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August 2012 Blog Archives

Tuesday, August 28

5:38 AM Greek 3 students! Free book to the student with the highest score on today's quiz!

5:34 AM Looking forward to hearing my friend and colleague Bruce Ashford speak on the Great Commission in chapel today. Join us!

5:27 AM Think missions is only for professionals? Think again. Read Philippians, Missions, and You.

5:18 AM Only a few more days until our anniversary trip. Here's the Magnolia Room where we'll be staying:

It's on the second floor of the main house and boasts an antique high bed, a sitting area by a wood-burning fireplace, a private bath with double whirlpool tub, and a large deck with a country view. Will be nice to get away with my bride.

5:15 AM "It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows" (Epictetus). Student, are you teachable? Professor, are you?

Monday, August 27

8:52 PM Today I sprayed the pond reeds -- again. It's not easy to do, I discovered -- again. So I went deep, dug down into the Redneck in me, to find the gumption to wade out into a morass of muck and algae. I'm so glad farm work isn't always like this.

As you know, last week had its share of crises. But we also saw God intervene in miraculous ways. Becky came home from the hospital barely worse for the wear. A couple Becky and I had been praying for had a real breakthrough in their marriage. The power of our Lord is really amazing. I'm still waiting on the Lord for miracles in other areas, but I wait with hope and expectation, not with despair. God's unfailing faithfulness has held us up all these years. May He be glorified in all we do.

Pix (of course):

1) Becky captured for posterity the Pond Guy hard at work.

2) Doesn't it look SO much better now?

3) This was the view that greeted Becky and me as we slurped ice cream on the front porch this evening.

4) My faithful walking companions.

What would a day on the farm be like without them?

2:14 PM I'm back and have somehow managed to keep my head on. On the drive home I though a lot about heroes. What is a hero? William Safire wrote a letter that President Nixon was to read had Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin been stranded on the moon. It reads, in part:

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by the nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

If I may, I beg to disagree. I believe there is a more noble goal than space exploration. My definition of hero? A hero is someone who eternally impacts other people for good. The word "eternally" makes all the difference in the world (and in space too). You may never be a famous astronaut but you can be a hero in God's eyes. In fact, God delights in using "little people" to confound the wise and successful by this world's standards.

Are you faithful to the task to which God has called you? You are a hero in my book.

8:58 AM I'm off to see a headache specialist in Chapel Hill. Hope he doesn't recommend amputation.

8:51 AM "And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives…and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted."  - Nate Saint (martyred for Christ in Ecuador). 

8:45 AM My alma matter, Biola University, offers free educational resources at a site called Open Biola. One resource is called "Thumbnails for Remembering the Apostolic Fathers." The section on apologetics includes "Understanding Intelligent Design." Much, much more.

Sunday, August 26

6:30 PM Here's how Neil Armstrong's family asks us to remember their loved one:

For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request. Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty....

I think there's a spiritual lesson here. To gratify the flesh does not necessarily mean grossly immoral living. It means pandering to the old self-life, the Adamic nature, as opposed to Christ. A young seminary student (or professor for that matter) seeking to establish for himself a "name" is living for the flesh as surely as the worst profligate. Certainly the apostle Paul had more right than anyone to claim that he had "made it," yet even he would boast only in the cross of Christ. A sure sign of revival in our churches will come when our preachers and academicians put away their titles and diplomas and refuse to live any longer in rarified spiritual superiority far removed from the problems of the common parishioner.

1:27 PM Are you ready for the news? Meet Nigusse's fiancée:

Her name is Netsanet. Her parents are two of the most gracious and humble Christians you will ever meet, Martha and Demissie. Nigusse and Netsanet became engaged during our recent trip. She is a wonderful servant of God and a godly Christian woman. We could not have asked for a better spouse for our son. Nigusse, congratulations! We are so happy for you! Praise God for His gracious provision!

9:02 AM Last week one of my doctoral students asked me for help. "Do you know a good tutor in German? I would like to learn how to speak the language, not merely read it." Well, indeed I do. My former student Andy Bowden had been meeting with a German ex-pat in the Wake Forest area on a weekly basis for conversation. It made a huge difference in his ability to speak the language. (Andy is now enrolled in a doctoral program in New Testament at the University of Munich.)

How did I learn to speak German? Here's the answer:

Let me introduce you to Paul and Margaret Mittmann. For many years, Paul was the pastor of the Lutheran Brethren Church in Anaheim, California. It was a German-speaking congregation, composed most of ex-pats who had settled in Anaheim after World War II. A former Wehrmacht soldier, Paul had seen action in France, Russia, and Italy, and was finally captured by the U.S. Army in 1945. He spoke the most perfect High German imaginable. I would attend his services on Sunday morning before attending my own church in La Mirada. Then we began meeting weekly in his home for conversation. Eventually he had me reading the Scripture texts during his worship services, and before Becky and I left for Basel in 1980 I had preached 4 times in his church, in German.

You cannot master German without speaking it. Just my two cents.

8:45 AM "The more we know of God, the more unreservedly we will trust him; the greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more child-like will be our faith."
― J. Gresham Machen.

8:32 AM Brief bio of the new acting prime minister of Ethiopia here.

He needs our prayers, as does the nation during this time of major transition. 

Saturday, August 25

9:51 PM Beautiful to see the team again. Best story was told by Tope. Funniest story was told by Josh. Most moving story was told by Jon. You should do a mission trip if for no other reason than the memories.

9:42 PM The party's over, but I cannot make the big announcement on the web until tomorrow. Believe me, it's worth waiting for.

4:37 PM From The Jesus Paradigm:

The New Testament presents a clear picture of how the early Christians viewed themselves. They understood each church to be an extended family (an institutionalized church was unimaginable) that practiced plural leadership. This eldership was non-hierarchical (each elder was equal in authority to all the other elders) and arose from within those churches the elders would lead. Because the Lord Jesus is the head of the church (Col. 1:18), the elders led by example, not by “lording it over” the church (1 Pet. 5:2). The elders’ authority lay solely in their ability to “persuade” with the truth of the Word of God (see the use of peitho, “persuade,” in Heb. 13:17).

1:23 PM Welcome home, Alex and Jenny. Glad to see you enjoyed your stay in the Netherlands. Excited to see what the future holds for you!

1:18 PM Ministry house update:

1) The dust has yet to settle over at Maple Ridge. Which is a good thing. It means that work is getting done.

2) This is a new door. It leads outdoors where we still need to build a screened-in porch.

3) And this new door leads from the dining room into the mud room. When I say "new door" I am not, of course, referring to the cheap substitutes sold today. These are true doors made out of solid wood. Remember those?

4) Here we've expanded the doorway leading from the house's entryway into the kitchen area. Becky thought it would "open up" the house. It does indeed.

5) Finally, I'm glad we decided to leave the old ceiling beams exposed. They are simply beautiful, so rich in texture.

Thanks for sharing the journey!

10:24 AM Brian LePort's latest post is a must read: You're going to be an adjunct and it is going to be terrible.

Right now I am an idiot. I know that there are no jobs in biblical studies. I know that there are people who are far more intelligent than me who will be fighting for those jobs. I know that being a realist means that I may have to settle for adjunct work if I am going to teach somewhere. As Enns said, once you factor all the data regarding adjunct work and the low pay it offers, “….it begins to sound like you are in a pretty stupid line of work.”

My advice to students contemplating a doctorate in biblical studies? Stay focused on Jesus. I sometimes say to them, "Have you gotten sidetracked from your first love, Jesus?" If you hunger and thirst to be His true disciple, He will take care of you vocationally. May I dare you to think outside the box, the "box" being North America? May I challenge you to prayerfully consider using your doctorate to serve Jesus in China or some other nation? It has been done and it is being done. I believe there are a few people reading this blog whom God is perhaps calling to go to the uttermost parts as a fulltime Christian academic. The doors are open. Some may think you are throwing your life away. But obey God, and He will open doors to places where you can be effective and used by Him on the front lines.  

Sermon concluded :)

10:11 AM All earthly blessings are only temporal and conditional. Are we being good stewards with the blessings God has shed upon us as individuals and as a nation?

9:35 AM It's a rainy day. Sure glad I mowed yesterday. The donkeys eagerly await our dinner guests!

9:31 AM Looking ahead ... Just accepted an invitation to speak at Farrington Road Baptist Church in Chapel Hill on Sunday, October 21, at 11:00 am for their Homecoming ... on Friday, October 26, at 6:00 pm. I'll be at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh speaking on the subject "A Great Commission Marriage" to the men's group ... Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, NC, has me speaking in their evening service on Sunday, October 28, at 6:00 pm. ... I'll be sharing my thoughts about using New Testament Greek in ministry at the Shepherd's Seminary in Cary on Monday, October 29, at 11:00, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00.

9:23 AM As co-editor (with Allan Bevere) of the Areopagus Series, I am delighted to have received this morning a new manuscript that we will begin editing this weekend. The author is David Croteau of Liberty University. David received his Ph.D. under Andreas Köstenberger here at SEBTS. His dissertation was published as You Mean I Don’t Have to Tithe? A Deconstruction of Tithing and a Reconstruction of Post-Tithe Giving (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2010). David also edited Perspectives on Tithing: 4 Views (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2011). His current project is titled Tithing After the Cross and is slated to appear early next year. A preview:

I recently was on a radio show and an offended caller questioned the radio show host asking why in the world she would put someone on the air who was trying to deconstruct tithing? How on earth could that be edifying to the body of Christ? The caller was convinced my ploy was to coerce people to give less! If you think my purpose in this book is simply to deconstruct tithing or to convince you to give less, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

God is calling every Christian to learn the secret of service to a world in need, not just in terms of our spiritual gifts but in terms of our stewardship of the possessions He allows us to manage. I'm hoping this book will be a prod in this direction.

Friday, August 24

9:44 PM "We should serve God even if there is darkness enveloping our life and even if we don't understand what's happening ... even when the circumstances of our life don't make sense. Because He is worthy of praise. Because He is God." Max Lucado.


3:54 PM As you can see, we're back home. (I can only update my blog from home.) Without a doubt, I'm the most blessed man on earth. Despite her stroke, Becky was spared any permanent damage. Imagine waking up at 1:30 in the morning only to find your wife at your bedroom door unable to walk and barely able to speak. Not a fun thing to see. She had gotten up to check emails but found she couldn't raise her left hand to the keyboard. So she goes into the kitchen for a glass of water. She holds the glass with her left hand while with her right hand she turns on the tap and -- voila! -- the glass drops into the sink and shatters. She then falls to the floor, bumping her head on the handle to the dishwasher on the way down. It's amazing to me that she managed to pull herself up again and walk down the hallway to our room, hanging on to the chair rail for dear life. When I got her to the bed, her left leg and left arm were immobile and her speech slurred. We knew exactly what we needed to do. I got us dressed, and off to the nearest hospital we went. The trip got off to a rough start. When I called the ED all I got was the answering machine. Happily, a 911 operator passed my message along to the hospital and they were expecting us when we arrived 10 minutes later. (I won't say I drove dangerously fast, but NASCAR had nothing on me that night.) Now we are home again, still processing the tornado we just passed through. Tomorrow we had scheduled an Ethiopia team reunion here at Bradford Hall with about 35 people attending. It's going to happen as planned, not least because I just can't deprive Becky of the joy of making a very special surprise announcement to the team. A professional came today to clean the house, and a student from the seminary will be here tomorrow to help Becky with preparations. Of course, Nigusse and I stand ready to wait on Becky hand and foot.

So we've passed through yet another crisis. We are simply overwhelmed by your prayer support and emails. God in His grace has answered. Becky looks and feels good. Everything that should move does. I am very grateful. We've still got some important decisions to make regarding her treatments at UNC, but we are almost 100 percent sure that the Avastin was the culprit. However, that's for another post.

In an email Becky wrote today, she said:

I cannot express adequately my joy when He returned the function of my left arm so that I can type again and continue that ministry.

Yes, it could have been far worse. Had her stroke occurred at practically any other spot in her brain, the doctors tell us that at the very least her speech would have been affected, and possibly the use of her hands. Thank you, Jesus, for being so tender and merciful toward us. We love you and trust you. You are indeed our great God and Savior (Tit. 2:13).

P.S. No, this is not a picture of a friendly puppy dog but of Becky's brain. That big white spot you see on the right is where Becky's "event" took place. The neurologist assures us that this is one of the "safest" spots in the brain for this to have occurred.

Yes, the farm is counting its blessings tonight!

Thursday, August 23

5:45 PM Update: A whole day has gone by. Where did it go? The hospital staff has been great. And Becky's been a real trooper (no surprise there) -- CT scan, EKG, Sonogram, etc. today. Tomorrow she's scheduled for an MRI and an MRA. We're on the fifth and top floor of the hospital, which the staff jokingly calls the Penthouse Suite. Big room and nice bed for hubby to sleep in tonight. Thanks so much for all the encouraging emails. Becky's read every one. And thank you for your prayers for Becky. Please pray for her now. And when you get home from work tonight, hold your family close and tell them that you love them.

I do not know what the end results of the tests will be. But this I do know: I am eager to have Becky HOME again.

6:51 AM Becky was admitted to Halifax Regional Hospital in South Boston this morning. I drove her there at 2:00 am with stroke symptoms. They will run tests today. She is resting comfortably. Her symptoms have already abated, praise God.

So grateful for your prayers.

Wednesday, August 22

7:49 PM Good news! The wound specialist says Becky's leg sore is definitely on the mend, just taking its time. She's scheduled follow-up appointments every two weeks. Her chemo also went well today. Thankful for these blessings.

4:15 PM A few odds and ends...

1) Danny Akin's convocation message yesterday really caught my attention. He spoke from Psalm 116 and used the life and death of Harriet Newell as a foil for his teaching. Harriet died at the age of 19 on her way to India as a missionary in the early 1800s. She was no run-of-the-mill church member. Really, her red-hot devotion rebukes my lukewarmness. When people like Jim Elliott and Harriet Newell come along they are very disturbing to those who are not totally committed to the Cause of causes. Oh God, let me not fritter away my energies in all directions. Let me not dabble in a hundred things. Rather, like Paul, let me say, "This one thing I do."

2) What is the "Five Minute Greek Club?" Well, I started it several years ago. We never meet and there are no dues, but you do have to agree to translate two verses from your Greek New Testament every day throughout the summer. The reward? A copy of one of my books, free no less. Here's my Greek student Billie Haselton picking up his award yesterday. Way to go, budding Greek scholar!

3) My former student Andy Bowden and his family attended their first church service in Munich. He reports about his experience here. Andy concludes by saying:

We are still trying to decide whether we will attend an English or German-speaking service. This was our first time to attend a service since arriving in German, and we thoroughly felt at home.

For what it's worth, here's my comment:

Another wonderful update, Andy! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Basel also had an English-speaking international church, founded by James Boice, who was a Docktorand at the Uni at the time. The church had a great ministry to American ex-pats. However, Becky and I felt our purpose in studying in Switzerland was better served by plugging into the local Baptistengemeinde there. Please do at least try a local German-speaking church. I think you will find the overall experience rewarding beyond belief. Plus, at our little local church Becky met an older woman who mentored her in German and thus enabled her to speak the language within three months of our arrival!

Remember: If you wanted to "feel at home" you could have stayed here in the States. Stretch yourselves to the max while you are there. Let your education be more than academic!

With all best wishes,

Dave Black — your "former" professor.

Of course, the Lord will show the Bowdens where to plug in. But Becky and I never had better friends than the brothers and sisters we met at the Baptistengemeinde Basel.

4) I was glad to see Allan Bevere's review of Bob Cornwall's Faith in the Public Square. As readers of DBO know, I'm fond of books that challenge consensus opinion thinking when it comes to politics.

5) Over at UNC, Becky saw the wound specialist AND had chemo today. What a lady!

6) Always enjoy reading Alan Knox's observations about church leadership, and his essay Paul's thoughts on superiors and subordinates: defining the terms is no exception. He asks:

Did Paul think of himself as being higher in rank, status, authority, or quality than the people he traveled with or the people in worked with in various cities?

We discussed this very question in our 1 Thessalonians class today as we exegeted 1:1. It would be interesting to see what Alan makes of the order Paul-Silvanus-Timothy here in the epistolary prescript. All three had shared in the missionary work in Thessalonica. Paul had clearly been the leader of the team. Silvanus is mentioned next perhaps because of his Jerusalem roots (unlike Timothy, who hailed from Lystra) and because he may well have been a co-apostle (see 1 Thess. 2:7). Timothy, of course, was Paul's own convert. So the order is probably significant. But not critical. I suppose we could refer to the founders of the Thessalonian church as Timothy, Silvanus, and Paul if we wanted to. At my local church we have three elders. How should I list their names here? Let's see – we'll try Jason E., Jason, H., and Ed. I don't know why I listed them that way, except for the fact that Jason E. was our "pastor" before we changed our polity to elder-led congregationalism. One thing I do know: It would not matter one whit to any of them how their names were listed. Eldership for them is completely non-hierarchical. We have no "senior" or "lead" pastor. None of them is our "pastor of vision." Today the Holy Spirit is using all of them, and each of them, to help guide and steer our congregation along, but He is doing the same thing with the entire congregation as well. We as lay people are not the flunkeys of the top brass. None of us is so in love with our own ideas that we cannot submit to the group.

Oh, one more thing. Notice there are no titles here, none at all. No "doctor" Paul, no "apostle" Silvanus. I think there is a lesson here. That aside, I would have to agree with the implication behind Alan's question: in the Pauline circle there probably was very little emphasis on title and status. We are of a generation of American Christians who think otherwise.

7) Jeremy Mann has written an insightful article called Advice for Undergraduates Planning on Seminary. Read through to the end to get the connection between academics and your personal walk with God.

8) Greek students: Mark Goodacre is an Associate Professor in New Testament at Duke University. The New Testament Gateway is his award-winning web directory of internet resources on the New Testament: Check it out soon!

9) I almost forget to mention that my Th.M. student David Coker passed his Th.M. orals today with flying colors. David's thesis is called 'Jesus as the Prophet Like Moses in the Fourth Gospel.' A bland, boring thesis it certainly was not. David showed scholarly competence in his field as well as a critical understanding of the primary sources. Congratulations to David (who is shown here with his persecutors-in-chief Beck, Robinson, and Black).

10) I just realized that I hadn't linked to anything by my esteemed colleague and friend Chip McDaniel in a while. Well, let me correct that lacuna. His latest essay is called Why the Old Testament is Important for the Great Commission Task: Some Thoughts from the Mission Field. This is really good stuff.

Tuesday, August 21

5:30 AM Education quote of the day:

My heart is singing for joy this morning. A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil's mind, and behold, all things are changed.

-- Anne Sullivan referring to her student Helen Keller. Inspiring!

5:26 AM Do you want to be published? A leading Christian publisher discusses the differences between evangelical publishing houses in a fascinating essay called Overlapping Publishing Models. You'll learn a lot about Christian publishing by reading it. I know I did. Every author needs a publisher, but finding the right match isn't always easy. I could never run a publishing business. But I love publishers and publishing houses, especially the convenience that comes with a modern publisher.

Speaking of publishers, congratulations to Henry Neufeld of Energion Publications, which is celebrating its eight anniversary this month. Can you believe it -- Henry took great risks by publishing four of my works!

5:19 AM Year 14 at SEBTS starts today. Before that, 27 years at Biola in La Mirada, California. Prior to that, 19 years in Kailua, Hawaii. Grateful for every place I've lived.

Monday, August 20

12:03 PM Farm update:

1) Nigusse insisted on taking this picture -- the stalwart labor force at Rosewood Farm on their way to work at Maple Ridge this morning.

 Like Beck's hat?

2) I just put two coats of polyurethane on this 200-year old chimney.

We thought we'd keep it exposed in the new kitchen at Maple Ridge. You know, for old time's sake.

3) Figs anyone? I've never acquired a taste for them, but Nigu gobbles them up. This year's harvest has been abundant.

4) Since B's so tired we've postponed her chemo to Wednesday, which means that I have the whole day for farm jobs. Right now it's back to landscaping Maple Ridge. The grass is wet, but I'm thankful for the rain the Lord sent us over the weekend. This means a second cutting of hay, which is something we definitely do NOT take for granted around here.

9:02 AM The puzzles are now framed.

Nigu wants to take them back to Ethiopia with him. After all, they were his idea! 

8:55 AM From the BBC's The enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes comes this wonderful quote:

Holmes has the knack of knowing where to look, asking the right questions and crafting theories to account for what he has found.

That, in a nutshell, is why I teach. I teach in order to try and help my students to ask the right questions. Alas, so few do so today. It's what I have called evangelical group think. Take almost any topic -- the synoptic problem, or New Testament textual criticism, or authorship issues -- and the consensus opinio is rarely challenged.

Students, don't be afraid to ask questions. Challenge everything I say. If you think that Q ought to be challenged, challenge away! (But why stop there?) Know where to look, ask the right questions, and then craft your theories to account for the evidence  -- and you won't go far wrong.

8:49 AM I went to church yesterday not really expecting that I would hear so many reports of new cases of cancer. As a church, we're seeing the effects of the Fall in some very personal ways. The news of yet another cancer patient hit me harder than I would have expected. The power of something so small yet so evil to destroy is mindboggling. I am still marvelling that God has spared my Becky for so long. As she and I sit on our front porch and watch the goats grazing, I often think to myself, Now that's the definition of peace, right down to not having to worry about pasture and water. Without a doubt, God has taken very good care of Becky and me. Still, cancer is one of those things that are hard to deal with. There's so much about it I still don't understand. So my goal is to be as totally trusting as possible toward God and as totally trustworthy as I can possibly be toward Becky. This means that you pray -- a lot. It means that you ask others to pray for you. It means that you try to manage your stress. It means that you trust God to give you the wisdom and courage and trust that you know you lack.

To my brothers and sister at The Hill who are facing cancer for the first time, I know your fears, your questions, your fragile hope. When everything in you wells up and you want to scream, God will be there to give you the strength and peace that only He can give you.

So we pray. For healing. For strength. For wisdom. For acceptance. For trust. For peace.

Church, we are one Body. I love you, my fellow cancer-sufferers.

Sunday, August 19

6:03 PM Quote of the day:

To every Christian who reads this book: you are a missionary. Missions is the joyous work of informing the world that it is loved. Missions is unrelenting in its desire, it pushes in flaming light against the dark walls of human ignorance. It is honest about all things eternal: we can be free only when we know the truth (Jn 8:32).

Missions is clear, cold water--a cup of grace, a draft of life in the desert. It is as free as air, yet as precious as a pearl buried deep in the brokenness of the human spirit (Mt 13:46). Missions is a message, as simple as two words Jesus Saves--one noun, one verb--and yet this simplicity is God's broad banner posted just above the gates of eternity (Lk 19:10).

Missions is ravenous in its hunger to please God. It knows no other purpose for its existence. It lives for the single pleasure of hearing God say, "Well done, good and faithful slave (Mt 25:21). You have told the truth in a false world, you have turned the iron key of liberty in the steel door of hell, and the captives are freed (Lk 4:18)! For this liberation you have been called "missionary."

The words of Calvin Miller, who went home today.

5:55 PM The latest additions to the south bedroom at Maple Ridge are these beautiful curtains.

Nigusse and Becky hung them this afternoon.

What a happy-looking place.

5:29 PM Number one priority today: Recharging the golf cart batteries so that Becky can boogie wither she will on the farm.

2:26 PM Greatly appreciated brother Jason's message from Rom. 8:16-17 today. If there's no battle against sin, there's no Holy Spirit presence. It's just that simple. I have students coming to my office all the time telling me they can't be true Christians -- the battle against sin is so strong. "Actually," I say, "that's proof you are saved. The Holy Spirit has awakened holy sentiments in your life, sentiments you never had before you were saved." Too often we can become preoccupied with somebody else's sins and forget our own. In his Letters to an American Lady, Lewis wrote, "Try not to think -- much less speak -- of their sins. And if, on consideration, one can find no faults on one's own side, then cry for mercy: for this must be a most dangerous delusion." In spiritual language, this can be translated "brokenness." Transparent and broken. And yet always with the potential for victory. Let us rejoice that Jesus has poured His Holy Spirit upon us all. Is there anything in our lives too strong for Him to overcome?

2:14 PM Awesome time at The Hill today. In Sunday School this morning brother Chris talked about Epaphroditus as Paul's brother, fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier (Phil. 2:25). In other words, he shared the faith, shared the work, and shared the danger. Becky and I have been privileged to know several Epaphrodituses throughout the years, but none worthier of that title than Leigh and Jason, our co-team leaders during our last trip to Ethiopia. This morning we were able to have a solid de-briefing with them.

They are truly "fellow-workers" -- one in work and spirit. Beyond that, they have fought shoulder-to-shoulder with us. They are battle-tested warriors. Finally, like Epaphroditus, they are what someone might call "lay people" -- people you'd never hear of normally, behind-the-scenes servants of the Most High God. Believe me, they did not serve so that they could be recognized on this blog! But serve they did, and Paul tells us that we are to honor such people and hold them in high regard. Leigh and Jason, we love you. Like Epaphroditus to Paul, you are our young, strong, healthy, godly co-workers, people to whom we can entrust the work. Truly you are models of commitment to the advancement of the Gospel of Christ. May He get all the praise and glory!

Saturday, August 18

4:56 PM Here's the 1842 Virginia plantation house I'll be taking Becky to for our anniversary next month. Very quiet and very secluded.

Shhhh. Don't tell her. It's a secret.

4:48 PM As I type, Becky is curled up on the sofa in the library, and Nigusse is translating for her letters her loved ones in Ethiopia sent back with him. In one, she is compared to the Dorcas of Acts. I couldn't agree more.

Becky has given and given for others. Little wonder she is so loved.

1:52 PM Would love to see Becky able to eat again. No appetite for days. Nausea. The whole 9 yards. Tired to boot. And we've got another chemo scheduled for Monday. Well, God knows. He knows that from head to foot we are as weak as kittens. He will supply ALL that we truly need. I keep telling myself, If we can amply supply the needs of our dogs, goats, and donkeys, how much more will He supply our needs?

1:45 PM Can you believe it? It's already time to get ready for winter here on the farm.

Today the Farm Boss finished cutting up logs for fire wood. ("Farm Boss" refers to the chain saw, not yours truly.)

Next step: splitting them.

Care to join us?

9:10 AM Here's a book I will enjoy reading when it comes out (Paternoster):

The Missing Imperative: A Discussion of the Absence of a Clear General Imperative to Proclaim the Gospel in the Pauline Epistles with Particular Reference to Philippians.

The author is Mark Keown.

9:04 AM Gardening for Jesus? Read Back to the Garden.


1) Greek students will observe the special meaning given to the verb karpophoreo.

2) About 40 percent of Americans grow some of their own food, and the trend is growing.  

8:59 AM If a limbless man can swim the English Channel, surely I can go out and cut firewood.

8:55 AM Very excited about fall convocation this Tuesday morning at 10:00 in Binckley Chapel. Join us!

8:48 AM Greek students! The NET Bible Study Environment is based around the New English Translation but this tool provides a wonderful look at the translators' notes, comparison with English parallels, articles, and original language tools. You can check it out here:

8:32 AM In her marvelous essay Family -- Not Always Easy, Jody Neufeld reminds us that Jesus challenges us to a connection that goes beyond the normal cultural expectations of family or tribe.

Jesus is busy with the mission He has been called to do. His family will have to wait. If I have family that, by their behavior to me, distract me, are destructive to me emotionally or spiritually, or do not support what God is doing in my life – then I need to try to have some conversation with them but I may have to lovingly cut them loose. Just as I made it clear to Henry when we first began to get to know each other that God was #1 in my life and that would never change, so I must also make that clear to my family.

Our society places enormous emphasis upon flesh and blood. Jesus taught a much higher brand of commitment. I could wish that our marriage enrichment seminars emphasized this point as much as Jesus did.

8:26 AM Mark Steven's latest post What's love got to do with it? is crucial. It reminded me of the Peanuts cartoon in which Lucy tells Linus that she is feeling unusually blah but she doesn't tell him any of the details. So Linus thinks he might be of help if he brings her some cookies and milk. "There's one thing you don't understand," cries Lucy. "I don't want to feel better!"

Confessing one's need to feel loved is not for wimps. Thanks for the reminder, Mark. 

8:19 AM Excited to be teaching Philippians again in Greek 3. Paul was both a Gospel-first man and an others-first man. Can't be one without the other.

Friday, August 17

8:56 PM 2.3 million of them are being recalled in the U.S. alone. You'll never guess what they are.

8:50 PM After a day of working outdoors, I've been enjoying browsing the web. I loved this piece about the great C. K. Chesterton, the prince of paradox.

Some will say 20th Century Christianity was saved by C.S. Lewis. Others will claim Billy Graham. But for me, that person will always be G.K. Chesterton. Dubbed the “prince of paradox,” this English writer spoke to a progressive Christian paradigm long before it was cool to call yourself “postmodern.”

His most (in)famous quotes include:

  • Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.

  • I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.

  • The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.

  • If there were no God, there would be no atheists.

  • I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.

My kind of man, exactly.

12:33 PM Never lose heart in the power of the Gospel, even when you feel a bad sinus headache coming on.

12:24 PM Anyone can claim to be a Great Commission Christian. But Jesus equated commitment with a willingness to die for others. In true Christianity, discount rates do not apply.

10:08 AM Funny church sign:

The one church sign I am STILL waiting for is the one that reads:

Senior Pastor: Jesus Christ

Ministers: Every Member

Assistant to the Ministers: Your pastor's name

9:59 AM Homesteader and Greek scholar John Mureiko asks, Am I Missing God's Presence? The answer will both delight and challenge you.

9:54 AM Quote of the day: 

"I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’"

(Acts 20:33-35)

9:46 AM Ralph Powell's name might be known to you. For many years he taught theology at Sioux Falls Seminary. Dr. Powell passed away this month at the age of 96.

One of his former students, Roger Olson, published a touching tribute to his erstwhile professor and mentor. In part it reads:

I was absolutely captivated by him–not because of his style but because of his wisdom and piety. I spent many hours in his office talking theology with him. I’m sure I drove him crazy with my questions, but he was always patient.

That's quite an affirmation. Wisdom and piety. Looking back over the years of my own educational journey, two names stand out as possessing the same qualities: Harry Sturz and Bo Reicke. Sturz taught me Greek at Biola (and later became my colleague after I had joined the Greek faculty there), while Reicke was my Doktorvater in Basel. The one thing I remember most about these two great scholars was not their scholarship but their accessibility and godly example. Both seemed to possess an almost perfect balance between humanitas and pietas. I'm sure I "spent many hours" talking with them and, probably, driving them crazy. I've got a few students like that myself today. No worry. They don't bother me. In fact, I love their inquisitiveness. I imagine I was a bit like that 35 years ago.

Drs. Sturz and Reicke are two reasons my office door is always open today. To paraphrase Professor Olson, "If any of my students over 30 years think I did them any good at all, Drs. Sturz and Reicke get much of the credit."

7:18 AM Looking for a good commentary on Hebrews? Here are the top five.

7:13 AM For a helpful comparison of beginning Greek grammars, go here. It may surprise you to see just how many grammars there are to choose from.

7:08 AM Thrilled to see my research assistant's latest essay in print. Read Thomas Hudgin's  An Application of Discourse Analysis Methodology in the Exegesis of John 17. The abstract reads:

This study applies discourse analysis methodology to the study of the seventeenth chapter of John. Instead of adopting the typical three-fold division of Jesus' prayer based upon the three referents (Jesus, the immediate disciples, and future disciples), greater attention is given to Jesus' requests and final commitment, the mainline verbs. By giving more structural significance to the mainline verbs, the structural division and natural outline of Jesus' prayer become more evident.

6:57 AM What do trash cans and doctoral studies have in common? Read Andy Bowden's newest post, Learning a new culture.

6:47 AM Saddened this morning by news of the death of Abune Paulos, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The patriarch held a degree in theology from Princeton Seminary and spoke splendid English. I remember him as a gracious, warm-hearted man.

Abune Paulos was 76 years old. For a brief bio, click here.

Thursday, August 16

9:14 PM Almost forgot: Happy Birthday to Becky's dad, Brad Lapsley. He turned a youthful 85 today. Here he is in Ethiopia with his eldest daughter Becky.

"And many more," dad!

8:50 PM Just finished grading a Ph.D. entrance exam for a student in New Testament. It's a blind review so I have no idea who this person is. But a mighty fine exam it was. It is always a joy to read an exam that displays a good mastery of the field.

6:40 PM Still plugging away at my "to do" list. Just scratched off 3 things. My moment of power!

1:08 PM Today is fall orientation at SEBTS. Here's a picture I got from Alvin Reid:

This is our largest incoming enrollment in history. Grateful for each new student, whether a college freshman or a new Ph.D. student.

12:04 PM Announcement! It is officially too hot to work outdoors. But not too hot to take pictures.

Here's Maple Ridge:

And here's the old barn:

And finally, here's the chicken mansion and the new hay barn.

All have been cleaned up, weeded, and spiffy-fied. The big question: Who will the Lord send as our first guests? Seminary students? Missionaries on home assignment? A recently fired pastor? (Yes, pastors do get fired, sometimes for the oddest reasons.) Can't wait to find out.

11:16 AM Our job du jour: weeding out the vegetable garden. Actually, we pulled up everything except the tomatoes and beets.

Sorry to see our summer garden go the way of all summer gardens. At the same time, I could sense that fall was in the air today. And I LOVE fall.  Becky, too, has been busy gardening. This is her rose garden after pruning.

Purty, ain't it?

I used to be a huge advocate of agrarianism. No longer. But that said, I do think the agrarian life is a good life. I think my friend John in Texas would agree. Hard, but good.

Off to Maple Ridge to do more landscaping.

7:11 AM To all my beginning Greek students: Yes, class begins next week. And here are some aids to help you master your Greek vocabulary this semester:  

Remember: Vocabulary is the key that opens the door to the rapid reading of your Greek New Testament.

6:52 AM Yesterday I sat in on a Ph.D. oral at school and then returned home to try and get caught up on farm chores. Becky cooked a superb roast last night for two very hungry men.

I especially enjoyed the "Burji Beets" she prepared. This is the way beets are cooked in Burji, Ethiopia. Scrumptious.

Today: more work on the ministry house and landscaping.

Wednesday, August 15

2:22 PM Here are some odds and ends on a busy Wednesday afternoon:

1) Your help is needed! If you know Greek and Spanish, please send Thomas Hudgins an email and let him know you're interested in his special ministry opportunity. Also, special thanks to Thomas for proof reading my Paul, Apostle of Weakness manuscript and finding several overlooked typos, including "consciousness" instead of "consciences"!

2) In case you didn't know, we have a section here at DBO called Ethiopia Files. We try to give fairly detailed reports about our trips to "Utopia."

3) I have been invited to teach a course in advanced hermeneutics at the Odessa Theological Seminary next March. This will be a unique opportunity because it combines a chance to teach European students and to get reacquainted with a former Greek student of mine in California who now teaches at the seminary.

4) "A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese proverb.

5) In one month Becky and I will be celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary. I have a pretty good idea where I want to take her but I can’t mention it here because she reads the blog.

6) A huge shout out to Wesley Davey from Chesapeake, VA, who begins his doctoral studies with me this semester. Wesley’s interests include Pauline Christology. Wesley, it was great to see you again yesterday!

7) Nigusse did not come home empty-handed. He brought back lots of frozen Ethiopian dishes as well as a jar of delectable and totally awesome honey.

8) Glad to see that Billy Graham is back home after a brief hospitalization for pneumonia. Can you believe it – he is writing yet another book at the age of 93.

6:50 AM Yesterday was another very long, very good, day. I'm happy to report that Nigusse arrived safely at the Greyhound Bus station in Raleigh. That's right: we had him take the bus instead of fly from Dulles. After all, what can be more American than to ride public transportation?

Yesterday we also wrapped up our annual faculty workshop. Our theme this year was scholarship. I enjoyed the workshop but the best part was getting reacquainted with friends and colleagues after the summer break. The seminary continues to break enrollment records but, as someone pointed out during the workshop, we can't sacrifice quality for quantity. Next week I'll begin teaching my three classes: Greek 1, Greek Syntax and Exegesis, and Exegesis of 1 Thessalonians. If you're interested in looking at my analysis and outline of 1 Thessalonians (published in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology), I'd be happy to send you a copy.

Finally, a few reflections on teaching. Jesus said we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood. No instructor is quite as effective as the flesh and blood type. The only real teaching takes place when we translate God's Word into living epistles. Christianity is a revolution and breeds revolutionaries. A true Christian is different. We must believe in our hearts that education is for life and not for a degree. This is what we are here for. By life or by death, we are to advance the Cause of the King of kings on this earth. That's what we need to be modeling as a seminary. Kingdom people not only stand, they serve. We must walk as He walked who took the form of a servant. So if you pray for me, pray that I will take a towel and water and wash the disciples' feet. Pray that I will be willing to bend this semester in lowly service. May my "translation" of God's Word be true in letter and spirit.

Monday, August 13

8:02 PM Good evening, one and all. It's been 12 hours since we last talked. Becky's oncologist looked at her wound and decided to go ahead with the chemo today but to stop the Avastin -- for now. Apparently Avastin is the main culprit behind the problem. So we'll see how things turn out. Our appointment with the wound specialist never materialized as we had hoped, but we were able to make an appointment for a later date. So, all in all, the day went as well as could be expected. Tonight I'm catching up on emails, including answering this one:

Dr. Black,

I was wondering when our 5-minute Greek club will meet for the last time. I've faithfully attended every day (and I plan to continue even after the summer is finished). I'm looking over the textbook list for the Greek Exegesis class, and I was just wondering if you offer of a free book is still valid. (I hope my coupon hasn't expired.) Let me know the terms and conditions of your offer, and maybe I can drop by sometime to redeem it.

Thanks so much.

I answered, "Redeem away!" Tomorrow I plan to be on campus for our faculty workshop. But the really big news is that Nigusse is arriving in Raleigh tomorrow from Ethiopia. Can't wait to see him. Neither can his mom. Hurry home, Nigu!

7:38 AM Good morning, blogging buds!

Today marks an anniversary of sorts. Becky and I were driving to Durham yesterday when it occurred to us that it was exactly three years ago this month that Becky was diagnosed with cancer. As we drove along we spoke of the goodness of God, but also of the weight of the journey. We tried to remember what it was like when we first heard the news. We had just returned from a trip to Ethiopia. Prior to leaving, Becky had noticed some suspicious bleeding and had made an appointment to see a gynecologist. The appointment was scheduled for just after we returned home. I'll never forget going to Rex for her biopsy. I thought, No way my Becky has cancer! But I've learned through the years: God's ways are not always our ways. I've also learned (the hard way, usually) that there is unparalleled joy when we cast our every care upon Him. Later on, as we were waiting for the results, I had the "privilege" of being hospitalized for seven days at UNC for malaria. Reflecting back now I have to smile. Was God trying to teach us trust or what? When the report came back positive for clear cell -- the most aggressive form of uterine cancer there is -- I was amazed at how calmly we both took it. Three years ago neither of us had any idea of what we were getting into. Today -- after a hysterectomy, intense radiation, and three years of chemo -- we are still trusting the same God of Shalom. I take joy in walking this path with Becky. I'd give my right hand to see her healed completely. But which is the greater miracle -- a healthy Becky, or a suffering Becky who faces a gnarly situation with grit and unshaken confidence in her God? As her husband, I get to see all of this up close and personal. I get to be there for the surgeries and the hospitalizations. I get to nod off to sleep with her in the infusion room. I get to see her cry out in agony with bone pain from the chemo. But I also get to see the power of the resurrection and the soft, gentle reality of a woman walking through difficulty with her Lord. I get to see courage and selflessness and acceptance (not just acquiescence but real acceptance) and peace and joy. There is so much more I'd like to say on this anniversary but I can't. I do love Becky so. And how we love Jesus! It is He who got us through the diagnosis and the initial surgery. And it is He who sustains us today. And so I am not bitter. Instead, I'm thankful. I'm thankful for our prayer partners and our great hospital staff and even the Starbucks at UNC. I'm seeing the impact of Becky's life on others. If you stop and think about it, that's an awful lot to be thankful for. Becky's cancer is a sacred thing to me. It is shared, in its depths, by no one but us. On this day, three years after her diagnosis, three years after being introduced to our "severe mercy," we know there will be many other challenges ahead. But we are together. And by God's grace, we will see this crazy journey through 'til death do us part.


P.S. Becky's infected leg has still not healed. We're hoping to see a wound specialist at UNC today. We're also scheduled for more chemo today. Please pray that God would heal her leg.

Sunday, August 12

7:58 PM Hey friends!

It was a splendid day today. No rain either. I just finished mowing Maple Ridge. Things are beginning to look green again on the farm after the near-drought conditions we had a few weeks ago. Very grateful for the rain the Lord has been sending.

Grateful, too, for the wonderful reports we heard at Cresset today. The clear command of our Lord Jesus Christ is to go into the world -- but not with cold, perfunctory hearts! It is out of our love for Christ that our love flows out to the world. Where a church is not first rich in love for God, it will never become a mission church. If it is poor in terms of its horizontal relationships, it's only because it is poor in its vertical relationship with Christ. But when both of these priorities are active all at once, there you will find a church that pleases God. Such is Cresset Baptist Church. Let me say it once more, loudly: There is nothing in this world quite like a group of Christians who have given themselves unconditionally to God and then to the world. Here's the Cresset gang:

Each of them shared what God did in and through them in Ethiopia. Their testimonies prodded and challenged me. Afterwards we went out for lunch where Becky was able to hear firsthand from the women what God did.

I loved watching them interact with each other as sisters in Christ. These are ladies who are eliminating the inconsequential and maximizing what is eternally important. They are seeking, in specific and creative ways, to be Jesus' hands and feet in this world. What is the most important thing you should know about them? It is this: They love the Lord, and because of their love for Christ they love the lost. I see in each one of them a genuine, heartfelt reach to the world.

I thank God for our Ethiopia team. In the nitty-gritty give-and-take of Ethiopia, we learned how to be unified, how to act out this unity, and how to visibly and audibly love each other. I was just a member of the group -- sometimes leading, sometimes being led, exposing my needs as well as my knowledge. No two individual Christians are alike. Likewise, no Ethiopia team has ever been like another one. But I'll never forget the Cresset bunch. We had unity because we had a common love. And we get this love only as Jesus ministers to us through His Spirit.

It's just that simple.



Saturday, August 11

7:26 PM I assigned my Pastoral Epistles students in Ethiopia the task of coming up with a title for every paragraph in these 3 letters.

 What fun they had! There is nothing quite like watching the process of self-discovery.

Long ago I realized that all learning is self-learning. This is true whether we are working together in a small group, or whether we are listening to a lecture (in which case we listen selectively, we remember selectively, and we apply truth selectively).

All learning is self-learning.

7:13 PM Becky served a huge pork roast for supper tonight. We were so hungry after working all day that we finished the whole thing. Still can't believe it.

5:58 PM Do you believe that a Christian should retire? My father-in-law, Brad Lapsley, would say No. Even in his mid-80s he continues to work tirelessly for the church in Ethiopia. Here's an example. Below is an Amharic-English diglot New Testament:

It was dad's brainstorm. And it is used all over Ethiopia. As if that were not enough, dad is now talking about publishing an Amharic-Greek New Testament. And you know what -- I just think he'll do it, too. The apostle Peter wrote, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet. 4:6). Dad, I'd say, is a good steward. Indeed, all of us are brothers and sisters in Christ who gladly echo the words of Jim Irwin as he journeyed back to earth from outer space:

As I was returning to earth I realized that I was a servant – not a celebrity. So I am here as God's servant on planet earth to share what I have experienced that others might know the glory of God.

Thanks, dad, for your example. Thanks, too, for not "retiring."

4:40 PM Farm update:

1) The work on the ministry house (Maple Ridge) continues. Today we were able to frame in the bathroom. I managed not to slow the carpenter down too much.

2) The weather here has been something else. It changes between awe-inspiring thunderstorms and brilliant sunshine.

3) I couldn't keep from yawning all day long. That's what I get for spending a couple of weeks in Ethiopia and then teaching two weeks of Greek immediately thereafter. Boy, did my students work me hard!

4) Speaking of thunder, Becky has been working up a storm in our kitchen and pantry. She's "thinning" everything out, much of which will go to Maple Ridge for our guests there. Right now wonderful smells are emanating from the dining room, and it won't be long before I will enjoy another home-cooked meal prepared by my bride.

7:56 AM Do I detect a shift in New Testament studies? I notice that the latest issue of the Journal for the Study of Paul and his Letters contains not one, but two, articles about missions:

  • Citizenship and Empire: Paul's Letter to the Philippians and Eric Liddell's Work in China.

  • Why Spain? Paul and His Mission Plan.

My colleague Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism here at SEBTS, says, "Life is a mission trip. Take it." I couldn't agree more -- intellectually. I need to become radically convinced that the mission field is not only Ethiopia but the ground between my own two feet. Wherever I go I want to be on fire for Jesus. I want to be quick to take advantage of discipling encounters the Lord brings my way. I want to learn how to pray regularly, frequently, even for long periods of time for those who do not yet belong to the Sheepfold. I want to develop attitudes and actions that influence non-Christians toward salvation, help other believers develop a closer relationship with God and a more Christ-like lifestyle, and reveal the love of Christ toward those who are in physical need.

Paul was, first and foremost, a missionary. Am I?

Friday, August 10

8:02 PM Here's a book I'd like to get my hands on: The Ancient Armenian Text of the Acts of the Apostles.

The purpose of this eclectic critical edition of the ancient Armenian text of the Acts of the Apostles is to provide the earliest attainable text of Acts found in the extant Armenian manuscripts. It is meant to assist the Institute for New Testament Textual Research at the University of Münster in Münster, Germany, in preparing Volume II of the Editio Critica Maior, a complete and accurate critical edition of the Greek text of Acts.

I have long had an interest in the ancient Armenian manuscripts of the New Testament. In 2008 I even had an opportunity to teach a group of students at the Orthodox Seminary in Yerevan, Armenia. My topic was hermeneutics -- especially the role of textual criticism in interpreting New Testament texts. Here's a picture of my class:

On this visit I was privileged to be able to visit Yerevan's famous Matenadaran Library, which contains over 17,000 ancient manuscripts and numerous Bibles from the Middle Ages. Can't wait to get back there again.

7:45 PM In case you haven't noticed, I always find it hard to describe what I experience in Ethiopia. Don't get me wrong. The words are there. It's just that they're stuck in my heart. Here in America, we use the word Christian as a noun. Whenever I travel to Africa or Asia or the Middle East, the noun is forced to become an adjective. It is one thing to claim the name; it is another thing to live it. There have been so many times when I've wondered whether or not I too am really "Christian" (adjective). Our church membership rolls are filled with people who think are they Christians. Many of them have never been converted. They come to Christ but not after Him. I've been there. A Noun Christian. But the noun needs to become an adjective. We've been called out of this world in order to be sent right back into it. The basic trouble with the old self life is that it wants to take the easy way out. This can be true even of Greek professors. We can know all about the New Testament, teach our classes, and grade our papers, but fail to know the Great Author. A simple assembly of Ethiopian believers can know more about Jesus than all of the seminary professors trying to get their books published. There is no place in the will of God for cultural Christianity, folks. Simply recruiting more Ephesians to do more works without genuine love for others only worsens a situation that is already bad enough.

There's something magic about Ethiopia. It makes me long for my true Home, on the other side of the universe where my Best Friend lives. Traveling isn't easy, but it does have its upside: The disjointedness one feels is meant to increase our appetite for another place.

5:36 PM This and that ...

1) Here's an excellent summary of elder qualifications. Does anyone know of an equally helpful summary of deacon qualifications online? If so, please email me at

2) Columbia International University announces an opening in New Testament.

3) So … what's going on here at home? We're continuing to work on the ministry house. In fact, tomorrow I plan to work all day with our carpenter doing the Mud Room door and framing in the wall around the bathroom. If we have time, we will close in the bathroom window and dining room door and install the quarter round. Of course, all of this is a strange task for me, as I am the world's klutziest klutz. So odd. Must be God's sense of humor. Meanwhile, Becky is doing great – no more bone pain or swelling in her legs. Huge relief doesn't begin to express my emotions. God's latest gift to us leaves me breathless. On Sunday B. and I are looking forward to attending Cresset Baptist Church and hearing our intrepid missionaries give their Ethiopia report. I love these reports. So many memories are built. It was great fun having the Cresset folk join us on this trip. Can’t wait to hear their stories.

4) I am very glad to see this post: Why your blog shouldn’t stop you from writing (and publishing) your book. Blogging doesn't keep me from writing books, nor should it you. Don't stop with blogging, even if that means turning your blog posts into books. The apostle Paul wrote about one letter every two years. Sounds like a worthy goal for us lesser mortals. If you're a recently minted doctoral student, might I suggest that you set publishing goals for yourself? I did and have never regretted it.

5) As a follow-up to something I wrote about Phil. 2:12, Steve Sevy writes:

I am reminded again that Christianity is not a solo flight and even The Lone Ranger had Tonto! I thank God for my friends and the healing communities I have been a part of. We need time alone with God and we need time with community. Inspiring sermons and uplifting worship are wonderful. I love them. But the Christian life is lived out and grown in community. Two's and three's, four's and five's, ten's and sometimes twenty's.

Read Keep Working at All Y’all’s Salvation in Holy Awe. Truly great souls are never loners.

6) Paul Felix is Associate Professor of New Testament at the Master's Seminary in California. He is also the proud father of gold-medal-winning Olympian Allyson Felix, who once described her running ability as follows: "For me, my faith is the reason I run. I definitely feel I have this amazing gift that God has blessed me with, and it's all about using it to the best of my ability."

My heartiest congratulations to both father and daughter. Greek students, please remember her words: "To the best of my ability." Holy shoddy is still shoddy.

7) Quote of the day (Danny Akin):

When it comes to marriage I want to think like Jesus. That means I will affirm covenantal heterosexual marriage. It also means loving each and every person regardless of their lifestyle choices. It means, as His representative, proclaiming His Gospel and extending the transforming grace of the Gospel to others that takes us where we are, but wonderfully and amazingly, does not leave us there. That is a hope and a promise that followers of Jesus gladly extend to everyone, because we have been recipients of that same amazing grace.

Every one of us has made a contribution to Calvary and should weep for the sins that put Christ on the cross. Thank you, Danny, for speaking truth in love.

8) Travel note: Lord willing, I plan to be in Dallas from Sept. 13 to Sept 17 to attend a conference at Dallas Theological Seminary (Recovering Our Creative Calling). I'm also planning on taking my father-in-law to see the Dead Scrolls Exhibit at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. If you would care to join us at either event, let me know.

9) Grateful to my colleague David Beck for his gracious endorsement of Paul, Apostle of Weakness:

A model of careful and detailed exegetical analysis, fair and balanced in its conclusions, David Alan Black's revision of his work on astheneia and its cognates in Paul’s writings is a welcome addition to contemporary discussions within Pauline scholarship. Exemplifying scholarly depth and thoroughness, Black's writing is nonetheless eminently readable and extremely practical for all who seek to understand God’s manifestation of His power through our human frailty.

10) Finally, I have been thinking a lot about miracles and the supernatural recently. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm finding ministry hugely demanding. I so enjoy teaching and helping students that it is easy for me to grow weary and begin to rely on my own strength to get my work done. I think to myself, How many of my religious activities can be accounted for apart from the Holy Spirit? How much of my work is accomplished without divine help? I never want to get to the place in my life where I forget that living the Christian life is a miracle of grace. I never want to live on such a low level that I do not look for supernatural power to accomplish my goals. It is so easy for me to coast along, to live in such a way that things can be done "naturally." All too often I have left no room for God to break in. The Christian life – and certainly my teaching and writing ministry – is itself a huge miracle and every part of it ought to bear the mark of the supernatural work of the Spirit of God. There is only one way to handle this problem correctly and that is by surrendering my unsurrendered life, again and again, to God. I want to experience heaven NOW. Know what my definition of heaven is? Heaven is simply to be with Christ. That's what makes heaven heaven. His presence makes all the difference between merely going through the motions and genuinely living in the Spirit. I desperately need a fresh touch of His fire because if I don't have the fire I will never have the results I want. Oh, to have Isaiah's experience of having lips touched with fire! Oh, how I need a red hot coal in the mouth today!

Dare I hope?

Thursday, August 9

5:08 AM Important announcement:

FlashGreek has arrived!

The evolution of the flashcard has just landed on the iTunes app store! This app has been in the making for many years and I’m really excited to release it to the world.

FlαshGrεεk puts multimedia Greek flashcards on your iOS device. What do I mean by multimedia?

  • an image mnemonic
  • audio
  • a scripture example
  • additional info on the word (part of speech, applicable English derivatives, principal parts of verbs)

FlashGreek is packaged in numerous ways. First - there is a unique version of FlashGreek compatible with most of the major intro Greek grammars out there:

  • David Alan Black, Learn to Read New Testament Greek (2009) [app link]
  • N. Clayton Croy, Biblical Greek Primer (1999) [app link]
  • Jeremy Duff, Elements of New Testament Greek (2005) [app link]
  • James Hewett, New Testament Greek (2009) [app link]
  • William Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek (2009) [app link]
  • Gerald Stevens, New Testament Greek Primer (2010) [app link]
  • (soon!) S. M. Baugh, A New Testament Greek Primer (2009)

All of these are priced at only $5.99. These are ideal for students who are only taking 1 year of Greek. But if you’ll be in Greek for the long haul then….

Go here for more information.

5:02 AM I sent the following to our private email list yesterday. I post it here to share it with a wider audience.

Dear Prayer Partners,

Becky and I are entering the fall season with a thankful heart and a renewed appreciation for the sovereignty of God. I can’t think of a better way to begin this season of life than by thanking all of you for your prayers on our behalf this past year. It is clear that God is not finished with Becky yet and she works as hard today for Ethiopia (and for others) as she has in the past. Tonight we will be de-briefing with our Ethiopia leadership team. Leigh and Jason did a great job and we owe them a huge word of thanks. In the last decade I've made 16 trips to the land of Becky’s youth, and each trip just gets better and better. There are three things you need to know about the work in Ethiopia.

1) It is not our work. We simply seek to obey the Holy Spirit's leading. It is always amazing to me how the Lord will lay a ministry on our hearts, and then we simply obey that prompting. In the past 8 years we have distributed Amharic Bibles, non-prescription reading glasses, protein bars for evangelists, and pre-natal vitamins for pregnant women. Each of these ministries began when God put a burden on Becky's heart. If you were to ask us what our future goals are, the honest answer would be "We don't know yet." We are waiting upon God to show us. After all, this is His work. Thus we are reduced to humble dependence on the Lord.

2) We are not an organization and probably will never become one either. People ask us, "When will you incorporate and become a 501(c)3?" I believe God has other plans for us. We have always been a grassroots, mom and pop ministry, partly because we feel this keeps the focus where it ought to be – on openness to the Spirit's leading rather than on perpetuating yet another organization. It also allows us to send every penny we receive directly to Ethiopia. I love watching God provide partners with us who become involved in the work. We’ll never meet most of them until we meet them in heaven. We are delighted to be the conduit for them to get involved personally in what God is doing in Ethiopia. And we feel we can do this most effectively and responsibly without any bureaucratic overhead.

3) Finally, we firmly believe that "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." If you want to get into heaven, trust Christ. It's that simple. Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), Puritan preacher and author, once said "There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us." Yes, we are involved in mercy ministries. Yes, we have opened a health center in Ethiopia. But the purpose is and always will be evangelism. By God’s grace, we seek to introduce others to Jesus. Evangelism is profoundly Christian because it focuses on God as the true source of every blessing in life.

One other all-important note. As I wrote in my essay How We Do Missions, we have intentionally adopted a cooperative model of missions. We will gladly work with any Christ-centered evangelical church that is willing to answer Christ's call to obedience and self-sacrificing love. This means that when we travel abroad, the first thing we do is to seek out the existing church in that country and ask, "How can we best help you?" We have found this to be the best way of affirming the biblical truth that there is only one church, one Lord, and one kingdom.

So there you have it: some thoughts about the work we do in Ethiopia. Satan still assails us, but our Savior defeated him with a few verses from the Bible, and we too can prevail. There is nothing weak or effeminate about missions. It's just plain old hard work. It's so much easier to send a check to take the Gospel across the seas than to take it across the street. Let's be sure that when we are helping to send missionaries, we are one!

Thanks so much for your prayers and partnership in the Gospel,


Wednesday, August 8

6:45 PM I wept when I saw this You Tube commemorating 9/11. The music is so beautiful and inspiring.

Our poor frightened world limps along from one crisis to another. I suspect we are so avidly turning our attention to space partly to hide our embarrassment at not knowing how to co-exist on earth. The way out is not to love the universe but the God of the universe. There is a balm in Gilead and there is a Great Physician who invites us to experience His rest. He is our Comforter today. This tired old world needs nothing so much as to come to Him.

Watch the video. Feel the suffering, the grief. 9/11 was more profound than we will ever know. We stood there, all of us, raising our eyes toward heaven. And Someone looked down from the skies and wept along with us. And suddenly life doesn't seem so hopeless after all. The nails that pierced Him to a Roman cross now pierce our hearts back together again. There is life after death. There is healing. But not for everyone. We must allow His love to penetrate our hearts. There is Someone, lovely and precious, who can make the difference. Oh world, let His love break through your pain. Let Him shelter you.

6:32 PM This and that …

1) We worked on the discourse structure of Phil. 1:9-11 in class yesterday. So I just had to pass on to you this excerpt from the Hawaiian Pidgin Bible:

So den, dis how I pray: “God, help da Philippi peopo fo get mo an mo love an aloha. Den dey goin undastan plenny, an figga wass good an wass bad. Den dey can pick da bestes kine stuff, an no take da junk kine stuff! Dey do dat, everybody can see dat dey fo real. Den nobody can poin finga dem, from now till wen Christ come back! Den dey goin everytime do da right kine stuff, cuz Jesus Christ help um. Wen dat happen, everybody goin know how awesome you stay, an dey goin all out fo tell all da good kine tings bout you!” Dass how I pray to God.

Man does that bring back memories of da good ol’ days in da islands! Hawaii no ka oe!

2) Yesterday I enjoyed lunch with the Lee family from South Korea. As everyone knows, Korean cuisine is my absolute favorite.

After he completes his Th.M. with me, Heebum will return to his home to serve Jesus there. South Korea, a nation I've had the privilege of visiting on numerous occasions, had no Protestant churches in 1900. Today there are 7,000 churches in Seoul alone, one of them numbering 750,000 members. Everywhere I go in the world there are Korean missionaries proclaiming the Gospel message. It is glorious to witness what God is doing in Asia these days. And I consider it a great joy to be able to train Asians for the work to which He is calling them.

Thank you, Heebum and Yungju, for the wonderful meal and fellowship. It is always an honor to be in your home.

3) Jody Neufeld has a novel idea. She says we should actually PRAY about the person we should vote for this year.

God has the “inside” information on the candidates also. Am I seeking God’s advice on who I should cast my vote? Does that sound too ‘easy’ or too ‘silly’? I actually think it sounds hard! I think that to seek God’s desire and listen for HIS answer is going to be hard. It means that I will not take my agenda into the voting booth. I will be taking only God’s choices. I will listen with my ears tuned to HIS voice and not the media’s spin or the candidate’s advisers.

Her post might be called The Voter's Declaration of Dependence. A lot of politics may coexist with outright disobedience to God. Well said, Jody!

4) On Saturday I spoke about the need to become a world Christian. Brian Fulthorp responds:

One thing I might like to add is that perhaps one way to ensure this globalization of your faith life and practice would be to go on missions trips! Go overseas as often as you can and for a long as you can (more than just a week – the typical “missions” trip). Regular excursions across the boarders of your home country as often as possible will, more likely than not, easily ensure you maintain a decentralized geography when it comes to “being a Christian”!

I could not agree more, Brian. (See my The Value of Short Term Missions!)

5) The Bowdens have arrived in Munich and are settling into their apartment at the university. Read about their new life in Germany here. If you are praying about pursuing doctoral studies in Germany, be sure to check out Andy's insightful web page. All of us who studied abroad can testify to the excellence of European programs.

6:12 PM Monday in Greek 3 we finished our study of Philippians chapter 2. So many takeaways. Here's one of my favorites:

Make room in your life for trouble (2:17). We cannot preach the cross and not share in it. Suffering is inherent in the very nature of the Christian experience. Jesus grappled with the ugly, the sordid, the hideous, and if we are to follow Him we too must grapple with a bruised and suffering society. Our proving ground is the world, not the church. Great soldiers are developed in battle, not on parade. Paul poured himself out for others, and so must we. It is a decadent generation that cannot endure sound doctrine and heaps to itself teachers who promise nothing but health and wealth. Our Lord, when He lived among us, worked tirelessly and died on a cross. He never meant to leave us smug and self-satisfied. A comfortable Christian is an oxymoron.

For more, go here.

6:04 PM Next week I'll be attending the faculty workshop on campus. Then I will begin my 36th year of teaching. Over the years I've become increasingly aware of how much I owe to those who have supported my ministry in the classroom, from my omni-competent secretary (thank you, Miss Phyllis!), to my talented personal assistant (gracias Tomas!), to my area dean (you da man, David!), and last but not least to the wife of my youth (I love you, honey!). I have enjoyed working with a wonderful team. There are times that I am teaching when I have sensed the power of God -- and times when I feel like the wind is completely out of my sails. No matter. On bright or cloudy days, I am grateful that I have known the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding. What a marvelous Savior we serve. And so I teach, "struggling with all the energy that He powerfully works within me" (Col. 1:29), knowing that I am a man in Christ, and as such can "do all things" (Phil 4:13).

Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, August 5

6:34 PM In an election year, the words of Dan Clendenin seem appropriate:

Two radical corollaries follow from the global character of God's kingdom — the decentralization of your geography and the reorientation of your politics.

Christians are geographic, cultural, national and ethnic egalitarians. For Christians there is no geographic center of the world, but only a constellation of points equidistant from the heart of God. Proclaiming that God lavishly loves all the world, each person, and every place, the gospel does not privilege any country as exceptional. A Bosnian Muslim is no further away from God's love than an American Christian. A Honduran Pentecostal is no closer to God's love than an Oxford atheist.

Much has been written lately about American exceptionalism and our global dominance. In terms of economic, political, military, scientific and cultural influence, America is unrivaled. In that sense, it's accurate to say that America is "exceptional" (although there's no reason to think this will last forever, or that all our influence is good). But from a theological or Christian point of view, America is no more or less "exceptional" in God's eyes than Iceland, India, or Iraq. While allowing for a natural and wholesome love, even pride, in your own country ("there's no place like home"), in the long run, Christian egalitarianism subverts every form of geo-political nationalism. Our ultimate citizenship, said Paul, is a spiritual one (Philippians 3:20).

So ... has your geography been de-centralized? That is, are you a world Christian? And ... have your politics been reoriented? That is, does your heavenly citizenship trump your earthly?

Good questions, if you ask me.

By the way, Dan's website, Journey with Jesus, is simply outstanding. He publishes a new essay every Monday. Now that's consistency!

5:47 PM Well, my chores are finally finished. Becky, thank the Lord, is up and about, sewing curtains for the ministry house and cooking mashed potatoes and fried chicken for supper. I finally got around to reading Paul's discussion (see the post below) and have to hand it to him: that was some analysis! I think Tim Decker asks the question of the ages in the comments section: What to do with "deponency"? If there's one part of my grammar I might consider rewriting, it's that section. (Wouldn't that be funny -- applying "deponere" to deponency and "laying it aside"!) 

12:42 PM Millions have been asking: When will Paul Himes publish his comparison of beginning Greek grammars? He's been promising us this treat for some time now. Well, today's the day. Read A Comparative Analysis of Four 1st Year Greek Textbooks. And please do remember: Even though Paul is a student of mine, he is completely impartial!

12:32 PM I stayed home from church today to be with Becky. Also, I needed to get caught up on a few farm projects like bush hogging the goat pasture.

I also dragged the ponds for algae. Still to do: Replace the water filter in the crawl space, replace the air filters in the house, spread granules on the pond to kill the unwanted growth, bush hog the horse pasture, sweep the porches, and review my calendar with Becky. By the way, when we first moved to the South in 1998, I had never heard of a bush hog. Now I AM one. Goes to show you're never too old to learn new tricks. Here's a partial list of "old fogey achievers":

At 100, Grandma Moses was painting.
At 94, Bertrand Russell was active in international peace drives.
At 93, George Bernard Shaw wrote the play Farfetched Fables.
At 91, Eamon de Valera served as president of Ireland.
At 91, Adolph Zukon was chairman of Paramount Pictures.
At 90, Pablo Picasso was producing drawings and engravings.
At 89, Arthur Rubinstein gave one of his greatest recitals in New York's Carnegie Hall.
At 89, Albert Schweitzer headed a hospital in Africa.
At 88, Pablo Casals was giving cello concerts.
At 88, Michaelangelo did architectural plans for the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
At 88, Konrad Adenauer was chancellor of Germany.
At 83, Aleksandr Kerensky wrote Russia and History's Turning Point.
At 82, Winston Churchill wrote A History of English Speaking People.
At 82, Leo Tolstoy wrote I Cannot Be Silent.
At 81, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe finished Faust.
At 80, George Bums won an Academy Award for his performance in
The Sunshine Boys.

So there's hope for us dinosaurs!

9:11 AM I always enjoy and benefit from reading Roger Olson's blog posts. Since we're studying Philippians in our Greek 3 class this summer, I was especially glad to see his recent sermon called "Grace Works" Philippians 2:12-13. I partly agree, and partly disagree, with his exegesis. I agree that the term "salvation" (soteria) in 2:12 is not referring to forensic, juridical justification but rather to what Olson calls "life after conversion." Where I might diverge a bit from Olson is in his definition of "life after conversion": "maintaining a healthy relationship with God as a converted believer." This interpretation, in my view, is short-sighted since it begs the question of context and the macrostructure of the book (see my Novum Testamentum essay, The Discourse Structure of Philippians).

What does Paul mean by "work out your own salvation"? As Olson correctly notes, there are too many contextual clues to conclude that Paul is referring to initial justification. The emphasis is on the life of a Christian. But let us take that thought one step further. There are two main imperatives in 2:12-16: "work out your salvation" and "do all things without grumbling and complaining." Hence 2:12-16 may be analyzed as a continuation of the plea to unity begun in 2:1-4. The theme of 2:12-16 may be stated thus: "I plead for you to obey me and to work at bringing healing to your community. For God is already at work among you to foster mutual good will instead of ill will. Do this in order that one one will be able to find fault in you as you share with others the message of life." As F. F. Bruce writes (Philippians, 56-57), "In this context Paul is not urging each member of the church to keep working at his or her personal salvation; he is thinking of the health and well-being of the church as a whole. Each of them, and all of them together, must pay attention to this."

In other words, what many commentators fail to consider is the corporate dimension of Paul's exhortation in Phil. 2:12-13. Apparently his concern is that the Christians in Philippi, torn apart by dissension and strife, will work to complete the sanctification of the church (and each individual within it) lest the work of the Gospel be hindered. Believers are "co-souled" (2:2), inextricably linked together by the Spirit of God on the basis of their common faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, who is in the process of creating a visible community of faith -- a living, breathing organism that knows that its most credible form of witness to the world is its own unity and love. In this light, verse 14 now makes perfect sense: the Philippians must "do all things without grumbling and complaining." To be saved is to enter into a faith community that grants all of its member the opportunity to experience the depth of Christ's love. Thus Paul is addressing the matter of unity where it matters most -- in the area of interpersonal relationships. Perhaps this explains why his love ethic is so thoroughly eschatological. It is an ethics bound up with the purpose of the church as the New People of God whose citizenship is in heaven and whose ethics are best seen in the virtues of self-abnegation and humility of mind (2:3-4).

From this point of view, "salvation" in 2:12 is not simply a matter of one's relationship with God. The role of the saints is much broader and deeper. Salvation helps us to structure our congregational life in such a way that we have the greatest potential to be influential witnesses within our families and communities, among whom we shine as stars in the world as we offer them the life-giving message. Hence we must always be praying that our love for one another (and, of course, for God) "might abound yet more and more in knowledge and full discernment" (1:9), simply because lovelessness is one of the main reasons people say they do not want to accept the Christ of Christianity.

Saturday, August 4

9:26 PM Being a history lover, I was fascinated to see that on this day in 1873 George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Calvary were attacked by Sioux Indians as they were encamped along the Tongue River in Montana. The U.S. Army easily fought off the attack -- which may have led to their defeat 3 years later during the Battle of the Little Big Horn. You can read the amazing story here.

Incidentally, our family once camped on the Tongue River to do some fishing. It was on that trip that we happened upon a rodeo in Cody, Wyoming that would change my life forever and lead me to buy my first horse when we returned to our home in Southern California. For the next 15 years I was an avid equestrian, riding almost daily my Arabian and Thoroughbred horses. And all because of a fishing trip to Wyoming....

6:52 PM Took Becky out for dinner tonight. Just had to get her out of the house. Spine pain is still there and we crawl along like turtles. But grateful for the strength to be a turtle.

9:30 AM Just finished reading chapter 2 of a doctoral dissertation and an entire Th.M. thesis. Very grateful for students who know how to write well.

8:46 AM Quote of the day:

'John the Baptist' was really like 'John the Dunker,' " Hoffman said.

John was doing something new by submerging people in water to cleanse them of their sins, but that is lost on people 2,000 years later, Hoffman said. Today, people hearing John's title might think it refers to a Baptist denomination rather than his then-strange behavior.

Now if that don't burst some bubbles. Read New Bible translation offers screenplay format.

8:23 AM Saturday sundries …

1) By now the whole inhabited world (by which I mean anyone who reads the biblioblogs) knows that the new Nestle-Aland  is about to appear. Go here also. I will be curious to see what they do with Matt. 5:22, Mark 10:20, John 3:13, Eph. 1:1 and other variants I have published essays about.

2) Excitement is building for our Ethiopia team reunion on August 25 at the farm.

3) I just accepted an invitation to contribute an essay on the "kingdom" for our in-house journal, Southeastern Theological Review. I guess the editor knows I have some strong convictions about the topic. In the kingdom of God, what matters is obedience. The essence of the Christian faith lies in our willingness to walk in the way of Jesus. Paul writes, "The kingdom of God is not in word but in power" (1 Cor. 4:20). In other words, the essence of the kingdom is not theology (word) but practice (deed). We must let go of everything else in this world. We must live as citizens of the kingdom, a kingdom that requires a loyalty surpassing our loyalty to our parents, spouse, church, country, and even our lives.

This is the message I'll be attempting to get across in my essay. Your prayers will be appreciated.

4) This post by Alan Knox made me stop and think: Who are you? How would you describe who you are in just a sentence or two?

5) Becky had a rough night last night -- severe bone pain in her spine due to chemo. Thanks for your prayers on her behalf!

Friday, August 3

5:34 PM In class this week we read a lot from Hawthorne's outstanding commentary on Philippians. I enjoyed his emphasis on the civic implications of politeuesthe in 1:27 as well as his careful attention to detail in the Christ hymn of 2:5-11. "The incarnation is both humiliation and mission." I'm thinking right now about our Ethiopia team. I love this picture of one of our teammates walking to a faraway village for ministry.

What a great combination of humility and mission. Service to others in the name of Christ is the task of every Christian, the task of the church, and supremely the task of everyone who considers him- or herself a missionary. Amen?

Speaking of missions, check out my dean's latest essay, Is Southeastern Part of a Calvinist Plot? The money quote:

Southeastern Seminary does have an agenda – the Great Commission. When we say that SEBTS is a Great Commission school we are not pitting obedience to the Great Commission against commitment to doctrine. Quite the opposite: few things are more doctrinal than the Great Commission. The Great Commission entails certain powerful theological truths: all humanity is lost and is in need of salvation, Jesus Christ is the only Savior, people can get saved only if they hear the gospel, and our Lord has commanded us to preach the gospel to everyone in the world. These are the truths that motivate us.

I quite agree.

5:30 PM The always provocative Arthur Sido has written an excellent post called Are We Really Scorned? The same God who privileged us to believe in Christ also privileged us to suffer for Him. Salvation and suffering are mutual gifts of grace (Phil. 1:29). Whatever suffering comes to us as Christians is not a sign of God's displeasure but of His favor. No Christian ethic is worthy of that name if it does not potentially require our suffering or the suffering of those we love. That's why faithfulness, not effectiveness, is the ultimate goal of the church. The confessing church will always be a church of the cross.

And – let me add – the overriding political concern of the church is the task of becoming a community of the cross. How bland and unfaithful our so-called "ethics" (i.e., eating a chicken sandwich) appear when set in contrast to the cross. I can't stop thinking about the Ethiopian church. In my mind's eye I see all the suffering – all those who have died in the cause of the Gospel – I see their faces and feel their pain, and I begin to rage and rail about the "scorn" we experience here in America for being Christ-followers. Have we forgotten what Christ has called us to? Oh, we are very glad to be beneficiaries of Christ's death, but are we glad to be sharers in His sufferings? Are you kidding? We are so sheltered here in America that we actually think an economic boycott is suffering for Jesus. I have no answer – no explanation – I can give to the Ethiopian church when they ask me, "How do you suffer in the States?" I've been so frustrated by my inability to grasp why we complain as we do. Have we never traveled to the Majority World? But, thank God, He is my covering, He has walked through the fire with me, He has allowed me to share in the sufferings of Christ, paltry though they may have been.

I don't necessarily expect you to agree with me, but if you would, please stop complaining about how hard life is in America for Christians. I think God's heart must ache when He looks at us. It is hard to imagine a lost world being redeemed by such soft people.

5:06 PM It's the oldest cliché in the world, and I can't believe I'm uttering it, but it's so true: Satan attacks the hardest when the fruit is the ripest. It's such a strange thing – this sense of exhaustion and spiritual weariness that comes over you when you have personally witnessed miracle after miracle from the hand of God. Going to Ethiopia (and other nations) is living my dream life. Getting to serve others is the highest of all highs in life. And yet I'm finding it strangely hard to describe our trip, even to describe the miracles we all saw with our own eyes. I can't even explain how cool it was to see someone for whom I had prayed for so many years finally put his faith in Christ. Last week I stood at the summit. The climb was long, but it was a marvelous experience. Now I stand in the trough, knowing that there will be many other climbs to make (how will I ever be able to get those farm chores done when I am so tired?) and other risks to take. I grieve over reports from teammates that conflict is raging all around them, especially in their most intimate relationships. I realize that the conflict is due to productivity, the result of reaching beyond ourselves, of accomplishing things you thought were impossible – and so they were, apart from grace. It's a horrible feeling when soul and body are in conflict. We then lack intimacy with others because the pain is so real.

Lest anyone wonder if I have ever known spiritual defeat after my mission trips, the answer is a resounding, yes, I have! Unfortunately, I can speak with considerable expertise when it comes to the post-trip blahs. I know what it feels like to hit the ground running, to wonder if you can make it through another day of work and responsibilities, to feel the very fabric of your life being torn to shreds. There is nothing new about this. No one serves God without having their energies depleted. But something else can be said: no one wanders so far away or falls so low that they cannot be welcomed home to a "safe place" in Christ's presence and be given the greatest gift in the universe: peace. No one is so tired and worn out that Christ cannot renew His fellowship with us, and we can again sense His joy and strength.

Exhaustion is no respecter of persons. It strikes us all, whoever and wherever we are. The greater the euphoria, the greater the crisis. Day-to-day living drags us down. When this happens, it's okay to admit it. Maybe it's because we fear showing weakness or inadequacy that we clam up and grit our teeth and say to ourselves, "It's nothing." But it is SOMETHING. This is one of the strange paradoxes of the Christian life. It is when we think we are strong that we are the most vulnerable. No intimacy in life can exist as long as this vulnerability goes unconfronted and unresolved. When we are spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausted, we must frankly admit the fact to ourselves, face the piper, and, having faced it, get on with life again. I am forced to peal all pretensions away. The Good News is the only thing can lift us up when we lay wounded, knowing that one day we will laugh all of this off as a "present light affliction." I plead with you, my friend, if you are going through weariness, defeat, or even depression, don't turn to books and blogs and counseling theories. Instead, I encourage you, as I encourage myself, to return to Jesus. In Him you will find help. No one else can do for us what God can do.

Jesus, I come. Weary and heavy-laden, I come to You to find rest. I can't believe how tired I feel! But just in acknowledging before You my weariness is empowering. I think that's just what I need. The energy You have poured into me has been the major secret of my life. I will never stop being grateful for that. Right now I need to hold You close to me again – the tenderness, the caring, the strength. Then I think I'll be able to go on again. I don't think I can make it without You. I KNOW I can't. "Come to Me," You're saying. "Come and be healed," You are telling Me. That's Your modus operandi. And, I must say, You do that rather well.

Wednesday, August 1

9:36 PM Hello virtual friends,

I've been reflecting on the concept of self-emptying in Philippians. Here are a few comments for reflection and interaction.

The human mind cannot grasp the divine kenosis (or emptying) of Christ. His sacrifice on our behalf is unfathomable, unimaginable, incomprehensible. It boggles the mind. When we try to grapple with Christ’s self-emptying, we make things a little easier when we remember that what we cannot underrated with the mind we may yet feel with the heart. Jesus became obedient unto death – a death for ME. The doctrine of Christ's self-emptying sets forth what God had to give up in order to come into this world for our salvation.

What we can barely understand with the mind, and what we can feel in the heart, ought to drive us to greater obedience. Paul would have nothing to do with the kind of academic, esoteric, stuff-shirted theology we are so fond of. His resurrection is proof that love is more powerful than death. It is proof that in the end love can defeat all that hatred can do to it. One must NEVER reduce the kenosis to a mere doctrine. It means that all of life today can be lived in the presence of the love and power of Jesus Christ. Again and again Paul links the resurrected life of Christ with the life the Christian is supposed to live. There is no incomprehensible mystery here. If Christ is risen from the dead, it means that His mind is now available to every one of us. It means that I no longer have to live for myself. It means that Jesus does not just command me what to do; He is constantly with me to enable what He requires. For Paul, the Christ hymn of Phil. 2:5-11 is neither simply a fact of history nor a theological dogma. It is the supreme reality of the Christian life. It means that all of life may now be lived in the presence of the one who loved me and gave Himself for me.

And so I pray. For the mind of Christ. For healing from my self-centeredness. For courage and wisdom. For the power to continue to fight my prayer battles. For the courage to join others in their struggles.

So much to reflect on. I need all the help I can get.

Jesus bless you!


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