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October 2013 Blog Archives

Monday, October 28

4:06 PM Already we have received dozens of emails. Here's one of them:

I want to cry, but instead I will pray.  Finish well?  You already have.  What a joy and privilege to have known a saint like you!  May your transport be full of peace and glory; may your family and friends who are with you know abundantly the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

I assure you, I will read each and every one of your emails to her, even if she is unconscious.

3:58 PM I just sent this email to our prayer partners. I thought that perhaps I should share it with you also.

Becky wanted me to send you the following:


My time is very short. I wanted to thank you for your love through the years. Thank you also for your faithfulness in praying for me. Please do not stop now. Please pray that I finish well.

I love you, 


[The doctor is giving her only a few days at most. We will all miss her. Thank you again for your love and prayers. Please do not stop praying now. Right now she is surrounded by family and friends. What a blessing. God bless you. Love and aloha, Dave]

Thanks so much for caring.

Rejoicing in the goodness of God,


Sunday, October 27

4:14 PM Zwingli on learning Greek.

3:57 PM Just received this in an email:

Perspective is a wonderful tool when God's faithfulness is the central focus.

So true. This is why suffering can be redemptive. The greater our suffering, the greater our material for sacrifice. It would be preposterous for me to claim that I am doing a very good job of this right now. The Lord must come. He must come to wipe away my tears, to dispel the loneliness, to give me -- perspective. The perspective to see that one day her emaciated body, her glazed eyes, her useless lungs will be exchanged for wholeness.

The quest for perspective without basking in the love of God is as futile as a child's refusal to be comforted by a mother's arms when he is chastised.

1:58 PM Just for fun:

1:54 PM The "Three Ps":

Pen, paper, and puppy.

1:48 PM Missionaries today are ready to go from South India to North India, from one island of the Philippines to another, from South Korea to China. Are we ready to support them? That $25,000 spent on your Living Christmas Tree scaffolding could support many dozens of them. Isn't it time we rethought our spending priorities?

1:36 PM I am greatly indebted to my ever-able assistant, Mr. Jacob Cerone, for keeping our Greek Portal so efficiently updated. Please check the What's New? page for recent additions to our section on the LXX.

9:56 AM I really enjoyed speaking German yesterday with Victor and Daniel, our SEBTS students who are studying here for a semester from the FTA in Giessen. It's been 30 years since I lived in a German-speaking country but the language came right back to me. Helen Keller (The Story of My Life) had this to say about learning a foreign language (Latin in particular):

At first I was rather unwilling to study Latin grammar. It seemed absurd to waste time analyzing every word I came across -- noun, genitive, singular, feminine -- when its meaning was quite plain. I thought I might just as well describe my pet in order to know it -- order, vertebrate; division, quadruped; class, mammalia; genus, felinus; species, cat; individual, Tabby. But as I got deeper into the subject, I became more interested, and the beauty of the language delighted me. I often amused myself by reading Latin passages, picking up words I understood and trying to make sense. I have never ceased to enjoy this pastime.

There is nothing more beautiful, I think, than the evanescent fleeting images and sentiments presented by a language one is just becoming familiar with -- ideas that flit across the mental sky, shaped and tinted by capricious fancy.

"The beauty of the language delighted me." Have you discovered the delights of language learning yet?

Victor and Daniel were, I think, a bit surprised that I knew so much about Giessen and its environs. As you know, my current love in reading is anything that has to do with escapes from German POW camps in World War II. Mission Escape traces the story of Wing Commander Harry Day from his capture in September of 1938 to his eventual repatriation in 1945. He participated in the first successful allied tunnel from Dulag Luft in Oberursel, just north of Frankfurt am Main and south of Giessen. A few years ago, after teaching at Tyndale Seminary in Holland for a couple of weeks, I tried to find the site of that camp along with a buddy of mine who lives in Germany, Cleon Rogers Jr. (of Rogers and Rogers fame). Sure enough, with the help of the city manager, we found it and I actually stood on the spot where 18 men staged the first mass escape from Germany. After the war the Americans renamed it Camp King, and it was used for several decades as a U.S. base.

Later, Harry Day along with 75 other allied POWs climbed out of a hole at Stalag Luft 3 in the famous "Great Escape" of March, 1944. The site of that camp (in Sagan, Poland) has recently opened a museum. Someday I would love to join up with another World War II buff and visit these and other sites.

And here's more trivia: just south of our farm there was a German POW camp in Butner, NC,  where the prisoners helped the local farmers plant and harvest their crops. As far as I can tell, only one German prisoner made a successful escape from Camp Butner. Kurt Rossmeisl walked out the camp on August 4, 1945 and caught a train to Chicago, where he lived under the name Frank Ellis, obtained a social security card, found employment, and even joined a local Moose lodge. Tired of being on the run, Rossmeisl finally turned himself in on May10, 1959, fourteen years after the end of the war.

Why am I so fascinated with escape stories? Is it the courage, the struggle for freedom, the human ingenuity that draws me? All that and more. What comes through these books is the indomitable spirit of men in the face of great adversity. I have yet to find any other genre of literature that combines such excitement and determination.

9:23 AM To all who have written us in the last few days: Thank you for your very kind and encouraging words. I hope to write each of you a personal response, but I do want you to know how much you mean to us. It would be impossible for me to tell you what an encouragement your emails are. Thank you for praying for us. We have much need of this. Be assured that Becky and I pray for you all. It is wonderful, is it not, that what we do can make a difference in the unseen world as well as in the seen world. But let us all look only to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the value of His finished work as He died on the cross. May we look to Him alone -- not any other -- for strength day by day to live a life that praises Him. Remember that the Good Shepherd knows His sheep by name, and that includes you. As you look into the mirror this day know that God loves you just as you are, not on the basis of some make-believe image we might make of ourselves and which we are not. May each of us be -- this day -- a keen instrument in the hand of God and of the Spirit.

In the love of Christ,


Saturday, October 26

6:16 PM Hello blogging community. I hope you all had a wonderful Saturday. Mine was spectacular. My thanks to all who came for our work day, and especially to an old friend from our Oxford days, Lea Eaton, for sitting with Becky while the rest of us labored to get the farm spiffified. Thanks, also, to Jon and Matthea for bringing the kids to see Mama B. All in all, a great day. Here are a few pix.


7:40 AM It has come down to this. Four walls. A bed. Music, yes, lots of music, and beautiful roses. Family - tons of it. And the Bible. What would we do without the Bible? The prayers, the fastings, the vigils, the supplications have gone up to the Throne, and He has answered. Tedious trips to UNC are a thing of the past -- as are all the surgeries and the scorch of radiation and the poison of chemo and the stainless-steel bureaucracy of the hospital world. A change of sheets, a bed bath, a pain pill have replaced the medical treadmill. "There is a secret discipline appointed for every man and woman whose life is lived for others," wrote Amy Carmichael.

No one can escape that discipline, nor would wish to escape it; nor can any shelter another from it. And just as we have seen the bud of a flower close around the treasure within, folding its secret up, petal by petal, so we have seen the soul that is chosen to serve, fold round its secret and hold it fast and cover it from the eyes of man. The petals of the soul are silence.

These four walls. A reminder that no matter how difficult the discipline, no matter how foolish or weak or self-willed we have been, He is still providing a Silent Place, a peaceful garden that tells us: in Christ there is forgiveness, in Him we are never left alone, our years are His years, Christ has reconciled us to God!

Sick rooms are celebrations, visible signs of those invisible realities that we believe with all our hearts.

7:32 AM Grateful that the Bradshers could visit last night.

The kids were a joy to have around.

Thanks for loving mom so well.

Friday, October 25

4:55 PM I've got some great news. Becky's autobiography will be published in both English and Amharic. Praise God! It's one way her message will live on. And what is that message? It's hard to sit here and quantify it. So let me quote Becky. In her own words:

My goal is simple: that Jesus Christ be lifted up, so that He can draw men and women to Himself, and so that He can generate holiness in their lives.

This is from the introduction to her book My Life Story.

Please keep praying for Becky. We have a DNR order. This means no resuscitation, no breathing tube, no ventilator. Right now someone is at her bedside 24/7. I sit with her, feeding her small spoonfuls of Jell-O or giving her an occasional sip of water. I catch her eye and we smile at each other, silently content to be sharing this adventure. My heart catches in my throat, and I look back at the years we've enjoyed together, and I notice something. I notice that she is the same woman I married 37 years ago, only now she is more beautiful than ever.

In the dark watches of the night, as I stare at the ceiling sleeplessly, a soft voice reminds me that my job is to watch and pray -- to watch a woman find her way Home.

10:05 AM Good morning friends. Becky passed a restful night. She was talking much of the time -- in her sleep. I stayed up most of the night listening to her. Once she whispered, "Jesus, come for me now please." I often heard her praying, whether consciously or not, I could not tell. She is on constant pain meds, mostly for the severe discomfort in her right lung, which has again filled with fluid. She is, of course, much too weak for another thoracentesis. Yesterday I took the dogs into the bedroom and placed them gently on her hospital bed. She wept as she petted them. They have been good friends to Becky through the years.

The house seems like Grand Central Station on steroids. Yesterday Nate and the two older boys came for a visit, then Rachael and the Humphries. Today the entire Bradsher clan will stop by (including their 5 wonderful kids), and tomorrow the Glasses will be here. What a blessing. Tomorrow is another farm work day, and I eagerly look forward to the help from the seminary. I need to paint the wheelchair ramp, weed out the now-overgrown garden beds, and clean up the back field, which was used as the logging deck -- plus various odds and ends. The weather promises to be sunny but cold, with a high of 55. If you will, pray for me. I think I may be coming down with a cold. Or maybe it's just the after-effects of the flu shot I got yesterday?

On a completely different note, recently I heard someone recite that little prayer we used to say as kids: "God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food." I used to say that prayer in public school before meals. Maybe you did too. Of course, none of us would ever be caught dead praying it as adults. And yet isn't it profound?

God is great.

He is greater than you or me, greater than the universe He made, greater than anything, and His purposes are far beyond our pitiful ability to comprehend. He is all-powerful, and He holds everything together with His powerful Word.

God is good.

That's His nature. He just is good. Even when I don't understand His purposes, God is good nonetheless. And because of that ...

We thank Him.

God is to be thanked, not just for our food but for our salvation and health and families and friends and for good doctors and nurses and for hope. Especially for hope. "We grieve," wrote Paul, "yet not as those who do not have hope." When I have no one else in the world, I will always have God. Hope is the key. Hope accepts that God is great and that God is good. And if I have hope, I do not need to isolate myself from my family and friends. I do not need to ignore the support system that He has given me. I know I can never be "ready" for Becky's death. But through God's grace I can accept it when it comes. I realize that the transition will be great, and that the grieving process will be long. I already feel her loss deeply, but I refuse to bury my feelings out of fear or shame. Still, I just know there is hope at the end of the tunnel. And that hope is spelled J-E-S-U-S.

"Cast all your stresses upon Him, because He cares for you." Such is the precious promise for those who grieve in Christ.



Thursday, October 24

7:28 PM Shopping season is upon us. Perhaps this is a good time to remind my readers that the body of Christ in Asia and Africa is looking for Christians in the West to partner with them and link hands in this time of harvest. God has showered material blessings upon the church in America. I feel that God has called me to speak up for the brethren in Asia and Africa because many of them cannot speak for themselves. The day of the indigenous Christian movement has come. Foreign nationals can do the work of church planting much better than we can. Several hundred thousand native missionaries in the Two-Thirds World are awaiting our support. Paul teaches in 2 Cor. 8-9 that those who have are obligated to help those who do not have. Are you a wealthy or affluent Christian? Are you ready to follow Jesus' example into a sacrificial lifestyle? A lady once wrote a check for $100 and sent it to us at Christmas. She attached a note that said, "No longer will I be buying my grandchildren Christmas presents. They hardly need more things anyway. This year I am sending you a check for the needy in Ethiopia in the name of my grandchildren. They will receive a Christmas card from me telling them where 'their' Christmas money was spent."

DBO exists to remind affluent Americans that there is a needy world of people out there whom Jesus loves and for whom He died. Will you join Becky and me in ministering to them?

7:10 PM "And when I came to Lazarus' tomb / I wept -- my heart was sore / I'll comfort thee when thou dost weep / Til sorrows all are o'er." Susanne G. Umlauf. 

6:23 PM Here's a book I've been wanting to read for a very long time. It came in today's mail.

A. P. Hill might not be a household name, but he was an important commander in Lee's army. Some have called him "The mystery man of the Confederacy." I'm curious to know why. I'm also eager to hear his Gettysburg report.

Please keep on praying for Becky.

3:32 PM I wasn't sure whether I should write about this now or later, but since I have a few minutes on my hands I suppose it's as good a time as any. It's the craziest thing. Just when we thought it was the time when the Lord would take Becky Home, she's been doing nothing but ministering to others. People in hard situations have asked for her advice, and gotten it. Relationships with family have never been closer. Small rays of light in the darkness. Many blessed and ministered to. It's been a time full of the Holy Spirit. I could go on and on. No release from suffering for Becky, but great release for others. I think Becky's Father would be proud of her.

There is no way I can ever begin to fathom how much Daddy loves her. But it's good. So good.

12:20 PM So, das Telefon der Kanzlerin wurde abgehört. Hat sie geglaubt, sie würde night überwacht? Die Kommunikationen von Millionen Deutschen überwacht wird. Est ist mir ganz egal, Frau Merkel.

11:52 AM Being with Christ is better, "very far better" (Phil. 1:23). The only reason we should want to stay here is to bear fruit for the kingdom.

11:46 AM "Thou, O Christ, art all I want/More than all in Thee I find." Charles Wesley.

11:40 AM Anyone know of a "Clean Dog Contest"?

I've got two pooches I'd like to enter.

9:33 AM This morning Becky and I are continuing our study of the great book of Philippians. Today we read chapter 4. What a great reminder of the wonderful Helper who stands beside us. We can face any circumstance in union with the One who infuses us with strength. And it is He who teaches us the secret of contentment. In joy or in sorrow, the believer can be content. Regardless of outward circumstances, the path we travel brings us closer to Christ. Becky has perhaps only a very short time before she will see Him face to face. To those who fear Him, death has no fear. Christ-centered peace of soul. What a blessing.

In other news, the logging is finishing up this week, and today I'm having the dogs groomed so that they can stay indoors where Becky can enjoy them.

We're also praying for the salvation of many, including a dear woman whom we know and to whom Becky, even as I type, is dictating a letter. (Thank you, Karen, for your help.) The Philippians were constantly proclaiming their Maker and Redeemer to a world lost in sin (2:16). Should we not do the same, even on our death beds?

Grace and peace (and much aloha),


Wednesday, October 23

3:44 PM Among my Ten Best Books for Studying New Testament Greek is Neal Windham's New Testament Greek for Preachers and Teachers, which has just been reviewed by Jacob Cerone. Excellent book. Excellent review.

3:20 PM So grateful for Judy and Mitchell helping to care for Becky today. As I type this, Becky seems to be failing. I get the same aching feeling I used to get when she was in the hospital. Yet I am asked to be content in everything. I asked a doctor friend to come by tonight. Pray for us, that we will have the wisdom to know what to do, and when to do it.

10:52 AM In my forthcoming book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church I often refer to the early church as a church that really cared. They taught and encouraged each other, they prayed and read Scripture together, they sat down and ate together. The quality of their fellowship should amaze us today. Even the leaders, who were so diverse, pushed and nudged each other to be all that God was calling them to be. The church at Antioch had a Barnabas from Cyprus and a Simeon who was clearly black and a Manaen who was from the upper crust of society and even a fiery intellectual named Saul. How different can you get? Yet they enjoyed a marvelous fellowship. Their love for each other transcended the barriers of class and education.

Enter my good friend Kevin Brown. Now here is one great pastor and Bible teacher. Without formal biblical education no less. And he's even pastoring his home church! Other than the fact we are both follicly challenged, we have little in common. He's a country redneck (I mean that as a compliment, Kevin!), I'm a surfer from Hawaii. Yet he is constantly challenging me to grow in my faith (Becky and I receive his email devotionals). Not only has God gifted him with a remarkable ability for public speaking, he has a pen every bit as powerful as Luther's. Little wonder, then, that the Lord urged me to challenge him to pray about writing a second book as a follow-up to his excellent work on rites of passage. We writers constantly need to be looking beyond ourselves. And nothing preserves our words quite like putting them down in writing. If you're interested, click here to read Kevin's own description of how the Lord got a hold of him and led him to write his next book. I loved reading it.

Can't wait to see you back in print, my friend.

10:32 AM My friend and co-editor Allan Bevere calls our attention to a great sale on Old Testament books at Energion. And yes, "The Old Testament was Jesus' Bible," as Allan puts it!

9:38 AM My thanks to a good friend, Robert Martin, for his post today about Becky. I suppose all of us enjoy talking about ourselves -- our problems, our adventures in life. But therein lies a grave danger. People who listen to us make us feel important. They can become a foil against which we exonerate our bad behavior ("Well, I couldn't help being impatient; I was feeling really down that day"). We would rather talk about our problems than repent. I don't want to knock blogging -- I blog all the time -- but it would be well to keep in mind its purpose: to summon ourselves and others back to Truth. I say this, I know, at the risk of being labeled a hypocrite. After all, who do you know who blogs more than I do? Yet I have no certain knowledge even of myself. I have no certainty of any kind. I flit from one day to the next. There is only one source I can depend on. It is the Bible. My plea is that, even while we learn from the examples of others (and yes, Robert, I do thank you for the wonderful example of Andrew!), we always give the Word a first hearing, and the final hearing.

Thank you for drawing me back to the Word, as you have always done, Robert. 1 Cor. 15 has become very dear to Becky and me in the past few weeks. I lay awake at night, trying to draw a mental picture of what it will be like when Becky enters the presence of Jesus. I mentally enact whole scenes and conversations. I know that when she finally departs I won't be able to handle it by myself. My peace will arise out of my life in union with Christ Jesus, who removed the sting of death. He can, and He will, enable me.

9:25 AM Nigusse has been "State Faired"!

Thank you Marsh, Leigh, and Thomas for treating him to such a good time.

8:16 AM "There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking." Joshua Reynolds.

8:10 AM For anyone out there who is studying the doctrine of the church, here's a very helpful review by Noah Kelley of Allison's fairly new Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Noah is currently a SEBTS student.

7:58 AM If you like studying dialects as much as I do, you will love this YouTube. Notice how easily he moves from American into British English. Glorious.

When I was in high school, I once said to my English teacher, "Why should I study English? I'm not planning on going to England, you know."

Boy was I was snarky!

P.S. I tink you been supa-busy and no like fo learn notin new, but I tink Hawaiian pidgin is da bes language in da world. Jes like ono kaukau, if you know wat I mean. Das one big ting fo us kamaaina haoles from da islands. (I lived Kailua side.) Fo exampo, say one big brah come up to you and say, afta you pau kaukau,"You like beef o wat?" You betta make fo da pleece stashun, speshly if da blala give you da stink eye. Pidgin get plenty espressions lidat. Ovah hea, on da mainland, peopo no like fo spik da kine. Come find out, dey tink I one stupid lolo cause I no spik da king's English. Hard fo believe, in dis day and time. Weah da respeck? I hardly eva talk da Kine no mo. Jes too much pilikia.

Das it. Catch you bumbye. I start fo get hungry. Jes make shua da edita of dis blog no see wat I wen wrote heah, huh? Tanks, eh!

Tuesday, October 22

6:18 PM Here's a great YouTube of the Chuck Smith Paddle Out. Would I have participated, even though I am "non-charismatic"? You bet I would! Why? Because of the love of the Father for me. Because of what the Jesus Movement meant to us surfers back in the 60s -- those of us who dared to imagine that God was actually concerned about us.

The world's prince has power. But he can never prevail against the soul that takes refuge in the Lord. The one thing this young surfer cared for passionately about in my teen years was Jesus. In Him I found the only place of safety in all of earth and heaven. And not just me. The desperation of our empty lives found solace in no other.

Disunity among brothers is detestable. Understandable, of course, but detestable. If we do not hate disunity, we are not on God's side. For my part, I will try to regard whoever bears the marks of Christ as my brother. Even if you look like a hippie.

3:38 PM Thomas Hudgins et al. have been working tirelessly on the translation of my Learn to Read New Testament Greek into Spanish. I have read their translation with very great pleasure, and it is with equal pleasure that I now commend it to other readers.

I am more than grateful that one of my publishers, Mr. Henry Neufeld of Energion Publications, has been willing to make the book available both in print and electronically. I am very happy about this. Henry is no stranger to Latin America; and his company is very much a ministry (and not just a business, though it is also that). In other places I have deliberately written about the need for elders to be well-trained in the biblical languages. Of course, there are many other areas of life that need attention as well. But having access to the Greek of the New Testament is an asset, though it is also a skill that needs to be learned and developed through much study. My prayer is that this Spanish edition of Learn to Read New Testament Greek will be a blessing to many who speak Spanish in the years to come.

9:50 AM Becky and I just got caught up on answering your emails. She dictated her responses to me with a barely audible whisper. Here's one of them:

Patsy, thank you for your faithfulness to me. Please be diligent in prayer. The battle is raging. I am so weak. Must trust Him. His choice of strength for each day. Please pray for me to praise Him, to honor Him, to worship Him, to trust Him in the midst of my weakness. I want to give all that I can for Him while I'm here. I love Him so much. He is worthy. His love is so great. His faithfulness is so constant. Pray for me to this end. Rejoicing in the bonds of cancer, Becky.

I think she's going for some sort of record in answering your letters!

I have to admit that right now I'm feeling pretty good. Becky just asked for Jell-O. Then she tells me she would like Chinese food for lunch from our local eatery. That seems like the rightest thing in the world to do right now.

Yes, my love, He IS worthy. And yes, a whole army of us are praying for you because we share your bonds. We love you. We LOVE you!

7:44 AM Quote of the day:

So it is that we study Greek because we are concerned with knowing precisely what the text is saying. We are not satisfied with complete dependence upon sometimes controversial English translations. We want to work with the “raw ingredients,” really know what we're talking about, fully understand our options, and present our conclusions with confidence.

I got it from here.

Pastor friend -- pre-packaged food or homemade cuisine from scratch? It's your choice!

7:32 AM I just received word that the Festschrift honoring my esteemed friend and colleague Jesús Peláez of the University of Córdoba, was presented to him last Thursday in Spain. Here's the bibliographical data:

L. Roig Lanzillotta and I. Muñoz Gallarte (eds), Greeks, Jews, and Christians. Historical, Religious and Philological Studies in Honor of Jesús Peláez del Rosal (Estudios de Filología Neotestamentaria 10; Córdoba: El Almendro, 2013).

Contributors include Antonio Piñero, Stan Porter, Keith Elliott, C. B. Amphoux, Thomas Hudgins, and yours truly. Altogether there are 22 studies in 5 languages.

Jesús, pictured in the center of the photo below, was kind enough to invite me to lecture in Spain a number of years ago.

In case you're interested, my lecture (in Spanish) is available here. It seeks to address the issue of Gnosticism in the Gospel of John.

7:12 AM As one who for nearly four decades has been teaching New Testament Greek, I want to commend to you Thomas Hudgins' series on Greek pedagogy. Here is part two. Not that Thomas wants or needs any commendation from me. Here is a teacher whose one surpassing desire is to be found worthy of the One who will judge justly on that Day. Thomas' goal is clear: the abolition of knowledge-focused education. Here is no narrow anti-intellectualism. This is rather the liberation of the classroom to become all that it can and should be. Just as the pastor is not called primarily to do works of service but to equip God's people for them, so the teacher is not called primarily to disseminate information but to equip students for a lifetime of serious exegesis and application. I have been possessed by this idea for 37 years. I am convinced that this perspective is not merely marginalia but belongs at the very heart of New Testament Christianity. Students need to be equipped for their own ministries in the church and the world. To seek out potential in our students, to watch for underdeveloped powers, to bring potential to actuality -- these are our tasks as teachers.

Is there anything more exciting or rewarding?

7:02 AM Is Jesus calling you to get out of the boat and walk on water today? If so, Jody Neufeld has some excellent advice in her latest blog post called Getting out of the Boat? Just the Beginning.   

Now why didn't I think of that first?

To be a Christian is to make choices that either increase our faith or else lessen our faith. Through faith we can grow daily into an ever greater and closer harmony with the Spirit of Jesus. It is a perilous choice to be sure. But refusal to get out of the boat isolates. Like a sulking child, we get wrapped up in a our misery.

What's the step of faith you need to take today? Before getting out of the boat, be silent for a few moments. Put yourself consciously in His presence. Ask Him to help you. Then thank Him for whatever He gives you -- if not for victory, then for His sovereignty and goodness. Quite simply, trust Him. He calls us still to follow Him. And the conditions haven't changed one bit: "Deny yourself and take up your cross."

Thank you, Jody. Yesterday I think I was referring to you when I described the New Testament prophet as one who constantly speaks help, encouragement, and comfort into other people's lives. I needed that word this morning.

Monday, October 21

6:42 PM "But those who speak God's message speak to people and give them help, encouragement, and comfort" (1 Cor. 14:3). Thankful for all who are speaking truth into my life right now. 

5:32 PM This has been one tough day. It was made easier, however, by our sister Dolores, who was willing to come and sit with Becky while I met with the loggers, edited her chapter, answered dozens of emails, etc. It is finally dawning on me: God's inexorable love is allowing me to become a widower. No, God does not give people cancer. This evil, as with all evils, stems from the first man's disobedience. He chose death. And what will I choose? Will I choose to accept God's gifts, even the gift of separation? O cross that liftest up my head/ I dare not ask to fly from Thee. Note the capital "T" in Thee. Christ offered His cross for me. I cannot offer myself to Christ unless I offer my cross back to Him. Jesus found His joy and peace in the Father's will. Will I do the same? Can I? Is it even possible?

Becky has been my best friend. She has been at my side for 37 years. I ache for the old days. I ache to see her in her strapping healthy body caring for all those around her as only Becky could do. I ache, and the ache is as deep as Becky's cancer is widespread. Am I being over-dramatic? Maybe.

Lord, I want to accept. But why is it so hard?

4:48 PM "Blessed are those who strength is in Thee .... They go from strength to strength" (Psalm 84). We rejoice that the Lord gave Becky the strength to complete her autobiography. Her final chapter is called The Last Years. Please join me in raising a mighty shout unto the Lord. I am quite sure a loving Purpose is behind it all. May He get all the praise for all of eternity.

3:13 PM Finally, a really helpful post on cessationism.

3:08 PM I'm not well suited to being a humorist, but there's a book that begs to be read. To a classicist, the title alone is worth the read: Oxymoronica.

If you are as exhausted as I am by the faux culture wars of modern evangelicalism, you'll find this book a delightful change of pace. Here's my "Top Ten" countdown:

10) "I am deeply superficial." A classic.

9) "Even his ignorance is encyclopedic." How true. I've often put it this way: "Have you ever met someone who was educated beyond his intelligence?"

8) "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

7) "We were at sea -- there is no other explanation -- on the plains of Nebraska." Have you ever driven through Nebraska? I have. And through Montana. And through Texas. As far as the eye can see there is nothing but Nebraska or Montana or Texas. When we lived in Southern California we used to drive to Dallas every year. When we got to El Paso we were still only half way there.

6) "Last month I blew $5,000 on a reincarnation seminar. I figured, hey, you only live once."

5) "I hate intolerant people." Gloria Steinem at her worst.

4) "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." Spoken by the great Mark Twain.

3) "People have one thing in common: they are all different."

2) "Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything." Charles Kuralt knew this from experience. This is one reason Becky and I once drove from Dallas to Houston on back roads. How else can you expect to stop and read all those road-side markers?

1) My favorite entry in the book is attributed to the Chinese sage Lao-Tzu, who more than 2,500 years ago said, "To lead the people, walk behind them." His point is one Scripture also makes: When people feel their leaders are truly "behind them," they will follow them almost anywhere. Heb. 13:17, correctly translated, captures this notion nicely.

So get this book and read it. It's serious fun.

11:24 AM Right now I am editing Becky's final chapter in her autobiography. I do so with tears in my eyes. As soon as Becky has read it over one last time, I will publish it. Becky received her life willingly from God. She is now offering it thankfully back to Him. I want Becky's home-going to be more than a step. I want it to be a door that is open to us all -- a door of spiritual awakening. I'm a long way behind Becky and all the others who have so brightly shown me the pathway to God. I'm panting to catch up. God's love is so amazing. It was strong enough to hurt His own Son. Ten thousand angels could have rescued Jesus. But He chose not to call them. Indeed, we cannot be Christians at all unless we too decide to die because of what lies ahead. We endure in view of the prize. And so Becky and I set our face like flint, as Jesus did, moving with resolution down the path He has prepared for us. Jesus went to Jerusalem filled with joy and love. Shall we not do the same?

Ora pro nobis!

9:22 AM "In so-called Christianity we have made Christmas into a great festival. This is quite false, and it was not at all so in the Early Church. We mistake childishness for Christianity -- what with all our sickly sentimentality, our candy canes, and our manger scenes. Instead of remaining conscious of being in conflict that marks a life of true faith, we Christians have made ourselves a home and settled down in a comfortable and cozy existence. No wonder Christmas has become little more than a beautiful holiday."

-- Søren Kierkegaard.

9:12 AM It is the work of the Holy Spirit to unite Christ's body, not divide it.

8:33 AM Millennials are rejecting contentious churches.

8:23 AM Leigh and Marsh are taking Nigusse to the NC State Fair today. Can't you just see Nigu on a Ferris Wheel?

8:15 AM Did you know that I once attended a Ukrainian wedding? It took place at "The Church of God's Grace" in Nikolayev, where I spoke one Sunday morning. The wedding was added onto the morning service, almost as an afterthought (or so it seemed to me). The bride and groom showed up about 15 minutes late. The pastor didn't miss a beat, quoting verses from Matthew's Gospel about falling asleep while waiting for the groom to appear. When at last they arrived, he shouts out, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh!" (or words to that effect in Russian). His humor set a relaxed, joyful tone to the ceremony.

The wedding itself was very simple. One of the church leaders spoke from Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 in a very casual, matter-of-fact manner about the significance of marriage. His talk was interspersed by several beautiful choir numbers, all in a very robust, minor-key tone. It sounded dour to me, but that's just my ethnicity coming out, I'm sure. The speaker then gave an admonition to the parents of the couple and then to the couple itself about how to treat their in-laws. "You are a separate family," he told the bride and groom. "Yet you must not forget your parents. They will need you when they grow old." And so on in that line of thought. Beautiful. His word to the parents was also very straightforward: These young people will need your advice in the years ahead. Don't give it to them ahead of time. When they ask you, then give it. They will likely look to you more than ever before for wise advice, so be available to them.

At this point the couple knelt. One of the deacons borrowed my digital camera and took the following pic.

They were joined by both sets of parents on the platform. Then each of them prayed aloud individually into the microphone -- the parents first, and then the bride and groom. Lengthy, heartfelt prayers, too. It was wonderful to watch and even more wonderful to listen to (their prayers were being translated to me).

It was now time for the pastor to lay his hands on the couple and give a benediction. Again, everything in the service was very Christ-focused. After the rings were exchanged and the formal pronouncements made, the groom sheepishly kissed his bride and the service was over. All in all it lasted no more than 40 minutes.

People gathered at the front of the building to hug the newlyweds, and that was that. I suppose they had a small celebration dinner afterwards, though I am told that American-style receptions are unknown in Ukraine: they are simply too cost-prohibitive. I enjoyed the service immensely. I was struck by its simplicity and Christ-centeredness. It was a blessing I had not anticipated witnessing during my trip, icing on the cake, so to speak.

I left the building wondering, So many American couples begin their married life deep in debt because of their wedding expenses. Is there perhaps a better way?

8:06 AM Last night I was re-reading Phil Newton's book Elders in Congregational Life (Kregel, 2005). In his chapter "Can It Be Done? Making the Transition to Elder Leadership," Phil makes this statement: "Brief pastorates fail to build the trust necessary to shift from one form of church government to one grounded on God's Word" (italics his, p. 125). He says that only when a church begins to think biblically will it be open to elder-led leadership. This means lots of patient instruction from the Bible. Pastor friend, please think twice before moving on. Our little rural churches here in Southside Virginia are desperate for men who will become "one of us" by moving into our communities and becoming part of our lives. Trust can be built in no other way. If you are going to have any long-term impact, you must consider staying for the long haul.

God bless you.


Sunday, October 20

10:35 AM A well-known blogger wrote to me today to say that he was not feeling led by the Spirit to chime in on the current brouhaha. I like that. The Holy Spirit was very real to the earliest Christians in Acts. They were so hot with the Spirit's fire that others were sucked in by the vortex. If our comments are self-induced, if they are not prompted by the Holy Spirit, it they are not warm and caring, then we are wasting our time.

10:14 AM I agree with Arthur Sido: It's time for a bit more humility, eh? Civility is not weakness.

9:22 AM Someone took this picture of me this morning:

As you can see, I've been doing a great deal of cogitation. What shall be my new contest? I'm asking myself. Well, I think I have found the perfect answer. To win your very own copy of The Authorship of Hebrews, all you have to do is identify the teacher who is being described in the following paragraphs. The setting is a Ph.D. seminar. No cheating! No asking Dr. Google, if you know what I mean. The first person to send me the correct answer wins. Here are the paragraphs. Have fun!

After the completion of the student’s presentation, the professor engages with questions unpredictable and tenacious. Going page by page, he often notes for the student each and every split infinitive, comma infraction, Style Manual error, and subject/verb disagreement. Then he returns to the beginning and asks questions related to argumentation and content. No question is without purpose, though at times the purpose often is illusive. “In what city does the author live who wrote the volume you cite in footnote four and why is that important?” Or, he will attempt to test the student with something like, “You employ a foreign word in paragraph twelve and you pronounced it correctly. Well done. [Delayed pause and stare.] Now, can you tell me if that is a Greek or Latin word?” when the word was clearly German. It is at this phase that the professor mimics the activity of a shrewd spider slowly cornering her prey in her web, winding and wearing down the subject until, and often with twinkle of the eye, he strikes with a question of such obvious clarity, that it renders the student uncertain, wobbling on what remains of his footing, able only to answer halfheartedly.

To those who have seen this repartee in action over the years, the professor gives tell-tale warning signals that still make even the seasoned observer sit up in his seat. When the interlocutor’s right arm begins to move at the elbow like a quarterback repeatedly pulling back the ball, and the right thumb starts to pull at the inside of the ring on the adjacent ring finger, the time has come for the end. But that is where the unexpected happens and simultaneously where the greatest transformation in a student’s academic life, and often in other areas of life as well, takes place. For the hunter-professor changes into a pastor.

8:59 AM Speaking of David Clines and the "trouble with textbooks," Thomas was kind enough to just send me a copy of that essay. The money quote:

Each year at the SBL Annual Meeting I take a look at new grammars of biblical Hebrew (there are several each year!). I am always looking for one that will make Hebrew easier, not more difficult. Year-by-year, my impression is, however, they get more and more complex, dragging in every little exception, elaborating analysis of the syntax beyond the useful and the necessary and, I presume, deterring all but the most determined students. When will someone write a grammar called Hebrew without Tears, an introduction to Hebrew in ten hours, say, that majors on comprehension and understanding rather than on memorization, that gives students experience of things they can do with Hebrew themselves rather than overwhelming them with masses of data?

Oooh, that's good!

8:52 AM Greek prof Thomas Hudgins argues for student-centered teaching in his latest blog post, citing a seminal treatise by David Clines. One's view of pedagogy will affect everything one does in the classroom. This includes the choice of textbooks. It's no easy task to assign texts these days. Sit down with most any textbook and you'll discover that after a brief period you can't read it. It's too textbooky, too factual, too dull, too dry. Believe me, I know. I've produced my share of them. What brings on this long-winded, heart-breaking wordiness? I'm not sure, but I have a hunch. Everyone who writes textbooks knows that they are written for teachers, not for students. As long as the textbook pleases the teacher it will make the revered and unassailable list of "required reading." Students will be forced to read it, whether it is well-written or not. I think we textbook writers are finally wising up, though. About two or three books into my writing career I decided I would try to write for the student and not for the teacher. (Whether I have succeeded is up to you, dear reader, to decide.) This means that a good textbook will have a simple style. It may even contain personal anecdotes, cartoons, jokes, puns, and -- dare I say it? -- first person pronouns. Scholars will call it unacademic, but students will love it. And, after all, we're here to serve them, aren't we?

P.S. Thomas is just beginning a series on pedagogy. Should be interesting ....

8:40 AM A student of mine will shortly begin navigating the treacherous waters of Theological German. In his honor, I present this masterful treatise by the one-and-only Mark Twain: The Awful German Language. The editor's cut:

"But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-now-very-unconstrained-after-the-newest-fashioned-dressed) government counselors wife MET," etc., etc.

Keep in mind, this is considered excellent German. I have always felt German to be a bit too difficult for the average American to learn to speak well. Its grammar is extremely complicated and is constantly being tweaked. The main obstacle, however, is our reluctance to swallow our pride and to speak the language despite the inevitable mistakes we'll make (and which most Germans will be quite happy to correct). I've suggested a solution, however, here.

8:28 PM Verbal aspect continues to be debated by Greek students. Maybe they could learn a few things from the Hawaiian language, which is largely aspectually based.

8:22 AM Praying earnestly this morning for a graduate who needs a teaching position in New Testament. God will provide!

7:40 AM Good morning, all you wonderful people out there in the blogosphere! Guess what? Becky and I have begun a study of the book of Philippians. It's all about the need for perspective in life. Last night we read chapter 1. "Should I live or die, I want to glorify Christ in my body," says Paul. And who was his example? Christ! Christ did not cling to whatever prerogatives He had, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to become a slave. He humbled Himself by living a life of complete obedience to the Father. Those who focus only on the routine of changing the Depends or administering the meds or the drabness of the ordinary haven't an inkling of the mystery that is at stake here, the mystery revealed in the incarnation and consummated on the cross. This is what I so easily forget. But yesterday Jacob Cerone reminded us that a kitchen sink can become an altar instead of an obstacle, that anything -- even a broken, dying body -- can be a hallowed vessel because it is offered to God. I think of Joshua's farewell message to Israel: "Be steadfast ... cling to the Lord ... love the Lord your God ... not one of His promises will ever fail you." The God who holds in His hands the breath of life of every living thing still has work for Becky and me to do. Yes, to be present with the Lord is "far, far better." But: "O, Lord, let me live until I have declared Your works to this generation!"

In other news, I'm going to take a (much-needed) break from my work on Seven Marks of a New Testament Church and spend a few days working on the Spanish edition of my beginning grammar. (You can read about it here.) I'm also brushing up on my Latin. See how totally pathetic I am? By the way, another one of my doctoral students told me he is planning on blogging. I hope he's going to be random, because I love randomness in blogging (in case you haven't noticed).

Speaking of blogs, I see that Hypotyposeis just turned 10 years old. Heartiest congratulations! My own blog will turn 10 on Nov. 13 (next month)! Can you believe that? Any other blogs you know that have been around for 10 years? Glory to God!

Finally, in honor of all my surfing buddies out on the Left Coast, I leave you with the greatest surfing song ever produced by the greatest surfing group that ever existed. Make you wanna hang ten again?


Saturday, October 19

6:06 PM My sincere thanks to Don Stewart (yes, that Don Stewart!) for sending along some photos of the "paddle out" in memory of Chuck Smith that took place today in the waters off the Huntington Beach pier.

Don and I were at Biola together back in the Dark Ages. Thanks for the pix, dude. Wish I could have been there.


P. S. Franklin Graham remembers Chuck here.

3:55 PM Have you ever studied the prayers of the apostle Paul? Do you know where he put the emphasis in praying? Alexander Stewart has the answer in his new essay Prayer in Paul's Epistles. Very helpful, Alex!

3:48 PM My assistant's "work space" is his breakfast nook. Gotta love that.

10:02 AM To all of you kind folk out there who send me invitations to join you on Facebook or LinkedIn, sorry, but I don't do those. Thank you, anyway!

9:18 AM Appreciated this email:

I must say that with five years of Hebrew, and constant use, even if not
at the level I'd like, your Hebrew was, as it should have been, a gimme.
But I know any number of people with one year of Hebrew who, after
perhaps a year away, would not be able to pick it out. Which is the
tragedy of at least some biblical languages study.

I wrote back that the main way I keep up with my Hebrew is by reading my Hebrew New Testament. Yes, I said New Testament. I have two versions, in fact. I love reading the Gospels in Hebrew!

8:58 AM May I share with you a prayer request?

Much these days is being written in the blogosphere about charismatic theology. In a 6-hour lecture to my students, I give an overall biblical interpretation of the subject of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, its history and theology, and try to do so in such a way as to be of practical value to modern Christians who are often perplexed by controversy over some area of the subject. At the end of my lecture I offer my students a 4-page handout expressing my personal conclusions and convictions. Here I tell them what I believe about the nature of tongues and prophecy, about the question of cessation, about healing, etc. What is important is not this handout. What is important is that students should know their way around the subject so as to be prepared to hold their own convictions, and to hold them in love.

I offer this handout in my New Testament course on the epistles. The one attitude I try to inculcate in my students is that of teachableness. Genuine knowledge is incompatible with an arrogant attitude toward others, including our brothers and sister with whom we might disagree. I am the first to confess to my students that I have often been guilty of this wrong attitude and that I struggle constantly to overcome it. (See, e.g., my essay What I Learned During My First Semester in Seminary.) Christians are to respect each others' consciences, even when they disagree with it, even when they think it is misguided. In 2 Cor. 6:6, knowledge is listed between purity and long-suffering, as if to imply that knowledge is useless unless it is accompanied by personal holiness on the one hand and patience toward others on the other hand. Such pure and patient knowledge is a particularly beneficial gift to those of us who claim to be Christian teachers, but it is something that all Christians may be expected to have and to grow in (1 Cor. 1:5). James also speaks of the peaceable way in which divine knowledge will express itself (3:13). We are therefore likely to be on the right track when we treat controversial subjects in a humble and teachable manner.

Please pray for me. Please pray that I would grow in this way of thinking and living. Please pray that God would allow me to overcome my arrogance even as I express my biblical convictions.

Thank you.

7:54 AM Hey folks! Got a question for ya this morning. How are your languages doing? I'm talking to those of you who have had at least a year of Greek and Hebrew. Have you retained what you worked so hard to acquire? Look at the following graph:

No, it's not scientific. But is it true? Probably. A game I like to play whenever I meet students or pastors who have had Greek in seminary is ask them, "What's the Greek noun for 'hope'?" Nine times out of ten they have not a clue. (Did you remember it?) Writes Thomas Hudgins, the author of the above info-graph:

The truth is there is need for a huge research study assessing whether or not graduates are using their knowledge of Greek in ministry on a regular basis. Someone needs to come alongside seminaries to measure this and soon. My guess is the research findings would look similar to the chart above. I'm just speculating here. I've done no real statistical research, but the chart above and those below reflect my guess on what the research would show. Just a sliver of alumni are using their knowledge of Greek in ministry. That's the impression I get when I talk to pastors all over the place.

Alright, Thomas, allow me to help you to "measure this." Friend, if you have had at least one year of Hebrew, you should be able to translate the following clause into English. Easily. Want to take a stab at it?

Did you get it? It's really very simple prose from a very familiar portion of the Old Testament. The first verse of a well-known book, in fact. Can you at least guess the last word? (Remember to read right to left.)

Go ahead -- try it again.

So how did you do? Again, this should have been duck soup. By the way, I got the Hebrew photo from Jason Kees' blog post called I Stopped Bringing my Reader's Greek/Hebrew Bible to Church. This is a powerful essay. Jason writes:

Since God has sovereignly chosen Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic as the languages for his Word to be written in, let us strive to make much of our studies. Take up your Greek New Testament, your Hebrew Old Testament, and read. Most importantly, pray as you read and remember that you are a tool used by the Lord for his grand purpose.

Feeling guilty yet? I hope not. Don't feel guilty. Feel grateful that someone has called you out. Better I do it here than when I meet you in person. Need more encouragement to keep on keeping on? Try these on for size:

In the latter essay I write:

Almost all of us feel tremendous ambivalence as we wrestle with the question of just how to apply everything we’ve learned in the classroom to the real world. Obviously, knowledge of Greek is essential if we are to have a firm foundation upon which to build our exegesis of the New Testament. On the other hand, I must say forcefully that facts, no matter how brilliantly taught or diligently acquired, are nothing more than the raw building blocks of life. How we put them together, and for what use (and whose glory), is another matter altogether.

So there you have it. We either know these languages or we don't. We either are making use of these languages or we aren't.

The choice is ours.

(In my best Paul Harvey voice): Good Day!

Friday, October 18

5:42 PM Congratulations to my friend Alvin Reid, who has just been Festschrifted. A well deserved honor indeed!

5:28 PM This morning I helped Kimberly load up about 100 bales for her horses, then off I went to the seminary for some meetings, including lunch with a brand new doctoral student of mine who just moved to Wake Forest with his wife.

In case you haven't heard this little talk yet, allow me to share with you what I look for in potential doctoral students. First off, I am looking for men and women who are mature enough to know what they want -- godly, humble, gifted, ambitious, versatile, restless, willing to think independently. In the second place, and this will sound egotistical but it really isn't, I am looking for students who for one reason or another have deceived themselves into thinking that studying with Dave Black might have some benefit to them. When I was looking into doctoral programs back in the late 1970s, I well remember meeting students who told me they went to Aberdeen because of Marshall, or to Manchester because of Bruce, or to Princeton because of Metzger. To me, that seemed the only sensible thing to do. Many years ago in Germany students were constantly migrating from one university to another in order to profit from some course being taught that year by a famous scholar. There is, I think, much wisdom in that method.

Here's something else I tell prospective students. All other things being equal, you will want a university doctorate rather than a seminary doctorate. I am not saying that seminaries do not offer excellent Ph.D.s, and I am certainly not saying that students should not earn their doctorates from SEBTS. But I think mature students fare less well in the typical seminary curriculum than in the more research-oriented program in most universities. The irony is that your favorite professor might very well teach in a seminary, in which case it will be obvious where you ought to study. When I ended up in Basel it was largely because I didn't want to suffer through the busy work of the typical U.S. seminary Ph.D. program, and I most certainly did not want to get my theological education second hand. I was not disappointed on either count. Basel was for researchers who could work independently.

University degrees can, of course, be overrated. I recall once reading a New Testament scholar in his blog refer to his university as the "Rolls Royce" of theological education in North America. I had never before heard automobile models used as metaphors for educational excellence. I suppose for some teachers this is a useful fiction -- something like Santa Claus. However, I dislike such self-aggrandizement intensely, and hope never to elevate my own institution's status through such hype. Basel may have been no Rolls Royse, but it certainly was an excellent place to study. We had no required lectures, though during my first semester I took 20 hours of weekly lectures, and 15 during my second. The New Testament courses were taught by men like Markus Barth and Heinrich Baltensweiler (an expert in Pauline theology), who tragically died of a heart attack though he was a relatively young man. I was naturally partial to courses taught by my Doktorvater, Bo Reicke. His public reputation, then at its height, had been won in the field of New Testament exegesis, but his wide-ranging intellectual interests were known to all. To me it was an immensely stimulating time -- which brings me back to where I began this discussion. Doctoral studies should be an exciting time. Absolute frankness and devotion to truth are formidable virtues to have if one is to benefit from a doctoral program. I recall sitting under my professors and hailing their latest publications with all of the rapture with which graduate students of today extol Tom Wright or Jimmy Dunn. What happiness to study under great scholars! It stole the hearts of crude young Doktoranden to watch professors teach as those having authority, and not as the scribes.

This, then, is my advice to prospective doctoral students. Anyone can study books, but books cannot guarantee wisdom. Perhaps the Greatest Teacher of all said it best: "When students are fully taught, they will be just like their teachers." No one can furnish a perfect definition of teaching, but that one comes about as close as I think we will ever get.

8:58 AM In case anyone needs to see me, I'll be in my office on campus between 1:00 and 3:00 this afternoon.

8:54 AM Received this yesterday:

I would love to help type your paper ... except your handwriting looks like a doctors (*wink*).

Everyone's a comedian!

8:42 AM More from chapter 1 of Seven Marks of a New Testament Church:

Nothing authenticates the Gospel like a passionate concern for people’s needs and an involvement in their daily struggles. I think of the health center my wife and I established in southern Ethiopia several years ago. People came for healing, and many of them left born again. There was no need to convince the patients of their physical predicament. They were well aware of those! They needed to understand that Jesus cared about their whole person – body, soul, and spirit. Today the clinic is fully self-supporting and remains a bridge that brings needy folk into a right relationship with God. Many have found Jesus’ own example helpful in this regard. A classic text is Matt. 9:35: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.” Not only did Jesus teach and preach – He healed! Not only did He feed the multitudes – He told them where the Bread of Life could be found! Social compassion, then, is not an optional extra for those who like that sort of thing. It is absolutely essential. We are not to overvalue social involvement, but neither are we to despise it. In short, if you believe Jesus Christ, you can scarcely ignore the social needs of people.

8:30 AM Just checked the surf report for Huntington Beach for Sunday. I'm impressed. Looks like the waves will be between 10-12!


8:24 AM Let's think together about something this morning. From Paul's earliest writing (1 Thessalonians) come these uses of “brothers”:

  • We know, beloved brothers...

  • For you yourselves know, brothers...

  • For you remember, brothers...

  • For you became imitators, brothers...

  • Having been taken away from you, brothers...

  • Therefore, brothers...

  • Furthermore, brothers...

  • I don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers...

  • Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers...

  • But you are not in darkness, brothers...

  • We urge you, brothers...

  • Now we exhort you, brothers...

  • Pray for us, brothers...

In the same book he says that sinning against a fellow believer is sinning against a “brother,” that the love believers have for each other is “brotherly love,” that the Christians in Macedonia are “brothers,” and he greets the “brothers” in the church and charges that his letter be read by all the “brothers.”

Do you think that Paul took the words of Jesus in Matt. 23:8 seriously or what!

My point is that, unlike so many of us today, Paul seemed eager to follow his Master’s teaching and refer to his fellow believers as “brothers.” But I failed to mention one very important fact. In the New Covenant there is no special class of “ministers,” no clergy-laity divide. This means that all believers – whether male or female – are members of and ministers in Christ’s Body (Gal. 3:28). As Joel prophesied (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18): “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh … and your sons and daughters shall prophesy [i.e., both men and women]….”

Sisters are just as much a part of God’s royal priesthood as are men. Each of us is a living stone in the spiritual temple called the church, regardless of our gender (1 Pet. 2:5). Every member, male or female, has a spiritual gift with which to edify the Body (1 Cor. 14:26). The sisters (and not only the brothers) are to teach and admonish one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16). The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to every member of the church for the common good (1 Cor. 12:1-12). Together, brothers and sisters are to exhort one another when the church assembles (Heb. 10:24-25). Indeed, every mature believer, male or female, is in some sense expected to be a “teacher” (Heb. 5:14). In the early church, therefore, women contended for the Gospel “side by side” with Paul (Phil. 2:3-4). And I could give many other examples.

So, let’s revisit 1 Thessalonians and see how all of this relates to what the New Testament teaches, this time including the sisters:

  • We know, beloved brothers and sisters

  • For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters...

  • For you remember, brothers and sisters...

  • For you became imitators, brothers and sisters...

  • Having been taken away from you, brothers and sisters...

  • Therefore, brothers and sisters...

  • Furthermore, brothers and sisters...

  • I don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters...

  • Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers and sisters...

  • But you are not in darkness, brothers and sisters...

  • We urge you, brothers and sisters...

  • Now we exhort you, brothers and sisters...

  • Pray for us, brothers and sisters...

Thus, in the same book he says that sinning against a fellow believer is sinning against a “brother” or “sister,” that the love believers have for each other is “brotherly (or sisterly) love,” that the Christians in Macedonia are “brothers” and “sisters,” and he greets the “brothers” and “sisters” in the church and charges that his letter be read by all the “brothers” and “sisters.”

To go a little deeper with just one of these verses, note how Paul in 1 Thess. 5:14 exhorts all the believers in Thessalonica, not just their leaders (v. 12) and not just the men in the congregation, to admonish the unruly. (I develop this thought further here.) The sisters are to be every bit as involved as the brothers. The German language, of course, has a wonderful word to describe what I am talking about (Geschwister). The only activity-role in the church I see the sisters excluded from is that of pastor-teacher (this is how I interpret Eph. 4:11 and 1 Tim. 2). That is, it seems clear to me that the New Testament allows only qualified brothers to serve the church as elders-pastors-overseers (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2, “he must be the husband of one wife”). As I understand the New Testament, eldership in the church is to be male, home-grown, plural, qualified, servant-oriented, and non-hierarchical. If you disagree with me, I respect your opinion, but this is my conviction. The same is probably true of deacons (though some argue from 1 Tim. 3 that female “deaconesses” served alongside their deacon-husbands).

(NB: If you want my interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:34-35, you’ll have to attend my New Testament class, in which I spend 3 hours going through all the various views on that difficult passage.)

Friends, let’s never forget that the “brothers” in the New Testament include the sisters as well. Gender-specific spiritual gifts simply do not exist (see Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, 1 Pet. 4). All of us are servants/ministers in Christ’s Body, the church. So, let’s not just proclaim the priesthood of all believers. Let’s practice it. After all, that’s New Covenant Christianity.

Below: My favorite partner in ministry.

8:06 AM "So how is Becky doing?" Many of you have asked that question in recent days. Forgive the cliché, but she's fine in the Lord. God is giving us our "daily bread," enough grace for one day at a time. In the crises of our life together, we have always looked for God's purpose, have always sough to discover His heart. Phillips Brooks once prayed, "O Lord, by all thy dealings with us, whether of joy or pain, of light or darkness, let us be brought to thee." I believe He is doing just that. When the impact of life seems about to break us, we remember all those little things that bring us to Him, things that "take life blithely, like birds and babies," as Luther said. I, for one, find myself totally captivated by our newest grandbaby, by the birds that chirp in the morning, by the change in color amidst the hardwoods, by those who attend to Becky (and me) week in and week out. Each day brings new challenges -- "Where in the world did this terrible leg pain just come from?" -- but life is not meant to be a bed of roses. That's where you come in. Jesus didn't say, "Inasmuch as you have felt it toward one of the least of these ...." He said, "Inasmuch as you have done it." I am conditioned and constituted to want to do everything myself. But I need help, and He supplies it through people like you. As a professor, I tell my Greek students that the importance of a thing is often in direct ratio to the difficulty in learning it. The difficulties that Becky and I face on a daily basis only make us more confident of the blessings that await us.

But all this is beside the point. You asked, "How is Becky doing?" The answer is: She is extremely weak, often in pain, unable to ambulate or read much any more, is loosing weight constantly -- yet she has recently completed a quilt and a blanket and is working on an embroidered table cloth. (You should see it!) Bible reading, Christian music, visits from loved ones and family -- what ever would we do without these?

Bottom line? Like the birds chirping outside, we've still got a song to sing -- an offering to our Maker -- though our voices are thin and cracking at times. May He find it a sweet song!

Thursday, October 17

4:08 PM Another sneak preview from my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church:

In the fourth place, evangelism in the New Testament was always characterized by genuine concern for the social needs of the lost. When I was in seminary, a good deal of distrust existed between those who emphasized personal salvation in evangelism and those who emphasized the so-called social gospel. The two, however, are indivisible; they are two sides of the same coin. Writes John Stott in his book Balanced Christianity (p. 46):

It is true that the risen Lord Jesus left his church a Great Commission to preach, to evangelise, and to make disciples. And this commission is still binding upon the church. But the commission does not supersede the commandment, as if ‘you shall love your neighbour’ were now replaced by ‘you shall preach the gospel’. Nor does it re-interpret neighbor-love in exclusively evangelistic terms. Instead, it enriches the commandment to love our neighbor by adding to it a new and Christian dimension, namely the duty to make Christ known to him.

In this regard, it is worth reflecting for a moment on the church in Antioch. What led the pagan community there to coin the term “Christians” to describe the followers of the Way in their midst (Acts 11:26)? Was it not because of the Christ-like behavior of these believers? These “Christians” were nothing other than the hands and feet of Jesus in their world. They proclaimed and cared. And so it should be with us today. We separate evangelism and social care to our own injury. No one can be a genuine Christian without letting Christ serve others through him or her. It is simply a matter of living out the truth of the Gospel. Of course, proclamation of the Gospel is primary. Yet proclamation without presence is a failure, and the first Christians were certainly not guilty of it.

4:05 PM Loved this response to Becky's chapter Lies, Lies, Lies

What a most excellent post!!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and wholeheartedly agree.  The Spirit has spoken many of those same words to me over the past year.  It is so refreshing to hear other genuine Christians speak the same (unpopular but true) words.

Thanks to the sister who sent it along today!

3:50 PM This Sunday at Huntington Beach in California (my old surfing haunt) there will be a "paddle out" for Chuck Smith (go here for details). Oh, to paddle out just one more time. Just don't ask me to stand up. 

3:35 PM Quote of the day:

We are commanded, not invited, by Christ to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that he commanded. Teaching? Who is supposed to do this? I don't believe that Jesus intended this only for the eleven remaining apostles (remember Judas had already gone his own way). I've heard that argument as recently as two weeks ago. I believe these are the marching orders for those that are found in Christ.

Read In Christ Everyone Is Supposed To Be A Teacher.

12:22 PM This email arrived today:

Agree 100% that the text behind KJV/NKJV is more often than not superior to that of the eclectic text of Aland and company. That's why I like the Robinson/Pierpoint GNT.  It gives both the Byzantine reading and that of NA27 and UBS4. I always read both and I'm finding myself preferring the Byzantine reading in so many places.

Amazing -- somebody actually agrees with me!

12:18 PM Ed Stetzer's latest essay is a must read: Continualist Christians: An Overview. The prologue:

I'm thankful today for my many faithful friends in the continualist movement, represented by Pentecostals, charismatics, and Third Wave Christians around the world. Their impact is widespread—depending on how you count, up to half a billion Christians in the world are connected with those three continualist traditions.

Much discussion is taking place on this movement—some helpful, some not. Regardless of your view, it is good to understand a movement before evaluating it. As such, I thought it might be helpful to share a bit of information about the movement to, I hope, make a better conversation. I'm not a scholar of such movements, but perhaps my (too long) article will be of some help.

Yes, Ed, this article is of tremendous help, and its balance is sorely needed. Bless you for it.

8:56 AM Just for fun: A landing and take-off like you're never seen. (Do not watch if you suffer from acrophobia!)


8:52 AM I received this question yesterday:

Do you think it absurd if I hold to the King James Bible rather than modern translations? This is just a personal question.

This was my response:

It is my opinion that the difference between modern English versions of the New Testament has more to do with the underlying Greek text than the philosophy of translation used. And it is here that I believe the KJV/NKJV versions represent a better text type. My opinion is based, not on some supposed superiority of the Byzantine text type to the other text types, but rather on the fact that, in places of variation, the Byzantine text type least often stands alone. I have published several journal articles in which I apply this view, including:

"The Peculiarities of Ephesians and the Ephesian Address," Grace Theological Journal 2 (1981): 59-73. 

"Jesus on Anger: The Text of Matthew 5:22a Revisited," Novum Testamentum 30 (1988): 1 -8.

"The Text of Mark 6.20," New Testament Studies 34 (1988): 141 -45.

I hope this answers your question, kind Sir.

Cordially in Christ,


What do you think?

7:50 AM Every evening I try and bring the doggies in to say hello to Becky. She greets them affectionately from her hospital bed, then out they go. Sometimes I'll let them sit in the library while I'm reading. There they lounge, gazing in adoration at their master, accepting him just as he is, "loving on him" as only a dog can do. C. S. Lewis once wrote:

We were talking about cats and dogs the other day and decided that both have consciences but the dog, being an honest, humble person, always has a bad one, but the cat is a Pharisee and always has a good one. When he sits and stares you out of countenance he is thanking God that he is not as these dogs, or these humans, or even as these other cats!

Which is why we have dogs and not cats.

I wonder: Can our dogs teach us something about grace? Study your dog's face, and there you will find the wonder of love and acceptance.

I also wonder: Am I not to be like my dogs toward God? Am I not to look into His eyes with adoration and love?

7:43 AM You simply must watch the disturbing video of the terrorists' attack in Nairobi. It can be found over at CNN. Why? Because these are the people we are called upon to forgive. We don't pray, "Father, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who ask us for forgiveness." It's our Christian obligation to forgive our enemies, and beyond that to love them to Christ. To forgive is to die. In order for Jesus to forgive us, He had to go to the cross. And now He calls upon us to relinquish our rights. The one who hates terrorists is wallowing in offenses. His resentment and anger and bitterness will only fester. When Jesus cried out, "Father, forgive them," He proclaimed the victory of love over evil, even the horrific, unspeakable acts committed in Nairobi. Forgiveness is a weapon against which the Evil One has no power.

Have you forgiven your enemies? We violate the Gospel when we harbor a vindictive spirit toward Islamists. God loves the members of Al-Shabab, and so must we -- as difficult and humbling and self-crucifying as that may be. But there is no need for despair. "Be of good cheer," said Jesus. "I have overcome the world!"

Wednesday, October 16

7:02 PM From chapter 1 of my forthcoming Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. The chapter is entitled "Evangelistic Preaching." It is the first mark of a New Testament church!

Of course, there is an entirely different way of looking at “preaching” today, and it would be salutary for us to consider it briefly. The trend in recent years is to apply the term “preaching” to the modern 30-minute sermon delivered on Sunday mornings. It is the pastor, we are told, and not the evangelist, who is in view when the idea of preaching is under consideration. This understanding will not stand. In the first place, it is plain from the New Testament that preaching takes place in an evangelistic context. The sermons in Acts, as we have just seen, are good examples of this. Note that the lost, not the saved, were the objects of Peter’s preaching on the Day of Pentecost. And so it is elsewhere in Acts. In the second place, to call New Testament pastors “preachers” is to run roughshod over the biblical texts that consistently portray the role of pastor as that of teacher. Two texts are of greatest importance here: Eph. 4:11 (“And He gifted some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastor-teachers….”) and 1 Tim. 3:2 (“Now an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher….”). If, therefore, we would retain the New Testament’s own perspective on the role of a pastor, we must reject the application of the term “preaching” to what takes place when believers gather for mutual edification. It is an extraordinary thing that those who profess to care so much for the authority of the Bible should seemingly care so little for accuracy on this point. Preaching is neither the sole nor primary task of pastor-teachers! (On the indispensable role of pastors/elders in the teaching ministry of the church, see chapter 3.)

3:43 PM Today is a day of deadlines in Washington – yet another reminder of how inanely we humans race from one emergency to the next as fast as our ulcers and medications will allow us. But there is one deadline on the list we must all meet. "It is appointed unto men once to die." Now that is a deadline. It is strong language, and some try to tone it down or explain it away. But it is reminder that there is only one saving message, the Gospel, and that anything else is a message of damnation. So let us pray even more fervently for the lost.

3:22 PM "It will prove to be a great tragedy if charismatics and non-charismatics cannot live together in peace and harmony in the same church; tragic if we have learnt nothing in the centuries since Paul wrote to the Corinthians." Michael Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, p. 210.

11:59 AM Another word of appreciation, this time to our good friend Sherrie for helping Becky yesterday, to our daughter Leigh who stayed with Mama B last night, and, of course, to Karen who returns from the seminary today and does much of the grunt work around here (cooking, cleaning, etc.). Today Becky is tired, but she did chow down a fried egg I cooked for her and a slice of sweet roll. Praise the Lord, and my thanks to all!

11:28 AM This morning the Lord woke me up at 5:30 to begin writing my chapter on "evangelistic preaching" for my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. And, believe it or not, that chapter is now done; it just remains to be typed.

Care to help?! Pleeease?

11:22 AM Speaking of forbearance and tact in our dealings with each other, Becky and I were listening to Chuck Swindoll this morning and he gave one of the best definitions of tact I have ever heard:

Tact is making someone feel at home when you wish they were.

Isn't that great? Why in the world should that be so hard for evangelical leaders to practice?

10:15 AM I just sent out references to both Duke and UNC for a former student of mine. Which got me to thinking about education ...

I would say that the purpose of a formal education is far different from what it is commonly assumed to be. The goal should be to get us out of our comfort zones, equip us with tools for personal and individual study, wean us from the experts (whose work we appreciate but do not rely upon), and call us to use all of our knowledge in humble service to Jesus Christ. Our education is thus delivered up into holy Hands.

This desacralization of the educational process must begin with the teacher's own example. Some people misunderstand the goal of an education and place a higher value on it than they should (they usually display their diplomas in prominent places for all to see how edu-ma-cated they are). There's one other emphasis we often miss as well: I believe, am convinced in fact, that we must always be about the Father's business and use all of our knowledge to advance Jesus' kingdom on earth. Michael Griffiths, looking back to the early church in his book A Task Unfinished, writes, "The disciples of Jesus were all disciples, and all were expected to be equally committed to the Teacher's cause, and equally concerned to take the gospel to the ends of the earth."

As I said yesterday, it is beyond me how one can call oneself a "New Testament scholar" and not be radically involved in missions and evangelism on a fulltime basis. In the earliest years of my Christian life I was not smart enough to understand fully the dynamics of what was happening, but I was quite certain that the people around me were asking me for more than all the head knowledge I had accrued through the years. I discovered that I was called to be a servant to the broken and the hurting about me as much as I was called upon to disseminate information about Greek or the New Testament. I have memories of being caught up in the grandeur of the famous University of Basel, its historic halls, its world-class faculty, its magnificent library. At the same time I shall never forget a man who modeled for me the goal I have been describing -- my Doktorvater, whose balance between humanitas and pietas was awesome and unique. I also discovered a brutal truth about myself, and that was that I had a major imbalance, but thankfully one that could be corrected by the Master Teacher and Discipler Himself.

Friends, life is about people, period. If a formal education can help us better serve others, then go for it. But once you have graduated, you will quickly realize how fleeting and ephemeral all your book-learning is.

9:58 AM Our good friend Aussie John thinks that Jesus Christ actually ought to be preeminent in all things. He's right of course. And that includes our attitudes toward those in the Body with whom we might disagree. I recall the famous yarn about Mama and Papa Skunk and their nine children, which ends with Papa alluding to a new and terrible odor wafting into their nostrils, adding, "I don't know what it is, Mama Skunk and dear children, but whatever it is we must get some of it." So let us argue and debate, but let us avoid being skunks, if at all possible.

9:30  AM Calling all Ph.D. students. So you've had your orals in German, have you? But can you read and understand the language? Here's some simple prose from Kafka. Translate it, or as much of it as you can. Then check your translation here. In the letter Kafka explains his fear of his father.

Liebster Vater,

Du hast mich letzthin einmal gefragt, warum ich behaupte, ich hätte Furcht vor Dir.  Ich wusste Dir, wie gewöhnlich, nichts zu antworten, zum Teil eben aus der Furcht, die ich vor Dir habe, zum Teil deshalb, weil zur Begründung dieser Furcht zu viele Einzelheiten gehören, als dass ich sie im Reden halbwegs zusammenhalten könnte.  Und wenn ich hier versuche, Dir schriftlich zu antworten, so wird es doch nur sehr unvollständig sein, weil auch im Schreiben die Furcht und ihre Folgen mich Dir gegenüber behindern und weil die Grösse des Stoffs über mein Gedächtnis und meinen Verstand weit hinausgeht.

Did you pass the test? Remember: Use it or lose it!

9:12 AM Happy memory:

Tuesday, October 15

5:42 PM I'm at a loss as to what to say about the latest issue of JETS, whose cover is off by one issue and which contains two writers accusing each other of carelessness. I, for one, am no stranger to making mistakes through carelessness (my assistant edits my blog posts for me after I upload them and catches most of my mistakes, thankfully). Hey, nobody likes to make mistakes, but it's simply part of our humanity that requires patience and "big-heartedness" (to echo Henry Neufeld's post of the other day).

Someone has said, "Experts are good at avoiding mistakes and even better at finding them in other people's writings." Maybe we could all exercise a little bit more forbearance toward each other. I know I can.

4:20 PM My best buddies:

3:36 PM It's great to see that Wesley called for the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper. The more I ponder the book of Acts, the more convinced I am that the wonderful chapter describing the birth of the church makes a fitting starting point for the study of New Testament ecclesiology. Should we ask, "Where do we start?" our course is already plotted, in 11 brief verses no less. I am speaking of Acts 2:37-47, verses that describe seven basic characteristics of the newly-formed church in Jerusalem. Hence the title of my forthcoming book: Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. In case you're wondering, these seven characteristics are:

  • Evangelistic preaching

  • Christian baptism

  • Apostolic teaching

  • Genuine relationships

  • Christ-centered gatherings

  • Fervent prayer

  • Sacrificial living

You will note that I am not calling chapter 5 "Holy Communion" or "The Lord's Supper" or "The Sacrament of the Eucharist." The fact that the earliest church "continued steadfastly in ... the breaking of the bread" indicates that they sought ways to have Christ-centered gatherings. So often our gatherings today are man-centered. In Jerusalem, not so! There was a strong emphasis on the communal meal, on celebrating the exalted Jesus and the union of all believers with Him. Today it is not uncommon to find congregations combining a full meal and the Lord's Supper in a time of fellowship and joyful festivity. This practice is to be greatly commended. A communion service like that can be very moving. There will be sharing and singing, a teaching or two from the Scriptures, much prayer and perhaps some weeping. And it will take time; it won't be accomplished in an hour. As every family knows, fellowship around a table can be unpredictable! But if that fellowship has Jesus at the center, the results can be profound.

Please pray for me as I complete this book. I am especially targeting young Christians and new believers who need a basic guide as to what a New Testament church should look like.

2:58 PM Hey there! Check out the penultimate chapter in Becky's autobiography. It's called Lies, Lies, Lies. Be prepared to cogitate!

2:48 PM What were you doing 10 years ago? Ten years ago I was still riding my thoroughbred Traveler daily. I was still rooting for the Constitution Party (now I stump only for King Jesus). I began fasting from December's orgy of materialism. I began publishing books about Christian living. I was writing blog posts against the invasion of Iraq. I began fencing in our 123-acre farm. I was still heavily involved in Civil War reenacting. I could still get my shoes on without groaning.

What will the next 10 years hold? Can't wait to see!

So ... what were you doing 10 years ago?

2:33 PM Contest Time! A free copy of The Authorship of Hebrews to anyone who can correctly translate this ancient Christian hymn:

Φῶς ἱλαρὸν ἁγίας δόξης ἀθανάτου Πατρός,
οὐρανίου, ἁγίου, μάκαρος, Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,
ἐλθόντες ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλίου δύσιν, ἰδόντες φῶς ἑσπερινόν,
ὑμνοῦμεν Πατέρα, Υἱόν, καὶ ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, Θεόν.
Ἄξιόν σε ἐν πᾶσι καιροῖς ὑμνεῖσθαι φωναῖς αἰσίαις,
Υἱὲ Θεοῦ, ζωὴν ὁ διδούς· διὸ ὁ κόσμος σὲ δοξάζει.

Contest closes tomorrow night at 6:00 pm. If there is more than one correct response, you know what will happen!

8:50 AM Jacob Cerone just posted another great review, this time of Warren Trenchard's The Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament. I quite agree: It will never replace Metzger. But it works well as as supplement.

8:32 AM I must break the news to you this morning that, for Karen's sake, I have decided to review my Spanish. Nigusse already complains that I am boring him to death with my French, German, Latin, etc. I can't help it. I enjoy speaking in tongues too much to stop. Language study is a great work upon which to engage one's mind, and is a solace for my senility. What a strange language English is, for example. When a house is "raised," is it being built up or torn down? The same absurdities of expression apply to words like "sanction" (permission to do something or a law forbidding it to be done?) and "cleave" (cut in half or stick together?). I think this means that my own language can be just as incomprehensible as any foreign tongue I might seek to master. Even in Switzerland, where I once lived, and which is one of the most polyglot nations in the world, only an estimated 10 percent of the people can write a simple letter in English. Once, while I was staying in the home of my Doktorvater in Basel, Bo Reicke, I heard him use English, French, German, and even Italian while he was talking on the phone, not all at once of course. The U.S. alone has 40 million people who do not speak English, which is the same number of people in England who do speak English.

For myself, I have been listening to sermons and speeches in the French language and profiting immensely from the effort. I am still mystified why I should sense such a need to perfect my French, except that perhaps one day I may find myself in francophone Africa and called upon to share the Gospel. See if you can translate the text of one of DeGaulle's speeches in Quebec (below). It is a wonderful talk, even though it is full of well-worn clichés. 

C'est une immense émotion qui remplit mon cœur en voyant devant moi la ville de Montréal française. Au nom du vieux pays, au nom de la France, je vous salue de tout mon cœur. Je vais vous confier un secret que vous ne répéterez pas. Ce soir ici, et tout le long de ma route, je me trouvais dans une atmosphère du même genre que celle de la Libération. Et tout le long de ma route, outre cela, j'ai constaté quel immense effort de progrès, de développement, et par conséquent d'affranchissement, vous accomplissez ici et c'est à Montréal qu'il faut que je le dise, parce que, s'il y a au monde une ville exemplaire par ses réussites modernes, c'est la vôtre. Je dis c'est la vôtre et je me permets d'ajouter c'est la nôtre.

Right now I am pouring over the pages of my little book on the church. About the rest of the day -- I'll be up and at a myriad of projects that I have been managing to put off long enough. This is what I call structured procrastination, which is an amazing strategy that allows you to postpone doing all kinds of things you may find less interesting or appreciable in life. It all catches up with you one day, however. Last night I listened to Marcel Dupré's magnificent organ piece Cortège et Litanie. It is the work of a mind of extraordinary power and depth, and at the same time of extraordinary subtlety and sensitivity. I think it's by far the best thing of its kind ever produced, going far beyond Buxtehude and Bach. If you have never heard it, you simply must. I don't think I've ever listened to anything that made me so profoundly admire and respect the composer. It reminded me of Bonhoeffer's words upon the passing of a loved one:

Je schöner die Erinnerung, desto schwerer ist die Trennung, aber die Dankbarkeit verwandelt die Erinnerung in eine stille Freude. Man trägt das vergangene Schöne nicht wie einen Stachel, sondern wie ein kostbares Geschenk in sich.

Finally, I am researching evangelism in the New Testament for my book. The Pauline epistles clearly illustrate the modern fallacy of supposing that Paul was a theologian. Surely we don't need any more of them. Paul was a missionary who wrote theology, not a theologian who practiced missions. I attempt to say as much in my book Paul, Apostle of Weakness. As Paul puts it: "My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God." Paul practiced what he preached, too. According to 2 Cor. 11:24 he received a scourging from the Jews 5 times -- 40 lashes minus one. I fear my life is a trifle boring in comparison. Really, Paul is the ideal missionary, and it is deplorable that we have people today who claim to teach "Pauline theology" yet who care nothing about missions and who never take a mission trip. At least reading armchair theologians is good for a laugh. The Great Commission shapes me. It is the furthest thing away from the pedantic preciosities of so-called scholars. Biblical scholarship sans missions is a very bad business indeed.

Monday, October 14

7:50 PM My thanks -- ten thousand thanks! -- to Dolores (a good friend from church) who spent all day helping me care for Becky. Tonight our daughter Kimberly (mother of 5 but with a fantastically loving husband named Joel!) is sharing that load with me. You see, this is exactly what the kingdom looks like. The truth is that there's nothing religious about the kingdom of heaven. It's just embodying what King Jesus did when He walked on the earth -- loving and caring for others, with their greater good in mind. By definition, this is what "kingdom" means. "Jesus Christ laid down His life for us," is the way the apostle John put it in 1 John 3:16. Then he added, "And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." This is the kingdom of God. We are called to love like Christ loved.

As you go about your day, whatever else you do, walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us. Remain mindful of the fact that Christianity is nothing more or less than loving others as Christ loved us. That's our only job in life. We'll never "fix" the church until we get this right.  

4:42 PM Just walked the property with our chief logger. These pix are for Becky:

1) Thinned out pines.

I think the loggers have done a splendid job. In just four years, these pines will be twice their size.

2) A hardwood stand.

We have about 40 acres of hardwoods. These stands will be ready for harvesting when we clear-cut the pines in about 10 years. God has blessed us with mostly poplars -- a high value tree.

3:50 PM Jacob Cerone reviews English Grammar to Ace New Testament Greek. Jacob is absolutely correct: You learn English for the first time when you learn a foreign language. With some trepidation, I might add: You learn how to translate only when you have learned to translate from one modern foreign language to another. Yet how many monolingual pastors are out there!

2:20 PM Blessed day today. Graham "officially" was presented with his new baby blanket from Becky, and the boys got the antique tractors Mama B had ordered for them online. God is so good to us.

1:58 PM Today I happened to tune in to the Diane Rehm Show on my way to Food Lion and caught the tail end of her interview with fiction writer Andre Dubus, a famous author who admitted to being embarrassed at everything he had ever written. Which got me to wondering ...

There is a time and place for everything saith the Book of Ecclesiastes, but I'm not at all convinced that it is ever the right time to publish your latest book. In fact, to be perfectly honest with you, I have a love-hate relationship with writing. It is by far the most enjoyable thing I do, and at the very same time it is the most exasperating thing I do. Never, ever, do I feel that a book is ready for publication. But after reading your manuscript for the 100th time, you get to the point where you simply say, "Enough is enough! I'm sending it to the publisher. Maybe someone else could have done a better job, but this is the best I could do!"

As both a writer and an artist, I confess that the creative process is impossible to neatly sum up or explain. Why did I draw this picture?

I really can't say. Did I see the image in a magazine and like it? Did it strike me as humorous? Motivation should worry us. But we should not, in turn, worry it to death with a thousand analytical questions. Why am I drawn to the fiction of Michael and Jeff Shaara (Killer Angels, Gods and Generals)? Is it because fiction can be more truthful than non-fiction? Is it their economy of words? The music of their language? The unexplored paths they follow? How they make everything so believable? I can't say. And it doesn't matter in the least.

Writing, for me, is both enjoyable and cathartic. But to be honest with you, I'm not the greatest fan of Dave Black. I have to admit that to you in order to be brutally true to myself. I'm now finishing what is I think my 27th book. Before you say, "Argh! Not another book by Dave Black!", remember that I felt that way before you did. Yes, I will still send the book to the publisher. But I can't imagine that another writer could not have done a much better job of it.

Thank goodness that publishers think otherwise.

9:22 AM Ever feel like a Christian "imposter"? Dan Edelen has some advice for you.

9:05 AM This sweetastik word of encouragement came in yesterday's inbox:

You must remind yourself that you are wonderfully made and he has known you before time began. You will fellowship with Him again.  He will remain with you till the end, BUT it won't stop there... It will just be the beginning. I know you have called to Him and he has answered you.   You must do what the people of God did in times that were dark, prisoners of a foreign people, aliens in a strange place.  That is you now, you are the alien in a place that is different from what you had before.   You are to remember. Remember all the times He has been faithful to you.  All the times he has shown that you are a conqueror because of the Holy Spirit that is the very part of your marrow and the cells of your body. Becky, Sis,   I have faith in you.   With him beside you, you Will overcome.  I wish I could take part of this on myself, but this is the mission He has been preparing you for. This moment of time. This representation of Him. Do not fear. He will provide. He is enough. You need no other God.

When we first moved from Southern California to North Carolina 15 years ago, I learned that the Special Olympics were to be held in Raleigh that year. I recall watching one of the races on TV -- Down Syndrome children running around a track full out. As they neared the finish line all of a sudden one of them fell down. Know what happened next? All of the other children stopped and picked up the fallen runner so that they could finish the race together.

When I saw that I exclaimed, "That's the church! That's the church!" Becky and I would like to say: Thank you, church, for helping us to finish the race set before us through your prayers and love.

That's the church! That's the church!

8:50 AM Quote of the day (Bryan Barley):

I don’t believe pastors should go around being frightened to preach because they don’t have PhD’s in New Testament, Hermeneutics, and Theology. However, I have learned an important lesson: do the work yourself, and don’t just take other people’s word for it. I believe it was Jerry Vines who said, “the lazy preacher is inexcusable.” The preacher must wrestle with the text himself, come to his own conclusions, and not let the “experts” determine the meaning for him.

Will that require more work? Yes.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Read Lessons from a Semester in Philippians.

8:44 AM The following "Missions Moment" is brought to you by Dave Black Online.

"Your objective, gentlemen," said Jesus to the 70, "is to harvest the crop." That's our purpose too. How do Becky and I do our mission work? And why? For what it's worth, here are some thoughts:

  • We revisit the same local churches time and again. We seek to inject our lives into these churches over a period of time. We emphasize a cumulative approach to missions.

  • We focus all of our efforts on the kingdom. The kingdom is not a program or a denomination. It is not even one local church. It has nothing to do with bureaucrats or bureaucracies. The kingdom is God's means of forming a new society out of the dross of humanity. And the kingdom is transnational. We do not go to Ethiopia or India as Americans. We go as citizens of heaven and resident aliens in the world.

  • We have adopted an intentionally cooperative model of missions. We are happy to cross-pollinate our harvest with other believers. We work side-by-side with many different types of churches and groups, as long as they have a kingdom focus.

  • No junk, please! Forget the gimmicks, the gospel blimps, the ugly tracts, the faddish books (mostly from the U.S.). We fertilize with the best resource available: the Word of God.

  • We emphasize the local church. Period.

  • We work as a team. Each of us has our strengths and weakness. I often follow in the wake of my wife Becky. Her organizational skills are far better than mine. She networks more easily than I do. She can smell a phony long before I can. Most important of all, she genuinely loves people. And people find Christ! In the same way, we all have our strengths that correspond with other team members' weaknesses.

  • Our team philosophy is gift-driven. We don't say, "We're going to do VBS, and you will do this, and someone else will do that." We believe that the effectiveness of mission work is closely linked with the use of one's spiritual gifts. A screwdriver turned by a loving heart is every bit as potent for evangelism as a sermon. Under the direction of our national counterparts (the elders of the local churches) we seek to allow our team members to use their individual skills and abilities to serve others at their point of need.

  • We are people-centered rather than process- or program-centered. Lifestyle is at the core of everything we do. To us, evangelism is fundamentally a way of living that utilizes methods appropriate to the circumstances. If this means drinking a cup of coffee filled with roasted coffee beans which you are expected to chew and swallow, so be it. Jesus Himself taught us how to do missions: eat, heal, and then tell (Luke 10:8).

  • Most of all, we as a team recognize that we are utterly powerless when we are not aligned with God's Spirit. To keep things in focus, we begin and end the day in prayer. We ask afresh to be filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. We abandon ourselves to His adequacy and trust Him for His enablement. We surrender our need to control, to possess, to have everything go "our way."

The bottom line? We focus on people and relationships, not on events and programs. And we work together. Alone, each of us is but an eddying speck of dust. But together we are God's chosen race, linked to every other Christian in history. To be God's ambassadors to the nations is infinitely more important to us than to be a great success in the eyes of the world. And the rewards are beyond comparison.

Sunday, October 13

12:40 PM Becky, who can't do much reading on her own any more, asked me today to read to her the story of Mitsuo Fuchida's miraculous conversion to Christ. You remember him, right? He was the commander of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, the man who uttered those unforgettable words, "Tora, tora, tora!" "How was he converted?" Becky asked. So I read her the story, in Fuchida's own words. I told her how he had been given a Gospel tract in a Tokyo train station after the war. The man who handed him the tract (the tract was entitled "I Was a Prisoner of Japan") had been brutally treated by the Japanese during his imprisonment yet returned to Japan as an evangelist. Jake DeShazer came to Christ in that POW camp, and now, as Fuchida read that conversion story, he realized that Jesus Christ was the only one who could change him from a bitter ex-pilot into a Christian with a purpose in living. Here is a photo of Fuchida and DeShazer taken after the war -- former enemies, now brothers in union with the Prince of Peace.

Becky commented to me, after hearing this story, "Patriotism sure has caused a lot of misery in the world." I think Fuchida, who is now with the Lord, would have agreed. I give you his words:

Though my country has the highest literacy rate in the world, education has not brought salvation. Peace and freedom -- both national and personal -- come only through an encounter with Jesus Christ.

I would give anything to retract my actions of twenty-nine years ago at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ.

He is the only One Who was powerful enough to change my life and inspire it with His thoughts. He was the only answer to Jake DeShazer's tormented life. He is the only answer for young people today.

Once again, it is clear that our great God can use even the evil actions of enemies to bring about good. Neither Fuchida nor DeShazer could possibly have imagined what God was up to when they went off to war. That great tragedy ended up in their redemption and in the salvation of the lives of countless others through their evangelistic activities. Peace isn't passive. It takes work, the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But it is possible. We simply cannot escape the fact that Jesus chose not to exercise force when He had every right (and opportunity) to do so, but rather chose voluntarily to die with a prayer on His lips for the forgiveness of others.

What does that teach us today about the way we should live? I think the stories of brother Fuchida and brother DeShazer point the way forward.

11:48 AM This morning Becky and I listened to a wonderful message by Warren Wiersbe on BBN. It covered Eph. 5:22-6:10 and was entitled "Harmony in the Home." Wonderful!

P.S. You know you're getting old when you say "Warren Wiersbe" and people go, "Who?"

11:42 AM And then He told them, "Go into the whole world and preach the Good News to every creature." Mark 16:15. (And yes, this verse belongs in the Bible!).

11:35 AM Good news! Becky's chapter called Strengthened through Hardship: Growing up in Ethiopia has been accepted for publication in SIMROOTS magazine.

I am thrilled! Let no one say that Becky's ministry is over. Far from it!

11:30 AM In case you missed your Sunday sermon (smile):

As you know, my blog is a potpourri, much like a collection of paintings in an art gallery. Some pictures you like, others you put up with. We're attracted to certain blogs (and turned off by others) because they somehow reflect our values. As you know, I write from the perspective of an ancient Jesus Freak and in ways that reflect my Anabaptist leanings. I also write from the perspective of a citizen of an economically powerfully nation and as someone who is wealthy simply because I live where I do. But national identity means little to me ultimately. I am a citizen of God's inverted kingdom, challenged constantly to live the upside-down way of life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus' kingdom teachings are normative -- though this is not to say that I faithfully put them into practice. Kingdom living is fundamentally a relationship with the King Himself and with all other citizens of this kingdom. Notice I said citizens of this kingdom and not mere church goers. This distinction between kingdom Christians and church kingdoms has been debated by scholars, but I find it helpful. In the end, the kingdom of God is a call to respond to the cross-life of Jesus and has very little to do with all of our big, important organizations. The kingdom transcends the church in many ways, not least in that it predates it. The genius of Christianity (as opposed to Churchianity) is that it can rise above our rigid differences on its way to forming elastic skins for the kingdom's wine.

More than ever I've become gravely concerned about the spiritual condition of the Western church in light of the enormous needs in other parts of the world. I fervently love my brothers and sisters in America, but at the same time I'm deeply grieved over our fascination with material prosperity and personal pleasure. Going to the Majority World is a reality check. Many of the believers there have next to nothing yet I have never seen such simple faith, humility, and love. To be sure, not all Ethiopians or Indians are kingdom Christians. They are just as susceptible as we are to half-hearted Christianity. The Scriptures that speak of the cross -- discipline, sacrifice, suffering -- seem unbelievably impossible to many of us today. Authentic Christianity has become distorted by a works-less faith. I thank God for the many faithful servants of the Most High God I have met both at home and in Africa and Asia who have rejected this false notion. Looking back now over the past 15 years I praise God for allowing Becky and me to reprioritize our values and lifestyle. I thank Him for the many churches in America that are committed to the Lord Jesus and His Great Commission. At the same time I am saddened that the bountiful provisions of our culture have left us blinded to the situation in the sin-blighted Majority World. Frankly, I ask myself how we can possibly spend $35,000 on Lifeway Sunday School materials (as one church I know does) when the same amount of money could build simple churches in 5 villages in rural Ethiopia. "I am not to judge these churches," I tell myself. But the inequity stuns me. How much longer will the evangelical church in America remain disconnected from the rest of the world? Unless you travel outside of North America you cannot possibly appreciate the needs that exist in places like Africa and Asia -- two continents I visit frequently. I look at the United States with our Christian theme parks and Christian magazines and Christian retreat centers and Christian TV stations and Christian "Praisercize" and Christian rock concerts and gymnasiums and air-conditioned sanctuaries and I have to ask myself -- what is all of this for? Why aren't we sacrificing for the Gospel in the inner cities in our country and in the lost regions of the world?

I believe it's the deceitfulness of sin that keeps us from forsaking our Western cultural values that so directly contradict the lifestyle that our Lord Jesus commands. We modern Christians have divorced faith and works. Our concept of missions has been reduced to fundraising. But missions is not the money we give but the life we live. Missions, for me, has become simply an extension of my life. I believe this will be the case with every Christian who truly believes in the Great Commission. Jesus asks us to make missions the central passion of our lives. This means that everything we do as Christians -- gathering, singing, fellowshipping, teaching, admonishing -- must be done with one thing in mind: expanding the kingdom of God by reaching lost men and women wherever they live. Since when has selfless love become optional for the Christian? A few years ago I sat in a brand new church sanctuary in North America. It was one of the most inefficient and oversized buildings I have ever been in. How can we possibly justify such extravagance in view of the Scriptural teaching about wealth and equality (2 Cor. 8-9)?

Our churches have become little more than bless me clubs. We even spoil our youth when we should be exposing them to service opportunities both in America and internationally. Our youth do not need more emotional rallies. They are called to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ in the midst of a fallen world. The church in America is becoming more and more dependent on shortcuts, gimmicks, seminars, strategies, demographics, experts, and man-centered solutions to our problems. The Great Commission does not require us to attend classes on evangelism. It requires us to wait patiently on the Lord, whose Spirit will certainly equip and empower us to be effective witnesses wherever we are. How easy it is for us to make decisions and plans without prayer and without waiting for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must stop trusting in our missionary methods. Even the greatest manmade methods are but shallow reflections of the great principles of God's Word. I, for one, have had enough of it. I am ready to become a kingdom Christian. I am ready to work with every Bible-believing, cross-carrying Jesus follower in Ethiopia and anywhere else in the world where God sends me.

Have a great day all you kingdom people out there!

11:02 AM "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?" Matt. 6:27.

8:58 AM This morning Craig Bennett linked to a blog post called Hospitality. Welcome. Community. The latter post in turn offered this wonderful quote:

We are more concerned with improving our homes than sharing them.

Here's a thought that came to mind: That empty bedroom in your house? Why not let a college or seminary student stay with you free of charge? You say, That would be messy. They would see us as we really are, warts and all! That is precisely why you should do it. Hospitality is messy. And yes, you are your family are not perfect. The fact is, that's okay. Life together is meant to be messy and wonderful and impossible and thrilling and exhausting and exhilarating. We've tried it, and it is one of the greatest blessings we have ever experienced.

8:35 AM A few scholarly reads:

1) Luke Wisley describes what it's like to study at Tyndale House in Cambridge.

2) Mark Goodacre has more thoughts about Q:

This is not to say, of course, that Q is problematic because it is hypothetical.  If Q were the best way to explain the close textual agreement in the double tradition between Luke and Matthew, then that would be sufficient reason to postulate its existence.  My point here, though, is to remember what kind of theory the Q theory is. It is a theory about a hypothetical source.  It is not a theory about a lost source.

3) Roger Olson chimes in about the age-old question: Was Bonhoeffer really a co-conspirator?

8:22 AM Have you ever experienced failure? Have you ever needed restoration? Have you ever needed to forgive someone who has failed you? Here is one of the greatest quotes about failure and forgiveness I have read in a very long time:

Peter’s denial can never be taken back. It happened, and he had to live with the painful memory. But rather than letting his failure cripple him spiritually and emotionally, he used it as a means of building up the flock of God. . . . He becomes a living illustration of forgiveness and a second chance. He possesses a degree of compassion and understanding for wavering believers that others, sometimes rather self-righteously, are incapable of showing. We hear a tenderness in Peter’s first epistle that springs out of a bitterly disappointing failure in his own life (1 Peter 5:1-11).

Ain't that good? It comes from Paul Himes' review of Larry Helyer's new book The Life and Witness of Peter.

Three thoughts if I may:

1) Paul's reviews are always models of how book reviews should be written: summary and analysis, with depth in both parts. He ranks right up there with super-rambler Henry Neufeld. And Paul is one blogger who actually earns the free book he reviews. He's convinced me this is one book I want to order today!

2) Paul ranks this new book up there with Martin Hengel's Peter: The Underestimated Apostle and Markus Bockmuehl's Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory, as well he should. I might be so presumptuous as to add one more, and that is a genuine classic by Oscar Cullmann called Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr. I was originally introduced to this magnificent tome while studying in Basel (where Cullmann taught). I love its masterful prose, the commitment to historical objectivity, and especially its interaction with Roman Catholic scholarship (Cullmann also taught in Paris). Check it out if you can!

3) Getting back to Helyer's quote, it is my own observation that failures have enabled me to serve more effectively those around me. Our failures (whether large or small) draw us to the cross. I love how Peter exemplifies this in his own life. God took a weak man and gave him a new set of marching orders. That's what always follows failure -- if only we have ears to hear those orders. "I do not want to miss one lesson God has for me," I told myself when Becky was diagnosed with cancer. "It is my response to her illness that finally matters." Patiently God has been revealing to me the little things, the little "failures" if you will, that stand between Him and me: my lack of patience, my laziness, my failure to discipline my thought life so as to program myself to adequately cope with the stresses of the situation. My "marching orders," like Peter's, are to serve -- humbly, joyfully, and with tenderness. Of course, I am not nearly spiritual enough to see that the little daily trials are meant to be God's "needles" to catapult me forward in the process. As with Peter, so with us: deeper and deeper must be the dying. This is what the Christian life is all about. The cross is a new beginning. Peter found it so. And, if we allow Him, so may we.

So thank you, Paul, for doing what a good graduate of mine is supposed to do. Keep enticing us to buy these excellent books. And may your readers, especially those who are suffering, be stirred to renewed faith in their Savior and, with me, a renewed passion for the return of the Chief Shepherd.

Saturday, October 12

5:40 PM Good evening, blogging buds! Before I say a few words about my mini-retreat, a couple of updates:

1) I want to thank the many of you who have generously supported the new school building in India. Thank you! You donations will go a long way toward the Gospel going forth to many unreached people groups in northeast India (see Challenge for India School). If you would like to contribute to our matching fund, just send me a check (made payable to Bethel Hill Baptist Church) and earmark it "India." Sorry, but we don't use PayPal. And remember that every penny you send will go entirely to the work in India; Becky and I cover all of our administrative expenses.

2) Although my focus this weekend was on the Beatitudes of Jesus, I also had time to read a book I meant to read years ago. It's E. H. Broadbent's The Pilgrim Church and -- wow! -- does it articulate nicely the radical differences that exist between the kingdom of God and Churchianity. I was so excited to see that my fairly recent adherence to Anabaptist distinctives is a vision that followers of Jesus have embraced for 2,000 years. As Christendom dies a slow death (praise the Lord!), and as the vision of a Calvary-looking church replaces it, it will be interesting to see what role books like this one will play. My conviction is that more and more evangelicals will take this vision of the kingdom and run with it, and that this transition to outward-looking, Jesus-centered churches will be beautiful and amazing.

3) And my study of the Beatitudes? God really really blessed my time in His word! The Holy Spirit awakened me to a new appreciation of the importance of my attitude toward life. In fact, someone has called these the "Be-Attitudes." I was confronted anew with my self-pity and my tendency to complain instead of meekly accepting God's will. At the same time I was reminded that it's okay to mourn -- to mourn the loss of Becky's health or our ability to travel together or even any semblance of "normalcy" in our home. Following Christ and denying self, however, includes a readiness to sever the most cherished ties that bind us and to exercise that forbearance with one another (and with ourselves!) which our present difficulties necessitate. I don't mean for this to sound like a sermon, but it's impossible to describe how much I'm learning along this journey! Oddly enough, more than ever I see so vividly the need of the vast multitudes that remain without the Gospel -- without this Jesus of the Beatitudes, without this Savior who can help us overcome our self-pity and self-centeredness. Never was there a time in history when it was more important for every member of Christ's body to engage in ministry. And everybody who by faith has received Life is under the same necessity as every other Christian to be a fulltime missionary. Every one of us is to be a witness for Christ in the world, even if this means persecution and suffering (as the final Beatitude of Jesus reminds us).

It would be preposterous for me to pretend that I know very much more about the Beatitudes from a 2-day study. I do not. But I do know that out of suffering comes good. This is what theologians have called redemptive suffering. The greater the suffering, the greater our potential for usefulness in this upside-down kingdom Jesus describes so beautifully in the Sermon on the Mount. As we make serving others a joyful offering to the Lord, our potential is enhanced to make a difference for the kingdom. Like Jesus, we become merely broken bread and poured-out wine, overflowing with compassion for the lost and consolation for the suffering and needy in this world. I tell you, this "kingdom of heaven" is really something! It is unlike anything we have ever seen --  a place of spiritual poverty, comfort for mourning, satisfaction for hunger and thirst, rewards in heaven for our persecutions on earth, and the ultimate blessing of all -- life out of death.

The cancer journey that Becky and I have been on for 4 years is just as mysterious to me today as when I left the house yesterday to drive to Appomattox. Hence I still covet your prayers. I want to thank you for reminding me constantly of the cross. Please never stop proclaiming it. My heart has no agenda but God's, but I am still prone to self-pity. It is for this very reason that I blog. By writing I somehow feel closer to the Savior. It is a catharsis that calls me nearer to the side of Jesus, called to help complete the quota of His own sufferings. After all, a hard obedience is possible only because it is His cross, and each step of obedience makes me a little more like Him. Praise God!

Lord, I have nothing, nothing except You. You have put in my hands the gift of care giving, and with renewed gratitude I accept your gift. I offer myself afresh and anew to You because You first offered Yourself to me. Be glorified in this journey, and may it only cause Your kingdom to be ushered in all the sooner. Amen.

Friday, October 11

8:10 AM So my two-day retreat begins today. Thank you for praying for me. I'm starting to get my feet back under me.

What to do when I get there?

I asked myself this question while lying in bed last night listening to the pitter-patter of the raindrops on our tin roof. Suddenly it hit me: Meditate on the Beatitudes, Dave. God knows I've neglected this part of Matthew long enough. But the Beatitudes have so much to teach us. Matthew is our earliest Gospel. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus' first sermon. The Beatitudes open the Sermon on the Mount. Ding! This is important stuff!

I'll be using my Greek, of course. I love my Greek New Testament. I love the challenge of interpreting it. I love basking in its cool waters. I love how it instructs and admonishes and comforts. I love the excitement of discovering something for the first time. It's been 2,000 years since Jesus spoke these words. And it may be another 2,000 years before He returns. But His word will always be with us. The Beatitudes are God's gems of life. They teach. They guide. They convict. Here are 8 truths Jesus truly wants to learn and practice.

Along the way I'll be joined by my friend Robert Martin. Robert who? you ask. Robert's the guy who penned the Caregiver Beatitudes when his wife was diagnosed with Type II invasive ductal carcinoma in 2012. Rob found in Jesus' words a safe haven, and a way forward. That's the way Jesus is. He has an uncanny ability to speak into our lives exactly what we need, when we most need it. And when we measure our steps by the rhythm of His heart, we can somehow keep on going, keep on facing our responsibilities without spinning out of control or collapsing on the floor.

What about you? Is it time to take a break from something in your life? All too often it's easy to forget how truly dependent we are on Him. We start depending on our own knowledge and abilities, sure we can handle life by ourselves. And then cancer (or something else) rocks your confidence to the core. But if you look closely, past the suffering, you will see His eyes, and they are telling you: You are precious beyond belief. Come unto Me.

These two days are going to be amazing.

Thursday, October 10

7:08 PM Here's two from Henry Neufeld:

1) Jesus Is Not on Your Side

2) The SDA Chaplain of the Senate

In the first, Henry annoys his liberal readers. In the second, he offers some advice to anyone thinking of leaving the SDA.

Blogging at its very best, if you ask me.

6:55 PM Miss Mary from church brought Becky a lemon pie this evening.

She was accompanied by her son Woody, her granddaughter Abigail, and little Hunter (Woody's nephew). Now here is one missions-minded family. Woody is returning to India in November. Mary has made two trips to Ethiopia with us (the first when she was 80 years young). And Abigail has also been in Ethiopia with her mom Cindi.

Grateful for you guys. Thanks for loving us! 

4:26 PM Just bought for me:

Just brought for Becky:

3:48 PM If you haven't already done so, I invite you to take a moment and read The Value of Short Term Missions. It's sort of a mini-biography of the place of missions in the life of Dave and Becky Black. And it all began with our first short term mission trip to (West) Germany in 1978. I thought of this when I received in the mail today the latest issue of SIM Roots magazine. The obituaries included one of our good friends and a wonderful missiologist, Steve Strauss, the son of the famous Bible teach Lehman Strauss.

Prominently mentioned is the fact that Steve's first mission trip abroad was as a short-termer to Liberia. He was immediately hooked on missions. What about you? In my essay I wrote:

But is short term service valid? Are we short termers doing any good? I know of few career missionaries who would question the importance and validity of short term missions. In the first place, short termers sometimes end up in career service (although this is becoming rarer and rarer). More importantly, almost all short termers begin to shape a “missions” lifestyle. They become, in essence, “world Christians.” In his book In the Gap, David Bryant has an excellent definition of “world Christians”:

World Christians are day to day disciples for whom Christ’s global cause has become the integrating, overriding priority for all that He is for them. As disciples should, they actively investigate all that their Master’s Great Commission means. Then they act on what they learn…. World Christians are Christians whose life directions have been solidly transformed by a world vision.

Finally, if properly teamed with veteran missionaries, short termers can provide valuable respite for career workers. But the focus must be on ministry and not on sightseeing. As veteran OM missionary George Verwer has put it, “Some people still misunderstand short-term work. They can’t discern between serious short-term programs where people are being stretched, trained and discipled, and glorified overseas sightseeing trips.”

You too can become a World Christian. Won't you pray and ask the Lord to lead you to the place of His appointment? It may change your life. It did Steve's, and it did ours. 

11:30 AM The following excerpt is from my forthcoming book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. In it I try to encourage new believers to engage in personal Bible study without becoming over-reliant on us so-called "experts." See if you agree. 

1 John 2:27 teaches us that when we come to know Jesus Christ personally, we begin a life of friendship with Him – a personal rather than mediated relationship that is meant to grow richer and richer until the day we meet Him “face to face” (1 John 3:1). John is emphasizing the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit when it comes to knowing spiritual truth. It is He who grants us understanding of the Scripture. It is He who allows us to grow in knowledge and in spiritual stature. It is He who illuminates to our hearts and minds not only the person of Christ but His will for our lives. The Spirit is thus the supreme interpreter of God’s word. Once you understand this, Bible study will become an important part of your life, a discipline that you can hardly afford to neglect. This means that once we come to faith in Christ, we need never be dependent on human teachers to lead us, helpful though they may be. As our “anointing,” the Holy Spirit not only teaches us the truth of God but guides us as we seek to live out that truth in our lives. We have in the Spirit a teacher who is resident within us to show us the mind of the Lord. Little wonder that increasing numbers of Christians today are finding that they have a new love for the Bible.

If God gives you that love, thank Him, and use it believingly, knowing that this is how the Spirit worked in the early church. I am not talking about making a fetish out of the Bible. We dare not fall into the trap of legalism when it comes to God’s word. I have no advice for you as to when you should read the Bible, or how often. I have no desire to argue with you about which translation of the Bible is the “best” one. (The fact is that there are plenty of excellent Bible translations available today.) The important thing is that you meet with the Lord. Don’t be afraid of variety. Your relationship with the Lord is just that: a relationship that cannot be reduced to a set of rules. Always remember that it is the Holy Spirit who allows you to understand what you are reading. Just as importantly, it is the Spirit who enables you to share life with your Friend. No, there is nothing wrong with a disciplined system of Bible study. But there is everything wrong with worshipping your system or imposing it on others.

8:12 AM On Pat Robertson and Tithing.

7:58 AM I have been privileged to teach in many parts of the world and to see the church develop. Two things are abundantly plain. On the one hand, traditional churches are beginning to face hard questions about organizational structure, leadership, purpose, etc. A whole new way of looking at church is opening up to them as they peer into the pages of Scripture. It cannot be denied that the church in North America is in bad shape. Reform is badly needed. Hence the move toward simple/house/organic church. It is a trend that I think is here to stay, at least for a good while.

The other undeniable fact is this: Change is often made for the sake of change. Churches throw out old traditions only to establish, as unthinkingly, new ones. This is what Eric Carpenter refers to in his latest post as The Opposite Syndrome. (Do read his essay; it is highly commendable.) The quest for authentic spiritual experience sometimes takes people into unhealthy extremes. To be sure, you do not need church buildings in order to grow a church. You do need people who are passionate about the Gospel and who are determined to follow Jesus in obedience and love. I think Eric is asking a very important question: Can we humble ourselves and learn from our brothers and sisters in other traditions that differ from our own? It would be too facile to suggest that this can be done easily. But it must be done.

And that is what this website is about. It is my conviction and hope that both sides of the spectrum will begin to learn from each other, and this may well mean a renewal of the Christian faith in the West. I pray so. And that is why I blog and write books on the church and the Christian life (and not just on Greek). It would be wise for those of us in more traditional church settings to listen to what our brethren in house churches are saying. You say, "But they are not professional theologians!" All the more reason to listen to them. Church renewal has always come from the rank and file in the church. Jesus' own ministry emphasis was directed towards a small group of lay disciples and through them He would change the world. Pastors must see themselves as not so much telling the flock what to do as developing and empowering other leaders, lay leaders if you will, who are uniquely equipped to perform frontline ministry. Although highly challenging, this kind of genuine body life and mutual ministry is what we were made for, and such cooperation truly expresses the grace of the kingdom.

In the meantime, let us follow the advice of Mother Teresa. Simply serve. Be Christ to others. Live sacrificially. True discipleship is always costly. What's it costing you?

Wednesday, October 9

7:40 PM Tonight I have the joy of editing Becky's next chapter called "Lies, Lies, Lies." While I'm at the computer, I thought I'd link to a wonderful testimony of God's grace in the life of Barry Black, the Senate Chaplain (to whom I referred earlier): Expecting the Unexpected. It's over at the Adventist Review.

6:02 PM I treated Nigusse to lunch today at Mexico Viejo in South Boston, our "little big" town. We discussed nothing but the deepest of theological matters, of course. (Wink.)

Our waitress spoke not a word of English. I was so pleased with myself. I found out where she was from (Honduras), which city (Tegucigalpa -- which I told her must be very beautiful), and how long she has lived in America (4 months). Can't wait to introduce mi ija Karen to her. While in town I had to run a few errands so I dropped Nigu off for a much-needed haircut.

He insisted on a "before-and-after" photo shoot.

"My hair is healed," is the way he put it. How do you like it, Choo-choo? (That's his fiancée in Ethiopia. Hi Choo-choo!).

Tonight Becky is crocheting, Nigu is studying, Karen is cooking supper, and I am working on medical bills. I've also been reading up on the out-spoken Senate Chaplain (a Rev. Black) who happens to be a member of the SDA church. Some are calling him an evangelical. Others aren't so sure. What do you think? (Perhaps Henry Neufeld, who was raised and educated in the SDA, would like to offer a comment?)

Oh, my family is sending me away for a couple of days this Friday and Saturday. Becky and I stayed at Spring Grove Farm Bed & Breakfast near Appomattox last year and thoroughly enjoyed its secluded and serene setting.

I'll be close enough in case of an emergency yet far enough to give it that "getaway" feeling. Please pray that my stay would be restorative.

11:02 AM My thanks to Henry Neufeld for his "ramblings" about my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek.

My favorite "ramble":

The problem is that there are many people using Greek or Hebrew in the pulpit, their Sunday School classes, small groups, etc. who don’t actually know enough of the language to support the use their making of it. I have come to the place where I tell those I can to beware. If a pastor or teacher says something like “What the Greek really says here is …” you’re about to be misinformed.

This is SO true. I bet even some pastors who have doctorates from my seminary could not translate a single sentence from their Greek New Testament if asked to do so. Time to notch it up, folks!

9:44 AM Quote of the day (Craig Bennett):

The current leadership movement in many ways is guilty of creating a tower of babel mentality. By our own efforts we will build a tower which reaches high into the heavens, reaching up to God. Let’s build a big church, get more bums on seats, get more people with the program, center all we do around the buildings and programs and call this “church!” And the result is that more and more people get burn’t out in the process. Pastors start getting territorial in comparing their so called flock sizes… truthfully guys, they are not our flock, Christ is our shepherd. We all belong to him. 

I get the point. Just one example: the cost to support native missionaries in places like India is only $1,000 in contrast to the $45,000 it takes to keep one traditional Western missionary overseas for a year. We make our monthly church mortgage payments yet have no funds for missions. Who told us "bigger is better"? This is convenience store Christianity, and how it must it displease the Savior!

I love brother Craig. With tears he admonishes us to give up our fascination with material things and turn to Christ with all our hearts. Keep preaching it, brother. I for one will be listening.

9:18 AM So glad to see that many of you are enjoying Becky's latest chapter called Ministries Abroad. Today we received an email with these wonderful words:

I wanted to tell you that today, without any prompting from me, my 14 year old ... was reading your chapter on Ministries Abroad. She was very intently observing the photos, especially of the Africa trips, and read the entire chapter. I wonder if the Lord is preparing her heart to serve Him abroad?

Here's the letter I wrote and sent to that 14-year old. My prayer is that it may challenge other young adults to follow Jesus with their whole hearts.

My dear sister in Christ,

How I praise God for your interest in missions! I am thrilled to see how God is stirring in your heart. It is a wonderful thing to live in a nation that is saturated with the Gospel and with churches. Yet even the very name of the Savior is still unknown to millions of lost souls. Sometimes I hear young Christians tell me, "I feel called to stay here in America and minister to our churches." I fail to hear any heart for the nations. How can that be? Jesus made it very clear, dear sister, what His mission mandate is for each of us who claim to follow Him. The fields are white unto harvest, and He is sending us into those fields just as the Father sent Him (John 4:34-38). Will you too make it your one goal to follow the Christ of the Gospel with your whole heart?

Soon it will be Christmas again. Christians in America will overeat, send cards to people they hardly know, and give gifts they can't afford. I think of a church that spends $25,000 each year just on the scaffolding for their "living Christmas tree." I've often thought to myself, Isn't our self-indulgence a strange way to celebrate the coming of the world's Savior? The shameful hoarding of our possessions prevents the rest of the world from discovering the truth. Jesus was not content to stay in Capernaum. He was always pressing on to preach the Good News in the next village. We must be willing, as He was, to leave our comforts behind and let everything go for the sake of the Gospel. We must be willing to exchange anything and everything for the pearl of great price -- the kingdom of God.

As you read in the essay, for Becky and me "missions" is not something we do. It is simply an extension of Christ's life in ours. The church is nothing more than the living presence of a God whose heart is pounding with passion for the lost. Christ's heart cry was for the dead and the dying, not for the self-righteous. Just think about it. A typical new church building in America costs as much as 2,000 simple meeting halls in places like Ethiopia and India. Yet we still manage to rationalize away our extravagant, oversized, and inefficient church buildings. Where is the fruit that would authenticate our faith? Jesus is not the Santa Claus we have made Him out to be. With awe, reverence, and obedience, we are to worship Him by carrying out His desires and fulfilling His commands. Becky and I are fulltime ambassadors of Christ in the courts of a rebellious world. Our wills are submitted and surrendered. As imperfect as we are (and we are very imperfect!), we are willing to let go of family, friends, and our own agendas for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus never apologized for calling His disciples to a life of self-surrender and self-denial. Will you say, "Lord, I will follow You. I offer you what I have as a 14-year old. I am but a stranger and pilgrim on this earth, and I cannot be at peace until the whole world knows of You. I will pay any price to see others know the love of God."

This, my dear sister in Christ, is the "normal" Christian life. And none of us is ever too young or too old to learn the power of voluntary self-surrender. It's simply called obedience. And when we learn to run to it and embrace it, then we've begun to live the life of "reasonable service" our Lord requires of us (Rom. 12:12).

As never before, the world needs God's servants who are willing to give their all to fulfill the Great Commission. Will you be one of them?

In the Lamb,

Dave Black

Tuesday, October 8

5:42 PM Since I have just published another book (The Authorship of Hebrews), I thought I would share with you few thoughts on the writing and reading of books:

1) The books I write are getting shorter and shorter. "Less is more" is becoming more of a reality and less of an old truism for me. You don't need to know everything about a subject to understand it. In fact, innumerable facts are often a detriment to understanding. Above all, I try to avoid writing in such a way that might imply that thinking on the part of the reader is unnecessary.

2) I want my readers to become active participants in my book's ideas. Some will read for information. "What does Dave think about this or that?" Others will read more for their own personal understanding of the subject, with the hope that something they read will shine some light on the facts they already know. Some of us are so guilty of abecedarian ignorance that we have to start with the simple ABCs. Our goal is simply information. Eventually, I hope we can read books preeminently for the sake of understanding.

3) Whenever I read a new book I always read it through from beginning to end in one sitting and without pondering the things I don't understand. I find I have a much better chance of understanding a book on second reading after I've already gained a bird's-eye-view of its contents.

4) As for speed of reading, my golden rule is a simple one. I read a book no more quickly than I can read it with satisfaction and comprehension. I can generally skim a book on my first reading. This gives me some idea of its form and structure. I am thus prepared to read it well the second time around. I can always tell whether a book is a "good" book. A good book is one that is always over my head in some sense. It forces me to think, to stretch, and to pull myself up to its level.

5) As for marking in books, I do so religiously. My pen is my best friend in reading a new book. Whether underlining major points or placing an asterisk in the margin or circling key words and phrases, I try to read consciously and interactively.

6) My new book, like most works of non-fiction, is chronotopical. It deals with things as they exist or occur in a particular time and place (hence the term "chronotopical," from the Greek words for time and place). My book is the product of my own personal history. It traces how my thinking has evolved since I first began teaching in 1976. I have tried to write in a way that exhibits unity, clarity, and coherence. Whenever possible I have told the reader what the questions are and the answers that are the fruits of my own study. But the reader must not expect me to do the job all by myself. He or she must meet me halfway. My goal is a "meeting of the minds," a reciprocal benefit that depends on the willingness of both reader and writer to work together.

7) Finally, the heart of my new book lies in the major affirmations and denials I am making, and the reasons I give for so doing. You may or may not agree with all of my propositions, but I hope you will not miss their meaning. I think I'm simply verbalizing what we all know to be true, though I might perhaps state things in an unconventional way. "2 + 2 = 4" and "4 - 2 = 2" are different notations for the same arithmetic relationship -- the relationship of 4 as double of 2, or 2 as half of 4. The same conclusion is forced upon us regardless of the proposition being made.

In the end, the best readers are the most critical. They make up their own minds on the matters the author has discussed. I invite you to read my latest book and engage me in these issues.

(For the Kindle version of the book, go here.)

5:28 PM One of the best ways to learn a modern foreign language is by listening to native speakers. This website has hundreds of audio files in German you can listen to. It's one of the ways I try to maintain my fluency in the language. See if it doesn't help you.

5:14 PM Students: Don't like the rainy weather? Gloomy weather might actually help you do  better on your quiz.

12:08 PM Thought all you ladies out there would like to see the new baby quilt Becky made for our grandson Graham.

We sure do enjoy him!

Not to mention his brothers.

But there ain't nothin' like a grandbaby!

11:40 AM This and that ...

1) These colorized photos from the Civil War will amaze you. (They include the photo I posted last night of Lee. I dare you not to view it.)

2) Received this email yesterday:

I wrote a blog post, not very eloquent, but your comment today about the "senior pastor" made me want to share something I pondered for a bit.

Eloquent or not, I am glad to see the discussion about biblical leadership continuing. The current discussion may be a "cloud the size of a man's hand," but I believe it may point to a viable path to the future.

3) Been reading Acts by Bruce. Oh, what a writer is F. F. Bruce! He has a very clear, hard, and acute intelligence and very considerable knowledge, not merely of biblical subjects but of history and even literature. He is a stimulating companion. No wonder so many Americans studied with him in Manchester.

4) How do you reach JWs for Christ? I recall a visit one day by four dear elderly ladies, with whom I had a most delightful chat. I politely refused their tracts and tried to turn the conversation toward the Scriptures when out came a colorful pamphlet with an overview of their work in about 50 languages. When they heard that I was a Greek teacher, they excitedly turned to the page with Modern Greek, which I duly read aloud and translated -- along with the German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and one or two others. I attempted -- and succeeded, I believe -- to be as pleasant as possible, even though our theologies scarcely matched. "Aren't you glad we both believe in Jesus?" the eldest asked, speaking for the group. "Yes, indeed," I replied, adding, "But who exactly is Jesus --  that is the question." "But we are all children of God," she insisted," because we have all descended from Adam and Eve." "It is true that we are all God's creation," was my reply. "But only those for whom the Christ of the Bible is Savior and Lord is God truly Father." I had to excuse myself as I was in the middle of mixing mortar, but I said that if they should ever come back again, they would have to agree in all subsequent conversations to use only the Bible, "in the original languages," I quipped, at which they broke out in laughter.

How can we stand by without compassion and love for such people? I cannot comprehend the fundamentalists who revile them, tear them down. Surely one can have compassion without being rude. It is supreme uncharity to treat them as witches, yet that is in fact what we do. It shows our fear of them. I am a fundamentalist when it comes to the fundamentals of the faith. Yet how odd that both sides, clashing with different theologies, so often conspire to destroy the true nature of God while attempting to substitute for it the madness of a particular brand of fervor.

As those dear ladies drove down our long gravel driveway, I prayed for them, that the One who has the power to open blind eyes to false teaching would do so -- and in the same breath I asked myself, Where were the men?

Monday, October 7

6:44 PM Powerful words from Freeman's biography of Robert E. Lee:

General Lee did not break down when, on his return from Appomattox, he sat down behind the closed door of the house in Franklin Street, a paroled prisoner of war. He was exhausted in body, heavy of heart, and troubled for the future of the defeated Southern people. But there was for him no pacing of the floor, no moody musing, no reproaches, no despair. Inwardly, he must have suffered more than was realized even by those who knew him best. Outwardly he seemed, for the time, merely a very tired man who had passed through a bitter experience about which he did not wish to talk, though he would converse freely on other subjects. He spent long hours in bed and for some days did not leave the house. The remainder of the time he who had passed so many days in the saddle or in bivouac sat quietly in a chair in the back parlor, with some of his family around him. A week before, carnage, clamor, and the anguish of his country's death spasm. Now, four walls, silence, and a slow fire on the hearth.

Below: My favorite picture of the general behind his home at 707 Franklin Street in Richmond. It is an eerie feeling to stand in that exact same spot.

Why is it that the older I get, the more I appreciate Lee's last years?

6:00 PM And the winner is:

Luis Rodriguez

The book will go out this week. Thanks to all who played our fun little game. The answer, by the way: None other than the famous pastor and bird watcher, John Stott.

P.S. Your favorite Stott book? Mine is Basic Christianity.

4:33 PM Hey there! Can I think out loud with you, especially my pastor friends? In fact, I have a question for you. Today I was perusing the website of a church in which the senior pastor was stating the biblical case for eldership. Is there not a contradiction here? I don't need to press the point; we've noted time and again in these pages that, in the New Testament, pastoral ministry was something corporate and shared. With us it is nearly always exercised singly or by a group of elders over which a senior pastor is set. But the only senior pastor we find in the New Testament is Christ (1 Pet. 5:4). In 1 Pet. 5:1, Peter is quite content to recede into the group. "I am but your fellow elder," he writes (in essence). This should not surprise us. The twelve apostles functioned as a team, and they established local church leadership in the same way. (Remember: Peter was not the "Senior Apostle" and the others "Associate Apostles.") Such is the pattern for ministry set by Jesus and His apostles.

So my question is: Are we not bound to confess that the church today has often failed to follow the model set by her Founder? I may be wrong, but I think the answer is Yes. And I think this can happen even in churches in which the Bible is rightly held up as the sole authority in matters of faith and practice. But it is an astonishing reversal of the pattern left by Jesus (see Matthew 23). Could not the title "senior pastor" give the wrong impression and distance you from the very people you are called upon to serve, or from the team of elders you are serving among? The question is vital and urgent. It is a thorn that must be dealt with. The New Testament gives no suggestion that someone served as a senior pastor (or as a lead pastor). Paul, for example, met with the Ephesian "elders" in Miletus. The implication, quite baldly, is that the church had no hierarchy in their leadership. In my own local Baptist church, which recently was led to appoint biblical elders, the leadership has tried to follow this pattern. And it is beautiful to see our elders/pastors reciprocating ministry to each other. Each finds himself an equal among a loving team of servants. And all are enriched thereby. So is the church. Our Head is Christ, and no man is considered "the" pastor.

So there you have it. I do not like the term "senior pastor." And I do not like it because I do not think the term is biblical. Nor do I think it represents a truly biblical ecclesiology. Again, I may be wrong, but I do not see two classes of elders in the New Testament. All are called to oversee (whether or not they are paid staff). Each is to be an able teacher. And that is just what our nomenclature must show. For this to happen, there will have to be a new attitude in the pew and among the leaders. But it can be done. The question is: Are we willing to be radical enough to take this step? The New Testament turns our notions of "doing church" on their head. It defangs the clamor for status that drives so many of us. It replaces ladders of power and prestige with towels and basins. We need to grapple with these issues. Let's face it -- pecking orders are deeply embedded in every area of our Christian experience. Ought this to be? If not, why not?

12:58 PM As I said, today is another busy day. I've finally published Becky's chapter. The delay was caused by a satellite outage due to the rain we're been having. Add to that the numbing series of pictures I had to find for this chapter, and you start to see why this has been a busy day. But the chapter is up, and the icing on the cake is that Becky is feeling really good today and is actually eating real food (and keeping it down). That's the way life is here; it ebbs and flows, the sweet and salty always mixing together. I do hope you read and enjoy Becky's latest chapter (Ministries Abroad). We're not placed on this earth to live our own independent lives, unaffected by the suffering all around us. Jesus got dirty in the world. Becky and I have tried to do the same. We've not always done a very good job it, and for sure we could have done a lot more. But I guess that when life is messy, that's okay. It sure was fun looking back over our life together in Ethiopia, from our very first visit together there in 2004 up to the work we're still doing there. Did I really lay my head on my pillow that first night we were in Ethiopia and say to Becky, "Honey, I love these people so much it hurts"? Yep. I am called to love others, especially those who tend to be left behind in the mad rush for all the goodies in life. Ministering to others seems like such a small thing. But it's really a big thing. And anyone who loves Jesus can do it. How will you know where to start? Simple. Jesus will put His love in your heart for people. I've been at this for more than 10 years now, and I'm sitting here blinking back tears thinking about what this has meant in my life, my marriage, my home, my teaching. I would not want to live any other way.

(Sorry for the large number of photos in Becky's chapter, but I actually could have posted many more. Aren't you pleased with my self-control?)

9:22 AM Odds and ends:

1) This morning I woke up to the sound of the dogs barking frantically at something. That "something" turned out to be our donkeys, who were happily grazing in the front yard of Bradford Hall. So out into the rain I went. I found the 8-foot wide gap in the fence the loggers had made, repaired it, and then --  by the sheer grace of God -- managed to get Tinish Koi and Tolo Tolo back into the pasture. Tolo followed the oats bucket. As for Tinish, she was too smart to fall for that old trick. Eventually she allowed me to put the halter on her (sweet girl!) and I led her back peacefully to the fold. " Thus began my day!

2) This morning I'm doing what I love to do. I'm editing the next chapter of B's autobiography. It's called "Ministries Abroad." And boy oh boy, what an exciting life we've had!

3) Have you heard about the German Bible in Fair Language?

4) My assistant Jacob Cerone and I have been working on our book 100 Essential Tools for Using Greek in Ministry. We had forgotten to include Harold Greenlee's superb introductory treatment The Text of the New Testament (Hendrickson). That has now been rectified. In case you're interested in such things, here's what I wrote for the book's cover:

In all of his writings, Harold Greenlee's overriding concern is to show
that New Testament textual criticism, far from being secondary or
indifferent matter, is a matter of supreme importance. Once the student
has started reading Greenlee, he or she will find that this soft-spoken
man has relevance to one of the most crucial areas of biblical studies
today. Certainly this revision of Greenlee's classic textbook will be a
welcome addition to any pastor or student's library. I thank God that He
has given His church such a warm-hearted and capable scholar.

5) I think you'll enjoy this essay about Is There Life After Burnout for Pastors?. The whole question of the "pastorate" is rather troublesome. There is – apart from the sheer grief of overwork – an added pain in the cynicism of the situation. One ought to be grateful and thankful for all the years that pastors spend in church work, ministering alone at times. Solitary pastorates are perhaps the ne plus ultra of human wisdom.

6) Do you ever pray Scripture? Today I prayed this prayer for Becky:

For this reason we have not stopped praying for you since the day we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through every kind of spiritual wisdom and insight. We ask this so that you will live the kind of lives that prove you belong to the Lord. Then you will want to please Him in every way as you grow in producing every kind of good work by this knowledge about God. We ask Him to strengthen you by His glorious might with all the power you need to patiently endure everything with joy. You will also thank the Father, who has made you able to share the light, which is what God's people inherit (Col. 1:9-12).

7) Although many have already correctly identified our mystery visitor to Ethiopia, our contest will remain open until 6:00 pm. 

Sunday, October 6

8:30 PM Contest Time! A free copy of Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? to the person who can correctly identify the faranji (white-faced foreigner) in this photo taken in Addis Ababa 9 years ago and can correctly tell me his lifelong hobby (and one of the main reasons he visited Ethiopia that year).

If there is more than one correct response, the winner will be randomly chosen tomorrow night at 6:00 pm. To his right, by the way, are my sons David and Nigusse. David now serves in South Africa. Nigusse, of course, is a student at Southeastern.

7:49 PM The dedication service is now history. The last picture says it all.

8:32 AM The genius of the Protestant Reformation lay in its struggle with the problem of justification in all its aspects. For the greatest question of life is the conversion of man and his reconciliation to God in Christ. But Protestantism, once it answered this question biblically, failed to press on to treat Christianity in its most radical form -- the form presented in the New Testament. The Protestant teaching on justification, in emphasizing truth, sometimes leads to a neglect of the new life, life in the Spirit, life in Christ, life as Christ's body. Koinonia takes on a superficial and rather suburban goodness -- moral platitudes, covered dish fellowships, an occasional "mission trip" to the local nursing home or to a nearby state. The Christian life has become merely a fidelity to ethical prescriptions or participation in the multitudinous programs in our churches. There is little real sacrifice about it. Witnessing becomes a trite tract or a bumper sticker. Heb. 10:24 is cited to drive people back into church but not to encourage them to "provoke one another to love and good works." Passive spectatorism becomes par for the course. It is to the credit of the Jesus Movement of the 1960s (of which I was a part) and perhaps of the modern emerging church movement (of which I am not a part) that both sought to expose this hideous problem for all to see. There is a new generation and a new spirit at work today, and perhaps it will turn out to be the catalyst that will bring on our transformation from churchianity to a Christianity that is dedicated to the forceful living out of the life of Jesus in this world.

May it be!

8:28 AM As the drought makes me wish for rain, the clouds for the sun, the storms for the gentle winds, so my heart yearns for Thee, my Lord and my God.

8:25 AM I just spoke with the most überwonderfullest woman in the whole wide universe. She sounds great and looks rested. Alas, she lacks the strength to travel to Maple Ridge, so we will hold the dedication service right here in good old Bradford Hall. Kindly join me in praying that she will have the energy to say a few words. That is her desire and wish.

8:04 AM Our Maple Ridge Dedication video. Rejoice with us!


7:46 AM Good morning! Allan Bevere's latest blog post is called Doctrine: The House in Which the Church Lives. "Without the house of our doctrine," he writes, "we will become morally hopeless."

We Christians need the historic doctrines of our faith. Without them we will be reduced to a church that is not really a church, but a loose association of self-absorbed people whose primary focus in life will be to do what is right in our own eyes (Judges 17:6).

My 10 cents? (Not 2 cents -- inflation and all that). I think it would be advantageous if much of our doctrinal training were on the job rather than in the classroom. It would also be highly advantageous if theological instruction took place under competent practitioners of the Gospel rather than theoretical academics. In other words, the question is: How can doctrine be made relevant to those who are trying to practice their faith? A doctrine like justification could be greatly sharpened if it were contrasted with the petty legalism of so many church members. I'm afraid we're producing graduates whose passion for Gospel living may be nil while their knowledge of minute details of doctrine may be massive. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of practical theology, as Allan notes. The goal would be to see that all subjects are taught with kingdom-living in mind.

An excellent example of this is Thomas Hudgins' New Testament Greek course at Capital Bible Seminary in DC, which emphasizes from day one the importance of using Greek in ministry and in life. It is a great mistake to allow our Greek instruction to touch the mind alone. It must also impact the will. I an not aware that anyone has really mastered the art of life-changing communication. But it is absolutely necessary that we try. I have a great deal to learn in this area. I wish I knew better how to bring it about. But I have seen it happen. Making doctrine practical is one of the most important challenges facing Christian education in our generation. I am determined to pursue it.

Keep livin' the faith!


Saturday, October 5

7:32 PM Speaking of Greek, brother Jeff has an excellent piece up at The Scripture Zealot on Bible translations called Literal Greek Translation Does Not Work. Do check it out. While you're at it, don't forget Thomas Hudgins' recent post called On the Expressions "Word-For-Word" and "Literal" Dealing With Translations. Both writers are on to something important. The other day I heard somebody read from aloud from the book of Revelation. Their translation referred to "lightenings." I almost laughed out loud. Who today would ever use such language? "Hey Harry, did you see all those lightenings the other night?" No. We would say, "Did you see all those flashes of lightening?" Jeff puts it this way:

Although I have no problem with literal translations, in my mind it seems that literal translations aren’t translated ‘all the way’ into English. They try to use original language grammar and word order and fit it into English, except when they can’t, which is much more of the time than people think. Some of the language in the ESV for example would get red marks by an English teacher. Bad word order, bad sentence structure, repetitive. I think that translation should be English English, not Greek English or Hebrew English. That’s an extremely general statement of course, frought with issues that books have been written about.

"English English." Is that really possible? I should hope so!

7:10 PM Fellow Greek geeks! Check out What's New at our New Testament Greek Portal!

6:59 PM A million thanks to the Woolseys and the Vidals for their help in cleaning Maple Ridge today in preparation for tomorrow's dedication service. Both families are in Karen's small group at Imago Dei Church.

Also, warm thanks to my assistant Jacob Cerone for calling and helping me -- the ultimate cyber-klutz -- to finish a slide presentation for tomorrow as well. Oh, and then there's Mitchell and Judy who came and spent the day and assisted us in caring for Becky.

And did I mention Robbie who put the Plexiglas up at Maple Ridge, or Nigusse who served as willing gofer and photographer?

Lots of body life today.

Again, to all: Heartfelt thanks from Dave and Becky Lynn!

6:45 PM I know this is a very random reflection, but I cringed when I read that theologian Hans Küng has apparently come out in support of assisted suicide. There is a danger in the church of wanting to become so culturally relevant that our theology becomes shaped by culture rather than by Scripture. Is it right to take one's own life when Scripture teaches that God alone appoints people to die (Heb. 9:27)? Suicide is an attempt to deny God that right. Exodus 20:13 clearly forbids the unlawful taking of life. How then can we assist someone in his or her death? Despite his suffering and distress, Job refused to curse God and die. "Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?" So while I can sympathize with Dr. Küng's plight, his arguments amount to little because they fail to base themselves in the Scriptures. Given that God is sovereign, and that He is love, and that He decides when we are born and when we die, I am saddened that such a brilliant thinker should endorse euthanasia. I would thus encourage anyone who wants to read what Küng says on this subject to do so with a very critical eye. At the same time, it's clear that he (and so many others) who are suffering are really struggling with deep issues of faith. I think they need our empathy as well as our prayers. But even if we (like Job of old) are forced by circumstances to confront the problem of pain in a very personal way, this shouldn't affect our faith in Christ or our absolute confidence in the character of God. Peter sums up the matter nicely when he writes:

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

In other words, there is a point to suffering, even if we can't see it at the time. So whatever else is at stake in the debate over the problem of pain, our picture of God should not be. Fix your eyes on Jesus, not on your suffering.

10:22 AM "I used to think I was too old to fall in love again...

... and then I became a grandpa." The latest of Graham. Thanks for sending it, Jessie!

Friday, October 4

4:33 PM To all of my intelligent and discerning cyber-readers (and that's all of you): Just a quick note to say that our spring 2014 conference on the Pericope Adulterae (the "woman taken in adultery" passage in John) is most definitely still on. As soon as Maurice Robinson and I have finalized the speakers and schedule I will let you know right here. Dr. Robinson is a staunch defender of the passage's authenticity. I think he's on the right track. But no, the conference will most assuredly NOT be one-sided!

3:54 PM Even though I am on sabbatical I am still quite involved with my doctoral students, especially the newer ones. During my 3 years as a doctoral student at the University of Basel, I found my Doktorvater to be at once utterly brilliant, approachable, rigorous, and caring. In many ways I have sought to emulate him in my own teaching. Professor Reicke had a passion for hard work, detail, and precision. He had an impatience with mental laziness, so-called "relevance," and bureaucratic ineptitude. Most impressive of all were his curiosity, simplicity, and personal piety. I offer these thoughts because I suppose it is only fair that my own doctoral students know what I expect of them. Doctoral work is the greatest academic challenge a student can face. It should also be the most joyful.

3:42 PM Someone once asked me why I blog. I told him that my blog is nothing more than a personal interpretation of my world. In elaborating such a version one inevitably tells something of oneself. But my blog is not meant to be a venture in self-revelation or self-discovery. Nor do I offer "answers" to life's pressing problems. I do have answers, but I think I have more questions, and I question nothing so much as the viability of "expert" answers, including my own. Maybe the best way to characterize my blog is to say that it consists of a series of sketches and meditations, some literary, some poetic, others theological and even linguistic, fitted together spontaneously and in such a way that they react upon each other. I simply record ways in which I view the world, or a small part of it, without attempting to be formal or even organized. To put it plainly, I blog because I enjoy it, though I do not delude myself that I am saying anything of eternal value. I also feel a responsibility, in a sense, to enter the world of ideas by offering at least a few contemplative and introspective ideas of my own. That is one of the things this blog attempts to do. It gives a personal view of contemporary questions -- with a touch of farm life thrown in for the reader's amusement. Of course, I did not say all of this when asked why I blog, but if I had had the time it is what I should likely have said.

Why do you blog?

10:38 AM Here's a thought from Hebrews. I note in 5:11-14 that the author was willing to lovingly confront the brethren with the truth. Occasionally, very occasionally, we will have to do the same. It is much easier, of course, to keep quiet, but "peace" is rarely the result. Bill Hybels has written (Honest to God, p. 53):

When people submerge their true feelings in order to preserve harmony, they undermine the integrity of a relationship. They buy peace on the surface, but underneath there are hurt feelings, troubling questions, and hidden hostilities just waiting to erupt. It's a costly price to pay for a cheap peace, and it inevitably leads to inauthentic relationships. 

Does that mean we should become a "professional weaker brother" and go around rebuking each other all the time? Hardly. Over-conscientious and supersensitive people easily go to this extreme. The professional weaker brother is usually a "mature" saint who has a very myopic view of life, uninformed by Scripture. His world is completely black or white. There are no secondary or tertiary issues for him. If he doesn't like what you're doing or saying, it's because you refuse to adhere to his narrow list of dos and don’ts. It is precisely because you reject his petty legalisms that he dislikes you so much.

How, then, to handle the situation? George Guthrie lays out three practical guidelines for confrontational truth-telling (Hebrews, p. 211).

1) The confrontation must be given with the right motivation.

2) It must be well-thought-out and well-timed. No off-the-cuff comments will do.

3) It should offer specific suggestions for action when appropriate.

This is sound advice, and we would do well to heed it.

10:22 AM Psalm 113:9 says, "He makes a woman who is in a childless home a joyful mother."  My mind races to Aberash. Baby Nathan's was a miracle birth. (You can read about it here and here. It is a beautiful story of love and sacrifice.) All because of God's amazing grace. But many people had a hand in it too. To beg God to perform miracles to do our work is the refuge of laziness and the subterfuge of callousness if not outright hate.

Here is Nathan today.

Praise and honor to the Lord!

10:02 AM One thing Becky and I have not done in a very long time is reenact the wo-ah. ("War" has two syllables where we live.) It is really astounding, when one considers how often we have run hither and thither to commemorate this or that battle or preach in this or that Sunday service or play period music on our instruments.

The best I can do now is to read books about that singular period in our history, including biographies of one of my favorite Americans, Robert E. Lee, hoping to extract the pearls of wisdom that so richly matured in his mind during his military and post-military career. In Fitz Lee's book, General Lee, I recently read the following extract from Lee to his wife :

Camp Petersburg, June 30, 1864. I was very glad to receive your letter yesterday, and to hear that you were better. I trust you will continue to improve and soon will be as well as usual. God grant that you may be entirely restored in his own good time! Do you recollect what a happy day thirty-three years ago this was? How many hopes and pleasures it gave birth to! God has been very merciful and kind to us, and how thankless and sinful I have been! I pray that he may continue his mercies and blessings to us and give us a little peace and rest in this world, and finally gather us and all he has given us around his throne in the world to come.

Lee was not only in love with his invalid wife but in some strange way dependent on her presence, physically dependent, as one is dependent on the liver in one's stomach, or one's spinal marrow. His last years in Lexington must have been exceedingly joyful for him since he was able to remain in his wife's sweet presence without being pulled here and there by the army.

The mysteries of human relationships are impenetrably obscure, but I confess I do enjoy reading about General and Mrs. Lee's marriage.

9:50 AM Becky asked me to relay the following message to you:

In the Fall deluge of fund-raising media, don't forget this wonderful opportunity to significantly impact the work in India. It will provide a school that will touch 2500(!) students daily with the Gospel, as well as provide needed income for ministry for decades to come, as well as enhance the community's view of the Peniel Gospel Team.

Here are two pictures of the construction. You can see that the good work goes on.


It is such a relief to know that the whole work in India is God's task, not ours. But what a great privilege to have a small part in it. Our responsibility is discharged by the help we give and the bridge we build between the U.S. and India. It is all very puzzling. Sometimes we mention a need and people barely or slowly respond. Sometimes the need is met almost immediately. The one thing I am sure about is that prayer is absolutely vital. (I stopped just now to pray.) Prayer expresses our utter inability to do anything on our own. But God sees our humble attitude of dependence and uses it to bring glory to Himself. This project in India is huge. But the God we pray to is amazing. He will work through us if we but humbly launch out into the deep ocean of faith.

I am trusting God to fully supply this need. 

9:11 AM Yesterday I spoke on the topic of vacationing. Today I feel led to to share with you a few thoughts about pastoring. Pastors are indispensable. Probably these are the same "teachers" mentioned in Eph. 4:11. This teaching function has a very specific purpose: to equip all God's people for works of service to the church and to the world. So I am not in the least suggesting that pastoral ministry is not essential. It is! At the same time, there is no clear distinction anywhere in the New Testament between clergy or "ministers" and laypeople. All members of the body are "ministers" of God. Shepherds are simply sheep who are charged with spiritual oversight. It is essential to acknowledge this teaching role of pastors. The ability to teach is a requirement heavily stressed in the so-called Pastoral Epistles. This will involve the serious study of Scripture. It may also involve formal biblical education, though this is nowhere stated (or even implied) in the New Testament. If a pastor is to be able to teach, he must be able to learn. In fact, I would translate didaktikon in 1 Tim. 3:2 as "teachable" rather than "able to teach," though BDAG allows for both renderings. Pastoral leadership in New Testament days was always shared. The New Testament abhors domination by any one person. The local church is to be run by Jesus Christ, and therefore ministry among the saints is never to flow only in one direction -- from pastors to people. We all can teach each other. Indeed, even within the pastoral team there is to be reciprocal ministry. Leaders will freely counsel and even rebuke each other when necessary. Each knows he is a sinner. Each knows his own weaknesses. Each recognizes he needs others to help him grow. Such a community of leadership is far better, don't you think, than the supposed invulnerability we so often see in leadership today? Pastors must therefore not only teach, but demonstrate that they are eager learners. This means that one pastor might not do all the formal teaching but will eagerly yield to others. Of course, some elders may not feel qualified to "preach" -- that is, deliver a well-crafted 30-minute homily. How gross a misunderstanding of the pastoral role! If you really believe that each member of the eldership is called to teach, then let them teach! And, since the "senior pastor" has donned the apron of humility and service, he will gladly encourage such participation. Other team members may, in fact, be better at the task than he is. Let all exercise their ministry for the good of the body.

So there you have it: a local church in which shared leadership is both practiced and celebrated, and where the the entire body is equipped and set free for works of service. Is this not the model of companionate leadership required by Jesus? Is it too demanding?

Thursday, October 3

7:56 PM After fixing a couple of hiccups with my tractor (flat tire, leaking radiator) I was able to bush hog a few acres today.

There is nothing I enjoy more.

Yes, you can call it "vacation" time if you like :)

3:52 PM Chuck Smith of Cavalry Chapel and the Jesus Movement has died. I am a product of that movement.

Who can forget the 1960s? These were men and women who were ablaze for Jesus Christ and were determined to make Him known. We threw off the bondage of tradition, our captivity to church buildings. Our quest for genuine relationships and for caring community found the answer in our Sunday meetings in Waikiki. Non-Christian friends were welcome. We were a happy, caring community. The new wine of the Holy Spirit was clamoring for new wineskins. We had high hopes that the church could:

  • mobilize every member for ministry

  • be a holy people in an unholy world

  • take the Good News to the world

  • harvest the millions of souls to be born in the next decades

  • fulfill the prayer of Jesus that His earthly body live in unity

Many have described the Jesus Movement as a whole new way of being church. It was just that. For me, it was a new way of living, a sense of having discovered Jesus not just as Savior but as Friend. It meant a new depth of relationships and quality of church life. Today I am a member of a fairly traditional Baptist church. But the qualities that attracted me to the Jesus Movement are still the qualities I value today. I rejoice that many of these qualities characterize my local church. The Jesus Movement reminds me that in order for the church to adapt Scripture appropriately the emphasis must be on values, not on structures. These values can be found in home churches and in traditional churches. The key is that Jesus is at the center. It means that whatever we do, Jesus is the focus. He is the reason we meet and the One who transforms the lives of His people. It also means that as followers of Christ, Christian community really counts. Churches are to be communities of sacrificial love, with open and honest relationships. It means that leaders are both teachers and facilitators. Empowerment, not tight control, is the way of Jesus. It means that every member is a minister and is encouraged to use his or her gifts. Ministry is for all, by all. Finally, it means that every member is involved in friendship-evangelism.

I believe the Jesus Movement was a wonderful channel God used, but it is not the source of life. Only Jesus is that. Still, it helped many of my generation to break through the straitjacket of tradition and explore "church" in new and vibrant ways. The Jesus Movement is a challenge to move into a new mindset, or perhaps regain the one God always intended.

I thank God for Chuck Smith and the other leaders in the Jesus Movement. My hope is that their voices may be continued to be heard today.

7:58 AM Snapped this an hour ago. His mercies are new every morning! 

7:45 AM The other day Karen heard a student say that Dr. Black was against vacations. Well, I completely disagree with Dr. Black! I immediately thought of two passages that speak about "rest." The first is the well-known passage in Hebrews 4. The rest we are promised here is clearly futuristic: it is the rest we will enjoy one day when our "work" on earth is done. The text calls this a "Sabbath-like" rest: just as God rested on the seventh day from His works, so one day we will rest from our earthly labors. In the meantime, however, we are to "keep on working very hard to enter that rest." I thus disagree with those commentators who interpret the rest in Hebrews 4 as referring to a get away from the frenetic activities of life -- taking a "vacation," if you will. Hebrews 4 invites us to "rest," but that rest will come after we accomplish what our risen Master has commanded us to do until He returns, which is to "occupy until I come," meaning "Stay busy!" Hence this is a rest that the readers of Hebrews must fear missing. We must have a healthy respect for the judgment of God.

The other passage is that wonderful text, Matt. 11:28-29, where Jesus promises to "rest" (the Greek here is a verb) those who come to Him in their weariness. Here again, nothing about taking time off is said. The rest Jesus is describing is the rest in the midst of being co-yoked with Him in kingdom activity. This is His rest for His people who are doing His work. I call it "restful rushing." I suppose Paul is a good example of this. Just read the two Peristasenkataloge (list of activities/sufferings) in 2 Corinthians 6 and 11 and you will see how tirelessly and relentlessly Paul worked for King Jesus. Jesus Himself told us to work because the night is coming, when we can no longer work. As a farmer, I know exactly what He is saying. When it is harvest time, everything else stops. The hay has to be gotten up, and gotten up before night, and gotten up before the rains begin, and then gotten into the barns. I ask you: Today are not the fields white unto harvest? I don't know about you, but I have a sense of urgency, the kind that Paul describes in 1 Cor. 7:29: "Because the time is short, you who are married should live as though you are not." Could that be said about your marriage?

Incidentally, and I don't want to make to big a deal about it, but there are two Greek words for rest used in the New Testament. Both are based on the basic verb pauo, "I cease." The first has the prefix kata: katapauo. It often refers to complete and final rest, to the absolute cessation of activity. The other verb is anapauo, which often refers to rest in the midst of labor. The first term, katapauo, is used in Hebrews 4. The second is used in our Matthew passage. I think what I draw from this is the following life-orientation: I am to be working relentlessly for the kingdom until God calls me home, at which time I will "enter the promised rest." But at the very same, while I am working and serving and sacrificing for the sake of the kingdom, there is also a peace and joy and power and passion and energy in the midst of my activities. Jesus promised me as much in Matthew.

So, am I against vacations? No. I just happen to take very few of them. I would rather spend my vacation days investing them in kingdom work. (Over the past 10 years almost all of my semester breaks and holidays have been spent in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa in response to urgent invitations by the foreign nationals there.) Please, this is not boasting. Remember, I was born and raised in Hawaii. I am the world's ultimate loafer. My idea of life is hanging out at Kailua Beach and surfing all day long. There is no hope for any of us unless we confess our sloth and laziness, our tendency to want to kick back and "enjoy the good life." I once shared these thoughts with a young doctoral student. He said to me, "You realize that you're talking to a very small audience. You're only talking to people who are really, really serious about following Christ. Most of us don't have any idea how far we still have to go." My answer was a question. "Who can possibly enter into discipleship without a commitment to going all the way? Sacrificial living is part of love's burden." As Jesus said, "No one who does not carry his or her cross and come with Me cannot be My disciple." Christ gave us everything when He gave Himself. He asks for everything in return -- no secret disclaimers, no insistence on "rights," no 40-hour work weeks, no reserved corner of our lives. "Work hard to enter that rest!" And when this command is gladly and wholeheartedly accepted, the joy of sacrificial love that leads to perfect union with Christ is inevitable. We receive not only the promise of heaven one day, but the possibility of heaven on earth as we walk with the Risen Christ and allow Him to "co-yoke" with us.

How shall we flesh this out in our lives? For me, this has meant scheduling in kingdom trips before personal vacations. It has meant placing my will alongside His, being willing to put myself in the yoke with Him, willing to cooperate with the kingdom-building work He is doing all over the world. And guess what? I am actually finding that His yoke, so burdensome if carried alone, is actually light. I suppose that's why Becky and I could spend Christmas in Ethiopia every year. The "path of obedience" for us meant missionary life. Never a vacation went by that we did not ask ourselves, "How can we best leverage this time for Christ?"

I wonder: Is our response of faith really different from the response of the rest of the world? Paul wrote, "Accept your share of hardship that faithfulness to the Gospel entails in the strength that God gives you." Vacationing or not, let our offering to Christ be free, humble, unconditional, given in the full confidence that His transforming energy can fit into the outworking of His will in our lives.

P.S. Karen also asked me if I had daily devotions. My answer might surprise you. But that's for later.

Resting in His yoke,


Wednesday, October 2

5:14 PM "Hay, hay, whadya say?"

The Humphries are off to the mountains this weekend to ride and picked up a few square bales today. Have gobs of fun, guys!

3:50 PM "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, 'Mine!'" Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper.

3:18 PM Mammen Joseph sent us an update of the work in the far northern regions of India. A new meeting hall on the India-Nepal border was recently dedicated, and 18 new believers were baptized.

We are praising God with you, brother Mammen!

11:50 AM You must read A Christian View of Death, Dying, and Funerals by Rodney Decker. It's simply the best thing there is online today.  I especially resonated with the section called "A Christian Attitude Toward the Event of Death." Thank you, Rod, for these timely words of instruction and exhortation.

11:38 AM Just read a tweet that said, "I left 3 Carolina Panthers tickets on my windshield and when I came back there were 9." That's one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time.

By the way, who are the Carolina Panthers?

10:40 AM Answered prayer! Thank you! The folder is baaaack!

10:02 AM Guess what's on sale for only $2.99?

I wouldn't have known about it either had it not been for this link.

8:52 AM Quick SOS:

I have misplaced a very important folder. To this point my search has been utterly fruitless.

Deep breath.

I honestly need you to join Becky and me in asking the Lord that I can find it. My best Friend knows exactly where it is!

Thank you,


7:48 AM I sit here this morning with memories of past friendships washing over me. As I've grown older, I've come to appreciate the great privilege of friendship. Over the years one man has become very close to me. Kevin Brown is not only a shepherd (a real shepherd, not a SINO), a missionary, a godly husband and father, but a man who is transparent about his own strengths and weaknesses. As a pastor he knows what it's like to live in a glass house. So when I read his latest blog post about the struggle he has experienced with the forces of darkness, I am overcome with gratitude. He has learned to turn the whole ugly experience over to the Lord and has asked Him to renew his faith in a trustworthy God. If we have nothing in this world but Jesus, we have everything. If we have everything in this world but Him, we have nothing. The people I feel sorry for are not those who wrestle with fears. The people I feel sorry for are those who are incapable of being honest with themselves and with others, who are incapable of reaching up and touching Jesus and becoming all they can be in Him.

I suppose Kevin and I have faced similar trials. Day by day, brick by brick, the wall of unrealistic expectations -- my own and the ones others have laid on me -- have come tumbling down. As well they should have. I am free now to love Becky and my family, to love even myself, and I am free to serve and give to others, not because it is expected of me or even because I am very good at it, but simply because of the love Jesus has planted in my heart. I am finally able to let go of some of the unrealistic expectations I had for myself. It means being myself, the self God has made me. My halo is square, but I don't stay awake at night thinking about it. God still has "special work" planned for me (Eph. 2:10), and there is nothing I'd rather be doing. Believe it or not, Becky and I are still "practicing loving." We are still learning and refining our own unique brand of this thing called marriage. On our wedding day, I suppose our confidence was in our ability to love. But today, our confidence is in the Lord, who promises to complete the good work He has begun in both of us.

Joining us in the work have been some great friends like Kevin Brown. When I look for a close friend, someone I can be honest with, pray with, someone who will accept me and challenge me, who will be there for me in my low moments, I look for a man with a servant's heart, who joyfully shares his life with others, who refuses to hide behind a facade of perfection. How thankful I am for friends and family who support me, who gently call me forth from my self-pity and point me to Christ. I feel my work is far from finished. As long as there is one man or woman, one boy or girl, living without Christ, I will push on. As for Becky, there is no doubt that she is under satanic attack. We've all been there. She is learning, as we all are learning, to cry out, "Devil, you are a liar! This fear and doubt is not from God. I refuse to accept it!" Our faith is being tested to the limit, but He is faithful who called us.

Do you face problems with doubt? Are you afraid to let others know? Then you need, first of all, to be honest with God. Tell Him you are hurting. As Kevin said, He understands perfectly. Next, be honest with others. Don't run from your brothers and sisters, run to them. You need, like I do, their prayers, their love, and their encouragement too much to hide behind your pride. Thank you, thank you a thousand times, Kevin, for your transparency. You've not let go of Jesus. Neither has Becky. Neither have I. And praise God, He's not let go of us. 

Pray with us. Pray for Becky, that she might be able to get some much-needed sleep. Pray for those who care for her, that we might have tact and wisdom. Pray that Jesus would come for His servant soon. Pray that God might be glorified in all that we do.

We're ready to see Him do more great things.

Tuesday, October 1

10:02 AM Are you married to a strong woman (in a good sense)? Here's a book for you:

Men are drawn to this kind of fierceness because it reflects godly character. The purpose of Wagner’s book is to identify that fierceness, to celebrate it, and to direct it toward the best and highest ends. Used wrongly it can be so destructive, but used well it can be an incredible blessing.

And more:

Wagner nails it when she says, “Your husband may never admit this to you, but he may fear you. He may be terrified to make decisions because he feels he never does anything right, is unable to please you, or could never measure up to your expectations. Or he may be intimidated by your fierceness or passion.”

As with all traits, there are positives and negatives. But both husbands and wives can learn to "accentuate the positive"!

9:14 AM ... and of salaries:

Even though Paul, as an apostle, had the right to financial support (1 Corinthians 9:6-7,14), he repeatedly established a pattern of not asking or demanding money from the churches which he served. He did this for a variety of reasons:

Curious? The reasons are here.

8:50 AM Speaking of giving...

The following except comes from my forthcoming book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church (chapter 3):

A second thing that stands out is the importance of obedience. Knowledge itself must never be our goal. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1). It is not necessary for you to get a certificate in biblical studies. And please don’t envy “Dr.” so-and-so because of his or her degree: it is only a manmade status symbol. At the same time, never forget that your friendship with Christ needs to be cultivated, and that loving obedience on our part is always the best response. One day a guest speaker ministered the word in our local fellowship. He shared with us the horrible condition of Christian slave girls in Pakistan. He concluded by telling us that it cost only 2,000 U.S. dollars to secure the freedom of one girl from that hideous lifestyle. Immediately I sensed the Spirit telling me to do something about it. I asked the elders for permission to speak, and then I said, “Brothers and sisters, Scripture is clear that we have an obligation to help these sisters in Christ. For does not Paul say in Rom 12:13, ‘Share what you have with God’s people who are in need’? Here’s the first hundred dollars. Are there not 19 more of us who this very day will redeem one Pakistani girl from slavery?” Soon hands began popping up all over the auditorium, until the need was fully met. You see, for me it was a very different thing to know what the Bible says – “Share what you have with God’s people who are in need” – and then say, “So what? I don’t care enough to actually do anything about it.” The purpose of the Spirit’s inspiring the Bible is not primarily to give us information, though He does that, but to produce in us Christlikeness of character – to make us into a people who “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:5). Maybe our “financial” problems are not financial but spiritual!

8:40 AM Henry Neufeld was kind enough to send me several copies of Tithing after the Cross. Please read this book!

On p. 62 David Croteau, the author, writes that "a Christian should seek opportunities and give deliberately in order to meet a genuine need...." That's it in a nutshell. Seek out needs. And if God leads you to help, help. Obey the Spirit's prompting. This does not lesson the requirement to give; it heightens it, for we have a responsibility to be sensitive at all times to the guidance of the Lord. And remember: give to needs, not wants. I believe God will judge the church in America for our extravagance and waste.

My New Testament colleague Robert Plummer of Southern Seminary in Louisville wrote this for the back cover:

There are many sound bites on tithing, but few exegetical studies -- even fewer that are understandable to the average layperson, well-written, and concerned about the practical generosity of God's people. Well, there may be only one book that fits that description, and you're holding it in your hands.

Take up and read!


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