Fellow teacher, are you serving your students? Do you remember in John
21 how the risen Lord prepared breakfast for His disciples? I can't
imagine how wonderful that meal must have been. The disciples had
deserted Jesus only a few days earlier, and yet here He is serving them.
Our challenge as teachers is not to disseminate information. It is model
to our students what it means to take the role of a servant seriously.
Isaac just had his second water color lesson. Here's the original:
And here's Isaac's rendition of it:
Anybody want to
guess the name of this Hawaiian fish? (Answer to come.)
One of the biggest weaknesses in my life is ingratitude. Great character
is known by its thankful spirit. Paul anticipated the need for gratitude
when he wrote Phil. 4:6:
Do not be anxious
about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
present your requests to God.
It is time for me to learn how to
pray thankfully, with a quiet confidence in the care and
provision of my Heavenly Father. As the new year approaches, God seems
to be saying to me:
If you let trivial
trials wear you down, you will feel exhausted when you face the
lion. Stop your needless fretting. You can bring everything
under my all-seeing eye. Whatever this new year may hold for you.
you can be sure of one thing: I, your Father, will hear and answer
your every request.
Paul says, "Let God know your needs in
prayers and requests while giving thanks." In 2011 may my whole life be
one big "Thank You" to God, the living expression of my gratitude to my
Heavenly Father for His inexhaustible goodness!
I see the
discussion at Eric's site is broadening. I'm all for it. Perhaps
there might be some benefit in something I wrote a few years ago. It's
Paper Perfect Church. May the discussion continue for the glory of
God and the edification of the church!
Update: For 2007
Michael notes the following death:
Vernard Eller (1927-2007).
American theologian, pacifist, Christian anarchist,
and minister in the Church of the Brethren. A major interpreter of
Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, the Blumhardts and Jacques Ellul,
Eller had a folksy way of speaking and writing that led some to
underestimate the seriousness of his theological writing. He was a
major critic of much feminist theology, especially the use of
feminine imagery for God, which Eller believed led to a lapse into
Canaanite fertility religion. He was also a strong critic of
materialism and nationalism in Christian churches, advocating for
simplicity, reducing possessions, radical sharing of wealth, and
critical of sacramental views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper
(which he believed would rob them of their ethical content).
I call this to your attention for the
simple reason that the writings of Eller are practically unknown today
in evangelical circles. For what it's worth, I have tried to popularize
his thinking (and that of Jacques Ellul) in my book
Over time you can grow
in faith to the point where trials aren’t distractions dividing you
from the Lord, but rather they are the things that propelled you
toward the Lord.
Now here's an interesting
factlet: 46 percent of Germans are cremated when they die. This
raises a question:
die Heilige Schrift für den Christen Richtschnur für Lehre und Leben
ist, bleibt zu fragen, wie die Feuerbestattung aus biblischer
Perspektive einzuordnen ist.
Alles in allem bleibt
bei mir folgender Eindruck:
- das AT u. NT geben
keinen direkten Hinweis zur Kremation, insofern können Christen zu
unterschiedlichen Auffassungen kommen
- der Trend hin zur
Kremation kann vorsichtig als Symptom für den Verlust eines
biblischen Anthropologie in unserer Gesellschaft gedeutet werden
- die Apostel, die
Kirchenväter und nachfolgende Generationen haben wegen der tiefen
Verbundenheit mit Christus und der Auferstehungshoffnung (vor allem
hier die Auferstehung des Körpers!) die Kremation verurteilt. Warum
nicht bei dieser Tradition bleiben?
Do you agree?
(I imagine our friend Rod Decker might
have something to offer here.)
Snapped this two minutes ago:
The Psalmist wrote:
God's glory is on tour in the
skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren't heard,
their voices aren't recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
God makes a huge dome
for the sun—a superdome!
The morning sun's a new husband
leaping from his honeymoon bed,
The daybreaking sun an athlete
racing to the tape.
If you've signed up for my Exegesis of Mark class in the spring, take a
I was delighted to discover tonight
that a new DVD edition of Max McLean’s one-man show, “Mark’s
Gospel,” is now available. I
interviewed Max about the production last year, when it was
running as a live show in the Chicago Theater District. It is a
word-for-word dramatic recitation of the entire Gospel of Mark.
I was even happier to discover that
the whole performance is available for free online. Each video below
represents a chapter of Mark’s Gospel. All said, it runs about an
hour and a half in length. I think you’ll find hearing this
interpretation—and hearing the whole book at once, rather than just
piecemeal—to be an enriching, edifying experience.
I plan on watching each video myself.
Care to join me?
In the latest issue of the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and
Judaism there's an excellent essay on stylistic features in the
Greek New Testament. It's called
Development of Style (Fifth Century BCE to Second Century BCE) and the
Consequences for Understanding the Style of the New Testament
(.pdf). The author makes a convincing argument that the rhetorical level
of language is a significant level for receptors. I agree completely
and, in fact, have made rhetorical analysis one of the ten steps in my
approach to doing New Testament exegesis (Using
New Testament Greek in Ministry). I've dabbled a bit in this field
myself. If anyone is interested, I will be happy to send you a copy of
my essay "Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews" (which
appeared in Filologia Neotestamentaria) absolutely free for the
asking. Just email me and I'll send it to you as a file attachment.
It is a fearful thing when the world enters the church. So argues Kevin
Brown in his latest blog post
A sign of the times. Kevin, writing about the issue of
homosexuality, notes we live in the days of Lukewarm Laodicea where the
church is rich and increased on the outside with goods and needing
nothing. Eventually it will become the world-church of the Antichrist.
We are living in a day
and age that homosexuality WILL become totally accepted and even
revered in the next 10-15 years. Why? Because it is “politically
I couldn't agree more. If you will
recall, the exact thing happened with the issue of divorce. When I was a
child, divorce and remarriage were consistently denounced by the church.
Rockefeller was a case in point. For a Christian to vote for Rockefeller
(who had been divorced and remarried) was unthinkable. However, all of
this changed in the 1970s and 1980s when evangelicals had to come to
terms with the fact that so many of their own had divorced and remarried
and because of their support for Ronald Reagan (who was also divorced
and remarried). At that time I began to notice a subtle shift away from
denunciations of divorce and remarriage to condemnations of abortion.
The Religious Right simply ignored or explained away the biblical
inunctions about divorce and remarriage, so much so that where I live
(the rural South) divorce and remarriage are almost AOK among Baptists.
Evangelicals seem to be conspicuously silent about the matter today. I'm not saying we turn a blind
eye to the problem. I'm just agreeing with Kevin that we have become
guilty of selective literalism when it comes to applying biblical truth
to our own lifestyles.
Kevin is also correct about the
solution. Do not look for a great mass revival in Lukewarm Laodicea. It
has no ears for the One who knocks outside the door. The problem is one
of lack of genuine conversion, and the solution must therefore be the
Gospel. Again, Kevin says it well:
So, should we march on
Washington with signs and bullhorns? I believe we should lead people
to Christ. We are told to “go and make disciples of all nations”
(Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus said, we are to “teach them.” Friends,
we’ve simply got to get back to giving people Jesus…not a petition
to sign or a Senator to email or call. Yes, there may be a time and
place for these things, but ultimately, I’m not called to do
anything but to “go and make disciples.”
Sin is our problem, and when people are
given less then the cure they are left in a worse state than ever.
The irrepressible Michael Green is scheduled to speak on campus at the
20/20 collegiate conference in February. Anybody interested in New
Testament-style renewal will want to hear Michael's message.
Becky's making oven fried chicken for supper tonight. Ain't nothin' like
her fried chicken. I may lose my self-control.
Guess what I get to do all over again on Monday? Teach Greek! I wonder
if I'm an unusual teacher in that I never get tired of the classroom? I
can't begin a new Greek class without being reminded of my own dismal
failure as a Greek student. I lasted all of 3 weeks at Biola. And today
I'm teaching the language! (God has a huge sense of humor.) Students, as
you begin your studies next week, my advice is simple: know yourself.
Recognize your strengths, your weaknesses, your danger spots, the things
in your personality that will keep you from succeeding in the course.
Keep close to the Lord and ask Him to help you at your weakest points.
Work hard to present yourself to God as a worker who doesn't need to be
ashamed. In Rom. 14:17-18 Paul says that "the kingdom of God does not
mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy
Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved
by people." This should be the aim of every one of us, whether teachers
or students. We are to do our utmost to win God's approval and others'
acceptance. For my part, this means that I will do my very best to:
make class interesting
motivate you to work hard
help you succeed
make the assignments as fair as
treat each of you as a unique
answer your questions as clearly
and courteously as possible
be available outside of class
answer your emails within 24
pray for you by name daily
keep my beard trimmed (ha!)
Of course, this is
easier said than done. But these are my goals. My promise to you is
this: If you complete all of your assignments and do well in them, the
payoff will be the ability to read your Greek New Testament with the use
of a lexicon. Beyond that, I hope you will be better prepared to
recognize (and avoid) exegetical fallacies. Above all, I trust the
course will help you to become a more obedient follower of the Lord
Get ready to
William Gurnall was a Church of England minister who lived in the
seventeenth century. In the introduction to his classic work on Eph.
6:10-17 he writes, in the elevated prose of his day:
Whet your courage at the throne of grace, from whence all your
recruits of soul-strength come.
Send faith oft up the hill of promise,
to see and bring the certain news of Christ's coming to you, yea,
and assured victory with him.
"Send faith oft up
the hill of promise." We are all likely to need this word of
encouragement today. I know I do. Gurnall's words ring so true. Whatever
trials we might have to endure this day, we can face the battles of life
with blessed assurance. We can enter our battles with genuine optimism
and with complete confidence that we will emerge victorious. Gurnall was
expressing his unflinching faith in one decisive fact -- that "in all
these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Rom.
Just back from UNC. Results tomorrow, Lord willing.
The latest addition to our home page is called
Miracles. Off to get B's
latest essay deserves mention this morning. What he says in his
closing paragraph is true, for indeed the gathering of the church in New
Testament times was highly participatory. But you will notice that 1
Cor. 12 is followed by 1 Cor. 13. Let me say it plainly. I am
suspicious of any renewal movement in the church that does not follow
the law of love in all things. Follow Eric's advice and I think
there's a strong likelihood that your pastor will accuse you of being
exceedingly disrespectful and discourteous. And he'd be right. We could
use a lot of plain, old-fashioned kindness in the church today. Alas,
too many even of God's most godly people impress us with prophecy and
knowledge but never learn how to be kind. A truly great Christian is
always respectful. There is nothing weak or effeminate about it. Anyone
can be confrontational -- and confrontational is just what I think
Eric's method is. "You don't
have to ask his permission to speak during the gathering, but it would
be good to do so as a matter of Christian courtesy." This looks like
hubris to me, plain and simple.
My suggestion? Here
it is, for what it's worth. If you'd like to see more participation
during or after the sermon time in your church, get to know your pastor.
Pray for him regularly. Develop a close, personal friendship with him.
Let him know how greatly you respect him, as you are commanded to do in
1 Thess. 5:12-13 (CEV):
My friends, we ask you to be
thoughtful of your leaders who work hard and tell you how to live
for the Lord. Show them great respect and love because of their
work. Try to get along with each other.
Then, within the "safe zone"
established by that relationship, you will, I believe, discover
opportunity after opportunity to talk with him about church life. I
enjoy such a strong and healthy relationship with my pastor at Bethel
Hill that I feel free to ask him for the privilege of "saying a word"
during the teaching time, and he is glad to grant me that privilege. And
not only me. I've seen him gladly accommodate requests from moms and
teens and just about anybody who has something the Lord has put on their
heart. You see, the context is one of undeniable mutual love, and love
makes all the difference.
Friends, if we rush into matters in a
confrontational manner, we may soon regret what that does to our
testimony. This makes for shallow and inadequate renewal because we have
not touched the heart of the matter. It's easy to say to our pastor, "I
believe I have the right to speak up this morning during the sermon
time, and I'd like to know on what biblical basis you think I'm wrong."
And, in some contexts, that may be the right thing to say. But --
and this is just my opinion -- unless it is spoken within the context
of a healthy personal relationship, it will fail to accomplish its
A willingness to speak out on
controversial issues is, I believe, a healthy thing. Eric does it all
the time, and so do I. It is hardly the mark of a mature Christian to
sink into an acceptance of things as things are when some of them could
be changed. But it is just as wrong to engage in a "battle for the
truth" under the false guise of greater spirituality. If we have fallen
into this sin, may God cure us of our rashness and impatience and the
error of youthful enthusiasm.
Quote of the day:
“Even within the
church, there’s always ego,” Mr. Yi said. “It’s still human
Yi is referring to a dispute between
the Chinese and Latino congregations that meet in the same United
Methodist church in Brooklyn. See
Brooklyn Immigrant Congregations Clash. "Even within the church,
there's always ego." Sad but oh so true.
This email warmed my heart:
...thanks to b Greek
comments I bought three of your books.
Bec's in the kitchen right now cooking supper. I have no idea what it is
except that it will include rice. Yes, rice. Korean rice in fact.
Sticky, gooey rice. That will make our dog Sheba very happy.
Today I gave Isaac his first water color lesson. Would you like to
attend his inaugural art show?
Here's the original photograph:
And here's Isaac's rendition of it:
I tell you, that Isaac has some God-given talent. Way to go, young man!
Great excitement is brewing over John Piper's next
pastors conference in Minneapolis. And rightly so. The lineup of
speakers is outstanding. Of course, the host pastor won't be doing all
of the speaking. In fact, I imagine he'll be sitting there listening to
other speakers, profiting from their teaching. And the attendees will
enjoy a varied and multifaceted ministry.
Now I've got a
question. Why shouldn't the same pattern apply in our local churches?
Why shouldn't we be able to enjoy a varied and multifaceted teaching
ministry? Think this is a crazy idea? Read Acts 15:35.
(I'll give you a
minute to look up this verse.)
Note it carefully.
Paul was not the only teacher in the church at Antioch. The text clearly
says, "Paul and Barnabas, together with many others, taught and
preached the word of the Lord." Did you get that? Paul and Barnabas
weren't the only teachers in Antioch. They didn't monopolize the
teaching ministry. My guess is that in most American churches this
pattern is not followed, even though there may well be several gifted
teachers in their midst. In fact, if your church has qualified leaders,
then each of them is required to be able to teach the word of God (see 1
Tim. 3:2). Sure, in many Baptist churches these leaders are often called
deacons, but if they are engaged in spiritual leadership then they are
So think about it.
If the apostle Paul, who was one of the greatest Bible teachers the
world has ever seen, was prepared to listen to others, why shouldn't we?
This has been a day for intense writing. I've gotten several pages
written, and Becky has just finished an essay for our home page. I hope
to post it later today. It's called "Miracles." You'll love it.
If you haven't had the pleasure already, you'll want to read
Hating the war, loving my husband. And here's a tip of the kepi to
all of you military wives who crawl into the trenches daily along with
Okay, so maybe I should have an RSS feed. But have they designed
one yet for someone who publishes a "My Space-Face Book-You
Just got an update from our son Nigussie in Alaba:
Today the Beshanos
case apealed for the court case. We pressented for investgeters witnesss
about the situaion. Tomorow it will continue. Tow brother are here
with us for this situation.
No need to correct the grammar. You get
the point. Nigussie also sent the following pictures. Tessema is
recovering nicely from his head wounds.
On the other hand, our vehicle windows
still need replacing.
Please pray for Nigussie as he handles
this case on behalf of the church in Alaba. Please also keep in mind
that the church in Ethiopia will survive, and perhaps even thrive, in
the face of government-sanctioned opposition. Jesus didn't have the
benefit of state sanction when He established His church, yet within
three decades of the resurrection Christianity had reached the ends of
the earth. The state sanctioning of Christianity that began with
Constantine was hardly a blessing to the church. So do not pray for
state endorsement of Christianity in Ethiopia or anywhere else for that
matter. True faith can flourish even when it is not protected by the
Oh, how I wish I were in Alaba to stand
with my brothers and sisters!
B and I enjoyed our drive into South Boston today to get her blood work
done. Saw lots of pretty snowmen along the way. Tonight I'm taking her
out for her favorite meal: prime rib. Thankful the roads are drivable.
By the way, does
the above qualify as a blog post? Aren't you glad I don't have an
If you are not an animal lover, shame on you. Thou shalt heed the words
of Saint Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (ca. 375):
Oh, God, enlarge within us the
sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals
to whom Thou gavest the earth in common with us. We remember with
shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man
with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should
have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail.
Okay, that's a bit
over the top, but animals are special to me. God values all that
He created, and we should too.
Is Harry Potter a good Christian?
Danielle Tumminio thinks so. You can read
it about it
Like kudzu or Jason in Friday the Thirteenth, some traditions
refuse to die, but surely one that merits an early grave is the notion
that reciting the pledge of allegiance to the American flag is a litmus
test of one's faith in God. Thus argues Arthur Sido, and I think he's
right. Read his essay
Where should we direct our allegiance?
Yesterday Henry Neufeld
called his readers' attention to a new series of essays on
intelligent design at the Science & the Sacred website. Henry opines:
I’ve rejected the
design inference on the grounds of garbage-in garbage-out. You can’t
determine how likely a chain of events is when you don’t know what
events constitute the chain. The probability of unknown events is,
well, unknown, or so it seems to me.
Is intelligent design nothing but an
attempt to cloak creationism in the guise of science? Is it, as someone
once said, "creationism in a cheap tuxedo"?
As someone who took geology from Henry
Morris and Duane Gish at Biola many years ago, I look forward to reading
According to the Joshua Project, the Unreached People Group of the Day
are the Afar of Ethiopia:
As never before, we need God's servants who are willing to risk their
lives to preach the uncompromising gospel to the lost peoples of the
Caleb just walked into my office proudly sporting his new ukulele in its
handsome carrying case. Then Isaac walks in holding his art set. Haven't
seen Micah yet but I'm sure that as soon as he finishes his morning
chores he'll be getting his Tinker Toys out. Looks like we chose
winners as gifts (thanks to the advice of Liz!).
It hardly seems possible. In just over a week the Rondeaus will be
leaving frigid southern Virginia for the balmy climes of Upstate New
York. Last night Becky and I gave the boys their "Aloha" gifts. (Aloha,
of course, means both "goodbye" and "I love you" in Hawaiian.) There was
a buy-in however. They had to figure out four clues before they could
arrive at their treasure trove.
Eventually they found their way to Papa B and Mama B's bedroom -- and
their gifts. Now Caleb will have his very own uke to take with him to
his new home.
And Isaac, who loves to draw, has a nifty 80-piece art set.
Finally, Micah's found yet another outlet for his urge to build.
We'll miss these boys. What joy they've brought to our home!
Feel led this morning to thank those who have encouraged us in our
We accept this trial as a blessing from the Lord. It is for His glory
and for our good. We simply pray that God would use it to conform us
to the image of His Son.
Please join me in welcoming SEBTS grad
Josh Honeycutt to the
wonderful world of blogging.
Alan Knox hits it out of the ball park in his essay called
Help Or Get Out of the Way. To be honest, given the control some
pastors want to exercise among their flocks, I'd resign as an
evangelical if I knew where to send the letter. I understand the impulse
to channel efforts through the local church, but I'm not ready to
concede absolute authority to local church leadership. One of my former
doctoral students, Matthew McDill, wrote his dissertation on this very
subject. He sought to rescue the pastorate from what he considered to be
the abuse of privilege and status. (See his
The Authority of Church Elders in the New Testament [.pdf]. Matthew,
by the way, does not speak from the distance of an ivory tower; he
serves as an elder at Highland Christian Fellowship in Boone, NC.)
As much as I love my local church, and as much as I respect the leaders
at Bethel Hill, the Body of Christ is not limited to my local
congregation or yours, and efforts to serve others apart from
officially-sanctioned church "programs" ought to be lauded, not
condemned, as Alan rightly notes.
Allan Bevere is feeling an awful lot like a resident alien. I can
identify with him completely.
Living in the time
between the times we experience the tension embodying kingdom
citizenship in our present space that resists God's kingdom come. We
do not live with one foot in the God's kingdom and the other in the
kingdoms of the world. The Sermon on the Mount is meant to be lived
in the here and now, but it cannot be fully obeyed unless we posture
ourselves completely in the divine reign while confronting the
current age with the Lordship of Jesus Christ, as we live as God's
kingdom citizens in the present time between first and second
Just reviewed my blogging goals for 2011. They are found in 1 Cor. 14:3.
I pray that everything I write speaks edification,
encouragement, and comfort into your life. Praise the Lord --
what an opportunity the internet affords to do all three! Yes, we are
called to conflict, but with our real enemy, not our fellow believers.
So ... do you have
a theme verse for your blog? If so, why not share it with the rest of
POX90 has nothing on shoveling snow in your driveway. Whew! What a
Looks like the Bowden Blog
has gone off the deep end. Instead of publishing profound thoughts about
theology, Andy is stooping so low as to post You Tubes of his baby's
hiccups. Before you know it he'll be showing us pictures of him walking
Being a seminary student, at Dallas
Theological Seminary no less, I have the opportunity to talk to
great repositories of theological knowledge on a semi-daily basis
(and sometimes even to professors too!). It has been said you can
tell a man from Dallas Seminary, but you can’t tell him much. An
implication of this is that many of us think we know much more than
we actually do. Honestly, I think this follows the stereotypical
college path. First year Th.M students know they don’t know much.
Second year students think they know a lot. Third year students are
starting to get impressed with how much they know. Fourth year
students either come out of it and are bewildered by how little they
actually know, or they think they are destined to be the next
Luther. If no one will play the pope, then they’ll just have to
appoint someone to have 95 theses nailed to their door.
"Play the pope." I love it! It would be
funny if it wasn't so true. Students, let's never forget who we are:
fallen human beings. Wear your learning humbly.
Yesterday the Dallas Morning News profiled
Ken Starr, the head of Baylor University, and his attempt to make
Baylor a world-class Christian university. What struck me more than
anything in reading this story was Starr's obvious leadership skills.
Two components stood out: his inter-personal skills, and his commitment
to encouraging others. The article states:
what a typical day is like, he says: "Well, tonight I have to be at
a dinner and then a lecture and then two basketball games. That's
the 'encouragement' part...."
I like that.
Students and faculty need to know how much we care about them. That's
true on my campus and on yours. Simple tokens of courtesy go a long way.
For example, when I have a student in my office and my phone rings, I
never answer it. Why should I? The machine will take the message for me.
I also leave my office door open at all times, except when I am in an
important private meeting. Greeting students, even strangers, as you
pass them on campus? Why not?
I remember from my seminary days were those with just such qualities as
Starr seems to possess. I wish him and his vision well.
Quote of the day (Francis
Chan, upon quitting his pastorate and leaving the U.S.):
I think there has been too much
emphasis on me. I want to be used by God, but I think we have this
desire to make heroes out of people rather than following God and
the Holy Spirit.
Looking forward to welcoming Justin B., Josh C., John E., Chris E., John
E., Kevin G., John G., Ben H., Chris H., Doug H., Minwoo J., Perry K.,
Andrew L., Moncy M., David M., Thomas R., Blair R., Chris R., Joel S.,
Mark S., Roch S., Scott Y., Joel G., Spencer G., Matthew M., Matthew J.,
Quinny S., Zach S., Bradley S., Savannah T., and Tim W. to my J-term
Greek class on Jan. 3. The course syllabus is available at Moodle.
Please email me if you have any questions. And if anybody wants to get a
head start, you can read chapter 1 and begin memorizing the alphabet.
That's not as difficult as you might think.
It was dusk, and I still could not get enough of the snowy beauty, so I
took all three dogs for a long walk.
I was amused at the antics of Alpha, who stole some of the bread we had
put out earlier for the birds.
Have you ever seen a cuter thief?
When we returned to the Hall, Becky thoughtfully had the porch lights
on. It was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
Now we are ensconced again in a warm and happy house, the fire place
blazing, Becky watching Wives and Daughters, and I reading an
escape book. Looking forward to the return of the Rondeaus tomorrow from
Roanoke. The house has been much too quiet of late.
Double blessing: Becky's homemade corn chowder, then a long nap. Love
this time of the year.
Becky and I just took Sheba for a leisurely stroll. Yes, outdoors.
Amazing beauty. Enjoy the pix!
A snowy day is a good time for reflection. So, with your permission....
It has finally
dawned on me. Just as nature has entered the period we call "winter," so
B and I have passed the autumn of our lives and energy. We are glad to
be doing so as a couple. How in the world would we ever be able to bear
our trials alone? The older we get, the more pressing the question
becomes: What shall we live for? On what shall we spend our flagging
time and effort? In a nutshell: Why are we here?
We live in a
society that is lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. Our "Christian" culture,
like my household thermostat, is set on a comfortable 70. But if there
is one thing Becky and I pray for it is this: God, deliver us from
comfortable Christianity! A poor wretched world trembles from one
catastrophe to another -- from cholera outbreaks to deadly typhoons to
ocean-wide tsunamis. Nations arrogantly unleash more bombs than balm on
earth. What to do? "Test all things," says Paul (1 Thess. 5:21). Ask
ourselves, Have we truly come to terms yet with our godless society?
Or have we agreed not to arouse its antagonisms? Have we become experts
at coming up with alibis for not serving Jesus radically and
It seems we have a
built-in propensity to get by with shoddy stuff, using cheap substitutes
of wood, hay, and straw. Our ambitious religious projects need no
second-guessing and certainly no "testing." How old-fashioned it sounds
today when someone asks, "Why are we doing things the way we do them?"
Could it be we have not yet moved from Calvary to Pentecost? When we
become followers of Christ we are set on fire. Perhaps, if we are to
test all things and hold fast to that which is good, we need to stop
quenching the Spirit. The greatest enemy of Christianity is not
extremism but apathy. Nothing under the sun can be as tedious as doing
"ministry" without the Holy Spirit. Paul says, in effect, "you can do
better." We must do better.
We are forced,
again, to rethink our priority systems. Christ demands nothing less than
lordship over our whole lives, including the material blessings we enjoy
as Americans. John Wesley once put it this way: "To lay up treasure on
earth is as plainly forbidden by our Master as adultery and murder." A
great need exists today for believers who will "test all things" --
their own ambitions, dreams, plans, and hopes. God is looking for men
and women who will ask of Him, What do you want me to do? And how do
you want me to to do it?
It is not easy to
go from an easy-believism form of Christianity to a life of active
service for Christ. I should know. For years I believed I had a
conditional service contract with God. As long as I got my way (i.e.,
sufficient recognition as a scholar, a consistent income, good health,
etc.) I was glad to be a "bondservant of Jesus Christ." Only gradually
-- and grudgingly -- did I learn to turn my back on all of my excuses
One problem with
"testing all things" is that we have so many things to test. There is
hardly a person alive in North America who cannot boast about their
abundance of education, clothing, food, and housing. We forget that all
of these blessings are temporary and conditional. If we do not "test"
them -- if we do not realize that the same Master who entrusts wealth to
His servants will also demand an accounting and a profit from what He
has given them -- we will certainly fail to respond with obedience to
His grace and mercy. It is precisely because our lives have become so
contrary to this "test all things orientation" that we have become easy
prey for Satan and his demons. Our wills are neither submitted nor
surrendered. We cannot let go of family, friends, entertainment, and a
thousand other things because we have never tested them against the
value system of the kingdom of God.
says Paul. Test all of it. Authentic Christianity is not reserved
for super heroes. It is for every believer, whatever your circumstances.
Selfless, Spirit-filled living begins when, like Moses on the Mountain,
we come face to face with the living God and see our "things" for what
they really are.
I just glanced out
the window again. There is something so incredible about watching it
snow. It's like I'm getting a fresh glimpse of this deeper beauty, this
greater reality. Only God can take my motives and make them as white as
the freshly-driven snow. And I know He's entrusted me with the task of
living out the winter of my life by adopting the world as my home, doing
hilarious, dangerous things for others despite the inconvenience and
Let it be, Oh God
of Winter, let it be!
In case you're a Bethel Hillian and are reading this blog, church
services have been cancelled this morning. Stay safe. Be thankful and
prayerful. Enjoy your time at home.
Just by way of an update, Becky will be having her CT-scan this
Thursday. We should hear the outcome on Friday. There's a part of me
that's afraid to hear the results, and another part that's eager to know
if and to what extent the Adriamycin has worked. As soon as I hear
anything I'll be sure to let you know.
I woke up this morning consumed with the thought of forgiveness. The
need to extend it and receive it. It's all because of a story I read
last night in the book God's Samurai, a story that I'm going to
carry with me to the grave.
Shortly after the
end of World War II, an American girl about 18 years of age came to a
camp in the western U.S. where Japanese POWs were being held. She
ministered to the prisoners with tireless energy and compassion. Her
name was Margaret Covell. She spoke no Japanese, but the men knew enough
English to communicate with her. She had both amazed and puzzled the
prisoners. "Why are you so kind to us, your enemies?" they would ask.
soldiers killed my parents," she replied.
stared at her in astonishment. What on earth could she possibly mean?
She then explained
to them that her parents were missionaries in Japan before the war. At
the outbreak of hostilities they fled to the Philippines where they
thought they would be safe. Eventually the Japanese found the Covells
and beheaded them as spies. Margaret, who had been living in the States,
didn't learn of her parents' fate until after the war. At first she was
filled with hatred for the Japanese. But as she began to think about her
parents' selfless service, she slowly became convinced that they had
forgiven their executioners. Through Filipino sources she heard about
their last moments. Blindfolded, with their hands bound behind their
backs, they were forced to their knees. Just before being killed they
prayed, "Father, forgive them for they know what they do."
I know this story
doesn't make any sense. We feel we can reserve the right to withhold
forgiveness from those who have hurt us. Jesus entertained no such
thoughts. Neither did Stephen as he was being stoned to death. Neither
did Mr. and Mrs. Covell.
Are you're looking
for the answer to the question of the ages -- What can set me free
from the shackles of hatred? If so, a teenage American girl has the
answer. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" is a
prayer to be spoken over and over again. There's an entire world of joy
waiting for us on the other side of forgiveness.
by all the trumpets of the sky, arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the
fields, seems nowhere to alight: the whited air hides hills and woods,
the river, and the heaven, and veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet delayed, all friends
shut out, the housemates sit around the radiant fireplace, enclosed in a
tumultuous privacy of storm." --
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The year 2011 is slowly approaching, and with it the demands of a
fulltime teaching and writing career. Don't get me wrong; I'm not
complaining. Every time I think of my work I pinch myself. I get paid
to do this? And then I remember: With great privilege comes great
responsibility. And that means writing and more writing. The good news
is that I've got a running start going into 2011. I'm about 9 (out of
10) laps into my revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I've also
decided to begin producing the third edition of The New Testament:
Its Background and Message since the publishers requested an update
and because it continues to be one of the most widely-used New Testament
introduction textbooks out there (along with Robert Gundry's). Plus, if
you add in my book on kingdom living (Godworld: Enter at Your Own
Risk) that makes 3 major writing projects I've set as goals for the
new year, and this doesn't include the two (or three) books I'll be
editing for our Areopagus series. Writing has become such a big part of
my normal routine that I hardly notice it. I think it's just an
extension of the classroom. I remember being asked to write Learn to
Read New Testament Greek. I didn't have to get worked up about it at
all; in fact, the book practically wrote itself. When you've been
teaching a subject for decades, putting it down on paper (or into a
computer) comes easily. Of course, kudos to my great publishers, who
keep books in print and do great job of promotion.
What I am trying to
say, I guess, is that I love what I do. Next year will mark my 35th year
in the classroom. And so it goes. Year after year. Book after book. It
all boils down to simple routine, really. Little by little, classes are
taught and books are produced -- all in addition to the time it takes to
keep up this little corner of the blogosphere. Thankfully, it's all a
part of my "vocation," which means I do my best, but in the final
analysis it's really God who gets the job done in and through a weak but
(usually) yielded vessel.
The dignity of
work. Life doesn't get any simpler than that. Stay focused on what
God has called and gifted you to do. Surrender your future to Him. Then
watch Him work.
Still needing to do some last minute Christmas shopping? I have the
perfect gift idea: A copy of my Paul, Apostle of Weakness. At a
bargain discount price, too:
Good Christmas meditation
here by one of my favorite authors.
Where to start to describe our family celebration last night? It was a
time of sharing.
It was a time of praying.
It was a time of eating.
It was a time of celebrating our oneness in Christ.
It was a time of getting reconnected as families.
It was a time of giving to the hurting among us. (B and I will
distribute these non-perishables to a needy family).
The evening was so incredibly enjoyable it defies description. I felt
woefully out of place in my own kitchen as I watched the ladies take
over and handle the work of serving and cleanup. I can't even explain
how fantastic the fellowship around the tables was as the food was
served and the stories told and the prayers prayed and the discussions
discussed. It was cool to hear all the testimonies and especially to
join our hearts in prayer. Our prayer goals were simple.
for the family who would receive our love gifts.
for our brothers and sisters suffering for His Name.
for our own church's future.
for special needy ones in our midst.
for God's kingdom to expand and our focus to be on His kingdom.
prayed for our families and marriages.
It's hard to think of a better forever family than our brothers and
sisters at Bethel Hill. I shared my heart with them about the 3 billion
people who have never heard the gospel. I shared how my heart breaks
that the American church spends 96 percent of its offerings on its own
programs and comforts. Of course, I myself am a huge part of all this
ecclesiastical machinery. I want to do better in 2011. What a glorious
relief the gospel brings from the American way of life!
I journeyed to Ethiopia today. In my mind, of course. The place was much
as I remembered it. Especially at Christmas time. This is their summer
-- dry, hot, dusty, malaria-ridden. We used to spend every Christmas in
Ethiopia. In Ethiopia we're known as Papa B and Mama B. Or sometimes as
the church'sfaranjis. We were more than pleased to be the
only white-faced foreigners around. As the days go by here in the States
I find myself realizing that I'm not the captain of my own fate. Never
have been really. So instead of being in Ethiopia, here I am in
Virginia, realizing that stronger and wiser hands than mine are guiding
me. I realize that God doesn't need me in Ethiopia. Or anywhere else for
that matter. I'm okay with that. One thing I cling to is that I have
never doubted the goodness of God through all of this. He is not only
near me, He is the heart pounding in my chest. I'm so grateful to Him
for giving me wonderful memories of a past season in my life. I know
this sounds jumbled, because it is. But I wanted to be honest with you,
as honest as I've been with God today. I miss being in a place where one
is acutely aware of one's whiteness. Where time does not exist. Where
incredible pockets of natural beauty await you at every turn in the
road. Where the needs are horrendous. Where the elders are beautiful and
age is respected.
There is, I think, more work for me to do in Ethiopia. In the meantime,
I mash the potatoes for supper while taking a long journey in my mind to
a faraway place.
Christmas Eve shout out to Mary, Britanni, Katelyn, Bridget, Kimber,
Nick, John, Rick, Wes, Karen, Victoria, Elizabeth, Bailey, Brittney,
Taylor, Bonnie, William, Chris, Pam, Cindi, Abigail, Stevie, Kim, Leigh,
Stephen, Lendon, Thomas, Marshall, Lavern, Sandy, Cecilie, Harry, and
We're eager to see
On a completely unrelated note, do you remember that I told you I was in
the process of revising my doctoral dissertation, Paul, Apostle of
Weakness, for publication? Imagine my delight when today I got an
email from a complete stranger who had heard nothing about the revision
yet who was interested in getting a copy of the book to read for
himself. I told him that, Lord willing (and that is a big Lord
willing), the revision will be published in late 2011. So that's the
Inquiring minds wanted to know....
Living at Bradford Hall has changed my perspective in so many ways.
Growing up in Hawaii we did very little entertaining; we were much too
poor for that. So there's something wonderful about being able to open
our home to guests and entertain them royally. I'm sitting here by
myself tonight, as Becky and her good friend Rachael have gone out for
dinner (ladies' night out). Not that I'm lonely mind you; I've got my
three dogs, plus Rachael's puppy, to look after while the ladies are
gone. Probably a good time, I thought to myself, to grab some
pictures of the table preparations for tomorrow's dinner. So here
goes. This is what the breakfast room looks like:
And here's our formal dining room:
Finally, this is what we call the Lee Room (named after the good general
Beside each plate is a name card that features (1) a Bible verse and (2)
a picture of the cross. Because that's the message of Christmas,
Becky told me.
That's my wife! I
My sympathies to the Questing Parson, who
lost his wife
The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Seminary
announces an upcoming conference called
Baptists and War. I might very well attend it. Below is the schedule
as it currently stands. My colleagues' papers are listed in red.
September 26–27, 2011
Monday, September 26
8:30am Plenary Session 1: Anthony Cross,
(Regent’s Park College, Oxford University),
“Anabaptists, Baptists, and Pacifism: An Overview”
10:00am Plenary Session 2: Larry Kreitzer
(Regent’s Park College, Oxford University), “The
‘Valiant Old Lady’: The Story of the Eighth
Whelp (1628–46) and her Baptist Chaplain John
Plenary Session 3: Keith Harper (SEBTS), “Baptists
and the American Revolution”
1:00–3:00pm Banquet Lunch
3:00pm–4:30 pm Plenary Session
4: Paul Brewster (Pastor, SBC, & Junior Fellow of
the Andrew Fuller Center), “Andrew Fuller and
the War against Napoleon”
4:30–5:30 pm Parallel Sessions
(six in total)
7:30pm–9:00pm Plenary Session
5 and panel discussion: George Rable (Univ. of
Alabama), James Fuller (Univ. of Indianapolis), Tom
Nettles (SBTS), and Greg Wills (SBTS, moderator),
“Interpreting the American Civil War”
Tuesday, September 27
8:30am Plenary Session 6:
Jamie Robertson (PhD student, McMaster University),
“Baptists and the War of 1812”
10:00am SBTS Chapel
11:30 am Plenary Session 7:
Gord Heath (McMaster Divinity College, McMaster
University), “Canadian Baptists and the 19th
century Wars of the British Empire”
2:00pm Plenary Session 8: Maurice Dowling (Irish
Baptist College), “Russian Baptists and the Cold
Plenary Session 9: Nathan Finn (SEBTS), “The Vietnam
War and Baptist Witness”
I remember a couple of years ago when the Obamas began vacationing in
Hawaii, where the president was born and attended high school. There's
only one thing to do in the islands, and that is to enjoy the ocean.
Here the prez shows off his body surfing form. I say, that man's got
style! Not that I'm jealous or anything. At any rate, I hope the First
Family enjoys their vacation at Kailua Beach. It's MY beach, but I'm
glad to share it.
I was driving to Duke University Hospital in Durham
this morning when I heard a report that the Cincinnati "Bungles" were
enticing next year's season ticket holders with the promise of a voucher
for -- can you guess it? -- a
free box of popcorn.
Plus, for a limited
time only, if you purchase
new season tickets, you will
receive a voucher for a free
box of popcorn to be
redeemed at any home game
this fall at Paul Brown
If I were a Bengals fan (which I'm not) I would be offended. But are
things any different in the church? We make a mockery of the gospel when
we imply that becoming a Christian means health, wealth, prosperity, or
blessing. The apostle Paul would have disagreed. Everywhere in his
writings he seems to accept sacrifice and suffering as accepted and
normal. Paul writes, "We are troubled on every side." We're taught to
think the opposite. We live in a popcorn-promising culture. We believe
that sacrifice and self-denial are only for special, unusual occasions.
But Jesus is not the Santa Claus so many have made Him out to be.
He is the King of the universe who deserves our undivided allegiance.
Our Christian bookshops are full of literature that denies this
teaching, but it remains true.
In the first quiet moments of this new day my mind is drawn to Hebrews
2. Oh, how His voice speaks into my silence! The incarnation. Jesus
becoming like us and sharing our human nature (Heb. 2:14). What a
wonderful truth this is! Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the
incarnate Deity! God has lavished His love upon us, with all of our
sin and rebellion and pride. That is how God acted toward us, and now we
are called upon to demonstrate the fact that we are His children by
having the same attitude toward others, including our enemies.
of all of life with regard for the welfare of others -- this is the
message of Christmas. If Christ is the "man for others" (Bonhoeffer), we
are to be "men for others." And this means all of us, not just
professional church leaders. I do not wish to abolish the clergy. I wish
to abolish the laity. All of us are to be to ministers. We are, as Heb.
2:11 reminds us, "brothers." We no longer feel the need to address each
other with honorific titles (Sehr geehrter Herr Professor Doktor Black!).
"Brother" is quite sufficient. The burdens of life are now placed on as
many shoulders as possible. The Christian and the social are
effortlessly intertwined. Moreover, because the church is
constitutionally one, all suffer when any part of the Body suffers.
I'll admit it: I
didn't always believe this way or in this Jesus. Compassion is often
hard to come by when one is building one's reputation. Reading the
Scriptures this morning I feel like a child on Christmas Eve. Like God
has oh-so-much-more to reveal to me if only I would keep silent.
Nice, quiet evening at home. B's in the kitchen carving up the turkey
and otherwise having the time of her life. Talk about being in one's
element. Earlier she polished the silverware. Yes, we're pulling out all
the stops for Friday's dinner, including our fine china. As for me,
Caleb let me strum and sing a few old tunes on the uke -- Aloha Oe,
Hawaii Pono I, Little Brown Gal, Mele Kalikimaka, Little Grass Shack,
and, of course Pearly Shells. Becky says I'm entering my second
childhood. Right now I'm reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Dec. 1941,
which is an hour-by-hour description of that fateful day in history.
Wow! Have you seen this list of forthcoming and recent
commentaries on the books of the Bible? Would you possibly agree
that there just might be a glut of such tomes? (The same could probably
be said about books on New Testament Greek, but I won't go there lol!)
Some are better than others, of course. For what it's worth, I just love
Ephesians commentary. It terms of sheer size (960 pages; Best's only
has 674 pages), it is certainly comprehensive. But beyond size, the
quality is unbeatable. Here is a man who dedicated most of his career to
teaching the book of Ephesians at DTS. I like his "mature," seasoned
perspective. This is where so many commentaries fall short and hence why
so few commentaries say anything really new. Even where Harold's views
aren't novel, they are well thought-out. And of course, Harold provides
his own translation from the Greek text -- a must in all
commentaries worth their salt.
As an aside, Harold
was a friend of mine. Here we are in his Sunday School classroom at
Grace Bible Church in Dallas, where my in-laws attend. He was a Swiss
citizen and proud of it (we often spoke Swiss German with each other).
When he passed away in 2009, I wrote these words in his memory:
Although he was only 18 years my
senior, Harold taught me many lessons. Perhaps the greatest one is
this: Rest is serious business. In our hurry-up generation, where
everything has to be done yesterday, Harold showed me how to pace
myself and to go no faster (or slower) than the One to whom I am
co-yoked is traveling. There is a great truth here that is both
relevant and practical. I believe that a new grace and glory would
enter the church if all Christians ceased doing things by themselves
and did them for and with God.
Harold enjoyed the respect
of the entire academic community, and to him the community looked
for guidance and inspiration. I have little doubt, however, that he
would be content to be remembered, not as a great New Testament
scholar, which he was most certainly was, but as a humble servant
doing the bidding of his Lord, to whom he had so joyfully and
willingly yoked himself.
This is how
I would wish to be remembered. This is what I seek to model to my
PM We snapped this picture while driving
through South Boston, VA. Side by side we find ads for MacDonald's and
Halifax Regional Hospital's cardiovascular services.
Quite an irony, wouldn't you say?
This article is a reminder that we Southern Baptists need to watch
our weight during the holidays.
But how did Southern Baptists and their compatriots
become so big in just one generation (CDC statistics indicate the
rate of obesity in America doubled between 1970 and 2000 to 30
percent of the population)?
It's no laughing matter. The authors add:
A T-shirt seen on a
rotund man read, “If my body is the temple of God, I must be a mega
church.” The initial chuckle gives way to a sigh as the truth of the
declaration sinks in—the body of the believer is the temple of the
Holy Spirit and we are to honor God with our bodies. Eating too much
and leading a sedentary life can create a body riddled with illness
and disease, hardly a laughing matter.
"food for thought" this week, since most of us will probably eat more
than we planned to.
Bob Jones University now offers an accredited M.A. in Biblical Studies
A post at the Evangelical Textual Criticism website (the
practical use of Greek accents) is a good reminder, I think, for
professors to maintain high standards when it comes to student papers.
Don't hesitate to apply some loving pressure; nudge a bit. By and large,
students who are careless about Greek accents will be careless about
other matters as well. Effective communication is not only based on what
we say but on how we say it. If you sense that a student is ignoring the
details, it may a signal for a gentle reminder about those "little foxes
that spoil the vines." Elton Trueblood once said, "Holy shoddy is still
shoddy," and just because we do our work for the Lord Jesus (and not
merely for a grade) is no excuse for sloppiness.
P.S. I'm surprised
at how careless students can be with foreign language quotes as well.
Yes, I do check for German umlauts and French accents!
I might suggest
that a good place to start would be our New Testament Introduction
classes. Here we could contrast the position that existed under the Old
Covenant with life under the New. For example, in the Old Testament,
sacrifices were a vital part of worship, so much so that a special
building was set aside for that purpose. Moreover, only certain people
(called priests) could perform sacred duties on behalf of the rest of
the people. Finally, specific animals had to be sacrificed. Under the
New Covenant, however, a new set of conditons exists. The emphasis is no
longer upon a building (the people form the church), the sacrifices are
offered by all (every Christian is a fulltime priest), and the offerings
are now spiritual in nature -- praise and thanksgiving. (The book of
Hebrews is explicit about all of this.) In addition to New Testament
Introduction, what about church history classes? Could we not discuss
New Testament ecclesiology when we are analyzing the Anabaptists of the
sixteenth century -- those men and women who refused to be shackled by
ecclesiastical tradition and who sought to return to the simple
practices of the New Testament? Even in our Greek classes these
questions could be tackled as we exegeted such passages as Roman 12 or 1
Corinthians 12-14. (I do.)
The simple truth is
that seminary can and ought to be a place of genuine discovery.
Questions about church life, even though they might make us
uncomfortable, can and must be asked. At the same time, let's
realize that the main purpose of a seminary education is to acquire the
tools necessary for self-study, realizing that all learning is
ultimately self-learning. A SEBTS Ph.D. grad recently published his
dissertation in which he argued against tithing as a New Testament
requirement, and a current Ph.D. student is re-examining the question of
why the church assembles. But having said that, it remains true that no
amount of formal biblical education can ever bring us to a mature
understanding of Scripture for the simple reason that education involves
more than the intellect. God the Holy Spirit must do His work in our
lives. The Good Shepherd alone can lead His sheep into truth. Are you
off course? Allow God, through the Scriptures, to make you receptive to
truths you may have previously rejected.
In the meantime,
let's not forget that as Christians we are wonderfully bound to each
other in a fellowship that goes far beyond the mere sharing of
convictions about ecclesiology. It is a supernatural and spiritual
reality of Christ-like love and mutual burden-bearing. Only when we
learn to experience that kind of love will the world stand up and take
notice that we are truly followers of the Prince of Peace.
I want to laud all of the fulltime ministers of the Gospel who will be
serving the Lord tirelessly this Christmas holiday. I'm referring to the
women in our lives. I can't overemphasize this point. Our wives are
sterling examples of the true spirit of Christmas -- giving, giving,
then giving some more. I know this is true in our home, where Becky and
Liz are working nonstop to make this home a wonderful avenue of blessing
to others. Men, we dare not sell our wives short. Cleaning a room or
vacuuming a floor or preparing a menu -- all of these actions, done in
the name of Christ, become Spirit-powered testimonies to the love and
grace of Jesus. Becky's a great example.
I often follow far behind in her wake.
Her interpersonal skills far surpass mine. She is a superb networker.
Most of all, she is a genuine friend who just loves people in very
tangible and authentic ways. There is nothing in this world more
powerful than a Spirit-filled individual who targets his or her gifts to
meet the needs of others. Look at the earliest Christians. They had no
formal religious education. Why, they couldn't even spell
hermeneutics. They knew nothing about sermon preparation or
homiletical outlines. They simply spoke about what they had seen Jesus
do and had heard Him say. And they reached their neighbors for Christ
relationally and relentlessly.
Christianity is a
way of living. It's what spills over when you bump into someone. It has
nothing to do with status or gender. The goal is to become a genuine
friend to others, to penetrate our neighborhoods with the simple,
authentic love of Jesus. And we can do this whether or not we have a
Christmas tree in our living room.
Don't minimize the
power of such deeds. Make a definite commitment to God that you will
cultivate relationships this Christmas with a view toward evangelism.
Pray for boldness and open doors. Above all, bathe each relationship in
prayer. Christmas is not about us. It's about getting people to the foot
of the cross.
The author, Phil Hopkins, holds a Ph.D. from SEBTS, where he did most of
his research for this book. It's a good reminder that evangelism is most
productive when we root it in its theological foundation.
Jésus n’était pas en
sécurité. Sa version du Royaume de Dieu n’était pas prudente.
Pourquoi ma version de la vie chrétienne tourne-t-elle donc si
souvent autour de ma sécurité et de mon confort?
Over at the Baker Book House blog there's a mighty fine
review of Kent Yinger's book called TheNew Perspective on
I think everyone enjoyed their supper tonight. But we sat there with
somewhat mixed emotions as last evening our three puppies vanished.
Hours of searching for them today availed nothing. I spent the afternoon
placing "Lost Dog" notices (with pix) in all of our neighbors'
In our home the
dogs often lick our supper plates, especially after we've downed some of
Papa B's yummy-licious Chinese fare, so it was Isaac, I think, who
suggested that we put a plate of leftovers on the front porch to entice
the dogs, wherever their were, to return to the fold. And before you
could say "The puppies are back!" the puppies were back! Right now I am
surrounded by three dead tired Shelties who, if they could only talk,
would I'm sure have some tall tales to tell about their adventures out
there in the "world." So thanks be to God for answering our prayers for
their safe return, and may we never take for granted the little
serendipities of life.
Time to cook Chinese food. Now where did I put my secret
Rumor has it that all good things come in large packages. It's only a
rumor folks, and I can prove it. Bob Cornwall's
Ultimate Allegiance (my copies arrived today!) is a small bundle
with lots of practical wisdom.
You'll be delighted to know this ain't your run-of-the-mill "How To"
book about prayer. Bob cuts deeper than that -- which is one of the
reasons Allan Bevere and I accepted his work in our series. One thing's
for sure: We don't test God's promises until we attempt something
impossible for Him. And that's where prayer comes in.
We are slowly getting the house ready for 36 guests this Friday night. I
just finished my list of things to do for Becky. My mother used to
always tell me that I had to finish my work before I could go out and
surf, and life hasn't changed much since then. It's so much fun watching
Becky clean and scrub and organize and plan and arrange seating etc. I
want to share photos with you but I dare not intrude upon her bliss.
Little by little the house will get into grand shape for our Christmas
Eve celebration. I've put together a nice list of hymns to sing, and B
has a menu you won't believe. If this turns out to be a success, we will
definitely do it again.
Now that my chores
are finished, what to do? I ought to write but I feel too dry and flat
for that this morning. I am a shorn Samson on a treadmill. Do you ever
feel that way? I feel that, right now, I need to talk to men less and to
God more. He is still able to make all grace abound, even when we may be
feeling tired and listless.
Speaking of grace,
over at the Bethel Hill blog Becky tells a
wonderful story of forgiveness. Read it and be blessed.
This was a good day. UNC Hospital is an interesting place. I know it's
filled with Someone who is full of compassion for the suffering. That
includes the chemo infusion center. His mercy is new every morning, even
to those who aren't even aware of His presence. The place was packed
with Monday cancer patients, and we finally settled into a room shared
with another woman, older than Becky, who clearly was struggling both
physically and emotionally. In between it all the hospital psychologist
eventually appeared to do what she could to help the patient. The
curtain was drawn but Becky and I could hear the entire conversation
without trying to eavesdrop. I remember studying psychology in college
and thinking to myself, Is this all the world has to offer? It's
never enough, really. A bit of holiday cheer here, a pep talk there. It
just didn't seem fair. Here was a lady suffering extreme mental pain,
and Becky and I were basking in the warmth of God's sunlight. Eventually
the patient was removed to another location, and our hopes of
befriending her were dashed. Her poor husband. It is never easy to sit
at a bedside and watch your loved one suffer in such a fashion. I'm
having a hard time myself sorting all of this out in my own mind. Why
should I enjoy the love and care of a Heavenly Father and someone else
not? Other than pray, I don't know what to do. God has impressed on my
heart lately to interceded on behalf of others, even people I don't know
well. I do pray for this precious lady. Lord, you are her only hope.
what came in today's mail, and I am certainly not complaining about it.
If I hadn't gone into Greek grammar, I'm sure I would have become a
Off to UNC.
Today Alan Knox wrote:
Jesus is still "God
with us," and he continues to bring peace to his people.
Read his fine essay called
Peace. One day in Alaba the Muslims attacked a believer named Fetiye
and her children with sticks and knives. She was fully pregnant at the
time. God spared the yet-to-be-born infant, but Fetiye's one-year old
son perished as a result of the attack. Later, when a son was born to
her and her husband, they named him Immanuel, "God is with us!" What
suffering. What faith. What an expression of confidence and hope in the
God of all peace. Alan is right. God does indeed continue to bring peace
to His people.
Below: Becky and Fetiye, two
forever-sisters in Christ, facing adversity with the peace and joy of
I've read every page of it, and it is priceless. It outstrips the
competition when it comes to quality of information and quantity of
examples. It is the Summa Cum Laude of exegesis text books. If
you've had at least a year of Greek, this book is for you!
Please join us in praying for brother Kassa who is still recovering in
Alaba. We must always remember that as followers of Christ we stand
side-by-side with the persecuted church wherever it exists in the world.
We need to work together and support one another in the common task.
Houston Baptist University seeks two full-time faculty to
join the School of Theology in 2011 and two full-time in
2012 who have expertise in any of the following areas:
The successful candidate will be able to teach select
courses in the liberal arts core curriculum, upper-level
courses in the Christianity major and minor, and courses in
the Master of Arts in Theological Studies and Master of
Biblical Languages program.
Happy job hunting!
A good pastor friend of mine is currently writing a book about raising
kids to be wholehearted and passionate Jesus-followers. Recently he
blogged about some of his crazy ideas. Get ready to be stretched. He
We don’t have a
nursery at the church I help Elder. Why? Because we sincerely want
our children to be with us. We want the children to experience
everything in the worship service that they just can’t get in a room
watching a video eating Cheetos. My children get to participate in
seeing people lifting hands in praise to the Lord as they lift their
voices in song. They get to hear testimonies of those that have
come to Christ. They see people weeping under the conviction of the
Holy Spirit at the altar. They see Dads praying over their
I could add more -- so much more --
about this dear brother, but I will just say this: I admire any man who
is willing to challenge the status quo and search the Scriptures for
himself, even risking alienation and misunderstanding by others. True
discipleship is always costly. Period.
Is he is process? Yes. Has he arrived?
No. Neither has any one of us. It's three steps forward and two steps
back. The real question is: Are we headed in the right direction?
Despite being a brand new daddy, Andy Bowden is not about to neglect his
blogging responsibilities. One of his latest posts will really get you
thinking. It's called
and addresses what Andy thinks is major circular reasoning in Carson,
Moo, and Naselli's introductory textbook.
Of course, I've never been guilty of reasoning from one premise
and then ending up right back at the original premise!
Becky's been sewing again, this time duvets for the boys, who got to
pick out their own hues, buttons, even the color of the letters for
their names. I was going to say that now the boys will have something to
keep them warm up in frigid New York, but the duvets have come in handy
right here in Virginia. Anyway, if you're a seamstress, I think you'll
enjoy these pix.
I'm so excited to report that next month we're having our initial
planning meeting for the next trip to serve the underserved in Ethiopia.
I am (and always have been) an incurable infracaninophile (lover of the
underdog). And the thing is, it's not just with issues like the synoptic
problem and textual criticism that I root for the underdog. It's the
Christians in Ethiopia who are harassed by the civil authorities. It's
the people in Alaba who are left out of the food distribution program
during a drought because they aren't Muslims. It's the evangelists in
Gondar who are stoned by the Ethiopian Orthodox. Even in the States, I
love to support underdog causes. I think it's just part of life, this
ache in my heart for the oppressed, the ignored, the suffering. It's
like I'm getting a glimpse of this thing we call the kingdom of God,
this deeper beauty, knowing that even when a tiny sparrow falls our God
attends its funeral. There's something wonderful about these "little
ones," as Jesus called them. It defies my best efforts to describe what
Aberesh or Ayelech or Tiblett (pictured below) mean to me. Waves of
suffering humanity. Yet God has not forgotten them. Neither have I.
I love my life. I
love my work. I love Ethiopia. I will never stop being grateful to God
that He calls Becky and me to be the hands and heart of Someone who
loves all people everywhere, and especially the underdog.
Don't forget tomorrow night's total eclipse of the moon.
A recent seminary grad
reflects upon his time at the Master's Seminary in Southern
California. I appreciated this remark (as you can well imagine):
Throughout my time at
the seminary, my mind was trained not only to love the Word, but to
learn it and handle it with caution, precision, and fear. Those
hours spent arduously translating Greek and Hebrew texts were
painful, yes, but the pain was small in comparison to the fruit of
now being able to pick up a Greek and Hebrew Bible and read from the
original languages during devotional times. Oh the riches and
treasures that I now can gather whenever I open up God’s holy Word –
even if it be just for my own personal growth.
Looking forward to studying the book of Acts again together this
morning. Much of what we call "church" today originated, not in the New
Testament, but in post-apostolic times.
The Lord's Supper has changed from a celebration to a
Worship has changed from participation to
Witness has changed from relationship to
Leadership has changed from servanthood to
Mission has changed from being missionaries to
Body life has changed from edification to
Buildings have changed from functional to sacred.
Child care has changed from the hands of parents to
the hands of strangers.
The book of Acts shows us that the need great of modern Christianity is
to return to biblical faithfulness and the profound simplicity of the
The latest issue of the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and
Judaism contains an interesting piece entitled
Patterns of Reading: The Subdivision of the Acts of the Apostles in
Codex Sinaiticus (.pdf). In it Greg Goswell reminds us how important
it is for us to observe those "extra-linguistic" devices that scribes
used to indicate unity and transition of thought in ancient documents.
Paragraphization is only one of these devices. Likewise today,
publishers have introduced into the text of Scripture various "readers'
helps" such as paragraphization, punctuation, indentation,
capitalization, and paragraph titles. Sometimes the publishers get it
right, and sometimes they miss the mark by miles. This is especially
true of paragraph titles. Luke 15, for example,
does not contain three parables but only one (see v. 3) told in three
stories: the story of the faithful shepherd, the story of the diligent
housewife, and the story of the loving father, while Jesus never
"cleansed" the temple (He "cleared" it). As Goswell has shown,
extra-linguistic devices can have a "marked effect" on the way we read
texts, and it behooves us to be aware of that potentiality.
A The Joshua Project's Unreached People Group of the Day? The Bhuiya of
India. Population: 1,865,000. Percentage of evangelical Christians: 0.0.
All the resources of God are available for us to reach them. What is
A final word for all of my SEBTS graduates, if I may. On Oahu there is a
mountain we used to climb called Mount Tantalus. It is named after an
ancient mythological figure. Because he had offended the gods, Tantalus
was forced to stand up to his neck in water, which flowed past him
furiously. At the same time, a bunch of fruit hung over his head, but
the wind blew it beyond his grasp every time he reached for it. The
promise was there -- but the fulfillment kept eluding him.
Wherever you go,
dear graduates, please remember that our job is not to try and grasp the
"fruit" the world offers us, often under the guise of "Christian"
advancement. Run the race of status escalation, and you'll always lag
behind. Instead, we are called to leave all of our personal ambitions
behind and use our gifts and wealth to enrich the Body of Christ and
promote a culture of discipleship that reaches out to the world around
us with scandalous love.
If Jesus was
willing to suspend His own rights and reach for the bottom of the
ladder, how much more should we. Amen?
If I were in Hawaii right now...
I'd be doing this
at the Banzai Pipeline. Christmas time always saw the best waves at the
North Shore. Yes, I was a crazy surfer in my teens. And yes, I am
hopelessly nostalgic today.
P.S. For pix of the
just-concluded surfing contest at the Pipeline, go
The church stands at a
crossroads. Either it will be radically theological and therefore
radically obedient to God regardless of the puny ambitions of man,
or it will be part of the “new” ideology that looks magnificent on
the outside but on the inside is full of dead men’s bones.
My essay was entitled "Saying Goodbye
to the Needs-Based Church." You can read it
Here are some suggestions you've sent me about observing the Lord's
Supper with one loaf and one cup.
When our local church
gathers and celebrate the Lord's Supper we use one loaf and one
cup. We usually have a lay person hold the cup while another lay
person holds the bread and as the church comes forward a piece of
the bread is given to them, then they proceed to dip the bread in
the cup and partake that way. It seems to work well for us.
The Baptist church I fellowship at uses the one cup and loaf through
the individual coming up to the front and breaking a piece off and
dipping it in the cup.
Lately, we’ve been
gathering around the Lord’s Table during our church meeting instead
of after. When we do this, we meet around tables. We begin with the
bread. Typically, someone bakes a loaf of bread. Someone breaks the
loaf and places a piece on each table. The people at each table pass
the broken piece around to each other and break off smaller pieces.
Someone talks about the bread and the symbol of Christ’s body broken
for us. This is a reminder that we are together only because of
Jesus Christ, and it represents that beginning of our meal together
with Jesus as our host. After we eat the bread together, we sing a
few songs and pray. The person who will be leading our
teaching/discussion time introduces the passage/topic for the day
and usually gives a question for people to discuss while they are
eating together. We fill our plates with food that people have
brought (pot luck style), and return to our tables to talk and
exhort one another. After most people have had time to eat, the
teacher will go from table to table and ask what they discussed
about the earlier question. A representative or two from each table
will share what they talked about. Then, the teacher will begin his
lesson and lead the church to discuss the passage/topic while we’re
still seated around the tables. Afterwards, people will share prayer
requests or praises, and we’ll pray for those. We’ll also discuss
upcoming missions and service opportunities. Finally, we’ll pass a
pitcher from table to table, and each person/family will pour some
into a cup. While the pitcher is being passed, someone will remind
the church that the cup represents Jesus’ blood that was spilled on
our behalf. We pray and then continue fellowshipping together,
sometimes for several more hours.
My thanks to all who have written.
Any other ideas?
I may have a sabbatical in the works, and if I do indeed decide to take
one, I will probably make the revision of this book a top priority. So,
can you tell me what you think are the most pressing issues in New
Testament scholarship that I must include (or expand upon) in the
revision? For sure, the NPP is one. Developments in New Testament Greek
linguistics might be another. Are there any others that come to mind?
This is an interesting
People often ask me
what I think is the secret to Grace Community Church's phenomenal
development over the past two decades. I always point out first of
all that God sovereignly determines the membership of a church, and
numbers alone are no gauge of spiritual success. In the midst of
tremendous numerical growth, however, the spiritual vitality of our
church has been remarkable.
I'm convinced God's
blessing has been on us primarily because our people have shown a
strong commitment to biblical leadership.
By affirming and
emulating the godly example of our elders, the church has opened the
door to extraordinary blessings from the hand of God.
Do you agree?
Brian Small recently
linked to the audio from the recently-held preaching workshop on the
book of Hebrews held at Southwestern Seminary. I just finished listening
to David Allen's message entitled "Introduction and Structure of
Hebrews." It is always a delight to listen to David, who is a masterful
and eloquent public speaker. Of course, in his talk he refers to me as
someone who still holds to the "delusion" of Pauline authorship of
Hebrews (tongue in cheek, I hope). Know what? I think it might be time
for another conference on campus. Perhaps brother David would be willing
to engage in a discussion about the topic. Would it shock you to hear
that I actually agree with David Allen that Luke may have written
Hebrews? But authorship is a far different question. Despite what
Mike Bird and others say, Origen was not ambivalent about the matter
of authorship. His oft-misquoted statement about God only knowing who
wrote the epistle refers to the book's writer, not the author. (See my
examination of the evidence
here.) In addition, for David Allen to point out the linguistic and
stylistic affinities between Hebrews and Luke proves nothing more than
Lukan penmanship. At any rate, the topic might be one for a conference
on Hebrews that deals with more than just authorship but incorporates
such topics as the literary structure of Hebrews, the use of the LXX in
Hebrews, the theology of Hebrews, etc. If you might be interested in
such a conference, let me know at
Jeremy Myers has published what is
possibly the best review of David Platt's Radical I have seen to
date. It's called
True Radicals. I'll give you a little sample to draw you in:
David Platt never would have been published if he were not a pastor
of a megachurch. Even considering that fact, publication is iffy. He
says nothing new, and even what he says is not said in a new or
creative way. It seems that it's almost part of the job description
for megachurch pastors to write a book like this. So why did it get
published? David explains why in the first line of his book: he was
the youngest megachurch pastor in history
What a way to start
a book! Sure, David goes on to say that he was uneasy with such a
claim and wasn’t even sure that it was true, but still…how do you
write a book which is supposed to be about taking back your faith
from the American Dream and start the book by stating that you are
the youngest megachurch pastor in American history? Really?
But there is saving
grace to this, and here it is: We need to hold our leaders' feet to the
fire. You see, I am skeptical, when all is said and done, whether
anything will ever get done and not just said. And I am probably the
chief of sinners in this regard. But we can -- all of us -- allow
God to nudge us from where we are to where we ought to be. For David
Platt, perhaps that will be begin with writing a book. For me? I have SO
FAR still to go that it literally pains me. Writing
The Jesus Paradigm was taking a baby step. But I want to do better.
God help us all.
jazzed! Becky and Liz are off to see the Nutcracker Ballet in Raleigh.
Then they will dine together at some plush restaurant. These ladies
deserve being spoiled.
Incidentally, Matt and Liz will be moving to Upstate New York in
January. Matt has accepted an internship at a church near Speculator. He
will also be starting his doctoral studies. I couldn't be more excited
for them, although we will miss the Rondeaus. Liz had been a daughter to
us in so many ways. As for Matt, he is quite possibly the best chef (as
distinct from a cook) whose culinary art it has been our privilege to
enjoy for the past 6 months. Even his pancakes are the rave of the
household. Then too, I can't imagine how quiet the house will be without
the pitter patter of children's' footsteps in the early morning darkness
or the sounds of Caleb's ukulele.
empty house again it will be time to jump-start our retreat ministry.
Becky has already scheduled overnight guests for January, and, pending
her strength, there will be many more guests to come. We have always
enjoyed opening our home to strangers and, indeed, hospitality was one
of the main reasons we built Bradford Hall. (We have published our
thoughts about hospitality
meantime, have fun, ladies, and don't miss us men folk too much.
thought: Hardly anybody listens to a sermon with the expectation that
they will hear anything they did not already know. Perhaps the solution
to this problem is a good dose of biblical Hekastology (I made up that
Please notice how Paul
addresses himself deliberately to “every” believer. The Greek word
for “every” is hekastos—hence “Hekastology.” This isn’t just
an insignificant detail! Paul seeks to drive home the truth that
every believer has a special service in the church. Every saint
is to make his own contribution to the mission and unity of the
church, each cooperating according to his ability. This truth is
also evident in 1 Corinthians 14:26: “When you assemble, everyone (hekastos)
has a psalm, teaching, revelation, tongue or interpretation. Let all
things be done for edification.” Unfortunately, many Christians meet
together on Sunday without ever “assembling” as the body of Christ
in this manner! But Paul is clear: every believer has a ministry,
and everyone is to participate and give to others what God has given
join me in welcoming
Melody Bowden to the world. Melody's father is my personal assistant
at the seminary.
to everyone who prayed for Becky during her colonoscopy yesterday at
UNC. All went well. The test showed some hardening of the colon due to
all the radiation that B has had, but nothing too serious, and certainly
nothing calling for surgery. How merciful is our God!
Monday is her final chemo treatment. The Lord will show us the next
graduates are a unique lot. They not only have a new degree and/or
title, but they begin to speak in a difficult-to-understand
jargon. Allow me, then, to unpack for you what I am calling "The
Seminary Graduate's Lingo":
"The consensus of
modern scholarship is..." ( = One of my seminary professors
"It has been the
teaching of the church since the earliest centuries" ( = We follow
this tradition, but it doesn't make any sense to me).
"I've done some
serious study on this subject" ( = Now where are those class
"I feel it's my duty
to attend the annual scholarly convention" ( = Maybe I'll get some
free books this time).
"In the words of the
apostle Paul..." ( = I can't remember the book, chapter, or
"My professors were
challenging" ( = My professors were horrible, but I forgive
"I highly recommend my
alma mater" ( = If I could scrape by, then so can you).
"Yes, I studied Greek
and Hebrew in seminary" ( = Sure glad that's over with!).
"I strongly disagree with N.
T. Wright" ( = I once read a book review that said something about
kidding! Love you grads!
Yesterday was our mid-year graduation ceremony on campus. It is no
exaggeration to say that graduating from seminary is a milestone. For me,
my Talbot commencement in 1980 (M.Div. in New Testament) was a time of self-affirmation.
I was discovering
that perhaps I had a unique contribution to make to the Body of Christ.
It was becoming clear to me that every Christian is a fulltime minister.
I was also beginning to discover that Christianity is a lifestyle and
not merely a set of dogmas. In addition, seminary confirmed me in my
calling as a teacher. Although I have frequently failed to live up to
that calling, I have always sensed God's hand in my work.
also discovered that seminary can give rise to an aberration that
prevents our thinking about perspectives that might lead to
unwanted insights. It was indeed startling to me to see how hard I
fought against these unwanted insights. It was difficult for me to realize that
I was guilty of academic group think and that I operated under a faulty
set of suppositions about education. The goal of teaching is not to give
our students an idea or a skill set. It is to give them a passion to
become life-long obedient followers of the Lord Jesus. Amazingly, we
have put such a high value on degrees that we are willing to entrust
ourselves blindly to someone with an M.Div. or a Ph.D. who, a few weeks
earlier, was struggling to pass his or her exams. It is no secret that people
in America are more enamored with degrees and titles than with truth.
The truth, after all, is always radical -- it goes straight to the root
of our lives in such a way that there are few who really seek it,
including seminary graduates.
time when we all have become a part of the gigantic American educational rat
race, my prayer is that our graduates will never forget that
Christianity is a way of living that can speak truth into people in such
a way that it makes them free to follow Christ wholeheartedly. A hearty "Congratulations!",
then, to all of our graduates. May you always serve the Lord with
your help. Here's the need. I'm compiling a list of ways that churches
can observe the Lord's Supper with one cup and one loaf of bread (see 1
Cor. 10:16-17). Any ideas? Have you ever done this? Please send your
comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is not an academic exercise (only). My home church is interested in
pursuing this option.
GREEK VOWEL THAT IS PRONOUNCED IN THE MOST
Eta (η) Six.
as in bad (Restored Attic.)
2. ay as in
bay (North American Erasmian.)
3. e as in
pet (British Erasmian.)
4. ay as in
bay in open syllables, but e as in pet in closed syllables (French and
5. ee as in
feet (Modern Greek.)
6. n as in
not (People who are still learning the alphabet.)
heartfelt "Thank You!" ("Gamsahamnida!") to Seung Ho Park and his wife for
inviting me to dine with them on Tuesday night.
I do not
hesitate to designate Korean cuisine the best food in the world because
it satisfies both the palate and the need for a healthy, balanced diet.
I had two servings of everything -- more would have been too much and
would have required repentance in sackcloth and ashes.
sublime dish is, of course, Kim Chi, for the which the Koreans are
justifiably famous. The main dishes were chicken, pork, and beef, along
with rice, noodle soup, and various raw vegetables. Topping it all off
was a delicious cup of green tea imported from Seoul. The
Koreans are inordinately proud of their food and the beneficial dietary
side benefits that accompany it.
you again, Seung Ho, for your gracious invitation!
Good news! Ward Powers' The Progressive Publication of
Matthew has been released by B & H Academic. You can read the
here. The book comes with the following
Progressive Publication of Matthew
is a tour de force both in its scope and depth. No serious student
of the synoptic Gospels can afford to ignore it.
you could say that I agree with this assessment, since I was the one who
wrote it! Powers' work is both thorough and provocative. Breathtaking
stuff, really. However you feel about Gospel origins, this is a very
important book. Read it with an open mind and you will surely be
rewarded for your efforts.
McMaster Divinity School student Andrew Rozalowsky lists
10 Reasons to Learn Greek. And they
are good ones too. By the way, Andrew maintains an interesting blog you
will want to bookmark. It's called
A Living Sacrifice. There you will
find many helpful Greek links, including this post called
Here he links to three recent works by Benjamin Baxter, whose M.A.
thesis is entitled, "In the Original Greek It Says…. A Study
of Hebrew and Greek Lexical Analyses in Commentaries." I printed all
three off and eagerly look forward to digesting them.
I want you to meet three very dear colleagues of mine.
Ned Mathews (center)and Julian Motley recently retired from our faculty.
Together they have over 100 years of pastoral ministry under their
there's Mrs. Nanette Godwin who teaches organ performance at the
seminary. Nanette (who is a former Miss North Carolina) earned her
Ph.D. in musicology from UNC Greensboro. She also has a "Keyboard
Ministry" that has taken her to such countries as India, Thailand, and
Brazil, using music in evangelism. Yesterday she played a
magnificent Christmas program in Binkley Chapel.
quality of her performance invoked emotions in me I had not felt for a
long time. There is no greater solace for the soul than music. Nanette
did an absolutely fantastic job of drawing our hearts and minds toward
heaven. Molto bravi! My favorite part was her rendition of
Handel's Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah. I'm told that when
the great composer had finished that piece,
Handel's assistant could not get his attention knocking
on the door. When he entered he found Handel with the sheet music in his
hand and tears streaming down his face. Handel told his assistant that he
thought he saw the face of God when writing this. I believe it!
Have you heard of John Byron? He teaches New Testament at
Ashland Theological Seminary. John has just reviewed Bob Cornwall's
latest book called
Ephesians: A Participatory Guide. I
love the book of Ephesians. In fact, I love it so much that I wrote my master's thesis on it
many years ago. It was entitled "The Address of the Ephesian Epistle."
But beyond questions of introduction, Ephesians is full of great
theology. Nothing is taught more firmly or frequently in this letter
than the unity of all believers in Christ. Of course, that is easier
to talk about than to model!
Our LXX students read vociferously this semester. They
also translated Greek and Hebrew for every class session. The final exam
covered the book of Ruth – translation and parsing from any of its four
chapters. However, in lieu of taking the exam we gave the students an
option: memorize and recite, in both Greek and Hebrew, the text of Ruth
4:13-17. I call this the "His Word in My Heart" option. Several
courageous pupils selected this alternative and accepted the challenge.
(In case you're wondering, they were given the option of using either
classical or modern pronunciation.) Well, I thought you might enjoy
hearing two of our students recite the passage, first in Hebrew, then in
Jody Haupt reciting the Hebrew:
here's Jacob Cerone reciting the Greek:
aside: The next time Bob Cole and I team-teach the LXX class we will
probably make this a requirement for the course. What a practical "gift"
we can give to our students! Another aside: You can listen to Ruth
chapter 4 read in Hebrew
here. The genealogy at the
conclusion is actually sung. Too beautiful!
Alan Knox has spent years wrestling with issues
concerning the church, especially why it meets. I was therefore
delighted to see him chiming in on the house church debate. His
conclusions may surprise you.
Newsflash! Christmas trees are biblical! Read all about
I love this quote:
Better to love God and die unknown
than to love the world and be a hero; better to be content with
poverty than to die a slave to wealth; better to have taken some
risks and lost than to have done nothing and succeeded at it. - E.
this delightful site.
Jesus often pressed this point home. A disciple is not merely one who is
recognized as someone who acquires truth, but who applies it diligently
in his or her life. This is one reason Becky and I have stopped asking
whether someone is a "Christian." Instead we ask, "Is he or she an
obedient follower of Jesus?" If the response is, "Yes, they always
attend church," we pretty well know where things stand.
As you might imagine, I'm not a huge fan of Huff Post.
Still I strongly recommended
this essay by Arianna Huffington. She comments:
But the government's legitimate need
for secrecy is very different from the government's desire to get
away with hiding the truth. Conflating the two is dangerously
unhealthy for a democracy. And this is why it's especially important
to look at what WikiLeaks is actually doing, as distinct from what
its critics claim it's doing.
She also tips us to several excellent articles that pick
their way through the controversy. If I may offer a prediction of my
own, don't look to government to expose liars or encourage
whistle-blowers. As John Barlow tweeted, "We have reached a point in
our history where lies are protected speech and the truth is criminal."
Good history of Southeastern Seminary
This is a big month for Becky.
final chemo treatment.
In January we will
have a vitally important meeting with her oncologists at UNC. Pray that
we do not grow weary in well-doing -- and we are doing well. All
praise to God.
Sheba must be half Chinese. She can't wait to lick out the rice bowl.
We're having Chinese stir fry for dinner again tonight. One guess as to
who the cook is.
Jason Kees has just reviewed Gene Green's
Jude & 2 Peter in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series. He
scholarship and in-depth research, Gene Green has produced a
commentary that is
in a league of its own.
This work provides the reader with a thorough, clear, and precise
exegetical work on Jude and 2 Peter that not only meets the biblical
scholar’s criteria, but will also equip the common layperson with
information that is understandable. With careful exegesis, Green has
provided a commentary that will benefit other for years to come.
Students, lookie here. My wife's been baking all day.
Yep, goodies for the last day of class.
You are in for a real treat this week!
Got a minute for a somewhat odd question? What do you love doing?
Watching Monday Night Football? Eating Pizza? Blogging? Celebrating
Christmas? Look at what Paul wrote in Gal. 2:10:
All they [the Jerusalem leaders]
asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very
thing I have been eager to do.
Did you catch that?
Paul was eager to help other people. He not only did it. He singled it
out as the one activity in life he loved doing. To see how that
worked itself out, read 2 Corinthians 8-9. Becky and I were talking
about this just the other day. Where love is seen and felt, the
message of the Gospel is heard. Paul made himself a servant to win
as many people as possible. He loved, cared, gave, sacrificed, suffered,
and eventually died to see the lost saved.
Is that your
passion in life? Is it mine? I won't kid you -- there's a price to be
paid for being a redemptive person. Get involved in the lives of other
people and there will be pain. Lots of it too. Serve others and there
will be opposition as well. Some of it will come directly from the pit
of hell itself. Satan never gives up easily. But the rewards make it
worth all the effort.
Friends, when you
read this blog, I hope you can detect what my passion in life is. My
goal is to be as totally other-oriented as I possibly can be. If
that means waking up in the middle of the night and weeping, so be it.
So what did the great John Wesley have to say about persecution? In his
sermon "The Mastery of Iniquity" he wrote that
the grand blow ... was struck in
the fourth century by Constantine the Great, when he called himself
a Christian, and poured in a flood of riches, honours, and power,
upon the Christians; more especially upon the clergy .... Just so,
when the fear of persecution was removed,
and wealth and honour attended the Christian profession, the
Christians did not gradually sink, but rushed headlong into all
manner of vices....
This is one of the
reasons, I believe, so many Christians find themselves defeated today.
They forget that genuine Christianity is a warfare. We can never forget,
even for a minute, that it is a life with terrible enemies, a path of
conflict and confrontation. Plainly, Constantinian Christianity --
"comfortable Christianity" if you will -- overlooks this reality. It
allows us to insist on our way rather than His way and
think we are being "good Christians" by doing so.
May God help us.
Spanish translation update: 8 chapters down, and only 18 to go. Thank
Thomas and Lesly!
10 words for my graduates this week:
Make love the rule.
Never compromise basic Christian
Don't divide over pet beliefs.
Let God break your heart with the
things that break His.
With every activity, purchase, or
relationship ask, Does this help to build the kingdom and fulfill
the Great Commission?
Make intercessory prayer a daily
Accept being a nobody for Jesus.
Remember that all positions and
titles are irrelevant.
Escape the frenzied "earn and
spend" syndrome that drives our culture.
Do something in the great
task of world evangelization.
"It is high time we stood up for our beliefs about Christmas" just
doesn't cut it. The true battle line is drawn elsewhere. It is obvious
to me that even religious people can be destroyed by unsanctified love
for earthly things.
Good morning bloggers!
As you know, the
church in Alaba, Ethiopia, is undergoing persecution. When I say
persecution, I'm not exaggerating. Needless to say, I stop often to pray
for the brethren there. My prayer life is not not all it should be, but
I'm pretty good about interceding in emergencies. And this is an
emergency. I keep thinking to myself, It can't get any worse. But
it can. How I wish I could be there to share the burden.
I am extremely
reluctant to draw parallels between what is happening in Ethiopia and
what occurred in Nazi Germany. But there is one parallel I think bears
mentioning. In the 1930s, a German pastor named Martin Niemöller led the
opposition against Hitler's "German Christians." He once wrote, "I hold
myself responsible to the utmost of my ability for those who are
persecuted on account of [their] confessional stand." He encouraged
German pastors to stick with the "pure gospel" and to oppose the
blood-and-soil teaching of the "German Christians." He preached
fearlessly in the name of the "Jewish rabbi, Jesus Christ."
arrested on July 1, 1937. His arrest aroused international outrage. As a
result, he was given an extremely light sentence. Happily
preparing to be reunited with his family, Niemöller was seized by the
infamous Gestapo and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp as the
"personal prisoner" of Adolph Hitler. To the outside world he became a
symbol of "the other Germany." During his stay in Sachsenhausen,
Niemöller's father once visited his prison cell and told him that
Eskimos in Canada and the Bataks of Sumatra were praying for him. They
had also sent him their greetings.
Tilahun, and the rest of you in Alaba -- I tell you, I assure
you, you are being prayed for, maybe not by Eskimos or Bataks but
certainly by thousands of North Americans who read this blog. You can
draw on the bank of heaven even though you may be bankrupt and
persecuted on earth. Great soldiers of the Lord Jesus are developed in
battle, not in plush offices. This old world that hates you so much is
your proving ground. If you find the going hard, remember that you can
overcome because Jesus overcame. You can do all things through
Him. Stand by the cross. Calvary is utter foolishness to this age, but
Christ slain and risen again is the only true Good News this weary
planet will ever know.
Never forget that
we are interceding for you. We will not "mind our own business." Your
suffering is our business. It may take another world to settle
accounts, but there is always justice with God. May God grant a spirit
of repentance to fall upon your enemies. May they see in your faces
nothing but the tender love of Christ. May your constant prayer be,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." When a cloud
arises between you and the sun, do you fear that the sun will never
appear again? No, you must never doubt the reality of God's love
and sovereignty. Continue to walk in the path of duty. And remember: You
never walk alone.
Just woke up from a nap. This wet day required one.
Our teacher's text this morning was Acts 20:17-38. Two verses jumped out
at me immediately: "You yourselves know that I have worked with these
hands of mine (can't you see Paul raising his calloused hands at this
point?) to provide everything that my companions and I have needed.
I have shown you in all things that by working hard in this way we must
help the weak...." I thank God that Paul was not moved by lame excuses.
He worked and paid his own way in life rather than mooch off the charity
of others, and thus he set an example for elders in the church of his
day -- and ours.
The other verse
that struck me was Acts 20:24: "I do not count my life dear unto
myself." I love this verse. I think of it every time my mind wanders to
the persecuted church. Right now -- this very moment -- our son
Nigussie in Alaba, Ethiopia, is facing death for the cause of Jesus. He
does not count his life dear unto himself. Note that Paul does not say,
"I do not count my life dear." Life is a precious possession. Thus Paul
adds, "I do not count my life dear unto myself." He is saying
that life is a wonderful gift from God, and because it is His gift we
must all give an account for the way we live it. We can either live for
ourselves, selfishly, or we can live for God and others, selflessly.
Nigussie has chosen the better way. Like a grain of wheat, he is ready
to die for Christ. What a choice servant of the Lord! Is there any
greater honor than to suffer for the sake of the Gospel!
Had a wonderful time at The Hill this morning and afterwards at the
Chinese Restaurant in South Boston. This morning Becky announced during
our church meeting that on December 24 we will be having a "family
dinner" here at Bradford Hall for our spiritual brothers and sisters in
Christ. We will eat, sing, and pray as the Body of Christ. Many have
expressed interested in attending. The focus will be on what the Lord
Jesus taught us in Mark 3:31-15, namely that our true brothers and
sisters are those who obey the Word of God as obedient disciples. Can't
wait to hear the testimonies of the Lord's faithfulness!
When the New Testament
authors appealed to Scripture as the Word of God, it is not claimed
that they viewed anything but the original
as vested in full with divine inerrancy. Yet their willingness to
make use of the LXX, in spite of its occasional defects, teaches the
important lesson that the basic message which God purposed to
deliver can be conveyed even through a translation, and that appeal
can be made to a version insofar as it agrees with the original. It
would be precarious, however, to rest an argument on any part of the
LXX quotations which appears not to be conformed to the Hebrew
original nor to the point of the New Testament writers, for the mere
fact that the quotation was adduced in this fashion was not meant as
a divine sanction upon incidental departures from the autographs. In
the quotations made from the LXX we have indeed God’s seal of
approval upon the contents of the Old Testament passage, but the
form of the citation is affected by the language and conditions of
those to whom the New Testament was first addressed. Such use of the
LXX was not a case of objectionable accommodation.
Nicole, who passed away yesterday, was
a model scholar for my generation of students. He was one of the first
evangelicals to seek (and earn) a doctorate from a prestigious "secular"
university in addition to his doctorate from a conservative divinity
school. He became a "critical" scholar without surrendering his faith in
the plenary inspiration of Scripture. His was an evangelical voice
calling us to remain true to the propositional Word of truth. Thanks be
Good thoughts on
Advent from Allan Bevere. Don't miss this classic one-liner:
It seems as if we have
put most of our Easter eggs in the Christmas basket.
My friend Alvin Reid has written a great post about self-discipline.
It's called Indulging in
Discipline. I love the title but hate the reality. For the truth is
that I am probably the most un-disciplined, sloth-prone person in the universe.
Can one really be a
disciple without discipline? Ask yourself how much you value
discipline. Then ask yourself how much you value Jesus. No, we do
not earn salvation or God’s favor. But Paul did tell Timothy to
discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. What greater way
can I show my gratitude to my Savior than to serve Him with all the
drive of my life?
Now if that isn't convicting. A
good reminder for a certain Hawaiian-born and bred beach bum I know.
Matt, Liz, and the boys just returned from an overnight visit to Roanoke
Rapids. They were sorely missed. So it's back to normal (i.e., zany)
Check out the new
Kailua Baptist Church website. The pastor there is a Southern grad,
but that's forgivable :) If you're ever vacationing in the Paradise of
the Pacific, you might check out KBC.
Just prayed for my beginning Greek students, who are doing their final
take home exam this weekend. Can't believe the semester ends this week.
Looking forward to my J-term Greek class that starts January 3. Love
this thing called teaching!
Speaking of Greek reminds me of my
favorite ancient Greek joke: Eumenides the tailor is in his shop when
the door opens and in walks a customer he vaguely recognizes, carrying a
torn pair of trousers.
Eumenides asks: "Euripides?"
Quote of the day:
pastor understands brokenness. They understand that all sin is
equal, while also understanding that not all sin has the same
consequences. And because of this understanding, a great pastor is
someone who knows their position in Christ and that Christ was
comfortable in the presence of real sinners. And because Christ is
comfortable in the presence of sinners they themselves likewise find
themselves comfortable in the presence of sinners.
[The book] welcomes
Christians and seekers of faith to immerse themselves in the Bible’s
witness to the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. This pursuit will
unveil inspiring and encouraging wisdom for all who want to discover
and grow in the faith of Christ and experience the love of God in
Him. Julian Morris Motley writes from experience—over six decades of
ministry—offering seasoned guidance leading to faithful thinking and
to life-changing interactions with the mind of Christ.
Julian and his wife Jane are precious
co-laborers for the kingdom. I wish the book well.
Is Jesus the proper object of our prayers? This is an interesting
question of theology. The debate continues
I know I wrote about Ethiopia yesterday, but, truth be told, there is so
much going on there, both good and bad ("bad" from my limited human
perspective) that I could blog about it nonstop. It seems like one thing
after another since we returned last July. Strangely enough, knowing all
the heartache I would experience, and even though the path has been
anything but easy, I'd do it all over again. There is something so
incredible about watching the flock in Ethiopia, pounced upon by savage
wolves, doing dangerous things for Jesus, living life on the edge
because that's what their Master told them to do. It hit me today, after
reading the latest update from our son Nigussie in Alaba (whose life is
in danger even as I type), just how unnecessary it is to be intimated by
people or circumstances. We don't need to be on a roller coaster ride of
emotions at each victory or defeat, because we know that God
works all things together for good and because we know we are
called according to His purpose. One of the most joyful things
about being a Christian has got to be the relief it brings from the
fears that come from persecution. Every true servant of Christ realizes,
sooner or later, that obedience will be risky and unpleasant. If this
sounds extreme to you, perhaps you should examine your heart to see if
you're really born again. If the driving force of your life is anything
but true servanthood, with all of its attendant risks, then it is
unacceptable to the Lord.
I don't enjoy
watching Christians being persecuted in a country that supposedly has
freedom of religion. My heart sank when I heard that my dear brother
Tessema suffered a head injury when he was stoned. It's so hard to know
how to best help them. And the thing is, it is not just the Christians
in Alaba. It's so many believers in so many lands. I get my heart all
tangled up in their stories. Then I start thinking about their courage
and faithfulness and the privilege I have to write words and put them on
the internet for everyone (or maybe no one) to see. I can't get used to
it -- this comfortable life in Virginia when all the while in my mind's
eye I see heart-wrenching poverty and injustice and malaria and typhoid
and typhus and ugly stares and sometimes rocks and sticks, simply
because you love someone named Jesus. But I'm coming to realize that
this heart-brokenness is a very good thing. When it stops, it will be
time to stop being a missionary.
The concert last night was fabulous. I love hearing music that is
written for the sole purpose of glorifying our Lord. So much the better
if it's written and sung in Latin! Grace is such a powerful thing. I
can't imagine the agonizing emptiness Jesus must have felt when He left
His home to come to this earth. He knew something of the ruggedness of
life. He also knew its joys. Above all, He was a man on a mission, and
He calls me to be the same.
A couple of pix:
1) Saw lots of old friends. Becky and I "attended" the post-concert
meeting of the chorale and heard John Boozer's pep talk. (They need more
2) We talked with plenty of our former vocalist friends. Everyone put
"mild" pressure on us to return to the fold, but they understood that
for now that is just not possible.
3) John is an outstanding conductor and a great colleague and friend.
Can't wait for their Spring concert.
Remember Ayelech? I figure it's time for an update. She's arrived in
Addis for her double mammography. We haven't heard the results yet.
We're so used to timely health care here in America. Not so in Ethiopia.
Not even in the capital. Not sure what else to tell you except to keep
on praying for her. Because we're in this thing together. You, me, Becky
-- we are the Body of Christ, and when one part suffers, we all suffer.
Missions quote of the day (Nate
And people who do not
know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as
missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their
lives…and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of
eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.
So grateful for Thomas and Lesly Hugdins, who are working diligently to
translate my beginning grammar into Spanish. You can read about their
here. This is a huge blessing and encouragement to me.
Don't forget: Tonight the Northeast Piedmont Chorale is singing
Vivaldi's Gloria in the seminary chapel. The program begins at
7:00. Orchestral accompaniment and free admission.
Good frosty morning one and all. Just been perusing the biblioblogs.
It's mostly a waste of time. However, I do appreciate the openness of
certain bloggers to the changing self-understanding occurring in
churches today. They are not merely entering a historical debate. They
are truly seeking to flesh out the Anabaptism of Zwingli's erstwhile
(and, I would say, more committed) followers. They seek to "speak the
truth in love." They aren't afraid to tell it like it is, warts and all.
They are also discovering the deep unity in the Body of Christ in ways
that put to shame modern Christendom. The Presbyterian Robert Baillie
once called this willingness to change "mutability." Mutability seems
sadly lacking today. Rare are those who say that the Holy Spirit must
be followed, even if it seems foolish to the world -- and to the church.
Eric Carpenter and
Alan Knox have got to be two of the most engaging of these modern
Anabaptists. Want to think with them about all this? If so, you can
check out their latest posts here:
Even if you are "that kind of
a pastor" I hope you will take these words to heart.
What a joy it was for Becky to bake cookies with the boys today. I
thought you'd enjoy a few pix:
Missions quote of the day (William
missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough
and is never considered a foreigner.
So just what did I do today?
Fixed the front gate with Matt
Packed a trailer
Repaired the lawn mower's flat
Did a trash run with Caleb
Ordered new tires for Becky's van
Walked the fence line
The latter project
was necessitated by the fact that this farm is inhabited by the world's
greatest escape artists, aka, Shelties. Not to fear, however. Yours
truly coyly followed the little recalcitrants and discovered where they
were crawling under the fence.
Then I plugged the
openings with whatever materials lay at hand.
I started out this
afternoon with only my 3 dogs but was eventually joined by Nate and
Jess's Shelties -- making a grand total of 6 devious POWs.
Life on a farm....
Just back from spreading a little holiday to cheer to all of our
neighbors. We sang "Joy to the World," gave out a sack of goodies, then
burst forth in a boisterous rendition of "We Wish You a Merry
The sack contained a brief letter containing these words, written by
who lived with Jesus, wrote a biography of Jesus' life.
In it, he wrote: “For
God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God
didn't send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in
order that every person in the world might be saved through him.Whoever
believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is
condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the
only Son of God."
later in his life, John wrote a letter to those who obeyed Jesus as
Lord of their lives. In this letter, he wrote:
is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one
another. ... If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it
proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has
no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sisters
is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t
have eternal life within them. We know what real love is because
Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives
for our brothers and sisters."
Life is busy and Life is messy. In all that we have
been through this year, know that we often think of you and pray for
you. Our prayer is that you might know the God of Life, who loves
you, who has made a way for you to Him, and who one day stand either
beside you or against you on the Day of Judgment. If there is
anything that we can do to help you know Him, please call on us!
Here at Bradford Hall on the farm, we are continuing
the work in Ethiopia, helping people who are much more poor than us
in the USA. We are enjoying the Family at Bethel Hill Baptist
Church, north of Roxboro. We often shelter others in our home.
Dave is continuing with the website www.daveblackonline.com and
Becky's continuing with the website www.bethelhillbaptistchurch.com;
we welcome you to visit us online!
And we're continuing the treatment for Becky Lynn's
cancer. It has spread to her lungs. Unless the Lord Himself steps
in through a miracle, we expect her to go to Him sometime this
year. Her testimony? "I do not have long to live; my life is not
precious in itself. But I treasure faithfulness...I long to be a
faithful servant of the Lord Jesus, so that whether I have 2 weeks,
2 months or 2 decades, my life is one of obedience to the heart of
Jesus in serving others. My Lord Jesus has made all things right
between God and me. I have no fear in dying, and what He has
waiting for me in His Home is infinitely better than what I am
enjoying here on earth, because He is there! It is in Death that we
really know what we believe, and I can say that the peace & even joy
since my diagnosis has been something only a faithful God, who knows
His people, can give! I rejoice in Him, the God of my salvation!"
Rejoicing in the Savior, given to us from God's heart
of love..... Dave, Becky Lynn, Liz, Matthew, Caleb, Isaac & Micah at
Bradford Hall on Rosewood Farm.
PMTired of reading biblical
genealogies? Try this one on for size:
Who Begot Whom?
PMThe death of Elizabeth
Edwards has hit me harder than I expected. I watched the story as it
developed throughout the past few months. I can't imagine how difficult
it was for her during her last days. How do you maintain hope and
courage when your husband forsakes you for a younger woman (and bears a
child with her) and then you are faced with a terminal illness? Recently
I talked with a man who is undergoing a divorce. These situations are
just another reminder that we live in a broken world. Life is messy. It
would be nice to think that if we lead good lives, suffering will be
minimized. But that doesn't happen. So I offer my condolences and
prayers to Mrs. Edward's family during their time of grief. It's such a
strange paradox, this thing we call life. My recent biopsy was a stark
reminder that sickness and death are my ultimate fate, unless Jesus
returns soon. Which means that, one must NEVER stop living and loving,
no matter how difficult life gets. For the apostle Paul, Christ in His
suffering and death was the model of all ministry. It is because of
Jesus that Paul saw himself as nothing but a slave. Paul "shares" the
sufferings of Christ, and thus proves that he is a true apostle of Jesus
Christ. With the passing of Elisabeth Edwards we get to see the power of
death. But we also get to see the power of life, the soft warm reality
of the one who said "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who
believe in me, though they die, will live again."
Evening, bloggers and bloggerettes! May I share a few pix with you?
1) Last night's
concert at the seminary was truly memorable. The Gettys performed music
they had either composed or arranged themselves. Even traditional
Christmas hymns sounded delightfully new -- with an Irish twist to
boot. There was also a lot of audience participation. Joyful indeed.
along with Liz and the boys joined me. Of course, we had to have pizza
before the concert.
3) We were also
joined by a couple of dear friends. Rachael is one of our faculty
secretaries, while Ronnie is a former Greek student (and 110 Award
4) This morning my
doctoral student Michael Rudolph led our Ph.D. seminar. He presented two
papers, the first entitled "The Interpretative Significance of
Intersentential Conjunctions for New Testament Studies: Are the Insights
of linguistics Relevant?"
5) His second paper
was called "The Collision of Two Worlds?: Toward a Reconciliation of
Ancient and Modern Understandings of GAR."
I am blessed to
have such capable students, and am always glad for the opportunity to
hear them teaching. Mike did an outstanding job. Mike has just finished
his mentorship with me and will take his comprehensive exams in January.
After that -- it's on to the dissertation phase. Should be a great ride.
Today marks the anniversary of my generation's September 11. The
surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, will always be
a date that will "live in infamy." If you only read one story about
today's commemorations, please take a minute and read
From Pearl Harbor
to Calvary. It's the story of Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the
attack that Sunday morning.
ended up becoming a committed follower of the Prince of
Peace and a warm-hearted Christian missionary.
In an era of Osama bin Ladens, Fuchida's story shows how the Gospel can
indeed transform a life from the inside out. More than anything, it's an
awesome reminder of the power, grace, and sovereignty of God. Read it,
then share it with a friend today.
Down to Earth Theology
at DBO. It's on a topic I've been passionate about for years. Hope
you enjoy it.
In the meantime, please keep the
suffering church in Ethiopia in your prayers.
On the lighter side:
A life-long single man, Parker
allegedly came close to proposing to three different women. The
first two chose not to marry him, and when the third seemingly was
willing, Parker did not want to marry someone who would want to
marry him. Is this true?
“There is a grain of truth in that,
and a nice dash of hyperbole too,” Parker said, smiling.
Brian Fulthorp sent along a link to an excellent source of news and
information about the persecuted church worldwide. It's called
Compass Direct. It's a real
eye-opener. Check it out daily, then pray!
The book of Hebrews contains many wonderful promises but none more
precious than this one:
I will never, ever, ever, under
any circumstance, leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5).
So the Greek text,
which contains a very strong negative. It is a mighty promise and on its
basis we can say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can
mere man do to me?" (v. 6). Therefore, we dare not heed the flesh's call
to fear and intimidation in the face of opposition. I will not allow
fear to control me. I will be content in the presence of the Lord. I
will let God deal with my enemies. I am at peace in Him, no matter what
happens to me.
I write this
because my aching heart is in Alaba, Ethiopia, this morning,
"remembering those who are ill-treated" (Heb. 13:3). I will not forget
the shock that came to me when I first visited Alaba. Injustice and
oppression are completely detestable to me. However -- and this is a
point I wish to make crystal clear -- the church's job is not to issue
proclamations about political problems. Our message is the Gospel, the
Good News about the one who loves all people everywhere, not only the
oppressed but their oppressors.
In chapter 12 of
Hebrews the author says, "Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom
that cannot be shaken." As violence increases, as indifference to law
and order rises, as persecution of Christians abounds, more and more
will we become aware that there is only one kingdom than cannot be
shaken. The church passes through a fire that is designed to purify it
so that we may learn to cry out with Job of old, "He knows the way that
I take; when He has tried me, I will come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).
Pray with us for
Alaba. Pray for the believers there, for their courageous leaders who
risk life and limb to protect the flock, and for their enemies "who know
not what they do." And let all of us have eyes and ears and hearts that
are open to the cries of the afflicted, whether they are in prison or
otherwise oppressed or mistreated.
Below: Our son
Nigussie (left) and one of the Alaba evangelists who was almost killed
earlier this year. Behind them is the vehicle that was damaged in the
most recent attack. May they, and us, continue to look beyond the
visible and see the Invisible and trust in Him.
Missions quote of the day (William
Booth, founder of the Salvation Army):
"Not called!" did you
say? "Not heard the call," I think you should say. Put your ear down
to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the
fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of
humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the
gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their
father's house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and
masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose
mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will
join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to
publish his mercy to the world.
I believe the key to world
evangelization is not necessarily through a specific people group
but through a particular mode of living….
Complete and total sacrificial
living is the key to world evangelization and nothing less.
I’ll only be when Christians are
willing to give of themselves for the cause of the gospel and
nothing else that there will be significant progress in world
evangelization. It will only be when Christians are willing to die
to themselves, their own agendas, their own goals, even their own
hopes and dreams, and leave behind security, money, convenience,
even family to follow Christ wholeheartely. Only when they would
abandon everything for the gospel. Only when we truely take up our
The challenge of world evangelization
remains as great in the twenty-first century as it was in the first
century. But it is time for action, not words, obedience not discussion.
May God work in our midst, emptying and humbling us, and filling us with
the Holy Spirit to accomplish this God-sized task!
After years of intense labor in China, Hudson Taylor finally baptized
his first convert. "If
one soul is worth worlds," he wrote to his mother, "am I not abundantly
repaid, and are not you too?"
How well I remember
the first fruit of our work in Ethiopia. How the angels rejoiced, and so
Here's a question I'd like to ask. What does a person of faith look
like? How do you recognize one?
My answer to this
question goes something like this. A person of faith is one who
repudiates manmade thinking and throws him or herself totally upon the
teaching of the Scriptures. To enter into the new we must repudiate the
old. But how do we recognize what is old? Through the Word of God. The
Bible strips off the false. It exposes us to our false notions of God,
the church, and the world. When we peer into the Word of God we see, to
our horror, how false our "reality" is. The Bible itself teaches us that
"the Word of God is alive and powerful." It can be, and often is,
utterly ruthless. It backs us into a corner and allows us no wriggle
room. Moreover, if we decide to obey it, it exposes how deeply
entrenched the flesh is in us. We realize we are helpless to crucify the
flesh or to throw off our vain traditions.
I am always amazed
when I see this kind of faith in action. A good example is the blog of a
former SEBTS student named Eric Carpenter. Read his entries -- like this
I Just Couldn't Do It Anymore -- and feel his pain. No, there's no
pouting or cajoling or complaining or grumbling. All you see is a man
trying to walk by faith.
Alexa Traffic Rank is a mere
2,437,710. Apparently bibliobloggers would much rather read about
the latest fad in theology than about the knowledge of Christ. When
Jesus came to this earth He said, in effect, I'm here to change
everything. And the people said, Mug Him. I wonder how many
times people have mugged Eric. But if I read Eric correctly, his
attitude is one of humble acquiescence. The pain is worth the gain.
I tell you, I admire such simple
faith. I wish I had it myself. St. Augustine once said, "God wants to
give us something but He can't. Our hands are full and there is no place
to put anything." I have discovered that sometimes the only way the Lord
produces a sense of God-sufficiency in our lives it by stripping us of
our smug self-sufficiency. And that process may be painful.
For those who want to be people of
faith, it is my prayer that they will have an open heart to the voice of
God. Sometimes that voice can speak to us through human messengers,
especially men and women like Eric who have been broken by the Word of
God, who have begin to rethink the wineskins that Jesus so often spoke
It is a tragic and shallow statement
about the worth of our salvation when we trade it for a name on a church
Today at the Hill we prayed for the Body. The part that is hurting. Here
and abroad. Becky shared the details.
Then we prayed.
Others suffered mocking and
beatings, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned (Heb.
This is not
fiction. It is not ancient history. This is today, and it is faith at
work. Faith persists. Faith perseveres. Faith suffers. Faith longs to
see God's purposes fulfilled on earth. We are called to judge the
present by the future. We are called to weigh the permanent against the
temporary. Our Ethiopian brothers and sisters in Christ have done just
that. They have overcome by the blood of the Lamb.
Praise be unto God.
Special time of prayer this morning for the persecuted church in Alaba.
Things have deteriorated. Our vehicle's windows have been smashed, and
three of our evangelists have been injured. One has a serious head
wound, the result of being stoned. Thankfully, God's amazing grace
multiplies in times of trouble. To think how minor my trials are
compared to the sufferings of these saints!
Missions quote of the day (K.
A tiny group of
believers who have the gospel keep mumbling it over and over to
themselves. Meanwhile, millions who have never heard it once fall
into the flames of eternal hell without ever hearing the salvation
Another seminary-related item: This Tuesday evening at 7:30 the Gettys
will be in concert in Binckley Chapel.
The theme is "An Irish Christmas." We're planning on being there. For
SEBTS. I am an
unabashed promoter of the music and ministry of Keith
and Kristyn Getty.
A heads up: This Wednesday one of my doctoral students, Michael Rudolph,
will be the guest speaker in our Ph.D. Linguistics Seminar. He will
speak to the class about the work he is doing on intersentential
conjunctions in Koine Greek. All interested are invited to attend. We
meet in Patterson Hall at 7:30.
Good morning, world!
Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
Last night was a first. No, there was nothing unusually about Papa B's
Chinese stir fry.
The novelty was using chopsticks!
And the dessert? Eaten with forks of course.
So encouraged while reading Roger Steer's
biography of Hudson Taylor.
1) When applying to
the mission board, Taylor "believed that he had stated his unorthodox
views so freely that he would not be accepted. According to the clerk to
the committee, the part which caused eyebrows to be raised the highest
was where he said, 'I do not believe the division of the Church into
clergy and laity. I believe all Christians have a right to preach,
baptize and administer the Lord's Supper....' The committee's reaction
is hardly surprising, for the majority of them were clergymen or
ministers holding the opposite view" (p. 44).
Steer writes, "He adamantly refused to accept the title 'Reverend"
which many wished to thrust upon him" (p. 64.)
Stay tuned for more
gems from the life of this lay missionary to China. Steer's book is
giving me a lot to think and pray about. I highly recommend it to
anybody who has a servant's heart.
While the dogs romp in the snow...
... the boys enjoy some delicious hot chocolate their mom made for them.
Yes, winter has arrived in Southern Virginia.
Oh ... I see the boys have just run outside with their heavy coats on to
enjoy the snow. As for me, I think I'll stay indoors and enjoy my
biography of Hudson Taylor!
IVP, which published John Sailhamer's latest book (see photo below --
note the subtitle) requires the use of the serial comma.
I always use the serial comma in lists of persons, places, and things,
and when I find an author who doesn't I hate the ambiguity that often
Quite unfortunate - - and unnecessary -- in my humble opinion. My
advice? Stick with the final comma in a series.
So, is the projected 24 million dollar scale model of Noah's Ark good
stewardship of the Lord's money? This question was posed recently by
Arthur Sido. What do you think?
Great news! Matt finally gets his Ph.D.*
*Post hole digger.
Old Testament students! Interested in the work of John Sailhamer on Old
Testament theology? Then you will want to read Tracy McKenzie's take on
Sailhamer's latest book, The Meaning of the Pentateuch. Go
here for the review.
I can't figure out what was so special about last night. After supper at
the IHOP in downtown Raleigh, Becky and I drove a few blocks to the
Edenton Street United Methodist Church for their annual Messiah
Sing-Along. Imagine yourself among 150 eager Messiah fans listening to
pipe organ, soloists, and orchestra in a magnificent cathedral-like
We, the audience, sang all the choruses. As I stumbled through the bass
part, the steady stream of trials in my life began to disappear from my
consciousness. The church had become a hospital of sorts, and I was in
triage. In the end, it wasn't about the beautiful music or the
magnificent church building or the talented soloists or even Handel. It
was about Him.
King of kings, and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and forever!
In many churches tithing is not simply a tradition; it is almost a
superstition. What does the New Testament teach about tithing? If you
have ever worried your brain with such questions, David Croteau's
You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe? is the book for you. I am currently
re-reading it and can't put it down. Kudos to David (and his doctoral
supervisor at SEBTS, Andreas Köstenberger) as well as to the publisher,
Wipf & Stock, for being willing to take an unpopular stand on a
controversial subject. As David notes in the preface to his book, "When
my mentor (Andreas
Köstenberger) approved this topic for my dissertation, I was not looking
forward to the opposition with which the concepts would be received." He
adds, soberly, "I pray that this work will be received by gentle hearts
open to the attempt I have made to inductively analyze Scripture's
teaching on this complex, important, and very practical subject."
I join you in that
The Areopagus series
continues to expand. Today I finished editing H. van Dyke Parunak's
Except for Fornication: Jesus' Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage.
It is an elegant and serious piece of exegesis. From the preface:
Long ago, a wise Bible
teacher counseled me and other young men who hoped to serve the
church of God, “Be sure to figure out in advance what you believe
about divorce and remarriage. Sooner or later, you will have to
counsel people who are embroiled in this tragic situation. It's far
better that you figure out what you believe now, while you can be
objective with the scriptures, than when you are deeply immersed in
the emotional trauma of those you love.” My sense of the serious
responsibility of teaching, and my need to stand before God and give
an account, has led me to invest many hours in understanding the
biblical position as accurately as I can.
I suspect that van Parunak's work will
delight some readers and offend others. But I don't think it will be
Though a bit dated, Nijay Gupta's
discussion of verbal aspect is a must read. In essence, he both
agrees and disagrees with Con Campbell, whose comment in response is a
Thus, while VA [Verbal
Aspect] may open a new ‘cans of worms’, they are better worms than
the old ones! (if I can put it like that).
As I wrote yesterday, I see no reason
to exchange my worms for Con's -- yet. I also think Nijay is correct
about time (at least in the indicative mood):
For teaching purposes,
trudging through this kind of linguistic tap-dance of avoiding
temporal categories is daunting. Teach students to accept that the
aorist often is past, but there are many exceptions and when
past-time is not possible or logical, let’s look at ‘remoteness’ in
some other way.
Incidentally, Nijay cites the example of
Mark 1:11: eudokesa. I have a different take on why the aorist is
used there (rather than the present). More on that later.
This essay by
Michael Palmer on the distinction between acquisition and
language learning should be read by all seminary students. His
While it used to be
thought that adults loose much of their acquisition ability and
cannot gain language competence the way children do, this view has
been discredited. Krashen argues that adults do not lose the ability
to acquire languages the way that children do. In stead, adults add
the ability to consciously try to learn language. Still,
such learning can never be a substitute for acquiring the
language if we really want to become truly competent in the
Currently I am trying to acquire a
knowledge of Amharic (spoken widely in Ethiopia). Thus far I have only
been able to "learn" bits and pieces of the language. It is an uphill
battle for me and, I suppose, always will be until I immerses myself in
the culture for more than my normal 1-2 months.
As an evangelical
interested in the global expanse of the Gospel, I have to ask the
question, in light of such competition, is God calling many American
academicians to think missionally about their scholarship? In other
words, why not
go to a land where the competition isn’t as fierce and advance
scholarship for the cause of Christ there?
This, to me, seems like a biblical paradigm that can be applied to
the flooded market of North American (and European) evangelical
Recently-minted Ph.D. students, take note!
Growing up in Hawaii, the word "wiki" was used almost daily. It meant
something like "hurry up" or "quickly." When you really meant it you
doubled up: "wiki-wiki."
Amazing to think
that a little Hawaiian word could become so famous (Wikipedia,
A former student of mine just sent me a wonderful email, which included
I follow your blog
faithfully and find it helpful, fun, encouraging, thought provoking,
and, dare I say, at times humorously and
his point, this zany question just went through my mind:
Would the new Journal of Paul and
His Letters allow an article on Hebrews?
Yep, I AM
Exegesis of Mark students! You can access Steven Runge's excellent paper
on the historical present
(.pdf). Please read this essay before we begin class next semester. The
essay is also a good entrée into the latest debate about verbal aspect
theory and the temporal (or non-temporal) nature of the Koine Greek verb
system. For what it's worth, I hold that, in the indicative mood, Greek
grammaticalizes tense. Hence, as Runge also argues, Koine Greek is
essentially a mixed tense/aspect system (see chapter 2 of my
Learn to Read
New Testament Greek). I also argue that, in the Greek New Testament,
one tense is never used "for" another (see chapter 26). As we begin our
study of the Gospel according to Mark in Greek, we'll see that the
present tense is not normally used in narratives, and that departures
from the aorist tend to be exegetically significant. In Mark, the
historical present stands out, adding prominence and perhaps vividness
to the story line. So, we will expect the aorist, but recognize that a
shift to either the imperfect tense or the present tense may be
significant. Incidentally, the ancient scribes must have felt the same
way, if textual evidence is any indication (for example, go
Warning! Another SEBTS student has started blogging. Check out
Why start a blog? by Joe Greene.
Speaking in chapel today was Carrie McDonnall. Carrie and her husband
David were serving the Lord Jesus in Mosul, Iraq when their car was
ambushed and three missionaries were killed outright. Later her husband
died from his wounds. Her website
The Lord’s work in
Carrie’s life reminds us that His Sovereignty reaches into each of
our lives, and it is His Love and Faithfulness that causes us to
carry on in the work He has extended to those who are called
children of God.
Amen to that!
May God bless all the Carrie McDonnalls
of the world. And may their tribe increase. Jesus is worthy of any
sacrifice we make for the Gospel.
Right now it's 39 degrees. And they're calling this a la Niña winter?
Got an email this morning from Alaba, where Becky and I have worked for
many years. Persecution has broken out again. A church building has been
destroyed and one of our evangelists has been beaten. "If one part
suffers, every part suffers with it" (1 Cor. 12:26). Privileged to
suffer with the brethren there.
One of my Latin students sent along
this link to the online version of Nunn's excellent grammar of
ecclesiastical Latin. We do not offer a course in Latin at SEBTS per se
but self-study is a manageable way to master this vitally important
language. I am also willing to design an independent study course for
students who would like to get credit for their work.
This is going to be long.
colleague of mine sent me this link:
Ethiopia Imprisons Christian Accused of Defacing Quran. It is a
report about a believer in Ethiopia who had the courage to proclaim
Yesus Getano -- "Jesus is Lord!" His "crime" is that he refused to
hide the light of the Gospel under a bushel.
I find myself overwhelmed by the
significance of this event. We in America are so often wrong about our
Christian suppositions. Joseph and Mary were sure that Jesus was
traveling to Nazareth with them when He was back in Jerusalem in the
temple. Mary thought Jesus was a gardener. Paul once knew Christ
according to the flesh. How gullible we are.
Being willing to declare "Jesus is
Lord!" and being willing even to die for Him runs so contrary to the
world of "New Testament scholarship" in which I live and move and have
my being. I am (and have always been) a lover of books, of
writing, of teaching, of scholarship. Wherever I am, I love to read and
learn. I enjoy listening to the reports from ETS and SBL and discussing
the latest controversies in the field of religious studies.
I am comfortable.
Scholarship validates my need to be
affirmed in my calling. And then I read a news story like the one I
linked to above and God taps me on the shoulder and drops me to my
knees. A man properly loves himself only when he sees himself as God
sees him -- nothing but a lost sinner, bought with a great price, the
personal property of the Lord whom he is called to follow and serve
sacrificially. He is not called to debate the doctrine of justification.
He is called to get right with God by confession and repentance. Then he
is called to leave the 99 and search for the lost sheep of the world. He
must be willing to risk all -- even his reputation in the eyes of the
world -- to proclaim with life and lip, "Jesus is Lord!"
Jesus was accused of being out of His
mind. So was Paul, the greatest New Testament scholar who ever lived. It
is amazing to me how we so-called "New Testament experts" can study and
teach the New Testament but somehow manage to keep it in one compartment
of our lives while we carry on the daily affairs of life in another. As
Christian scholars and bloggers it is not our calling to denounce
organized iniquity. It is to be the kind of committed Christians who
have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather
expose them by the contrast of our lives. We are so used to measuring
everything by the yardstick of popularity that we make our dedication to
scholarship the road to advancement and recognition. We have sought,
like James and John, prominent places in the kingdom when Jesus is
offering suffering instead of seats. I've said it before: If we really
wanted to make an impact at ETS, we would have asked Schreiner and
Thielman and Wright to serve for a day together in a soup kitchen in
Atlanta's inner city, sharing with lost souls the Gospel of this Jesus
whom we evangelicals claim to understand so well intellectually.
I am suspicious of any form of
Christianity that does not arouse bitter hostility from the world. My
brother in Ethiopia is in prison today not because he broke any law
(freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Ethiopian constitution) but
because he was willing to follow in the steps of his Lord, who refused
the applause of the world. Christ does not want our patronage. He must
Funny how the imprisonment of a
Christian brother in Ethiopia makes me so grateful. Grateful to know
that in some parts of the world "the cost of discipleship" is more than
a book title. Grateful for the reminder that the Christian life is not a
set of dogmas but a revolution. Being persecuted will not stop the
Gospel. Even in prison, Jesus is Lord.
I'm with Jesus on this one. Let the
dead bury their dead. Sell out or get out. This poor world of New
Testament studies to which I belong talks haughtily, like Pilate, as
though Jesus stood at its mercy. We avoid the battle of truth under the
false guise that we are explorers of the truth -- on a "quest" to
discover the historical Jesus. But there is no doubt about who this
Christ is. Yesus Getano. Jesus is Lord! In parts of Ethiopia,
those are fighting words. Utter them and you may die.
The tragedy of our generation is that
we are failing to get to the bottom of our troubles. Spreading
Aspercream on cancer is idiotic. The professing church in America -- and
this includes the academic guild that I know and love -- has become
cluttered with hosts of superficial "believers" who have never settled
the matter of obedience. They are disciples in name only, their hands on
the plow, eagerly looking back.
Perhaps I will start praying for
persecution to come to America. Many would fall away but at least it
would separate the sheep from the goats.
May I share with you a couple of happy memory makers?
1) These cups
arrived in today's mail. They're from Becky's mom in Dallas. What a
thoughtful gift. Mom, every time we use these cups we will remember you
and your love. Amasagenalo.
2) Josiah, a
Chinese student of mine, invited me to his beautiful Wake Forest home
last night, where his wife fed me the meal of a lifetime. It was an
unforgettable evening. Thank you very much for your wonderful
I have a special
place in my heart for our international students, having been one
myself. I really miss the ethnic diversity of Southern California. I
thank God for each and every international student the Lord sends our
way, but pray, Lord, send us more!