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Saturday, February 28

7:54 AM Odds and sods ....

I'm risking Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for typing this, but last night while watching a PBS Front Line story I gorged myself on some of North Carolina's finest cuisine. It's called junk food. Doritos with cheese dip. And a Pepsi of course. Naturally, I had a good defense for my self-indulgence. Patricia Sellers once said she eats like a 6-year old because 6-year olds have the lowest death rates according to the actuarial tables.

Yesterday I also read that David Ige, Hawaii's brand new governor, wants to increase hotel capacity in the Islands -- as if the Islands weren't already sinking under the weight of tourism and retirees. Last week Ige also made a pitch to President Obama to choose Hawaii as the location for his presidential library. I think Chicago is a much better choice. Having lived on the mainland most of his life, Mr. Obama is as much a Hawaiian as George W. Bush.

According to the BBC, the Chinese are actually taking classes in Western Manners, including how to set a table and peel an orange. The story is here. Huh? Do Westerners have manners? I wouldn't let Becky open a car door, I would seat her at the dining room table, and we never ate until she said "enjoy." I haven't seen a man open a car door for his wife in ages. Guys -- I know you can do better than that. 

Below is Andrew Gold's Lonely Boy. I listened to it last night before hitting the sack. I had been married one year when the song came out. It's 2015 and I still love it. It perfectly expresses what we all felt when we were teenagers at a time in our lives when we were trying to "fit in." I especially love the words, "I'm pushin' on through." What an incredibly accomplished musician (who died much too young at 59) and what an incredibly beautiful song. I relive my youth every time I hear it. When did I get so old?

Speakers up.

Friday, February 27

5:35 PM The greatest surfing song ever written:

 

5:28 PM The winning answer to yesterday's contest? Bran Castle in Transylvania, of course (otherwise known as Dracula's castle). In my photo I was trying to mimic the good count himself, sans the fangs. The winner has been duly notified.

5:10 PM A pastor is your local director of missions. His team is as large as his congregation. I thought of this while reading Joel Bradsher's excellent blog.

11:34 AM As you know, I've been reading Elton Trueblood's classic book, The Company of the Committed. It's about Christian living, and the author wants to encourage a deep conversation about the church. Trueblood was a lifelong Quaker, educator, and author. (He was also twice widowed.)

His main point is that the church as it exists today is not very well suited to fulfill its basic redemptive function. "The movement we need is a movement in depth," he writes (p. 10). (I argue much the same thing in my book The Jesus Paradigm.) This question is especially important in light of the fact that the line between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world is becoming increasingly blurred in our day. While on the one had I have no problem at all with people being passionately involved in politics as they feel God is leading them, I simply maintain that politics must be kept strictly separate from what we are about as churches and that no one should ever label their position as the distinctly "Christian" way of doing politics. Remember, in most wars in history, both sides firmly believed that their "God" was on their side (think of the German belt buckles on their uniforms that said "Gott Mit Uns"). The unique call of the Christian is to pursue the kingdom, and this is accomplished in counter-cultural ways including our willingness to sacrifice ourselves and even our very lives for others. Trueblood gets this. "Our position [as a church] is not unlike that of the Roman Empire when it appeared to be at the height of its prestige, with great show of power at the center, but actually was losing province after province on the edges" (p. 11). He goes on to show that many of the most "successful" programs in our churches will not bear up under close examination. "It is hard to exaggerate the degree to which the modern Church seems irrelevant to modern man" (p. 17). From my own experience, I can tell you this is very true in post-Christian Europe, where I have lived. To be a Christian in Switzerland was the equivalent of putting your brain in park or neutral. But not only does Europe suffer from this malaise. I live in the rural South, and here in the Bible Belt the church has only marginal relevance. To be sure, people are willing to put up with it as long as it does not require anything of them. Hence, writes Trueblood, the question today is not one of whether Christian fellowships exist. Rather, the question is what kind of character these fellowships have (p. 21). I personally think this distinction is very helpful. The Gospel is not the true Gospel unless it is about transforming society. I deeply appreciate Trueblood's attempt to call the church back to its militant stance, which produced "the amazing vitality of early Christianity' (p. 28). On p. 31 he writes:

It is perfectly clear that early Christians considered Christ their Commander-in-Chief, that they were in a company of danger, which involved great demands upon their lives, and to be a Christian was to be engaged in Christ's service.

The "service" he's talking about is a far cry from the typical worship "service" one attends today. As in an army, every soldier has his or her own duty to perform.

The key words are "one another" [he writes on p. 32]. There are no mere observers or auditors; all are involved. Each is in the ministry; each needs the advice of the others; and each has something to say to the others. The picture of mutual admonition seems strange to modern man, but the strangeness is only a measure of our essential decline from something of amazing power.

Christ, says Trueblood, is organizing a genuine band of brothers, a company of the committed. Jesus wasn't asking for people to go to church. "He was, instead, asking for recruits in a company of danger. He was asking not primarily for belief, but for commitment with consequent involvement" (p. 34). "We cannot understand the idea of of a company apart from the concept of involvement" (p. 38).The soldier's one desire is to please his commander in everything. The undeniable reality is that most of us today are both untrained and uninvolved. The easiest way to undermine Christianity is to appoint someone else to do the work for us. During the Civil War in America, if you had enough money you could purchase your way out of the draft and let someone else do all the fighting for you. The simple fact is that we have been called -- all of us -- to follow Jesus Christ, not someone else's good ideas or movements or strategies, however good we may think they are. Whether you are a Republican Matthew or a Democrat Simon the Zealot, we can all get along just fine as long as we follow Jesus and stop making our political ideals the bulls-eye.

The Company of Jesus is not people streaming to a shrine; and it is not people making up an audience for a speaker; it is laborers engaged in the harvesting task of reaching their perplexed and seeking brethren with something so vital that, if it is received, it will change their lives (p. 45).

This is the kind of lay ministry that I have long espoused and have argued for in my various publications. In the words of Trueblood, "...in the ministry of Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, neither layman nor cleric [italics his], but all are one in Christ" (p. 62).

If you share this vision of the kingdom, will you support my work? Not financially of course. Will you join me in praying for the church in North America? Pray that God will help Christians here to wake up to the political delusion that has descended upon us through well-meaning people. Pray that we start caring more about sacrificing for the country than controlling it. To me, the most basic and most difficult challenge of being a Christ-follower is what Trueblood addresses in this marvelous book. It's becoming completely sold out to the Commander-in-Chief and living under His authority and in His love on a moment-by-moment basis. I want to encourage you to cultivate a conscious surrendered attitude toward God. By all means, express your opinion about politics. Vote for the man or woman of your choice. But never, ever forget where the hope of the world lies. Obey Jesus and love others as He did. This is our calling, those of us who, by God's amazing grace, are privileged to be a part of the Company of the Committed.

10:02 AM Whenever I'm tempted to tell people that I live "alone," I have to catch myself. Today, and every day, I have two furry companions who stick by me closer than any cleaner fish ever stuck to the side of a shark. If I'm in the library, they're in the library. If I'm in my office, they're in my office. I just snapped this pic.

Just look at their eyes. I don't know that I've ever had more loyal friends. And yet ....

How huge is the gap between us.

As much as I can "relate" to them, and as much as I enjoy their company, there is no possible way they can know what's going on in my mind or enter fully into my experience as a human being. Do they realize that I just paid my Verizon bill or wrote another chapter in my book or texted with one of my daughters? That's just how it is between animals and their masters. A vast, unbridgeable gap. And it reminded me that God's ways are so much higher than mine. I guess I've always known that, but there comes a point in your life when you have to vocalize it, internalize it -- especially when life has hit you upside the head with a two by four. God does things we don't understand, and we don't understand them simply because we can't understand them. We are only children; He is the all-knowing Father. So when His actions do not seem to comport with our ideas of justice or fairness, we simply have to trust Him. Just as my dogs simply believe that I am loving and fair and just and kind, so we must simply believe that God is Justice and Love and Fairness and Kindness personified. It's just that simple. You trust.

Friend, whatever fire you might be walking through today, thank God that He is your cover, the one who is walking through this fire with you. Even if you should be stripped of everything, you will still have Him. Go where He goes. Sit at His feet. Gaze into His sympathetic eyes. Be quick to do His bidding. He is enough. And because He is enough, you are enough.

Thursday, February 26

6:42 PM Contest time again! I'm giving away a brand new copy of 13 Hours in Benghazi (an excellent book!) to anyone who can correctly name this European castle.

Contest runs through tomorrow at this time. My scowl is a dead giveaway!

2:02 PM Are we happy? 

 

1:15 PM Look who's been enjoying the snow.

So cute!

I have the greatest grandkids in the world, bar none.

Time to go feed the donks a carrot :)

12:56 PM Travel update: Lord willing, I'll fly to Charleston this Saturday. On Sunday morning and evening, and on Monday and Tuesday evening, I'm scheduled to speak at Mount Tabor Baptist Church in Bowman. On Monday and Tuesday I have been invited to lecture at Charleston Southern University. Quite an honor! While in Charleston I'll also be meeting up with some of our seminary grads as well as doing some sightseeing, including a visit to historic Drayton Hall.

It'll be crazy busy but what better place to spend your week off from teaching? Charleston is one of my all-time most favoritest cities in the world.

11:26 AM Why is it on days like this I can hear Kailua Beach calling to me?

Be back there in May Lord willing. Already waxing down my surfboard.

11:20 AM A plug for Kevin Brown's always interesting blog. Especially if you enjoy weather reports :-)

11:15 AM One reason I love our local weatherman Greg Fishel so much. This man is the real deal.

11:06 AM Gorgeous day! If I still had my horses I'd be riding.

9:55 AM Quote of the day (Hab. 3:17-18):

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Let's face it. There are times in life when we hit bottom. When platitudes and theories just don't seem to work any more. When nothing makes sense. When nothing has worked out as we planned. We can still rejoice in our Savior. We can praise God anyway. We must face our problems head on. But we never face them alone. Hallelujah!

9:10 AM "For to the snow He says, 'Fall on the earth!'" (Job 37:6). 

Wednesday, February 25

7:06 PM It's coming!

6:30 PM I see that Jacob Cerone has been interviewed about his Th.M. thesis, A Comparative Discourse Analysis of the Masoretic and Septuagint Versions of Jonah. I for one am eager to see the day when Jacob's mature conclusions are published for all to read. In the meantime, and to whet your appetite, you can read his interview here.

6:10 PM Writing in another language can be challenging but it's an indispensable part of the learning process. Here's our LXX class composing sentences in Greek today.

We are learning by doing. This is how learning works best. This is how I learned to drive a car and play the ukulele and the guitar and the piano and the trumpet. It encourages proficiency even as it creates tons of frustration. I am convinced that most Greek students can learn to write in another language with the help of a tutor. The next time we meet I plan on having the class compose in both Hebrew and Greek. This little exercise forces us to think about syntax, the use of pronouns and their antecedents, primary and secondary clauses, etc. In my years of doing this I have noticed that the biggest challenge lies in the students' lack of self-confidence and their inability to think in both the target and the receptor languages. Idioms are often the greatest roadblocks. If, for example, I were to ask you to write "For you the war is over" -- the famous greeting offered to practically every allied airman surrendering to the Germans in World War II -- only the most adept student would know to write, "Für Sie ist der Krieg vorbei." But even those who feel extremely inadequate at first gradually gain self-confidence. We learn by doing. First attempts will likely be quite bad, but effort is always rewarded.

8:50 AM Quote of the day (C. S. Lewis):

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

8:46 AM You can have a "paper perfect" church and still fail its Chief Commissioner. Your blog posts about the church may challenge tradition but if they do not equip for service they fail. If the impression you give is that holiness is having "my kind of church," then it needs to be unlearned.

Tuesday, February 24

7:04 PM Someone texted me today:

Started reading Campbell's book on Advances in the Study of Greek and found that he's quoted your "Linguistics" favorably!

Quite a nice compliment, eh? It's so wonderful to see the advances being made today in the field of New Testament Greek studies. Well, mostly wonderful. There have been a few public squabbles I haven't cared too much to watch, but by and large things are boding well for our field. That said, I offer a few imprecise and speculative predictions of what we might expect to see in the next few years. I offer these as someone who is certainly no prophet nor the son of a prophet and as someone who even works for a non-prophet organization. They are:

1) I predict that the whole concept of "deponency" will be "laid aside" (Latin, deponere) in all grammar books.

2) I predict that the verbal aspects will be acknowledged to be three in number and will be called imperfective, stative, and perfective.

3) I predict that the Koine Greek verb system will be vindicated as time-based in the indicative mood.

4) I predict that more and more teachers will integrate the "Living Language" approach with their classroom instruction.

5) I predict that more and more students will be self-taught.

6) I predict that some of the more recently-published introductory grammars will fail to become widely used because they are weak pedagogically, i.e., they are more complicated and lengthier than they need to be.

7) Finally, I predict that the verb system will continue to be introduced in the indicative mood (rather than in the infinitive, where it logically should be introduced).

I know. I know. Pure speculation. But I must say: I am grateful beyond words for (and a bit stupefied by) the advances being made in a discipline that has turned out to be a fairly major emphasis in my own academic life. The future is bright, and all thanks and praise belong to God.

5:32 PM Another reminder about the importance of proofreading (check the Greek).

This mistake appears in a book published by Brill no less. The essay had two authors; the book had two editors. The lesson? Egregious errors of this kind are both inexcusable --  and probably unavoidable!

5:25 PM Thought for the day (David Livingstone):

God had an only son and he was a missionary. A poor, poor example of him I am. But in this work I now live. And in this work, I wish to die.

His tombstone describes him with three words: Missionary, Traveller, Philanthropist.

5:22 PM What I'm reading tonight:

For an excellent discussion of the book, go to C-Span

11:40 AM Campus is closed today due to the snowy weather. Be safe out there yall! Below: Niagara Falls from a drone.

6:26 AM What I'm reading: The Company of the Committed by Elton Trueblood. The subtitle is "A bold and imaginative re-thinking of the strategy of the Church in contemporary life."

6:20 AM "I've never let my school interfere with my education." Mark Twain. 

6:14 AM Why study Greek?

I therefore emphatically agree with the old Scottish proverb that says: "Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place. But it is not at the head of the cross, where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Jesus."

Read Letter to My Greek Students.

Monday, February 23

6:02 PM The winner of our contest is Jeff, who submitted the following caption: 

"Yes, lamb chop, I will still love you, even when you're baaaaaaad."

The book will go out in tomorrow's mail. My thanks to everyone who played.

5:52 PM I'm in a crazy, sentimental mood tonight. How I love my girl!

And I'll
Never be the same without you here
I'll live alone
Hide myself behind my tears
No I'll
Never be the same without your love
I'll live alone
Try so hard to rise above

What a terrific song. Thank you, Christopher Cross. As for you, my sweet Becky: My heart is wrapped around your memory. There is simply no escaping that fact.

How beautiful you are my darling! Oh how beautiful! You have stolen my heart with one glance at your eyes. (Song of Songs 4:1, 9.)

And now back to our previously scheduled programming ....

5:24 PM "What are the essential doctrines of Christianity?" This is the topic of discussion at a Google Hangout tomorrow night at 8:00 pm that promises to be most interesting. More details at Allan Bevere's website.

5:08 PM A thousand thanks to my daughter Kim and her kids for coming to the farm today and helping me clean the house. I hope you enjoyed Papa B's sloppy joes. I love you!

4:10 PM Just arrived: 

1:45 PM Say hello to our new babies.

8:52 AM Must-watch video: The brother of two Christians slain by terrorists prays for their killers on air. The Jesus Movement is an irresistible revolution because of men and women like this. Confessing Jesus as Lord is essentially a political act. A Gospel that doesn't ascribe complete and total allegiance to the Savior is no Gospel at all. What a dramatic challenge to our typical platitudes: "God bless America -- and don't forget to vote for me." 

8:22 AM I snapped this pic of Sheba and Dayda at dusk last night. We were sitting on the front porch stoop enjoying the warmer weather.

They were staring at their cookies, which I was dangling just out of their reach and which they were just about to enjoy. I love their eyes. That's how a Christian should look when expecting the coming of Jesus. In a famous verse in Philippians, Paul says that we are to eagerly yearn for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (3:20). In a sense, the entire creation -- doggies included -- are eagerly looking forward to the day when Jesus restores all things. At that time, says Paul, our lowly bodies will become like His own glorious body, and we will be fully conformed to the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29). Adds John, "When He is revealed, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). Paul describes this fantastic transformation in great detail in 1 Corinthians 15.

So there you have it. Even the eyes of a dog can teach us something about the Christian life.

Sunday, February 22

5:58 PM Caption Contest:

Winner gets a free copy of Scribes and Scripture, the Greenlee Festschrift (with essays by F. F. Bruce, Keith Elliott, Moises Silva, and others). Submissions close this time tomorrow.

5:30 PM Quote of the day (G. K. Chesterton):

A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter.

Here's my "tax office":

It's making me go bananas, become a basket case, go bonkers, lose my marbles, take leave of my senses, and go around the bend -- all at the same time. I'd much rather be ....

10:12 AM Thom Rainer asks: Is It Time to Rethink Church Business Meetings? If you have an opinion, jump in. The comments are fascinating and thought-provoking. Here's one that grabbed my attention:

We now have one monthly “Elder’s Meeting” where the pastors meet with the elders to take the major decisions regarding vision, mission, ministries, finances, program, events, and suchlike, as well as to discuss key spiritual issues that might be affecting the congregation or leadership.

Then the writer adds:

... our leadership structure is modeled on the book of Acts as well as key parts of the rest of the NT that mention church structure, either directly or indirectly.

It seems to me that a leadership structure that is "modeled on the book of Acts" will not make a distinction between "pastors" and "elders," since the terms are used interchangeably. Pastors are elders are overseers, are they not? It's all very complex and sometimes ambiguous, but once we begin reading the New Testament for ourselves we have no choice but to wade through it all. May the Spirit guide us toward the best policy and help us to make any necessary changes!

9:28 AM Schedule note: I see that I will be teaching the Greek exegesis of Mark in the fall, as I requested. Class will meet every Tuesday evening from 6:30-9:20. Speaking of Mark, two more quick items:

1) Allow me to remind you of the forthcoming lecture in March titled "Who is Jesus according to Mark?" The date is Saturday, March 14, the place is Fort Worth, and the speaker is Adelo Yarbro Collins. My father-in-law and I plan on attending. Information here.

2) Last night I finished Lunn's The Original Ending of Mark. His case for authenticity is convincing. I hope all of you will take a look at it if you can. The book has the potential of becoming a consensus breaker.

9:14 AM Read Southwestern acquires titles of noted Southern Baptist scholar. Feather in their cap for sure. I don't have many portraits on the mantle in my farm library, but the author of the "Big Grammar" is one of them.

And to think that he once studied on the very campus where I now serve. 

Saturday, February 21

6:02 PM Frozen Lake Rosewood:

Thankfully, it will be in the 50s tomorrow as we finally head into spring. The winter solstice is behind us, and the long dark nights are slowly receding. I'm looking forward to a busy year of teaching, writing, and travelling. How about you?

1:14 PM Last year at this time I was in California being interviewed by Don Stewart for Pastors Perspective.

It ought to be illegal to have so much fun. Don and I go away back. We even had Greek together at Biola. At any rate, to watch the interviews you can go to this page and scroll down.

1:08 PM I'm proofreading the final pages of my Spanish grammar. It's amazing how easy it is to miss something.

12:54 PM Been working on taxes all morning. Got a huge Charlie Horse between the ears. I quit! (For today.)

12:04 PM I've received the definitive answer to the "yup" versus "yep" question:

I use the word "Yeup."

7:42 AM If you're experiencing grief in your life right now, I invite you to watch this video. I did last night. It helped.

Loss is traumatic. No one can prepare you for it. But when it comes, you have to deal with it. Maybe you've lost a loved one, as I have. Or perhaps you've lost your health or your job -- or a dream. Remember: there's a difference between grieving and mourning. When we grieve, we internalize the loss. We look normal to others, but on the inside we carry the loss with us wherever we go. Mourning is something else altogether. When we mourn, we take our grief and express it, go public with it. Mourning is the outward expression of internal grief. Last night my grief gave way to mourning, again. I could no longer suppress my grief. I had to let it out. Becky's death was the most emotional experience I've ever faced. I cope with her loss in a way that is consistent with the way God made me: through music. There was no sobbing, just a great swell of emotion arising softly inside my soul and sticking to my throat. At the same time, I felt truly alive, truly human, truly cared for. Music is a gift of God. And tears are liquid love. For indeed, I love her still, as do many of you.

Maybe today is a good day for you to mourn again. And remember: We don't have to travel this path alone. In the beautiful words of Grace Noll Crowell:

Let me come in where you are weeping, friend,
And let me take your hand.
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours, can understand.
Let me come in -- I would be very still beside you in your grief;
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend,
Tears bring relief. Let me come in -- and hold your hand,
For I have known a sorrow such as yours,
And understand.

Love in the Lamb,

Dave

Friday, February 20

5:32 PM The dogs insisted on taking me for a walk today, so off we went.

Glad we did; this is what we found in our mailbox:

Looks like a good read. As long as there's a fire going in the fireplace. Accompanied by a hot cup of tea. :)

10:12 AM I have a very important question for my readers. It has to do with a word I often use when texting. Are you ready?

Is it "yep" or "yup"? 

You see, I've been having this debate with one of my sweet daughters who actually disagrees with me. My view is that either one is acceptable. Please give me the correct answer. (I.e., assure me that I'm right.)

10:04 AM Greek students of all ages and levels, don't forget Rob Plummer's "Daily Dose of Greek." He's started going through Mark -- one of my all-time favorite NT books (along with 26 others).

9:22 AM Well, folks, it's time to hang it up.

Time to put my vocation behind me.

Friday, April 10th is the day.

On that day I will march to the center of the village of Appomattox and stack my rifle and cartridge box, along with hundreds of other comrades-in-arms. Time to put the war behind us and start planting our summer crops. Thankfully, it's not far from Appomattox to my family farm in Nelson.

Historical imagination aside, this should be a fun event. Come out and see us if you can. Thursday is the surrender. Friday we stack arms. Saturday night is the period ball. Sunday morning is the church service. Both Union and Confederate camps will be open to the public. For three days I'll live in my dog tent and eat beef jerky and tell stories around the campfire and otherwise disappear into the 1860s. Reenacting is a wonderful hobby. It's also a mission field. So many of us are there trying to escape our problems by playing bang-bang on the weekends. So we'll see what the Lord has in store for this here old army private. We Americans have a rich history. That history has shaped us, often for good, sometimes for ill. "The past is not dead. It's not even past," said William Faulkner. Even today, there is a vacant chair in many a household due to the ravages of war. Even sadder, David's Son is standing outside and knocking at the door of many a home in America. He wants to come in and anyone can open that door. He enters as guest but remains as host.

If there is an empty place in your heart today, enthrone Him. You will not be disappointed.

8:50 AM It's 3 degrees right now and I've got ants in my kitchen. No wonder they're called superorganisms.

8:38 AM Smile!

8:25 AM Hello, my blogging buds,

It's freezing here. Literally. It was minus-1 this morning. I miss long walks on the farm. The trade-off is I get to catch up on my reading. Again, I'm pleased to commend to you Markus Barth's commentary on Ephesians.

I read his discussion of chapter 3 last night. Referring to Paul's self-deprecation in Eph. 3:7, Barth writes:

No loophole is left in this overly redundant diction for attributing to Paul any honor or dignity that belongs to God alone.

Whenever Paul speaks of his ministry, he can't help but speak of God's grace, his "gift" of apostleship, the fact that he was "made" (divine passive) a servant. For Paul, the essence of God's grace was his appointment to call others into God's fold, especially the Gentiles. 

[Grace] is not given to any man for personal salvation, enjoyment, and satisfaction only.

Then, in verse 8, Paul invents a word in the Greek to describe himself. "Least" is too weak a term to express his feeling of utter unworthiness, so he writes that he is the "leaster" (or "smallester") of all the saints.

Paul is not ashamed to place himself extremely low.

The reason, of course, is Paul's self-awareness that he had persecuted the church before becoming a Christian himself. To him -- of all people! -- missionary work was given.

In a church structured and ordered in a New Testament way, you will not see titles such as "lead pastor" or "senior pastor." The professional ministry model says, "Let those who lead bear titles of honor." A participation structure says, "We are all servants together of our one Lord and Master." As surprising as it might sound, Markus Barth, himself a member of a highly structured and organized denomination, argued that structures must be relational rather than organizational. Equipping in the church ought to be characterized more by participation than by representation.

One practical application of this might be asking the question of where leaders should sit during the service. I recall a time when leaders almost always sat on the platform during the entire service, usually in bulky chairs. I rarely see this today. Leaders sit with the congregation (of which they are a part) or with their families until it is time for them to exercise their God-given abilities in teaching or preaching. Professional thinking is being adjusted to a body life mentality. This is a healthy step forward. Why couldn't it be replicated on a grander scale? Couldn't your church website have a link called "Who is your pastor?" and when you clicked on it you read something like this:

Our Senior Pastor: Messiah Baptist Church does have a Senior Pastor. That person is the most qualified to lead the church. He is also the most effective in making decisions for the body. He consistently teaches us Scripture by the Holy Spirit. He loves the people of the church more than anyone else. He also models perfectly what it means to be a child of God. Finally, He holds us to a higher standard than anyone else is capable of doing. His name is Jesus Christ. He is our Chief Shepherd and our Overseer.

What, then, of elders?

The people of Messiah Baptist Church – after studying Scripture and spending much time in corporate and personal prayer – decided that Scripture models a plurality of men to be pastors or elders (we consider these terms to describe the same individuals and we use the terms interchangeably). The members look among themselves and recognize men who are qualified to be pastors/elders and who are living as mature followers of Jesus Christ. There is no hierarchy among our pastors/elders.

Notice how intentional this congregation is. The call to ministry comes to every believer. Let no one, therefore, deprecate a theology of the laity. All of life is ministry. It helps if the church acknowledges this in ways that are obvious. No leader should be ashamed to put himself "extremely low," as Barth says. No leader should attribute to himself "any honor or dignity that belongs to God alone."

Now, of course, changes like these can't be orchestrated. But progress can be made when leaders themselves begin to desire needed structural change. If change isn't from God, you might as well remain stuck in tradition. But if your church has the kind of people who want to be in earnest about following New Testament patterns for doing ministry, the principles are there. No structure lasts forever. Change is inevitable. Perhaps it's time to take a small step forward.

Blessings on you all,

Dave

Thursday, February 19

5:44 PM Quote of the day:

ISIS may be a perversion of Islam, but Islamic it is, just as Christian beliefs about the sanctity of the unborn child explain why some Christian fundamentalists attack abortion clinics and doctors. But, of course, murderous Christian fundamentalists are not killing many thousands of civilians a year. More than 80% of the world’s terrorist attacks take place in five Muslim-majority countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria — and are largely carried out by groups with Islamist beliefs.

Read Nonsense about terrorism's 'root causes.'

1:42 PM It's a mere 5 degrees outside (counting the wind chill factor) but since the ground is frozen it's a perfect day to move some hay. I've got an order for 13 bales today.

12:48 PM Great quote here:

Wesley insists that this grace [of sanctification] should be preached "always by way of promise; always drawing, rather than driving." This level-headed man gives further advice which is a safeguard against fanaticism: "I would be far from quenching the smoking fax — from discouraging those who serve God in a low degree. I would encourage them to come up higher, without thundering hell and damnation in their ears."

And here:

When Moses stood on Mt. Pisgah he didn't throw stones at his brethren on the plain below to get them to climb to those sunny heights.

Our Lord stressed again and again the high cost of following Him, but He was always gracious and kind toward the weak and heavy-laden. He says, "Come as you are," not "Come as you ought to be." Yet He adds, "When you come, I will change you from the inside out." What a merciful and gracious King we serve. 

12:34 PM If you're an American history buff, you are probably considering attending the final event of the Civil War sesquicentennial in Appomattox this year. The dates are April 8-12. For a complete list of events, go here. Lee surrenders to Grant on Thursday the 9th, while the Confederate forces stack arms (and the Federal forces salute them by order of Union General Joshua Chamberlain) on Friday the 10th. By the way, I read that West Virginian Al Stone is retiring this year from his role as Robert E. Lee.

The 150th Appomattox event will mark the final time Al dons the Confederate commander's uniform. I have admired and respected the great work Al has done in the reenacting community for some 20 years and wish him well in his retirement in Florida.

And now for some laughs -- me as Lee (taken last August in Gettysburg).

The photographer said, "Look grim." So I looked grim! The photographer, of course, was none other than Rob Gibson, who is well-known for his Civil War portraits.

Next time you're on Steinwehr Avenue in Gettysburg, check him out. Watching Rob work is half the fun!

9:40 AM To all of my Chinese friends both here and abroad:

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

9:22 AM Lecture announcement:

The Biblical Archaeology Society is pleased to invite you on behalf of the Catholic Biblical Association of America to attend a lecture by BAS senior editor Ellen White titled “Biblical Archaeology: Is It Really the Spade in One Hand and the Bible in the Other?”

Ellen White, Ph.D. (Hebrew Bible, University of St. Michael’s College), is the senior editor at the Biblical Archaeology Society. She has taught at five universities across the U.S. and Canada and spent research leaves in Germany and Romania. She has also been actively involved in digs at various sites in Israel.

The lecture will take place on Saturday, March 21, 2015, at 4 p.m. at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. The lecture is free and open to the public.

I am planning on attending, not least because of the speaker's obvious sense of humor.

9:10 AM Just read the excellent article by Ken Dark (Ph.D. in archaeology, Cambridge) in Biblical Archaeology Review called "Has Jesus' Nazareth House Been Found?" He toys with the question, Does the cellar of the Sisters of Nazareth Covent reveal the childhood home of Jesus? The original building was constructed by cutting back a limestone hillside and then adding rock walls. He dates the house "from the first century or earlier." Dark concludes that the building is probably "where the Byzantine church builders believed Jesus had spent his childhood in Nazareth." Dark also talks about the possible influence the city of Sepphoris might have had on Jesus' childhood. Sepphoris was located a mere 5 miles northwest of the sleepy hollow of Nazareth and was a major center of politics, culture, and art in Galilee. In his book Jesus and the Forgotten City (1991), Richard Batey argued that Sepphoris was Jesus' "city set on a hill" and that Jesus and His craftsmen father and brothers might have worked there in one of Herod's many building projects. I think this theory is possible if not plausible. For a synopsis of Batey's views, see his summary in the May/June 1992 issue of BAR.

Incidentally, today I finally got around to subscribing to BAR and its sister publication BR (Bible Review) online. It is well worth the reasonable subscription fee. The BAS Library Explorer contains a vast array of material on archaeology and biblical studies. If you're interested, the archives also includes a multi-part series I once wrote for BR from 1992-1994. The series is called "Greek for Bible Readers." Keith Schoville (Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison) wrote an accompanying series called "Hebrew for Bible Readers" that you might enjoy as well. Schoville is the author of Biblical Archeology in Focus (Baker).

Below: The Sisters of Nazareth Convent.

Wednesday, February 18

8:30 PM I stumbled upon this picture of Becky tonight. It was taken at Nate and Jessie's wedding.

I gaze at it, as enthralled as when I first laid eyes on it. Becky was a woman of prayer, that's for sure. I'll never forget that about her. She was famous for her intercession -- what Elizabeth Elliott once called "the hardest work in the world." For whom are you praying tonight? Would you include me please? Pray that He would deliver me from the din and racket of life, grant me the strength that comes from quietness, and continue to put a song of praise in my mouth even though I still feel her loss deeply. Thank you.

8:10 PM As I said earlier, I've been reading Barth's classic commentary on Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Once again I'm completely blown away by the author's astuteness, brilliance even.

His section on Eph. 4:11-13 deserves a reading by every Christian. Let me try to summarize it for you. Remember, Markus Barth was no conservative evangelical. He wasn't a Southern Baptist. He was a professor in a Reformed university in Basel. Yet above all he was a biblicist. At some point, you are I are going to have to become the same thing. But to my summary:

1) Barth argues that Eph. 4:11-13 is a locus classicus on the church -- its order, origin, design, etc.

2) By separating "the equipping of the saints" and "the work of the ministry" by a comma (as in the KJV), we miss Paul's point completely. It leads to an aristocratic and ecclesiastical interpretation that falsely distinguishes between the mass of "saints" and the superior class of "clergy" who are distinct from them. In this view, laypeople are only the beneficiaries of the work of the ministry; they may benefit from it, but only official ministers can carry it out.

3) The ministries of verse 11 are given to the church so that the saints can become equipped to carry out works of service and thus allow the light of God's goodness to shine in a dark world. "All the saints (and among them, each saint) are enabled by the four or five types of servants enumerated in 4:11 to fulfill the ministry given to them, so that the whole church is taken into Christ's service and given missionary substance, purpose, and structure."

4) Barth thus challenges the prevailing "aristocratic-clerical and the triumphalistic-ecclesiastical" interpretation of 4:11-13. These interpretations are nothing other than "arbitrary distortions of the text."

5) There is, therefore, no biblical distinction between clergy and laity. "Rather, the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for a ministry to and for the world." This means, among other things, that we can't reduce church members "to the rank of mere consumers of spiritual gifts," nor can we view the church as turned in on itself.

6) Each one of the saints is a recipient of grace from on High. They should also be dispensers of grace. Even the weakest members of the body are indispensable.

7) What, then, of the special call to "the" ministry? "There is but one calling or vocation valid in the church: the call of God into his kingdom."

8) This is not to undermine the necessity for special ministers. "Their place is not above but below the great number of saints who are not adorned by resounding titles. Every one of the special ministers is a servus servorum Dei [a servant of the servants of God]."

9) This means that the main ministry of the gathered church is mutual edification. "There are needy people inside the church -- and 'the lonely men at the top' may well belong among them."

10) As for honorific titles, Barth argues against their use. "Divers books of the NT show that all 'clerical' titles available from Israel's history and literature have been conferred upon Jesus Christ and comprehended in him."

I love Barth. I loved him when I sat in his lectures and seminars in Basel and I love him now. He never treated faith in an abstract, theoretical way. Yes, the church needs specialized and gifted leaders. Paul says as much in our text. But the call of God to fulltime Christian service comes to every believer who has ears to hear. We are all "joints" in the body of Christ and connected to each other. We may therefore choose to either edify or ignore our calling. Will I abdicate my responsibility to the leaders or will I build up the body by building up this brother or that sister? The special ministers of the church may model equipping for us, but we can never delegate this work completely to them.

How to flesh this out? Perhaps we could begin here:

I know this looks radical, but that's what the church is supposed to look like! I think you'd have the most interesting church marquee in town. And the glory would all go to Jesus. And even non-believers might be curious enough to darken your doorsteps. And the kingdom of God would advance.

6:30 PM Food for thought:

Q2: Why does NHCO have so many different speakers giving messages on the weekend?

A: The primary reason is that it trains us to hear from the Spirit of Jesus rather than become tied or enamored with any one personality. The Corinthian church was divided in this way between their favorite Christian personalities and Paul rebuked them for this. A second reason is that it allows for future generations of preachers to train and gain experience.

This comes from the New Hope of Central Oahu site. What do you think?

5:20 PM What I'm reading: Ephesians 4-6 by Markus Barth. 

5:10 PM The sun shone today.

For a while.

 

It's snowing again :)

12:20 PM My favorite books on George Gordon Meade, who decisively won the greatest battle in the Western hemisphere. The first is the best.

  • Tom Huntington, Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg

  • John Duke Merriam, Meade's Reprise

  • Brevet Lieutenant Colonel George Gordon Meade, Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade

  • Freeman Cleaves, Meade of Gettysburg

12:13 PM Would love to attend this conference.

10:54 AM From my morning Bible reading:

Dey not right kine peopo. Dey ony do pilau kine stuff. Dey greedy guys. Dey get pilau attitude. Dey all jealous. Dey like kill peopo. Dey like go beef everybody. Dey sneaky buggas. Dey ony tink bad kine stuff. Dey tell stuffs dey not suppose to bout da odda guys. Dey talk stink. Dey everytime stay huhu wit God. Dey tink dey so high makamaka, so dat peopo no can come by dem. Dey tink dey it. Dey talk big. Dey try figga how dey can make everyting hamajang. Dey no do wat dea mudda-fadda guys tell um fo do. Dey no like undastan notting. Dey make promise, but dey no keep um. Dey no mo love an aloha, an dey no give chance notting.

So writes Paul in Romans 1. I appreciate the ability of Hawaiian Pidgin to get to the point. Growing up, this was our "lingua franca." I still love reading and speaking it today.

10:30 AM What I'm reading: Keep It Shut: What to Say. How to Say It. And When to Say Nothing at All. It's by Karen Ehman. I'm on the section called "Blog Blather." Uh-oh.


 

Tuesday, February 17

7:08 PM Quote of the day: 

Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε. τὸ ἐπιεικὲς ὑμῶν γνωσθήτω πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις. ὁ κύριος ἐγγύς. μηδὲν μεριμνᾶτε, ἀλλ’ ἐν παντὶ τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ τῇ δεήσει μετὰ εὐχαριστίας τὰ αἰτήματα ὑμῶν γνωριζέσθω πρὸς τὸν θεόν. καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν φρουρήσει τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν καὶ τὰ νοήματα ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

6:52 PM There is one calling, no matter how diverse our spiritual gifts. If God has called you, then you are already "in the ministry." 

6:44 PM Boy did this story tug at my heart.

6:33 PM Craig raises the million-dollar question

6:22 PM Time flies. Tempus fugit. Just think of all the "time passages" you've experienced.

If we are slow getting into action for the Lord maybe it's because we don't realize what time it is. Our Revolutionary forebears were called "Minute Men." We are to be "Last Minute Men." Blessed are those who, under God's guiding hand, buy up the time.

2:20 PM Alex Montoya of the Masters Seminary sent along this kind endorsement of our forthcoming grammar in Spanish:

La iglesia del mundo hispano sera bendecida grandemente con estra traducion del magnifico libra de David Alan Black al espanol.  Lo recomiendo para todo estudiante del idioma del Nuevo Testamento en el conocimiento del Palabra de Dios y preparacion del ministerio a Su sagrada iglesia.

Humbled and grateful.

2:10 PM Anticipating the snow and ice event, I left for campus yesterday to beat the storm. One of my Th.M. students had his oral scheduled for this morning and had come all the way from Washington State for this meeting, so it needed to happen. And it did, praise God! He passed with flying colors. On the left is one of his persecutors (Old Testament prof Heath Thomas).

Tracy McKenzie (another expert in the Hebrew Bible) joined us via Face Time. Heartiest congratulations to Jacob Cerone for producing an excellent thesis and for defending it so well. By the way, this is what the campus looked like this morning when I tried to walk from my dorm room to my office.

Nothing but ice. But the Lord sent along angels in disguise -- two guys who work on the grounds crew -- and they grabbed me by the arms and led me across campus safely. (Picture Moses with Aaron and Hur.) As more snow is predicted for tomorrow I decided to brave the roads and return to the farm today. A big shout out and thank you to both the NCDOT and VDOT for clearing the roadways so well.

In the middle of all of this, I did something last night I hadn't done in years. I watched TV. A program snuck up on me and now has me hooked. It's on C-Span 2 and it's called Book TV. Great stuff! I saw interviews by the authors of 13 Days in Benghazi, Guantanamo Diary, and The Man Who Would Not Be Washington. The first book shares the horrid details of what happened when the U.S. Consulate in Libya was attacked two years ago and how woefully (and inexcusably) unprepared we were to defend our ambassador there. The second book tells an equally horrid tale of injustice and cruelty. (Terrorism is terrible, yes, but surely we can combat it in ways that are in keeping with American values.) The last book tells the story of a reluctant warrior (Robert E. Lee) whose decision to leave the Union Army in 1861 was anything but easy. I've already ordered all three books through Amazon.

So.

Yeah.

TV does have it salutary properties after all.

Monday, February 16

10:35 AM Praying for the persecuted church?

10:28 AM What I'm reading: The Spirit-Controlled Woman. It includes an interesting chapter called "Temperament and Your Love Life"! Walking in the Spirit is the foundation for our relationship with others. I shudder to think of all the times I have grieved the Holy Spirit because I have not "walked in Him."

10:22 AM If you're interested in Gettysburg, here's a must read: The Widow and Her Farm. I snapped this picture of the Leister farm last August:

The site is off the beaten path but well worth a visit.

10:08 AM Interesting quote (source):

I am a bi-vocational pastor in a small urban church in a low-income multi-ethnic community (hilltopurban.org). For our first 26 1/2 years we had a full-time professional pastor. As we learned how to grow indigenous leaders from our neighborhood, he came to feel that he needed to leave if our leaders were to truly step up and take full responsibility for leading the church. He left 20 month ago. I became head of staff, but chose to not use the title Senior Pastor, as the pastoral responsibilities were being shared by about 10 people whom we call shepherds (the leaders of our house churches), and I am not even the leader of the Shepherd Team. One of our other shepherds is. Also, the teaching/preaching is shared by a number of people. I preach about once a month.

At first after our pastor left, when people would ask, "Who is your pastor?" our leaders would say, "We don't have one." But they soon learned to answer, "We have ten pastors, and you're looking at one of them."

This has been such a healthy transition for our church. I think all of our shepherds agree that we have seen more life transformation, including more baptisms, in the past two years than in any other time in our church's life. This could not have happened so long as we saw pastoring as something that is done mainly by professionals.

This pastor has found in Christianity a much different model of leadership than is practiced in most churches. The church is a theocracy with Christ as the only head of the body and with leadership provided through "elders among the people" (Phil. 1:1) who encourage the ministry gifts given to the whole church. In this model, all the people of God -- clergy and laity alike -- are elevated to their true dignity as ministers of Christ.

What think you? 

Sunday, February 15

8:10 PM What I'm reading: Markus Barth on Paul's prayer in Eph. 3.

7:48 PM I know it's going down to 9 degrees tonight but I still feel like having an ice cream sandwich. 

7:18 PM Just ordered Elton Trueblood's classic The Company of the Committed. Couldn't believe I didn't already have this book in my library. Trueblood was known for his love for the local church and for every-member ministry.

The more we study the early Church, the more we realize that it was a society of ministers. About the only similarity between the Church at Corinth and a contemporary congregation, either Roman Catholic or Protestant, is that both are marked, to a great degree, by the presence of sinners.

7:10 PM It's no longer a fad.

Social media is no longer a fad. It is established in our culture. And churches should do everything they can to engage the public in this forum. As of January 2014, 74% of all adults who have some sort of presence online use social media—your church needs to be accessible there.

Read the entire essay here.

5:45 PM I see that Harry Pfanz has died at the age of 93. Pfanz authored a trilogy of books on Gettysburg:  Gettysburg: The First Day, Gettysburg: The Second Day, and Culps Hill and Cemetery Hill. Prior to his retirement, Pfanz served as the Chief Historian of the Gettysburg National Military Park and as the Chief Historian of the National Park Service. Pfanz was one of my favorite Civil War authors. Anyone wanting to truly get to know this battle must read his books.

5:36 PM Chapel note: This Tuesday Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Seminary, will be speaking. He has authored several excellent books on missions and global evangelization, including Invitation to World Missions: A Missiology for the 21st Century.

1:24 PM This morning, as I was driving to meet with the congregation in North Carolina I'm privileged to be a part of, there were branches scattered along the road because of the 40-mile per hour wind gusts we experienced last night in Southside Virginia. I thought to myself, "What would it look like if the Holy Spirit were to invade our churches?" Wind is a very powerful force, but what do its aftereffects look like? I imagine the evidence might be dramatic changes. On the other hand, I wonder if the Spirit doesn't often move in more subtle ways. This passage came to mind:

The risen Christ gave as gifts to His church apostles, prophets, evangelists, as well as pastors and teachers. Their purpose is to prepare God's people to serve and to build up the body of Christ. This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God's Son, until we become mature, until we measure up to Christ, who is the standard. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed and carried about by all kinds of teachings that change like the wind. We will no longer be influenced by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray. Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head. He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

"As each and every part does its job...." Could this be what revival might look like in our day and age? A revival of quiet and simple service to God and to others? Truly this wind is contrary to so much of modern teaching that emphasizes professional ministry. We are so often wrong in our presuppositions. Moses didn't draw up a blueprint for the tabernacle and then present it to God for His approval. God's idea of "worship" may be far different from ours. It's high time we reported to Headquarters and took our marching orders from the Commander-in-Chief. One would think that out of sheer desperation we would see our churches filled with common ordinary men and women humbling themselves before God and seeking His method for doing ministry. The only answer to our apathy is a great awakening in which the Spirit of God blows on His church. And perhaps the greatest evidence for His moving among us will be in the monotonous trudge of our daily lives.

10:15 AM Program note: Don't forget the concert next Saturday at Duke Chapel featuring Stile Antico.

Stile Antico, a superb twelve-voice British chamber choir, return to Duke Chapel for a candlelit concert, In Pace: Music for Compline. Hailed for their masterful interpretations of renaissance and baroque choral music, they are winners of a Gramophone Award and a Diapason d’Or for their recordings on Harmonia Mundi. The performances of this exceptional ensemble have been lauded for their liveliness, expressive lucidity, and imaginative response to text. The New York Times called them “an ensemble of breathtaking freshness, vitality, and balance.”

For details, go here.

9:35 AM In natura tranquillitatis est – "In nature there is tranquility." Glad to be back home on the farm. I just can't get used to the traffic in northern Virginia, or in Raleigh for that matter.

9:30 AM For a while now an idea had been forming in my subconsciousness. Yesterday I allowed it to rise to the surface and examined it. The idea was this:

Greek can't be taught.

Now, I say that as someone who has been "teaching" Greek for 38 years. Greek can't be taught. It has to be learned. There are several implications of this:

1) Teaching can take place without learning taking place. It's like evangelism. You can share the Lord with others but you can't force their conversion. That's up to God. Likewise with teaching. You can teach without people learning anything. I see this all the time. In the past few months I have run into several of my former students. They have had at least three semesters of Greek. They are all currently pastoring churches. Yet each confessed to me, "I may have consulted my Greek once or twice in the past few months, but that's about it." Each admitted to me that they could barely read a word of Greek. But I had "taught" them Greek, hadn't I? Yes and no. Learning depends on the learner as much it depends on the teacher. Which brings me to my second point.

2) All learning is self-learning. This happens even in Greek class or in your typical lecture. We listen selectively, we remember selectively, we retain selectively. Another way of putting this is: Learning is not method-dependent. A person can learn how to read Greek regardless of the method. There is no single method of teaching Greek that works for everyone. On the other hand, it seems to me that learning can take place no matter what method is used -- the traditional approach, the living language approach, or a combination of the two. No method can guarantee learning. The same holds true for textbooks and teachers.

3) This means, thirdly, that there is no magic "key" to Greek pedagogy. There aren't any "five easy steps." No gimmick works to ensure that our students "get it." Without the motivation to acquire and retain a language, nothing of lasting value ever happens. The only reason I have maintained my Greek or my German (or whatever other language) is because I have an intrinsic desire -- a God-given passion even -- for languages. Sometimes people will ask me, "Well, languages come easy for you, right?" Not really. I have no special language aptitude. Language acquisition is hard work for me. Always has been. But it has been joyful work, so joyful in fact that it has never really seemed like work at all. I can take no credit for this. God is the one who grants us both the desire and ability to do anything (Phil. 2:13). If you have learned a foreign language, thank God for it: it is a gift from Him. Your mastery might lie somewhere else. No matter; they are all God's good and perfect gifts (James 1:17).

4) "But isn't there one trait that stands out among those who have acquired mastery of a foreign language?" I believe there is, and I can illustrate it by sharing with you a story from the Battle of the Wilderness that occurred in May of 1864. On the morning of May 7, both armies lay panting like two exhausted prize fighters. They had just fought it out in the thickets near Chancellorsville. The battle had been a tactical draw. 30,000 men lay dead or wounded. Union corps commanders were awaiting the inevitable command to retreat back across the Rappahannock, as on every former occasion. Instead, Grant ordered his troops to move south toward Spotsylvania Court House. He was determined to "fight it out on this line if it took all summer."

Grant's strategy was a simple one. Through dogged perseverance he would grind down the Confederate army by waging a war of attrition. It worked. "Our spirits rose," recalled a Union veteran who remembered the moment as the turning point in the war.

If you love something, if you're passionate about what you're doing, you'll get it done. It's called perseverance. "Find what you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life." That has been true for me. But it is the blessing of God. Yes, language acquisition comes at a price. But only the Lord can put a love in your heart for Greek. If you discover such a passion residing deep in your heart, thank Him for it. If your passion lies elsewhere, thank Him for that too.

Saturday, February 14

6:46 PM And now for something completely different. Well, maybe not so different after all, since I'm always talking about my Virginia travels. But at least we can talk today about different venues. As you know, I left Rosewood Farm yesterday morning in order to visit the Wilderness Battlefield, to find Ellwood Manor, and to have Valentine's Day lunch in Fredericksburg with my daughter who lives in DC. I could write an entire novel on how incredible this trip was and how obvious God's hand was on it. On the drive north I decided to pass through historic Farmville, where I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the Riverside Cafe.

Sure enough, the diner lived up to its reputation on Trip Advisor and Yelp. Great food, a super kind staff, and a warm fireplace to sit next to on a very cold day. The mural behind me depicts the Battle of High Bridge which took place in Farmville in April of 1865 during Lee's Retreat.

Then I drove north to Orange and Gordonsville, where I visited the old train station and snapped this caboose pic for my grandson Nolan (who, like his dad, is turning into a world-class train buff).

When I eventually arrived at the Wilderness Battlefield I made a beeline for Ellwood, where Jackson's left arm is located. Jackson's chaplain Beverly Trucker Lacy took the severed arm to his brother's farm at Ellwood and buried it there.

The house itself was built in 1790 and has been immaculately preserved.

Robert E. Lee's father is said to have written his memoirs in an upstairs bedroom, and the Marquis de Lafayette ate in the downstairs dining room during his triumphant tour of America. The entrance was closed off so I had to walk about a half mile to reach the site, but it was well worth the effort. When I finally arrived in Fredericksburg I went straight to the Bed and Breakfast I had reserved for the night.

My thinking is, Why stay in a modern hotel when you can relive the 19th century?

Finally, since it's George Washington's birthday on Monday, today I decided to visit Ferry Farm, just across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg. Here Washington spent his childhood (and hacked away at some of the bark on his father's prized cherry tree).

The Visitor's Center, normally closed, was open just for the weekend and features artifacts found on the property as well as an archaeological lab.

George himself just happened to be present, and he and I got into a long but cordial discussion about the propriety of armed rebellion against legitimate authority.

Currently the George Washington Foundation has plans to rebuild Ferry Farm according to precise dimensions. They hope to begin construction this year, so if you feel like making a donation, go here. I fully support this worthwhile venture.

As I was driving north yesterday I had a brainstorm. I remember exactly where I was at the time -- crossing the Appomattox River just north of Farmville on the James Madison Highway. I'll relate this rather profound (well, profound to me) thought with you tomorrow. It has to do with Greek and General Grant -- an interesting combo to say the least!

Friday, February 13

9:20 AM Quote of the day (John Frey):

I think the evangelical tendency to obsess over the Apostle Paul and his letters for local church life has created this visionless, pastoral inwardness. Pauline-obsessed pastors may demonstrate this “I’m-in-my-study-don’t bother me” ivory tower view of the pastor more than anything you will find in the life and ministry of Jesus. Shepherds, pastors worth their salt, leave the flock, weather the storms, fend off the dangers, even laying own their lives if necessary. Pastors are, in essence, risk-takers.

Pastors: You can't lead by words only. Get involved in missions personally and lead the charge. 

9:16 AM Can't wait to get my grubby hands on this.

For an overview of Vanhoye's approach to the structure of Hebrews, see The Problem of the Literary Structure of Hebrews: An Evaluation and a Proposal.

9:12 AM Chris White has uploaded an outstanding series of videos on beginning Greek. (Of course, he uses the correct textbook!) Check out his review of demonstrative pronouns here

Thursday, February 12

9:54 PM Just booked my flight to Hawaii in May. Staying on Ulupa Street in Kailua, not far from my old stomping grounds. Can't wait to be a fulltime beach bum again and surf from dawn till dusk.

Below: With the vice principal of my old high school last July.

Hawaiians are the nicest people!

7:58 PM Tweeting a Greek synopsis of the Gospels.

Check it out here.

There are so many good, God things happening in the field of New Testament Greek it boggles the mind.

7:40 PM Love my boys! 

4:45 PM This and that ...

1) One of yesterday's presenters in our LXX class has blogged about his experience here.

2) Ready for a good laugh? Read If All Bible Translations Had A Dinner Party.

3) Uplifting tribute to fellow Neutestamentler Bob Culver: The Old Man and His Big Book. Imagine -- a New Testament scholar who lives on a farm!

4) I sent my first year Greek students home this weekend with their first take-home exam of the semester. Praying they do well. To all of my hard-working Greek students: Here's wishing you a wonderful Greekend! 

5) I plan to make a quick tour of the Wilderness Battlefield tomorrow along busy Route 20. This is where Grant and Meade began trailing Lee's army in the spring of 1864. The Wilderness was a terrible place to fight a battle -- as Lee well knew. Determined to strike at the Federals before they emerged from the tangle of woods and brush, Lee sent Ewell's and Hill's Corps after Meade. I've been to the battlefield many times but this time I want to see if I can find Ellwood, where Union General Warren had his headquarters -- and where Stonewall Jackson's arm is buried.

Lee's HQ was near the Widow Tapp's Farm --  a site famous for Lee's personal advance with his troops and their shouts of "Lee to the rear! Lee to the rear!" I enjoy these visits to Civil War battlefields, especially ones that are free of monuments. (Visitors to Gettysburg often joke, "Why didn't Meade's men just hide behind all the monuments?") The pressure to turn the Wilderness Battlefield into a subdivision remains intense. Who knows -- if I do locate Ellwood, a MacDonald's may be next door.

9:30 AM A friend sent me this email:

Saw on your blog that you were looking for Amos in the Pidgin Bible. Here it is! Looks like they are done with the OT.

Whew! I can scratch that off my list of things to do.

9:26 AM As I mentioned yesterday, I attended Daniel Block's lectures on worship this week. The talks were smoothly troweled and passionately presented. Daniel believes worship has three essential elements: Life, Cultic Service, and Disposition. He began by noting evangelicalism's "skewed preoccupation with music," which he felt was merely symptomatic of a much deeper problem. True worship, he insisted, involves acts of submission to God. I couldn't agree more. Yet his views on cultic worship I find a bit wanting. I don't mean to challenge Daniel, but I would note that there has been some lengthy conversation of late -- or even broadsides -- regarding whether New Testament worship can be defined as cultic. This is clearly seen in Brian Anderson's essay Discovering the Purpose of Church Meetings. This is not a call to return to some sort of "pristine" New Testament ideal. There is no such thing. But it is a call to biblical fidelity. A study of 1 Corinthians 14 and Hebrews 10 raises the possibility that the goal of the church gathering has quite a different purpose than either that of worship or evangelism, as Brian notes. In this sense there is a strong Anabaptistic impulse to view the New Testament as normative and to look at an Old Testament model of worship as anachronistic. Perhaps another way of saying this is that we need to realize, as Daniel himself pointed out in his lectures, that worship must never be equated with singing or praise music. At the very least, we must acknowledge that we come to the gathering as worshippers and not simply to worship. Of course, this is easier said than done, because each of us has become accustomed to thinking of worship as something we do on Sunday mornings during our "worship services." The practice of participatory meetings at its best builds on and reinforces Paul's teaching about spiritual gifts and the necessity of viewing every member of the body as essential to its growth. Just as in the seminary classroom it is important to champion a highly interactive teaching atmosphere that builds openness and willingness to learn from each other, so our gatherings as the body of Christ can be enriched by humble and thoughtful interactions with a diversity of perspectives and insights. Of course, this approach has its inherent limitations and risks -- which have been discussed by Alan Knox in his series on edification in the church. Participatory meetings can be "messy," as Alan and others have noted. Tragically, many church folk simply do not have a clue about what to do at church and how the exercise of their spiritual gifts may joyfully enhance their own lives and the lives of theirs brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course, I do believe that Daniel's emphasis on worship as "life" and "disposition" is indispensable for recovering a biblical understanding of worship. But in practice, it remains all too easy to resort to the "default" perspective of worship as an event.

Interested in viewing Daniel Block's lectures? Simply go here.

8:50 AM Last night I read a good book. A very good book. I liken a good book to a scrumptious three-course dinner. First, the appetizers. The forward is the soup, the introduction the salad. Then comes the meaty second course. The conclusion and afterwards are the dessert. Every book should be as delicious as this one was.

I also watched my favorite Hitchcock movie -- again. North by Northwest ranks in the Top Ten of my all-time favorite film classics. Two scenes drive the movie: the crop-duster scene, and the dénouement atop (a faux) Mount Rushmore. In fact, in its list of "1001 Greatest Movie Moments," Empire Magazine ranked the crop-duster scene as the best.

In the movie, the scenario is set in northern Indiana. It was actually filmed near Fresno, California. Here is the precise longitude and latitude.

If I ever get back to Central California, I will be sure to drive out there to stand where Cary Grant once stood. 

Wednesday, February 11

6:18 PM SEBTS Diary:

1) My office building. Don't believe I ever showed it to you before.

2) Enjoyed Daniel Block's lectures on worship this week. I'll share more with you tomorrow.

3) Harry Sturz's The Greek New Testament According to the Second Century. A thousand thanks to our library staff for acquiring it for me through ILL. My personal copy is still missing. (If you should have it, please return it to me.)

4) Yesterday both of my Greek 2 classes reviewed the indicative verb. Here I am sharing with them Jacob Cerone's excellent video series based on our beginning grammar.

5) Dinner last night with a good friend from Guyana.

6) This afternoon we enjoyed a wonderful tour of Amos 2 led by Matthew and Nathaniel of our LXX class.

7) They left no stone unturned.

Jet lagged. Going to bed.

Tuesday, February 10

7:48 AM Program note: Daniel Block in chapel today and tomorrow for the Adams Lectures.

7:45 AM Quote of the day (Laura Messamore):

The marriage relationship, much like the soul, is vulnerable and takes much tending. So I invite us all to consider, how can we honor our marriages as sacred space for forming souls? In what ways we can invite kindness back into our interactions with each other? How can our marriages become “seed beds” for our souls? And while married people have made a promise to behave this way, any loving relationship can create a context for soul care. How can we create a similarly loving environment toward our friends, co-workers, neighbors, and children?

Read Love is Kind: How To Intentionally Nurture A Marriage By Nurturing Souls.

7:42 AM Click here to find out what teachers make.

Monday, February 9

5:10 PM One of my wonderful daughters just sent me this wonderful link:

 6 Reasons Dads Should Date Their Daughters Before Anyone Else Does.

Awesome. Thanks, honey.

5:02 PM Learning is partly prophylactic. In the words of Chesterton:  

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

4:55 PM Finished reading Amos 2 in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. (I also tried Hawaiian Pidgin but it isn't available. Can you believe that? The Old Testament hasn't been translated yet! I might have to add that project to my list of things to do after retirement.) It's always amazing to me just how relevant the Old Testament is ....

1) In Amos 2, God condemns Moab because it violated the corpse of the king of Edom by burning it to cinders. ISIS is now the target of concerted bombing by both Lebanon and the Saudis because of its desecration of one of their coalition pilots. What goes around comes around -- or, as we used to say in balmy Hawaii, "Never spit into the wind." Washington knows full well it helped to create ISIS. Now we are paying the piper.

2) Israel is condemned for buying and selling people. For them, people were only things, a way of making money. As someone has put it, "They'd sell their own grandmother!" I snapped this picture in front of the Duke Chapel yesterday.

Last year the State Department issued a report about the evils of human trafficking in Thailand yet their government claims to be fighting human trafficking and forced labor? I don't get it.

3) The sins of Israel also included the way they would try to make their godly youth stop training in the things of the Lord and how they would even tell the prophets, "Don't you dare prophesy!" But God's not flustered. "You won't get away with it," says the Lord. "Off you'll be, running for dear life, stripped absolutely naked."

Here's the incredible thing in this chapter: if you look closely you'll see that "God's people" are the worst swindlers of all. My takeaway? If you're living for the Lord -- I mean really living for eternal things -- that's a miracle of God, pure and simple. It's totally a God thing, since we are all so prone to be self-centered and slothful and compromisers. When we give up our possessions for others, we're doing this by faith. The reality of the new birth is realized only when we allow ourselves to be dependent on God and then choose to live in radical dependence on each other. Funny how power and prestige lose their attractiveness when you're attracted to Jesus. Human trafficking is heartbreaking. But even more heartbreaking is our apathy. Without a doubt, the essential New Testament value is a political act -- envisioning a radical counter-culture called the kingdom. I am determined not to let this message of Amos slip through the cracks of exegesis and lexical analysis and translation techniques. We are called as Christians to be faithful not to the American Eagle but to a slaughtered Lamb.

Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Amos.

1:40 PM Translating Amos 2 (Hebrew and Greek) in preparation for Wednesday's LXX class. Plus doing 2014 taxes. Translating is easier.

1:04 PM Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, announces an opening in Biblical Studies (Religion).

12:58 PM Quote of the day:

So, this Valentine’s Day, celebrate love. If you are married, thank God for your spouse! If your spouse has passed away, you have every reason to thank God for the love you still share. If you are not married, then praise God for those in your life who are celebrating.

Read Celebrating Marriage on Valentine's Day.

11:08 AM Last night I took a couple of hours to get caught up with some of my journal reading. Volume 18 of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was dedicated to the theme of Christian suffering. Hooked! In his essay, "What Kind of Persecution is Happening to Christians Around the World?" Greg Cochran asks why more Christians in the West are failing to track the suffering of their brothers and sisters around the world. His answer is fourfold:

1) Western Christians simply fail to identity themselves with the persecuted church worldwide.

2) The topic itself is uncomfortable to talk about.

3) It requires hard work and research to investigate the details of incidents and ferret out exaggerated reports (think Brian Williams).

4) We Christians in the West suffer from what he calls "good cause" fatigue; we are so busy with all of our "causes" that persecution tends to be back-burnored.

The article goes on. Christians around the world "are suffering in numbers exceeding historic proportions." About one half of all martyrdoms in church history happened in the 20th century. Then he discusses the world's "hot spots" when it comes to persecution. He concludes that the purpose of his essay was to whet our appetites and create a hunger for this important subject. We are one with the suffering brethren around the world. We need to act that way.

Another great essay in SBJT was one written by my new colleague at SEBTS, Chuck Quarles. It's called Was Jesus an Open Theist? A Brief Examination of Greg Boyd's Exegesis of Jesus' Prayer in Gethsemane. Do Jesus' words confirm the classical view of divine foreknowledge? Yes, says Chuck.

Finally, in an issue of the Detroit Baptist Journal of Theology, David Doran describes the method of discipleship in the Great Commission, noting that it maintains a proper balance between proclamation and presence: "... we cannot fall prey to the idea that the Great Commission means evangelism alone, especially if it is cut off from discipleship." He then adds this powerful summary:

... the main, if not exclusive thrust, of any missions program must be on the establishment of long-term discipleship that results in an indigenous and self-perpetuating church movement.

Read that again. "Indigenous and self-perpetuating." Exactly! The fact is that God is already doing a wonderful work in, say, Asia by His Spirit in culturally acceptable ways, and the best we Westerners can do is to support what God is doing. Then we will be able to win lost souls instead of trying to add numbers and money to our own organizations.

Reading these essays will challenge your paradigms of what it means to be a "Christian" in the twenty-first century and expand your awareness of the actual persecution that is taking place in many parts of the globe. Let's take responsibility for praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters and humbly acknowledge our massive ignorance of their plight. The simple fact is that we are called to imitate Jesus, however difficult this might be. At the same time, we're called to take seriously sound theology. I deeply appreciate the tireless work of authors such as these to raise awareness in North America of the challenges that evangelicals face in terms of orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Sunday, February 8

6:14 PM Sunday Wrap-up: Got a sweet text yesterday from my granddaughter Katherine inviting me to hear her sing a solo in church today ... I told her I wouldn't miss it for the world ... then treated everyone to a Chinese buffet... and watched the kids trying out their new bows and arrows ... made a hospital visit in Durham ... and finally attended the Requiem at Duke. If I grieve it's not because I have no hope. I know Jesus. But the memory of what happened 14 months ago is still very much alive and sharp. Which is why I find myself inexplicably drawn to requiems and litanies. Far from being meaningless, pompous, and emotionally costly "ceremonies," services to memorialize one's loved ones have their place. When Stephen was martyred, "devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him." When Moses died, the people of Israel mourned for him for 30 days. Yes, I dislike ritual in general, but memorials can render "griefs more endurable" (C. S. Lewis). But I'm too tired to think right now, so I'll leave you with a short photo montage. Blessings! Dave

1) Miss Katherine singing "You are God alone, in the good times and bad...." Amen!

2) "Buffet"-ing our bodies.

3) I see the kids have mastered the use of chopsticks.

4) Target practice.

5) Bull's eye!

6) The chapel.

7) Reflecting on death and life everlasting.

9:12 AM Got three hours of sleep last night. I am a zombie.

9:02 AM Last night, on the recommendation of one of my daughters, I watched The Conspirator on Netflix.

As you know, President Johnson issued an executive order directing Lincoln's co-conspirators -- all civilians -- to stand trial before a military commission. Their alleged crimes were military in nature, he argued, and therefore they were "enemy belligerents" and not civilians. A military trial would ensure that the process remained under the War Department's control. Some, even in Johnson's cabinet, were opposed to trying the accused before a military commission, but Secretary of War Stanton insisted that a military court was the only proper authority for the trial. This theme was the heart of The Conspirator. The defense attorneys in the case argued strenuously against trying their clients in a military court as long as the civilian courts were functioning in Washington. Indeed, merely a year later the United States Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, would rule that U.S. citizens could not be tried by military tribunals in any jurisdiction where the civilian courts were open and functioning. Years later when John Surratt was tried in a civilian court as an accomplice in the murder of Lincoln, the trial ended with a hung jury and Surratt was set free. Mary Surratt, his mother and the first woman to be executed in the U.S., would likely have met a similar fate had she been tried as a civilian.

Any way you look at it, a horrid, sobering tale. I give it 3 stars (out of 4).

Your faithful movie critic,

Dave

Saturday, February 7

8:32 PM Kim and Joel wanted to have a little "Welcome Home" party for me tonight. We ate at one of South Boston's finer dining establishments.

Man, them onion rings were to die for!

Thanks for the treat, Bradshers!

4:30 PM Have you been outside yet? Gorgeous day!

My clock says it's 4:30 pm. My body says it's 4:30 am. I'm confused.

1:20 PM Been rethinking my life goals. My thinking is preliminary at this point, but here are a few ideas I've come up with:

1) I want to be the best classroom teacher I can possibly be.

2) I want to teach my students by example that Greek is about life and not about knowledge.

3) I want to mentor a future generation of Greek teachers and students who will far excel anything I have ever accomplished.

4) I want to support the work of my local church through (among other things) generous giving and prayer.

5) I want to be resilient when experiencing setbacks.

6) I want to promote a mission-shaped church movement in North America.

7) I want to mobilize Americans to support frontline missions, especially in India and Asia.

I will be 63 in June. At this season in my life I am adjusting to the aging process. In the words of Gail Sheeley, I am going through my "Second Adulthood." Since Becky's passing, I feel like I'm staking out a new identity. I have new passions and interests that are hard to describe, even to myself. My professional passion is teaching. But even more important than that, I want to begin passing the baton to the newer generation of Greek scholars. I savor every day. As I grow older I'm going to enjoy life. I'm going to travel. I'm going to enjoy the family God has given me. It's not about success or money. It's about redirecting and enjoying the process. The Irish poet Seamus Heaney put it this way:

-- to wake and know/Every time that it's gone and gone for good, the thing that nearly broke you --/Is worth it all ....

So ... what's your life vision? You might want to take some time and make a list similar to mine. Life is too short, and you are too important to God, to be uncertain about His plan for your life.

12:50 PM Greek students! This week we will review the indicative mood in its entirety (chapter 16 in our textbook). Want to get a head start? Check out Rob Plumber's video review

12:32 PM Honored to be asked to speak on global evangelization at the Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church, Dallas, TX, Friday, March 13. Exhiabiher malchameno, hulu gezay!

12:02 PM Just woke up. At least I'm productive at odd hours.

Friday, February 6

7:05 PM Quote of the day on leadership (Joel Bradsher):

What does this mean to us? God is less concerned, if not unconcerned, with degrees and accolades. His expectation is that His people have submitted hearts to His purposes, pursues His kingdom, and thus walks obediently with Jesus. Elders, pastors, and overseers, we must train and lead our people to understand that we are all ministers. The qualifying characteristic of such is a changed heart, a submitted will, and surrendered life which walks with Jesus. 

Read Qualifying degree: Walking with the King.

6:55 PM Journal announcement: The latest issue of the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal has appeared.

5:42 PM It's so good to be back to "normal"! I bought groceries today. Right now I'm washing and ironing my clothes. Looking ahead, I've got trips to DC and South Carolina planned for this month. I'm also working on my lectureship to be given at Mid-America Seminary April 14-15. My theme will be the downward path of Jesus. It's the path I've been on personally now for more than 15 years. Very imperfectly. But gradually Jesus rips your labels off and He becomes your only label. You are ready to become what He wants you to become -- loved by Him, called by Him, empowered by Him. The New Testament (in which I am supposedly an "expert"), in reality, has very little to do with academic arguments. Not that the synoptic problem or textual criticism are unimportant. Just read my books! But the church, including the New Testament guild, is in great need of rehabilitation today. When the Holy Spirit refocuses our eyes to see the joy of simply walking with Jesus daily, realizing that nothing we do is "secular," then we begin to worship God through our work and not worship our work. I want to be seen as a man who loves God more that anything else in the world. I want to be known as a scholar who fights for the poor and the unevangelized. I want to be recognized as a broken soul who has risen above heartache, who embodies the Gospel, and who inspires others to use their God-given abilities for His glory regardless of their vocation or location. I want to redefine "New Testament scholars" as those who first and foremost are His ambassadors to announce that the kingdom of God has come and that salvation belongs to the Lord alone. I want to see an academy that embodies generosity and defeats the American dream. As Jesus grabs our heart with His undeserved grace, we begin to see others through His eyes. We see life itself as a mission field. We even see our vocation as academics as one of advancing His kingdom.

Now to be perfectly honest with you, I'm not sure how well all of this will go down in Memphis in April. But I've been given carte blanche to speak on whatever subject I choose, so here goes. Yes, I could talk about manuscripts and mummy masks and a hundred of other timely topics, but honestly I'm too busy trying to represent the King to a fractured world that is riddled with invective and hate. If Karl Barth could say during his U.S. visit that "Jesus Loves Me This I Know" was the most profound thought that had ever passed through his brilliant mind, how much more should I? I love Jesus. I love Him because He first loved me. To love ourselves correctly we must love God wholeheartedly and love others sacrificially. That's the message of this thing we call the "New Testament" -- and hence that will be the thrust of my lectures on the New Testament. When you sign up to follow Jesus, He brands your soul with a new label: "Giver." That's your new identity in Christ. "Freely you have received; freely give." Simply put my friends, if New Testament scholarship gets this wrong, it gets everything wrong!

Which brings me to Arthur Sido's blog (love ya dude!). His site is basically a call to keep the kingdom the kingdom -- which is the quintessential message of Jesus. The revolution that Jesus unleashed into the world is a revolt against any human archy that opposes the downward path of Jesus we've been talking about. (If you're interested, see my Christian Archy.) Arthur's blog shines when it comes to this Gospel. The only standard that matters in the church is whether we're imitating Jesus (Nachfolge Christi) and obeying God. I'm proud and humbled to know several men and women who live this way. Many have forsaken professional advancement and privilege to advance the kingdom. I feel like I have a long ways to go to catch up with them. But I'm delighted that there are bloggers out there whose bantering cuts to the core of what's wrong with the church in North America. Think about this: If our churches ever stopped expecting God to act like a heavenly ATM machine and dared to form a vision of impacting the entire world for Christ, I believe we could reach the entire world with the Gospel in our generation. I mean that. God is calling every Christian -- each one of us -- to learn the secret of sacrificial service to a world in need -- not just in the emotions of our "worship" services but in humble, behind-the-scenes service to the body worldwide.

Ok. Moving on. I see that my "Down Under" friend Craig has linked to a superb article that says, in essence, writing is good medicine. This is so true. Just look at the Psalms. In the midst of our pain, God has a plan. It involves three things at least: tears, music, and transparency. Go on and cry. Let music soothe your heart. And if you can, share your grief with others, if possible through writing. Those who lose a loved one in death have a long journey of healing ahead of them. Somehow, oddly, miraculously, as you write about your grief, the pain subsides. Hope begins to replace despair. Yes, I realize that numbing can occur. We want to be ALONE. We feel detached at times from those around us, even our closest family members. That's normal. But it's unhealthy. Share your grief with others so that they can understand. And what of music? This Sunday I'll be back at the Duke Chapel. This one's a no-brainer for anyone who has lost a loved one:

Paul Hindemith: When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd (A Requiem for Those We Love)

In time I will give up my grief. But not now. It's too soon. At times, suffering even overrides the ability to pray. And so I mourn vicariously, through the music and words of others. And who knows how many of the singers and performers are going through their own suffering even as they sing and play their instruments? A public requiem is a reminder that we are not alone in our sadness. Others are acquainted with grief. They understand. They're sad with us. If you've been reading this blog since the beginning of our cancer journey, you'll remember how traumatic the diagnosis was for me. Yet in the past five years I have never seen so clearly God's heart for His children. God is not silent when we endure suffering. Nor is He idle. Humbled, I have watched Him grow me and stretch me as He takes the shreds of my life and begins to weave them into a beautiful tapestry. God is building me again from scratch, so to speak. My job now is to worship Jesus through my suffering and grief. And to write about it when I can. Like now. :)

So there you have it -- the bumbling cogitations of a jetlagged Greek prof. Could anything be more dangerous? Perhaps only the meanderings of a former doctoral student!

10:38 AM Just ordered.

Thanks, Craig, for the tip.

9:10 AM Who'd ever guess I just put 14,000 miles on this old bod? Here's to cycles of completion, the latest of which in my life right now was completing a beginning Greek course with a great group of students. The trip exceeded my expectations in every possible way. And then there was this serendipity. Yesterday I flew over the International Time Zone, an arbitrary line drawn somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. I have no idea where that famous line is, but I sure am glad it gave me an extra day to get settled back in here on the farm. Thanks and kudos to my son for watching over everything during my absence.

I enjoyed the break from blogging, enjoyed being incommunicado. Thank you so much for your prayers. Despite flying standby I was able to get a seat on all of my scheduled flights. I'll be back in May and September to teach syntax and then exegesis. Whenever I travel, I step out in faith entirely, as you do. Above all, I realize afresh the special calling of God on my life -- to make disciples of all the nations. It's sometimes easy to forget that this is the guy who dropped out of his beginning Greek class in college.

Papa God, I'm so thankful you use nobodies like me. Today I want to thank you for redeeming all of my weaknesses and failures and using them to exalt the character of your Son. By the Spirit's power, I look forward to the ways you will make yourself famous in me and though me this day. Right now, please help me to realize that I was sculpted for something more than work. I need rest, rest in your peace, rest in your rest-producing Presence, finding the sacred in my rest as much as I do in my work. Open my eyes to see the joy of who you are!

I love you,

Dave

Time to answer emails!

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