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September 2010 Blog Archives
Thursday, September 30
7:51 PM Here's the latest on Maurice Robinson:
This information came from the seminary dean's office. I'll try and keep everyone updated.
7:26 PM I took this video not 45 minutes ago. It features the most beautiful double rainbow I have seen in my 58 years on this planet. Our God is an awesome God.
6:05 PM This week I asked a few of my students to tell me where they had been on international mission trips. Here is a partial list:
Don't wait to graduate to take the Gospel to the nations. The time to act is NOW. You can sit on the fence too long. This is the message of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland:
Folks, it's time to begin! You can't finish unless you start. Is it hard? Are you kidding? Nothing's harder. I've found world missions to be tough, tiring, and (at times) terrifying. It takes commitment to deny yourself and serve others sacrificially. Finding and working with the lost in our own community is a good place to start. But don't stop there. Serve the kingdom worldwide. It involves time, effort, and money, but nothing can match it.
12:25 PM I'm looking for a couple of seminary students to help me do some farm work next week during semester break. It will require some heavy lifting. I'll pay you for your time and even serve you a delicious lunch. Email me at email@example.com if you'd like to help.
12:20 PM The latest issue of The Reader's Digest has an interesting article entitled "13 Things Used Car Salesmen Won't Tell You." Here are "13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won't Tell You":
1. Greek is not the only tool you need to interpret your New Testament. In fact, it's only one component in a panoply of a myriad of tools. Get Greek, but don't stop there. (You'll need, for example, a Hebrew New Testament as well.)
2. Greek is not the Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. All it does is limit your options. It tells you what's possible, then the context and other factors kick in to disambiguate the text.
3. Greek is not superior to other languages in the world. Don't believe it when you are told that Greek is more logical than, say, Hebrew. Not true.
4. Greek did not have to be the language in which God inscripturated New Testament truth because of its complicated syntax. Truth be told, there's only one reason why the New Testament was written in Greek and not in another language (say, Latin), and that is a man named Alexander the Great, whose vision was to conquer the inhabited world and then unite it through a process known as Hellenization. To a large degree he succeeded, and therefore the use of Greek as the common lingua franca throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century AD should come as no surprise to us today. I emphasize this point only because there are some today who would seek to resurrect the notion of "Holy Ghost" Greek. Their view is, in my view, a demonstrable cul-de-sac.
5. Greek words do not have one meaning. Yet how many times do we hear in a sermon, "The word in the Greek means..."? Most Greek words are polysemous, that is, they have many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs. (In case you were wondering: Reading all of the meanings of a Greek word into any particular passage in which it occurs is called "illegitimate totality transfer" by linguists.)
6. Greek is not difficult to learn. I'll say it again: Greek is not difficult to learn. I like to tell my students, "Greek is an easy language; it's us Greek teachers who get in the way." The point is that anyone can learn Greek, even a poorly-educated surfer from Hawaii. If I can master Greek, anyone can!
7. Greek can be acquired through any number of means, including most beginning textbooks. Yes, I prefer to use my own Learn to Read New Testament Greek in my classes, but mine is not the only good textbook out there. When I was in California I taught in an institution that required all of its Greek teachers to use the same textbook for beginning Greek. I adamantly opposed that policy. I feel very strongly that teachers should have the right to use whichever textbook they prefer. Thankfully, the year I left California to move to North Carolina that policy was reversed, and now teachers can select their own beginning grammars. (By the way, the textbook that had been required was mine!)
8. Greek students think they can get away with falling behind in their studies. Folks, you can't. I tell my students that it's almost impossible to catch up if you get behind even one chapter in our textbook. Language study requires discipline and time management skills perhaps more than any other course of study in school.
9. Greek is fun! At least when it's taught in a fun way.
10. Greek is good for more than word studies. In fact, in the past few years I've embarked on a crusade to get my students to move away from word-bound exegesis. When I was in seminary I was taught little more than how to do word studies from the Greek. Hence, I thought I had "used Greek in ministry" if I had consulted my Wuest, Robertson, Kittle, Brown, Vincent, or Vines. Since then I've discovered that lexical analysis is the handmaiden and not the queen of New Testament exegesis. Greek enables us to see how a text is structured, how it includes rhetorical devices, how syntactical constructions are often hermeneutical keys, etc.
11. Greek can cause you to lose your faith. It happened to one famous New Testament professor in the US when he discovered that there were textual variants in his Greek New Testament, and it can happen to you. When the text of Scripture becomes nothing more than "another analyzable datum of linguistic interpretation" then it loses its power as the Word of God. That's why I'm so excited about my Greek students at the seminary, most of whom are eager to place their considerable learning at the feet of Jesus in humble service to His upside-down kingdom.
12. Greek can be learned in an informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. I know gobs of homeschoolers who are using my grammar in self-study, many of whom are also using my Greek DVDs in the process. If anyone wants to join the club, let me know and I will send you, gratis, a pronunciation CD and a handout called "Additional Exercises."
13. Greek is not Greek. In other words, Modern Greek and Koine Greek are two quite different languages. So don't expect to be able to order a burrito in Athens just because you've had me for first year Greek. On the other hand, once you have mastered Koine Greek it is fairly easy to work backwards (and learn Classical Greek) and forwards (and learn Modern Greek).
Okay, I'm done. And yes, I'm exaggerating. Many Greek teachers do in fact tell their students these things. May their tribe increase!
Now who wants to tackle "13 Things Your Hebrew Teachers Won't Tell You"?
8:21 AM Currently writing an essay about Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. A man's man. I'll explain what I mean shortly.
8:18 AM If you're interested in studying the LXX, take note!
8:15 AM Henry Neufeld muses about his latest book.
8:06 AM Fledging New Testament doctoral students can take heart from this statistic:
Unbelievable. I completed my doctorate in 3 years, but that was B.C. (before children). Still, I don't think I could have lasted 13 years. In fact, I KNOW I couldn't have lasted 13 years.
Wednesday, September 29
8:52 PM My academic dean at SEBTS just tweeted:
I'm praying! Join me.
8:42 PM Wednesday shout out to my LXX class. These are truly the crème de la crème. Over half of them are going on for the Ph.D. after graduation. Just as importantly, they have a heart for the nations. To the right stands my co-persecutor, Robert Cole, a really smart man who married a gal from Hawaii. We're having more fun than a sack of confused weasels in class!
6:59 PM Recently I received this email from a DBO reader:
What a great question! For what it's worth, here's my response:
6:42 PM Lionel Woods doesn't home school. Good for him. I used to be an apologist for homeschooling but not anymore. Lionel's essay is rather long but I encourage you to chew away at it.
6:35 PM Check out the cover to my new book:
Guess orange is "in"!
6:30 PM The prodigal son's father shouldn't have run.
6:23 PM Do you agree with this statement by Mark Driscoll?
There is much to love about America, and there is also much to criticize. Rambo-ism is one of them.
6:16 PM Did you know there's a town named "Biola, California"? Here's proof:
6:09 PM So today was National Coffee Day. Well, I think every day ought to be National Coffee Day. Being the astute cultural observer he is, Allan Bevere opines:
I'm not so sure. I am quite content to imbibe the store-purchased Kona Coffee my secretary makes for me daily. "Kona Coffee?" you say. Yep – the best stuff in the world (other than real Ethiopian coffee). Pardon me for flaunting my cuppa, but Allan started it.
Monday, September 27
9:56 PM New at DBO: Coloring Outside the Lines.
8:06 PM Had a wonderful trip to Florida. I'm sure our book tables would have rivaled Car Talk's "Shameless Commerce Division."
My hosts were Dan and Melinda Henry. I immensely enjoyed staying on their farm near the Alabama border.
Dan is a former president of the Florida Dental Association and has led over 20 dental mission trips to Costs Rica (you can read about his mission work here). Our meetings were held in the historic First United Methodist Church in the great American port city of Pensacola (founded in 1559).
Its nickname "The City of Five Flags" refers to the five flags that have flown it (Spain, France, Great Britain, the CSA, and the USA). During Hurricane Ivan in 2004 over 10,000 homes were destroyed in the metro area alone, but you wouldn't know it today. It is one of the most beautiful downtowns I've ever seen. On Sunday morning I was honored to speak in the innovative "Icon" service at First UMC.
Its leader is Geoffrey Lentz (who, like all wise and good pastors, has a blog). Geoff has a Duke M.Div. but that is forgivable.
My thanks to Henry and his wife Jody for inviting me to the Sunshine State. On Sunday evening they arranged for me to speak on Ethiopia to a small but very enthusiastic group at Chumuckla United Methodist Church.
I really missed not having Becky Lynn with me for this presentation, though we certainly felt her presence in spirit. Speaking of Becky, her meeting today at Duke Oncology for a second opinion confirmed our present course of treatment with Adriamycin. Her blood counts have begun to drop again (nothing new there) but we're praying they won't bottom out like they did the last time. I'll keep you updated.
One final thought about this weekend. As everyone knows, the "mainline" Protestant denominations are in decline and have been for many years. One of the main reasons for this decline is purely sociological: as long as there was a cultural expectation that everybody should belong to a church, mainline denominations held their own because they provided a culturally respectable way of being Christian. Once that cultural expectation waned, however, membership declined. First UMC of Pensacola is an exception to the rule in that it has been growing rapidly over the past several years, largely because of its emphasis on the Gospel. This is good news. To God be the glory.
Wednesday, September 22
9:40 PM Fellow bloggers, I leave the house tomorrow morning at 3:00 to catch my flight to Pensacola via Atlanta. I'll be in that fair city at the kind invitation of my publisher for a book signing and for several speaking engagements. If you'd like to see my schedule for the weekend, go here. Sorry, no more boring posts at the DBO blog until next Monday.
9:20 PM Becky has updated the Bethel Hill blog. Read Family News, September 2010. Makes me tired just reading it. How God is blessing us!
7:37 PM Check out the new press release for Why Four Gospels? The scheduled release date for the book is October 15, less than a month away!
7:28 PM I've always had great respect for Eric Carpenter, and my esteem level for him has just risen again (see I've Resigned from Professional Pastoring). (Okay, he took Greek from me in seminary, but that doesn't count.) Like all of us, Eric and his family are seeking genuine community in which the "one anothers" are taken seriously -- a community in which church is not a solo performance, a place in which each person has a part to play in harmonious concert with others, a family in which all the members share in the ownership of the assembly. This is Paul's image of the Body of Christ -- a place in which my gifts are yours and your gifts are mine, a community where diversity is not merely tolerated but celebrated. I recall the Dr. Seuss story called "Too Many Daves." It tells of a woman named Mrs. McCave who had 23 sons all named "Dave." When she calls out for Dave, all 23 of her sons come running at the same time. The story comes alive when Dr. Seuss begins to speculate about all the silly names Mrs. McCave might have chosen for her sons instead of naming them all "Dave." His point is that when everyone has the same name there is chaos, not order.
It is the same in the Body of Christ. The church could not function if everybody had the same gifts. Each of us brings to the group a variety of different gifts that together sustain the Body, and the result is order and not chaos. Every-member ministry is therefore an integral part of that way we call "faith." God's kingdom is designed to be a place of spiritual wholeness, individually and in the community. In my judgment, the external form does not matter that much as long as there is genuine community where some persons are not exalted over others. Here in this blog I talk a lot about my own fellowship, Bethel Hill Baptist Church, and the way it embodies the love of Christ. It invites us to value the gifts that all of us bring to our common task of mutual edification. This sense of community is, of course, the gift of God's grace through Jesus Christ. I desperately hope that brother Eric experiences something like this in his new home fellowship. The matter is totally at the disposition of the Lord. It is a gift of His love, and to receive the gift it is only necessary to become a spiritual child. This poverty of spirit is what characterizes Eric's entire post and is one of the many reasons why I admire him so much. We can all emulate his attitude of complete trust in the promises of God, a trust that places no confidence whatsoever in our own human merits. It requires but a moment's reflection to realize that we all need to have the very same attitude regardless of how or why we gather on Sunday mornings.
Eric my friend, you have taken a great step of faith along with that wonderful woman you chose to be your life partner. Continue to do what is right even if nobody seems to notice or care. Trust God to work in and through you. Don't ever give up on your quest for genuine Body life. As long as your ultimate aim is to please the Lord Jesus, you can rest in His sovereignty. He will provide for you and your family perhaps in ways you've never dreamed of before.
Three centuries ago a man lost his job and went home to tell his wife Sophia. Rather than being disappointed she beamed at him and said, "Now you can write your book!" He answered, "Yes, but what will we live on while I'm writing?" Sophia went to a drawer and pulled out a large sack of money. "I've always known that you were a man of genius," she said. "I knew that some day you would write an immortal masterpiece. So every week from the money you gave me I have saved something. Here is enough to live on for one whole year." The amazed husband went to his study and began writing. His name was Nathaniel Hawthorne, and his book was The Scarlet Letter.
Eric, it is my prayer that your commitment to follow your convictions will produce the greatest chapter yet in the book of your life. To God be the glory.
Monday, September 20
9:32 PM It's back to beginning Greek tomorrow, and we're invading the Greek adjectives this week. (I love them things!) I hold no illusions about Greek. It is one tough language, perhaps the toughest course one can take in seminary. I enjoy education, but my faith has never been in education. I've got a better God than that. I do, however, entertain the notion that by providing students with language tools they will be better prepared to negotiate life's challenges Scripturally. Students need to know that they're paying for more than an education when they come to seminary. Or a degree. Hopefully they're learning something about character, self-discipline, time-management, etc. As the Red Queen explained to Alice, "Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." That is an entirely accurate picture of the Greek classroom at times -- working ourselves to a frazzle and then feeling as though we're running in place. I am not bothered that this contradiction exists. But I am profoundly bothered to find people who think they can make progress in any human endeavor without divine aid. As Jacque Ellul once put it, "Man can't do God's will without God."
My friend, whatever your academic goals, let "him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine" join you in the work.
8:58 PM Almost forget to report that the church in Burji just concluded a two day prayer meeting for our Becky Lynn. Becky was able to call Oshe (our contact person) today and give him and the church there a fresh update on her condition. I stand in amazement at the goodness of our God.
8:36 PM B's treatment at UNC today went exceptionally well -- and fast. We got home and took a long nap. Then tonight Matt cooked ribs on the grill for one and all. They were exquisite! Nothing like home-cooked meals.
Oh, and Micah has learned how to ride his bike. Congratulations young man!
Today I wrote the preface to the second edition of Why Four Gospels?, an enjoyable task and one for which I felt some pressure as the book is scheduled for release in early November or even before that time. Tomorrow Mr. Lapsley flies back to Dallas and I begin another week of teaching and writing. Lord willing, I leave for Pensacola on Thursday morning to speak several times there. It depends, of course, on how Becky Lynn is doing. Usually her blood doesn't start acting up until a week after her treatment, but one never knows and has to anticipate her white count dripping. It's in the Lord's hands, and He knows what He's doing.
Sunday, September 19
8:15 PM For some strange reason tonight I was reminded of a conversation I had last week with a student during the 9Marks conference on campus. I mentioned to him that when Becky and I take people with us to Ethiopia we allow them to chose their own ministries. We don't say, "We're doing VBS and you are to do such-and-such." No, they pray, seek the Lord, and then tell us what they sense God is leading them to do. For example, one of my elders (Jason Evans) has been to Ethiopia with us 4 times. On his first few trips he taught church leaders. But on this last trip he told us he wanted to work with the construction team. He ended up being the "paint master" at the Galana clinic and did a marvelous job. When I told the student this he was dumbfounded. How, he wondered, could a preacher waste his time doing something as menial as painting? "That's like seeing my pastor on a Sunday morning operating the sound system instead of preaching!" he told me. "Yeah," I thought to myself, "sort of like Jesus washing His disciples' feet."
In my Greek New Testament I wrote the following note on Rom. 12:16:
The Greek here is a bit ambiguous. (For you Greek scholars out there, it all depends on whether one word is masculine or neuter in gender.) Paul either means that we should be eager to hang out with people whom the world considers "humble," or else he means that we should be willing to engage in tasks normally reserved for the lower classes. I tell you, when I see my gifted pastor (he is an excellent public speaker) engaging in humble tasks I cannot help but think of my precious Lord Jesus who was eager to humble Himself for the sake of others.
I love you Jason. Thanks for being the real deal. Thanks for modeling for us the Scripture and not just teaching it.
7:45 PM I enjoyed reading The Sermon: More Than Just Preaching. The idea is to allow several gifted persons (not just the pastor) to be involved in Sunday morning ministry.
Let's stop criticizing inactive people. Instead, let's prepare them for the work. If you're a pastor, that's your job. The task of a spiritual leader is to equip members to serve (Eph. 4:11-12). Then release them into service. Let them handle everything in the service while you sit with your family in the pews. Incorporate a time of sharing into your service. Allow those with a "word" to bring it. And when you do stand up to teach (not "preach" – see Eph. 4:11 and 1 Tim. 3:2), do so not from the stage (an invention of the secular theater) but on the people's level lest you give the impression you are 6 feet above contradiction. A question and answer period afterwards can be beneficial both to you and your congregation.
There is nothing original in these ideas. Mutual participation was a hallmark of the early church (1 Cor. 14). It characterizes our Women's and Men's and Youth Sundays. And rightly so. Nothing is more foreign to the New Testament pattern of church meetings than to have the leaders do all the work. We need the strength, the encouragement, the teaching, the stimuli of every-member ministry.
6:30 PM A DBO reader on the left coast sends along this note. Check out this resource when you can.
Here's something to check out. It's www.swiftbible.com - an online concordance. The site is pretty new, so it supports, so far, only the KJV and a couple of online Bibles. And boy, is it fast. I typed in the word "love" and, in less than a second (literally!), it listed every single place in Scripture where that word occurs - the reference, the entire verse quoted, with the relevant word highlighted. Fun to play around with.
Once it gets a few more translations up to speed there, it'll really be helpful.
Time to throw out our concordances, I guess...
6:15 PM I must tell you how much I enjoyed being at The Hill this morning. I am extremely happy to see our youth becoming fully involved in the various ministries of the church. This morning they helped lead the singing and give announcements. Way to go guys!
Then it was Woody's turn to give a report about the recent marriage conference that 14 of our congregation attended in Woodstock, GA. His concluding joke had the congregation belly laughing (and had pastor Jason turning red in the face. Ask him if you want to know why.)
Afterwards Becky was greeted by various and sundry while her dad (right), who is visiting us from Dallas, watched.
During the service we honored Ms. Jeanie Rogers for her faithfulness to the Lord in playing the organ for the past 41 years. As Jason put it, "Each and every member of Bethel Hill is important," and that's not just a pious platitude at BHBC.
The Rondeaus and Johnsons joined Becky and me at Roxboro's wonderful Mexican restaurant after church for fun, food, and great fellowship. Here brother Ed Johnson (Ethiopia veteran and experienced grandfather) plays with Micah and Isaac as we waited for a table that could seat 11.
While we were sitting around the table someone came up to me and told me an acquaintance of mine was in the restaurant and, sure enough, who do I see but my former student Zsolt Sebjan Farkas who had taken beginning Greek with me 7 years ago. Small world. After spending the last 6 years in his home country of Hungary he has begun doctoral studies in theology under the guidance of my esteemed colleague John Hammett at SEBTS. Here he is with his wife and son, neither of whom speak English yet but that will change very soon I'm sure.
Finally, Becky's dad was able to repair the rocking horse he had built for the kids and whom we affectionately call "Blackie." In this photo Micah is trying it out at a fast gallop.
As I type I'm dealing with one of my patented sinus headaches and expecting the barometer to either rise or fall rapidly in the next few hours. This evening I've got to prepare for my classes this week and that includes trying to come up with a passage in the LXX that will stump my brilliant students. They are doing a really fine job in the class and I'm so proud of their eagerness to learn. Ditto for all my other classes. And to think I get paid for doing this.
8:44 AM I was reading John 7:15 this morning and I thought of my good friend and fellow missionary Kevin Brown of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Halfway through his teaching in Alaba he asked his class, "How much formal biblical education do you think I have?" Most guessed that he had at least an M.Div. Actually, brother Kevin is completely self-taught when it comes to the Bible and theology.
Jesus had no formal biblical training either. Yet He taught in a compelling way. "How does this man have such learning when He's never been taught?" the Jews asked after hearing one of his lessons. Ironically, some of the most compelling teachers I know have had no formal biblical training. And some of the worst exegesis is performed by seminary grads. My friend, you do not need a diploma to teach. Let your words earn their own authority. The Good News of Jesus Christ welcomes all, regardless of educational status. All of us, whether educated or not, can emulate Jesus. He delights in going to the bottom of the ladder. He associates with the lowly. He fights His way through thorn bushes to find a lost lamb. In short, with Him, down is up.
8:12 AM Hey there. Don't know how I missed this review of Why Four Gospels? See if you enjoy reading it as much as I did! (I am completely unbiased.)
Saturday, September 18
8:12 PM My visit to Southern Evangelical Seminary confirmed my status as the Alfred P. Newman of New Testament scholarship, defending, as I did, the completely indefensible theory called Matthean priority.
I did so, not so much to argue for any particular order to the Gospels as to try and make a case for the absolute historicity and apostolicity of the Fourfold Gospel as preserved to us through the ages. Whether I succeeded or not will have to be left unanswered. But I sure had a good time making the effort. My thanks to all who made my stay so wonderfully enjoyable and to all who turned out to hear a fuddy duddy obscurantist wax elephant.
As if to provide icing on the cake, this evening two dear friends from Smyrna Baptist Church in Dinwiddie, VA, stopped by the farm to bring us our supper. Ben and Sheila Abernathy have been longtime supporters of the work in Ethiopia and faithful prayer partners.
They remind me so much of Cornelius in Acts 10 who "gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly" (Acts 10:2). They drove an hour and a half just to bless us. What great partners in the Gospel! My friend, Jesus is a pearl so precious you'd sell everything you have to get it. He is a wonderful, magnificent, glorious Lord, and He's asking all of us to join Him in the harvest field. Becky and I are blessed to be bound together with other believers like the Abernathys in a fellowship that goes far beyond anything this world can offer. Thank you, Ben and Sheila.
Tomorrow Becky and I are planning on attending both Sunday School and the main service at The Hill. Her strength and blood counts are holding up quite nicely -- thanks to your prayers and the mercy of the Lord Jesus. Monday is back to the hospital at UNC for round two of her chemo treatments.
5:40 PM Back from Charlotte. Great trip. Update later.
Note: Don't forget to check out Dave Black's surfing shoot. Awesome pix.
Thursday, September 16
7:20 PM Bec's dad is visiting us from Dallas. He took us out for Chinese food tonight. He heard I was scheduled to cook supper :)
7:16 PM Our new porch!
Students, come and enjoy it with us on "Student Day" next month!
11:59 AM Lionel Woods asks What Is the Purpose of Going to Church? Here's a cool out-take:
Be sure to read the rest of what Lionel has to say.
11:53 AM Between painting jobs I'm pouring over the page proofs for the second edition of Why Four Gospels? It went out of print last year but another publisher was kind enough to pick it up. Release announcement shortly.
Note: You can still purchase a new copy of the book over at Amazon for only $998.99. A steal!
11:45 AM Martin Roesel reviews the Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint. LXX students, please consider purchasing this excellent tool.
11:40 AM Painting the front porch today. Hope to bring closure to this project!
11:33 AM Honored to be speaking at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte tomorrow night. Join us if you can at 6:30 and 8:30. My topics are "The Historical Origins of the Gospels" and "The New Testament Scholar as Fulltime Missionary."
Wednesday, September 15
7:50 PM More flashcards for my beginning Greek grammar here.
7:48 PM Some interesting stats:
7:39 PM Did a lot of personal mentoring on campus this week. To be a good teacher you have to be a Paul and a Barnabas. Paul teaches, Barnabas encourages. Paul exhorts, Barnabas loves on. When Paul refused to take John Mark, Barnabas saw the gold in him, said in effect, "I'm gonna work with him because I think there's quality in this young man." Later Paul would see it too: "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is very helpful to me in my ministry." I know this comparison of mine is overdone, but I do think that we teachers sometimes focus so much on the cognitive aspect of teaching that we forget the interpersonal side. Kindness is such a needed quality in the kingdom. When I was in college I had a Barnabas in Dr. Harry Sturz, who saw in a young Greek instructor the potential to make a contribution to the field of New Testament studies. I honored all of my seminary professors but I admired a handful of them. Dr. Sturz made me feel like a capable teacher. He had "busiest man alive" status but he never failed to take time for me. Many of my own students today are hurting and struggling. They need help with their Greek and more. They need real encouragement now. If all I give them is knowledge, they are in grave danger of becoming intellectual cynics. I am eternally grateful for my profs who didn't sit passively by when I was struggling. I am compelled by their example to take action through prayer and service in and out of the classroom.
Students, if you are struggling, I'll keep an eye out for you. Whatever you may think and feel, you are not alone.
7:30 PM Our meeting on Monday went well. Becky will resume her Adriamycin chemo treatments on Monday. We'll take another whack at it, this time with a reduced dosage. If it wipes out her immune system again then it looks like it will be time to consider trials. We continue to be very grateful for the health care we are receiving and for your support and love. Meanwhile, Becky manages to carry on with the zest for life and ministry that have been her greatest gifts to me. She is an example to all who know her of unconditional love, commitment to service, training by example, and the will to be self-disciplined. I'm eager to write the next chapter in our life together.
Monday, September 13
7:57 AM Last night Ronnie asked me a very important question. "What is it that keeps us from having a kingdom mindset?" We talked about the distractions of TV, football season, pleasure, comfort. I added into the mix: the church. As long as we continue to tithe to ourselves, as long as we overlook the fact that the gathering must always lead to the going, as long as we prioritize our programs and our successful ministries over making a tangible difference in the world for Christ we will never have a kingdom mindset. The greatest problem that most churches face today is not that they aren't doing anything. They do plenty. The problem is that they're not doing the right thing (Phil. 1:27), preferring soft cushions over Bibles in India. And the greatest danger most pastors face is not that they aren't doing anything. They're far too busy! It's that they don't do the essential things. Their purpose is to equip God's people for works of service. The clear command of our Lord is to go to the world.
I think it's vitally important that we stop playing the "Look how great my church is" game. I know, because I often play it myself. Oh, what a high view of the church we must have! But we must never view church as an end in itself: she is a means to an end!
7:42 AM You've heard the story about the airline pilot who announced over the intercom, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that we have a tailwind and are making excellent time. The bad news is that our compass is broken and we have no idea where we're going." Today Becky and I have a tremendously important meeting with her UNC oncologist. It's time to map out the future to the best of human science's ability. All possibility lies in this: "I am Almighty God." Whatever the prognosis, I have to tell you that through all of the bright moments and frustrations of the past year, God's plans for us have not been less than our hopes but far more. He never lets us be content with anything short of what perfectly fulfills His loving purpose. He can be trusted!
Our appointment is at 3:30. I'll give you an update tonight, Lord willing. Ask God to give us a vibrant witness to everyone we meet today. So many of them are lost.
Sunday, September 12
8:53 PM The phone companies are experts at urging us to "reach out and touch somebody." Of course, Jesus Christ has been calling His people to do the very same thing for 2,000 years. Tonight we had the joy of welcoming to Bradford Hall 3 special people who have chosen to make Christ central in their lives and relationships. They came to bless us and love on Becky Lynn. Rachael (left) is a former SEBTS student who now works there as a faculty secretary. She has been a very special friend to Becky for many years now.
Tara (right) is a counseling major at the seminary and plans to take my Greek 1 class in J-term. Ronnie had me for elementary Greek last year and was one of my constant "110 Award" winners. We chatted, had supper with the Rondeaus, and took a walk on the farm as it grew dark. Tara fell in love with "Lil Bit."
Here we're calling on Ronnie to resolve a translation issue from the Greek of Ephesians 2 (with Caleb's help).
And Miss Rachael baked the most delicious Waldorf Astoria cake I have ever eaten.
It was a good evening. Our conversation focused on things of eternal value. Needless to say, Becky and I were blessed and encouraged by their visit. I just put Becky to bed, tired after a long but good day. I pray she sleeps well tonight. She is a very special person, and not just to me. I keep thinking of Jesus, who allowed and affirmed displays of affection even as He prepared for the anguish of the cross. I feel like our 3 friends anointed our heads tonight with special perfume. May God bless them abundantly for their kindness toward us.
2:25 PM On Friday at the conference I met a young man who was surprised that Becky and I work with non-Baptists in Ethiopia. Let me say it as plainly as I can: I am committed to serving the Body of Jesus Christ worldwide. We must learn to love and serve one another in Christ. I am not in denial about denominationalism. I am a committed Baptist. But I repudiate sectarianism. I repudiate the hubris that says "I have a corner on biblical truth." What I believe about cooperation in the work of the Gospel can be summarized in an essay I wrote years ago. Speaking about How We Do Missions, I said that
Please, my dear friends, take this to heart. Yes, we can hold to our biblical convictions (I have many of my own!). But the Gospel does not belong to "us" alone.
2:02 PM One more thought about Matt's message. His topic was the unity that Christ produces in His church. All of us are equally recipients of God's grace. As he was speaking I thought about 1 Cor. 1:10, where Paul writes that all of us "should agree." The term for "agree" may also be rendered "say the same thing." The expression is found on a first-century gravestone of a married couple, indicating a harmonious relationship. This does not imply that the husband was a yes-man or that she was a door stop. Harmony is not unison. Different people can live together in harmony even though they retain their freedom to express their own convictions and insights. Aquila and Priscilla worked together in this manner, and I would like to think that Becky and I do so as well. At least we travel together frequently -- a distinctive characteristic of the ministry of Aquila and Priscilla! They had lived together in Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome; and Becky and I have lived together in La Mirada, Basel, Oxford, and now Southside Virginia. Sure, the journey has been bumpy at times, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Last night, as we celebrated our anniversary, I was reminded of the many years we have stuck to each other in partnership and marriage, through times when it was easy to stick together, and when life turned so dark it was difficult to see any sunshine in our future. And now, as Becky and I enter the winter of our lives, we do so living, laboring, and sacrificing together for a cause much larger than both of us. It's a lot of work, but a lot of fun. I couldn't think of a better way to honor the Lord Jesus through our marriage than by serving Him together. We "agree," as Paul would put it -- which is a pretty amazing thing for two people who couldn't be more different in background, temperament, and personality.
1:50 PM Matt's teaching from Acts 15 this morning was a blessing.
At one point he quoted from Matthew Henry's commentary with reference to the letter sent from James to the churches. How I wish our churches today, who gladly proclaim "I am of ___________" (you fill in the blank with your favorite pastor or Bible teacher's name) would grasp hold of this truth!
Earlier in the service we sang that great old chorus Because He Lives. During the last verse I put my arm around Becky and we both sang triumphantly, with tears trickling down our cheeks:
Here was grace reaching down to lift us up to truth. It's amazing how God orchestrated today's service. I wanted to throw my arms around Becky and say, "It doesn't matter. I understand. Our life is wonderful. I love you!"
Alas, we were "in church"!
9:55 AM Off to the greatest fellowship on earth!
9:53 AM This morning Micah came over to sit on my lap. "Come on aboard," I said. To which he replied, "Are you a board?" Everyone's a comedian around here.
9:01 AM I'm thrilled that B is feeling strong enough to come to The Hill this morning, mask in place. Actually, it would take a herd of horses to keep her on the farm today. She craves the fellowship, plus our Matthew is teaching from the book of Acts during the service. Twill be a great time!
8:45 AM A Sunday morning seems a good time to call attention to my colleague Steve McKinion's excellent post about the "call" to ministry: Is Spurgeon Unhelpful Here? Some great questions are raised here. In The Jesus Paradigm I noted:
I think the distinction between "sacred" and "secular" work is overdone in our Baptist circles. Recently I met an American believer living overseas in a Muslim nation who told me about his experience. He had felt a "call" to "the" ministry, left his successful IT business, went to seminary, and then relocated to the foreign field as a professional missionary. Eventually the Lord led him to leave the mission board and begin his own IT business. Today he considers himself to be a fulltime missionary as he exercises his God-given skills as a computer expert, hiring local Muslims and leading them to Christ. Is he "called" to ministry? He would answer with a resounding Yes!
7:36 AM So here's a pic of the honeymooners. I took Becky to the fanciest, most expensive joint in town. The filet mignon was magnificent.
We reminisced about what we were doing 34 years ago and had some good laughs thinking about all the little foul ups and practical jokes done to us at our wedding (they had attached several Hawaiian Punch cans to our rear bumper). I'll never forget that drive to Los Angeles or our honeymoon in Hawaii. How young and naive we were!
On the drive to the restaurant last night Becky asked, "What three adjectives describe you right now?" It was a critical question and I thought carefully before replying. "Happy." "Blessed." "Grateful." Becky agreed. Last night two hearts touched, as they had done three and a half decades before, swamped with happy memories, filled with gratitude toward God. So there we ate and talked. Committed. Sensitive. Transparent. Communicating. Still growing. That's intimacy, and the heart knows it.
Saturday, September 11
5:12 PM Hooray! My Becky Lynn is feeling well enough for me to take her out to dinner tonight!
2:10 PM Special recommendation: read Andy Bowden's They Came Knocking and then be prepared to share your faith with people whom the Lord may bring to your door.
10:54 AM Here's a fine post from Eric Carpenter: Thinking About September 11th. That leads me to ask, "What would happen if we really took our heavenly citizenship seriously?"
10:24 AM Almost forgot. Today is not only our anniversary. So, to all of our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia, here's wishing you 12 months of love, 52 weeks of joy, 8760 hours of peace, 525600 minutes of patience, and 31536000 seconds of goodness.
8:48 AM Today Becky and I are celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary. During these years we've learned many lessons.
We've learned to build into each other's lives, to seek the best for one another, to say "I'm sorry," to keep climbing even when the odds seemed impossible, to grow in our Christ-likeness, to pass through valleys and heights that left us breathless, to stumble and walk again, to know euphoria, relief, gladness, sorrow, joy, and victory, to commit our lives to serving Jesus together in a lost world, to hold nothing back -- nothing! -- from each other, to give and receive love, to need each other, to be connected, to value and cherish the other for who they are, to give the other permission to fail, to spot the weeds before they take over, to admit when we didn't know the answers, to help balance our extremes, to become totally available to each other, to pursue a healthy ruthlessness with ourselves, to make our feelings known, and to prepare ourselves for the anguish of separation.
Jesus has been our model in all these things. He rejoiced. He wept. He experienced anger. He made His feelings known. He was responsive to those who sought Him. He protected the weak. He affirmed displays of affection. He opened His life to pain and death. We are growing in our marriage primarily because we are learning to walk and live with Him.
Today I have a perfect right to feel nothing but sheer unadulterated joy. How good and kind is my God.
Becky Lynn, I want to love you a thousand times more than I've ever loved you in the past. I want you to know, without any doubt whatsoever, that you are a higher priority than career, than comfort, than anything and anyone except Christ, and that you can count on me to be at your side until that day when we will laugh off our suffering as "present light affliction."
Happy Anniversary, Darling.
I love you with all my heart.
Friday, September 10
11:20 PM End-of-a-tiring-but-good-day update:
1) The doc says I've got Tarsal Tibial Syndrome and Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot. Have no idea what that means. Wait! Google to the rescue!
2) Becky's slowly but surely regaining her strength. I'm praying she'll be fit enough for me to take out to a local restaurant (with face mask) for dinner tomorrow to celebrate our anniversary.
3) Enjoyed my breakout session at the conference tonight in Appleby Chapel. I don't know about you, but I never speak without a partial sense of failure. There was so much more I wanted to say. And I'm sure I could have nuanced my talk better.
But I hope my main point came through loud and clear: We're all missionaries, even if we don't know it yet. A Christian car salesperson is not simply a salesperson; he or she is God's representative in the showroom to show car shoppers what God is like. A Christian secretary is not simply a secretary; he or she is God's representative to show the boss and everyone else what Jesus looks like. A mature Christian doctor isn't simply a physician. Those hands that sooth the sick demonstrate how God responds to sickness and sorrow. Jesus has passed His commission on to each and every one of us. No exceptions. The Lord throws the ball in our court and says, "Play the game!" No hocus-pocus involved here. We just take up our crosses and follow Jesus wherever He leads, whether across the street or around the world. As my colleague Alvin Reid puts it, "Life is a mission trip; take it!" Disciple-making isn't a one-time decision. It's a daily assessment of our willingness to make expensive decisions, again and again, day after day, for the sake of the Gospel. The Christian faith is so much more than orthodoxy, as vitally important as orthodoxy is. It lies in our willingness to walk in the way of Jesus, engaging in basin ministries that embody kingdom values. God isn't calling us to force unbelievers into a corner and mash them with our mental machinery. He is calling us into action. Evangelism, pure and simple, means loving people until they ask us why.
It is quite a challenge to shrink that message into an hour. If you didn't quite get what I was trying to say, please look over the dozens of essays here at my site or, better, go to the Scriptures themselves. Being a professor for 33 years has convinced me that there is no substitute for straightforward Bible teaching in order to produce healthy Christians. Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Whether the issue is one of theology or practice, our starting point must always be "What does the Word of God say?" So to all who attended my talk this evening, may I challenge you to look at this issue -- and every issue -- from a Scriptural angle. You will be a wiser and better Christian as a result.
(By the way, these pix were taken by a good friend of mine from Raleigh Chinese Christian Church, Andrew Chang. Andy is finishing his M.Div. at SEBTS and considering doctoral work when he is done. Thanks Andy for lending me your photographic skills tonight.)
9:32 AM A few minutes ago a pastor friend of mine in Houston tweeted:
Way to go! Invite 'em in and show them the Way.
8:26 AM New essay The Future of Southern Baptist Missions at Dave Black Online. What do you think?
7:55 AM Happy Twentieth Anniversary to the journal Philologia Neotestamentaria! The latest volume has an extended editorial by its editor Jesús Peláez called "Veinte años después" (Twenty years on). What a fascinating story! The volume also includes a complete index of authors and articles. It's been my joy to have served on the editorial board of FN since its inception. Ad multos annos!
I add here, for what it's worth, a list of essays that appeared in FN from my hand:
Let me encourage my fellow students of the New Testament to consider this journal for their next publication. Articles are accepted in English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian.
7:41 AM The controversy over the Qu'ran demonstrates the need for building redemptive relationships with others. Here are some thoughts on witnessing to Muslims based on my personal experience:
Remember that only the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He, not you, is the real mid-wife to a newly-born saint. Allow your Muslim friends to make informed decisions based on an accurate presentation of Christianity. Effective evangelism always has content. But it never stops there. It is both "show" and "tell."
Can you do this? I know you can! On this September 11 weekend, let's pray for boldness and open doors. Let's believe that God will use the witness of our serving lifestyles. Let's bathe lost souls in prayer. After all, isn't that what Christianity is all about?
7:33 AM Dear foot. I hope you enjoy your visit to the doctor today. Please stop hurting.
Thursday, September 9
8:32 PM Chicken fried venison for supper tonight, along with creamy mashed potatoes and green beans. Thanks Liz for a real treat -- one of Mama B's favorites.
After dinner Nate treats the boys to a ride on Hercules.
Swinging on Nate and Jessie's vines.
Picking flowers for Mama B.
Love. Peace. Tenderness. Warmth. Family.
God is good.
6:08 PM We're using George Guthrie's Hebrews commentary in our class this semester, and for very good reasons. I'm impressed with the author's exegetical acumen as well as his ability to draw applications from the text.
This week we saw how Jesus "destroyed the one who holds the power of death, that is, the devil" (2:14). Guthrie, quoting from The Art of Dying by Robert Neale, lists 3 aspects of this fear:
1) We fear dying because it involves a loss of control over our lives.
2) We fear incompleteness or failures.
3) We fear separation from our loved ones.
Guthrie adds a fourth:
4) We fear death because it leads to a realm of unfamiliarity.
The good news is that Jesus has delivered us from all these fears! Our loss of mastery is compensated by our trust in a sovereign God. Our sense of incompleteness and failure is balanced by our hope of eternal life. Our fear of separation is overcome by the knowledge that we will enjoy relationships with those we have been separated from through death. And our fear of the unfamiliar is counterbalanced by our certainty that heaven is a perfect place. Death is not the end for the follower of Christ. It opens the door to the place of the waiting Father where we will be given the greatest gift in the universe -- intimacy with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The message, surely, is loud and clear. Nothing is taught more firmly or frequently in the New Testament than the value of an eternal perspective on life. Paul puts this quite bluntly: "For to me to go on living is Christ, and to die is gain." The lesson for Dave Black is obvious. I am incurably proud of my ability to cope. But all that is a façade. Facing the specter of death has opened a gateway to the grace of God. The light of the Gospel strips away the devil's lie. He does not have the power of death. Only God has the power to determine who dies and when life will end.
Glory be to God.
5:45 PM Just surfaced from a deep sleep. Feel exhausted. Hope I'm not getting sick. Can't afford to right now.
2:06 PM Tucked away in the news is this story about the first U.S. Army chaplain to be killed in action since Vietnam. His funeral is today. Read his story and then say a prayer for his wife and family.
Note: Chaplain Goetz responds to the attacks on 9/11 in this editorial. I urge you to read the entire essay and to take your time while doing so. I was particularly interested in this quote:
1:46 PM This quote by the great A. T. Robertson made me sit up and take notice:
It's hard to imagine me doing anything else with my life than teaching Greek grammar and trying to put that into service for King Jesus worldwide.
1:36 PM I can't help but link to Allan Bevere's latest post Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates. Allan writes:
Please read that second paragraph again. And don't miss the delightful line he ends with!
1:16 PM If you're going to SBL in Atlanta this year be sure to check out this Symposium on the Johannine Epistles at Mercer University. My esteemed colleague Andreas Köstenberger is one of the speakers.
By the way, SEBTS is exceptionally strong in the field of Johannine studies. Budding scholars, you can check out our Ph.D. program here.
1:12 PM Just had a fine lunch prepared by Liz. THE topic of discussion: Where can we find sake surume (dried cuttlefish) and li hing mui (dried and salted plums) -- my childhood favorites from Hawaii?
12:30 PM Today I'm prepping for my breakout session at tomorrow's 9 Marks Conference at SEBTS. If you'd like a sneak preview of my talk, you can take a gander at Why Church? and The Purpose of a Seminary. For more on the conference go here.
12:03 PM Good news! B's blood work is showing signs of improvement. Her white count is up a smidgen, as are her platelets. She remains fatigued. Looking forward to pampering her on our anniversary this Saturday.
8:26 AM If you live near Fort Worth, check out this workshop on Hebrews.
7:59 AM Campbell University announces an opening in New Testament.
7:55 AM In our LXX class yesterday we were talking about certain "untranslatable" words (such as the direct object marker eth in Hebrew). Reminded me of a story. Several years ago, when Paige Patterson was my seminary president, I went to his office to give him an autographed copy of my latest book. The title of the work was Untranslatable Riches from the Greek New Testament. It was a handsomely produced hardback replete with endorsements on the back by John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, etc. I would guess the entire tome consisted of about 350 pages.
The president was deeply appreciative of the gift as I handed it to him. But when he looked inside he saw – to his great surprise – 350 blank sheets of paper. He looked up at me and laughed. (He always appreciated practical jokes.) My reply was simply, "Well, they're untranslatable, after all." Then I told him how one of my publishers had agreed to produce this volume solely for him. He is thus the only person in the entire universe who can claim possession of my priceless "book" called Untranslatable Riches from the Greek New Testament.
Odd, isn't it, how we so easily write and speak about the supposed "untranslatable" riches in our Greek New Testaments. They are, indeed, translatable. Yesterday in our Linguistics Seminar we discussed morphology and how our English versions so often miss the mark when it comes to reflecting the morphemes in the Greek text. A classic example is James 1:17, where the NIV ("Every good and perfect gift") completely overlooks the fact that there are two (not one) Greek words for "gift" and that both are different. Dosis implies the "act of giving," while dorema implies "that which has been given" (= "gift"). One could therefore render the phrase, I suppose, something like "All good giving and every perfect gift," or, as we did in the ISV New Testament, "Every generous act of giving and every perfect gift is from above." (For more on this rendering, see my essay Good Giving?) We also discussed Paul's delightful invention "leaster" in Eph 3:8, which we rendered "the very least of all the saints" in the ISV. Here Paul uses a comparative suffix on a superlative adjective!
1) Everything you have ever given to another person has actually come from God through you. Indeed, if I understand James 1:17 correctly, even the desire or the propensity to be generous is a gift from God, and therefore we can never claim credit either for the desire to give or for the actual gift itself!
2) If Paul could claim to be the "leaster" of all believers worldwide, what right do I ever have to claim anything less? As we discussed in class, the kingdom of God is flat. In this kingdom we are all "brothers and sisters," as Jesus taught us (Matt. 23). The Japanese bow when they meet each other. The bow is a symbol of respect. You can always tell who is most revered, for he or she will receive the deeper bow from the others.
In Godworld (the title of a book I'm currently writing) the bows are all level. In fact, we are even willing to consider ALL others as more important than ourselves for the sake of Christ. I have been to meetings (such as SBL) where I have seen a conversation between a seasoned scholar and a doctoral student interrupted when a "more important" person has come along. This is not the way of Christ. And it's not the way of a person who considers him- or herself to be "the very least of all God's people."
7:43 AM Yesterday's chapel message by one of our missionaries was great. His topic was suffering, and his text was Heb. 11:39. Note, he said, that the author wrote, "All these were commended for their faith," not "for their suffering." He told us, "We have this notion that persecution is bad. But suffering for Christ is the norm in 80 percent of the world (China, India, Indonesia, the Middle East, etc.). Then he asked this pointed question, "Are you tough enough? Are you tough enough when your Joseph is thrown into prison?" His point was this: Let's not automatically pray for our Josephs to be released from prison. Maybe God wants them to stay in prison so that they might deliver others. I need to view persecution in that light.
7:22 AM Yesterday I learned that a friend of mine is being divorced by his wife. She has found intimacy with another man. I am heartbroken over the situation.
Why do so many of us – men and women – fail to find true intimacy in marriage? Why do young people complain that they were never understood by their father or mother? Why do a son and father speak of a closeness once possessed but now lost? Why it is it that we find it so difficult to maintain deep and lasting relationships? Why do we men so often complain of a lack of close friends? All these questions have been brewing in my mind of late. Why, in this very blog, do I so often find it difficult to be transparent and honest? Am I, too, afraid of intimacy?
Right now Becky is writing the fourth chapter in her spiritual autobiography. This chapter will deal with her married life, her vocations, her family. I don't have any idea what she will write about our marriage. But with Becky I can say that I've found a genuine slice of intimacy in my life. B has become my friend, my teammate, my partner. There have been exultant moments and there have been despairing moments, bright sunshine and stormy interludes. But we are still in love with each other. One of the greatest gifts Becky has given me is the knowledge of how to love others – the importance of committing to a relationship, nourishing it, being willing to give even if it means giving more than I got back. I'm learning how to be open with my feelings and thoughts. I'm a very rich man as a result of these lessons I've learned from Becky.
A man I greatly admire is Robertson McQuilken of Columbia, South Carolina. Here's a man who knows a thing or two about intimacy. When his wife developed Alzheimer's, he resigned as president of a college because he decided that the situation required him to provide fulltime attention to his wife Muriel. "After all," he told a reporter, "she cared for me for nearly four decades; now it's my turn." Amazing, isn't it? I'd call that raising the bar for marriage. It was not easy for him to watch his wife slide into dementia. He is a role model to me about the joys and pain of lifelong love.
Marriage, as I've discovered over the past 33 years, never comes at a discounted rate. You pay full price or nothing at all. Faults, pain, flaws – Becky and I have seen it all, and, by the grace of our kind God, we are still together. I’ve begun praying daily for my dear friend. I'm thankful he came to me and shared his torment. Marriage is a deep mystery. It is, in fact, terrifying. In it we find forces at work in ourselves that have never before been fully submitted to our vows and promises. I hope and pray that the moment will come when my friend and his wife (the divorce is not yet final) will both experience a rush of energy to unpack the conflict, bringing resolution to something that right now seems so shattered. God is able to do this. He can heal a broken marriage. How I pray that He will.
7:03 AM Read More PhD Recommendations. Students note well: It is perfectly fine, a thing to be encouraged in fact, for you to publish journal articles before receiving your doctorate. Please don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Sure, you haven't "arrived yet," but I've got news for you – none of us has, and that includes well-published scholars. So I say: Go for it!
Monday, September 6
8:48 PM I dare not forget to say thank you to all those who have written us emails during Becky's hospital stay, emails that have come from Tokyo and the Bahamas and every place in between it seems, many of them from complete strangers. We deeply appreciate each one of you.
8:22 PM Here I am, back home again, jogging through a stack of preparations for my Tuesday and Wednesday classes at the seminary. Liz has spelled me at the hospital (enjoy the sofa bed and free crackers, Lizzy Pie!). Becky's condition is steadily improving and I'm hopeful she will be discharged tomorrow morning. Maybe I'm just an old-fashioned guy, but I still think hospitals are good places to get sick in, and I'd much rather have Bec resting in her own bed. I can tell you, it's good to be back home again. Here's the view that greeted me when I turned on to our driveway.
A second cutting of hay is a huge blessing from the Lord and one we don't take for granted here. And here's a pic or two of family:
Matt, Liz, and the boys enjoyed visiting Mama B at UNC:
As did Nate, Jess, and Nolan (here's Mr. Blue Eyes himself wiggling out of his mask):
And here's a balloon that says, quite ungrammatically, "Me loves you," the "me" meaning all of us, honey!
On the drive home today I was strangely nostalgic, thinking about the heritage I will one day leave to my children and grandchildren. More than ever, I'm beginning to realize that the most important lesson for our children today is the lesson of faith. Not faith in one's job or the economy or our intellectual attainments. Not faith in all of our human achievements. But faith in God -- the God who created each one us, who made everything from absolutely nothing. Faith in the God who has the power to see everything, who understands our deepest heartaches, who has all authority, who alone has the power to forgive sins and to restore broken relationships. Faith in the God who who can keep us from wallowing in despair and self-pity. Do I have such faith? Sometimes I feel like a miserable failure in this area of my life. But if I want the next generation to have such faith I must first possess it, and possess it in quantity.
Of course, faith is merely the by-product of knowing God's Word. That's why, I suppose, Becky is always asking us to read Scripture to her. She seems to understand what I so often fail to realize -- that to meet successfully the curve-balls that life tosses at us we need faith in the eternal God, and this faith comes only by being saturated with His Word. To be honest with you, tonight I am seeking faith, faith that replaces worry, faith that my Heavenly Father knows our needs and will supply each and every one of them, faith that I can overcome the temptations and lure of an abundance of nice, enjoyable things that make no difference in eternity, faith in God's promise, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." I am groping to find God's supreme will in the midst of my confusion. I am grasping the rope of faith swinging from His hands, reminding myself of His words, "Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (Psalm 50:15).
So, God is still on the throne. Right now He is there with Becky, even though I am not. And He is with me -- and you too. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Friday, September 3
9:15 PM Right now we're off to UNC Hospital. Becky's being admitted. She's running a fever and I suspect they'll put her on strong antibiotics. I'll update you when I can.
7:44 PM Now here's a delightful email!
(Note: "BH" stands for "Bethel Hill," our home church in Roxboro, NC).
6:14 PM Farm vignettes:
1) Dog patrol.
2) Off to check the mail.
3) The cattle are happy.
4) Front yard soccer game.
Life is good.
6:14 PM Becky's dad has been sending us old pictures for Becky to use in her book. Here's one showing the family about to leave for Kenya in their Land Rover. Isn't it fantastic?
How thankful we are that Mr. Lapsley had the foresight to document their stay in Africa. These pictures are worth millions to us today. Interested in the people in this photo? They are all Lapsleys except Becky's cousin (third from left). Otherwise we have Brad, Betty, Becky, Bonnie, Barbara, Beverly, Ben, and -- the caboose -- Lisa.
2:08 PM Quote of the day (Hudson Taylor):
12:57 PM Please, churches, heed this warning:
12:33 PM Here's the latest on our Becky Lynn. Her blood counts have not improved, and the staff at UNC is very concerned. If her platelets drop any lower, or if she should develop a fever, Becky will be hospitalized immediately. I will be taking her temperature several times a day and having her blood drawn daily until we jump this hurdle. The long and short of it is that Becky has no immune system. The chemo saw to that. Right now she is resting comfortably in our bedroom, Bible by her side.
So there you have it. Love you guys and so grateful for your prayers!
10:58 AM Don't miss Alvin Reid's latest essay, What Is a Seminary Professor? I, for one, think that Alvin is more than qualified to tell the rest of us what a good seminary prof looks like (sans the snake, of course).
10:50 AM Markan priority is based partly on the so-called linguistic data. We discussed an example in our Linguistics Seminar on Wednesday. Notice that Mark's "incorrect" grammar (he uses the middle voice in Mark 10:20) has been "corrected" by Matthew and Luke to the active voice.
Of course, this is nothing but philological voodoo. Arguments like this one fail because they are too subjective. (1) Perhaps Mark intended a reflexive sense ("All these things I have kept myself from since I became a young man"). (2) Perhaps Mark is imitating the language of the LXX (where the middle voice is used far more frequently than the active in contexts dealing with the commandments of God). Either way, the internal evidence is far too subjective to do anything more than perform a corroborating function. One wonders, then, why these arguments are still being touted in New Testament studies.
Next week: How morphology helps us to use Greek in ministry.
10:30 AM Just took Becky in for her blood work. Should have the results in an hour or two. What will her white count be?
8:38 AM As promised, here's an excerpt from chapter 3 of Becky's autobiography:
As part of my preparation for the mission field, I figured that I needed a husband who was spiritual. What better place to find such a person than in the Bible Department? At that time, the Bible Department had the largest number of majors in the College, followed by the Nursing Department. So I kept my eyes open and began dating men in the Bible major.
Boy, was I in for a shock! As already written, my whole thinking and worldview was different from any of my peers, largely because of my upbringing in Ethiopia, but also because God matured me in Him so deeply in my high school years. And what I found in these Bible majors were men who were as spiritually shallow, vain and frivolous as the rest of civilization!
In November, 1973, I'd had enough. I "met" with the Lord in my dorm room to discuss the situation. I readily admit that the communication was one-way; I don't remember a thing He "said," but I remember well what I said. "Lord, I'd rather go to Ethiopia single than married to a man to whom I must be a spiritual mother! So, let's just forget about a husband. That part of the plan is hereby deleted." After this "conversation" with the Lord, I was so happy and free! A big load had been lifted from me. Now the road to Ethiopia was wide open!
Little did I know that the Lord was about to introduce His choice for me...and it would be a Bible major! About 2 weeks later I was standing in line at the cafeteria. It was about 6 pm, and I was due to be at work at 6:30. (I worked at the college switchboard; it was the old-fashioned kind with all the cords and switches!) As I waited in line, I looked toward the door and saw a tall man helping his blind roommate through the door. "There's your husband," the Lord said to me, as clear as if He were standing beside me in person! I thought to myself, "Maybe I should remind Him of our discussion"; then I answered myself, "No, He knows."
There was absolutely no doubt in my mind of His word to me, and there was no doubt of my accepting His decision. From the moment He spoke, I accepted His appointment. As Dave and Rubens came behind me in line, Dave offered me a chocolate-covered macadamia nut candy; he had just received a box from his mother in Hawaii. I thought to myself, "You don't know this, but you are offering this to your future wife." I ate the nut (Dave's version is that I've been nuts over him ever since!), moved through the cafeteria line, and sat down at one of the tables. Dave and Rubens joined me, but our meal together was short, as I had to be at work soon.
It took Dave 2 years and 8 months to come to the conclusion that I was meant to be his wife. During that time we "dated" off and on. Many people said, "When are you two going to get engaged?!" I wasn't in any hurry. I knew he was taken; we were already engaged on the Lord's books, and that was good enough for me. Besides, I needed to finish nursing school.
But my goal for finishing nursing school had now changed. Marriage trumped Missions, and Obedience trumped Overseas. As Dave and I talked, it became clear that Dave was not appointed to mission work; his heart was in education. As a wife, it was my part to bend to him, not the other way around.
My love for Ethiopia, my interest in mission work, and my desire to use my gifts and abilities for people less advantaged remained in me. But I was no longer footloose and fancy free; I was bound to work alongside another, yoked together. My plans for my life had to be voluntarily submitted to the life work of the man to whom I had been appointed.
I completed my bachelor's degree, graduated on a Saturday in June, 1976, and drove off with my family. Where I came from, if a woman is not engaged to be married, she is to return to her home upon graduation. So returning to Dallas with my family was never questioned. As Dave says, when he watched me go away in that big van, something happened inside him. He was lost. He phoned our pastor's wife, Doris Hakes, and 2 days later she sat across from him at lunch and said, "Don't you know you're 'spose to marry that girl?" With this clear guidance, he wasted no time! I had figured that he would come to Dallas in September and we would be married in December....instead, he came to Dallas in July and we were married 6 weeks later.
On September 11, 1976, the Lord culminated our marriage at Grace Bible Church in Dallas, Texas. It was the first afternoon wedding in that church. It was a relatively simple affair. My sisters served as my bridesmaids, arrayed in a rainbow of colors, and an assortment of men, including blind Rubens Marshall, served as Dave's groomsmen. I sewed my wedding dress and my mother made the bridesmaids' dresses. Dave and his groomsmen wore traditional Hawaii wedding dress of white shirt and white slacks. I carried a cascading bouquet and Dave had a maile vine lei draped over his shoulders. As part of our ceremony, we placed pikake leis around our mothers. For myself, all of this wedding hoopla was for the benefit of my parents and others who had supported me over the years; I could not deny them the joy of my wedding day. As far as I was concerned, just say the magic words to make me his wife....everything else could be chucked away! The simple African girl was showing again :)
To this day "Mrs. Black" is my favorite name.
Thursday, September 2
10:02 PM Newsflash! Bec's just finished writing chapter 3 of her book My Spiritual Journey. In it she describes how she and I met and eventually married. My, my, isn't THAT interesting reading! Warning: I may post an excerpt tomorrow. In the meantime I couldn't help but post these two photos, one taken when Becky was a child and their family was vacationing at Lake Bishoftu, the other taken in 2004 when Becky and I visited the same place on my first trip to Utopia. For all I know we could have been in the exact same boat!
8:39 PM Will Hurricane Earl dump any rain on the Piedmont? I hope not. Nate's been cutting and baling and still has a couple of fields to go. God knows.
8:12 PM Here's a neat picture. It shows Matthew homeschooling the boys this morning. Brings back tons of memories of Becky and I doing the same. The generations just keep racing on!
1:39 PM Dear blogging friends,
During these challenging days I find myself continually drawn to Jesus and His upside-down kingdom, where weak is strong and down is up. Thanks be to God, the kingdom is big enough to include limping pilgrims like myself. I've tried to put my thoughts into writing in my latest essay at our home page. It's called How to Pray for Us. I write as a husband who is especially grateful for the 34 years (as of this Sept. 11) that God has given Becky and me to enjoy each other's friendship. And I deeply appreciate the kindness of so many of you who have told us you are praying for us. Jesus is not powerless. But He never used power for self-gain. He served at the bottom of the ladder, not at the top. This means that I should be willing to do the same and never presume upon His divine authority to advance my own personal agenda. Such is the gist of my latest essay, which I hope you will find to be an encouragement as you negotiate the unexpected twists and turns in your own walk with Jesus.
1:12 PM Just asked by our student development department to recommend outstanding students for our Th.M. program. Glad to do it. We've got dozens of them.
8:02 AM Wonderful email reminder this morning from a dear friend of ours:
7:56 AM Just a quick program note. Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte is hosting me on Friday, Sept. 17. Here's the schedule. Hope to see some of you there.
7:50 AM Yesterday, as we went over my essay "New Testament Semitisms" (The Bible Translator 39, pp. 215-223) in our LXX class (summarized here), I thought of this quote by Martin Luther:
—Tischreden (“Table Talk”), vol. 1, p. 525.
7:42 AM Today and tomorrow I'm working on the revision of my doctoral dissertation Paul Apostle of Weakness. I've decided to reissue the first 6 chapters essentially as I wrote them some 30 years ago. A seventh chapter will bring the conversation up to date. The original book was the result of a lot of hard work and not only by me -- Becky typed it for me on a machine known only to ante-deluvians, a typewriter. I've discovered that my basic conclusions haven't changed in all these years. I say this as an encouragement to all of my doctoral students who are currently in the dissertation phase of their studies. There are 3 things nobody can deny who has endured this phase of their program:
1) It takes longer than you expected.
2) It requires greater determination than you figured.
3) It is more difficult than you anticipated.
What keeps you going -- and, hopefully, sane -- is hope. Hope that God will use your paltry words to edify His church. Hope that your new discoveries will rub off on the world of scholarship. Hope that the thoughts residing in your head will bless others as they read them in your book. Just remember: It takes time, lots of it. But I urge you to stay at it. Pay the price so that others can reap the benefit. If I could do it, anybody can. And, when you consider the alternative, it's well worth the investment of time and effort.
7:30 AM A reader sends along this astute observation from the great Neutestamentler H. C. D. Moule:
Of course he did. If we take Origen seriously (and refuse to take his comments out of context), he would certainly have denied directly Lukan authorship.
Wednesday, September 1
9:32 PM Quote of the day (Allan Bevere):
9:06 PM Jessie sent us this pic of Mr. Nolan. Isn't he growing? Thank you, Jessica!
8:45 PM Received this wonderful email today from our brother Oshe in Burji, Ethiopia:
With 34 churches, this means that over 150 people prayed all night for our Becky Lynn. Amazing!
Below: Some of the church elders in Burji, clapping and praising God. The melanin-challenged faranji to the left is none other than Bethel Hill's own Ed Johnson, head of our construction crew.
8:23 PM Greetings fellow bloggers! It's been a wild two days since I last updated this blog. As you know, Bec and I were scheduled to fly to Dallas tomorrow morning to pay a 5-day visit to her mom and dad. The trip has been cancelled. Becky's white count has dropped through the floor (it's now a mere 0.3 and possibly still sinking). Her platelets are also extremely low. It's the result of the chemo drug she began taking a week ago today -- Adriamycin. We have decided (in concert with Becky's medical team at UNC) to stop this therapy immediately. In the long term this means that the only options available to us are experimental drugs offered though clinical trials. In the short term this of course means that Becky will be susceptible to all kinds of infections. We're praying that she will weather this storm and that her white count will improve within the next few days. Meanwhile we are in "extreme caution" mode around the house and taking every precaution to ward off germs. Poor Becky, she's now "grounded," but at least she's not in the hospital enjoying reverse isolation!
I received this news today just as I was coming off of four exceptional classes at school, including our Ph.D. Linguistics Seminar (which Andy Bowden, who blogs here, taught this week). Here's Andy discussing the relevance of phonology for New Testament studies.
How esoteric can you get? And here's my tag team partner Bob Cole waxing elephant in our LXX class about some obscure point of Hebrew grammar as we exegeted Psalm 1 in both Greek and Hebrew. And I thought I was guilty of rabbit trails!
I told the LXX class (in all honesty) that there are only 4 tools I really need for biblical exegesis: (1) my Greek New Testament, (2) my Hebrew Old Testament, (3) my Hebrew New Testament, and (4) my Greek Old Testament. Everything else is a mere supplement to these essential tools!
As for my other classes this week, Greek 1 is off to a great start, with more than half of the class getting a perfect 109 on the first quiz (9 extra credit points were offered). I'm so proud of you guys and gals! And in Hebrews class we were led in an excellent discussion of the letter's first two paragraphs, 1:1-4 and 1:5-14. The opening paragraph -- what a masterpiece of brief but lucid theology! There is a very close connection between these verses and everything that follows in the book. The author does not even identity himself, so eager is he to call attention to the divine authorship of all Scripture. As he sees it, Christianity brings to every person what every person needs, and all of it is to found in a Son (not the capital "S"). It is a very subtle and beautiful treatment of the superiority of Christianity for those who have eyes to see it and knowledge enough of the New Covenant to grasp it.
But to end where I began: the news of Becky's condition hit me in the solar plexus, but at the same time I've just been reminded by Heb. 1:3 that Christ Himself holds all things together -- even cancer-ridden patients and their bedraggled husbands -- by His powerful Word. Praise His name!