September 2012 Blog Archives
Sunday, September 30
8:31 PM This pic is for a good friend of mine. (He'll know what it means!)
3:00 PM Quote of the day:
The writer is none other than my doctoral student Paul Himes. Check out his excellent essay here.
2:49 PM Whatever defects of the curriculum or classroom, you can still excel as a student.
2:28 PM Do Christians have a duty to participate in politics? The answer is no. That's the biblical answer, that is. Scripture is clear: Our responsibilities are threefold: We are to (1) pay our taxes, 2) obey the laws of the land, and 3) pray for our political leaders. Want to get involved in politics? By all means, do so. But there is no distinctly "Christian" obligation to vote.
Glad to see Arthur Sido tackling this issue -- as he always does -- with clarity and forthrightness.
2:23 PM Thank you Becky! Thank you for keeping the persecuted of the world before our eyes as a congregation. Thank you for maintaining the church bulletin board so that we can be informed when we pray.
Thank you for reminding us that compassion is not a feeling that comes mysteriously upon us but involves a deliberate choice.
Thank you for being so concerned that those of us in America who "have it good" do not forget our brothers and sisters who don't.
Friends, like never before, your church and mine need godly leaders who will cry out for the forgotten and call God's people to repentance, to pray, to be compassionate.
Thank you Becky!
7:45 AM Thanks so much, Daniel, for linking to my Th.M. student Tim Decker's "noble experiment" in teaching Greek in Honduras using the Living Language approach. I love your statement:
Sorry I missed you at Criswell when I was there two weeks ago. I was looking forward to speaking German with you the whole time (since I know you took two courses in German when you were a doctoral student at SEBTS and are a firm believer in the Living Language approach)!
7:38 AM Just prayed for my church elders. Their load is heavy. Why not intercede for your elders today, then let them know how much you appreciate them.
7:12 AM Yesterday I talked about my surfing days in Hawaii and so I just have to link to this You Tube about "the greatest sport around."
7:10 AM Just got this email request:
Let me know if you can help this young man.
7:07 AM The University of Pennsylvania announces an opening in Biblical Studies (Hebrew Bible).
7:03 AM Let's keep the church in Kenya in our prayers. When one part of the Body suffers, all suffer.
6:49 AM Good morning, folks!
Hope you're all having a good Lord's Day (or, for those who don't distinguish between days, a nice Sunday). I'm feeling a bit brain-dead this morning since I've got so many pots on the fire. But let's start with yesterday. I had a blast with the Young Life folk in Raleigh. This is a beautiful grassroots movement among the youth in our high and middle schools. When the local director, Courtney Lancaster, asked me to address the group on the subject of the Gospel, I got goose bumps because that was exactly what I wanted to talk about. My message, in a nutshell, was and is this: Get involved personally in the rising kingdom movement of God and stop outsourcing the work to so-called professionals. I am deeply humbled and honored to have been invited to share this message with the leaders of Young Life Raleigh. My prayer is that God will use it to challenge all of us to greater love and service in the days ahead until Jesus returns.
This morning Becky and I (as well as others) will be reporting to our congregation about the work in Ethiopia, focusing on our most recent trip there this summer and the miracles we all witnessed. Several people whom I had been praying for and witnessing to for years finally came to faith in Christ, and of course we were privileged to be there for the dedication of a new meeting hall for the believers in a very persecuted region. I couldn't be more grateful to God.
Meanwhile, we are looking to the future. Becky is talking to me about visiting some good friends who are serving in northeast India (near Nepal and Sikkim) this December (their son, Moncy Mammon, is a recent SEBTS grad), and of course I'm packing my bags for my trip to regions beyond this week. As you know, I was planning on departing on Thursday. What readers probably don't know is that I'm flying standby and the flights are really filling up. So I'm moving up my departure to Tuesday instead and hoping I can make it to my destination on schedule. We'll see. Bottom line: Whenever you travel internationally you've just gotta trust God for the details.
Right now I'm going to brew up some coffee to go with my new Young Life mug that I received yesterday. I'll leave you with a few pix from yesterday's fantastic meeting in Raleigh. (Go State!)
Saturday, September 29
5:41 AM Good morning, brothers and sisters!
Today I have the joy of speaking to about 100 leaders of Young Life in Raleigh. My topic? The Gospel. (Their request.) Obviously it's a huge subject for a 3-hour talk. One can try to do too many things and end up accomplishing nothing. So what will I talk about? What is the Gospel?
I have long been convinced that there is no substitute for living the Gospel and not just talking about it. Biblical truth (i.e., doctrine) has a built-in power to make us different people. Too many Christians are suffering from theological shellshock. They've been taught that doctrine trumps everything else. With all due deference to theologians and Bible scholars (I is one!), we can state as a categorical fact that spiritual birth always leads to spiritual life! We have no right to claim a personal relationship with God unless our lives bear clear-cut marks of being His children. This is the point Jesus is making when He says "Follow me." The mark of a true follower of Jesus is that more and more of our actions toward our fellow men, including our enemies, is governed by the love that God has poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. That is the Gospel.
This is why the teen years are so important. This is when most young people test out the Christianity of their parents to see if it really works. What would happen if, instead of treating our young people as irresponsible adolescents, we exposed them to opportunities to love and sacrifice for others? Why do we entertain them instead of challenging them to obey the Great Commission? I'm not talking about putting our youth on guilt trips. But obliviously, God's expectations for youth and adults are no different. There is no teenage Holy Spirit and adult Holy Spirit. There's just the Holy Spirit.
In the wake of broken homes, painful relationships, and frenzied lifestyles, Jesus can give our lives meaning. And it's all found in the crazy, unbelievable, death-defying, scandalous, self-denying, Calvary-centered thing we call the Gospel. Jesus wants to extend Himself to the world through us. This is not the same Jesus scholars toy with in their inane seminars and publications; this is not the Jesus who is manipulated by the secular media (and Christian bloggers) for rankings; this Jesus is not a Santa Claus who gives us whatever we want. The Jesus of the Gospels is the Savior of the world who wants to use you and me as His primary agents of redemption to lost humanity. This is the life I so desperately wanted to live when I was a teenager. And it was the life I began to experience at the ripe old age of 16.
Young people: Real faith doesn't come cheap. It starts when we make sacrifices in the small things of life. When we learn to run to Jesus and embrace Him, and when we plan habitually to affirm the power of voluntary self-denial for His sake, then we've begun to understand the "Gospel."
The meeting goes from 9:00 to noon. As always, I'd appreciate your prayers.
Your fellow Gospeler,
Friday, September 28
6:40 PM Greek students, check out Jacob Cerone's Greek Vocabulary Quizlet keyed to our grammar!
6:34 PM Your prayers appreciated for us as we try to get a visa to Ukraine for Nigusse. He hopes to lecture at the seminary in Odessa. But there's a zillion hoops at the Embassy! After that, we'll need to apply to the Israeli Embassy in order for him to take a course at Jerusalem University College (JUC) this January. Two visas, two giant prayer requests!
Below: Students at JUC back in the 80s.
Study in Israel? Highly recommended.
5:04 PM Photo update:
1) Yes, we like the color red around here.
2) After getting up hay, I helped Robbie with the PVC.
3) Right now we're installing a new dish washer. I am doing all the skilled labor like fetching the wet vac.
Nothing from Nigusse. He must be knee deep in theology by now. Right now B's getting her blood work done in South Boston. If everything looks good, it's more chemo on Monday.
10:18 AM One of our grads, Seth Postell, emailed to mention the new "Year in Israel" program at the Israel College of the Bible where he serves. Courses include:
Further information is only a click away.
8:02 AM Good morning, virtual friends! Nigu and Becky have deserted me and are on their way to campus, Nigusse to attend the 9 Marks conference, and Becky to have breakfast and lunch with a couple of her girlfriends. Managed to get up several hundred bales yesterday but still have two fields to pick up today. We're also digging up the old sewer line to Maple Ridge and replacing the steel pipe with PVC. Then we'll build the deck and porch, run the new propane line for the kitchen stove, put up a new tin roof on the house and porch, install the kitchen hardwood flooring, and -- what did I forget? I'm delighted with the high quality of work thus far, and even the slave laborer (me) seems to be doing more helping than hindering.
Been following the brouhaha over Jesus. It's all very complex and ambiguous, but a mere distraction. This, plus the politics that is now dividing us, make me wonder if the church really has her act together. And I haven't even mentioned the real issues of global evangelization and the persecuted church. Maybe if we stopped wasting our time on irrelevancies and started doing what we're called to as the church the kingdom would be advancing. It seems to me that everything rides on the high and costly call to follow Jesus. This is why I have declined, and will continue to decline, offers to comment on politics or the ephemeral issues of the day. A lot more could be said (and needs to be said), but I'll just say this: I'm increasingly convinced that the best way to live out our scholarship is by turning from our self-centered ways and focusing all of our energies on carrying out God's will on earth by serving others in practical ways, in Jesus' name. (I'm pointing 3 fingers at myself.)
Pix (of course);
1) We finished this field and 3 others:
2) Still to pick up:
3) One of our hay barns:
4) The famous "Rift Valley":
Thursday, September 27
12:32 PM The BBC reports on the recent Antietam reenactment in Maryland. They are right: Civil War reenacting is a huge hobby and has produced a giant subculture. And not just among Americans: The big events draw reenactors from the UK and Germany even. When asked what rank I play, I usually respond, "The most important one during the war." Meaning, of course, that I play a private -- nothing but the extension of a musket.
Reenacting is nothing more than living history. Its downside is that, taken too seriously, it tends to glorify war. One thing is certain: it's an enjoyable hobby and a huge mission field in which to share the love of Christ with people who are hurting. Most reenactors quickly discover that playing bang-bang on the weekends won't let you escape from your personal problems.
12:02 PM I've been in the crawl space fixing the insulation. Not high enough to walk in. Thankful for our wheel chair.
7:41 AM If you do visit the Scrolls display at Southwestern Seminary, be sure to get over to the library and take a peek at the Walton Polyglot Bible of 1657. Nine languages are used: Hebrew, Chaldee, Samaritan, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Ethiopic, Greek, and Latin. Here's a photo for your enjoyment:
7:28 AM Beginning Greek students! If you are producing your own vocabulary cards, here's a tip for you: write the Greek on both sides.
7:13 AM So many good things are happening on the farm it's hard to name them all. In the first place, I got Becky's chariot (golf cart) running again. Hooray! You should see her pulling wheelies down the gravel driveway. Then too, we'll be getting up more hay this week. It's not every year that God blesses us with a second cutting, so we are grateful. Finally, the guest house project moves forward steadily at slightly faster than a snail's pace, but we do hope to have things up and running before too long. Today and tomorrow I'll be assisting our carpenter in installing the kitchen cabinets. The older I get, the more I realize the need to carefully steward my time, energy, and resources. Paul says we are to "make the most of the time," using a metaphor that means something like "buy up time from the market place." Time is not limitless. It is a precious commodity to be used carefully and to the max for the kingdom. This includes our leisure. Personally, I do not think it's good stewardship of time to allow ourselves to sit day after day in front of a computer screen, using it as chewing gum for the eyes, when we could be investing our time in perhaps more important activities. Surfing the internet is not wrong, of course. It can sharpen the mind as well as entertain. But for some of us it has become a subtle dictator -- "I've GOT to update my blog today or no one will visit my website." This is an obvious area of Christian stewardship. Not that it matters, but my advice would be this: look upon the web as a blessing God has given to enrich your life, but don't let it interfere with your other priorities. Plan your use of it carefully -- then enjoy it!
7:06 AM In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the so-called family-integrated church. No doubt this is due to the fact that churches are being forced by circumstances to rethink the effectiveness of their youth programs. In a "pastoral letter" to his congregation, Andy Dunkerton of Grace Reformed Baptist Church deals with the blessings and dangers of this movement. In any of my readers desires to pursue the consideration of this movement further, I can only refer you to Andy's excellent piece. Wisdom drips from its pages.
(Incidentally, you will notice that at one point in his discussion Andy says he is "angry." This is a reminder to me that in a healthy environment of give-and-take, anger has a proper place if it provides energy for finding the truth.)
Wednesday, September 26
7:46 PM My thanks to B & H for sending me a copy of Which Bible Translation Should I Use? It compares the NIV, ESV, HCSB, and the NLT. Kudos, Andreas!
7:35 PM Becky and I had a hot date tonight. After supper we took the golf cart to the back field, over to Maple Ridge, and then back home. Very romantic.
6:55 PM Just back from the seminary. Got time for some odds and ends?
1) Quote of the day (John Stott, The Gospel & the End of Time, 90):
I found this quote in a superb essay called Work With Your Hands: A Theology of Work in 1 Thessalonians 4 by John Byron of Ashland Theological Seminary. I couldn't agree more. I have argue as much in my The Thessalonian Road to Self-Support. Folks, don't be afraid of rethinking the wineskins!
2) Wonderful news! Thanks to our Campus Health Center I am now good to go for typhoid, yellow fever, and malaria for my trip to Guyana this November.
3) A nice note via email from one of my Th.M. students who lives in Honduras:
Read Tim's post A Greek Experiment and be blessed.
4) This week my good friend Rod gave a stirring report of what God is doing in the Middle East in the famous 10-40 Window. I had him in all of my classes. Thanks Rod for your faithfulness to the Lord Jesus and to the Gospel.
5) Travel update: Only 8 days to go before I leave for regions beyond again. I'll be teaching the exegesis of Mark to students who have already had four semesters of Greek with me. I am finding Rod Decker's materials to be extremely useful and informative (see this page). His 2009 ETS paper called Markan Idiolect will be required reading. Rod discusses such features as Markan parataxis, redundancies, multiple negatives, periphrasis, and indefinite plurals. A feature I usually discuss with my classes (but one that seems to have been overlooked by Rod) is Mark's use of prepositional prefix morphemes with what appear to be an intensifying function. Examples include sullupeomai in 3:5, diarpazo in 3:27, diegeiro in 4:39, parakouo in 5:36, kateulogeo in 10:16, and (perhaps the most difficult one of all) kataphileo in 14:45. Perhaps he will discuss these lexemes in his forthcoming (and eagerly anticipated) Mark Handbook.
6) I found incisive James Merritt's chapel message yesterday.
Speaking from Acts 15, he spoke about those fire extinguishers in our churches that put out the flame of God. Here are some quotable quotes.
(Note: If your jaw drops when you hear honest statements, you had better prop a pillow under your chin before reading these.)
His main point was that, when you read the New Testament, you read about a church that was on fire for the Gospel, refusing to be divided over issues that don't matter in the light of eternity. Wise words. I encourage you to put no trust in tradition. The only real source of truth is the Word of God. Obey it even if everyone thinks you’re crazy. Jesus did.
By the way, this You Tube series brings this message home loud and clear. It's called "Trouble in Amish Paradise." Part 1 says it all:
7) A reader inquired:
Henry Neufeld has the answer (An RSS Feed for Dave Black).
8) The internet continues to amaze me. This week I heard from someone who had been enjoying a lecture I once gave on New Testament criticism at Biola. Funny thing: I had no idea this audio CD was available. I might have to order a copy myself to see whether or not I agree with it! In case you might be interested too, here's the link to Key Issues in New Testament Criticism.
9) Had a great first orientation with Team Guyana this morning. For many of us it will our first trip to South America. We are excited!
Tuesday, September 25
5:39 AM Quote of the day (Mark Twain):
5:21 AM It's been two hours since Andy had his German orals in Munich. I prayed for you, brother. Let us know the results when you can.
As I recall, when I arrived in Basel in 1980 there were no German orals. It was immediately obvious to all whether or not you could speak the language.
5:15 AM Nice update here from Craig Bennett in Australia. Craig, you're welcome to fish in our ponds anytime, and I guarantee a catch.
5:10 AM Beginning Greek students: Some professors are trying to teach the biblical languages by using techniques commonly used when learning modern (living) languages. This "living language" approach goes by various names but the more notable ones are these:
Do check them out. They might help.
Monday, September 24
7:02 PM So grateful for a second cutting of hay this year. We'll need 500-600 more bales this winter for our new calves.
Doesn't this orchard grass look yummy?
6:23 PM Andy Bowden, my former Th.M. student and personal assistant, has passed his German written exams. That's quite an accomplishment. Congratulations Andy! Praise the Lord!
6:20 PM J. Gresham Machen is right on:
6:16 PM Cedarville University announces an opening for Dean, School of Biblical and Ministry Studies.
6:10 PM Cabinets are going up!
5:08 PM Right now we're getting a bid for a new tin roof at Maple Ridge. Be nice to have that project done before winter arrives.
5:02 PM The recent storms did a number on our saplings, and it was high time someone took the chain saw to the farm paths to make them useable again.
Looks much better, don't ya think?
4:05 PM Our Becky continues to do well. Her treatment went splendidly well today, though her oncologist reports that Becky's leg wound is officially infected (pseudomonas). We continue to be careful about it. Back to the wound doctor next Monday. We move ahead, day by day, sometimes hour by hour. We are indebted to all of you for your prayers. While at UNC I ran into Steve McKinion and was reminded that I need to continue praying for his son Harrison (who is battling leukemia). I'm sure he would appreciate your prayers as well.
8:04 AM I am so proud of my students in our Exegesis of 1 Thessalonians class. The response to the demands of having to teach a session seems wonderful to me. Thus far the results have been delightful. Many of them have a natural ability for teaching. Each of them has met me at least half way. The real work of the class has to be done by the student, in mastering the paragraph under consideration, and in interpreting and reflecting upon its meaning and significance. It is the professor's business to superintend all that and to make each class session interesting and profitable to the entire class -- an impossible but nonetheless worthwhile goal. I trust that my students are learning far more than exegesis in this course, and that my expectations do not exceed their abilities.
7:53 AM Yesterday, Jason (boy voyage, by the way!) referred to Acts 14:27 -- the first missionary conference in church history, as he called it. Paul and Barnabas reported to the church in Antioch how "God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles." I love this image of an opening or a door, don't you? It's also found in:
After traveling 1,400 miles, the missionaries completed their journey, not by taking a vacation, but by giving a report to the church about how God had created opportunity after opportunity for them to share the love of the Savior with others.
What doors is God opening for you today?
Then, brother Stevie shared how he and his family were called to go through a door of service that God had opened for them in Kentucky this summer. I jotted down a few quotes from his testimonial:
So glad to be part of a fellowship that walks through open doors!
7:48 AM It's so overwhelming to consider that Becky has been having chemo for 3 years now. Back when it all started, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Nor did we realize that so many people were eager to share our journey with us. I can't tell you how encouraging that is to me. I'm completely floored every time I read one of your uplifting emails. For the rest of my life, no matter what happens, I'll be grateful to you.
7:41 AM With a sizable nod to our Aussie friend Mark Stevens, who is about to plant his spring/summer crop, I thought I'd mention that B has just planted our fall/winter kale, Swiss chard, and Georgia collards. In the meantime, I can't keep my hands off our delectable tomatoes and our über-tasty beets. I suppose there are about 50 billion things I love about farming, but the length of our growing season here has got to be at the top of the list. Mark, I'll be watching to see how your garden grows Down Under. Wish I could come over and help you plant!
Sunday, September 23
7:34 PM Photo update:
1) Becky has started baking her own cinnamon rolls, and they are scrumptious.
2) "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (Col. 4:2). Praying over our missionaries in Sunday School today. Elder Jason Evans leaves for India tomorrow.
3) Our maters just keep coming.
4) We enjoyed this Ethiopian food the other night to celebrate -- what we're we celebrating anyway? Doesn't matter. Betam turuno!
3:47 PM So glad to be able to help equip God's people with a theology of weakness.
Look for the book to be available any day now.
2:55 PM This and that ....
1) I am feeling really connected to Ethiopia right now. Do thank God with me that Hailemariam was sworn in this week as the new Prime Minister without any unrest. Our God is compassionate and gracious.
2) This is the first week of fall and it sure feels like it. I spent yesterday clearing out some firewood piles and spiffying up the farm, then I took Becky out for some Chinese food. This morning, as we sipped our coffee on the front porch, this fall sunrise greeted us.
In a similar way, as I enter the fall season of my life, I'm reminded that the Son still shines brightly in my life. Let's make every day this Fall a ceremony, a renewed commitment, a celebration of the Son.
3) This coming Saturday I'll go down to Raleigh to speak at Young Life. We'll talk about the Gospels and the Gospel, about the kingdom of God, and pray for the Lord of reconciliation to do His powerful work in the world.
4) I thought of Becky when I saw these words in a book about Robert E. Lee I've been reading in my spare time:
I'm so glad for a wife who loves me so well despite all of my idiosyncrasies.
5) This week we witnessed the end of an era at Rosewood Farm. I never thought the day would come when we needed to cap off the chimney at Maple Ridge, but there will be no more fires in the fireplace (it's simply too dangerous).
Becky and I lived in this house for 3 years while we were building Bradford Hall. That fireplace kept us warm through many a cold winter's night. It had been doing that since 1820, but no longer.
Thank you, old friend. You will be missed.
7:26 AM My spring 2013 schedule is now set in Quickcrete:
Please note that we are capping the LXX class at 15 students: first come, first served!
7:20 AM Being a Christian is not simply having Christ in your life. It's sharing Christ with the nations. Read Needed: A New Haystack Generation.
6:39 AM A thousand apologies for not updating you about Becky sooner. The latest CT scan shows the tumors in her lungs and bones to be the same size or even smaller than they were 3 months ago. Praise God! So she'll continue with her chemo therapy. The next round begins tomorrow at UNC. We rejoice in His provision for us, and in your prayers.
6:39 AM As anyone who teaches knows, the classroom is a fabulous place. Here I'm speaking in Roy Mett's 1 Thessalonians class at Criswell last Monday.
I was mobbed by delirious Greek students who just couldn't get enough of syntax and discourse structure. Well, not really. But I did feel feel right at home.
The students and I looked at each other, grinning, realizing all over again what a wonderful gift the Greek language is to all of us. I left with a huge smile on my face. Thank goodness for Bible colleges that still focus on the biblical languages. Here's Roy:
There's nothing like the camaraderie we Greek profs enjoy with each other. And let's be honest: Neither of us can believe that we actually get paid for doing this.
Saturday, September 22
6:28 PM Good evening bloggers and bloggerettes!
Recently I read an essay at Die Welt that made me sit up and take notice: Alle fünf Minuten wird ein Christ getötet. It points out how the risks of being a Christian are on the rise worldwide -- hence the title "Every 5 Minutes a Christian Is Killed." The Bible says that Satan is the ruler of this world, and he operates ruthlessly and with cunning efficiency. God has touched Becky's heart and mine with a renewed burden for the Christian persecuted in our world. Jesus taught us to love and forgive our enemies. He was gripped with a passionate love for the lost, and we need to be consumed with the same passion. When we begin to see the reality of the lost and dying all around us as Jesus sees them, we will begin to rethink our financial priorities as individuals and as churches. Becky and I have begun asking 2 questions about our spending:
1) Does it help to fulfill the Great Commission and spread the kingdom of God on earth?
2) Does it place the needs of others before our own?
Perhaps churches would do well to ask the same questions. In the New Testament, giving was not intended to make our sanctuaries more comfortable or enjoyable. Finances went to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and house the homeless. The first task of every local church is to extend the kingdom of God to every corner of the earth. This means that every activity, every program, and every expense is to be evaluated in terms of how it will contribute to the ultimate purpose of the church. I am so grateful for like-minded brothers and sisters who join me in asking of every decision we make as Christians about money: How does this help to build God's universal kingdom? There is only one church and one Master, and we need to work together and support one another in the ultimate mission of the church -- global evangelization. Passages such as Romans 12:13 leave us no option: "Share what you have with God's people who are in need." Does this mean that we cannot spend anything on ourselves? Of course not. A sound roof is not an option. But Sunday School quarterlies are. God promises to supply our needs, not our wants. How sad when a church divides over whether a parking lot should be paved or graveled! Are we building His kingdom or ours?
In Philippians 1:9 Paul prays that the Philippians might "approve the things that matter most." He wants them to see God's priorities. If they don't, they face the very grave danger of getting entangled in things that matter less, or not at all. Your church and mine can claim to love God. We can say we are all about reaching out to others. But at the same time it can be preoccupied with lesser things. These may be good and useful, but they are not essential.
Two simple questions:
1) Does it help to fulfill the Great Commission and spread the kingdom of God on earth?
2) Does it place the needs of others before our own?
Asking them might make a world of difference in the way we spend our money.
Stay centered in Jesus,
5:33 PM Youcef Nadarkhani says "thank you" after being released from an Iranian prison. We're rejoicing with you, brother Youcef!
3:19 PM Francis Bacon once said, "Age appears to be best in four things: old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read." As an old fossil myself, I found Dallas to be a most interesting city. It is certainly a youth-worshipping culture. The compulsion to look young and attractive (even though you are neither) weights more heavily, I think, on Dallasites than on Nelsonites. Clearly, however, the pull of gravity has won the battle in Dallas, Texas as well as in Nelson, Virginia.
Am I aging gracefully? Are you? People are watching us. Growing old is not an option. Growing old gracefully is. If Ronald Reagan could be elected to a second term as president at the age of 73, I have no right to despair about my diminishing energy at the age of 60.
Roy Fish (whose home-going was celebrated a week ago Friday in Fort Worth) was a man who aged gracefully. Jason Kees of Southwestern Seminary linked to a video that blessed my heart. If there is an "old is beautiful" movement, surely Roy Fish was a charter member. Watch and be blessed.
1:50 PM Years ago I ran across a German proverb that says, "The greatest step is out the door." If you've ever traveled abroad, you know exactly what I'm talking about. In two weeks I'll be flying about 7,000 miles on my next trip to teach in a foreign country where Christianity is still very simple. The believers there remind me of something A. W. Tozer once wrote (The Man Who Is Indwelt):
In this faraway land there is not a great deal of noise and very little nonsense. I'm in total agreement with Tozer that American Christianity has become far too pugilistic and bombastic. At the same time, it's not too late to get back on course. A good place to begin is in our attitude toward our enemies. From where I sit, we're failing pretty badly on this score. In a day when most Christians see political power as the way forward, we find the church doing so little of what Jesus actually did – going out to the "fringes" to serve a lost and dying world. Our job is to manifest Jesus' Calvary-love by leading Spirit-led, radically counter-cultural lives. Because we have pledged our sole allegiance to Him, we need not get distracted by politics and all the earthly archys that vie for our attention. He is calling us to "step out the door." Indeed, to honor King Jesus rightly, we must leave our big-domed Christianity and live in love as Christ loved us. If you are anything like me, that is a very scary prospect. But it must be done. Whether we go across the world or across the street, God is calling every Christian to learn the secret of service to a world in need – not just in preaching and teaching but in behind-the-scenes service to others.
This is a lifestyle I'm just beginning to practice, but there is nothing like it.
11:33 AM A few more pictures from my weekend trip to Dallas:
1) Here I am in the board room at Criswell College examining an original Erasmus Novum Instrumentum omne, which was published in Basel (my alma mater) in 1516.
2) I was especially interested in making annotations on three passages on which I have published.
3) Here's Matthew 5:22, showing the inclusion of the adverb eike ("without cause"):
4) And here you can clearly make out the words en epheso ("in Ephesus") in Ephesians 1:1:
5) Finally, I am one of only a few writers who have defended the reading ho on en to ourano ("who is in heaven") in John 3:13.
I defend these readings, not because they are found in the Majority Text, but because they are the most widespread readings geographically. If anyone is interested, my essays may be found here:
By the way, all of you Greek geeks will be excited to know that in just 4 brief years the 500th anniversary of the publication of the famous Erasmus New Testament will be celebrated in Basel. The last major celebration took place in 1966, and for the ceremony my Doktorvater at Basel, Bo Reicke, published a work in Theologische Zeitschrift that remains a standard today: "Erasmus und die neutestamentliche Textgeschichte," TZ 22 (1966) 254-265. I am hoping to bring the discussion up to speed in another journal article to be published in time for the 2016 celebration.
11:22 AM A couple of quick links:
1) Ted Gossard reviews Allan Bevere's The Politics of Witness (part one). Very well done indeed.
2) Criswell student David Burnett sent me a link to his website called The Time Has Been Shortened. I strongly recommend it. Site authors represent Duke University, Dallas Seminary, Cambridge University, and Criswell College.
11:12 AM Hello there all you fine folk out in cyberspace! Our "new" computer crashed last Tuesday, but with the help of our good friend Richard Sugg we are now back online. We'll see how our new Gateway desktop works out. So grateful for the internet -- and for friends who understand computers.
Monday, September 17
11:18 PM I just returned from Dallas/Fort Worth. It turns out that there's not an awful lot of time to be blogging when you're on a road trip. As you know, I visited the Scrolls Exhibit at Southwestern, met with students and faculty at the Criswell College, and attended the Creative Calling Conference at Dallas Seminary. I was especially impressed with the scrolls display. Like many students of the Bible, I am only vaguely familiar with the Dead Sea Scrolls. I know, at best, their exoskeleton. I came to Fort Worth to find meat and bones, a more substantial appreciation of why these ancient writings have inspired so much interest – and controversy. I was not disappointed. The exhibit was a smashing success. Along the way I discovered a treasure trove of marvelous ancient documents in the library at Southwestern, met many new friends, and even did research in the famous Wallace Library at Criswell on Erasmus's 1516 Novum Testamentum omne, an original of which is in a display case on the main floor. My thanks to President Jerry Johnson of Criswell for allowing me to inspect this important document up close and personal.
But back to the scrolls. Hundreds of books have been written about them – surely a historiographical overload if ever there was one. As with so-called "historical Jesus research," it seems the more that is written, the more obscure the results. That's why exhibits such as this one are so vital. It was a blessing to participate in it, and if anything I have been spurred to new interest and effort in my study of the scrolls. Of course, I also spent many pleasurable hours in the company of Becky's parents, Brad and Betty Lapsley, as well as her brother Ben, who happened to be visiting Dallas. Mom and dad's love for Ethiopia has never waned even 49 years after they left.
Yesterday I attended Grace Bible Church, where Bec and I were married. I was hoping to speak with Mrs. Harold Hoehner, but she has moved away. I wanted to thank her again personally for the impact her husband made on so many lives. We had a student even transfer from SEBTS several years ago. "I want to take courses with Dwight Pentecost and Harold Hoehner," was his reason. I can't blame him much. Harold's work on Ephesians is a case in point. No other commentary on this book allows the reader to grasp the message of this epistle quite like Harold's. An untutored reader of the letter sees only the broad shapes and images, a painting that is at once too broad and too shallow. But when an expert points out features that usually go unobserved, when he shows how the author mixed his paints or chose his colors, the painting takes on a whole new significance. My hope is that many of my readers will read Harold's commentary – not just peruse it but actually read it – for in it is Paul's own voice that is heard.
Finally, five brief items before I hit the hay:
1) If you are a doctoral student, please pray for your brother Andy Bowden, who will be taking his German exams in Munich starting tomorrow.
2) Had a nice meeting with fellow blogger Matt Evans at Criswell. Here we are in the foyer of the Wallace Library. Matt's excellent blog is called Broadcast Depth.
3) Praise the Lord that the Grace Theological Journal is online. I cut my eye teeth in this publication (I published 5 or 6 essays in it) and will always be thankful for its excellent typesetting (Eisenbrauns is owed a great debt of gratitude). Check out the essays there: you might find something interesting and challenging.
4) Today I had one of the myriads of small moments that make up the details of my life. I walked over to the Swiss Towers to meet with Dr. Dwight Pentecost. For those of you who don't know Dallas Seminary very well, Dr. Pentecost is "Mr. Bible Exposition." We relaxed together in his apartment (he lives in the student housing on campus, having lost his wife several years ago) and reminisced about my wedding day 36 years ago this month at Grace Bible Church. Dr. Pentecost was the pastor there at the time and had a part in our wedding ceremony. Today he is 97 years young and still teaching two classes every semester at DTS. He is a wonderful, smiling, gentle man of God. I had not seen him in 36 years and I could not wait for our meeting today.
5) Finally, Becky's last chemo is causing residual bone pain. This is her load to carry. I cannot carry it for her. But she is not in it alone. She must not be. We are called to pray for her every bit as much as she is called to go through this suffering. Please don't stop.
Wouldn't it be incredible if everyone reading this blog this very second paused and said a prayer for my Becky?
Thursday, September 13
7:42 AM A wise old preacher once said, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." Without doubt, this includes a time to be separated from one's loved ones. I leave for DFW today for meetings at SWBTS, Criswell College, and Dallas Seminary. In the meantime I will be spending time with my in-laws in Murphy (near Plano). My next trip away from home will be an international one (October). Both trips will be busy with ministry. Is it hard to leave home? You bet it is! I feel like a soldier being deployed for an overseas assignment. I leave knowing that God will sustain both Becky and me. He will provide all of our spiritual and physical needs. He will make us to lie down down in green pastures and beside still waters. He will give us abundant life so that our cup will overflow. We can look into an unknown future and see the goodness and mercy of God.
Will you pray for Becky and Nigusse while I am gone?
Thank you for sharing the burden during my "deployment."
7:26 AM Students, mark your calendars now for our "Student Farm Days" this semester. The dates are Friday-Saturday, October 19-20. You have two options:
1) Arrive at the farm by 1:00 pm on Friday and stay overnight (supper provided). We have 13 inside beds and 2 tents available for camping.
2) Arrive Saturday morning no later than 9:00 am.
Once again, these will be "work" days, and the projects will be varied and suitable for all ages and abilities.
I will begin circulating a sign-up sheet next week. Hope to see you at the farm!
7:17 AM This year Becky gave me an "audio" card for my anniversary. It's called Shoes, Oxen, and Birds. Care to "listen" in?
Wednesday, September 12
8:15 PM Guest house update:
1) The sheetrock in the kitchen has its first coat of mud.
2) Here's the new bathroom, enclosed.
3) Shall we call this the "peach" room?
4) The new well house: sturdy and safe.
4:50 PM Within the kaleidoscope of my youthful memories in Hawaii is the image of a disabled pastor. His stroke had left him limping and speaking with a slur. In the place of what was once freshness and vigor was weakness and care. I cannot remember his name but I will never forget the love and compassion he showed a young man groping his way through middle school.
The church fired him because of his slurred speech. I will never forget that. It broke my innocent heart.
Had Becky's stroke produced permanent paralysis, would people have sidelined her? God would not have. He delights to display His greatest power in the midst of our human frailty. My pastor was doing just that when he was let go. Here he was, the perfect example of power-in-weakness, and the church sidelined him.
How was it that I could understand every word he said? Did I listen harder than others? Or did I love him more?
Honestly, sometimes I wish I could just throw my childhood kaleidoscope away.
4:03 PM If you use my beginning grammar Learn to Read New Testament Greek (or don't use it, for that matter), I would love to hear from you. I'm not looking for compliments either. What are the two or three things you would most like to see changed in it?
I recently posed the following question to Roy Metts, Professor of Greek and New Testament at the Criswell College in Dallas:
He replied as follows:
Disagree? Let me hear from you. Eventually the book will need to be updated (at the very least, it's time to add English to Greek exercises). You can help me by sending along your honest evaluations.
3:33 PM Northeastern Seminary announces an opening in New Testament.
3:30 PM Very excited to get to See the Scrolls tomorrow at SWBTS in Fort Worth. Also on display: A 1514 Erasmus Greek New Testament, a 1611 KJV, and "rare New Testament fragments written on papyrus on loan from the University of Michigan."
3:04 PM We just got back from the beach. "Beach you say?" Yessiree, and here's photographic evidence:
The infusion room at UNC offers either a "beach scene" or a "mountain view" for your chemo pleasure. Today we enjoyed the sun and the surf. The day was a bit too cold for sunbathing, however, so we made sure Becky was snuggled warmly in her beach lounge chair.
She's resting now before I take her out to dinner at one our favorite restaurants. Becky just loves the salad bar at Rudy Tuesday's. I've got to take advantage of the situation before she loses her appetite from the chemo!
9:01 AM In the past two days I have heard or read three stories about people who "forsook" their secular callings to enter seminary and go into "fulltime Christian service." One left a prestigious, well-paying job in business. This is a false sense of calling. If your leaving "the secular world" to attend seminary is God-appointed, then I am all for it. But please, consider penetrating your business world with the Gospel. That's your mission field. Use your wealth to send or to go. Whatever your location. Whatever your vocation. The aim of every Christian in his or her daily living and service is to please the Master.
7:58 AM Saddened to hear about the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya. There are risks in foreign service. It is said that Ambassador Stevens served in the Middle East because he loved the people there. That takes us straight to Jesus words: "Greater love has no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends."
As Christians, we are all ambassadors of the King of kings. We are all called upon to make sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel. You and I can never match Christ's love for the lost, but we can mirror it. One thing is certain: We are expendable. The only thing that matters is that we bring glory to Him, whether by life or by death (Phil. 1:20).
7:32 AM So grateful for my personal assistant Thomas Hudgins who will be subbing for me again today while I take Becky to UNC.
7:29 AM Greek students! Check out Tommy Wasserman's Top Ten Essential Works in New Testament Textual Criticism. Thank you, Tommy -- well done indeed!
(Note: Such lists are, obviously, highly subjective and often engender amicable debate. Why, in the comments section one person actually suggests that Black be dropped from the list!)
7:18 AM Do you remember this dialogue from the movie Schindler's List? It haunts me to this day. It's between Schindler and Stern:
Often I have asked myself, "Why is it I haven't prayed more for the lost? Why is it I haven't given more to help further the cause of global missions? How much more could I have done for missions had I not been so selfish? Why did I wait so long in life to learn the importance of Christ's call to live a life of radical Christian servanthood? Can I live more simply so that I can send more of my money into His work? Have I submitted every area of my life to His Lordship? When was the last time I shed tears for lost Muslims? If I really submitted my schedule to Christ, how would my life be different? How much more can I do? How much more should I do?"
Often I have to get on my face and say, "Lord, please forgive me for my sloth and self-centeredness. Please forgive me and cleanse me." How am I spending my leisure time? My vacations? My limited energy (I am getting older). Do I ask the Lord to plan my days and minutes even? Today, this very day, I need to compare my life against the Scriptures and see where I need to be. How can I best relate the crying demands of the unfinished missionary task to my everyday life and work?
In Greek class yesterday we translated Philippians 1:18-26 and saw that Paul was willing to risk his life to preach the uncompromising Word of God. The approval of others, fancy titles, popularity -- these meant nothing to him. They were less than nothing, mere skubala. His one goal in life was to know Christ and to make Him known. I called the class to make a decision. There is no place in seminary for the study of God's Word without obedience. Far better not to study Philippians than to disobey its call to put the Gospel first in everything. Somewhere in the midst of our studies we must come to the place where we see the world as Jesus does, where are hearts break because His breaks, when we measure everything against the yardstick of the Great Commission.
"I didn't do enough!"
No, and I haven't either. Shame on me. Shame on all of us who are not consumed with the Gospel.
Tuesday, September 11
8:57 PM Okay, so these will be my final thoughts about our anniversary. 36 years is a long time to be together. It's nothing to brag about. It's all grace. Forgive me if I've sounded boastful. I am grateful. I don't deserve Becky. I don't deserve a marriage that has lasted this long. I don't deserve such a wonderful wife. But I sure am grateful. Thanks for listening in on a conversation I've been having mostly with myself. I've simply wanted to put into words what I feel about Becky. I know most of you have had less-than-perfect, painful marriages, like we have. Some of you have had failed marriages. For all of you who read my blog on this, my wedding anniversary, I have a few final thoughts:
To those of you who have stayed together through thick and thin, I glorify God with you.
To those of you who have experienced the pain of divorce, I grieve with you.
To those of you who have lost your spouse through death, I mourn with you.
To those of you who are struggling to hold your marriage together, I anticipate with you.
To those of you whose children have forsaken you, I remember you.
To those of you who enjoy wonderful relationships with your children, I rejoice with you.
To those of you who have placed the Gospel above marriage, as Paul commands us to (1 Cor. 7:29), I praise God for you.
May God bless all of you,
8:52 PM Odds and ends ...
1) I am very glad to see another blog post by Paul Himes. Here he offers some quick thoughts on book reviews. A golden nugget:
2) Henry Neufeld is glad his congregation is celebrating a weekly communion service. So am I. By the way, none other than Howard Marshall has defended the practice as being thoroughly biblical. See his essay Some Considerations Concerning the Lord's Supper Today, in which he writes:
3) Received this great email:
It will be interesting to see how widely used these apps will be.
4) If you're thinking about NT Greek education, you'll want to read this essay by Mark Hoffman: Bible Software Decisions. Well, I do not require my students to purchase Greek software, though many of them own such. Actually, it's hard to see why students today would NOT want to have these resources at their fingertips.
6:28 AM To all of our friends and loved ones in Ethiopia:
Happy New Year!
In honor of this special day, we have just uploaded book # 855 at Good Amharic Books!
6:22 AM Spelling Bee in Greek 1 today. First 5 to the board can play. Winner gets free book.
Monday, September 10
8:32 PM This essay at The New York Times caught my attention: In Defense of the Power of Paper. And defense it certainly needs in a day of smart phones and iPads. Which reminds me....
Not too long ago I was travelling in a foreign country when I was told I would be met by a "brother" at the airport. (No name, but I knew he was a fellow believer.) "How will I know him?" I asked. "Oh, he will have a sign with your name on it." So, upon arrival I looked for a sign with my name on it among the crowd of people welcoming their friends at the baggage claim exit. No sign. Nothing. I decided I would hang around for a few minutes to see if the "brother" might have been late. 20 minutes later I thought the better part of wisdom was to leave the airport and make my own way. As I turned to leave, a young man walked up to me sheepishly and inquired in a stage whisper, "Are you Dr. Black?"
"Yes, I am. Are you here to meet me?"
"But where is the sign with my name on it?"
The young man held up his iPhone on which he had typed the letters, "DR. BLACK."
Dummy me. I had been expecting a placard.
"Paper to the iGeneration," I reflected to myself, "is like the horse and buggy to mine."
7:14 PM Introducing the final two reasons (for now) of why I love Becky. You will notice that I have been focusing on her personal qualities. Much more could be said about Becky as a wife and mother, but that is for some other time. Becky's God-given gifts amaze me as I'm sure they do you. Best of all, she seeks to use them solely for the glory of her Savior, Jesus.
7) She loves working with her hands. Not an idle moment with Becky! She can quilt. (She has made dozens of beautiful quilts like the one below.) She can sew. (For years she has sewn all of her own dresses.) She gardens. (And cans too!) She can paint a bedroom ceiling as easily as she can wallpaper a bathroom. She can cook over an open fire as easily as she can make homemade bread. I know of no one who channels her energies into productive activities quite like Becky can. This morning she sent Nigusse to campus with 4 lunches and 3 suppers, all delectable. Most important of all, Becky loves passing on her love for creativity to the younger ladies in her life. No doubt about it, Solomon had her in mind when he wrote the last chapter of Proverbs.
8) Finally, I love Becky because God has used her to mold me into the man I am today. Did you know that marriage is God's foolproof means of absolutely breaking a man? Men, if your marriage doesn't make you more like Christ, nothing will. The Great Sculptor, 36 years ago, took the hammer of marriage and began chiseling away at my character to conform it to the image of Christ. Praise be to Him!
C. S. Lewis once said that God is always loving, even when He allows pain, sickness, disappointment, and heartache. Because He loves us, He refines us. And how He can use marriage to do that! Even my best efforts as a husband fall short. I need to let Christ live out His character through me. What does it take to get Christians to think about the Lordship of Christ? For many of us, it has been our marriages. Marriage drives us to think about our shortcomings. It forces us to rely not on ourselves but upon God (2 Cor. 1:8-9). It makes us more like Christ -- or can. On the other hand, for some of us, marriage hardens rather than teaches. Suffering doesn't automatically make us holy.
Well, have you gotten my drift yet? I love my Becky Lynn. I love her for many reasons, not least because God is constantly using my marriage to change me. Charlie Shedd was right when he said, "Marriage ... is not so much finding the right person as it is being the right person" (Letters to Karen, p. 13).
36 years ago, at Grace Bible Church in Dallas, Texas, two strong-willed, independent tributaries came together at the altar and formed one larger river. I sometimes think, Man, is this current strong! But I wouldn't trade it for the world.
3:42 PM Just back from Chapel Hill. I'm about to hop on the mower and make believe I'm a farmer.
6:06 AM Right now we're off to take Nigusse to campus for his first ever education seminar. My friend and colleague Ken Coley has very graciously allowed him to sit in on it, since Nigu is so heavily involved in theological education in Ethiopia. Then I'll be taking Becky to Chapel Hill for a doctor's appointment. On the way we'll begin our anniversary week by going out to I-HOP. Happy Anniversary, honey!
6:02 AM Quote of the day (Erasmus):
6:00 AM Looking forward to meeting up with Matt Evans and other Criswell students later this week in Dallas. Matt, by the way, once interviewed me, as well as other teachers of the New Testament. You can access all of his interviews here.
Sunday, September 9
6:42 PM More reasons why I love Becky:
3) She has a sixth sense about people. Here I often follow in her sizable wake. Her interpersonal skills -- as well as her ability to see beneath the veneer of people's fronts -- far exceed mine. The truth is, I tend to be gullible when it comes to the character of others. Becky can size a person up in about a minute. Men, the moral of this story isn't difficult to grasp. If you have a wife, as I do, who is blessed with spiritual discernment, you would do well to listen to what she has to say.
Below: Becky and I met in the cafeteria line at Biola. She knew immediately that I would be her husband. It took me a year and 6 months to figure it out. Somebody hit me with the stupid stick!
4) No one I know has a greater sense of Christian stewardship than Becky. She realizes that, as a follower of Christ, she doesn't "own" anything. She considers herself merely the manager of God's possessions -- and what a manager she is! She is a wise financial planner. She understands God's principles for living that include saving, investing, buying, selling, and spending. It is her disciplined, diligent approach to management that makes our work in Ethiopia possible. I'll never forget when she guest lectured in my NT 2 class last year. She led us through 2 Corinthians 8-9 verse by verse and gave us a biblical handle on the subject of money. Money is not evil. Only the love of it is. You and I don't own anything. We only manage God's money. And that's something Becky has always been very good at.
Below: Becky, in addition to being a nurse, has also had a career as a personal financial planner with a prominent national firm. We often took annual vacations paid for by the company because of the awards Becky won that year.
5) Her genuine love for the lost. Hardly anyone else I know cashes in on her social networks like Becky does. She deeply longs to share Christ with those who don't know Him. People -- even complete strangers -- see in her someone who is authentic, approachable, willing to speak of her own failures and successes, and just plain fun to be around. For the past several years, UNC Hospital has been her mission field, a place where redemptive people-flow happens on a weekly basis. Of course, many people need to experience the love of Christ in tangible ways, and here's where our work in Ethiopia comes into play as Becky organizes our teams to come alongside the churches there. We've seen an abundant harvest partly because God has used Becky's heart, head, hands, and feet to accomplish His purposes. To be honest, Becky works harder for missions than any fulltime professional missionary I've ever met. Jesus described people like her as salty torchbearers (salt and light). Isn't that what we all should be?
Below: The big sister in Ethiopia. Her love for the nations began there.
6) Adventurous! And I thought I enjoyed traveling to exotic places. Becky has traipsed where few wives have dared to go, from the scorching hot deserts of Egypt to the remotest highlands of Ethiopia to the frigid winters of Switzerland. Ride a donkey in Burji? Why Not? Go boogie boarding in Hawaii? Sure! Climb the Acropolis? No problem! Body surf in the Sea of Galilee? Sounds like fun to me! That's my Becky -- adventurous to the core!
Below: Having fun in Hawaii.
I'm not done yet ....
2:28 PM This morning The Hill was greatly blessed to have as our guest speaker Mrs. Jackie Leggett-Stanley. The Leggetts were missionaries to Mauritania when her husband Chris was martyred there 3 years ago. Here's Jackie (second from right):
Jackie reminded all of us that our main goal in life cannot be happiness or satisfaction but to glorify God regardless of what happens to us. As Paul said in Philippians 1:20, we are to glorify God "whether by life or by death." Just listening to Jackie pour out her heart, just to see her faith, was a great blessing and encouragement to me. I tell my students, if you really want to follow Jesus, you might step into a world of testing you've never experienced before. Jackie reminded us all that, even in times of great loss, God picks us up and holds us close.
I am told that Jackie is speaking at Clement Baptist Church near Roxboro tonight. If so, you should go and hear her. But I must warn you: Be prepare to be shaken out of any complacency in your walk with our Lord. I have rarely heard a more powerful testimony of the grace of God.
Below: Praying over Jackie after she spoke.
9:17 AM On Tuesday, Becky and I will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary, Lord willing. This is my excuse to talk about her.
To paraphrase the poet, "Becky, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Here are the first two reasons:
1) Her love for music. In fact, it's one of the things that attracted me to her when we started dating. She won't tell you, but Becky is an excellent classical pianist. In Basel she once practiced and practiced until she could play all three movements of the Moonlight Sonata for my birthday. That was a delight I will never forget. She also loves to sing. For several years we sang together in the Northeast Piedmont Chorale. Who can ever forget performing Rutter's Gloria? But most of all, she carries a hymn in her heart and on her tongue at all the times. It fills the house with warmth and gladness. Anybody who knows Becky knows that she loves music that glorifies her God.
2) Her love for nursing. In fact, the reason she left her home in Texas to study at Biola in California was because she wanted both a major in nursing and a minor in Bible with the view to serving God fulltime on the mission field. Then she met me and her life took a different direction. She ended up practicing her trade at home instead. Becky, being Becky, loves challenges, and ordinary floor nursing was never challenging enough for her. Not surprisingly, she rounded out her nursing career stateside in the ICU. But her nursing and administrative talents are still put to good use today. Our health center in Burji, Ethiopia would have been unthinkable apart from the efforts of that young nursing student at Biola so many years ago.
More to come ....
8:20 AM For some reason, God has given me an intense love for brother Youcef of Iran. "I thank my God every time I remember you" (Phil. 1:3). You live in a pressure-cooker world, far more than I do. I mean, your life has been tough. You're acquainted with a word that many Americans have almost forgotten -- perseverance. In prison or not, hang in there. Even if the reports of your release are not true (praise God if they are!), you will always live in a pressure cooker. You'll have great days and you'll have growing and learning days. Either way, God is still good. I'm learning that life is about persevering through the hardships, the assaults of life. Paul was absolutely right: It is a privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for Him (Phil. 1:29).
Love and prayers from this American brother,
Saturday, September 8
6:19 PM Becky and I are acutely aware of the many friendships we've made with my students through our years of teaching. Christians support each other through countless acts of selfless love. We saw this yesterday and today as so many students -- past, present, and future -- came from the college and seminary to help us complete various farm projects. We want to express our heartfelt thanks to each and every one who came. You blessed us with your presence, fellowship, and labor of love. Perhaps it sounds a bit overly dramatic to say it, but it's true: we could not do what we do here at the farm in ministering to others without the help of people like you. How grateful we are that God sends us ordinary people (like us!) to remind us what the Body of Christ looks like. So, "thank you!" to all who came. We worked our fingers to the bone and finished literally seconds before the rain started falling, but a lot was accomplished, great fun was had by all, and the fellowship was "out of this world"!
Pix (of course):
Friday, September 7
5:45 PM The top five books by Oscar Cullmann:
5. Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr.
4. Baptism in the New Testament.
3. The Early Church.
2. Christ and Time.
And the number 1 book by Oscar Cullmann:
1. The Christology of the New Testament.
5:23 PM The Lord gave us a beautiful day for working outdoors. While the men fixed posts and the ladies cooked meals for the weekend, Becky and I did various and sundry.
Jayson and I have been having a blast talking about our Hawaii days. He told me about a new Bible College on Oahu I had never heard about before. Their fall 2012 offerings include courses in Hawaiian Language and Davidic Dancing. Wow. I told him that if I still lived there I'd volunteer to teach Surfing 101 for sure. "You mean, Evangelistic Surfing, don't you?" chimed in Jayson.
Everyone's a comedian.
8:11 AM Tom Schreiner on criticism:
8:07 AM Our work weekend kicks off this morning with a seminary family from Hawaii. Now if only Obama were here. We could all talk Da Kine.
8:02 AM My colleague David Lanier wrote to tell me he is participating in the 150th Antietam Reenactment this weekend in the great state of Maryland. The event features the Battles of South Mountain and Sharpsburg. Have fun and stay safe, Dave. Becky and I have done the "Big" Antietam and loved it.
Thursday, September 6
7:16 PM Mark over at Alternation continues his excellent discussion of the book of Philippians, which we are now studying in Greek 3. His current passage is 1:12-18. In verse 14 Paul refers to the "word" which the Romans believers were speaking boldly and fearlessly. Concerning this word, Mark states:
This view is, of course, possible, but it is my contention (as argued in Why Four Gospels?) that the Gospel of Matthew was written within 10 years of the resurrection and that Paul quite possibly had a copy of it with him on his missionary journeys. It's a fascinating hypothesis, isn't it, that Paul may have actually possessed a copy of the First Gospel in his hands and that he may have alluded to or quoted from it in his earliest writings (e.g., 1 Thessalonians). I imagine that very few students today realize that there is more than a handful of sound arguments for this theory. Mark's point nevertheless holds:
And that is very well put.
6:28 PM Farm update:
1) We're (finally) ready to begin sheetrocking the guest house kitchen tomorrow, now that the insulation has been installed. Nice job, Nigu!
2) I've marked with a red ribbon any fence post in need of a bit of concrete reinforcement at the base, for this weekend's work crews.
3) It rained again today. The ground is now officially saturated. Our pond has never been fuller, or prettier.
4) Becky is now cooking one of my all-time favorite meals: tilapia with rice. I am about to crash and burn. A long but very good day at Rosewood Farm.
3:42 PM The infamous "escape hole." Now fixed. "Zer vill be no escapes fwom zis camp!"
3:36 PM Nathaniel Cooley's Professional Minister makes some good points. If there's a chink in the armor of seminary education it's the tendency to professionalize "the" ministry. I had a long talk about this with Alvin Reid over lunch last Wednesday. We are good at organizing everything. This was true, I told Alvin, when I taught beginning Greek in my home church a couple of years back. "Let's start the Bethel Hill Baptist Bible Institute," chimed in one enthusiast. I offered the class for free, of course, and made it perfectly clear that, as much as I favor returning biblical education to the local church, sound academics does not require formal organization along the lines of a Bible institute. To me it is an immensely satisfying thing to teach courses for free every year in 2 or 3 different nations.
Nathaniel says he enjoys being a "lay person." So do I. I too am fine with being "Dave" to people. I love being able to teach at my local church and no one being able to fire me. I know, of course, that many fine salaried pastors feel exactly the same kind of freedom. But must we display our silly diplomas and titles?
12:44 PM Stan Porter's latest blog post is called Learning Lessons from the Past. Lots of good thought food here. Stan writes:
Yet if I may demur for a moment, I think that for the majority of our seminary students the opposite is true. The source of academic power is not knowledge but obedience. Anyone can study books, but books do not necessarily bring wisdom. In my opinion, the best teachers are those with the knack of being simple without being simplistic, who are able to take profound concepts and communicate them in such a way that students can easily grasp them, and who, once the lecture is over, inquire, "So, what do you think about it?" I well recall Harry Sturz at Biola tossing out from behind his scholar's desk, as if it really mattered to him, such a question as that to me. It stole the heart of this budding Greek scholar! For what it's worth, my own teaching has developed along the lines of "less is more." I yearn for my students, not to acquire a set of facts, but to become incurable wrestlers with ideas -- ceaselessly active in studying the questions by which they seek to develop and test their individual capacity as human beings. I am, therefore, wholly on the side of the "new pedagogy," if by that is meant fluent precision without abstract inquiry.
So, what do you think?
11:01 AM It's good to see Matt Evans blogging again over at Broadcast Depth. Matt's been through some pretty deep waters of late. But God's not through with him yet -- or with me and you. Praise Him!
10:55 AM As you know, Bob Cole (Old Testament scholar extraordinaire) and I are thinking about offering our team-taught LXX course again next semester. The last time we taught it was a huge success. Bob and I agree on hardly anything yet are the best of friends, which is one reason I think the students loved the course so much. At any rate, here's a You Tube from the last time we taught the class:
Wednesday, September 5
7:18 PM A few days ago J.D. Watt asked Is Social Media really that social? We read:
Well, let me try to respond. Personally, I have benefited tremendously from the internet, and not merely because of the outlet it provides for my saunterings. I've enjoyed the "thin connections" it offers. You go online, visit your favorite blogs, and read an interest post or two. No hardship, and the results are often gratifying and edifying. But my greatest satisfaction comes from those "thick conversations" one simply cannot find on the internet, try though one might. For example, Alvin Reid is one of the best social media players out there (he tweets constantly), but he is never happier than when he is standing in front of a blackboard in a classroom or sitting in his office enjoying lunch with one of his students or colleagues. In the same way, I have examined many thousands of tweets and blog posts but I do not really expect to get to "know" their authors online, congenial as they may appear to be. I have no illusions as to the value of my own blog as a serious conversation partner either. But taking all such limitations into account, the fact remains that social media are conversations of a sort, and I for one am very grateful for every conversation partner God brings my way.
5:16 PM Greetings, blogging buds!
We just got back from UNC. Both of Becky's appointments went well. Her wound seems to be healing up nicely, and her poisonous chemo pervaded her veins without a hitch. As Becky slept I felt led to jot down a few thoughts about teaching. I asked myself, "How have you changed since you first began teaching 36 years ago?" Three things came to mind:
1) I'm more amazed at the grace of God than ever. I stand in awe of the fact that God would ever allow me the privilege of teaching all these many years, being just an ordinary person. It's a miracle really. I never thought of it when I first entered the classroom at Biola in 1976. I do now.
2) I'm more a disciple of Jesus Christ today than I was then. Through a variety of means, God has shaken me out of my complacency as a Christian. As a result, I've tried to serve God in many different countries in recent years. I've tried to become a part of the suffering, to feel the grief, to walk among the poor and the lost. I've seen the horrors and the desperation firsthand. It's hard to put into words what this has meant to my walk with Christ. But I'm discovering that this is what faith is all about. There's a cost to that commitment. I've found that to be true -- personally.
3) I'm more somber and serious today than I was 36 years ago. It would be nice if I could say that I've never experienced heartache and pain, but I have. Sometimes I've let the bitterness, the resentment well up and rob me of my position and joy in the Lord. At such times I've had to crawl back to Jesus. The same Jesus who came into this world to save sinners is the calmer of storms and the meeter of every need. He didn't just talk about touching lepers. He did it. That's how I want to live the rest of my life. Life for me has an edge to it now that it rarely had in the exuberance of my early years of teaching. Life makes a good grindstone. These are critical days. The times in which we live are perilous. I feel like I'm a doctor in an emergency room. There is no time for the distractions of politics or meaningless academic chatter. Just today, for example, I read several announcements in the blogosphere about a new blog about the historical Jesus. I looked at it and, honestly, I'm not interested. The debate over historical Jesus criteria has become irrelevant to me. There have been many quests for the historical Jesus through the years. Today we have forgotten the quest scholars but are still reading the Gospels.
There is no simpler way to state what I am trying to say than this formula: Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Get the formula right and the result is assured. Doctrine translated into devotion brings duty -- and, I might add, the uttermost delight. For me, Jesus has gone from being an object of investigation to a person to be enjoyed and served. His Gospel is worthy of the best of everything. We are never more foolish than when we try to dress up this message in the gaudy garments of scholarship in order to make it acceptable to the world. God born of a virgin in a feeding trough and dying the death of a common criminal on a cross -- there is no way to make this message appealing to human wisdom. So let us go to Him and bear His approach. James and John had to learn that He's handing out not seats but suffering. And that is perhaps the greatest lesson I want my students to learn today, 36 years after entering the classroom for the first time.
Grace and peace,
7:48 AM Quote of the day:
7:42 AM Today in history: Sam Houston is elected as the first president of the Republic of Texas. I mention this in honor of my wife who is a sixth-generation Texan.
7:30 AM Wheaton College announces the following major openings:
BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL STUDIES:
Tuesday, September 4
9:09 PM Exegesis of 1 Thessalonians students: I will not be in class tomorrow. Becky has to see her wound specialist and also have a chemo treatment so I will be spending the day with her at UNC. Her leg wound is healing very, very slowly and I remain deeply concerned about it. In my stead, one of my outstanding doctoral students will be facilitating the class. You can check out his blog here if you like. You will thoroughly enjoy Thomas. He is a first class teacher and an avid missionary. He has lived the truths you will be discussing in 1 Thess. 1:6-10 tomorrow. Pleased give him a warm welcome. I will see you again next week, Lord willing.
8:45 PM Odds and ends at the finish of a busy Tuesday:
1) Sent the dogs to the beauty parlor yesterday. Here they are, preened and prissy. Yes, ladies, you look beautiful.
3) Jack Kragt at Kregel Publications asked me if I might be willing to write an endorsement for Herb Bateman’s new book Charts on the Book of Hebrews. I was, and I did:
Herb, who is the author of Early Jewish Hermeneutics and Hebrews 1:5-13, has shown himself to be quite an expert on Hebrews, along with his SWBTS colleague and dean David Allen.
4) Enjoyed a stimulating lunch with my friend Alvin Reid today. When you see him, ask him about his new serpent. Yes, the unforgettable Maximus has been replaced. She hasn't been named yet, though I have mentioned the marvelous moniker "Maxine."
5) Finally, here’s an interesting email I received this morning:
However, the actual sentence on p. 20 of my book reads as follows:
I am always happy to receive corrections to anything I write. But do remember: context is key!
Monday, September 3
5:52 PM After working at the "crossroads" here at the farm I drove the truck back to Bradford Hall only to find both donkeys happily grazing in our front yard. Glad to see they didn't run off. I got them back into a pasture and then found their "escape tunnel." I don't know how they managed to find their way through a small break in the fence line. All I can say is they must be experts in the limbo.
2:58 PM Had to smile when I read this email:
Y'all are so kind to me, the ultimate un-blogger.
11:44 AM Just got back from Ace Hardware where I purchased materials for this weekend's marathon working party at the farm. We're expecting upwards of 25-30 students to help us, and Becky's got her list and has checked it twice. Here I'm unloading 8 bags of Quikcrete and 12 concrete blocks as well as some palettes I was given for free (nice guys there).
But today has not been all grunt work and no thinking. The Diane Rehm Show, as usual, had a simulating guest on this morning talking about his book Ignorance: How It Drives Science (go here for the transcript), which I listened to during my drive. The author, Stuart Firestein, quips about how science is like trying to find a black cat in a dark room where there is no cat. His point is not to defend ignorance or stupidity but to remind us that knowledge is the beginning of ignorance -- i.e., educated people know how little they really know. They have also learned how to ask the right questions. They chose their ignorance carefully. I quite agree. There are many areas of New Testament studies that scarcely grab me. The verbal aspect debate? Not interested. The Koine Greek verb system is time based in the indicative mood. That's a non-issue for me. The synoptic problem? I've got that one figured out, at least to my own satisfaction, largely because I include a body of evidence willingly ignored by the academic guild. The justification debate and Tom Wright? Boring. Salvation involves both forensic justification and good works that flow from the filling of the Spirit. I see the matter as a both/and issue and not an either/or one. Now here's a question that interests me, and it concerns our pedagogy: If all learning is about asking the right questions, shouldn't graduate biblical education be about equipping our students with the best tools for doing that? Instead, we seem to be developing the cult of the expert/speaker, to the detriment of the learning process. So many questions in New Testament studies are like asking where the black cat is the dark room when there's no cat there at all. We manufacture issues that are non-issues. As Firestein says, it's really the questions that are the important things when one is starting out in any field of study. Good questions produce the best kinds of answers.
I'd like to say more but I've got to spray the south pond, for the third time. I think the remnants of Isaac paid us a visit yesterday; I estimate we got at least 3 inches of rain. Today is overcast and really nice -- for working outdoors.
7:58 AM For Labor Day, a few new job postings:
Sunday, September 2
11:02 PM Worked 7 hours on the ministry house today with our good friend Keith Clayton. Tomorrow we're hoping to get the room wired in preparation for the sheet rocking. All this work really has me feeling my age. The house and I both have something in common. We're old.
2:28 PM I know I shouldn't be, but I am constantly amazed at how Jason's messages from Romans speak truth into the contemporary Christian scene. This morning our church was praying for Christians around the world who are suffering unjustly. As Jason noted, their suffering is part of what it means to incarnate Christ to one's neighbors. But once we lay aside our reliance on every human resource and place our hope squarely on God and the new creation that He will inaugurate, we can learn how to face our troubles triumphantly. Individually, we run into our share of storms. Both Jesus and Paul recognized this. They did not meet the struggles of life with a Pollyanna attitude but with the reality that in Christ we can overcome everything the world hurls at us. In the meantime, we cannot set the world on fire and bypass Calvary. Our responsibility is to be faithful, come what may. That means "being pressed but not crushed ... in doubt but not in despair ... persecuted but not forsaken ... cast down but not destroyed" (2 Cor. 4:8-19, which Jason cross-referenced).
I circled the middle line when I recalled my brothers and sisters in Ethiopia who this very hour are being persecuted to death for righteousness' sake. They are neither forsaken nor forgotten.
Speaking of faithfulness, here's Miss Mary. Becky snapped this picture because she thought we made a good match color-wise.
Mary made not one but two trips to Ethiopia with us, the first when she was 80 years young, and the second when she was a sprite 81. One thing is certain: You're never too old to serve Jesus. It is such a joy to move in a circle of like-minded friends whose love for the world is contagious. Listen, in my lifetime I have not been unaffected by the materialism all around me. But I am beginning to learn the joy of serving Jesus and of getting involved personally in the Great Commission. You can become a world Christian too. There is something for everyone to do, regardless of your age. I'm convinced that if we would only adopt the same kind of radical sacrificial lifestyle that our suffering brothers and sisters have in Ethiopia and other places, we would turn our world upside down for Christ. You can have correct doctrine and still not be the Body of Christ in any meaningful sense of the word. It is only when we practice true love by sharing can we become followers of the Lord Jesus.
8:33 AM Saw this "bump" sign on the drive to Appomattox. I thought to myself, I'd like to see a sign in Ethiopia every time I encounter a bump in the road!
8:24 AM "Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me." So wrote Jim Elliott. Elliott was a fork-in-the-road-man. So was my Doktorvater, Bo Reicke. He was an outstanding example of a New Testament scholar. Yet I never met a humbler or more gracious man. He helped cure a fledgling doctoral student of his rashness and impatience and the errors of youthful enthusiasm.
Who has been a fork-in-the-road in your life?
8:17 AM As you know, Ethiopia recently lost both her Prime Minister and Patriarch. The situation is rife for instability. The early church father Clement prayed the following "prayer for rulers." Perhaps we could all offer a similar prayer today for Ethiopia.
Saturday, September 1
7:40 PM Odds and ends ...
1) The new downstairs bath tub has now been plumbed.
2) Where our "privy" will go -- Maple Ridge style.
3) I didn't know that Portuguese Men of War sailed as far north as Ireland. I remember getting stung by them often as a child at Kailua Beach. But that was the Tropics. Ireland?
4) I've applied for a sabbatical for the 2013-2014 school year. If I am granted it, I plan on completing a major revision of my The New Testament: Its Background and Message. It will have been 10 years since I last touched it.
5) Computer geek (and former Greek student) Richard Sugg and I both had a good laugh today when we uploaded Front Page 2003 to my new pooter. I must be the last person in the universe still using that dinosaur.
2:52 PM On Tuesday past my colleague Bruce Ashford brought a wonderful chapel message from Matthew 28:18-20.
(Go here for Alvin Reid's take.) As usual, I took copious notes.
Afterwards, Alvin and I discussed the Greek expression in verse 20: pasas tas hemeras. This is literally "all the days." In the ISV we rendered this "each and every day." Even better is Eugene Peterson's "day after day after day." That's how Jesus promises to be with us as we go. Both Alvin and I were amazed at how often the New Testament uses the expression "daily." Jesus says we are to take up our cross daily. The Lord added daily to the church. The earliest Christians continued daily. Paul died daily. We are to ask God for our daily bread. And here Jesus reminds us that He is with us "each and every day." I don't know about you, but when I am on a mission trip, I need that promise. I can hardly it make it through the day sometimes. In fact, at the end of each day I draw a line through that day in my day planner, thinking "The Lord has brought me through another day." And the next morning I think, "This the day that the Lord has made. His grace is sufficient for it." Missionary work is so challenging and demanding that I can function only one day at a time.
Incidentally, Scripture also says that we are to exhort one another daily. Yes, I suppose it's easy to grow weary in blogging. It's always a challenge to keep at it. But a daily word of encouragement is so often needed. Some dear bloggers major on the minors and seem never to get into the sunshine. They rise to stratospheric heights above the conflict and loftily announce that they have all the answers to life's every question. Over against this are those whom the Spirit of God uses to provide a stimulant for His people for the daily grind. I thank God for such bloggers. I hope one day my blog can be like theirs.
I'll need to work on that.
12:58 PM What an incredible week it's been. On Tuesday evening a huge storm knocked out our satellite dish as well as our computer. The satellite dish was fixed on Thursday, and today we were able to replace our computer. We're done with Dells. We figure it's time to switch over to an ASUS. Becky and I did manage to get away for a couple of wonderful days. Our stop in Appomattox was a reminder of our visit there for our 20th wedding anniversary. This time around it's 36 years of wedded life we're celebrating. It's a little mind-boggling to actually stand where Lee and Grant stood 153 years ago.
Here's the front of the McLean House.
And here's the back, clearly showing that it has three stories.
And here's Spring Grove Farm, located in the middle of Nowhere, VA. It was just what the doctor ordered. We got plenty of much-needed rest.
Here we're enjoying a magnificent breakfast prepared by our hostess.
The night before we drove into Lynchburg and had a steak at O'Charley's. Wonderful.
We've been working continually on the ministry house. Today the plumber is here. Next Monday the electrician will return. On Tuesday we'll start putting up the sheet rock. Next weekend we've got a bunch of seminary students coming over to help us with odd jobs -- and there are plenty of them. Lots more to do, but much has already been accomplished, thank the Lord. So we make progress -- slowly.
Finally, I thought our Ethiopian friends would enjoy this picture of the privy at the McLean House. I guess you're not the only ones who have found holes to be useful.
Good to be back blogging again. More later.