can we thank God…?" as much as he says "How can we repay thanksgiving to God…?" The idea seems to be that thanksgiving is an obligation we have – and one that we can never meet, no matter how many times we give thanks. I mentioned a few parallel passages that seemed to be saying the same thing, including Eph. 5:20 (we are to "always give thanks for everything to God the Father") and Phil 4:4 ("but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart"). I wonder how often God thinks, "Hello! I just did this for you, I just gave you this wonderful blessing. Where's the thanks?” Thanksgiving is not to be a rarity in our lives. I told the class a story of the time I was giving blood at a Red Cross facility in California. After they had drawn my blood, I was seated at the "cookie and juice table" to replenish my blood sugar. I will never forget what happened next. As soon as I bowed my head and closed my eyes, I felt two men gently lifting me up by the arms and taking me to a cot. "It's okay," they said. "You'll be fine in a few minutes. Just rest here a while." My response? "I feel fine! I was only praying!" Notice the verses I cited above. There are no loopholes. We are to "repay thanks" to God at all times and for everything. My, how that rebukes my thankless, complaining nature. Thanksgiving is to be a constant orientation of my heart, the fruit of a close relationship with the Lord. Is it? Not as it should be, I'm afraid. So thanks, Kevin, for reminding us today of our obligation to render unto God what is His due – a constant attitude of gratitude.
Tuesday, October 16
5:26 AM A few odds and ends before driving to campus today:
1) Paul Himes subbed for me while I was travelling. He reports about his experience in an essay called The Son of God and the Downward Spiral of Humility, based on Phil. 2:5-11. Don't miss his peroration.
2) Over at Between the Times, my colleague Ant Greenham's new book The Questioning God is featured. (Ant and I are co-leading a team to Guyana this November.)
3) Good news: Nigusse received his Israeli visa while I was gone. Rejoice with us! This means that he will be able to formally enroll at Jerusalem University College this January.
4) Eric Carpenter has some good thoughts about persecution here. He concludes:
One thing we can do, both as individuals and as churches, is to identify with Christ's suffering Body. In the next few weeks I will be speaking in two churches about the persecuted church and how believers in every nation must share the burden. Hardship and suffering is a normal part of the Christian life if we are obedient disciples of Jesus Christ. For many of us, the great temptation is not to immorality but to do God's will by any other way than He determined, to chose an easier path than He has called us to. But there is no such thing as an un-tested servant of God.
If you would like to participate in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church this year, here is the place to start. I hope many of you will consider doing so, whether you are part of the IC or not.
5) Finally, here's an excellent piece (.pdf) by Ben Witherington on Jesus' relationship with women, including the role that family plays in our relationships within the family of God. Here's an excerpt:
Ben is so right. This is the kind of over-allegiance to family that Jesus constantly addresses in the Gospels.
No amount of fiddling with such tests can avoid the consequences of the fact that the believer's true family is comprised of those who obey the Word of God. Our propensity to sacrifice God's will on the altar of family allegiance is a measure, I think, of just how much our culture has caused the American church to lose contact with fundamental realities. Neither blood lines nor familial advantages make any difference in the kingdom of God. So let's heed Ben's warning against family-first Christianity, for the simple reason that Christ calls us to a deeper family allegiance. The example of Jesus reminds us that we cannot avoid risk in this area. But the main contours of His teaching are clear enough: He calls for an absolute abandonment of allegiance from any human blood ties to the family of faith. Indeed, a life thus transformed is a sign that one is truly among the elect.
Monday, October 15
10:35 PM Greetings and salutations, cyber friends!
As you can see, I have returned, jet-lagged and worn but totally excited about the goodness of the Lord and the miracles of grace I watched Him perform these past two weeks. And the miracles haven't stopped. Today Becky and I left the house for Chapel Hill at 7:30 am and returned at 9:00 pm. She had a rough day (vomiting, some chest tightness) but was still able to see her wound doctor and have her chemo. We had to stay late because an EKG was ordered, but, praise God, it was normal, so we are now back at the farm. My thanks to all who have been praying for us during our separation. Becky and I enjoy a sold, fruitful relationship, and it is something I never take for granted. To be sure, this is the result, in part at least, to the faithful prayers of many of you who intercede for us on a regular basis. As Jesus made plain to Peter on one occasion, He fully understands our weaknesses and prays for us during our moments of greatest duress. Today was such a day. So thanks to all of you who thought of Becky (and me) and said a prayer for her (and us).
Well ... I'm eager to get back to blogging. So why not start tonight?
1) If you haven't read Robert Martin's latest blog post called Caregiver Beatitudes -- Part 1 -- Poor in Spirit, you simply must. I stumbled upon it at the hospital today. Robert's wife has been diagnosed with cancer and now Robert faces a significant challenge as a husband and caregiver. I can attest that dealing with cancer successfully is a team effort. Let me ask you: How many people can you count on to pray for you on a regular basis? Possibly not too many. How grateful Becky and I are for those who have committed themselves to intercede for us regularly. Many of you even wrote us today. (Thankfully, our iPad lets us read your letters while in Chapel Hill.) Robert is so correct when he writes:
Elsewhere in his post he refers to himself as the "pinnacle" of his wife's caregivers and other people as the "pyramid."
Boy, was that a word I needed to hear today. It was a reminder that whenever I commit to pray for someone, I had better follow through; they are counting on me. Few things have meant more to Becky and me than the "pyramid" that God has given us consisting of friends and family who regularly "uphold the weak" (1 Thess. 5:14). I just died inside today when I saw Becky so sick and uncomfortable. I never realized how much she meant to me until I faced the prospect of losing her. Thankfully, I have this blog to vent. If Jesus could weep at the grave of a friend, Robert and I can grieve over the effects of the Fall in our own families. Not only did Jesus weep, but He was available to His friends when they needed Him. He thus affirmed all our displays of affection even as He prepared Himself for the anguish of the cross.
So thank you, Robert, for your post. I realize that there are blogs of varying levels of intensity and transparency out there in cyberspace, but I especially appreciate those which open a window into one's personal life.
2) As many of you know, this month I will be speaking again at the Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC, on the topic of "Why You Should Definitely NOT Study Greek If All You're Going to Do Is Use It to Commit Exegetical Fallacies" or some such title. (The actual title may be found at the STS website.) If my talk is enthusiastically received, I will be sorely disappointed, as my goal is to stir up trouble. I will seek to challenge the blinkered mindset of so many of us seminary grads. I do hope my blood pressure can handle it.
Previously I lectured at STS on the topic of the so-called synoptic problem. I argued the unthinkable: that the historical order of the Gospels, as attested by the fathers, is Matthew-Luke-Mark, that Mark's Gospel is merely Peter's reminiscences, and that our dear friend Q is to be dispensed with (thus agreeing with Mark Goodacre) -- along with M, L, and the whole Markan Priority Hypothesis (here, I'm afraid, Goodacre and I part company). No doubt my obscurantist views will raise an eyebrow or two. The ensconced position today is clearly Markan priority.
My book Why Four Gospels? is an all-out assault on this dogmatic "assured result" of scholarship. By definition, Markan priority excludes finality since it rejects the historical testimony of the earliest church fathers. To me, this is not critical scholarship; it is anti-critical scholarship. If we scholars cannot see this point, our students certainly can.
Conversely, it is widely assumed today that a knowledge of New Testament Greek will make for better teaching and preaching in our churches. This is a seriously mistaken assumption. In the first place, my guess is that the majority of seminary grads have lost their Greek and could not translate a single paragraph from their Greek New Testament if their life depended on it. In the second place, too often common sense is laid aside and Greek is more abused than used in our pulpits. Exegetical fallacies continue to be committed on a regular basis. They are simply too seductive to be resisted. This is the great irony, I think, of New Testament Greek instruction today. Our greatest efforts to turn out an educated class of church leaders who use (rather than abuse) their Greek turns out to have achieved no such thing.
I am not so naive as to think that I can reverse this trend through one day's lectures. My goal is simply to identify and describe the problem (as I see it) and then propose some foundational solutions. I would, in the meantime, venture to say at least this: shallowness and triviality have cost the church its best teaching. Greek, it should be remembered, is not an end in itself. Language exists for communication. The Babel tells us so.
3) Speaking of Greek, I recently gave birth, and here's proof:
This is my first publishing venture with Wipf and Stock but it will certainly not be my last. I am very impressed with the company from stem to stern. And to think -- I used to know John Wipf when he was running the Archives Bookstore in Pasadena. Man, could he wheel and deal.
4) This is by far the best quote I read all day. It's by my friend Allan Bevere (see the comments on this post):
5) Finally (for now), I will always be grateful for Rosewood Farm, its peace and tranquility, and especially its quietude. It does a good job of giving me space and privacy when I most need it. God reminded me of that when He sent along a gorgeous sunrise this morning.
Frequently we miss such scenes because we're too busy doing other things. Our lives are pursued at such a high pitch (I know mine is) that it seems to be impossible to bring an attentive ear and eye to the glory of God in nature. The older I get, the more I appreciate the beauty of God's creation. Don't you?
I'll have more, much more, later. Right now I'm just grateful to be home again, in one piece.
Tuesday, October 2
5:25 AM Dear prayer partners,
Today I have the incredible privilege of leaving for a place where I will get to teach and mentor a group of young leaders. I leave buoyed by your prayers and ever-so-gracious emails. This is something God has called me to do, yet I leave realizing that it's not about me. Whatever help I can offer, whatever encouragement I can give, it's not me who helps and encourages but the One who saw that little sparrow die yesterday, the One who knows exactly how many minutes and seconds each of us has to live. He's the Author of the book of our lives and orders and arranges them. And we are to use every blessing He gives us to give back to Him. I don't think it's wrong to live in the U.S. I don't think it's a sin to live in a wealthy nation. I just think it's a good idea to share these blessings with others whenever we can. And there are plenty of blessings to go around. I revel in watching something new happen. There is light in the darkness. There is courage amidst the trials. There is joy despite the hardships. And to think that He had it all planned out ahead of time. Amazing.
So that's the up-to-the-minute news, the last you'll hear from me for a while. It only remains for me to request of you, my dear readers, to be in diligent prayer for those I leave behind at home, that God would bless them and keep them, that He would make His face to shine upon them and give them peace.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some encouraging to do.
Keep loving, serving, and sacrificing,
Monday, October 1
5:02 PM Another good treatment is history and we are back home safe and sound. I am reluctantly eager to get back on the road again. Reluctant, because I always hate to leave Becky; eager, because I have been mentoring these men for almost 2 years now and can't wait to see their smiling faces again. I will miss Bec but she will be in very capable hands. Since he arrived in America I have taught Nigusse many useful skills. He washes and irons all his own clothes, cleans up after supper, and even drives the farm truck, and his latest talent is frying eggs for breakfast, as you can see here:
If an emergency arises I can grab the earliest flight home. But honestly, Becky is doing quite well considering all she's been through, and is under strict instructions not to overdo it during her husband's absence. Doctor's orders! (My doctorate does come in handy sometimes.)
8:02 AM Since I have to leave tomorrow I thought I'd spend the day with my Becky Lynn. First stop: The wound doctor at UNC. Then it's off to the infusion room for more chemo. I do hope we get the mountain room this time instead of the beach. The fall foliage is so pretty this time of the year.
I'll let you know how our hot date went when we get back.