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Monday, May 4

5:58 PM A couple of completely useless and irrelevant notes:

1) The farm is ablaze in color. I love it!

2) Just prepared my meals for the week. Here's a sampler.

3) In case you didn't know, there's now a website that tracks emoji usage on Twitter. It tells you exactly how many (and which kinds) of emojis are being used that very second.

I use emojis all the time, but I've never used the gun. Gun did you say? What in the world ...??? I predict that "emoji" will one day be declared an official language. Why, we already have Moby Dick translated into this "language" (Emoji Dick), and don't laugh when I say that one day your favorite Bible verse will be available in "biblical" emoji.

Now close this webpage and go do something useful.

Yours truly,

Goofus

4:32 PM I see that Delta has me flying a 747-400 to Hawaii this month. Can anything in the air beat this jet? In the first place, I lean toward Boeing over Airbus. The Airbus 380 may be bigger and newer than the 747, but the 747 was the first giant passenger jet. Besides, it's just better looking. One of my favorite memories of flying is taking off at Honolulu Airport in August of 1971 aboard a brand new 747. As we rounded Diamond Head I could look down and see the beach where I grew up. Such happy memories.

Oh, I splurged a bit and will be able to enjoy the business class service. I plan on sleeping most of the way from Atlanta to Honolulu so I can surf that afternoon. Am I nuts or what?

3:55 PM Have you noticed? One of the few constants in life is change. Two years ago this month Becky and I were putting the finishing touches on the remodeling of Maple Ridge. Six months later she was in heaven. I guess I'm feeling a little pensive right now. I feel in limbo, in a kind of in-between stage of life, like when you're standing at the end of the high diving board and wondering if you'll ever be able to take the plunge.

I want to be on the other side of change, not constantly staring it in the eyeballs. Tooling around the web today I came across Gina Grizzle's post called simply Whatever. Her thoughts echo my own on this bright and sunny day in southern Virginia:

I have found a couple of bloggers during some really low points of my life over the past few years. The ability to peek into their lives and see their mess and yet their beauty has really been an encouragement to me. Many days, I just needed to know I wasn't dumb, defeated, dangerous to society, or deranged!

Whew. Now I know I'm not unique. Everyone who experiences loss goes through what I'm experiencing. I'm so blessed to have a family and my farm and the animals and a great job. All that being said, I'm not sure where I belong. I want to mean something, to do something crazy in my life and with my life. I've been around the world dozens of times but still I have this nagging urge to try something totally different, to leave the familiar behind and do something where I know my heart will be in my throat. I think, in the final analysis, what I'm afraid of the most is that I'll become irrelevant or that I'll be unable to cope with change or even that I won't make the change quickly enough. Today I was reading the author's preface to a book he'd just published about the Lord's Supper. In it he expresses appreciation to his siblings for standing by him when his son died -- and when his divorce occurred 6 months later. Who knows how one experience in our lives can set in motion a chain of events too horrible to contemplate? When we experience loss, that loss may appear to be random. But it wasn't. Everything in our lives fits a scheme that goes far beyond what our puny brains can dare to contemplate. I often picture my story of loss as fitting into a greater picture and a larger scheme -- most of which I know I'll never come close to fathoming. And so I choose to accept change. I choose to believe that my loss is part of something greater, something designed for me by God Himself. I sometimes reflect on Becky's death, placing myself again in the room and in those dark moments. My mind then takes me back even further into the past -- a reflection of some 60 years that reveal the story of a sapling being formed into a weathered and towering oak, and now that oak has died. Becky's life bore fruit until her works were complete, and then everything in her life spilled over into the next, pointing to reality as God sees it. Frederick Buechner once said, "Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey ahead." It is impossible to go back. Change cannot be reversed. We really must live in the present. Loss forces us to face ourselves as never before. It strips us of all the old familiar props we once relied on. It brings us to the end of the diving board -- or, if you will, to the beginning of a new adventure. It opens us to new ideas and we begin to perceive hints of what it means to be our true and deepest self.

So this is my life. It's quiet and noisy and happy and sad and peaceful and chaotic and same-old-same-old and always changing. It's not your typical life by any means, but I feel pretty blessed to have it.

9:14 AM Who can ever forget Lee's words on the first day of Gettysburg? Witnessing a Federal rout, he ordered his wing commander Richard Ewell to "take those hills if practicable." The "hills" Lee was referring to were, of course, Cemetery and Culp's Hills, to which the retreating Federals were repairing posthaste. Scholars have debated for decades the exact intent of Lee's use of the odd term "practicable." Did he mean "practical"? Or "feasible"? And why was he allowing so much discretion to Ewell, who was engaged in his first battle as a corps commander? Had the Army of Northern Virginia taken "those hills," who knows how the rest of the battle might have turned out for them?

As a student of language, one of my questions for a long time has concerned the use of the term "practicable" itself. I could find no precedent for it -- until yesterday. I've been rereading the story of the American Civil War and just came to the First Battle of Manassas. Union General Irvin McDowell's troops were descending on the Confederate forces along a creek called Bull Run, just north of the town of Centerville, VA. Confederate President Jefferson Davis had divided his forces in Virginia between those of Beauregard at Manassas (with about 22,000 troops) and Johnston at Winchester (with about 11,000 men). Anticipating an attack, at 1:00 am on July 18 Davis sent a telegram to Johnston:

Gen. Beauregard is attacked. To strike the enemy a decisive blow all of your effective force will be needed. If practicable, make the movement...."

Lee used the exact same word at Gettysburg two years later. The problem with the term is that it leaves matters in doubt. Generally speaking, an order by definition is distinctly either one thing or another thing. You either are to do this or that. The term "practicable" too easily allows for non-compliance -- which is exactly what Lee got on Day 1 of Gettysburg. Johnston, on the other hand, quickly moved his infantry toward the fighting, and it was his troops that saved the day for Jefferson Davis and the Confederates at First Manassas.

There is, of course, a place for discretionary orders. Life is rarely black and white. Thus Paul can write, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people" (Rom. 12:18). Paul's words are very wise. This is an age of placation. We go along to get along. We seek unity and eschew divisions, as we should. But not all relationships are reconcilable, try as we might to set things right. So much of the church today puts up with what God would put out. To be sure, we are to be cured of youthful rashness and impatience, but it is just as bad to allow an inoffensive acceptance of things that can and should be changed. The Gospel is repulsive to the senses of many people today, for there is nothing in it to appeal to the natural man. Moreover, even when we take the initiative, we can't control the decisions of others. Thus, while reconciled relationships are the heart of the Christian experience, they are not always possible. We can rejoice when a broken relationship has been restored. But we need not be disappointed into inactivity by a relationship that still needs time to heal. Life often challenges us, and we can either wallow in self-pity or we can allow the challenges of life to widen our perspective and deepen our faith.

Sunday, May 3

9:56 AM If there was ever a statement that drop-kicked consumerism in the teeth, this is it. The Baltimore Orioles played a game -- without any spectators. Wow. Even if no one is watching you, you need to step up to the plate.

My mind went to all of the saints who "play ball" without ever getting any attention or recognition. Many of them are housewives. Friend, let me encourage you. Your time, talents, and contributions are known to God. What you do is vastly important to Him. Millions of people exist only for the praise of others. If you and I do not allow God to develop our identity, we will try to find it in people and popularity. Finding your purpose in human praise is like building your life on the sand. I know of one young leader who is committed to his little flock not far from our farm. There he ministers, week in and week out, for no pay. He plays piano and leads the singing and teaches the word in what one might call "total obscurity." The people want to make him their "pastor" and pay him but he refuses. He will never write a best-selling book or be invited to speak in chapel. But I look up to him. I'm just trying to make the point that even godly Christian leaders can turn the church into marketers and people into commodities. Grow where you're planted. Serve in obscurity if that is what the Lord has asked you to do. Be an Andrew. The most famous thing Andrew ever did was to introduce his brother Simon Peter to the Lord. What if the greatest thing you ever did was to cause someone else to be closer to Jesus? No friends on Facebook. No followers on Twitter. But what could be more epic than pointing others to Christ?

8:25 AM Well, I woke up sore and barely able to move this morning. I need to get better at this balance thing. I love to work so much that I easily overdo it. Here's the thing. I know I'm 62 years old. I know I'm aging. But my heart and my mind and my entire outlook tell me I'm still 24. I can't help but think back to when we were building Bradford Hall or fencing in all 123 acres or constructing the outbuildings on the farm. Where in the world did I get the strength? It's a blessing to be able to work without pain. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. So you just keep plodding on.

It turns out that I know of several churches that are in transition. I mean, big time. Pastors arrive on the scene full of optimism but somewhere along the line things start to go wrong. Think about this:

  • The typical Southern Baptist church has about 90 participants -- 60 adults and 30 children.

  • The typical tenure for pastors is 4 years.

  • In Southern Baptist churches, 6 of 10 sermons focus on conversion rather than edification.

  • 52.9 percent of churches are either plateaud or declining.

I have nothing of earth-shattering importance to say in response. I love the local church. I also love how its Head showed us how to run things. We gather for mutual edification under His headship. Pastors are not to be parachuted in every 4 years. They are to be home grown. Leadership is to be shared. Trying to peal back the layers of tradition is almost impossible in a typical church. In the midst of it all is another, wild note in my soul. Jesus loves us still. He loves His body despite all of our spots and blemishes. The Messiah is not only the Head of the church, He's the Savior of the body. It is He who enables His body to grow. He cares for each member and gives the whole body strength to build itself up in love. He knits her into unity. Just as when a husband realizes that his role as head is both a privilege and a grave responsibility, so the fact that I am part of Christ's body calls for nothing less than total devotion and enthusiasm. Christ's love affair with His bride has no equals in all of history. No Odysseus can match it, nor an Oedipus or a Don Juan. Christ's love is so pure that it forgets what lies behind. His bride's "spots and wrinkles" (possibly of a venereal or leprous character) are nothing for One who has the power to sanctify, purify, and glorify. In turn, the task of the whole church and of every individual believer is to carry out works of service for the praise and glory of God and the benefit of all those who need it. This we can do, regardless of our church's polity and even, to a degree, regardless of the level of spiritual health in our churches. People in our churches need us and our services -- including perhaps "the lonely men at the top." I once viewed the clergy as being distinct from the laity. As lay people our job was a simple one: receive instruction and (when needed) discipline. I have since repented of that view. It is the whole church that is the "clergy" appointed by God for ministry. Pastors will come and go (about every 3-4 years). But God's grace does not terminate and die when this happens. The role of pastors, in fact, is to be servants in that ministry to which God has called the whole church.

About 16 years ago God began doing a work of grace in my heart and Becky's. All of a sudden we were left trying to find our way in a world that suddenly wasn't our own any more. All of a sudden we had gotten out of the ownership business and into the stewardship business. What caused the change? It was Him. Who can gaze into the pages of the Gospel and not have their life changed? It's as if an old lion has turned around in his cage to look at you, only that all the bars have magically disappeared.

Life, to me, was unbelievably barren and perfunctory before I met this Jesus. So we come back to where we began this discussion. Is your church undergoing change? The answer is probably yes. But be that as it may, the question for us is whether or not we have been placed there for the King to use as He sees fit. Don't be afraid to be absolutely crazy for God. This is what the "single eye" is all about. Find your identity today not in an organization but in Whose you are -- a child in the arms of your Abba, Daddy. Then serve Him -- serve Him with everything you've got. 

Saturday, May 2

6:14 PM I love days like today -- days when you can get caught up on all those little jobs you've been meaning to get around to such as house cleaning, vacuuming, mowing, general farm maintenance, and (my project du jour) replacing both of my water heaters (shout out to my good friend Robbie for his help). I love the farm. I love taking care of it. I love the challenge of managing it. I love watching birds building their nests and listening to donkeys braying. I'm in agrarian heaven right now.

9:58 AM Saturday is work day here on the farm and I hope to get some much-needed fence-mending done today in addition to making a long overdue trash run. When you're such a famous author things to do tend to get back-burnored a bit (cough cough). So how 'bout a little blogging?

1) I've said it before -- I'm an incurable lover of languages. It's pure joy to be able to speak in another tongue even if my speech leaves a lot to be desired. Currently trending at the BBC website is this essay called A Chinese businessman's awkward English. Lei Jun is the founder of an iPhone company in China and was giving a talk to a group of entrepreneurs in India. Rather than using a translator, he attempted to speak a few sentences in the world's lingua franca, English. The response was mixed. Some ridiculed him, others commended him for his humility. In my library is a conversational grammar that I used when teaching myself German many years ago. A week into my studies I wrote these words on the title page: "Ich will sprechen Deutsch." Now in German the verb "will" is not the future tense marker that it is in English. It means "want to" or "desire to." I was, in effect, saying, "I want to – I am determined to – speak German." What was behind my determination and drive?

In 1978 I had been invited to play trumpet on Greater Europe Mission's "Eurocorps" brass octet. We spent the summer in Germany playing evangelistic concerts. The music would attract the crowds, while our German-speaking director would share the Good News. However, I wanted to do more that toot my own horn. I hoped to share my personal testimony during the concerts and to engage in conversation with the audience afterwards. And thus I purchased my grammar book and began meeting regularly for conversation with a native German-speaker in California. When I arrived in Germany in June of 1978 I could hold an intelligible (if simple) conversation in German and could even share my faith with others in a very limited way. I was thrilled!

By the time I arrived in Basel, Switzerland in 1980 to begin doctoral studies with the Swedish New Testament scholar Bo Reicke, I had acquired a fairly good working knowledge of German with (I was told) a slight Prussian accent. I immediately began speaking German whenever I could, even though I knew my speaking ability was far from perfect. The Swiss, I soon discovered, were quite willing to correct you when you committed a verbal gaffe. This is as it should be, of course, but it takes some getting used to. Being corrected in public is never pleasant but it is essential it you want to master a foreign language. On my very first day in Basel I had gone to the university library to seek out Professor Reicke. When I found him in the stacks, what language do you think we conversed in? Here I was, a fledging student from Kailua, Hawaii, meeting with a famous Swedish scholar. Naturally we spoke the language of the university – German. When Dr. Reicke mentioned that he was thinking about getting a cup of coffee, I asked him, "Darf ich Ihnen begleiten?" ("May I accompany you?") "Darf ich Sie begleiten?" was his gentle corrective, and off we went to a local café. (Note: he did not switch to English.) So it was throughout my stay in Basel – me speaking German at every opportunity, and others correcting me until I reached a fairly high level of fluency in the language, even preaching in it several times. Becky and I were never too proud to use our German in public, and our efforts were always warmly appreciated.

Are you a language student? Are you determined to succeed? Without determination you won't get very far in language learning. The other essential quality you need in order to master a foreign language is humility, which is the opposite of pride and hubris. Take, again, my week-old German sentence, "Ich will sprechen Deutsch." As anyone who has studied German knows, the syntax of my sentence was incorrect. In German, the object comes before the infinitive: "Ich will Deutsch sprechen." I had gotten the words correct but the word order wrong. And that was hardly the last mistake I made. But if you want to learn a foreign language you must be willing to actually use it, even if it means making mistakes and even if others have to correct you.

How many people do you know who have had three years of high school Spanish and cannot utter a single sentence in the language? Even when they are among Spanish-speakers they are too proud to open their mouths for fear of being laughed at or corrected. Friend, speak out. Like Lei Jun, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Don't fear correction. Swallow your pride and go for it.

2) My heart was strangely touch by this BBC report today that a famous soccer player lost his sweetheart yesterday. Rio Ferdinand's wife was only 34 when she died in a London Hospital of breast cancer. Her husband's statement brought back so many memories as he paid tribute to "a fantastic loving mother" and to the hospital staff for their "dedication and expertise." Rebecca Ellison leaves behind three children ages nine, six, and four.

People say, "I can't imagine the heartache." I think I know what Mr. Ferdinand is feeling. I also think I know what he will face in the days ahead. My advice to him -- and to you too, if God has allowed you to experience loss -- is to forget everything you've ever been taught about the normalcy or the process of grief. There are no magic formulas. Grief is a long walk in the shadows, and you can either fight it or embrace it. It will weigh you down until you feel like it's crushing you. And -- believe me -- it will last a lot longer than you want it to. If you are experiencing overwhelming grief, there's nothing wrong with you. You are not abnormal. One day the disequilibrium of grief will diminish. You will gradually invest your emotional energy elsewhere. And if you and your loved one are believers in Jesus, you can look forward to being reunited some day. And so I intercede on behalf of Mr. Ferdinand and his family. Pray for him, that he will see through all the pain into God's own eyes and see himself as loved and lovely, precious beyond belief to his Creator. Even amidst the darkness of our lives a light is shining. There is hope and healing. And I find that very comforting.

3) Not sure who put this video of Kailua Beach together but it's making me want to jump on the plane today. May 21 seems so far away.

Friday, May 1

9:26 PM Two contrasting views of worship:

1) Ed Stetzer writes Worship as the Ultimate Act. Here worship is basically understood as what we do when we gather as believers.

LifeWay Research’s Transformational Church Research Project showed that of all churches that were seeing regular, consistent transformation in the lives of people who made up those churches, more than 75 percent either strongly or moderately agreed that they see evidence of God changing lives as a direct result of their worship services or their worship experiences.

2) Bruce Chapman writes: Worship -- not just about Sundays.

Worship is not 'just about Sunday' it is NOT even about Sunday! Worship is living in obedience to God every day.

Worship was when I cut the grass yesterday. Worship was when I wrote a chapter in my book today. Worship was when I brushed my teeth this morning. I do not mean this facetiously. By God's design, we are to be worshippers 24/7/365. He wants us to see our daily work as an act of worship. Ditto for anything else in our lives. For example, worship Him through your marriage. You are not just a husband or a wife. You are worshippers of the living God. Right now, at your school or your job, there are people who will be influenced for Christ as you worship Him through your daily lives. No matter how small or insignificant you think your daily activities might be, they aren't to Jesus. When you worship God through working at Starbucks or flipping burgers you are showing what Sunday "worship" is all about: merely a supplement or continuation of what you do throughout the week. All of life is sacred because of our union with Jesus. You are God's "worship team," and your place of service is not limited to a building on Sunday morning. I am not suggesting that on Sunday mornings we should not offer worship that is acceptable to God. But it seems to be assumed by some that worship is an activity led by singers and performed in a church sanctuary. We cannot simply write off such verses as 1 Cor. 14:26 and make believe they say nothing about the true purpose of the gathering. That's why I'm not even faintly interested in the so-called worship wars. What I do on Sunday morning is merely a tiny fragment of the worship I (hopefully) offer to God in Spirit and in truth as I sit at my computer or wash the dinner dishes. Worship is not the prerogative of some. It is the daily privilege of all of us. And a theology of worship that does not take into account the sacredness of all of life, I maintain, is a defective theology.

So ... what are you doing right now, this very moment? Is it an act of worship unto the Lord Most High? It can be and should be and will be if we would but offer it to God as such.

9:15 PM Seafood dinner tonight with Nate, Jess, and the boys (Nolan, Bradford, and Graham).

Boy number 4 is soon to arrive!

5:42 PM Notes in the margin:

If you enjoy foreign films as much as I do, you might just enjoy The Attack. I watched it last night on Netflix. Filmed in Hebrew and Arabic (with English subtitles), the movie poignantly broaches the topic of Palestinian-Jewish relations in modern-day Israel. The protagonist (played by Ali Suliman) is a Palestinian surgeon working in Tel Aviv whose wife is suspected of being a suicide bomber.

The Attack is a realistic (and, in many senses, ugly) picture of both societal discrimination and religious intolerance. It's hard to watch as those involved become more and more cynical, but this movie will help you get a better understanding of the underlying tensions that exist in the Middle East. I think it did a good job of personalizing the issues and asking the question, "When will this ever end?" Both the cinematography and music are brilliant. I give it 4 stars (out of 5).

On another note, this Wednesday in our Septuagint class we'll enjoy a guest lecture by Melvin K. Peters (Ph.D., University of Toronto), one of Duke's religious studies professors and one of the world's leading LXX scholars.

 

This will be our penultimate class. I see that next year Dr. Hardy and I will be offering the LXX class for the first time as a doctoral seminar. Our hope is to promote interaction between linguistics and biblical studies. It's also worth mentioning here that I ran across a new website the other day thanks to an email from Brian Fulthorp. It's called LXXi and is hosted by Brian Davidson. If you enjoy biblical studies (including Septuagintal studies), you will enjoy this helpful site.

Oh, here's an incredibly scientific term that I learned this past Wednesday in our LXX class and that I wanted to share with you. Chip Hardy called our attention to an occurrence of animacy in one of the texts we were examining. I had never heard the term animacy before. Apparently the human brain is wired in such a way that we construct lists of people or objects according to how sentient they are. Hence we find the expression "wife, children, and cattle" in Joshua 1. For me, animacy was a neologism akin to such terms as staycation, geobragging, and crowdsourcing. It's also a very useful concept.

A final thought or two. I've been mulling over John Munier's decision to take a blogging break. In technical terms this is called a hiatus or a moratorium, and it's an essential step in keeping one's blogging fresh. John is one of a handful of bloggers I read regularly, and he will be sorely missed. Enjoy the break, sir, but please be sure to return.

I know I've mentioned it before, but I'm really looking forward to returning to Gettysburg this summer. I'm not sure the exact number of times I've been to this famous battlefield (4 or 5), but there's always more to see and learn. To start with, I know very little about the Culp's Hill battlefield nor have I ever visited the site of the cavalry fight that took place on the third day east of Gettysburg (Stuart versus Custer). History isn't one of those things that involves merely checking off boxes in little charts. So much of what I do in studying history is getting personally connected to the era and the people involved. This is my life -- incurably addicted to learning from the past and optimistically committed to pressing through my personal problems and challenges to the future. Somewhere along the line I'll get too old (or disinterested) to pursue Civil War history any longer, but that day hasn't arrived yet.

12:58 PM "The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do." Sarah Ban Breathnach.

8:44 AM It was Friday, May 1, 1863. The Federal army was advancing eastward on three roads toward Fredericksburg. That day they hoped to clear the Wilderness and emerge on to open fields with room to maneuver. The soldiers had the step of men who knew they had the upper hand and a good chance to win the fight that was coming. As they emerged from the Wilderness, they met the lines of Confederate Generals Anderson and McLaws of Jackson's Corps. Fighting erupted and then began to slow. The Union army turned around and gradually retreated to the Chancellorsville crossroads, upon orders from General Hooker. The night before, Hooker had toasted his army's success, predicting that Lee's army "must either ingloriously fly or come out from behind his entrenchments and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him." Then he shouted above the cheers, "God Almighty will not be able to prevent the destruction of the rebel army!" Hooker had prepared his army well and might rightfully have expected victory to follow. Nearly 200,000 men fought at the Battle of Chancellorsville, but when it was over Hooker had suffered a catastrophic defeat.

In 2 Chronicles we read the story of King Uzziah, of whom it was written, "He was marvelously helped until he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to destruction." At the height of his career he was stricken with leprosy and was buried near but not in the tomb of the kings since the corpse of a leper would have defiled it. Both Uzziah and Joseph Hooker collapsed not in a time of weakness but at the height of success. "Let the one who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). Perhaps there is no greater peril than the menace of success and prosperity. This is why I love the words of Malcolm Muggeridge so much:

I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets–that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue–that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions– that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time–that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you — and I beg you to believe me–multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing–less than nothing, a positive impediment–measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.

Being an aging web journalist, in addition to passing myself off as a teacher, I find quite an interesting (and often challenging) combination. The sincere prayer of my heart is that of an ancient saint:

God, humble my pride, extinguish the last stirrings of my ego, obliterate whatever remains of worldly ambition and carnality, and in these last days of a mortal existence, help me to serve only Thy purposes, to speak and write only Thy words, to think only Thy thoughts, to have no other prayer than: "Thy will be done." In other words, to be a true Convert.

7:58 AM Good morning, fellow missionaries! I am happy to report that Team India arrived home safely last night. What often follows is a difficult period of readjustment to life in America. Becky wrote a good many letters to our Ethiopia team members but perhaps none is so insightful as the one she wrote for the spouses and families of those who just returned. Mission trips are exhausting both mentality, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We are burned out and often show, not our best sides, but our worst sides to our families.

We honor God when we are honest about our weaknesses. So, if you ever go on a trip, Becky's letter will help you. It speaks plainly about the darts of the Evil One but also about the restorative power of the Gospel. The times may be perilous but the believer can persevere.

Here is her letter in its entirety.

Orientation #5 for Spouses/Families

As you read this, your spouse and the rest of the Ethiopia Team is getting ready to board the plane to return back to USA. The Team will be reading their Orientation #5 on the airplane. This last orientation is designed to help "re-entry" and processing.

This year I want to include spouses in the Re-entry orientation. After 2 1/2 weeks in Ethiopia, your spouse is returning home. You might think you will pick up where you left off....but nothing could be further from the truth.  So let me give you some hints that I hope will help you get back to normal.

1. Your spouse will likely be physically exhausted.  He/she has been pushing physically, eating strange food, sleeping in strange beds, often going night after night without good sleep, etc.   So....whatever you have been doing while he/she has been gone, please continue that for at least 3 days.  Continue to wash the clothes, cook the meals, straighten the house, etc.  Sleep and more sleep is what they need. So avoid any expectations of physical labor.

2. Your spouse will likely be mixed up in terms of when to sleep & when to be awake.  At 3pm he/she will be looking for a bed to climb into....because their body thinks that it is 10pm!  And when it becomes 10pm here, his/her body will be in the wee hours of the morning.  So....don't expect the usual bedtime routine (whatever that involves).  Whatever you are expecting can wait another few days.

3. Your spouse will be glad to see you, but realize that he/she is also in mourning. The Team has just formed tremendously deep & tight bonds with people on the other side of the globe. And they have had to say "goodbye" to them. So their rejoicing at being home is tempered with memories of those they left behind. So....give space for mourning. Don't become angry or discouraged if your spouse seems mellow, sometimes cries, talks incessantly of Ethiopia.  He/she is happy to see you, but he/she is also mourning.

4. Your spouse will be overflowing with stories that are important to him/her. But you won't fully understand why those stories are important. No matter how much he/she tries, you just won't really 'get it'.  So....allow him/her to talk & share. Try to appreciate the importance of the stories. Accept the difference between you and him/her. And next time, maybe you can go to Ethiopia together.....then you will really understand the stories!

Conclusion....Give Grace & Give Space. Hold things lightly for at least 5 days. After 5 days, the jet lag will be mostly settled, the fatigue will be largely erased, and the mourning will be soothed. For the next month, watch yourself & your family. The Evil One delights to do his one-two punch during the first 4-6 weeks after a tremendous mission trip. Guard yourself. Be in the Word. Give abundant grace. Nip attitudes of self-pity, indulgence, hostility, etc, in the bud. Pray with & for each other. Have times of fasting & prayer.

I hope all of this helps your Re-entry.  Know that you are appreciated in your part of the Team!

Rejoicing in His goodnesses to us.....

Becky Lynn

Thursday, April 30

2:48 PM I'm glad I read Longstreet's biography. Lee seemed to have made a mistake in attacking on the third day at Gettysburg. The South fought at a great disadvantage. They stumbled blindly into an unwanted battle, and took unnecessarily desperate chances. But that was Lee. Longstreet, on the other hand, was content to wait for the most favorable chance to strike and would even decline battle if the situation warranted it. As for Lee, when struck a blow he wanted to return it immediately. As Longstreet put it in in his memoirs, "[Lee] chafed at inaction; always desirous to beat up the enemy at once and have it out. He was too pugnacious." Longstreet was a realist. He preferred to avoid an attack that had no chance of success. He neither shared Jackson's view of war as a moral crusade nor Lee's advocacy of the tactical offensive. For what it's worth, I think Longstreet was right.

A couple of anecdotal incidents in the book stood out to me. In one, Grant met with Longstreet at the McLean House in Appomattox just after the surrender. They had been best of friends at West Point. Longstreet had attended his friend Grant's wedding in Missouri in 1848. When Grant saw Longstreet he approached his former comrade, grabbed him with both hands, then gave him a bear hug.

I had to chuckle at the other anecdote. Longstreet's wife Louise died in 1889 at the age of 62. They had been married for over 40 years. She had borne him 10 children, and together they grieved the loss of 5 of them. "Old men get lonely and must have company," Longstreet remarked, and the widower married Helen Dortch in Atlanta on September 8, 1987. She was 34 years old and outlived him by 58 years, dying in 1962.

You gotta love history.

10:33 AM Talk about not meeting a publisher's deadline! What irascible souls! My "project" went out today, and with the mere click of a computer key. (I remember the days when we actually sent manuscripts by mail.) My latest work is a dazzling achievement. I predict it will be required reading along with all the other huge, thick tomes in your library. I've also got some beach front property I'm selling here in Nelson, Virginia.

Wednesday, April 29

9:04 PM Quick note at the end of a very busy day. I continue to be amazed and pleased with what God is doing on campus. I learned today that one of our LXX students has been accepted into the doctoral program at one of North America's most prestigious universities. I also met with a colleague who shared with me the good news that one of his books was just published in Korean. Then I had a nice surprise when one of my former students told me he was looking into doing a European doctorate in New Testament. Good things are happening -- good, and God, things.

Right now I am just gelling. I just took an online test that answers the question: What Kind of English Do You Speak? My results were 55 percent General American English, 15 percent Dixie, 15 percent Yankee, 10 percent Upper Midwestern, and 5 percent Midwestern. It said nothing about Hawaiian Pidgin. Oh well. It will come back to me when I return to Kailua this summer. Oh, I'm really pumped up. I'm turning my writing project in tomorrow, right on time. Closure. Love that word! Tonight I'll finish reading my book on James Longstreet. Two things have struck me so far in reading about this famous soldier: He was tireless in his devotion to his cause, and he had an uncanny ability to size up the enemy. I would like to have that same depth of devotion to my cause. J. D. Jones once said about the kind of men and women God is seeking: "Those are the men God wants -- faithful men, loyal men, standfast men; men who will die but never surrender; men who will go to prison and to death but never deny Him; men whose enthusiasm shall not be like the flame of straw -- one fierce blaze and over -- but as the flame of the house fire, ever steady and brightly burning." Imagine! God is looking for people who will worship Him -- not by "going to church" necessarily but by living an ordinary life with extraordinary devotion to His cause. It means nothing to study the Bible without obedience. Students who have studied German, for example, but then have forgotten what they learned, wasted their time when they studied the language. (Note: I began our LXX class today in German, including the opening prayer. I hope I may have inspired some of our students who have already taken the language in preparing for their doctoral studies to use what they worked so hard to acquire.) We must read the word, yes. But we must also live the word. That's my goal, regardless of my circumstances. Nothing much has changed since Becky went home to heaven. I'm still the same ordinary man alone in the same house. But my heavenly Father understands my situation perfectly, and through His power I am lifted up out of myself, given a perfect frame of reference for life, and made alive and alert and passionate. Like you, I'm on a pilgrim road, one I've never traveled before. Also like you, when I lift up my eyes I can see the Unseen and look into His smiling and ineffable face. And that makes a huge difference in how I go about living my life. I trust that has been your experience as well.

Blessings,

Dave

Tuesday, April 28

8:58 AM If you enjoy Civil War history, John Banks has posted a series of photos called Then & Now: Chancellorsville House on Orange Turnpike.

8:28 AM Good word for today (A. W. Tozer):

I think unlovely orthodoxy, unbeautiful Christianity is a tragedy. We have pugilistic Christians; we have acrobatic Christians; we have athletic Christians; we have big-domed, learned Christians. We have all kinds of Christians, but where are the beautiful ones, those who shine with inner beauty? I am looking for them, and I pray that God will send us a revival, not of noise and nonsense, but with beauty with God dwelling in us.

Monday, April 27

8:38 PM The best graduate programs in Christian apologetics.

8:34 PM My pretty puppies! 

8:03 PM Exactly 152 years ago today the Chancellorsville Campaign began. The Army of the Potomac began its march on a Monday morning. The commanders of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps were to have their troops at Kelly's Ford by 4:00 pm the next day. The long flanking march had begun. The issue was clear: how quickly the Union forces could outflank Lee's army and march toward the Chancellorsville crossroads. The Federals were out to fool Johnny Reb. Outnumbered two to one, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia drove the Yankees back across the Rappahannock after destroying an entire Union corps. Ironically, Lee's greatest victory prodded him to launch his invasion of the North that led to his greatest defeat at Gettysburg.

History. The stuff legends are made of.

6:45 PM Greek students, here's an excellent introduction to Greek accentuation.

In my opinion, the subject is a bit too complicated to cover in the early weeks of an introductory course, but by the time you finish your first year of Greek you should be able to pronounce Greek correctly and accentuate words yourself. Much of this is simply intuitive.

6:32 PM Yours for the asking: 

6:28 PM The groomer is here. It's bath time again. 

5:02 PM I know, I know. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it :)

 

12:16 PM I'm finished with my project! But I'm not out of the woods yet. We still have to type everything up and proof it. But we're close!

This meant that I was free to walk the property (all 123 acres) and do some amateur forestry work today (as well as check out the blueberry bushes). I'd say we've got about 40 acres in pines (that I had thinned a few years ago), as well as about 50 acres of hardwoods. Both will be ready for harvesting in about 10-12 years. Even though I sell hay for horses, another crop here is comprised of trees. It's all a part of farm management, which has been around since the Garden of Eden. Now please do not mistake me for a Christian agrarian. I once was -- which demonstrates how easy it is for even modern western farmers to slip back into theologically-based farming. I do not think that dirt can be "born again," nor do I think that God is most pleased when our hands are most dirty. Some Christian agriculturalists believe this, but they have the right to be wrong (this is America). All kidding aside, I just think that everything we do ought to be done to the glory of God, even the act of buying processed food from the local Food Lion if we have to. As followers of Jesus we're called to follow Him, not to pretend that we have any superior wisdom when it comes to working the land or to politics or to economics, etc. If you have a farm, honor God with it. If you are city slicker, honor God with your house or apartment. Perhaps most important of all, I need to constantly be rethinking how I can leverage the farm for the glory of God and for the good of others. I'm working on it. Please pray for me to get God's mind on this ... and not feel overwhelmed by the task of managing such a huge piece of property by myself.

Your agrarian (and ex-apologist for agrarianism) friend,

Dave

9:22 AM I've been looking at the pictures of the destruction in Nepal. How awful. I think God's heart must ache when He looks at that country. Mine does. Everywhere you look you find death and destruction. Both rich and poor areas have been hit, and hit hard. Resources are desperately needed. Christian relief will be there soon if it hasn't already arrived. This is as it should be. I am praying for lots of things this morning: the people of Nepal, our team in India, the ministry I'm involved with in Asia, reconciliation in marriages that are dissolving, Christians in Iraq and Syria, believing prisoners in Iran, wisdom for our national leaders. Yesterday I surveyed the little nest a sparrow is building for her young on my front porch and was reminded again that God even takes care of the birds. But there is so much suffering when human beings inflict relational pain on each other, and it can get overwhelming real fast. I have seen two Christian marriages die in the past year. Part of me says, "Divorce happens." But in these cases, a vow was made, pledges were given, a permanent and exclusive and covenantal union was established in the eyes of God and before others. Honesty about sin never comes easily. But thankfully God's healing power is unlimited. So many evangelicals today are upset by the fact that World Vision is employing people in a legal "gay marriage." I don't agree with their decision either. But I would also argue that homosexuality has become a buzzword among evangelicals. The greatest challenge to the sanctity of marriage in the U.S. is not the homosexual agenda but a skyrocketing divorce rate among those claiming to be Christians. We are responsible before God for the choices we make to break our wedding vows. Admitting our failures is a key part of the healing process.

On an unrelated note, I read this morning about a blogger who is reluctantly giving up blogging for a week because a person whom he regards as his spiritual authority told him to do so. In my experience, peace comes from sheer obedience -- doing what God tells us to do. We can never experience the peace of God when we are disobeying the Lord. Of course, I realize that none of us is autonomous. I realize that if we refuse to submit to the biblically ordained authority of civil government, our employers, and other legitimate authorities we will rob ourselves of peace because ultimately we are rebelling against God. But if you're a spiritual leader, the best way to lead is by example and by the word (Heb. 13:7). All of us are to do what the author of Hebrews tells us to do: "Fix our eyes on Jesus." Perhaps you will need a trusted friend -- someone who really knows the word -- to help you evaluate whether you are overdoing it in some area of your life. But no human voice should ever override the voice of the Spirit of God. Blogging for me is an intensely personal experience. I have no schedule for blogging. I blog when I am moved to blog and I take a break from it when I sense the absence of any compunction to write. I have even designed my blog in such a way that it is impossible for me to blog while I am traveling. As I said earlier, I am not denying that we ought to seek the counsel of others and even submit to those whom God has placed as leaders in our lives. I am also aware that spiritual abuse runs rampant in our sin-sick world. A human counselor and guide can only go so far. A wise person will reserve judgment until he has heard both sides of an issue (Prov. 18:13-17). The bottom line: Carefully choose your source of authority and information.

Finally (for now), I'm in a season of contemplation about suffering. I am especially wrestling with a passage in Philippians 3. It all depends on what you do with the use of the Greek definite article. Does Paul say that knowing Christ involves both (1) the power of His resurrection and (2) the fellowship of His sufferings? Or does he place these expressions in apposition to each other: "The power of His resurrection, that is, the fellowship of His suffering." Perhaps in the end it doesn't matter all that much, but I've always been a stickler for details. If indeed we have a Granville Sharpe Construction here, then Paul is saying that there can be no power without suffering. This thought would be in keeping with what he wrote earlier about Jesus (2:5-11) when he painted a picture for us of the divine parabola: Only after Jesus humbled Himself did God exalt Him. The lesson is an important one: The way up in the Christian life is down. There can be no exaltation without humiliation. There can be no power without pain. I like what Gordon Fee has to say in his Philippians commentary (italics his):

But I must also be prepared to discover anew that truly knowing Christ means simultaneously knowing the power of his resurrection (the part I like) and sharing in his sufferings (the part I less like) so as to be conformed to the likeness of Christ's own death (2:8) and thus to gain the resurrection.

The reason I'm mentioning all this is because I find myself still experiencing the pain of losing Becky. I am still very much in the bereavement period of life, even though she went to heaven 16 months ago. Add to this the fact that there is so much suffering the world over. People are hurting, friendships are hurting, churches are hurting, marriages are hurting, families are hurting, communities are hurting. What are we to do? In his fabulous book Margins, which I was reading last night, Richard Swenson makes four suggestions about what we are to do with pain:

1) Thank God for it. He allows pain in our lives so that He can redirect us to Him.

2) Repent. Do business with God and allow Him to point you in a different direction if necessary.

3) Do some surgery. (Swenson is a surgeon.) Let God drain the emotional abscesses and cut out the spiritual tumors in your life. God is a great physician and knows that we need to be pruned and drained from time to time.

4) Finally, cooperate with God. Get with the plan. Be teachable and pliant in His hands.

Fee noted that Paul could rejoice in the midst of his pain "because Christ's resurrection had given him a unique perspective on present suffering...." Yep. That's it in a nutshell. It is our faith that gets us through the pain and loss -- faith in a God who is not small enough to be understood but is big enough to be trusted. As I write these words, memory brings in sharp focus the death of my wife. Her departure required me either to deny God or else to believe Him. I could trust Him or I could renounce Him, the experience was just that earth-shattering for me. When Becky contracted cancer, God knew that what I really needed was not explanations but sanctification. My ideas about God needed to be put through the fire. And, as He promised, He held me. He showed me all that I needed for life and godliness. If my exegesis is correct, Paul's good word in Philippians 3 does not comprise an explanation of human suffering. It is a simple statement of fact and duty. To use a formula: The power of His resurrection + the fellowship of His sufferings = the normal Christian life. The power of hell can never prevail over a soul that understands this principle. When Becky died, I had to let go of what the world calls safety and security. I found my safety where the dying Christ found His, in the bosom of the Father.

I want you to know that my posting here might be more sporadic than usual, since I'm trying to beat a writing deadline. I'm so encouraged by how God is using this project. But I have to admit that I'll be relieved when it is over. Finally, for those of you who want to help the people in Nepal rebuild their lives, don't forget about Baptist Global Response. They are easy to find and simple to use. Believe me, I'm not going to turn this blog into one long advertisement for those seeking your money. It's just that I can't be silent in the face of such destruction.

Peace,

Dave

Sunday, April 26

8:56 PM Last week a student asked me what I thought about the New Perspective on Paul. Since we're dealing with the New Testament concept of the Old Testament law in this week's LXX class, I thought I might share with you a few thoughts on the subject. For myself, it seems to me that the Scriptures are astonishingly coherent and clear about forensic justification. I also think, as Udo Schnelle points out in this interview, that Lutheranism has been guilty at times of caricaturing Paul. An even bigger gap, as I see it, is the failure of students of Paul to come to grips with his historical milieu -- a point that Wright often makes. Kingdom ministry embraces sanctification, good works, and healing. It also has a strong communal element to it. All well and good. But wherever the Gospel is preached, and wherever the church is truly carrying out the work of the kingdom, there is an inner logic that places "repentance from dead works and faith toward God" (Heb. 6:1) at the forefront. In a word, personal, individual repentance and commitment to the King is required of all of us, Jew or Greek. In Christianity we have a new law for a new people by a new Moses. And it is all by faith, from beginning to end (Rom. 1:17). In Phil 3:7-9 Paul writes:

As far as a person can be righteous by obeying the commands of the Law, I was without fault. But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ's sake .... For His sake I have thrown all that away and consider it all as mere skubala (garbage, rubbish, dung, unspeakable filth) so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with Him, no longer having a righteousness of my own, the kind that is gained by obeying the Law, but the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ (and indeed, by His faithfulness on my behalf) -- the righteousness that comes from God and is based on faith.

As Jesus put it, you cannot enter the kingdom of the Righteous One without a righteousness even greater than that of the scribes and the Pharisees. Neither Jesus nor Paul had a quarrel with the Law and the Prophets. In fact, they validated them. But they were totally against the barrier of externalism that the scribes and the Pharisees had erected -- "scribal righteousness" it's been called. The Great Commission calls for personal faith in Christ (Mark 16:15, a verse which, in my view, is authentic), but a faith that eventually issues in a kingdom lifestyle and an obedience to everything Christ requires of us (Matt. 28:19, a verse whose originality is not disputed). To follow Jesus demands a completely different way of living; it requires values and ambitions that are radically new and kingdom-oriented. And the good news is that this obedience, this kingdom way of living, is as much enabled as it is required. As Paul writes in Rom. 8:3-4 (verses I wish every Christian would commit to memory):

For what the Law could not do, weakened as it was by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to do away with sin. God did this so that the righteous requirements of the Law might be fulfilled in us who live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.

Yes, God's righteousness is imputed to us -- thanks be to God! -- but it is also to be imparted; and we are to desire the whole thing, complete righteousness, not just a part of it.

8:38 PM T. W. Manson argues that Apollos was the author of Hebrews in this somewhat dated essay. Oddly enough, one of his arguments is the following:

Hebrews shows great familiarity with the characteristic thoughts and expressions of Paul as we find them in Corinthians and Romans.

All I can say is, "Amen."

8:32 PM Well, Becky's sugar maple now has tiny little buds.

It grows about one foot every year, which means that when I'm 80 the tree will be about 19 feet tall. One of the things I love most about the Bible is that it never changes. It will be the same when I am 80 as it is on April 26, 2015. In other words, the Bible never gets old even though we do. Our lifeline is Jesus. In times of trouble we need to hold on to Him and His word.

So much this tree will teach me through the years!

9:10 AM Quick notes from the farm:

1)Yes, I'm totally jet-lagged even though I haven't flown in 7 days. I think I pushed myself a little too hard this week and now I'm paying the price for over-doing it.

2) The weather here changed dramatically yesterday. A cold front arrived and the outdoors have been plunged into a dull, grey existence. A good day to stay indoors and write.

3) I'm in the countdown to complete my writing project that is due to the publisher on April 30th. Special thanks to my assistant Joshua Covert for transforming my hand-written Cuneiform into legible computer files.

4) The other day I posted a YouTube of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. Actually, here's the link I originally intended to post. The scene at 6:48 and following will literally make you speechless.

5) Here's the best book I've seen on tithing in a very long time: You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe? A briefer version can be found in Tithing After the Cross.

6) While reading a biography of Confederate General James Longstreet last night, I ran across a wonderful quote:

The rank and seniority given Longstreet reflected Lee's estimation of him.... With each successive campaign and engagement, he had matured as a general -- the contrast between his performance at Seven Pines and at Second Manassas or Sharpsburg was keen. His direction of large numbers of troops in combat, his tactical acumen, and his courage and composure under fire had been distinguished. Lee had valued Longstreet's advice, had sought it on a regular basis, and had enjoyed his company during the operations. After all, it was Lee who called Longstreet "my old war-horse."

It is always great to see leaders and those they lead working well together.

7) Kudos to Joy Ames for her stellar Asbury Journal article called Teaching as Formation: The Vision of Ephesians 4:11-16 and Pedagogical Implications for Routine Teaching Tasks.

8) The current issue of Biola Magazine has a fine tribute to one of their students who died during a mission trip to India.

9) I had a conversation with Henry Neufeld about blogs. I asked him which ones he reads regularly. Interestingly, neither of us read many blogs on a regular basis. In fact, I've cut back considerably on my blog reading. If you know of a blog that you think is an absolute must read, let me know and I'll post a link here.

10) This Wednesday our LXX class will be discussing the use of the Old Testament in the New. A resource we're finding extremely helpful is Gleason Archer and Gary Chirichigno's Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament.

11) Good word for today: "Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving." Frederick Buechner.

Cheers,

Dave

Saturday, April 25

3:12 PM It's time to take a break from writing, and besides, I'm in a thankful mood today. My thanks to Henry Neufeld for taking such good care of my donkeys this weekend.

Henry is the most steady-handed editor I have even known. When he's not on the street corners of Pensacola preaching about Armageddon you can find him publishing my zany ideas. That alone deserves a boat load of thanks.

To sister Friesh at the Queen of Sheba for the great Ethiopian food, thank you. The kai wat last night was the very best I think I have ever eaten. And yes, I am sure there will be injera in heaven.

To the North Carolina Symphony for a fabulous performance yesterday evening, a thousand thanks. If you've never seen the maestro conduct in person, you have never lived.

To those from Southeastern who helped clean up the farm today, yall are the best. The place looks tons better. Now if I could only keep it that way.

To Team India who participated in the school dedication in India today, I send you my love. Our sweet daughter Kim got to cut the ribbon. Man is that cool.

Being married to Becky made me the luckiest guy on earth. Okay, to be politically correct, we'll say "blessed." But I almost get giddy just thinking about the crazy 37 years we spent together. Becky was my superior in all things and was my greatest cheerleader. Today I read the book of Acts -- yes, the entire book in one sitting -- and I was impressed with these verses:

"When they had prayed, the place they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God's word with boldness." To the India team, I know Becky would say this if she were here: "You're making a difference. You're shaking the world for Jesus. I'm so proud of you."

Then there was this passage about Dorcas: "She was always doing good works and acts of charity." Ok, you already know what I'm going to say. Becky was a Dorcas through and through, and I thank her for nurturing that same spirit in so many others, her husband included.

Another passage in Acts 18 spoke to me. It's where Paul says to the Ephesians, "I'll come back to you, if God wills." My dear Indian friends, I would love to have been with you today but my travels elsewhere this year precluded it. But I want you to know that I am ready -- and eager -- to get back to your wonderful country, if for no other reason than to have the privilege of walking through the building that was dedicated to the Lord's glory today.

Finally, in Acts 20:24 Paul says, "But I count my life as no value to myself so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of God's grace." That just about says it all. God has been so gracious to me. I only hope and pray that my life might accrue to His glory and that I might have the privilege of walking in His ways always.

Now get off the computer and get back to work, David.

2:12 PM Yet another devastating earthquake hits Nepal. Here's one way you can help. There are many others as well. Please consider giving.

9:30 AM Read 3 Important Church Trends in the Next 10 Years. I have a slightly different vision of what the church in America could be like in 10 years -- if we were obedient. It will be a serving church. Its organizational structure will be simple, unencumbered by bureaucrats and bureaucracies. Its financial priorities will reflect a commitment to missions, local and global. Capital expenditures will be reduced and the savings earmarked for discipleship. Most jobs that are currently salaried positions will be filled by volunteer help or eliminated. Denominations will make drastic reductions in funds spent on publications that are a waste of the church's money (bulletins, glossy magazines, and Sunday School quarterlies). The Bible will be used instead. Church buildings will be used for primary and secondary Christian education. Believers will gladly work transdenominationally and cooperatively, especially at the local level. The church will proclaim the Good News of the Gospel as its first priority while not neglecting the cultural mandate. A full-fledged lay ministry will replace clericalism. Individual believers will be expected to assume specialized ministries according to their giftedness. Churches will provide regular lay training and build voluntary programs of education into their structures. Worship will no longer be confined to a single time or place. Preoccupation with church buildings will be seen for what it is – idolatry. The church will no longer cling to its prerogatives but take the form of a servant. It will refuse any longer to shun the secular. Trained pastors will become humble assistants to the "ministers" – every member. Disciples will take the going forth as seriously as they do the gathering. New believers will be asked to specify a regular community involvement (neighborhood council, PTA, volunteer library staff, nursing home visitation, etc.) in addition to their commitment to a ministry in the church.

The points I have been making – and I have repeated these in my books The Jesus Paradigm and Christian Archy – contrast sharply with the grandiose structures we have become accustomed to since Christendom came on the scene. The fight of faith to which we are committed is not a battle against Christianity. It is a battle to free Christianity from the shackles of Christendom, to smash our idols, and to establish a church that is once again characterized by poverty of spirit.

So, where will your church be in 10 years? The choice is yours.

Friday, April 24

12:48 PM Miscellany:

1) I love Lewis's A Grief Observed. Lewis knew what it meant to struggle with life's deeper questions. He lost his mother to cancer when he was only nine years old. His wife would also lose her struggle with this disease. Yet he held to his faith through it all. "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." A Grief Observed is no mere detached writing but the emotional storm unleashed by bereavement. Read it if you dare.

2) When I was at Mid-America last week, I had a friendly discussion with one of their New Testament faculty about the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. Of course, Heb. 2:3-4 came up. What we must remember is that Paul received direction from the fellowship of believers in the church at Antioch. Earlier he was willing to submit to the test of validity of his gospel before the apostolic leadership in Jerusalem. He did this despite the uniqueness of his call as an apostle personally appointed by Christ. Paul claimed to be nothing more than a co-laborer in the church that Christ Himself was building:

Who in the world do you think Paul is anyway? Or Apollos for that matter? Servants we are -- both of us -- servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment.... It is not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow.

3) Missiologist Ralph Winter once made an interesting observation about missions. He said there were four stages in the work of global missions. In the pioneer stage, the Gospel is brought to a certain field. Usually this leads to the paternal stage in which national leadership is developed. In the partnership stage, nationals and missionaries share an equal voice. Finally, in the participation stage, missionaries are present only by the invitation of the national churches. I seriously believe that the church in places like India have reached the participation stage. The church in India is fully mature. It is capable of running its own affairs, doing its own evangelism, and sending out its own evangelists and church planters. So, as I see it, my goal is to link up with local churches in the nations of the world. In many of these nations, frontline missions has been taken over almost completely by national missionaries. Thank God for this development. It has been a long time coming.

Back to paying bills ....

10:58 AM This will go to the first person who writes and asks for it.

It is a fascinating -- and disturbing -- tale. It's reviewed here.

10:32 AM This and that ....

1) Visit the farm and I might put you to work, as I'm doing today with Henry Neufeld of Energion Publications.

2) Here are the program notes for tonight's symphony concert in Raleigh. Henry and I will have Ethiopian food beforehand.

3) Much truth here:

4) Good thoughts on prayer by Jon Glass: Are you praying?  I struggle with prayer. Oh, petitions come easily. But devotion? I don't know how it is with you, but often I'm able to do little more than groan in prayer. It was Spurgeon who said, "One real groan fetched from the heart is worth a million litanies, one living breath from a gracious soul is worth ten thousand collects." Sometimes Jesus simply sighed. The Psalmist said, "I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you." To quote Spurgeon again:

... but we may, without this, let short sentences go up to heaven, ay, and we may shoot upwards cries, and single words, such as an "Ah," an "Oh," an "O that;" or, without words we may pray in the upward glancing of the eye or the sigh of the heart. He who prays without ceasing uses many little darts and hand-grenades of godly desire, which he casts forth at every available interval.

So forgive me. I have very little I could teach you about prayer except that prayer is simply the ministry of the Spirit in our hearts. Pray when He leads you to pray. Speak whatever words (or wordless groans) He prompts. "Ugh" is as much a valid prayer as anything else we may utter.

We may speak a thousand words which seem to be prayer, and yet never pray; on the other hand, we may cry into God's ear most effectually, and yet never say a word [Spurgeon again].

5) Had dinner last night at Mexico Viejo.

Yes, it was partly to remember Becky. I am hopelessly nostalgic.

6) The "Becky Black Building" in Bagdogra, India.

To be dedicated to the Lord tomorrow.

 Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ!

Thursday, April 23

4:06 PM Been mowing and bush hogging the farm paths all afternoon. I'm also trying out the panorama feature on my iPhone.

How do you like it?

"I am never satiated with rambling through the fields and farms, examining the culture and cultivators, with a degree of curiosity which makes some take me to be a fool, and others to be much wiser than I am" (Thomas Jefferson).

I'm no Tom Jefferson, but I do enjoy the farm. :-)

1:50 PM Want this book?

It sells for $54.00 at Amazon. It's an excellent commentary. I used it this semester in our LXX class. It's yours for free if you'll tell me why you think you should have it. Just email me at dblack@sebts.edu. Be sure to include your mailing address.

10:42 AM When I was learning Greek I was asked (forced) to do quite a bit of English to Greek translation. I'm glad now for the experience. In our LXX class yesterday we did translation into Greek and Hebrew.

Our translations were based on a silly made-up story by yours truly. The goal was to see how well we could translate certain words and idiomatic English constructions into Koine Greek and Biblical Hebrew.

There were many challenges of course. But that's precisely why we did this little exercise. It is never possible to adequately translate one language to another with the same emphasis, feeling, idioms, etc. Interpretation is inevitable. There is no such thing as a perfect or unbiased translation!

 

We'll do more of this during the semester.

10:22 AM Quote of the day:

Dr Malhotra said: "An obese person does not need to do one iota of exercise to lose weight, they just need to eat less. My biggest concern is that the messaging that is coming to the public suggests you can eat what you like as long as you exercise.

"That is unscientific and wrong. You cannot outrun a bad diet."

Read Exercise not 'key to obesity fight.'

10:02 AM Received this question today:

I am sorry to bother you, but I have a quick question.  In Eph. 4:15 where it says "speaking the truth in love" (Greek - Aletheuo/Aletheuontes)  Can that be translated - Truthing it or Truthing in love.  Gal 4:16 - it seems to emphasis preaching the Gospel Truth.  Is it safe to say that the emphasis in Eph. 4 is also the preaching of the truth in love.....Truthing in Love...... 

I responded as follows:

Hi __________:

It's my view that Paul is referring to "truthing" in both speech and life. Here's the Amplified Bible's rendering:

Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly].

Truth (orthodoxy) is inseparably married to love (orthopraxy). The history of the Christian church bears witness to this fact. Now, in our day and age we are (thankfully) witnessing a resurgence of interest in theology and doctrine. At the same time, there is a growing (and healthy) reaction, especially among the younger generation, against the dogmatism of an earlier generation. I don't know of a better solution than Paul's exhortation here in Eph. 4:15 to be living out the truth in a spirit of love. A Christianity that would use its vertical preoccupation with theology as a means to escape from its responsibility to do Calvary-deeds of love is a denial of the Incarnation. Although each individual Christian has to discover for him- or herself how best to achieve this balance, I would venture to suggest that the church as a whole should be concerned with much more than spiritual salvation. In practice this means that we will love our neighbor not only as an eternal soul but also as a physical and social being. The early church set for us a wonderful example in this regard. Their duty and joy to make Christ known never replaced neighbor-love. They saw themselves less as consumers and more as contributors to society. Moreover, they refused to let politics define the terms of their social activism. They lived out the truth in a unique Christlike kind of way simply by imitating Jesus and by modeling to the world a community in which the evils that plague society are being overcome through the love and power of God. Hence today I think we should be inviting Christians to engage social justice issues in ways that are unique to the kingdom without relying on the help of politics or government.

That's my take on this passage, and on where I stand vis-à-vis God's politics of social activism. While I deeply appreciate doctrine and Bible study, and while I deeply respect those who are calling our attention as evangelicals to social justice issues, I really do wish we all were focused on humbly imitating Jesus.

Blessings,

Dave

Wednesday, April 22

6:45 PM Just purchased tickets for the NC Symphony this Friday night in Raleigh. The concert program includes two of my all-time favorites: Copland's Appalachian Spring and Barber's Adagio for Strings. Here's the latter (in a deeply moving tribute to 9/11 originally broadcast on September 15, 2011):

Bellissimo!

6:20 PM 48 hours ago I was in Dallas. Yesterday and today I taught three classes. I'll be up early in the morning to get some writing done. I've discovered there's no quick way of getting things accomplished. You just plow ahead.

But I've always got time for a few blog posts ....

1) World Malaria Day is coming up on the 25th. In 2013 there were 198 million cases of malaria and 584,000 deaths from this awful disease. (I say "awful" from personal experience.) Half of the world's population is at risk from malaria. The long walk to a malaria free world is well worth your reading. Much is being done, but much more can be done. Be informed and take action if you are so led. Believe me, I wouldn't wish malaria on my worst enemy.

2) Relationships are always evolving. A book I've found to be very helpful as I've reexamined my relationships is Gordon MacDonald's Renewing Your Spiritual Passion.

In chapters 6-7 MacDonald describes five kinds of people that affect our spiritual passion:

  • The VRPsVery Resourceful People who ignite our passion and make a supreme contribution to who we are.

  • The VIPsVery Important People who share our passion and with whom we are bound together to get a task done.

  • The VTPsVery Trainable People who catch our passion and whom we try to mentor into biblical maturity.

  • The VNPsVery Nice People who enjoy our passion but who desire to take from rather than contribute to the relationship.

  • And finally there are the VDPsVery Draining People who sap our passion by insisting that we be instantaneously available at all times for them.

MacDonald's main point is that relationships always involve give and take, and that the flow of passion is either primarily moving in one direction or the other: toward us or away from us. I think we can all learn valuable lessons from MacDonald's 5 types of people. I've always been convinced that relationships need constant reassessing. I know there are people in my life who push me along to greater passion. I also know there are people in my life who drain me of much-needed passion. May God grant me the wisdom to know who is who.

3) Only four weeks to go before I leave for Hawaii. My goal? To rest – and to surf nonstop for 8 days. No speaking engagements, no writing, no appointments. My vacation will be a silent retreat when my mind can be tuned to God's beautiful creation, my spirit can be retuned, and the quietness of Sabbath can be experienced. I'm going to set aside time to enjoy God's gift of rest. I enjoy the peace and quiet of the farm but there is always work to do here. I've decided that waves are God's greatest gifts to humanity and I'm going to enjoy them. "God is the friend of silence," said Mother Teresa. C. S. Lewis put it this way: "Just give Mary a little chance as well as Martha." Thomas à Kempis called this "spirituality" or "walking inwardly." Spirituality is a journey with Christ in which He is given permission to guide us, renew our inward strength, and offer the sustenance needed to overcome fatigue or failure.

I'm praying now for huge waves. Perfectly-formed waves. Gigantic tubes. Glassy conditions. But even if the ocean is flat I'll still surf. Surfers are, after all, the ultimate optimists: "The waves are just over the horizon!"

I will cultivate the garden of my private world until my secret cross becomes my crown.

4) The Moody Blues are DY-NO-MITE in this performance from the Royal Albert Hall. The song that begins at 23:10 will blow you away. "Somehow I'll return again to you." Yes, Becky, I will.

5) Sam Storms calls boring preaching a sin. He's right. Preaching today is trite, predictable, repetitive, and boring. "You already told us that a dozen times." Is it too much to ask for preaching that is scholarly without being pedantic, simple without being superficial, progressive without being avant-garde, comprehensive without being overly-detailed, irenic without being wishy-washy?

Tuesday, April 21

10:34 AM History. It is forever urging us on, forcing us to question, ponder, inquire. History encompasses all of life. By studying it we feel at home with perplexity. It inevitably leads to a kaleidoscope of events too numerous to fathom. To study history is to listen before speaking. As historians we eschew dogmatism and pontification. And, if you're a pedagogue like me, history is something personal and private. You can't visit a Civil War battlefield and not ask, "If I had been here, what would I have been doing?" History has a way of compelling us to confront issues we try to evade. During my weekend trip to Dallas I finished a book about Confederate General A. P. Hill. It's a very realistic look at a very flawed man. But with all his flaws, Hill was a man of dauntless courage, personal integrity, and the highest ideals. The trouble is, as you get deeper and deeper into Civil War biographies, the more you want to know. Civil War history is simply too vast to be understood.

As you know, I also love church history. The church in America is moving from old to new. Just as a jet airplane experiences turbulence when climbing through the clouds, so the church in North America is in an unsettling period in its history. My book Godworld will explore this restructuring of the American church. My thesis is that we are moving in the dual directions of accommodation to the information age while beginning to acknowledge that the "ancient ways" still have much to teach us. We have begun to let go of the idea that church is an institution. We are restructuring from a church run by pragmatic considerations in favor of much longer term goals. In particular, we are discovering that the locus of the New Testament church is not the clergy but an empowered laity. We are shifting from our over-reliance on professionals to more self-reliance in all aspects of ministry. Prodded along by an ever-growing number of dissenting voices, we are leaving our traditions behind and exploding into a Spirit-led participatory church culture.

In the course of my travels I have been overwhelmingly impressed with the extent to which young Christians have espoused the notion of a bottom-up revolution. This is why the "every-member-a-minister" movement that advocates both personal responsibility and sacrificial living is such a critical part of the equation. More and more Christians are applying the "law of the situation" as they rethink the wineskins. This term was coined in 1904 by Mary Parker Follett who managed a window shade company and persuaded its owners that they were really in the light-control business. Her clients began asking, "What business are we really in?" Years ago I began to reconceptualize what business I was in. This paradoxical shift in my teaching is the reason I wrote my books The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. It's also the reason I often refer to myself as a fulltime missionary. When people say, "But I thought you were a professor of ancient Greek," my response is, "Yes, that's my job but it's not my business. I'm in the Gospel business 24/7/365."

This is what decentralization is all about. It means more opportunities and more choices for individuals. More and more Christians are beginning to disengage from the institutions that have disillusioned them and to relearn the power of taking action on their own. Churches are reclaiming the New Testament's teaching on spiritual gifts after decades of relying on professional workers. Many in our churches no longer see themselves as passive bystanders, handing their responsibilities over to the professional class. They are beginning to take responsibility for ministry. Participatory democracy is revolutionizing local churches. Bureaucracies still matter, but they matter less and less. Local churches are beginning to send out workers themselves. Qualified lay elders are assuming leadership roles just as they did in the early church. More and more pastors are now viewing themselves as facilitators rather than as order-givers. Hierarchies are being replaced by networks. What is evolving is a network style of ministry rooted in informality and equality. Local churches in the U.S. are coming alongside local churches in other nations, quietly blending their gifts and resources. "Promotion" is no longer a desideratum. Indeed, in a network environment, people do not feel the need to climb to the top of the ladder simply because there is no ladder to climb any more.

In the church today we are faced as never before with the necessity of drawing on the potential of every member of Christ's body to accomplish the task. Ultimately we have no other choice. God is calling the church in the West to recognize that:

  • the churches in the "mission fields" of the world are sister churches and complete equals.

  • missions is not "over there" but is to be carried out in all of the world's continents.

  • the church itself is missional -- which means that missions is the task of local churches everywhere and not just the task of missionary organizations.

  • global Christians eagerly share their goods, time, wealth, and homes so that God's kingdom might expand.

In short, to be a global Christian in the West requires a different lifestyle -- one that is more simple, more compassionate, more involved, and more committed to the Great Cause. Missionary organizations need to take an inventory of their effectiveness in terms of permanent results. Our pastors and leaders must decide that they exist for global missions and take a more active role in the missionary enterprise. It is not enough merely to talk about soul-winning or global evangelization. We must get involved personally.

The question facing us today is a simple one: Will biblical theology control evangelical  missiology? The point is not whether or not we need professionals. The point is that in its New Testament expression the outworking of the kingdom of God is primarily seen in the liberating of God's people from the bondage of sin and selfishness and in their empowering for evangelization in the world. When we rethink the New Testament teaching about missions, it becomes apparent that missions today and tomorrow will require action as well as understanding. Faithfulness and fruitfulness in missions require nothing less. What we need is the kind of vision that links biblical truth with the right kind of action. To the critics of every-member ministry (and there are many) I ask: It is too much to ask for the kind of commitment exemplified in our Anabaptist forefathers that acknowledges the Christian mission as the grandest enterprise on earth? Evangelicals believe that Jesus Christ will return visibly in power and glory to consummate His salvation. In the meantime, His words that the Gospel must be proclaimed to all nations is a spur to global evangelism. The period between Christ's first coming and His return is to be filled with the mission of the people of God, and we have no liberty to stop working together for the evangelization of the whole world before the End. We each hold within our hearts and hands the ability to expand the kingdom to parts of the world we touch. Each of us can glorify God by passing along the divine Truth to others. Traditional questions about missions such as the following will take on new meaning:

  • Where will I go?

  • What strategy will I employ?

  • Which mission organization shall I go with?

  • How will I be supported?

There is a simple answer to all of these question. It is to walk and talk with Jesus. As we walk and talk with Jesus, He will tell us when to go, when to stay, when to speak, when to keep silent, when to work, when to rest, how to support ourselves. The Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit. Thus our work should arise spontaneously from a Spirit-filled life. A Christian who is not a missionary is a contradiction and is quenching the Spirit. I'm calling upon Christians to pray for such a visitation of the sovereign Holy Spirit that His fruit may appear in His people and that all the gifts may enrich the body of Christ. The needs are unprecedented, the demands staggering, the possibilities endless. Our greatest tragedies are not persecution and death threats but unredeemed opportunities.

Friends, the challenge of global missions cries out to us. As we look around the world, the enemies of the cross abound. But none of them can stand against the power of Jesus' love. We face gigantic challenges, but they can be overcome through the dedicated ministry of every member of Christ's body.

Dad,

I recall the first time I called upon You. It was to confess my sin and to grasp the hand of the Savior. And now I come to You again, confessing that I have not loved You to the degree that You deserve. But Dad, I do love You. Not as I ought, not as I should. Thank you for loving me anyway. Thank You for granting me a new heart, a heart filled with Jesus. Use me however You like. Let me live for You and, if necessary, die for You. You are worth it.

Your son,

Dave

Friday, April 17

11:14 AM "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it" (G. K. Chesterton). 

11:06 AM Another good essay by Art Rainer: 5 Reasons Why Millennial Leaders Should Consider Participative Leadership. I love it! In every generation, in every decade, in every local congregation, the New Testament polity has to be rediscovered and re-applied. If we can learn the cell structure of plants, surely we can apply the wisdom of the Creator of the church in our daily practice as congregations.

9:58 AM Tonight the Garland (TX) Symphony Orchestra presents flute soloist LeeAnne Thompson performing Liebermann's Flute Concerto, and tomorrow the Vocal Majority are presenting a concert of great sacred music called Amazing Grace. Here's a sample of their talent:

Eager to see Becky's mom and dad again and enjoy some great music together.

9:32 AM Last night I finished reading an interesting book called What They Don't Tell You: A Survivor's Guide to Biblical Studies. The author is to be thanked for a helpful guide indeed. I especially enjoyed these insights:

  • Most biblical scholars can't agree on lunch, much less the precise meaning of a text.

  • Where you start often determines where you end.

  • In the commentary game, older is not necessarily better.

  • While a scholar may be correct on some matters, this does not mean that the scholar is correct on all matters.

This is so right on. But this definition of "interpretation" left me flat:

According to scholars, biblical interpretation is defined simply as the process of understanding, and possibly also explaining, what the Bible means [italics his].

He adds:

Academic biblical scholarship is more interested in determining what a particular text meant to its first readers and how that meaning has been maintained or modified through successive generations. This does not mean that biblical scholars do not care about the meaning of these scriptures in our day, but that it is not their primary concern [italics his].

My own view is that scholarship does not exist for its own purpose but only as a servant of Christ and the church. It serves God's purposes but must never control them. It serves the world as well, but must never forsake it. Servanthood is the key to biblical scholarship. Scholars, having received the benefits of their studies, now go forth into the life of the church to render to Christ that form of service or that ministry for which God has equipped them. The apostle Paul -- possibly the greatest Christian scholar who ever lived -- was fundamentally a missionary and church planter. What then is the scholar's role? He or she is a member and leader of the Christian community. Such leaders can be authoritative but never authoritarian. They serve to inspire and animate the congregation. They arouse enthusiasm for personal Bible study. They feed the church of the living God and develop the talents and energies of all God's people.

I am deeply grateful for biblical scholarship. Biblical scholars have a strategic task in the church. One senses a closeness between the apostle Paul and the churches he always viewed as co-workers. Today a wide gulf exists between scholarship and church. This gulf has often been difficult to bridge. At the same time, many biblical scholars have taken the initiative in opening channels of communication, such as open forums and various types of conferences. Most parishioners desire such dialogue. They feel a need for two-way communication. If in the average church we should suddenly take seriously the notion that every "lay" member, man or woman, is really a theologian (as James Packer emphasized in his book Hot Tub Religion), we would have something like a revolution in a very short time. Jesus' own life and ministry is our greatest object lesson. His favorite method of teaching was opening up conversation with a question or a miracle of healing. He was a citric of mere knowledge for knowledge's sake, of mere form worship, of the manmade rules and status symbols of the Bible scholars of His day, the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus cultivated a brotherhood of faith, a fellowship of learning. True discipleship, said He, is really servantship. Even He had come to serve!

Faith in Christ is a dynamic thing. It can't be confined to the halls of academia. We need to gratefully recognize the scholarly guild. It has done great things in Christian education. But it includes training for all aspects of discipleship, not just the intellectual. We biblical scholars need to ask: Are we as active in the church and the world as we ought to be? Do we "operationalize" biblical truth? Have we limited the term "interpretation" to an idealized representation of what the Bible meant? The old Scottish proverb was right:

Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place, but it's not at the head of the cross where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Christ.

Think about it.

Thursday, April 16

3:10 PM This just came in the mail:

O boy....

8:48 AM Good morning folks. Thanks for blogging in.

Am I a "missionary"? My answer is "absolutely not" as well as "profoundly yes -- and right proud of it too."

I am not a "missionary" if by the term you mean someone who is a professional that has been "deployed" to an overseas venue to serve the Lord. In my book Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? I repeatedly call on all Christians everywhere to engage in missionary work. In fact, I argue that this is what the Christian life is all about. This is true for our individual lives as well as for our marriages, our families, our churches, even our seminaries. So many of us today are trapped in a Constantinian model of ministry (in which the church has become professionalized, clericalized, and institutionalized). But why should Christians continue to believe this when the New Testament evidence is overwhelming that all of us -- even us so-called "New Testament scholars" -- are called to imitate Christ and manifest and expand the unique, absolutely beautiful kingdom of God (what I am calling "Godworld")?

Now, this was the message I took with me to Mid-America Seminary in Memphis the past two days. I have for years been a fan of this school and I deeply respect the work they are doing in tirelessly and fearlessly championing a Great Commission mindset among their students. I personally want to thank Dr. Mike Spradlin, president of MABTS, for his kind invitation to participate in their chapel services and to lead a doctoral seminar. A big shout out also to my new friend David Shackelford, who heads their New Testament department and who also lives on a farm. (All true New Testament scholars are agrarians.) Everyone I met was genuinely interested in global evangelization. This is truly an amazing place. Within its halls I found a great deal of warmhearted Gospel appeal. I only lament that my visit was so short. I personally thought the dialogue during the Ph.D. seminar was very helpful. The Gospel is not the true Gospel unless it has revolutionary consequences in the way we view (and practice) church life and missions. In any event, I deeply appreciate the tireless work this school is doing to share the love of Christ with their neighbors and with the lost around the world.

That's my take on the trip.

While visiting the library at MABTS I ran across two new books I'd like to mention briefly. The first is a brand spanking new grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Below is a photo of its first page. As you will see, the book commits a fatal error from the get-go by using Hebrew words even before the alphabet is introduced. A recent New Testament Greek grammar does exactly the same thing. Let me say that I have the utmost respect (and sympathy!) for anyone who tries to write a beginning grammar of any language, but folks, it's pedagogical nonsense to intimidate students with funny looking words when they haven't even been exposed to the letters!

The other book was a real winner. Of course, I read it with somewhat jaundiced eyes since I am a lover of all things Paul. But one page stood out to me (see below). Think about this. If Paul had a copy of Mathew's Gospel (in scroll form, of course) on his missionary journeys, wouldn't it make sense that he would quote from or allude to it occasionally? That's exactly what seems to have happened, even in Paul's earliest writing (1 Thessalonians). I suspect that the scholarly guild has become so committed to the Markan Priority Hypothesis that it will simply overlook this phenomenon, but I recall Bernard Orchard and I discussing it at length. Orchard develops this point in his essay "Thessalonians and the Synoptic Gospels" (Biblica 19 [1938) 19-42). In my Why Four Gospels? I argue that not only did Paul carry a copy of Matthew with him on his missionary journeys, but that He had also prompted his faithful companion Luke to provide a fuller elucidation of Jesus' ministry and of the place the Gentiles had in the kingdom of God. Thus Luke would go on to produce a "Gentile" edition of the Gospel of Matthew in the years 58-60 while Paul was incarcerated in Caesarea. The Gospel of Luke is the product of the crisis caused by the emergence of the Gentile churches alongside the primitive Jewish church and hence they needed their own interpretation of the Christian mission as a sign and proof of their full and equal status. Maybe I can't prove any of this but who cares. I'm an obscurantist and sometimes people will believe anything an obscurantist will say!

A final note. As you know, I'm working feverishly on a writing project that's due at month's end. It's a big project but it's getting smaller by the day. It's going to be brutal to make the deadline especially since I've been on the road so much this month. Oh, did I tell you I leave for Dallas tomorrow? Am I crazy!

Below I've posted some pix of my trip in case you're interested.

See ya!

1) With the president.

2) Speaking in chapel.

3) Ph.D. students.

4) I brought a suitcase full of books to give away to them.

5) Book signing.

6) A big "no-no."

7) I liked this!

8) Paul's use of Matthew.

Monday, April 13

8:56 AM Between stabs at writing (deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!) I've been reading Mid-America Seminary's Journal. Jeff Walters of Southern Seminary has an excellent piece called  Calling from Death to Life: Donald McGavran and the Relationship of Evangelism and Social Ministry. Here's his conclusion:

While missionaries and church planters must face the reality of social problems, McGavran was correct to argue that evangelism must remain central to the missionary task. While some modern practitioners present a more balanced (and perhaps realistic) view of the need and opportunity for social ministry as a path to evangelism, McGavran’s key point remains: social ministry is for national churches planted in context. Missionaries must avoid spending inordinate amounts of time in social ministries, especially when those ministries have political implications. Instead, we must plant churches that will follow Christ’s command to minister to people in need.

Christians today need to recover this thoroughly Gospel-based focus. Only a genuine commitment to the Great Commission can withstand the acids of easy-believism on the one hand and misguided humanitarianism on the other. The "evangelism mandate" will eventually lead to the "cultural mandate" but will never be replaced by it. We can't simply insist on the priority of personal conversion without a recognition that genuine conversion implies a fundamental social responsibility. All too often Christians concentrate on proclaiming the Gospel without living the Gospel. In reaction, others emphasize social action to the point where the message of salvation gets lost amidst the noise of building hospitals, school buildings, and wells. And the earliest Christians? The idea of separating spiritual conversion from practical deeds of love never occurred to them. They both proclaimed and lived the Gospel. So intense was their concern that they became famous for their deep, loving, practical assistance in times of need. Suffice it to say that "fellowship" for them meant more than a potluck supper. Here was a church that gave generously to support their own, even across barriers of race and nationality (see Acts 6). What a splendid example for the church of today.

I've bookmarked MABTS's journal and I plan to come back here often. 

7:24 AM How to grow older without growing old. Excellent interview with J. Ellsworth Kalas of Asbury Seminary.

7:05 AM Blogspotting ....

1) The rapid evolution of emojis. But when will someone come up with the most important emoji of all?

2) The revival of the exclamation mark. I hate exclamation marks!!

3) The Journal of Greek Linguistics is seeking contributors.

4) Latin and Greek -- for your pets.

 

5) "I am here since an hour. When do I become a fish?" said the German to a server in an American restaurant. Yes, it's a joke, but I love hearing Germans speak Denglish and, vice versa, Americans speaking Germlish. Spoke a lot of German, by the way, down in Florida in my hotel restaurant. Na ja, viele Touristen. Want to learn German? Try Deutsch für Euch.

6) Congratulations to Scot McKnight on being named the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary. Well-deserved honor for sure.

Sunday, April 12

6:34 PM Dear praying friends:

Just a quick note to say that I was blessed to have attended Harold Greenlee's memorial service in Ft. Myers, FL, this weekend. Harold held a Harvard doctorate, was a professor of New Testament and Greek for many years, and a scholar who put his considerable erudition at the feet of Jesus in service to the nations. That the latter point should be worth mentioning is in itself a remarkable thing because all of us so-called New Testament scholars should be about the Father's main business. I want to thank David Greenlee for his invitation to attend. If ever a man accepted the demands of life with grace and humility, it was Harold. Simply put, he lived for others. May the Lord make His face to shine upon Harold's widow Ruth and bring sunshine and peace to their household every day.

Tomorrow I'm back on the road. This time I travel to Mid-America Seminary in Memphis to give two days of lectures and to address their Ph.D. students. Mid-America was founded in 1971 and exists "to train men and women to fulfill the Great Commission." It offers a full range of academic programs including the M.Div., the D.Min., and the Ph.D. This will be my first visit to Mid-America. I'm glad to be able to make the trip.

I took a slew of pix in Florida, but I'll just bore you with five:

1) Here's Ruth Greenlee with her three children Dotty, David, and Lois. Each of the children is faithfully serving the Lord. Those who build their house on the Rock will see the Rock do some pretty amazing things.

2) A book table was set up in the foyer featuring Harold's many publications. Very nice touch indeed.

3) Harold's personal Greek New Testament.

Harold did not believe in writing in one's Bible, and it shows. However, he made it very clear to his son David that should his Greek New Testament be displayed at his memorial service, he wanted everybody to know he read it constantly.

4) Poor Floridians, having to put up with sunsets like this one every day.

5) Finally found it -- the Loch Ness Monster!

P.S. "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today." (Chinese proverb.) I'm glad to report that Becky's tree seems to be doing fine.

Friday, April 10

8:30 AM This morning I was reading several blog posts that basically said that the pastor is the ultimate authority when it comes to interpreting the Bible. The essays extolled the "teaching office" of the church and asserted that laypeople are essentially to hang on every word their pastor says. I plan on getting to the problem of biblical illiteracy in my book Godworld, but today I want to note my concern with such notions. Actually, I agree that formal teaching in the church is an absolute necessity. I've been teaching in local churches since I was 16. (Unusually what I do is called "preaching," but I prefer the term "teaching" in accordance with Eph. 4:11 and 1 Tim. 3:2.) I also agree that many Christians in America have unfortunately become their own sole authority in interpreting the Bible. But could anything be more contrary to the teaching of the New Testament than to say (or imply) that pastor-teachers are the ultimate authority in interpreting the Bible? One thing we learn from reading the New Testament  is how varied the teaching ministry of the early church was. I doubt if there was the pulpit-centricity in these early congregations such as we find today in so many of our churches. Formal teaching undoubtedly existed. But this does not mean that the leaders did all the talking. To say this is not to belittle the ministry of pastor-teachers. I have trained a good number of them during 38 years of teaching Greek. Nor am I pleading for an "anything goes" mentality when it comes to our gatherings as believers. I am simply pleading for such a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that it should not be impossible for the Holy Spirit to get a message across to the people through any member of the congregation He should inspire to speak. This is no pipe dream on my part. I have seen it happen in many congregations, my own included. I believe that most churches could do a great deal more to encourage this outlook. In this way many in the congregation will be prepared to put into practice the teaching of Heb. 10:24-25. The gathering would move from being a time of passive listening to an opportunity to engage in mutual edification.

And what of 1 John 2:27? Here the apostle John is emphasizing the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit when it comes to knowing spiritual truth.

But the anointing that you have received from the Holy Spirit remains in you, and you do not need for anyone to teach you.

Do we as evangelicals truly believe this statement? It is the Spirit who grants us understanding of the Scripture. It is He who allows us to grow in knowledge and in spiritual stature. It is He who illuminates to our hearts and minds not only the person of Christ but His will for our lives. The Spirit is thus the supreme interpreter of God's word. Once you understand this, Bible study will become an important part of your life, a discipline that you can hardly afford to neglect. This means that once we come to faith in Christ, we need never be dependent on human teachers to lead us, helpful though they may be. As our "anointing," the Holy Spirit not only teaches us the truth of God but guides us as we seek to live out that truth in our lives. We have in the Spirit a teacher who is resident within us to show us the mind of the Lord. Little wonder that increasing numbers of Christians today are finding they have a new love for personal Bible study.

Put all this together and you arrive at the conclusion that God has provided multiple teachers in His church: gifted leaders, our fellow Christians, and ultimately the Holy Spirit Himself. I "preach" regularly in churches. But to be honest with you, I would never want anybody to hang on my every word. I would rather point them to the only infallible source of knowledge about God and His will for us, and that is the Bible. It is this Bible that we are to teach one another. We need each other, not least when it comes to understanding and obeying God's word. I urge you to find a church home that encourages this kind of mutual edification. If there is a strong teaching ministry where you attend (and hopefully there is), make sure the teaching is sound and feedback encouraged. (A monologue need not exclude audience participation.) Make a point too of participating in small group Bible studies. Remember that believers are all on a par with each other: teachers and taught alike are fellow-sinners and fellow-learners. If possible, make room for more formal courses in the Bible. If a local church is to make a significant impact in its community, it must become a learning center, a place where truth is valued and taught. (In my book The Jesus Paradigm, I devote an entire appendix to the theme of "Returning Biblical Education to the Local Church.") My prayer is that God will use His word to prepare all of us to fulfill the vital role He has for us in the kingdom movement He's inspiring in our day.

7:34 AM Here's an idea that could prevent future police shootings. In the meantime, lessons from North Charleston:

1) For the public: Never run from the police. You are putting your life in danger from an officer who thinks he is judge, jury, and executioner.

2) For police officers: Never shoot an unarmed suspect that poses no public risk who is running away from you. You are putting your life in danger (death penalty).

Thursday, April 9

6:38 PM Been texting with one of my daughters:

She: "You've still got an error on your blog."

She: "Breath = Breathe."

She: "7th line above the India school."

Me: "I thought I had fired you!"

Truth be told, I intentionally leave typos in my blog posts so that other people can find purpose in life. No need to thank me.

6:08 PM Well, I see that I have now published more books with Energion than any other of my great publishers, including Baker (a mere 6 titles).

I'm grateful beyond words to Energion publisher Henry Neufeld for his support through the years. (I'm also glad that someone appreciates my eccentricities.) Of the 10 books of mine that Henry has published, some have sold about that many copies -- but it's not his fault. One day Henry will publish my magnum opus, Black's Encyclopedia of Surfing and Skateboarding, available at fine bookstores everywhere. Until then, let me just say, "Thanks, friend."

P.S. While I'm talking about Energion, let me pass greetings to my co-editor of Energion's Areopagus series, Allan Bevere, whose blog post today contains this quote:

Too many folks in the pews are not obsessed with the Great Commission because too many pastors are not so obsessed and they fail to pass that obsession on to their flock; and too many seminary professors are not obsessed with Jesus' last earthly charge to his disciples, and they pass their lack of obsession on to the pastors they train.

Imagine a pastor saying that. The man deserves a medal.

12:50 PM What I'm reading .... 

12:34 PM It happened exactly 150 years ago today in Appomattox, Virginia. Every surrender is both a death and a new life. Surrender is a passage from what we're used to and walking into a brand new world. Think of when you left home for the first time. Or when you graduated from college. Or when you got married. What does all of this mean? It means dying to the old life and accepting the new life God grants. Just look all around you -- leaves sprouting from what not very long ago looked like dead branches. The cycle repeats itself: life out of death, gain from loss.

For Lee, the surrender meant the presidency of a struggling college that was about to close its doors. Within 5 years the college faculty would grow from 4 to 20 and enrollment from 50 to 400 students. Lee had been reborn as an educator. When a widow asked Lee his feelings about the late war and what she should do with her children, he told her, "Dismiss from your mind all sectional feelings, and bring them up to be Americans." Remember: this was the same man who in April of 1865 said to his staff, "Then there is nothing left for me but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths." Later, in responding to a letter from Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, Lee wrote:

I need not tell you that true patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them - the desire to do right - is precisely the same. The circumstances that govern their actions change, and their conduct must conform to the new order of things.

"Conform to the new order of things."

Yup.

Jesus went to the cross and experienced the death of deaths. His crucifixion was a sign of shameful, abject, total loss. But it also marked a new beginning. Bereavement, as I've often noted, is a kind of death. The loneliness of a widowed spouse is seen in a myriad of details (such as filing my tax returns as "single"). I do not want people to pity me. Bereavement is a responsibility of the burden of marriage and one I gladly assume. It is heartening to know that a warrior like Robert E. Lee could make the transition to civilian life so smoothly. It seemed that for him to put aside his own wants was not a hard thing to do, because his love for his state, the state of Virginia, never changed. It's just that the focus was redirected. I am thrilled to the core when I think of that. Lee was full of optimism even during his trials and troubles. As I have worked through my own loss, I have discovered new ways of expressing my gratitude to God. The better I come to know Him, the more I want to live and breath and have my being for His kingdom, for things to be done on earth as they are in heaven. Many in my family (and in my larger family as well) know Christ in this intimate way.  They are the ones who, like Lee, keep pointing me forward -- and heavenward.

To be a Christian is to accept what we cannot change and grow where we're planted. There is a future and there is a plan for each one of us. Praise be to God.

8:58 AM Here's the latest pic of the school building in Bagdogra, India.

I am speechless.

Well, almost.

This was the building project that Becky Lynn Lapsley Black designed and then, through this website, publicized. Once again, God has provided for His own. The building will be dedicated this month and our team will be on hand to pay tribute to God and to those whose uncompromising, unquestioned obedience made it possible. But please hear me. The magnum opus of Becky's life isn't this building project. Nor is it any of the other works she did for Christ. It's the way she lived. Likewise, our greatest work will not be seen in the spectacular but in the impact of our ordinary daily lives faithfully lived in extraordinary ways. A huge part of this "ordinary" way of living is, I believe, seen in raising the flag of collaborative faith through weaving strong threads of cooperation in all we do. Becky made a difference in this old world because she was always seeking out ways she could help her brothers and sisters in foreign lands. If you will, Becky had a robust theology of Christian vocation, and her life inspired others to embrace common grace for the common good. Having herself embraced the Gospel, she then lived it in humble deeds of service to people small and great. Like the apostle Paul, she didn't view her work as a tentmaker a distraction but instead saw it as a conduit for Gospel incarnation. Christian discipleship was woven seamlessly into all aspects of her life. Her well-lived life now lives on in this building and the ministries it will house. I am so proud of her!

In his book The Radical Disciple, John Stott asks, "What is God's purpose for his people?" His answer is as profound as it is simple: "It is this: God wants his people to become like Christ, for Christ-likeness is the will of God for the people of God" (p. 29). Thomas Aquinas once said, "Theologia habitus est" ("Theology is a way of life"). For Becky, this was more than a slogan. Theology literally changed her life, as it did mine. Sound biblical theology will always do that. I have seen it happen again and again in the lives of countless students during 38 years of teaching. For me, New Testament studies is truly a way of life.

Billy Graham was a "regular" farm boy from North Carolina whom God used to reach 215 million people in 185 nations. Becky was a normal wife and mother whom God used because she was simply willing to be who she was created to be. You too are custom designed for God's plan. He has designed you to make your own contribution to the world. It doesn't matter whether you're in so-called "fulltime Christian ministry" or an Uber driver. Love someone. Serve someone. That's the way Christ lived. Now go and do likewise.

Heavenly Father, in Your divine providence you gave us Becky for 60 years. Her one desire was to glorify You in and through her daily work. May we also do our work well by walking in the power of the Spirit. May the characteristics of Christ be increasingly evident in our lives. Lord, use our lives to advance Your purposes in the world. For Christ's sake. Amen.

8:34 AM "Because of the love of God in me, I can't be like that." Watch this powerful interview with Walter Scott's mother:

Amen, sister! As Christians, we are called not only to endure this world but to overcome it because He overcame it and because we can do all things through Him.

Wednesday, April 8

8:28 PM The campus is bursting forth.

 

Got some more great pix to show you but they will have to wait till tomorrow. Time to chillax. :)

Tuesday, April 7

8:02 AM The rain has returned to southern Virginia, just in time to water "our" favorite tree. Just think: A sugar maple grows about a foot per year, which means in 30 years our remembrance tree will be around 35 feet tall. Sugar maples can grow to over 100 feet and can live for hundreds of years. But the first weeks of care are critical. Thank you, Lord, for watering our tree :)

I love reading Jeff Shaara -- always have, with only minor irritations. His flaws are far outweighed by his extremely satisfying prose. However, I do get a bit put off when, as for example while reading Gods and Generals last night, he portrays the Federals on May 1, 1863, as pushing back Stonewall Jackson's forces on the first day of the Battle of Chancellorsville. Shaara makes it appear that the Confederates were greatly outnumbered by Joe Hooker's forces and that Hooker lost his nerve when he ordered his troops to beat a hasty retreat back to the Chancellorsville crossing. Modern day critics tear into Hooker for suspending the attack "that was going so well." The facts tell a far different story. Hooker was facing 48,300 Confederate troops on his front as compared with his own force of 33,500 infantry in and around Chancellorsville. His reinforcements were too far away to be of any use on this first day of battle. Union General Sykes on the Orange Turnpike had been outflanked, and General Slocum's corps on the Plank Road was being threatened on his right by Rans Wright's brigade.

Thus, while stymied in one sense of the word, Joseph Hooker was neither discouraged nor had he lost confidence in his battle plan, which was (1) to get his army south of the Rappahannock River and steal a long march on Robert E. Lee, and (2) draw Lee's men from beyond their fortifications in Fredericksburg. He had succeeded in doing both.

For anybody picking up a copy of Gods and Generals or any of Jeff Shaara's outstanding novels, the phrase "It's only fiction" comes to mind. You'll need a guide to plow your way through his writings, and the non-fiction works we have on every Civil War battle are about as vivid and accurate an account as we are likely to encounter. Likewise, when interpreting the Bible, let's keep in mind that our object is ultimately to read the Bible for itself. Of course, there are many other voices (and noises) competing for our attention, and many of these are helpful. But we should always try to listen to the text as much a possible even as we read extensively elsewhere.

Monday, April 6

7:34 PM 2014 taxes are DONE.

8:20 AM Well, I endured a rather misty-water-colored weekend filled with wonderful reminiscences and some pretty lachrymose blogging. My Id is now officially back in its box. Really, I marched into a labyrinth of my own making, but sometimes I find that grief is assuaged only by plunging in deeper and just letting the crashing wave expend its force. So, what's the latest? I'm not finished with my writing project yet, which, under contractual obligations, is due to the publisher at the end of the month. But I'm working hard at it. Keeping deadlines is an important part of my life especially because I'm so adamant that my students keep theirs. This weekend is also a chance to pay my respects to a former colleague in the field of New Testament studies, Harold Greenlee, in Ft. Meyers, FL, where the weather (I'm told) will be in the 90s. Do people wear suits to memorial services in the Sunshine State?

Moving on, the New Yorker has just published a story on Andreas Lubitz called No, Psychiatry Could Not Have Prevented the Germanwings Disaster. Gary Greenberg, the author of this fine piece, writes:

Once diagnosed, people with mental illnesses, even severe psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, do not commit violent crimes at higher rates than the rest of the population.

He concludes:

But it is unlikely that even the best psychiatric evaluation would have prevented the Germanwings disaster. The depravity of the human heart cannot be contained in a vessel as flimsy as a psychiatric diagnosis.

I suggest that this is the only realistic approach to take when it comes to mental illness. Due to our concern for safety, we sadly assume that "professionals" (of any stripe) can fix all of our problems or even prevent them from happening in the first place. Personally, I think the two-on-flight-deck rule is about the best we can do at present. Incidentally, the crash in the Alps hasn't changed my opinion of pilots and airline safety one bit. In 2014 there were 12 fatal airline accidents out of a total of 38 million flights, or the equivalent of one accident for every 4.4 million flights. 3.3 billion people flew safely in 2014. There's much more to fear from the average highway idiot. However, in one way I think my flying habits will change, and that's making sure I greet the pilots and flight attendants on the way out and saying something like "Thank you for getting me here safely." They deserve it big time as theirs is an enormous responsibility. 

On another note, as you know I'm giving a lectureship at a seminary in Memphis next Tuesday and Wednesday. I probably would have said "no" to their invitation except for the fact that I was given carte blanche to speak on any topic I wanted to, so my talk will be basically a prequel to my book on the kingdom (Godworld)-- what the kingdom IS and what it is NOT. In case you are wondering: Godworld looks just like Jesus. It's really that simple. So if you want to know whether your church or your seminary or your marriage manifests the kingdom, just ask yourself to what extent you look like Jesus.

Like you (you're all voracious readers, right?), I did tons of reading over the weekend, enjoying the beautiful weather we've been having by reading outdoors. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, so full of good moments. I can't point to one thing and say "This is what made my weekend so special," but if I had to pick just one thing it would be the Good Friday service at Duke. As I told one of my daughters yesterday, the speaker actually used the "s" word in his message. Today it's so easy to focus on the symptoms when the greater malady goes unobserved. The basic trouble we all face in life is called sin, and just when we think we have conquered one of the symptoms (say, gluttony) the basic evil breaks out in another form (say, gossip). It's the same old disease but new symptoms. The only solution is Jesus, who in His innocence drank the cup of iniquity and voluntarily laid down His life to take it up again. He didn't climb the hill of Calvary because He was the victim of a mob or because there was something weak or pitiful about Him. Myriads of angels were at His beck and call, yet "Could our tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone, He must save and He alone." It was my iniquity -- our iniquity -- that made Calvary necessary. This weekend I wept for my sins that put Him on the cross and I remembered the One who counted not His life dear to Himself. "Neither do I count my life as dear to myself" (Acts 20:24) is, I suppose, the only valid Christian response to Easter Sunday.

Blessings on you as you wage war against all that opposes Godworld!

Dave

Sunday, April 5

5:46 PM Eager to begin a new work week. I've been reading through Acts and learning many lessons. These include:

1) The need to rely totally on the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit was a dynamic, ever-present reality to these early Christians.

2) The need for constant prayer. The New Testament church was a pliant, praying church. The early believers triumphed over adversity through petition and supplication and praise.

3) The need to care for the poor and disadvantaged. I think especially of Barnabas' generosity (4:37) and Cornelius' almsgiving (10:4-5). The Lord's grace toward the needy and the outcast characterized the ministry of these early Christians. They had a deep sense of accountability to God for the use of their possessions that led to the actual sharing of those possessions. Their heart was huge.

May God grant me a reliant, pliant, and giant heart this week.

10:02 AM If this doesn't light your fire, your wood is all wet.

 

9:16 AM What is "Easter"? Easter is a call to "walk as He walked" (1 John 2:6), it is a time to remember that "the night is coming, when no one can work anymore" (John 9:4), it is knowing Christ and making Him known, it is entering "fulltime Christian service" (every Christian is called into fulltime Christian service), it is grappling with the horrid, sordid, hideous problem of evil, remembering that Jesus defeated death and the devil and left us with a Gospel and new life because He now lives it in us, it is preaching not Christ the Paragon but Christ the Propitiator, slain and risen for us sinners, it is remembering that a Gospel without offense is a Gospel without effect, it is moving beyond head acceptance of truth and making a total commitment of all we are and all we have to the Cause of causes, it is rejoicing in the Risen One in the midst of sorrow and adversity, it is thirsting for God as the hart pants for the water brooks, it is remembering that this old world is not our home but merely our proving ground, it is outliving ourselves by living to the glory of God and for the good of others, it is becoming saints who understand the times and are enabled by the Spirit to know what we ought to do, it is looking to God to get what only He can give, it means being prepared for trouble and drawing on the bank of heaven when we are bankrupt on earth, it is proving our profession in our lives, our churches, and our communities, it is getting our eyes off of faith and onto the object of our faith, it is feeding daily on the Bread of life, it is doing God's work in God's way and not our own, it is learning to blend the wisdom of a serpent with the harmlessness of a dove, it is hating the deeds and doctrines of the Nicolaitans, it means keeping no record of slights and catty remarks, it is putting our hand to the plow and never looking back ("Let the dead bury their dead"), it means loving one another if we would be known as the Lord's disciples, it means to rise from the dead, having been buried with Christ in baptism so that we might walk in newness of life. It takes no talent scout to locate a true follower of the Resurrected Christ. The distinguishing mark of Christians is that their hearts are perfect toward God, bent on pleasing Him. Satan would have the church conform to this world and be squeezed into its mold, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may prove by experience the will of God. Some day the world of hospitals and graveyards will be forever past, but in the meantime we are called to to be more than "Easter Christians" who have a superficial interest in the things of God and a minimum of interest in what is of maximum interest to Him. A poor frightened world stumbles from one tragedy to another, but there is a balm in Gilead and there is a Physician available. The best way to celebrate Easter Sunday is by getting right with God and then giving our own selves to Him, keeping our spirits in tune with His. His death and resurrection are not mere facts in history to be celebrated. They demand of us our very lives. "For to this end Christ both died and rose again and is alive today, so that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living" (Rom. 14:9).

Saturday, April 4

6:50 PM It's planted :) 

THE END.

9:33 AM As you know, today is tree planting day. A friend sent along these words:

I think a remembrance tree is a great idea. As for your grief - I'm reminded of the question about washing out a glass bottle and wondering when it will stop foaming up. The answer of course is it stops foaming up, when it stops foaming up. But, this I believe - while you grieve your separation now - how joyful will your re-union be in the future. 

Also, my daughter Liz sent me a link to a song she described as "specifically written about mom." She was right. Watch Andrew Peterson's "Planting Trees" and see if you don't agree.

"She rises up, as morning breaks. She moves among these rooms alone, before we awake. And her heart is so full, it overflows. She waters us with love, and the children grow. So many years from now, long after we are gone, these trees will spread their branches out and bless the dawn."

8:55 AM These arrived yesterday. I'm hoping the book can be of some use in the Spanish-speaking world.

8:44 AM I got home last night from Duke Chapel's Good Friday Service of Tenebrae emotionally drained. After 8 hours of sleep I am still recovering from the experience. At the conclusion of the hour and a half service, the cathedral was plunged into total darkness while the church bell tolled 33 times, once for each year of Jesus' life on earth. The music and singing left me breathless -- "What Wondrous Love Is This?," "Go to Dark Gethsemane," "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross," "Ah, Holy Jesus," "Were You There," and my favorite, "O Sacred Head Now Wounded." As a prelude, the organist played the great hymn, "Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein," whose words touch the deepest chords of sorrow and comfort:

When in the hour of utmost need
We know not where to look for aid,
When days and nights of anxious thought
Nor help nor counsel yet have brought.

Then this our comfort is alone,
That we may meet before Thy throne,
And cry, O faithful God, to Thee
For rescue from our misery.

That so with all our hearts we may
Once more our glad thanksgivings pay,
And walk obedient to Thy Word,
And now and ever praise the Lord.

To listen was to be transported into the Garden and beyond, to a hill called Golgotha. I have no words to express how much I loved this service or how deeply it moved me. As the bell tolled, each clang was spaced about five seconds apart. During the intervals one heard quiet sobbing all around, and I for one was teary-eyed, wondering "Will it ever stop, will the church bells chime forever into the night, will they sound not only for the death of Jesus but for the 150 souls aboard Germanwings 9525 or for the 147 killed in the Kenya school attack or for the millions who, like Becky, lost their battle with uterine cancer?" I had heard that facing grief is toughest on special occasions like Christmas and Easter, when "grief attacks" occur with greater intensity. I can attest that this is a true statement. I wanted to stay home last night, to stay as I was, but a voice deep inside told me to attend the service at Duke, for that voice knew I would be reminded again that God's ways are not our ways, that through death we see life as it really is, that when all else goes dark Jesus is still the Light of the World, that the cross calls us to be open and truthful, that (as one poet has said) "It's not the weight you carry but how you carry it," that if only I cling to His unchanging hand I can make it. This morning my heart is overwhelmed and joyous. Dear God, thank you for letting me hear the voices of angels. Thank you that the Messiah is my Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for saving my life from sin by carrying my sins and being crucified. What a priceless gift. It was a joy to sit back and revel in Your majesty. I am reminded of that happy day when I gave my life to You.

Thank you.

Friday, April 3

11:36 AM Today the evangelical blogosphere is filled with posts extolling the substitutionary atonement and rejoicing in the great Savior who died for us on the cross of Calvary. This is as it should be. Theologically, today we commemorate the time in human history when God the Father extended His hand of grace toward us and offered us, on the basis of the death of His sinless Son, His righteousness as a free gift. To be sure, this gift is conditioned on faith, to be exercised by us, but its origin is divine.

Practically, however, this faith-appropriation of "the righteousness that comes from God" calls forth, or should call forth, an ardent yearning on the part of every believer to know Christ better and better and to obey Him more completely. One gains positional righteousness so that one may gain experiential obedience. To show what this positional righteousness implies, read Eph. 2:8-10, where Paul emphasizes that once a person has received eternal salvation as a gift of pure grace through faith, that faith makes itself more and more manifest in that person's entire conduct by means of the "good works" that God ordained beforehand. Rejecting sin and selfishness, believers now throw themselves without reservation into the work of being God's hands and feet to turn others away from darkness and into the light. Christian faith is not mere belief. It is a living and sanctifying power.

Thus today, as we celebrate the completed work of Christ on our behalf, and as we rightly honor the One who merited all these blessings for us, should not all this enhance our love for Him and intensify our oneness with the believers of all ages? Even as we cling to the truth of the Gospel that was proclaimed to us and that we received by faith, should we not also hold forth the life-giving word to others? The Gospel needs no supplement. Yet should its influence not be seen in ever-increasing measure as we carry others' burdens to the throne of grace or as we visit the sick and bereaved in their homes or as we give generously of our time and talents to the cause of the Gospel or as we conduct ourselves in harmony with the responsibilities of our new relationship to God -- in short, as we love as He loved? Should not proper theology result in God's children loving Him more in thought, word, and deed? The fact that our obedience is a matter of sovereign grace and has nothing to do with human effort or merit should increase, not diminish, our continuous, sustained, and strenuous effort to extend the Gospel to every nation and every people group in the world. The Gospel we have received and in which we rejoice on this Good Friday was not meant for a select few nor is it confined to any particular geographical region. Just look at the life of the apostle Paul. There was never a gulf between his theology and his service. When he embraced Christ as his Lord and Savior on the road to Damascus, he also embraced Him as his enabler and example. Little wonder he toiled and labored to the point of weariness and exhaustion in his fight against Satan and his hosts. Read 2 Cor. 6:4-10 and 11:24-33 and you will see what it means to be a missionary-theologian!

The question has to be asked, then: How is it possible for a person to receive the merits of Christ's finished work on the cross of Calvary and yet fail to experience His enabling Spirit within their entire person? Student, you may earn straight As on every exam you take, but nothing delights the heart of a teacher more than a young man or a young women's embrace of uncompromising commitment to Jesus' teaching. May this Good Friday challenge all of us to follow Jesus to the margins and to live out our faith in this world, and not just the next.

Dave

8:22 AM It's a cloudy, overcast Good Friday here in Southern Virginia -- a good morning to publish a brief post. Today I'm thinking not about Jesus' death but about the death of His good friend Lazarus. When Lazarus died, something happened to Jesus. Imagine. The Savior weeping openly at the funeral of a friend! Yet that's exactly what transpired. In everything Jesus did, He became a participant, as it were, in the greater mystery of the human story. And yet when God looks at us, He does not see merely a mass of humanity. In His eyes, none of us is a soloist. No one truly goes it alone. We belong to an orchestra in which every performer plays a particular part. Should the oboe be absent, the entire orchestra would suffer. Jesus saw people as extensions of His creation. He had created Lazarus, and now the Creator weeps for the one He made. We have not truly loved another person until we have wept with or for them. When our loss seems too much to bear, it is because we have forgotten the Weeping Jesus, forgotten how ceaselessly and carefully He is ordering and ordaining our lives for our good and His glory. Last night, as I sat on the kitchen floor and wept over the death of Becky, I offered her up again to her Creator and Savior. I had no one in the house save for the dogs -- and the One who matters most when it comes to empathy. No, my loneliness can't be fixed. But it can be accepted. God is turning it into something beautiful. "Our troubles are slight and short-lived," writes Paul. "Meanwhile, our eyes are fixed, not on the things that are seen, but on the things that are unseen. For what is seen is passing away, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18). Jesus, the Unseen Empathizer, is there when we hit the kitchen floor in tears. In the words of Francis Thompson's magnificent poem "The Hound of Heaven":

All which I took from thee I did but take, not for thy harms, but just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.

Good Friday is a reminder (to me at least) that God draws the griever to Himself. He listens to our cries and groanings -- this God who took the defeat of Good Friday and turned it inside out and right side up on Resurrection Sunday. Death always fits into His larger plan. And so when I find the waves of grief washing over me again (will this ever end?), I know that I am never really alone. The Weeper weeps with me.

"Jesus wept." These words come to me over and over. The peace I have received from them breaks all bounds of human understanding, and I begin to see again that every loss is a gift if I receive it as such.

Thursday, April 2

7:34 PM Sunset over Kerr Lake, along with a hot fudge sundae.

I used to take Becky here on one of our "hot dates." It's nice to remember the good times.

5:46 PM What to say about Pamplin Historical Park?

Well, for starters, it's huge. It comprises over 400 acres, and I think I walked most of them today. The Breakthrough Battlefield self-guided tour will take you to the actual spot where Union forces stormed the Confederate defenses on April 2, 1865. It was a perfect day to stroll along the parapets and trails and witness what's left of the trenches and abatis, which are remarkably well preserved.

The first Union soldier to breach the defenses was (so I'm told) Captain Charles Gould of the 5th Vermont. First he was bayoneted in the face, and then in the back. A friend dragged him to safety. Gould would eventually receive the Medal of honor for his heroics. I salute your bravery, sir.

The Tudor Hall plantation house (a model of the original) formed the headquarters of Confederate General Samuel McGowan from the fall of 1864 to the final days of March, 1865. It too is open to the public.

As for the Museum of the Civil War Soldier, the tour comes with an audio player and ear phones that allow you to follow the wartime experience of a soldier of your choice. I picked a private from Virginia (of course) who, miraculously, survived the entire war without a scratch. Not to be outdone by their historical forbearers, a handful of reenactors were also present today.

These included a Confederate artillery unit that kept blasting away at the Federal troops a mere 100 yards distant. I noticed that not a single Union soldier went down -- which indicated either very poor aiming on the part of the Southerners, or else that the Yankees were (as we would often quip during a reenactment) "wearing their Kevlar uniforms again."

 

One of the highlights of my visit today was the small museum dedicated to the history of slavery in America.

I also enjoyed getting a glimpse of A. P. Hill Redivivus at the small monument that marks the spot of his death on this day 150 years ago.

I've never considered Civil War battlefields "sacred ground," but the historical significance of the Breakthrough Battlefield is not lost on the visitor. "Candor compels me to say that, in my opinion, the decisive moment of this campaign, which resulted in the capture of the Army of Northern Virginia, was the gallant and successful assault of the Sixth Corps on the morning of 2nd April," wrote U. S. Grant a few weeks after the battle. Today's journey was another journey of discovery for me. Having driven right past Pamplin Park a thousand times on my way up north, I thought it was about time I paid it a visit, and what better day than the 150th anniversary of Grant's breakthrough. "Why isn't this great battlefield better remembered?" is a question I'll be asking myself for a very long time.

P.S. I don't hate interstates. Let's just say that I really, really dislike them. Instead of taking I-85 today, I drove along historic Route 1, the famous Boydton Plank Road -- and saw nary another vehicle. Sweet.

8:20 AM Today marks the beginning of the end for Lee's army in Petersburg -- or shall I say "the end of the beginning," as sectional strife will continue long after the men have laid down their arms.

"What can defeat teach me?" I ask myself as I begin my battlefield tour. This is the thing that makes me furrow my brow this morning, this insatiable desire to learn the lessons of the past so that I don't repeat them. I suppose Lee thought that if he just worked hard enough and arranged his troops to the highest degree of discipline he could wear down the enemy. In fact, I have often thought the same thing. "If only I could achieve success in my field and discipline myself to write every day (even when the cool spring air beckons me outdoors) and work hard on relationships, then life will be nothing but brightness and joy." But there are no guarantees with faith. "Giving it all I've got" isn't the answer. I need God. You see, life is a series of opposites. In defeat, Lee discovered his life's calling as an educator. In death, Becky received her ultimate healing. In my dotage, there's new life, new goals, new excitement. In his Poetics of Music, Stravinsky once referred to "the anguish into which an unrestricted freedom plunges me." There is no joy without anguish. Conversely, there is no anguish that cannot be turned into inexpressible joy --  if we allow it.

Perhaps this is why I am so filled with anxiety about Saturday. The whole farm will shift back one page. From now on, whenever I leave the house or sit on the front front, her memory will be there, pushing down roots. I've been around the world many times but there's only one place I call home. I want this place to mean something, not just for me but for coming generations. A tree -- a simple sugar maple -- will be a constant reminder that I am on an adventure, seeking the road less traveled. When I'm tempted to whine "But I have lost the best part of me," I will remember the love she lavished on me. I will let that tree teach me the unforced rhythms of grace. I will stare in awe at God's creation and thank the Creator that He loves me still. To live is to die. It is to do what Jesus required: die to one's self daily. Give up one's rights. Relinquish the past. No longer act independently. Forgive anyone who has trespassed. Look for new life in the midst of death. Even as I type this, I can hear the sparrows singing, filling the air with praise to their Creator. The fields are clapping their hands. And a tiny tree lies in a cool spot, her roots carefully watered, patiently waiting to be planted.

C. S. Lewis once wrote (Letters to an American Lady), "I will never laugh at anyone for grieving over a loved beast.... No person, animal, flower, or even pebble, has ever been loved too much."

Toss in a maple tree, Mr. Lewis, and I think you've hit the nail on the head.

I think I love this place.

Wednesday, April 1

7:48 PM What I'm reading tonight: American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Assassination.

7:36 PM Today -- the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Five Forks. Tomorrow -- the Breakthrough in Petersburg. I'll be there (D.v.).

5:38 PM Margaret Howe Freydburg died last week at the age of 107. Tonight, NPR ran a story about her life. When she was the ripe young age of 90, Freydburg wrote a book called Growing Up in Old Age. In it she writes:

And so I stand in this open countryside, where there are no familiar landmarks. And it comes to me suddenly that, yes, this is the country of old age. I am old. What's more, I accept the reality.

What a gift, this ability to accept old age. I wouldn't mind it if you were to call me old. But I don't feel old. In my mind's eye, I'm still that strapping 24-year old who married Becky, who surfed on the weekends, who had dark hair and looks and a bright future ahead of him. The problem is that, even at the age of 24, I had a lot of growing up to do. I still do. Immaturity shows up in strife and bickering and complaining and divisions and all the evils so prevalent in our culture. To our shame, Christians are not immune to these dangers. We won't have real revival in the land until the childish become childlike and start growing up -- whether in old age or in youth.

One mark of Christian maturity is when we learn to accept others with whom we disagree -- a point made in a delightful new post over at Kevin Brown's site. I think his point is -- I don't mean to put words in his mouth -- that one can be righteous without being self-righteous. Or, as someone has said, "It's easier to produce Pharisees than Christians." In other words, it's a whole lot easier to get people to do things "good Christians" do than to get them to become the kind of Christians who do what they do for only one reason -- because they love Jesus. Sister Tinkling Cymbal defends homeschooling to the death, while Brother Sounding Brass votes conservative Republican all the way. We must get our eyes off of religion and on to Jesus. We can spend so much of our time trying to develop our faith that we never end up simply being preoccupied with Him. We American Christians easily get the idea that we can do the work of the church with the same approach taken by civic clubs and community groups. We minister to others with borrowed bread. How fruitless! The mature believer will voluntarily and readily unite with other believers to worship Jesus, learn, and serve. I don't have to see eye to eye with you to work hand in hand. How ridiculous to act as though the Gospel were about "Don't touch, don't taste"! We poor sinners called Christians will one day stand before the presence of God united. Until then, we had better do a little growing up!

1:18 PM Another glorious day. Just finished cutting back the trees at Maple Ridge. There were 18 of them.

Not bad for a guy whose thumb is not only not green but is totally colorless. Well, since I've become an expert in horticulture (hehe), I'll observe that pruning non-fruit-bearing trees is quite unlike pruning fruit trees. The latter you want to spruce up a bit, make them look attractive. With fruit trees, it doesn't really matter how nice they look. It's all about the sap. During the winter months, the sap recedes deep into the ground and sort of hibernates there. But as soon as spring comes, it's ready to shoot up through the branches, which is why, when pruning a fruit tree, you're aiming to remove dead branches, overhanging branches, branches that cut off the sun from other branches, etc. I am was told by one expert ("expert" because I watched him on YouTube the other day) that you really can't ruin a fruit tree by pruning it too much. It might even have a slightly "butchered" look to it when you're done. But as long as it begins to bear fruit, your pruning was a success. I imagine there's a spiritual principle of some sort here, but I'm too lazy to think about it right now.

By the way, "it" just arrived ....

Now if you'll excuse me, time to do a couple of back flips.

9:58 AM Becky's tree is almost here!

Glory be! Sound the trumpet in Zion!

9:34 AM Yesterday, as I said, I deleted quite a few websites from my Favorites. I'm pruning, remember? Well, today I added a website to my Favorites and I might urge you to do the same: Dwight Gingrich Online. It's odd, but I only stumbled upon this website this morning. It represents the beautiful and powerful grassroots kingdom movement all over the world that Baptists in particular need to notice. I was delighted to see that Dwight had written an essay on the oft-misinterpreted and oft-misapplied verse in Hebrews (13:17a) that implies we are to "obey our church leaders." The KJV reads:

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves....

Dwight's piece is called Giving Account for Our Use of Hebrews 13:17. The essay is both deeply humble and exegetically precise. In it, he challenges the consensus view. I encourage you to read this powerful and relevant article in its entirety. Here are just a few quotes (italics are Dwight's):

In summary, better translations of Hebrews 13:17 make no mention of “ruling” or of anyone being “over” anyone else. A more faithful translation is to simply say “your leaders,” or, less gracefully, “your esteemed, leading persons.”

In summary, this word does not suggest that the leaders of the first readers of Hebrews possessed authority to command people to obey against their will. Rather, this word suggests that the role of these leaders was to effectively persuade people to voluntarily agree to a good course of action. It also suggests that the readers of Hebrews were to possess a teachable spirit. They were supposed to listen to their godly leaders with a trusting attitude, allowing allow themselves to be persuaded by their leaders as they taught the word of God.

In summary, our research suggests that this command clause in Hebrews 13:17 could perhaps best be translated as “Be responsive to your leaders and defer to them” or something similar.

Dwight then concludes his essay with this magnificent summary. Pastors/Elders, take careful note!

Here is the best way to use this verse. Whenever there are faithful leaders who substantially match the description given in Hebrews 13, then we can be confident that this verse speaks clearly to us today. Toward such faithful leaders we must demonstrate a teachable, pliable, persuadable, convincible spirit. We should extend trust to such leaders and place confidence in them. They are gifts from God to the church (Eph. 4), given to help preserve our faith and save us from heresy. We should respond to them as eagerly as a trusting horse responds to the nudge of the bit in his mouth. Indeed, their proven track record should make us ready to submit to them even when not completely persuaded by them, on those occasions when circumstances force one or the other to give way.

My hearty thanks to Dwight for these very helpful clarifications. It this is a topic that interests you, I urge you to peruse his entire website. As an equestrian, though, I'd like to conclude by adding a word about his analogy of horseback riding. Dwight writes:

This example is instructive, for, as any experienced horseman knows, a bit does not force a horse to obey. A bit can only help persuade a horse to willingly agree, and only when a horse trusts its rider will a bit work well. If forced obedience is required, then something much stronger than a bit must be applied.

Although I'm hesitant to put too much weight on this one point, I'm in total agreement with Dwight's understanding of riding (I offered my own perspective in my essay My Horses, My Teachers). The goal in horsemanship is to achieve perfect harmony between horse and rider. I always used the mildest possible bit (called a snaffle) with my geldings. I wrote:

Why does the rider do all this hard work? Why does he apply all this concentration? Only because he believes that, in the end, it will all be worthwhile.... He has felt the harmony and thrill of being one with a horse that is doing its very best for him.

Whether you ride or not, if you're involved in church life in any way, shape, or form, Heb 13:17 is a verse you will have to come to terms with sooner or later. As you read Dwight's essay, try to keep an open mind, especially if you're involved in a church that requires you to sign a church membership covenant. No, I'm not pretending that Dwight's interpretation is not without problems or is adequate in and of itself. But I am convinced that something like this has the potential of edifying the body of Christ in a very big way.

More to come. In the meantime, I urge all of us to imitate God as He is revealed in Jesus and not the God revealed in authoritarian church leadership. As Dwight concludes (italics his), " submission is urged because servanthood has been demonstrated."

Dave

Tuesday, March 31

8:30 PM DBO reader (and blogger extraordinaire) Brain Fulthorp sent a note to tell me that one of my books is now selling for only 99 cents at Amazon. It's true.

Now if I could get about 500,000 of you to buy it I could retire and begin my dream work in Hawaii: Dave Black's Hephzibah Fire Baptized Pentecostal Calvin Freewill Very Holy Surfing Ministries.

8:22 PM Neil Cole lists (with commentary) some pretty zany church names. My favorites?

  • Hell Hole Swamp Baptist Church

  • Little Hope Baptist Church

  • Battle Ground Baptist Church

  • Country Club Christian Church

  • First United Separated Baptist Church

  • Lover's Lane Episcopal Church

And this is not to mention how many Corinth Baptist Churches there are in North Carolina.

6:04 PM Isn't it about time you did some pruning in your life, Dave? I asked myself this question as I pruned the trees around Bradford Hall today.

There are at least three tests we can apply when we prune. The first is the test of expediency. Paul insists that everything is lawful, "but not everything is expedient" (1 Cor. 6:7). Just because something is permissible doesn't mean it's helpful. Another test is the test of enslavement. All things are lawful for the Christian, "but I will not be enslaved by anything" ( 1 Cor. 6:12). Finally, there's the test of edification. All things are lawful, "but not everything edifies" (1 Cor. 10:23).

Paul's point? Some activities, relationships, and pursuits in life are neither helpful nor upbuilding. They can, in fact, entrap us. That's why we need to "prune" our lives from time to time. Now, you know me. You know I love to dabble in forty things at the same time. My interests are fairly broad -- and therein lies a very grave danger. Dabblers are usually sold out to nothing. They fritter away their time, energy, and resources, aiming at everything and hitting nothing. Our Lord said He would rather have a man who was cold than a follower who was lukewarm. We honor God by focusing our lives on what is of eternal value.

Paul was committed to the "one thing" (Phil. 1:27). That's my goal, too. To attain it, there are some things to forget and there are other things to reach toward. Already in 2015 I've been asking God to prune my life. In the "fight of faith" (1 Tim. 6:11), we face distractions and temptations that can stymie our stamina. Friend, put your faith to the test by asking God to prune your life. Just today I went through my "Favorites" and deleted most of the websites that were there. I've even told the Lord I'm willing to blog less if that meant I could be more effective for the kingdom. (Don't count on it.) Everyone of us faces "time wasters" -- usually unhealthy relationships that drain us or questionable activities that enslave us. "We'd better get on with it," says the author of Hebrews (12:1-2, The Message). "Strip down, start running -- and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in."

In other words, start pruning!

P.S. Today I received an email from SIM Roots magazine, and guess what -- it features an essay submitted by our very own Becky.

The website is here. For some reason the essay is password protected, but send me an email and I'll see that you can access her story. Talk about a "living epistle" known and read by all. Thanks be to God!

12:38 PM Just came in the house for a glass of water. I do believe I'm gonna work outdoors all day today.

It's simply too beautiful a day to waste inside.

P.S. This morning I watched a YouTube on how to plant trees. I'm ready! FedEx says it should arrive tomorrow.

11:18 AM Seems like this is the first time in ages I've not been traveling during Easter break. Good thing too. Lots of farm jobs to do. Just mowed the back yard.

Still have to:

  • mow Maple Ridge

  • do a trash run

  • fill in the truck ruts from the winter

  • spray Round Up on the walkways

  • buy some metal fence posts

  • weather strip the front door of Bradford Hall

  • write for 4-5 hours

I love it. The weather is sunny and a perfect 62 degrees.

P.S. If you're a student, mark Saturday, April 28 now on your calendar. That's our next Student Work Day here at the farm from 9:00-3:00. I've got plenty of projects to get done :) 

10:12 AM I had a wonderful conversation recently with a close friend about eldership. I possess little desire for eldership – or "overseership," as Paul calls it (1 Tim. 3:1). What is leadership? It is that invisible something that when Peter said, "I'm going fishing," caused his friends to say, "We'll go with you" instead of walking away yawning. I admire gifted leaders like that. I've known a good many of them. But I don't belong in their company.

What am I then? I think I'm a teacher. The New Testament often emphasizes the importance of teaching. "In the church at Antioch there were … teachers," writes Luke (Acts 13:1). Paul exhorted the Romans, "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them … he who teaches, in teaching…." (Rom. 12:6-7). To the Corinthians he wrote, "God has appointed in the church … teachers”"(1 Cor. 12:28), and in Galatians he refers, ever so briefly, to "the one who teaches" (Gal. 6:6). Of course, all of us are to be teachers in one sense; we are to "teach … one another" (Col. 3:16). And in Hebrews we read, "By this time you ought to be teachers" (Heb. 5:11). We all have something to teach others – or should.

I can't tell you how much I delight in hearing some member of my church utter encouraging words of instruction during our services or in visiting websites written by "laypeople" that are full of good, practical Bible teaching. In fact, sometimes informal conversations around the Word can be more effective, more persuasive, more powerful, more life-changing than formal instruction. But this does not mean that all should be teachers in another sense. As James writes, "Let not many of you become teachers" (James 3:1).

So what part of the body am I? Probably a teacher. I love teaching in an academic setting. But I also love teaching in less formal venues, including Ethiopian huts and small groups in Romania or Armenia. And I especially enjoy teaching in the local church, where I imagine it all began in the first place and where teaching is more closely tied to real life than in the ivory tower setting of the formal classroom.

Are you a teacher? Do you have something to contribute to the body by way of "upbuilding, encouragement, or consolation" (1 Cor. 14:3)? It matters not what level of formal academic training you may have had or not had. If we are members of the body of Christ, we have the privilege and, yes, the responsibility of teaching one another. I emphasize this great truth everywhere I go. You do not need special training in a theological college to be a God-trained and God-taught teacher in the church. Just look at Paul's use of theodidaktoi in 1 Thess. 4:9: "You yourselves have been God-taught." Or read John's instruction in 1 John 2:20, 27 about the chrisma (anointing) you have from God. Or see the promise in Jer. 31:33-34 that God would write His law on the hearts of His people and teach them directly as part of Jesus' new covenant ministry.

On the other hand, some of you are specially gifted in the area of teaching. Here is my advice to you: Do not think you need to be an elder or a pastor to teach. As Paul puts it in Eph. 4:11, all pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors. I believe a healthy church will have both shepherd-teachers and sheep-teachers, working together in harmony for the building up of the entire Body of Christ. In other words, a New Testament church will have a host of teachers, not only ready to impart knowledge, but to receive it.

8:25 AM This and that ...

1) Tommy Wasserman has posted Harold Greenlee's obituary over at the Evangelical Textual Criticism site.

2) Matt Slick answers the question: How many days was Jesus dead in the tomb?

3) Joni Eareckson Tada says Suffering is sacred.

God I am so tired of being a quadriplegic. I’m so tired of this. I have no ability to do this today, but I can do all things through you if you strengthen me. So would you please empower me today? Infuse within me today the grace needed to help me to open my eyes and face the day with a bright attitude, your attitude.” I tell you what, when I pray that way—and it happens almost every morning—by the time my girlfriend does come into the bedroom with that cup of coffee, I’ve got a smile sent straight from heaven. 

4) Check this out. The Digital Dimensions website tells you why you should blog

5) Many thanks to Arthur Sido for his bulls-eye analysis of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

6) This note put a smile on my face:

Your post tonight sounds like a great introduction to your book on widowerhood. :)

Monday, March 30

8:22 PM Tonight I want to make a statement I thought I would never make in a million years. I truly believe I'm a better man because I'm a widower. Pain begets growth. It cannot be otherwise. As a teenager who grew up without a father, I had to find my identity in something larger than an earthly father. In the words of Hosea (14:3), I discovered that "In You the fatherless find a father's love." I think of how my Heavenly Dad helped me navigate through the treacherous teen years and how He protected me and provided for me, like all good fathers do. In Him I found a father's love. Likewise, in losing your spouse, you face a make it or break it situation. Either the experience will crush you, rob you of your joy completely, or else it will fundamentally transform you. I don't believe in any such thing as "accidents." I can't find anywhere in the Bible where it says that the tears, the loneliness, the pain of this life are purposeless. He is at work in it all, if for no other reason than to sanctify us.

The Scriptures abound with such promises. Out of suffering comes holiness in the form of greater endurance, strength, fortitude, wisdom, and consolation of the lowly and suffering of the world. Becky's fortitude always struck a very deep chord in my heart. Five years after her diagnosis, my own heart is now ready to accept the challenge -- to present to God an open heart and open hands to receive whatever He shall choose, and a renewed confidence that He always chooses best. "It is My own peace I give to you," says Jesus. "It's not the world's peace at all." The love of God is a crown of thorns. Life is just that simple. To be a widower is to make a choice that brings you daily into an ever greater and closer communion with the Spirit of Christ. It's been a year and a half since God took Becky home, and it's finally dawning on me with new understanding that her love has never left me since her love was never really her love but the love of God through her. I'm back in school again, the school of the Father's gentle discipline, and the forms of suffering I'm experiencing aren't "electives" I can opt out of. Widowerhood is now my vocation -- not one I sought or was prepared for, but my vocation nonetheless. Think of it: Jesus Himself had to learn obedience through the things that He suffered as He was scorned and rejected, beaten and crucified. How could I have ever been so blind as to fail to see that the relatively small discomfort of widowerhood is nothing compared to His gift of love on my behalf? To walk with Him is to walk the path of the cross. It is to remember that God does not "fix" all of our problems precisely because He lives in us. It is ours to accept and endure and embrace the loneliness without any bitterness whatsoever, knowing that Becky's home going was not evidence of God's indifference but rather proof of His wise and loving choice for my blessing and growth.

And so I'm learning the lessons of widowerhood, learning that the requirements for discipleship are exactly the same as the requirements for marriage. Both are utter impossibilities without the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit. My joy is becoming less and less dependent on people and more attached to my walk with Him. I'm experiencing in a new way what the Bible calls "the peace of God" -- not the peace that comes from the absence of turmoil but the peace that comes through acceptance. So I'm not a husband anymore. I've been given another assignment -- to plumb the depths of human grief and, in the process, maybe, just maybe, discover what C. S. Lewis once referred to as "the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, inexorable, exact as love between the sexes" (The Problem of Pain, p. 35).

If this be Love, let it increase! Widowerhood to the glory of God! Unfulfilled desire swallowed up in grace! Glory to God!

4:40 PM I just received word that well-known New Testament textual scholar and missionary Harold Greenlee passed away on March 21 at the age of 96 in Fort Myers, Florida.

A memorial service will be held on April 11 at the Village Church of Shell Point Retirement Community in Fort Myers. Harold was a quiet man and a very detailed scholar. His primer on textual criticism is perhaps his best-known work. It was my privilege to edit a Festschrift in his honor that was presented to him at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1992. It is now my privilege to attend his memorial service, which means I will miss the Appomattox event and so will "retire" from reenacting at some other time.

The Lord has called home yet another faithful servant who labored in the field of New Testament studies and was committed to Christ and His Gospel. Harold was a remarkably humble and godly man. He will be missed.

9:02 AM Some scattershooting ....

1) Someone asked me if there are vocabulary cards for my new Greek grammar in Spanish. The answer is yes. Here's where to go.

2) An unexpected email:

I think a remembrance tree is a great idea.

3) A friend of mine sent me this picture today. No, he's not in Africa, just visiting Disney World. :)

4) Should you quit Facebook?

5) Do children who die go to heaven? Check out one scholar's answer.

6) My favorite books on Christian philosophy:

  • The Subversion of Christianity

  • The Technological Society

  • The Presence of the Kingdom

  • The Meaning of the City

  • Anarchy and Christianity

  • The Political Illusion

Yes, they are all by Jacque Ellul.

7) Monday video:

 

Sunday, March 29

9:32 AM The irony is not lost on anyone who has been there. Fort Lee lies just outside Petersburg, VA, and it's where George Gordon Meade established his headquarters during the final campaign to defeat the Army of Northern Virginia, an army led by, of course, Robert E. Lee. On March 25, 1865 -- 150 years ago --  Lee launched what was to be his last major offensive of the war against Fort Stedman. The Confederates retreated, and eventually they would end up at Appomattox. "The fighting yesterday proved the enemy has still some spirit left in him," wrote Meade to his wife shortly after the battle, "and Lee, having once begun, is likely to try his hand again; and if he don't, I suppose we shall have to take the matter in hand." Sure enough, at a nearby road junction the two armies squared off again. The Battle of Five Forks -- the "battlefield" is nothing more than a collection of highway markers -- marked the beginning of the end for Lee.

A massive Union assault followed on the grounds of what is now Pamplin Historical Park -- a sight you've likely driven by many times on Interstate 85 just outside of Petersburg. The Federal breakthrough here is probably the least known battle of the war, but the site merits a visit, which I plan to pay this week since the weather has turned sunny again. The park also houses the Museum of the Civil War Soldier, which (I'm told) examines the war from the point of view of the rank I've always held as a reenactor -- that of a humble private ("The mere extension of a musket," we would quip). It was here that Confederate General A. P. Hill was killed by a Union straggler he was trying to capture.

With the fall of Petersburg, the city became a tourist attraction. On April 3, Abraham Lincoln arrived with his son Robert, who was serving on Grant's staff. "I doubt whether Lincoln ever experienced a happier moment in his life," wrote one observer. The president had  a mere 12 days to live.

It's only about a 2 hour drive from Petersburg to Appomattox Court House, and you can trace Lee's retreat by following the roadside markers. By this time Lee had reached Amelia Court House (I've spoken in the Baptist church there many times), where he hoped to find much-needed supplies. There were none. On to Farmville and then to Appomattox and the end of the war for his army. There are few more iconic moments in American history than the day Lee surrendered to Grant. Yet disagreement over the cause and nature of the war would linger well after the end of conflict.

On May 3, Lee's old nemesis George Meade called on the defeated general at his home in Richmond. The two men talked for a long time. Meade left, saddened about his former enemy's reduced position. Yet Meade was also relieved. The war, for him at least, was over. Meade would return north to celebrate not only his army's victory but also the peace they had secured.

If ever there was a time to take your family to see Lee's retreat route or to visit Appomattox, it is now. Growing up in Hawaii, I came to the Civil War late in life. Even today I remain uncomfortably aware of how ignorant I am of so much of our great nation's history. I do know, though, that the Civil War will always remain on ongoing conversation in American life. "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there," wrote L. P. Hartley. And it is that past that has so much to teach us about the here-and-now. It's not just what happened then. It's about what is happening today.

Saturday, March 28

5:52 PM Excellent book, somewhat technical though.

Free for the asking (if you've had at least three semesters of Greek). 

3:44 PM It's called a sugar maple. I just ordered one from Stark Bros. I hope to plant it in April in front of Bradford Hall. 

I find myself inexplicably attracted to the idea of planting a "remembrance tree" to Becky. Honestly, I can't come up with a very good reason other than that I want to watch it grow up as I grow old. It will be a reminder that she once graced these halls. It will be a visible sign of a glorious invisible reality that I believe in with all my heart. Because death is not the end. God is able to bring life out of death. When others are telling me I should get on with my life, my answer is, "I am, but I'm doing it slowly. I'm doing it my way." I don't ever want to be seduced by my culture into thinking that I need to be or do anything other than what the Lord is telling me to be and do. And so I'm planting a remembrance tree. And that tree and I are going to grow old together. And future generations will look at this tree and ask, "Why in the world did he plant that tree?" And they will understand. Maybe not right away. But eventually they will. They will understand when they experience their first major loss. They will understand when the world is no longer wrapped around their little finger. They will understand when at times they have to swallow hard just to speak.

Why is this so hard? 

3:30 PM Well, the day is drawing to a close and I haven't gotten my 4 hours of writing in yet. But it was all for a very worthy cause. The India team worked for me, and the Lord helped them fund their trip. Plus the fellowship we enjoyed! To think that the team is about to depart. I want to start praying for them now. I'm going to pray for them every day until they return. In the meantime, I find myself exhausted. So I think I'll just say "No" to the writing I had planned for today and sit down with a good book and a warm fire on this cold spring evening. The thing is, I'm tired but it's a good tired. A very good tired. Which, at the end of the day, is about the best deal I can imagine.

Friday, March 27

6:16 PM It was in late summer of 1993 as I recall. I had recently acquired Cody, my 7-year old Arabian, and was looking through the local newspaper when I ran across an ad for the "1st Maine Cavalry." I was curious. "What in the world is a 1st Maine Cavalry?" So I called, and lo and behold the ad was seeking new recruits to ride with a Union Calvary reenacting unit. At that time, Southern California had Civil War reenactments almost every weekend, though that was news to me. So I drove out and trained with them for a couple of weeks and it wasn't very long before they said, "Why don't you and your family come out to next weekend's reenactment in Irvine?" We did just that, and the rest (as they say) is history, in this case literally. This past year you may have read a whimsical article or two about the Civil War Sesquicentennial that was celebrated this past year. There's been a lot of talk about the older generation of reenactors giving way to the younger bucks, and I think there's a lot of wisdom in that notion. I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I loved this hobby. I made lots of friends, learned more about the war than I ever thought possible, even preached to Lee and Jackson during Sunday morning period church services in camp. The show battles were fun too. Believe me, you have no trouble falling asleep at night after you've fought two major "battles" in one day, often in 90 degree weather while wearing a pure wool uniform. To continue, I've never begrudged my time as a private or watching Becky cook breakfast or hearing Nathan ("Stonewall") call assembly on his bugle. I'm also well aware that I'm getting too old to do both reenacting and all the international traveling that I do for the Lord. So the time has come.

Several of you have emailed me about the reenactment (my "retirement" event) coming up in Appomattox in two weeks. Two sites to check out are:

http://www.nps.gov/apco/150th-anniversary-of-appomattox-court-house.htm

http://www.appomattoxhistoricalsociety.org/150th%20-%20schedule.htm

The best part of the weekend, of course, will be the period dance on Saturday night.

This will be my first ball without Becky, but in my mind's eye I will see her in her flowing ball gown and hoop skirt, I will stare into her deep blue eyes (who can ever forget her eyes?), and I will relive the memory of waltzing with her to the tune of everyone's favorite non-period song, the Ashokan Farewell.

I don't think I'll be up to waltzing again but I just might jump in for the Virginia Reel or a couple of Right Hand Stars. Because of the evil that exists in the world, a war was fought 150 years ago on this soil. And because of the evil that exists in this world, I lost my wife to cancer 15 months ago. But only for a while. Soon, very soon now, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, without a single trace of war or death or mourning or pain. Every tear will be dried up forever, and we will all discover life as it was meant to be. Jesus, I believe, understood better than anyone else what it was like to suffer. He was one tough dude, we might say in today's vernacular. When I think of Becky, old fashioned words like strength of character and fortitude come to mind. She never ran from her problems. She stood like a stone wall, firm in faith. Remember that the next time you are tempted to focus on the dark side of your soul. We're not alone. We've got a Guide who has mastered life -- and death -- and knows both like the back of His hand. If you follow Him with all of your heart, you'll come out on top too one day. 

11:52 AM The sin of political idolatry is clearly addressed in the historic document called the Barmen Declaration. You can read it here. Its author, Karl Barth, describes its origins:

How wonderful it would be if the church in the U.S. said "Nein!" to political power and followed Jesus' example instead. Sadly, we either point the finger of blame at government for our ills or look to it to solve our societal problems. A lot more could be said. I'm going to try and include a chapter in my book Godworld on the Confessing Church in Germany and its call to reject Hitlerism.

11:30 AM You know me. I don't like hanging onto books I've read when someone else could be benefiting from them. Here are two excellent works I'm giving away. Just write and ask for either of them and I'll get them in the mail to you.

10:06 AM It is not our main concern as Christians to condemn and denounce what we perceive to be false teaching, though that has its place and we have almost stopped doing it. But we certainly should be developing the kind of Christians who are willing to sit down with their brothers and sisters and discuss their differences in a civil and Christian manner. That's why I was interested to see Roger Olson's latest blog post in which he recounts his recent visit to Southwestern Seminary at the personal behest of its president, Dr. Paige Patterson. Perhaps this quote says it best:

My dining with Dr. Patterson and his wife in the president’s house and then sitting with him on a platform (just the two of us) for a forum with SWBTS students and faculty seems to him and to me a turning point in Baptist relations. Not that we agree on everything; that will almost certainly never happen. But we agreed to disagree in a cordial, friendly manner accepting each other as good Christians and Baptists. This has not always been the case throughout the so-called “Baptist wars” of the past 35 years.

Beware of a Christian profession that is words without music and mandates without melody. This post by Professor Olson was sweet music to my ears. 

9:55 AM Just received an email from an organization that's "looking for creative ways to help your ministry grow." It's "designed to help your ministry raise more money, engage more givers, and accelerate ministry." Think I'll pass. I have no idea how I got on their mailing list, but they have now been assigned to the abyss (junk email).

9:38 AM A few random thoughts ....

1) If you ever find yourself in South Boston, VA on Hwy 501, you might want to stop at Mexico Viejo. The food there is terrific. Be sure to try the Arros con Pollo.

2) In exactly 2 weeks from today I will "hang it up" in Appomattox, VA during the 150th anniversary reenactment of Lee's surrender to Grant. Thus far I've been able to find my uniform and musket, but I'm still looking for my cartridge box and bayonet. I'm already beginning to feel nostalgic.

3) This week I checked a book out from the seminary library called The Evangelicals and the Synoptic Problem. It's a dissertation published in 2014 and so you would expect it to be up to date. Yet it says not a word about the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis, probably because there's only one New Testament scholar in the universe who holds to it!

4) Have you ever given thanks for Joseph Scriven? He wrote the words to the great hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

5) Tomorrow is India Work Day here on the farm. Can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for us.

6) The software industry offers a vast array of helps intended for serious Bible study. One of the best of these is Logos Bible Software, which has agreed to publish the Spanish version of my Learn to Read New Testament Greek. Look for an announcement shortly.

7) Yesterday I heard from Abidan Shaw that he wants to do another interview with me for his podcasts. The topic this time around will be my book New Testament Textual Criticism. Previously we discussed It's All Greek to Me and Why Four Gospels? If you find yourself absolutely bored to death and would like to listen to these (and several other) interviews, you can go here and scroll down to "Interviews."

8) After hearing the sad news about the death of Robert Saucy, I ran across a page of testimonials by his colleagues at Talbot. Bob leaves a wonderful, God-honoring legacy. Incidentally, if you can't attend this Sunday's memorial service on the Biola campus, I'm told that it will be live-streamed at the university's website.

9) Someone once said, "'No' is a complete sentence." Let's be ourselves when we need to say to "No" to something we feel uncomfortable with. No lengthy explanations are needed. Just make your decision and move on to the next step in your life.

Thursday, March 26

6:20 PM "History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard. It is a poem with events as verses" (Charles Angoff). Below is one of the most well-known photos of Robert E. Lee, taken by Matthew Brady only a few days after the surrender.

I've visited 707 Franklin Street in Richmond several times and even had my "likeness'" taken there. However, it wasn't until today that I learned about the graffito in some of Brady's photos, and it's not very complimentary. You can read about it here.

The amazing thing about history is that you're always learning something new. That's one reason I love it so much.

6:04 PM If dogs could text ....

2:46 PM I accidentally listened to Rush while eating lunch today (hehe) and talk about a man favored by God! No, not Rush but Ted Cruz. This momentous hour finds our generation drunk with wine -- not necessarily wine from a bottle but from a source that has all the same stimulants of evil -- the intoxication of politics. All the well-meant stirrings of the flesh are mere concoctions intended to give us false excitement. In our LXX class we've been going through Amos, who was undoubtedly considered a neurotic by his cheery fellow preachers. "Why, the poor man just can't seem to get excited about either politics or religion!" Well, he was right and they were wrong. This old world tires me. Our age is a futile effort to reach jaded mortals with a religious version of the thing we are already intoxicated with. It's one reason I love Jesus so much. He recognized all the ills of the society of His day yet refused to meet them with a Pollyanna philosophy, painting the clouds with ersatz sunshine. The pressures of today are terrific on the young Christian who does not run with the political herd. Like Amos, Daniel was another non-conformist who turned down the king's table and dared to be different. Young person, it is worth all the costs of self-denial and lion's dens to follow Jesus. Nothing under the sun is as dry and tedious and ephemeral as religion without the Spirit. No wonder people flock after their "causes." The wise Christian rides no one's bandwagon. Disciples of King Jesus don't wear themselves out tooting a horn for this or that cause that springs up like the onion grass I see in my yard today and withers away tomorrow. Today we live in a feast of words and a famine of Calvary-like actions. We can do better than that. Thousands upon thousands (I am one of them) have found it so.

10:20 AM What are you doing, Henry? Trying to embarrass me?!?!

10:08 AM Good morning bloggers!

These days I'm (mostly) working on a writing project that's due at the end of next month. It requires about 4 hours of writing a day and that's asking a lot of a beach bum from Kailua. Oh well. I think the product will be worth it.

Education has been the epicenter of my ponderings for the last few days. I graduated from Kailua High School in 1970. Then I went to Biola. After two years of college I was bored. Bored with the professors. Bored with dorm life. Bored mostly with myself. I needed a change. I moved back to Oahu and declared a moratorium on schooling. I surfed all day and worked as a busboy at night in one of Waikiki's fancier restaurants. After a while, I got tired of surfing and bussing tables. I was ready for school again. I longed for what I knew would always be for me a huge part of my life: academia. I began to be true to myself again.

I meet students every week who seem to be bored with school. They seem lost. Just as often I run across students who are passionate about every class they're taking. Either way, I see God working in their lives. Some need to take a semester off to regain their passion. There is no shame in that. Others need to stay focused and finish the course. Student, God is at work in your life -- filing, shaping, and polishing you. You are God's "masterpiece" (Eph. 2:10). If you are experiencing gross feelings of inadequacy or boredom, own them. Be patient with yourself. Paul reminds us that "the One who began this great work in you will bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Jesus Christ appears." One thing I do know. God is calling some of you into the world of academia. I can see it in your eyes, in your passion. If so, please don't put God in a box. Go for the gusto. Set your academic sights high; you'll never reach higher. And as you pursue your life's ambition, as I did over 40 years ago, don't forget that we have a guiding light to illuminate our way. It's God's "Owner's Manual" -- His final word on how to maneuver through the good times and the bad. By reading it, we can learn how to live life to its fullest. Above all, it reminds us that we find our true contentment in Him -- not in our careers, as fulfilling as they might be. I know. I've been teaching since 1976. It's been the most satisfying experience I could have imagined. But for me, nothing can top walking and talking with Jesus on a daily basis. Nothing. It's a high that stays with you long after you've left the classroom.

To change the subject (big time!), this week one of my daughters sent me a link to a website called Mundane Faithfulness. Kara Tippetts -- follower of Jesus, wife, mother -- went home to be with her Lord four days ago after a long struggle with cancer. My daughter asked me to read Kara's "letter to my readers upon my death." Ugh. I could barely finish it. I hope you will take the time to read it and maybe pass it on to someone you know who is dealing with cancer. I had the privilege of entering into a prayer battle on behalf of Becky for four and a half years. I prayed for her healing, for courage and peace and the strength to face chemo and radiation and surgery after surgery. There were strong battles we faced. There were far too many victories to count, as well as dark days of the soul too personal to recount here. If you're facing loss, friend, the best thing you can do is share your innermost soul with a friend -- someone you can talk to without feeling as though you need to edit every word you say. I deal with my sadness by puttering around the farm or by writing or by traveling or by washing clothes and making beds. Often I call and just talk to one of my children. When is the pain going to end? Never. Kind of a bleak picture, I know, but isn't this the "normal" Christian life? Just ask Kara and her family. Suffering is God's will for us (Phil. 1:29). At the same time, there is more to life than suffering. I've learned in my own walk with Becky that we never get beyond the power the Lord gives. Marriage is intended to be a union that ends all other unions, but even marriage must come to an end. No one has ever been married who has not also experienced the shock of realizing that it involves radical abandonment. This is the sort of act that is required of us daily -- but especially on that day when our loved one leaves us for the glories of heaven. At that moment there will be sorrow as you've never known it, but there will also be unparalleled joy because God has brought ultimate healing to your spouse. The twisting knife in your heart is matched by "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Cor. 1:3-4). This is why you should read Kara's letter. It is a word of comfort to those she left behind. Couples, read it together. The one thing that shines out in her letter is her love for God. As obvious as it sounds, that's the one thing that matters in life or in death. Nothing on earth must take precedence over that.

Enjoy His grace and peace this day,

Dave

Tuesday, March 24

8:36 AM I have a chapter in my book It's Still Greek to Me called "Woe Is I." Many Greek grammars are far too prescriptive, when all we really want to do is help our students see what is normal or common or expected but not necessarily what is right or wrong when it comes to grammar. You can have a first aorist ending on a second aorist verb, pronouns can be in the "wrong" case due to attraction, etc. And may I add: this is precisely why a third semester of Greek is so important, because it's here where you learn the exceptions to all the over-simplified rules you memorized in beginning grammar class. You learn, for example, that a double negative in Greek can actually function like a positive, whereas in English a double negative is still a negative. (When I once told my students that no language possesses a double positive, one of them quipped, "Yeah, right!") Remember, the writers of the New Testament were writing to be understood, and fudging on the rules of grammar was all part of the game. Paul even made up words. John uses a grammatical "barbarism" (so one commentator) in Rev. 1:4 to make a theological point. (And no, it is not "Revelations" with an "s" on the end. See, even I can be prescriptive.) Writing, as has often been pointed out, is like building a house, and every New Testament writing has its own unique foundation, floor plan, and superstructure. One New Testament book is even perfectly chiastically arranged, as if the author was having way too much fun while writing. In the ISV we actually ended sentences with prepositions at times -- thus breaking a cardinal rule of grammar: "Prepositions are not words to end sentences with." Tell that to Henry Ward Beecher: "All words are pegs to hang ideas on." At any rate, the New Testament writers were experts at hanging ideas, but their words are far more than mere pegs. They were directed by a divine influence (the Holy Spirit, to be exact -- 2 Pet. 1:21). This means, among other things, that the Holy Spirit is the best interpreter of these words. But that is no excuse for sloppy thinking or laziness on our part. I once had a student ask me, "Why should I study Greek? After all, I have the Holy Spirit." Well, in one sense I'm copacetic with that. I'm truly glad he had the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit generally does not tell us things we can learn on our own through diligent study. Even the most hardcore anti-terminal prepositionist knows that the New Testament wasn't originally written in the King's English. So as you learn to read the Greek of the New Testament (no, do not expect to engage in conversation very much, unless you happen to run into one of our Living Koine friends), you would do well to begin with hard work and study before embarrassing yourself by saying something like, "Who needs Greek?"

Monday, March 23

3:02 PM Twas a perfect day for bush hogging the goat pasture. 

And for having lunch with Nate and Jess ...

... and Nolan and Bradford...

... and Mr. Congeniality himself, Graham. 

As if that wasn't enough, the Bradford Pears are going crazy.

Isn't it amazing that they named a tree after one of my grandsons?

9:55 AM Logology is the art and science of -- not word play --  but letter play. To demonstrate, I think I found an example of logology in the book of Revelation. Ok, so, like, here goes:

Ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ Ἄλφα καὶ τὸ Ὦ, λέγει κύριος, ὁ θεός, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, ὁ παντοκράτωρ.

English versions render the first part of the statement, "I am the Alpha and the Omega." Not so! Translators overlook one small but significant detail. The Greek letter omega is not spelled out. I dare say we have here an example of logology. The author is playing with the alphabet -- and with us. Man does that yank my chain. I hereby offer a rendering that reflects this magnificent rhetorical device:

"I am the Alpha and the -- Oh!"

Like it? As you can see, I have zero tolerance for anything less than complete accuracy in Bible translation.

9:42 AM Been doing some translation work today. Seems everyone got it wrong when they tried to render this ancient Greek aphorism into English as "Know thyself":

γνῶθι σεαυτόν

The true rendering is, of course, "Know thy selfie."

Dave Black, Greek scholar, à votre service.

9:08 AM It's time for a flashback. It was 1973 and Becky and I are in the Surf Theater in Huntington Beach watching Five Summer Stories, the best surfing flick in history. Honk's soundtrack is the greatest tribute to the sport ever recorded. Those were good times -- studying the Bible at Biola and surfing every weekend. Poor Becky. I would drag her along to watch surfing movies: scene after boring scene of wave after endless wave. Oh, the things we do for love. I close my eyes and images of the beach still flood my memory.

Here's The Blue of Your Backdrop by Honk. Speakers up!

Sunday, March 22

5:20 PM Free copy of this book to anyone who is serious about rethinking their ecclesiology. (I have four copies to give away.)

Blessings!

Dave

4:32 PM Hope you all had a great day. Mine was rich in food. First, I attended the fellowship where my daughter Kim and her husband Joel attend (and where he is a teaching elder). Joel's message was so rich I took several pages of notes that I'm still trying to digest. Delicious.

Afterwards we dined on Roxboro's finest Mexican cuisine and I was also able to give the manager of La Cocina a copy of Becky's book La Historia de Mi Vida.

I trust God can use it to be a blessing to him and his staff. Right now I'm cleaning house (again! -- amazing how fast things go to pot) and fixin' to go on a walk with the pups. As far as leisure time reading is concerned, tonight I'm finishing Jon Laansma's I Will Give You Rest, which is a study (dissertation, Aberdeen) of the rest motif in the New Testament. How paradoxical it is that we are commanded to "work very hard in order to rest," but Jesus never said we could rest from our labors until we get to glory. In my view, a good place to start would be abandoning our stained-glass sanctuaries and taking the Gospel out into the world. What a challenge for American churches. We are the church as much in our daily occupations as when we assemble on Sundays. There is only one true Christian vocation, and that is discipleship. I wish I had learned this truth when I was much younger, a teenager even, but when I was growing up, "minister" was equated with "clergy." I'm glad this notion is beginning to die a slow death. RIP.

Tomorrow it's lunch with the Black family. Can't wait!

9:15 AM Taped while I was teaching Greek in a local church in North Wilkesboro, NC. Too much fun!

9:10 AM I once spoke to this audience in Gondar, Ethiopia.

For three hours people sat still. Nobody moved around, nobody had to get up and go to the potty. Children were well-behaved and sat quietly. Noël Piper (John's wife) once wrote:

To sit still and be quiet for an hour or two on Sunday is not an excessive expectation for a healthy 6-year-old who has been taught to obey his parents. It requires a measure of discipline, but that is precisely what we want to encourage parents to impart to their children in the first five years.

There is wisdom in her words, but no legalism. It's tough to teach our children self-discipline. But we should start somewhere, don't you think?

8:40 AM Good morning, thoughtful readers of the internet!

This morning I want to talk with you about systematic theology and why I probably could never be a systematic theologian. As I understand things, the goal of systematic theology is to induce from the verses of Scripture certain facts about God and then arrange these facts into an organized and balanced whole. I see at least two areas of systematic theology that seem to be glaringly inadequate by this definition. The first has to do with the very Godhead. For a long time I have had a concern that our theology has been sorely imbalanced in this area. There simply seems to be a lack of balance. The area of doctrine to which I am referring is the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God. It is significant that many of our leading theology textbooks seem to preserve the status quo in this regard rather than the propagation of a balanced faith.

  • Grudem has a section on the doctrine of God and on the doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit but nothing on the doctrine of the Father.

  • Erickson has four chapters on "God," two on "Christ," and one on the "Holy Spirit."

  • McGrath has chapters on "God" and "the Person of Christ" but nothing per se on the Holy Spirit.

  • Ryrie has sections on "God," "Jesus Christ Our Lord," and "The Holy Spirit." 

Here, then, is an imbalance, and one with the greatest consequences. By imbalance I mean that while we focus (properly) on the persons of the Son and the Spirit in our theology, we seem to lack any desire to grant an equal emphasis on God as Father. Instead, we lump anything we have to say about the Fatherhood of God under "Theology Proper." My conviction is that we should give at least as much attention to God as Father as we do to God as Son and God as Holy Spirit. This imbalance has become pronounced in recent years -- witness the over-emphasis on the Son in the so-called "Jesus Movement" of the 1960s and 1970s, and (if we can call it this) the over-emphasis on the Spirit in the so-called Charismatic Movement of the 1950s and later. This is an unnecessary polarization and is sheer folly. For example, much of our "worship" in current evangelicalism focuses on the Son, on Jesus, and so we sing praises to Him and bow down before Him in adoration and praise -- and certainly this is His due. But then we seem to forget about certain passages in the New Testament in which the Son Himself calls attention to the Father in a very purposeful and special way. Paul makes this clear when he ends his Christ-hymn in Phil. 2:5-11, not by calling our attention to the Son, but by writing "to the glory of God the Father." Likewise, in 1 Cor. 15, Paul makes it clear that the Son Himself shall one day deliver the kingdom up to God the Father, so that He might be all things in all people. In our prayer life, we often display this imbalance when we pray to the Son, the Lord Jesus (which I do all the time). Nothing sinful about that at all, of course. But did not the Lord Jesus Himself pray to the Father, and did He not instruct us that, when we pray, we are to say "Our Father...."? The truth is that the Godhead is comprised of three co-equal and co-eternal Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit did not come to glorify Himself, so Christ sought at all times to do the will of the Father. No one has expressed this better than Thomas Smail in his book The Forgotten Father, in which he writes:

[J]ust as the Father is the source of everything both in creation and in redemption, so also he is the goal of everything, and the mission of the Son and of the Spirit is to advance his glory and let him be all in all.

A second imbalance that I perceive in our theology is the absence of any emphasis upon one of the most essential attitudes of God, and that is His impartiality.

Impartial means not partial and speaks of God's attribute whereby He treats all men and women equally, not demonstrating favoritism. God does not show prejudice towards or against any person or party.

The Greek says that "God does not receive a face," that is, He does not judge us on the basis of our appearance. Our God is color-blind, race-blind, status-blind, wealth-blind, and even nation-blind. God unfairly accuses no one. He uses the same standard for everyone. Writes Peter (1 Pet. 1:17): "And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do." Can that be said of us? Do we not show partiality when we fly the national flag in our so-called Christian sanctuaries? I have travelled a great deal and have been among many of my fellow believers in many different nations and have yet to see the national flag being flown in any of these churches. On the other hand, let someone from Mexico or the Middle East walk into one of our church buildings and he or she might conclude that Christianity is all about America. More often than most of us know or care to admit, there is an incipient prejudice in our churches. Christianity belongs to no single race or nationality. This is the point René Padilla made in Lausanne at the International Congress on World Evangelization when he castigated what he referred to as "culture Christianity." Bottom line? "There is no respect of persons with God" (Rom. 2:11). Yet where is this attribute of God discussed in our systematic theologies? Surely the topic merits its own section if not chapter.

In at least these two areas we have good evidence that an imbalance of sorts occurs in our way of thinking about God. Friend, a book on theology can never be a substitute for Scripture and surely should never be an excuse or cloak for ignorance.

Saturday, March 21

6:10 PM I've been chomping at the bit for some time now to tell you this, but my beginning Greek grammar in Spanish is going to the printers. Yay! A big "Bravo" to my publisher, Henry Neufeld, and to the book's intrepid translators -- Thomas, Lesly, and Fiorella. All year long you've been hearing about this publication but the end is finally in sight. I especially want to acknowledge the work of Thomas Hudgins in persevering to the end as main translator and editor. My guess is he'd say it was pretty tough work, akin to delivering a 10 pound baby with no epidural. Gracias, amigo.

I don't know how many books I've birthed -- writers never simply "publish" books; we give birth to them -- but this one is very special to me, and I truly hope and pray that my Spanish-speaking friends will find it useful. As soon as it comes out I'm going to hold a baby shower (= give away several copies), but in the meantime I'll let my friends promote it. Here's a sampler:

Of course, once the book makes the New York Times best-seller list, I'll be too busy to blog anymore while giving lots of talks in libraries, doing book signings, and appearing on C-Span 2. Ok. Maybe not. But I must tell you, the sonogram sure does look good, and from what I can see, the baby is a real beaut. Soli Deo gloria. 

5:44 PM I just finished reading Steve Kindle's new book, I'm Right and You're Wrong: Why We Disagree About The Bible And What To Do About It.

"The current landscape of biblical disagreement is literally worldwide," bemoans Steve, adding, "Many of us think our way is superior to most, if not all" (p. 1). He's right of course. I often ask my students this question: "If we have a perfect source [the Bible] and a perfect teacher [the Holy Spirit], then why do we disagree among ourselves so often?" The answer is obvious: It is we who are not perfect. None of us ever thinks perfectly logically, nor is any one of us ever completely filled with the Spirit. As Steve notes, "Reason is never 'pure' reason; it is always a product of how we perceive logic" (p. 17).

What to do then? The book concludes with many helpful suggestions, a few of which I mention here (my words, not his):

  • Be aware of our own attitudes and presuppositions.

  • Recognize that some disagreement is inevitable.

  • Let humility guide the discussion. Always.

  • Read Scripture in light of its historical context.

  • Let the Holy Spirit be our guide.

  • Be open to change and even correction.

  • Be willing to agree to disagree for the sake of the Gospel.

Steve notes that the goal is "...not to appear scholarly, or erudite, or to win arguments, but to follow Jesus as a faithful disciple" (p. 36). And that is a point, I think, on which all of us can agree.

Henry's series is called Topical Line Drives. This one hits it out of the park.

3:50 PM I love every spring, when the daffodils show themselves again on the farm, in all their magnificent glory, reminding us of new beginnings after long, cold winter spells.

But Wordsworth is much more eloquent than I. 

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Spring was a time when Becky and I could sit on the front porch again and not worry about the cold, her head on my lap as I moved my hand over the amazing skin of her beautiful face. We would talk about the winter past and the summer work to come, and prayed for the capacity to grow even closer together as a couple with greater God-given clarity of how best we could serve Him in this life. Our marriage, like yours, was an alliance of love, an extravagant serendipity granted us by a merciful God. For it is He and He alone that joins and keeps His people together, until, of course, He should tell one of them, "Come up hither; I now desire you to be with Me." Alas, this is my second spring without my loved one by my side, but I am not bereft of lofty aims. Like a stubborn daffodil, I thrust my way through the once frozen soil and approach the highest throne with full confidence that He yet has work for me to do.

11:54 AM Saturday book giveaway:

To the first three people to write me at dblack@sebts.edu. Kindly include your mailing address.

11:42 AM I was listening to an interview on NPR this morning. The interviewee was a doctoral student at some university (I forget where) and began every single statement with the words,"Yeah, so ...."

"How long have you been working on this research?"

"Yeah, so I started this work three years ago."

"What's the most interesting thing you've learned so far?"

"Yeah, so I really got interested in working out a formula for my research."

My generation used to say "so" when it meant something. "So how was your trip?" That is so retro today. Thankfully, old geezers like me are adaptable. Call in the language of Silicon Valley! Valley Girls may still use "like," but computer geeks? It's "so" all the way.

So I was net-surfing the other day and ran across some famous lines in literature and movies that, I thought, well, could like use a little updating, using "so" or "like" or any number of neologisms the older generation disdains or finds extremely annoying (e.g., "whatever," "just sayin'," "epic," "awesome," "I mean," "dude," "man," etc.).

"Man, it's like elementary, my dear Watson." Watson: "Whatever."

"Dude, I vant to suck your blood!"

"Houston, we have a problem. I mean, it's like epic, man."

"Go ahead, make my day. Just sayin."

"I'm Bond. Like, James Bond."

"Yeah, so ... heeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!"

"Teacher, tell my brother to like divide the inheritance with me."

"I'm the king of the world! Aaaaaawesome!"

I'm sure you can think of others. In the meantime, would somebody please gag me with a spoon?

Friday, March 20

5:40 PM And the recipient of When God Spoke Greek?

Matt of Forth Worth

Another giveaway soon!

4:22 PM Worth thinking about....

3:40 PM Update:

1) Discovered this fruit drink last May in Hawaii.

I see that Food Lion carries it. Yummy-licious. 

2) It's snowing at my daughter's home in New York. Gorgeous.

3) Time for a long walk on the farm. No pix. I promise.

2:26 PM I've been working on a writing project all morning long but now that FedEx just brought me this book ...

Aargh! Discipline, Dave, discipline!

BTW, the 100th anniversary of her sinking will be commemorated on May 7 of this year.

2:06 PM Now here's a great quote (from Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship by David Peterson):

The purpose of Christian gatherings is the edification or building up of the body of Christ. We minister to one another as we teach and exhort one another on the basis of his word, using the gifts that the Spirit has given us, in the way that Scripture directs. Edification is to be our concern even when we sing or pray to God in the congregation. All this is not a purely human activity, however, for God is at work in the midst of his people as they minister in this way. Edification is first and foremost the responsibility of Christ as the ‘head’, but he achieves his purpose as the various members of the body are motivated and equipped by him to play their part. We meet together to draw on the resources of Christ and to take our part in the edification of his church.

Call this worship if you will (all of life is to be worship), but what Paul is describing is essentially an "edification service." I love attending the weekly gathering. But I sure do wish we could call it what it is. Language matters. The medium is the message, said McLuhan (with slight exaggeration). Why, then, should we have worship teams and worship leaders and worship pastors and worship folders and worship centers when we gather not to worship but as worshippers in order to edify one another (1 Cor. 14:26)?

Funny, but I used to quip with my students: "Find me one passage in the New Testament where the gathering of believers is described as a 'worship' service and I'll buy you lunch.'" ("Service of worship" in Rom. 12:1 doesn't count since Paul is not specifically describing the gathering of believers. Worship here is 24/7/365.) Well, looks like I'm going to have to eat my words. This morning I found an English translation that actually renders Heb. 10:25 as "not staying away from worship meetings"! (The Greek, of course, says nothing of the kind; it could be rendered as simply "not neglecting to meet together.")

And now, on a totally unrelated note, I've decided to begin a new ministry here at the farm. I'll be raising beef cattle for their meat to give away to those in need. Yep, lean grass-fed beef. First I have to double check the pasture fencing (and there is lots to check). But there you have it. Another wacko idea from yours truly. Can't wait to get started. I hope to butcher two steers a year. That should give me about 1,000 pounds of boneless trimmed beef to give away annually. In any event, I'm looking forward to putting our pastures to good use this year.

By the way, could this be called "a service of worship"?

10:58 AM Hello wonderful friends,

Today I'm cleaning house, both literally and figuratively. It's time to go through my calendar with a fine toothed comb and cut out some of the clutter. It will probably be a while before I return to the Horn of Africa. I say this because the work elsewhere is just too demanding right now. This year marks the close of my eleventh year of ministering in Ethiopia. During this time my responsibilities have included teaching beginning Greek grammar (Evangelical Theological College), intermediate Greek grammar (Meserete Christos College), the Gospel of John (Dilla Bible School), priests in the Orthodox church, and countless other teaching assignments. Together with Becky we opened a health clinic in the South, distributed thousands of Bibles, mobilized dozens of short-termers from the States, supported native evangelists, and preached the Gospel among the lost. Simultaneously the Lord has opened doors for me to work in the Middle East and Asia. This involvement has prompted me to a fundamental rethinking of the mission and structure of the church in modern society. I believe these are days of extreme watchfulness for the church in the West as the Holy Spirit seeks to speak to us through His word. Today, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must depend less and less on the arm of the flesh, on formal education, and on the words of perceived "authorities" whose teachings often do not comport with the simple word of God. A biblical concept of inspiration is not enough. I spoke about this in our Greek classes this week as we exegeted 2 Tim. 3:16:

πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, πρὸς ἐλεγμόν, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν, πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, ἵνα ἄρτιος τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος, πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἐξηρτισμένος.

Truth, if it is truth, must be incarnated -- as much within our own lives as in our denominational structures and organizations. The church must return to its Scriptural roots and become radically biblical. The church's primary identity is as a missionary structure. In other words, where you find the church, there you will find missions; and where you find missions, there you will find the church. The function of a healthy local church should be that of identifying and awakening the various gifts of the Spirit in the context of mutual edification and with the goal of global expansion. Just as the Father sent the Son, so the Son is now sending us to fulfill our special ministry in the world. The church is to rule the world, but she does so by serving and only by serving. She is a vehicle of the Gospel, pure and simple. She is a pilgrim people who owe their sole allegiance to Jesus Christ. She needs no physical building because her God already dwells within the human community of believers. "The Church is the Church only when it exists for others" (Bonhoeffer). I have worked with literally hundreds of fellow Christians in Ethiopia. My wife's parents brought the Gospel to southern Ethiopia. Becky (and I) were blessed to be able to continue that work to some degree. Today a third wave of missions work is crashing down upon the scene -- the native missionary movement. National workers understand the culture, the customs, the religion, and the language far better than we ever could. They are used to far fewer resources and can work more economically than we can. That's why I believe the response of the West is critical. We must come to that place of absolute understanding that sucking on baby bottles and sitting in our comfy chairs won't reach the world for Christ. "Our abundance must be a supply for their want," insists Paul (2 Cor. 8:13). Cooperation is required as never before.

If you'd care to read why Becky and I have adopted an intentionally cooperative philosophy of doing missions, please read How We Do Missions. What makes a minister? What makes a missionary? Essentially and ultimately it is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who makes them. That truth alone should be fresh incentive to us to join Him in the task.

Onward and upward,

Dave

Thursday, March 19

6:20 PM In exactly 67 days I leave for Hawaii to go surfing. But hey -- who's counting?

6:06 PM I'm giving away a brand new copy of When God Spoke Greek.

Just tell me why you want it and include your mailing address when you write. If I have more than one request, I'll pick the winner tomorrow night at this time.

5:54 PM Being an incurable infracaninophile, I'm rooting for North Florida in tomorrow night's game with Duke. If you don't like it ....

5:46 PM Enjoyed leading a Ph.D. comprehensive oral exam today with Calvin Morris. Here he is with his wife Devra and Heath Thomas, the director of our doctoral program. Now begins the task of writing the prospectus and moving into the dissertation phase. Calvin is interested in pursuing the question of contextualized theology in a Latin American context. Congratulations Calvin on passing this milestone in your studies.

9:58 AM Well, I'll just start by saying that I'm feeling a whole lot better this morning. Grabbing a few extra Zzzz helped, as did my wife's homemade concoction. But enough of that. Moving on, here's something for you to chew on:

 

Steve Knott of the Army War College in Carlisle, PA, discusses Lee's strategy at Gettysburg and why Stuart was allowed to ride around the Union Army (with disastrous consequences). If you like Civil War history, you will love this video. How in the world did Lee think he could beat the Federals given the disparity between resources North and South? Knott gives us the answer by using a time-worn formula found in all their army manuals: means times will equals power of resistance. Lee knew that his means for defeating the Union army were fairly limited. But his troops had the will power to keep on going. They were bent on getting their independence. In the North, the story was vastly different. By the Spring of 1863, the will in the North was rapidly disappearing. The Peace Democrats (the so-called Copperheads) were in the ascendancy. The cost in blood and treasure was getting higher by the month. Lee was counting on the North getting tired enough to quit and come to the negotiation table. And he knew he could speed up that process if he could win a great victory on Northern soil. Hence his invasion of the great state of Pennsylvania.

As I noted yesterday, as Christians we are called to be soldiers of Christ. We are called to plunge into the very heart of battle so as to win the war against the darkness. Going back to Knott's formula (means times will equals power of resistance), I am convinced that resources pose no problem for our side. We are so wealthy as North Americans that our pastors can actually call upon us to purchase jets for them. What we need is better resource management. We need to learn to live the lifestyle that we read about in Luke 14:25-35 -- a radical lifestyle of sacrifice. But what about the second part of the equation -- our will power? This is where it gets a bit dicey. I'm calling on believers everywhere to join me in a radical movement that will seem crazy to many of your friends and family. It's a movement in which God teaches us how to stay detached from the things of the world, to seek first His kingdom, and to take no thought for tomorrow (as far as our personal safety is concerned). In other words, victory is conditioned on loss. Our real significance as Christians lies not in how much we retain but in how much we pour out. Money is either our master or our slave. I am confident that if only God would grant us the will power to adopt a lifestyle that matches our responsibility to a lost world, we would turn the world upside down for Christ. We would send out evangelists by the thousands to the unreached and would be able to provide the precious word of God to every human being on the planet. As I put it in my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, the early Christians were living examples of Christ's control over their earthly goods. They willingly and eagerly sold their possessions and parted them to all, as everyone had need. Contrast that with your average church budget in which 90-95 percent is spent on ourselves. Can you imagine what would have happened had Robert E. Lee had the same resources the North had? Likewise, can you imagine what would happen today if Christians were to adopt the kind of sharing attitude we find in the New Testament? Our money is not ours to spend as we please. Loving means sharing. As my life verse puts it, "Share what you have with God's people who are in need." This is what the agape love of the New Testament is all about. If we in the West will not share our resources on the lost, who else on earth can afford to do so? The needs in Asia are outstripped only by the opportunities. Would you prayerfully consider:

  • sponsoring an evangelist yourself?

  • sharing your vision of the unreached with others?

  • challenging others to become missionary sponsors?

  • arranging a missions conference in your home church?

  • seeking employment overseas so that you can be salt and light?

  • being intentional about reaching the unreached people God brings to live in your community through friendship, prayer, and witness?

  • becoming faithful prayer warriors?

  • joining the cause of global missions?

Jesus never apologized for demanding obedience in this matter. His Great Commission are our standing orders. Even though we are all assigned different places in the harvest, we can work together under the one Master. God has blessed the churches in the U.S. with His special favor. Never in the history of the world has a church enjoyed so much freedom and prosperity. Won't you join in the cosmic struggle for souls? Thousands of hidden people groups are still in darkness. Will we surrender to the spirit of this age, or will we let our lives be broken and smashed that the light might break forth? We have the means. But do we have the will? The battle is raging. Soldiering is for every believer, whatever your location, whatever you vocation. Isn't it time we broke out of the velvet comfort of our lives and reported for duty?

9:38 AM Happy Birthday Nate!

Wednesday, March 18

2:50 PM I decided to get up and grab some soup. Becky canned this years ago.

What happy memories of my bride working in the kitchen. Folks, this is completely homemade, from the broth to the ingredients. If this doesn't heal me, I don't know what will. While the soup is simmering I thought I'd update you on yesterday's chapel. David Platt made two essential points: (1) The local church is the sending agency for missions (see Acts 13); and (2) mission agencies need to be reformed, and they need to be reformed not from the top down but from the bottom up. I'd like to offer a few thoughts of my own based on what David said. Here goes:

1) Missions can no longer be defined as overseas service.

2) Our prayer as Christians should be the "thrusting out" command of our Lord when He said, "Beg [the verb is just that strong] the Lord of the Harvest to thrust forth workers into His harvest" (Matt. 9:37).

3) God has a magnificent new plan for reaching the lost, and it is called the native missionary movement. Actually, this is the ancient plan you'll find in the book of Acts, where local churches sent their best to share the Gospel with others.

4) Far from spelling the end of U.S. involvement in foreign missions, this plan enables us to use our resources most effectively. It is no longer a matter of us putting a large force into the field. It is no longer a matter of us hiring more professionals to do the job. We have been beguiled to think that missionaries are people who "go over there." We have failed to recognize that the professional foreign worker and the local cosmetologist are equally valuable and just as much needed as the other. I adamantly disagree with those who claim that the "missionary calling" is a higher calling than that, say, of a carpenter or a farmer. All careers are equally crucial in the advance of the kingdom. God's "missionary call" is made to each of us.

5) Sadly, this call has become a call to a location rather than to a lifelong vocation. In our minds, a missionary is someone who is doing mission work fulltime and is paid for that activity. The question each of us faces today is the question David posed in chapel yesterday: How may I best fit into God's purpose and bring together all that I have and all that I am in a vocation and a location that will most effectively promote the accomplishment of His purposes in the world?

6) This new revolution in missions I'm talking about requires a complete paradigm shift in our thinking. Do not look for a reason to outsource missions. Do not live selfishly and store up treasures on this earth that will be destroyed soon while billions are waiting to hear about Jesus. I believe that the fastest and most efficient way to reach our generation for Christ is to support the growing native missionary movement. As God's Spirit continues to move among us, I believe that literally hundreds of thousands of native evangelists will be sent forth from their local churches with the Gospel. One ministry with which I am acquainted currently supports more than 16,000 national evangelists. They are also training the believers in their congregations to be fulltime witnesses and are establishing sister congregations in their regions.

7) At the same time, each of us must seek the Lord's face as to where He will have us go to be a missionary. Usually it will be to our immediate neighbors and friends. Occasionally it might mean selflessly partnering with other local churches in North America or abroad. Certainly it will require mobilizing a host of committed national Christians in the heart of the 10/40 Window to reach the most unreached. In all cases, national evangelists must be supervised by local indigenous church elders under whom they work.

8) Currently I support evangelists in India who are taking the Gospel to unreached people groups. I've also had the great honor and privilege to come alongside the Peniel Gospel Team in Northeast India to help (along with many of you) the PGT build a school that will sustain their various ministries through tuition payments. This building will also be used to train hundreds of local evangelists who are ready to take the Gospel into neighboring Nepal and Bangladesh. I am grateful beyond words to see that the Lord is speaking to many of you about the need to be faithful to God's call on your life to share the Gospel with others and to use your affluence as Westerners to help your brothers and sisters in less fortunate places like Asia. Your financial investment will show in the result of lives changed and local, completely indigenous, churches established.

To wrap this up (I'm getting hungry!), Elton Trueblood once wrote in his famous book The Company of the Committed that the Gospel ministry is always a base and a field. The base is the local church to which the foot soldiers repair for new strength. The field is the entire world, and this is where all true Christians are to operate. We have made a good start when we learn to see our church buildings not as holy "sanctuaries" but as the headquarters from which the recruits are expected to go out. In this model of missions there is no cleric or layperson but all are engaged in accomplishing the task. This kind of involvement will take courage. Calvary-love is not sentimentality but the dreadful kind of love that sweats and weeps and sacrifices and perhaps even dies for the sake of the lost. But what greater Cause could we devote our lives to? The Scriptures remind us that we all are to become witnesses of Jesus' death and resurrection (Acts 1:8). This notion flies in the face of the myth of the professional missionary. It will take courage to break the mold. It will take boldness to call oneself a fulltime missionary. But as my favorite French theologian and philosopher Jacque Ellul once famously said, "Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension incompatible with society." After all, we follow Someone who was crucified for living a radically different life.

Hmm. I can't help but wonder if God will use our generation to reach the world with the Gospel after all.

Blessings!

Dave

11:36 AM I came home early today fighting a head cold and I'm determined to nip it in the bud through bed rest and vitamins, seeing that I have to lead a Ph.D. oral tomorrow. Prayers welcome! Later on I may post a few thoughts about yesterday's excellent chapel message by David Platt and the role the local church has to play in global evangelization. Plus, I'll have my iPad with me in bed and if I have strength I'll type up a few more thoughts about missions as they come to mind. But for now, let me leave you with a word of sympathy to the family of my former Talbot colleague Robert Saucy who passed away recently after suffering severe injuries in a car accident.

Bob was 84 years old and lived an exemplary Christian life. I loved him as a friend and as a fellow follower of Jesus. He will be sorely missed at Talbot and in the larger evangelical world.

Tuesday, March 17

8:22 AM Possibly the greatest guitar solo in rock and roll history:

8:08 AM Decker's Greek grammar has been awarded. The winner has been notified. I appreciated each of your emails. I'll have another contest soon.

Monday, March 16

11:44 PM Just wanted to say hello before going to bed tonight. I spent a few days in the Dallas area over the weekend, primarily to attend a conference sponsored by Brite Divinity School and featuring Adela Yarbro Collins of Yale. Her topic was the Gospel of Mark, which happens to be the current subject of investigation for my book on the kingdom. The lecture was less stimulating that I had expected. Perhaps my expectations were misplaced. I was hoping for a rigorous reassessment of the faith claims of the Gospel of Mark in a way that laypeople unfamiliar with New Testament scholarship could understand. To be sure, Collins touched on this subject tangentially, but the majority of her lecture repeated well-known assertions about Mark -- Mark is our earliest Gospel, the words "Son of God" (1:1) were added later, the last twelve verses of Mark are inauthentic, the Messianic Secret is the interpretive key to understanding this Gospel, etc. Given that the final verses of Mark have now been given a definitive defense I was surprised at how unpersuasive Collins was in trying to refute it. Moreover, I didn't find any of her objections to the historicity of Mark's account plausible. Jesus Christ is the most remarkable individual who ever lived. Nobody else can even remotely match His record in terms of literature, health, education, music, and so forth. Those of us who are not put off by the testimonies of the evangelists know that in Him we have found the way of salvation and true life. When there is reason to think that an evangelist has placed words in Jesus' mouth, it can be interesting to decide whether our suspicions are based on facts or suppositions. Readers of this blog will realize that I write from a less skeptical viewpoint than that. Indeed, the more difficult a saying of Jesus seems to be (e.g., the famous "I am" sayings of John), the more likely they are to be original in my view. I applaud much of Collins' exegesis of various passages in Mark that explain why Mark's Gospel reads like Mark's Gospel. But none of these conclusions satisfies the main question of interpretation, so her exegesis misses the mark. Most importantly, when she says "You can't point to anything in the Gospel of Mark and say, 'This is what Jesus said or did,'" her conclusion is, in my opinion, completely without merit. Given the fact that many New Testament scholars have affirmed the historical reliability of the eyewitness testimony of the evangelists, I feel justified in relying on the Gospel records as the most complete and authenticate records in all of human history. This means that the New Testament does indeed provide us with an answer to our most important question -- who is Jesus Christ? Ultimately, He is who He said He was -- the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. It strikes me as more humble and more reasonable to assume that if the early church didn't see contradictions between the Gospels, we shouldn't either. Let me add that I do not for one minute suggest that the Gospels are above rigorous academic investigation. I realize that it is often asserted that the Gospels are unreliable. My point is that no arguments to date have, in my view, been cogent enough to make them stick. If this makes me an inerrantist, so be it. Former ICBI president (and fellow Basler) James Montgomery Boice once wrote:

Members of the Council believe that they are simply calling a mountain a mountain and think it is reasonable to expect that the ICBI will be a unifying force within evangelicalism, as it encourages Christian brothers and sisters to stand for the only objective basis of a sure foundation from God there is -- inerrancy.

Bless God for the light He has given us in the Scriptures for our journey through this dark world!

While I'm at the computer, let me add a brief word about my views on the professional pastorate, since I will also be dealing with this topic in my new book. It is not eldership but clericalism that is the danger. Obversely -- and this is of vital importance -- we can make anti-clericalism into an idol, a god at whose clay feet we worship with as much zeal and passion as those who bow the knee to the clerical system. (This anti-clerical attitude is apparent in several recent posts in various blogs.) I have no doubt that a stipendiary clergy pauperizes our people and places tradition above Scripture. But this is more than a question of who does what. If we are to maintain a voluntary system we must do so not only in obedience to the mind of Christ but also in obedience to the mind of the Spirit of Christ. I am well aware that a great many good and thoughtful professional pastors hold positions with which I disagree. I am also aware that for every local church that loses its professional pastor for reasons of the latter's conscience, a replacement will be found from within the ranks of those who feel themselves called to the professional ministry. I believe most professional pastors do what they believe is the correct course of action, and they do so conscientiously. Some of them (many of whom I know personally) are motivated by a belief that they can do more good by striving for reform from within their churches than by planting new churches. They plead for understanding and support from former paid pastors. Should they resign for reasons of conscience, they would do so only with the deepest regret, and future criticism they might make of the stipendiary clergy would be offered in a spirit of deepest empathy and the most cordial love. They know they are not better or wiser than those who continue in their paid pastorates. They pray and labor for a clergy that comprises every single follower of Jesus Christ, and they expect God to answer their prayers. They realize that the Great Commission will never be accomplished by trained and paid workers simply because we can never train and pay enough workers to get the job done. However, a danger exists that the appeal for voluntary leadership will lead to a new kind of Galatianism that claims the superiority of their "non-circumcised" status over against those who have submitted to the legalism of circumcision. Paul's response should put an end to pride on either side: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision amounts for anything, but only faith working in love" (Gal. 5:6). True faith is always a gracious faith; it works itself out by love for God and love to our brethren. It is not merely an intellectual faith, for "we all have knowledge; knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Cor. 8:1). It is a faith that is always expressed in kindness and affection and in a readiness to bear with the weaknesses of others. I censure myself as much as any other blogger out there when I say this: Love is utterly opposed to telling others in a condescending spirit what they "ought" to do, for truth is perfected only in love. So to my fellow reformers I say: Let others see our love and feel our heart of compassion even as they listen to our words of exhortation and correction. Let us not pride ourselves on having found the "only right way," for Christianity is much more than correct doctrine, even correct ecclesiology. The one essential of the Christian life is love, and one expression of Christian love is a tolerance of diversity -- a tolerance that does not spring from indifference but rather from an awareness that church practices are subordinate to what is essential.

To give you an example from my own congregation: When our elders decided to use a single loaf of bread during the observance of the Lord's Supper (in keeping with their interpretation of 1 Cor. 10:16-17), several members of our congregation expressed to them the uncomfortable feeling they had when touching a single loaf of bread with their fingers, and so alongside the one loaf was placed a platter on which had been laid bread that had been sliced into bite-sized pieces. I venture to insist that, far from being a compromise on the part of our elders, this was an exquisite demonstration of their love for the brethren. In other words, these leaders refused to turn forms into essentials. Whatever strengthens faith is valuable as a help but is worthless as a legalism. It is possible to support professional missionaries without becoming one yourself. (I do.) It is also possible to work with stipendiary pastors to propagate the truth that is revealed in Christ. (I do.) On the face of it, this would appear to be an act of compromise. But we must always separate our personal convictions from our willingness to cooperate with others in the cause of the Gospel. We who are non-professional missionaries must be careful not to judge professional missionaries any more than Paul condemned those who lived by the Gospel. Whether or not we are paid to be a missionary is a technicality. Spiritually, all obedient followers of Christ are missionaries to the non-Christian world. The same Spirit is given to all of us, and where the Spirit is, there is liberty of the most amazing kind (2 Cor. 3:17). If we focus too narrowly on matters of church organization, we face the very grave danger of missing the revelation of the Spirit as the Spirit who labors for the salvation of the world. Every form of Christian mission can and must be undertaken in, with, and by that one and the same Spirit, with each individual finding her or her own proper work under the one Spirit's guidance. So beware! The road back to Galatianism is all too easy to take.

Finally I'd like to ask for your prayers. You may know that I have been praying about writing a book describing my journey as Becky's widower. Why just last week I got yet another text saying to me, "You really ought to write a book for grieving widowers." Should I write this book? If so, what should I call it? How long should it be? Should it be advice-heavy, an autobiography, or a combination of both? Should it be the same or different from the many excellent books that are already on the market? I did a quick search of Amazon yesterday and it yielded several interesting titles:

  • A Grief Sanctified by J. I. Packer.

  • The Death of a Wife: Reflections of a Grieving Husband by Robert Vogt.

  • She's Gone, But Never Forgotten by Fred Thornton.

  • Dealing with Grief: Losing a Spouse by Patricia Challenor.

  • Healing a Spouse's Grieving Heart by Alan Wolfelt.

  • Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love by Raymond Mitsch.

  • How to Go On Living When Your Loved One Dies by Therese Rando.

  • On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss.

  • Reflections of a Grieving Spouse by Norm Wright.

  • Confessions of a Grieving Christian by Zig Ziglar.

  • Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff.

My constant prayer is, "Lord, is this a book you want me to write? If so, what should it look like?" At this stage, my mind keeps gravitating toward a book less like a study of grief and more like a journal (akin to Lewis's A Grief Observed). A working title (please help me to improve it!) is: Though I Walk Through the Valley: A Husband's Journey from Loss to Healing. Do me a favor and send me an email with your suggestions. As I put it all together, I'll need your help. Odd as it seems, I think I'm ready to write such a book even though its been only 14 months since Becky died. I even have a HUNCH as to how I might do this. So please help me process my thoughts so that I can get started.

Finally, as if you're not already tired out by reading these blatherings of mine, I leave you with a few pix of my weekend. Enjoy!

1) With mom and dad at Cheddars.

2) I spoke to this congregation in Garland on Friday night.

3) Pastor Bedilu is a good friend and a graduate of SEBTS (Ed.D.).

4) Ethiopians love to sing!

5) Adela Yarbro Collins during her lecture.

6) Then it was off to Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. 

7) Archivist Jill was kind enough to show us the A. T. Robertson collection.

8) A letter penned by the man himself.

9) The library also had several historic pump organs on display. Thought Nate would like to see them since he loves to restore old reed organs.

10) Saturday night was Ethiopian food of course.

11) We tried a new restaurant and were well pleased with the migib.

12) Twice I treated mom to breakfast. I love pampering her!

13) This morning I also took her to get a manicure. I like the pink nails, don't you?

14) I hope yall remembered to celebrate Pi Day on Saturday (3.1415).

15) We sure did!

16) Snapped this pic while we were driving to mom and dad's church yesterday. I think "community" is the perfect translation for the Greek word ecclesia, don't you? 

17) I can see why they call it the "Red" River.

18) At DFW I noticed this odd-looking sign out of the corner of my eye. "Pain"?

What in the world could that mean?

19) Then I got the bigger picture.

There's a lesson here about the importance of context, don't you think?!

Staying centered in the King (or at least trying to),

Dave

Thursday, March 12

8:04 AM A wise old preacher once said, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" (Eccl. 3:1). Without doubt that includes a time for rest. Jesus once told His disciples, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest for a while" (Mark 6:31). Notice the "when" of His command – while "many were coming and going." When do we need to recharge our batteries the most? It is while we are surrounded by people in great physical and spiritual need. Vance Havner once told the story about two men who discovered their home towns were fairly close to each other. One of them said, "You know, I used to visit your town once a week when I drove a horse and buggy. It took me a while day to get there and back, but I enjoyed it. Now I can get there in half an hour by car, but I don't have the time." Are we using our time wisely? All of it? We all have exactly the same amount of time – 24 hours in every day. The important thing is how we use it. And we should consider leisure time as part of our stewardship responsibility before God.

Are we good stewards of our time when we spend night after night allowing a one-eyed god bathe our minds from 7:00 till 11:00? The Internet can become no less a subtle dictator, giving us so little of what is truly worthwhile and beneficial in return. If we sit at a desk all day it would be less than wise to do nothing more than sink into an armchair during our time off. "Rest" in that circumstance might mean a little physical activity. Nor is there anything wrong with enjoying a "day off" that includes a time for sensible change. For example, all around us in America are many famous places (and some not so famous) that help us step back and remember that history is "His story." To stand at the base of Mount Rushmore, or under the shadow of the "Clump of Trees" at Gettysburg, or at the spot in Texas where the defenders of the Alamo made their last stand, always fills me with a tingling knowledge that my own life is something more than a disconnected accident. I urge us to look on leisure as something the Lord God gives us to enrich our lives. Plan it sensibly – then enjoy it! By any reckoning, hyper-activity is pseudo-Christianity. That being so, our Lord's words to His disciples need to be heard loud and clear, and heeded here and now:

"Come away … and rest for a while."

Wednesday, March 11

8:30 PM This and that ...

1) Great dinner last last night with some missions-minded friends. In honor of my home state I ordered the Banzai Burger.

2) This morning we taped the promo for our forthcoming Greek grammar in Spanish. (Yes, I speak perfect Spanglish.)

3) A little fine tuning and we're good to go.

By the way, I put on my best Andrés Cantor voice.

Gooooooooooooal!

4) Guess who surprised me with donuts at my office today?

5) As always, we had an excellent student presentation in our LXX class today. But I must say that chapter 5 of Amos is very long.

6) Is my blogging this bad?

7) Columbia International University has some of the best chapel messages on the web. Here's one of them (and on a current topic to boot): Radical Islam.

8) I'm giving this fine book away. It's brand spankin' new too.

Just write and tell me why you want it. I'll announce the winner on Monday night, so you have a lot of time to think about it.

Tuesday, March 10

8:48 AM The very model of a biblical philologist.

8:24 AM My friend Don Stewart asks Did Jesus Write Anything? Good question! In one sense, of course, the question is utterly pretentious. We just as well might have asked, "Did Jesus use Twitter?" The question is an anachronism because it removes Jesus from His historical context. Writing a book is perhaps the ultimate act of hubris. By writing a book one must assume that she or he has something vitally important to say to others. (Both Don and I have written several books.) And the publisher, in making the author's words available to a broader audience, is complicit in this arrogant act. (Both Don and I have used a number of different publishers.)

The danger in publishing anything, of course, is that of supplanting Christ in the hearts and minds of our readers. This is always a very real possibility. I am far from being an authority on the life of Christ, yet I have written a book on His example. Two things moved me to write it. The first was the conviction that a restatement of the Christianity versus Christendom debate was overdue. The second was the fact that I had become aware of those sixteenth century disciples whose radical commitment to Jesus (even unto death) merit one's admiration and gratitude. I ventured to ask what I think are radical questions about Christian discipleship – questions that were raised with ruthless clarity 450 years ago by the Anabaptists. It seems to me a very unfortunate thing that their views have been swallowed up in traditional Christian thinking. You tend either to believe ill of them, or to believe good. One's judgment of the Anabaptists is settled too often by one's prior attitude toward them. I devote a chapter in my book to the Anabaptists because I believe their views ought to be familiar to any serious reader of Scripture. I hasten to say personally that I do not think that the Anabaptists were perfect. The one thing that is perfectly clear about Anabaptist theology is that it regarded discipleship as central rather than peripheral. It is, indeed, a catastrophic correction of what for centuries had been passed off for genuine Christianity. Without doubt the Anabaptist message of scandalous obedience deserves a re-hearing today.

So, did Jesus write a book? Concludes Don Stewart:

As to whether He wrote anything ... [all] that we can know for certain is that Jesus could have written letters or books if He so wished. Why He did not leave anything for us in writing, whether it be a systematic arrangement of His teachings or His inner thoughts, we simply do not know.

Would Jesus have written a book called The Jesus Paradigm? The answer, of course, is no. Jesus has already written the book on the subject – all 27 of them in fact. And He assigned the authorship to men such as James and John and Peter and Paul. That should not surprise us. At the incarnation Christ emptied Himself, not of His Godhead, but of any desire to focus attention on Himself at the expense of others (see Phil. 2:5-11). In thus making Himself "of no reputation," He lays bare the Jesus paradigm as no earthly author ever could.

Monday, March 9

6:36 PM Just back from Roanoke. While there I decided to check out the transportation museum. A huge treat if you love trains as much as I do. The HO model railroad layout is something else. Can't wait to take all the grandkids here (though not all at once). 

9:18 AM Off to meet with the "tax man."

9:02 AM My colleague Alvin Reid has written an excellent piece called Remembering the Jesus Movement. For many of you, this period of American church history occurred long before you were even born. Alvin was there, a part of it all. So was I.

I can remember my Jesus Freak days in Hawaii. Despite all of our eccentricities, I loved the fact that we were always talking about Jesus. First came Christ – not an institution. Then came one another – in Christ. Then came the world – for whom Christ died. These three commitments were not the result of seminary training. No, we were a bunch of establishment misfits. But the lordship of Christ was taken with total seriousness. We read verses like Col. 1:18 and were blown away – Jesus Christ at the center, in front, at the top, and beneath everything. Away with ecclesiastical traditions! Out with Madison Avenue approaches to church leadership! We scoffed at pastors who thought of themselves as modern-day Luthers or Calvins, blindly following some silly new book on leadership that 5 years later would be discarded. (I told you we were eccentric.) I'm not saying that we were always right. We weren't. Our theology was muddled in many areas. But we loved Jesus. We sought to serve and obey and enjoy the One who alone was worthy of our focus and worship and attention and obedience. Our church life revolved around Him – not a pastor or a pulpit or a program or a personality. We surfed. We laughed. We shared Christ. We sat around and sang silly Jesus songs. Man, them was some good days.

There's this great quote in Alvin's essay:

The Jesus Movement presented a unique, youth-driven awakening. This reality affected it negatively in that it tended to be driven by emotion and was at times superficial. But I lay some of the blame for that at the foot of churches. If God moved in a younger generation today He might in fact start outside the church with youth who have not been inoculated with a cultural Christianity short on sacrifice and long on comfort. He may use vehicles like film and Youtube to spread the movement. How would the church handle that?

Friends, making Jesus number 1 is what it's all about. Isn't it about time we got back to the Bible's way of moving people toward Christ rather than ourselves? A great place to start might be ridding ourselves of our anthropocentricity. It can happen. It is happening. Beware the new Jesus Freaks!

Sunday, March 8

7:44 PM If you ever find yourself a transplant in the South, you had better learn some of the most common Southernisms. This heah list just caint be beat. One of my favorites?

Et.

v. past tense. The past tense of eat, also found in other English dialects, such as Received Pronunciation, as in: "How many dem poke sawssigiz is you et, Caeser Earl?" "Et two, Brutus Bob. Dass awl."

7:32 PM Seems like everybody was horseback riding today, including my daughter Kim, who sent along this picture taken atop her walking horse.

It's often been said that there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse. The horse remains my favorite creature, even though I don't ride any more. To all of you riders out there: Be safe, and jump a big log for me. 

2:02 PM Just received these pix from brother Mammen Joseph and the Peniel Gospel Team in Northeast India:

Sweetastik! In the early days of the Wesleyan Revival, John Wesley wrote:

Many now happily experienced that Christian fellowship which they had not so much as an idea before. They began to "bear one another's burdens," and naturally to "care for each other." As they had daily a more intimate acquaintance with, so they had a more endeared affection for, each other.

This April we are sending a team to India to minister among these people and to be present at the dedication of the new school building in Bagdogra, concerning which Mammen writes:

The construction is now in its full swing. We have also started the landscaping work of building and we hope to complete the building construction work by the end of this month. We have so far received a very good response for the school and there are admissions that we have confirmed in this last week. 

Will you join me in praising and thanking God for this miracle provision from His hand? There is no teaching in the New Testament more practical than that about missions. But the majority of the world has yet to be reached. As these pictures show, the most effective evangelism is done face to face by native missionaries in the villages and cities where the people live. May God's Spirit continue to move His people in North America to become involved personally in the great work He is doing in places like India.

9:04 AM Writing to his wife Mary from his barracks in Texas, Robert E. Lee once described a newlywed army wife as follows:

It is a beautiful thing to see the young so hopeful. It is sad to think how soon the clouds of disappointment darken the prospect of life's horizon.

I miss her every moment, this Becky to whom I was once so blissfully wed.

As it was originally designed, marriage was to be the closest possible bond between two human beings. A bereaved spouse is like a man with one leg, or a person who has suddenly lost his eyesight. In this way, marriage bears an uncanny correspondence with the pain one must suffer when one becomes a Christian. Before we can trust Christ, we must be broken upon the rocks of life, must come to the end of ourselves, must have a felt need for redemption and restoration. Perhaps it is little wonder that people often come to the Savior only after experiencing a "severe mercy" in their lives. When everything is going well in our lives, we can sidestep the real issues of sin and salvation. But let difficulty enter, and all that changes. We become vulnerable.

Marriage affords us a small glimpse of what it means to be vulnerable. If it brings us great joy and pleasure (and it does), it also exposes the deepest darkness of our hearts. In short, marriage is like a cross. It is a dying to self. This is true whether your marriage is a present or a past reality. The loss of a spouse simply means that more dying will have to occur. I mourn Becky because she is gone. But I mourned with her even while she was still alive. As times goes on and the newlyweds learn to adapt and adjust to each other, kisses are inevitably matched with tears. Yet amidst all of the difficulties of marriage, we can still strive for unconditional love.

Is this the love you are offering today to your spouse? For sadly, marriages can grow stale and mundane. "It is sad to think how soon the clouds of disappointment darken the prospect of life's horizon." Yes, bright days are followed by cloudy ones. Yet even in the darkness there is hope. Perhaps it is only by mourning the loss of intimacy that we can regain it.

Saturday, March 7

9:30 PM Great dinner at the Queen of Sheba tonight with one of my daughters. Here's the queen herself, Friesh.

Check it out when you're in Chapel Hill.

9:28 AM I read through Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians in Greek yesterday. Today it's the so-called Pastoral Epistles. I say "so-called" because neither Timothy nor Titus were pastors of the churches they were sent to by Paul. Still ....

It’s not hard to find books or articles that refer to Timothy as “the pastor” of the church in Ephesus. And since all would agree that Paul instructed him to exercise leadership of the elders of the Ephesian church, wouldn’t that make him a kind of senior pastor? We need to look more closely at the ministry roles of these two men.

To get this "closer look," click here. It will be well worth your time.

9:05 AM If you're gonna preach a sermon, you might as well make it interesting. And no one could grab his audience's attention quite like Fred Craddock, who passed away on March 6. Here's proof:

Some say he reinvented the homiletical wheel, that he turned sermons on their head by reflecting on life and then concluding with a "gotcha" moment. To be honest, I prefer that to a running exegesis that I could get in one fourth the time by reading it in a commentary. Thankfully, it's rarely a matter of an either/or. Among conservative evangelicals, Kent Hughes is perhaps best known for his knack for the appropriate story while combining it with solid text-based exposition. Ditto for the great and good Warren Wiersbe. (I highly recommend their commentary series.) I am not an outstanding public speaker, but I rarely "preach a sermon" without telling at least one story, often a humorous one. No matter what your approach to preaching is, I hope we can all agree that a message must not only be faithful to the biblical text. It should also be simple and down-to-earth. Truth without emotion is dead.

Friday, March 6

9:16 PM Couldn't resist it. Just had a fabulous meal at Mexico Viejo and now I'm about to settle down with a good book. The day was so gorgeous it hurt. Finally -- no snow on the ground! 

P.S. Regarding the La Guardia airliner evacuation (and the complaints of people taking their bags with them during the evacuation), I note that, according to the NTSB, emergency aircraft evacuations happen once every 11 days in the U.S. This raises the obvious question: If we can have preflight safety instructions, why can't the briefing be repeated just before landing, with emphasis on emergency egress and why it is important to leave large bags on board? Statistically, you are more likely to be involved in a crash during landing than at any other point in the flight.

But my book awaits me ....

12:10 PM In light of Bibi's speech before Congress, I can't help but reflect on where things stand in the U.S. today. My words are especially directed toward any Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings who might be reading my blog. My parents' generation has been called "The Greatest Generation" because they fought the Nazis and mobilized for the Cold War. What we forget is the fiscal burden they placed on their posterity, producing an American political system that seems utterly incapable of tackling any big multigenerational problems, including our national debt or even something as basic as national security. America has entered an irreversible downward spiral. We had better understand this new era we're entering. The American spirit -- "We are entitled to whatever we want" -- demands growth and consumption. We want the appetizers, the entrees, and the desserts, all at once, and we are eager to ask government to provide it for us. Today each follower of Jesus stands at the crossroads on the question of personal priorities. Will we surrender to the spirit of this age, or will we resist and join the downward movement of Jesus, making a conscious choice to deny the normal comforts and conveniences of life for the sake of others? We rightly honor those who die in military service, we celebrate the accomplishments of our nation's athletes, we honor fire fighters who perish in public service, but the minute a Christian young person refuses to accept the American Dream and voluntarily takes on an assignment that involves suffering we spend hours trying to talk him or her out of "going overboard." I am not saying that every Christian must become a professional missionary. But I am saying that if you are really sincere about following Christ, you will not be at peace with yourself until the whole world knows of Him, and you will be intentional about using whatever He has given you -- your time, your energy, your wealth, your vocation, your vacations even -- to serve the expansion of His kingdom.

"What good is knowledge unapplied?" asked one of my elders recently. What good is an education unless we place it at the feet of King Jesus? Students, my parents' generation, and my own as well, have failed you because we have catered to the rotten spot in the soul of our nation. We have taught you to expect instant gratification, that the "good life" is the only life there is, that extravagance and waste are the normal patterns of our human existence, that security and liberty are our natural "rights." We have clenched our fists at our "enemies"-- not all of us, but many of us -- and have refused to receive the nail prints of the cross, unwilling to make even small sacrifices to reach the millions of lost souls in our world. How different this is from the self-sacrifice of our spiritual forefathers in the book of Acts. Something is desperately wrong, and it is up to your generation to turn it around. The only way Christ will be incarnated to a lost world is through you. As the Father sent Him, so He is sending you so that others can taste and feel and see His presence.

If you are willing to make this commitment, I have a book for you. It is free for the asking. Just send me an email with your snail mail address and I will see that you receive a copy of Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?

God bless you all.

Dave

10:42 AM The current U.S. radar:

If you're stranded in an airport, I do hope you can get home today. The weather sure is cooperating!

10:16 AM OK, folks. I need your advice. I need to buy a new coffee machine. No, I'm not a connoisseur of coffee, but a good cup of coffee is important to me in the morning. Last weekend the guest house where I was saying had the Cuisinart Coffeemaker and boy did it make a smoooooth cup of coffee.

I suppose it might have had something to do with its charcoal water filter. So unless you can come up with a better idea, I'm ordering one this evening.

So ... yeah or nay?

10:05 AM Wright's obituary of Cranfield contains this statement:

Cranfield was known in Durham as a patient and thorough, if not exactly scintillating, lecturer. His deep concern to probe to the very heart of the text, and his careful attention to all relevant details, tried the patience of those less studious, and perhaps less saintly, than himself. But there was never any doubt that one was in the presence of a man who cared equally deeply about the actual content and personal meaning of the text and about the importance of exact, clear-thinking scholarship upon it. These are the qualities that shine out of his published work.

A fine tribute indeed.

Thursday, March 5

7:36 PM The American Civil War is a heartbreaking, glorious, sad, and heroic tale. It will never bore you, that's for sure. Here's Longstreet's Assault (Pickett's Charge) at Gettysburg last August. To my right is my faculty colleague Ken Coley (aka George Pickett). We're about to cross the Emmitsburg Road.

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Its cupola witnessed plenty of action on the first day of battle.

Here Rob Gibson of Gettysburg displays his photographic genius. It's like you're watching Matthew Brady at work.

Someone has put it this way (source):

We of CVBT don’t wish to preserve the ground of a Civil War battlefield in order to glorify war or to enable reenactors to “play soldier and have a high old time.” Rather, we do so in order to commemorate this most important and defining event in the history of our country, to preserve the memory and meaning of what took place on that ground, and to remember and honor the men in both blue and gray who fought and fell there, to ponder what they did and why they did it. There are lessons to be learned by having such special ground to walk upon.

I couldn't agree more.

6:48 PM Looking forward to receiving and reviewing this new book.

5:55 PM I like the upbeat nature of this great song by Orleans. I loved it when Becky and I were together and I still love it today. "Even though we grow old, we grow new." Amen! Guys, play it to your spouse tonight and tell her "You're Still the One!"

 

5:18 PPM In between working on my taxes (again!) and washing clothes I mosied over to First Things and happened upon an excellent symposium called Theology As Knowledge. Intriguing title! In fact, during my visit to South Carolina the question about the proper role of academia in Christianity came up more than once. I agree with Stanley Hauerwas. In the symposium he was quite insistent that theologians must practice their craft "as if it mattered."

We must bring to an end the disciplinary divisions that invite theologians to say, "I cannot comment on St. Paul's understanding of the gospel because scripture is not my field."

Took the words right out of my mouth.

I have long complained about what I call the "atomization" and "fragmentization" of our discipline as biblical scholars. "I wrote my dissertation on Paul. How do you expect me to comment on John's Gospel?" we ask in disbelief. Years ago, Mark Noll of Notre Dame (and a fellow evangelical) wrote a book (Between Faith and Criticism) that I think all budding biblical scholars should read, because in it he does what no one else I have read has ever done. Noll uses the terms "critical scholar" and "anti-critical critical scholar" to describe the two different ways of approaching the role of faith versus reason. You see, at the time I was coming off of three years in my doctoral program in Basel and asking myself the question, "To what purpose shall I use my education?" Since then I've been around the block a few times. For me, the question has never been, "Is the Christian faith reasonable?" Of course it is. Christianity could only be declared irrational if there were proofs to support that conclusion. But thinking people have thronged to Jesus by the millions throughout the ages. Christianity is not only a reasonable worldview, it couples faith with philosophy in such a way that ennobles both disciplines. Which is why I could never be a fundamentalist on the one hand or a liberal on the other. The question for me is not one of faith or reason. It is rather a question of a faithless reason versus a reasonable faith. (I am not quoting him, but I believe Noll wrote something to that effect in his book.) There is no point in pretending that we so-called scholars can go our merry ways doing our academic "thing" and not consider the implications our worldview has for the Gospel. I believe Noll was trying to coax his readers into a mindset that allowed for really good scholarship but never at the expense of living out the truth of the Gospel. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy, in other words, are two sides of the same drachma. Both "Credo ut intelligam" and "Intelligo ut credam" are true. They warn us of the fallacy of adhering strictly to a magisterium on the one hand even as they warn us against the lure of rationalism on the other. For me, thinking and living have become a total vocation. I am not saying that there is no place for "research scholars" or that the academy is bankrupt per se. The apostle Paul exemplified the balance needed. Like Saul of Tarsus (who gave up his intellectual arrogance but not his intellectual prowess), you might say I'm a recovering New Testament scholar. My message is now simply, "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." And all this without sacrificing my intellect.

I am grateful for scholars like Mark Noll who aren't afraid to tell it like it is. Believing in miracles and making faith reasonable will never be found to be in contradiction though perhaps they will always coexist in a certain tension. But that tension is healthy. When I "preach revivals" (as I just did in South Carolina) I want my messages to be rooted and grounded in the text of Scripture as far as that is humanly possible. But I also want my words to move and bestir to action. Christianity is not afraid of a muscular push toward orthodoxy. Nor is it concerned only with ideas. I don't mean to suggest that one will ever achieve a perfect balance between faith and reason. I know I haven't. But I see the advantages of being an anti-critical scholar over against one who simply espouses the party line (of whatever party happens to be in power at the time). Basel, in fact, has always been famous as a place of refuge for free thinkers (Erasmus and Calvin are two examples that immediately come to mind). That said, theology textbooks will not make the world a better place. Monasteries and nunneries may perhaps have their proper place, but a lost and dying world will never be reached by retreating into our cloistered ivory towers (or into our homesteads in rural Virginia).

"Theology As Knowledge" was an enjoyable and thoroughly enlightening read. Intellectual curiosity might send you there, but evangelical fervor won't let you stop there.

8:02 AM Getting caught up with emails. Still over 100 to go. Thanks for your patience.

7:42 AM Last night I began reading a fascinating book by Jonathan Horn. It's got an interesting thesis: Just as George Washington was the man who refused to become king, so his heir Robert E. Lee refused to become head of Lincoln's army, an army whose goal was to preserve the union that Washington had worked so hard to establish.

Thus Lee surrendered the commission in the army he had served for more than three decades. Lee's own father, Light Horse Harry Lee, had served as one of George Washington's most trusted cavalrymen during the Revolution, and two Lees had signed the Declaration of Independence. It was Lee's father who had said of Washington, "first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." Washington himself had said of the nation, "Thus you will give immortality to that union, which was the constant object of my terrestrial labours; thus you will preserve [it] undisturbed to the latest posterity...." But Lee took a different decision. He turned his back on the Union and cast his fortune with the Rebellion.

Horn convincingly argues that Lee might have been the second coming of Washington -- a Washington Redivivus -- had he chosen differently. How different Arlington House would look today if Lee had followed his own belief against secession; if he had cast his lot with the Union instead of his state; if he had aligned his fortune with the North rather than the South. But Lee stood on one bank of the Potomac, Washington on the other. And the currents of that river drove the nation apart even as it drove it back to the Constitution and cleared the way for a prairie lawyer to rid the nation of slavery.

This is a really good book, not least because it reminds us that we all face decisions in life that end up determining our future course in ways we never thought imaginable. My decision to leave the shores of Kailua and study at Biola ... my decision to marry a southern belle from Texas ... my decision to pursue an European doctorate ... our decision to move to the East Coast ... and more decisions are yet to come I'm sure. Yet the principle is always the same: You go with your heart; you do what in your heart of hearts you know is the right thing for you to do. It is perhaps in this sense that the great apostle Paul came to a point in his life where he no longer attached merit and significance to all of his earthly and human attainments and privileges (Phil. 3). He shows, from his own personal and painful experience, that what he had considered gain turned out to be loss. His argument is simple: "If there must be boasting, let it be in the Lord alone." All of his separate "gains" had become one gigantic "loss." His assets had been transformed into liabilities, the plusses had become a zero. Of course, there is nothing wrong with accomplishments or privileges or attainments or prestigious degrees or wealth. But when these things -- and they are all merely things -- begin to be viewed as things important in and of themselves, when they begin to be viewed not as undeserved blessings but as prideful accomplishments, when they begin to be viewed as a basis for entry into heaven (or into the academic guild), they become their opposites. All such blessings soon become disadvantages, liabilities, stumbling blocks of enormous magnitude because they deprive us of the greatest treasure, which is Christ Himself. Like the bright and morning star, our radiance is intended to fade into nothingness in the light of the Rising Son. Once we consider our blessings to be merits, the time has come to discard them all as worthless -- less then worthless -- abominable trash. Cell phones are absolutely necessary. But their use while driving is often disastrous, and the result is a serious accident. We can say the same thing about the over-adulation of sports, wealth, physical beauty, and a hundred other things. Paul aimed at gaining Christ and serving Him in lowly obedience and love. Just as he no longer considered Christ according to the flesh, so he wanted no one to consider him according to his earthy attainments and accomplishments, though indeed there were many. Paul sought only to promote the glory of God by every means at his disposal, and then he enjoined us to become "imitators of me, and watch closely those who are walking according to the example we have set you." Once such example comes to mind immediately. I've quoted him often in these pages, but the words of Malcolm Muggeridge were never more needed than today when pastors and church leaders gladly elevate themselves with titles and platforms:

I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets–that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue–that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions– that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time–that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you — and I beg you to believe me–multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing–less than nothing, a positive impediment–measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.

What men prize so highly is not so highly prized after all by our Savior. The apostle Paul and others after him have considered such prizes to be nothing but horse manure, unspeakable filth. The fatal flaw with education is that it leaves a large place for human pride. I want to be known as a simple student of Scripture. Nothing more, nothing less. If that means I am a pietist, I gladly wear the label. 

Wednesday, March 4

6:15 PM My trip to Charleston turned out to be a delightful 5 days. It was clearly ordained by Him. He had arranged all of my meetings and had opened every door. All praise to Him. I had wonderful fellowship with several of my former students and made many new friends as well as (I hope) a number of supporters to the Cause of causes. As I drove from place to place I kept the radio off and just enjoyed the great natural beauty of South Carolina's Low Country. I also spent time listening to His voice and allowing Him to deal with me on a number of issues that impact the future of my work and my walk with Him. As I spoke to students and congregations I felt a bit like a broken record, and sometimes I wondered why people even listened to me. To some, I'm sure I sounded like a fundamentalist wacko or a hopeless eccentric as I kept giving believers reasons why all of us should become fulltime missionaries and why the people in Asia (in particular) will remain lost until native missionaries go to them. The souls of millions are at stake, so I make no apology for not focusing in my talks on the latest debates in biblical studies or rehashing truths that people have heard a bazillion times. I do have several regrets. I wish I had brought and distributed more copies of Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? than I had. I wish I had called all the deacons together at the end of our final revival service meeting to pray publicly for and with their new pastor. I wish I had been less fearful about insisting that local churches recover the genuine message of the Gospel of Jesus -- the message that genuine born-again conversion always leads to sending soldiers into battle with spiritual weapons and a proper understanding of the enemy's tactics. Lord willing, I'll take this message to Dallas next weekend and to Memphis next month. "Evangelical Christianity," said A. W. Tozer just before his death, "is now tragically below the New Testament spiritual standard." I'm afraid he's right. If we are not willing to plead to God in prayer for a revolution in global missions -- and let us start in our personal lives, homes, and families -- we will lose this generation to Satan. India alone has 500,000 unevangelized villages. The laborers are ready. Are we willing to support them? What intrigues me is the way the native missionary movement is growing without our Western input. For the sake of Christ, let each believer in North America reconsider the missionary polices and practices that have guided Western evangelicalism for decades. Roland Allen put it this way in his classic book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: " ... no sound missionary policy can be based upon multiplication of missionaries and mission stations" (p. 19). Ever since Becky and I became involved personally in supporting native missionaries our whole perspective on missions really changed. Our burden for the lost greatly increased, and we grew more eternally minded. Now I am hungry to carry on the work the Lord has called me to do in Becky's absence. "Lord, use me! What more can I do for you?" May that be the blessed goal of each and every one of us this year.

Dozens of people made my trip the success it was and I want to thank them all: Corey and Autumn Leggett of Mount Tabor Baptist Church in Bowman, as well as all of their Sunday School class leaders who arranged nightly meals; Dean Michael Bryant and Professors Peter Link and Ross Parker of the Christian Studies Division at Charleston Southern University; and Charles McCallum, Discipleship Pastor at Old Fort Baptist Church in Summerville. All of these men took classes with me at one time or another, and each seemed to have survived the experience. I'd also like to thank the Delk family of Bowman, SC, who made available to me their beautiful guest house during my entire visit.

I feel like it's time to kick back and relax, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Holy Spirit's not going to let me off the hook just yet. Part of the sin of pride is a real but subtle tendency to get involved in causes that don't really matter in the light of eternity. I'll always have new dragons to slay (and so will you), but let's keep them in their proper perspective. Let's be about building Godworld and let's do it in ways that the superabundance we enjoy here in America is not squandered here but invested in our main work of reconciling men and women to God and redeeming their soils from hell. Amen?

A few pix:

1) Here's a shout out to Kidist from Ethiopia, who works at RDU. Hope you enjoy Becky's book!

2) My guest house in Bowman.

3) Mount Tabor Baptist Church.

4) Corey, Autumn, and their beautiful children.

5) Charleston Southern University. What a gorgeous campus.

6) I had the privilege of speaking in Peter Link's beginning Hebrew class.

7) Ditto for Michael Bryant's Christian Ministries class.

8) The Christian Studies building.

9) I did some writing here.

10) Time for sight-seeing? Always.

11) The weather could not have been better for picture taking.

12) The sign says "Privy c. 1791."

13) Flora and fauna.

14) More theological education.

15) Charles McCallum and his sweet family.

16) My view as we left Charleston this morning to fly to Charlotte.

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