January 2012 Blog Archives
Tuesday, January 31
5:46 AM The official notice of the breakout sessions at this weekend's 20/20 Conference is now online. I trust it will meet with cordial and universal approval. To tell the truth, I may even attend a few sessions myself.
5:41 AM I forgot to mention: The evangelists were also stripped naked. In Ethiopia, following Jesus takes courage and humility. It also requires a Jesus-mindset. The only thing more powerful than hatred is love. But what more beautiful thing to be devoted to in life? No one is beyond redemption, even men who beat, strip, and rob you. Let's pray for the evangelists, and for their enemies.
5:35 AM Greetings, fellow language students!
Question: What to do if you've fallen behind in your Greek?
Don't be afraid to admit it. Looking a problem straight in the eye is the first step toward solving it. If you're willing to repair the foundation, then you shouldn't have too much difficulty rebuilding the superstructure. You need to blow the dust off your beginning grammar. It's obvious that review is needed, and badly. If necessary, ask for help. Unashamedly. Online resources abound. My own Greek DVDs might be an option for you. Perhaps you need to retake a class. But come to terms with the problem now. If you're a pastor-teacher, do some honest thinking about yourself, not the pastor down the road. You can change things. How about starting today?
I dare you.
Monday, January 30
12:16 PM I keep hearing the most beautiful stories of courage from Ethiopia. Yesterday two evangelists were severely beaten and are now in the hospital. I'll give you more details about their condition as soon as I hear. What a privilege to practice Heb. 13:3 in their honor. God bless them.
11:22 AM Enjoyed a visit from the Blacks this beautiful spring-like morning.
Is Bradford growing up or what? He now boasts two toofies.
Everybody wants to play with "Goosy."
Saying goodbye to Nolan. That boy is one kissable grandson.
Now it's back to writing for me, sewing for Becky, and studying for Nigusse.
11:05 AM Got a wonderful email this morning:
Isn't God good? What a joy to watch Him use the internet to bring encouragement to His people.
10:55 AM It's contest time again! In grateful recognition of God's goodness toward me in allowing me to publish my book Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? I am giving away a copy of the book to the first two bloggers who can correctly name the following faces. Email me your answers (along with your mailing address) and I will get the books in the mail to you when it is released on February 8.
8:04 AM Good Monday morning, friends!
Do any of you struggle with lack of faith? So do I. My father checked out when I was only 3, and for years my life was in turmoil. It seemed the harder I tried to make life work the worse things got. I became a Christian when I was 8, but the goodness of God was obscured by so much pain and uncertainty that developing confidence in Him has never been easy. Today my life is still a struggle with insecurity. I am discovering that my struggle with low self-esteem may be God's means of drawing me into a closer relationship with Him. The path to God never takes us around our problems but always through them. In the meantime I can't wait for God to heal my damaged sense of self before serving Him. The fact is, God is able to work through Dave Black, and it's because He has chosen to work through a broken vessel who at times can be hopelessly indifferent toward life. The more I bring the broken pieces of my life to Him, the more He frees me to love other people with all the beauty and richness of my unique personality. I am depending less and less on my own talents to win the day.
My guess is that right now some of you may be feeling totally inadequate to love God and others. You're not sure anybody understands you or cares. Well, I do. Do what is right in spite of your sense of inadequacy. Remain faithful even when you have absolutely no sense of His presence. Enjoy Christ's acceptance. Depend on His Spirit to get you through the week. Know that you are fully forgiven in the Beloved. Remember that Jesus did not go to the cross for worthless people. Despite your handicaps, you can still lead a productive and meaningful life. Admit to yourself (and to others if necessary) that you can't make it through a single day without God. Allow Him to free you to relax and trust. Let your heart sing. God is at work in your life.
Sunday, January 29
6:14 PM We gave our update and then had our introductory meeting for the July trip, led by Mama Leigh. So glad for the interest we saw at Amelia.
It's a joy to watch the Lord create the team and then mold it together. Nigusse testified to the Lord's care in the midst of great persecution in Alaba.
Becky called us back to the character of God as the Lord of the Harvest.
And me? I was the chauffeur and all-around gofer. Glad to be of assistance.
Next Sunday: Bethany Baptist Church.
6:42 AM Quote of the day:
Kevin, you are so right. Read Dunked!
6:35 AM Sunday morning update ....
1) Last night Nigusse had venison for the first time. He loved it.
2) Today we're speaking at Amelia Baptist Church in historic Amelia Court House, Virginia. Robert E. Lee spent April 4-5 there on his retreat from Petersburg in 1865. When much-needed supplies from Richmond failed to arrive by rail, he abandoned the town. The next day the famous Army of Northern Virginia would fight its last major battle at Saylor's Creek, and on April 9 it would surrender at Appomattox Court House. Some of the oldest county records in all of Virginia are located at Amelia Court House, having survived the war thanks to a guard placed over them by Union general George Custer.
After the service we are having an informational meeting about our July trip to Ethiopia. Please pray for us as we put together the team.
3) As a Greek teacher I have no greater joy than to watch my students develop into teachers themselves. Imagine my delight, then, when I heard that one of my Greek students in a faraway country has begun teaching Greek to a group of church leaders. I could not be more pleased. Teaching should be focused on mentoring across generations (and cultures too). I enjoy teaching and actually like the challenges that keep coming up -- including the need to raise up new classroom teachers who will far excel me.
4) Finally, over at the Helwys Society Forum, Craig Batts reviews David Croteau's new book called Perspectives on Tithing. Yes, Croteau's views go against the grain of church tradition. But as John Stott has said ("Basic Stott," Christianity Today, Jan. 8, 1996), "The hallmark of an authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions, but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh Biblical scrutiny and, if necessary, reform."
Saturday, January 28
3:58 PM This semester in my New Testament class I'll be covering the life of Christ. With vast political changes all around the world, with Washington in an uproar, with Iran possibly about to be attacked, I can nevertheless lay me down to sleep and not even write a protesting letter to the Washington Post because I know this Jesus of the Gospels, this descendant of an adulterous king named David, this man who was doubted and denied by those closest to Him, this King of kings, this God who blesses the poor and the peacemakers. If it wasn't for Him, we'd all be in deep trouble, and this professor, for one, is glad to teach His Way to others.
By the way, on Wednesday we'll begin with the Synoptic Problem. A growing number of young evangelicals have begun to question, and even to challenge, the consensus opinio of Markan Priority, and I am only too happy to lead the insurgency.
3:12 PM Good essay here: House Churches and Leadership.
2:47 PM One of my former students says he's learning how to be childlike.
2:33 PM Really excited about our Bible study in Philippians every Saturday. This morning we talked about politics. Yes, politics. Some of you may think that I despise politics. Not true. I think Christians should become more, not less, involved in politics. The ISV translates Phil. 1:27 as "live as good citizens." The Greek here is politeuesthe. Paul is telling the Philippians (many of whom were veterans of the Roman army) that they are citizens of a heavenly state and should act accordingly, maintaining its laws, submitting to its authority etc. Our heavenly citizenship requires a certain way of living. It is to determine every decision we make in life. Nothing we do is exempted. We are inhabitants of Christ's imperial city, the church. Together, in perfect unanimity, we are to struggle for the faith of the Gospel. This is the "only" thing that is needful, says Paul. All other activities are to be subordinated to that one goal.
I encourage all of us to allow nothing unworthy of the Gospel to replace single-minded devotion to our King and to our civic duty as citizens of heaven to please Him.
Friday, January 27
9:27 PM So, how's Nigusse doing with his studies? Very well indeed. He did a great job with all four courses he has taken thus far, but this current semester is going to a challenge. Not only does he have beginning Hebrew; he is taking another missions course as well as a beginning Greek class with that most reprobate of all seminary professors. Here's Nigusse this evening in his room.
He's watching his Greek prof's DVDs and trying to master all the verb lessons. Wish him well, folks. He'll need lots of prayer.
P.S. Any resemblance between yours truly and the teacher on the DVD is purely accidental.
7:44 PM Matt and Liz called us this evening from New York using their iPhone. Here's Becky speaking with Caleb.
And here's Liz holding our precious little Mercy Magdalene.
It was so funny watching Becky trying to show the boys the supper she had made. "I tried to cook the salmon just like your daddy would."
Matt, here's what you had such a hard time seeing on your iPhone. Becky added a touch of onion, green pepper, and Dijon mustard. It was superb. Oh, did I mention that the beets came from our garden (2005 variety)?
Thanks so much for calling, guys. I never thought having an iPad could be so much fun!
6:02 PM It feels like a big family, this missional community we call the church, this Body that Jesus prayed would be one, one with the saints in the underground church in China, one with the persecuted believers in Ethiopia, one with the ancient church of our past, one with every missionary who ever understood what really matters in life, missionaries like Adoniram Judson who a mere 200 years ago sailed for India and thus redefined for the American church the true meaning of orthodoxy as orthopraxy. (See A missionary movement turns 200.)
That sort of missionary effort requires working together. It is the most difficult and beautiful thing in the world. Imagine: It took Judson over a year to arrive at his destination. And I complain about a 14-hour plane ride. When I first began to get involved personally in missions I had no idea what I was getting into. I simply wanted to take the Gospel way of life seriously, just like Judson had done, or Hudson Taylor, or J. O. Frasier, or Jim Elliott and Nate Saint, people who were eager for something different from what the empire had to offer them. Yes, I love this family, this missional community we call the church. I actually believe that a healing can begin with us and extend into the wounds of our suffering world.
1:18 PM I am humbled to announce that the latest volume in our Areopagus series is now available, and the publisher is making free copies available to anyone willing to review it on his or her website.
The book is called "In the Original Text It Says…" Go here for details. I hope several of my readers will take Henry up on his offer. There is so much linguistic nonsense out there that we could all probably use a brief refresher course on exegetical errors.
1:14 PM Were Baptist pastors in America always paid salaries? Was there a time when a salaried pastor was considered a "hireling" (John 10)? These and many other issues surrounding the professionalization of pastoral ministry will be the topic of discussion as my colleague Keith Harper (Ph.D. in American History from the University of Kentucky) offers a guest lecture in our NT 1 class on Wednesday, March 14.
Let me know if you'd like to join us. In the meantime, you may wish to read what Alan Knox has to say about the subject. He has summarized his series called "Should elders/pastors be paid a salary?" here. On second thought, it might be better to retreat from in loci parentis and scour the New Testament Scriptures for ourselves to see what God has to say about the matter.
12:59 PM For those of you who live in the Fort Worth/Dallas area, I will be in your neck of the woods (Lord willing) from March 7 to March 12 attending the southwest regional meeting of the ETS at SWBTS and visiting Becky's parents. If you want to connect up, let me know.
12:55 PM "Never have been heard more piercing cries for the Gospel, that those with which Ethiopia accompanies her outstretched hands…."
These are the words of James Boyce, founder of Southern Seminary (see Three Changes in Theological Education). For many years now God has allowed Becky and me to work closely with local churches in the nation of Ethiopia. We have witnessed His mighty hand at work in the church there. Evangelical Christianity in Ethiopia is growing steadily (it is now up to 18 percent of the population), and in some areas the growth has been explosive (Alaba, for example). God has commanded the church to share the Good News with the world. It is time to unify the Body of Christ and work together as true partners to fulfill this plan. Such a partnership has great potential for mutual transformation both on the host country and the missionary.
If you are praying about going to Ethiopia with us this summer, I hope you will take Boyce's words to heart.
12:36 PM Yesterday I read President Obama's State of the Union Address.
One paragraph stood out to me:
Always remember that as Christians we find our unity in "struggling together with one soul for the faith of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:28). We overcome evil, not with weapons of warfare, but by the word of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). To paraphrase the President, "When we're in the thick of the battle, we rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation [the kingdom of God], leaving no one behind."
If soldiers can fight other soldiers in the interest of their respective nations, shouldn't we be able to work together in the interest of King Jesus and the upside down kingdom He is establishing on earth? Becky and I will gladly work with any Christ-centered evangelical church that is willing to answer Christ's call to obedience and self-sacrificing love. We don't have to see eye-to-eye on secondary issues to work hand-in-hand. We're all in the same fight – or ought to be.
12:20 PM As Becky and I were discussing our plans for the Ethiopia work in 2012, my mind was drawn to these verse from Philippians (2:12-13):
This, to me, is the key to all mission planning, the key, in fact, to all decision-making in life. We succeed in life only to the degree that we allow God to exert such an influence over our thinking as to lead us to a path of action that pleases Him. Note: He does not act for us. It is we who must "will and do." God forces us to do nothing against our will. We are still free agents. The influence that God exerts on us is in the way of direction and help. Both the desire to do God's will and the ability to do it come from Him. And because He is the one who works all of this in us, how eager we should be to give Him all the glory. Paul's words in Phil. 2:12-13 rule out all human pride. The willingness is produced by God, and so is the doing. Becky and I have nothing within us that is praiseworthy, for we do not possess the desire or the ability to do God's will except only by the grace of God.
So the question we kept asking ourselves this morning was a very simple one. What would seem best to God? What does His good pleasure require of us? What will best carry out His sovereign purposes? We must be diligent to ask these questions lest we discover that our endeavors are not His.
10:24 AM Becky and I were just sitting on our front porch enjoying the weather and talking about the July trip to Ethiopia. I am wearing a tee-shirt. This can't be January.
10:20 AM More odds and ends …
1) Jacob Allee asks What Is Biblical Inerrancy?
2) Scot McKnight recommends Tom Wright's Kingdom New Testament.
3) Alvin Reid talks about Moral Failure in Student Ministry. (No, it's what you're thinking.)
4) Indiana Wesleyan University announces an opening in New Testament.
5) Check out NASA's new high definition photos of the earth.
9:36 AM While reading Ecclesiastes just now, this verse impressed me: "You can't straighten out what is crooked" (1:15). How true. There are problems I want to fix. Now. But more than ever before I am learning that God is not obligated to "straighten out what is crooked." I am convinced that He yearns to be trusted by us far more than we want to trust Him. More than anything else, I need a God to trust, someone who can give me hope in the midst of grief and loss. Someone once said, "Feeling better has become more important for us evangelicals than finding God." The more I read Ecclesiastes, the more I see this truth. I cannot control my life. But God can be trusted. If, on a daily basis, I do what He is leading me to do, that is sufficient.
More than ever, I'm on the path to trusting God. In the midst of life's jarring circumstances. In the midst of unsolvable difficulties. To every cry from my fear-filled heart God replies, "Christ."
8:38 AM The quote of the day comes from Congressman Ron Paul. In last night's debate, he was asked:
Thanks for the light moment, Dr. Paul. Do any of these politicians actually think that we take anything they say seriously?
8:25 AM Is Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia the only one making excuses? My comments here: It's No Time to Abandon Ship.
8:10 AM Odds and ends …
1) Did Jesus command us to pray "Deliver us from evil" or "Deliver us from the evil one"? Matthew Myers wants to know.
2) Shorter University announces an opening in Christian Studies.
3) Alex Stewart's latest essay is "When are Christians Saved and Why Does it Matter? An Investigation into the Rhetorical Force of First Peter's Inaugurated Soteriology," Trinity Journal 32 (2011): 221–235. Alex is one of my Ph.D. students. Congratulations young man!
4) Rick Warren is tackling obesity. Good for him.
5) Curt Parton reviews Who Runs the Church?: Four Views on Church Government. (My thoughts here: Who Is Head of Your Church?)
7:55 AM Good morning to you, blog readers!
Here's something to ponder. Have you ever wondered why the New Testament letters generally lack exhortations for believers to engage in missionary activity? For example, in 1 Thess. 1:5-8 Paul commends the Thessalonians for spreading the Gospel, but nowhere in the letter does he command them to do so. Could it be that Paul's churches didn't need direct commands to spread the Gospel because they were already engaged in this activity? That Christians would be sharing the Gospel was presupposed rather than explicitly mentioned.
The one exception to this is the book of Philippians – which is one reason I love reading this book so much. Here Paul explicitly exhorts believers to life and conduct that will adorn the Gospel and promote its spread. Paul emphasizes active mission as a central part of our Christian identify. We are to "hold forth the life-giving Word" (Phil. 2:16). Witnessing must be relational and relentless. So, if every Christian is called to be a witness, and if every church has a global mission at its door, why are only certain people called "missionaries," and why do boards and mission agencies try to do the work of the local church? There is not a single hint in the New Testament that the early Christians saw evangelism as the responsibility of certain professionals. Every one of us ought to be a "Global Missionary." Weighty dissertations have been written by theologians on the "call of God" to missions, but every believer is called to missions – full time, I might add. Are, then, you a true missionary of the Gospel? Am I? Are we heartbroken that countless people have never experienced the forgiveness of their sins? Or that their condition is wretched? Will we do whatever is needed in order to fulfill our commitment to God? In short, am I a missionary – locally, regionally, globally, even cross-culturally (see Acts 1:8)?
Think about it.
Thursday, January 26
8:44 PM CNN lists the world’s 50 best surfing beaches. Of course, number one on the list is none other than my very own Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore. How could it be otherwise? Hmm, I can just taste that salt water now.
I once broke a surfboard in half at the Pipe. Got cut up pretty badly by the coral too. But you'll never find a more perfectly-formed wave. Only God can make something as beautiful as a Pipeline tube.
8:35 PM Nigusse and I just enjoyed the best supper. Becky prepared roast pork, a squash bake, and cooked carrots, along with a delicious garden salad topped off with avocados (Nigu's favorite). Yes, I know I'm bragging on Becky, but she deserves it, and, after all, I'm having a Proverbs 31:28 moment.
8:04 PM Good evening, bloggers!
It's good to be back on the farm. "A man away from home is like a bird away from its nest" (Prov. 27:8). In my home, the basic blessings of covenant love, forgiving grace, and caring service provide an overarching framework for life. No, you don't have to move to rural Virginia to survive election year politics, but country living combines the unexpected and reality all in one piece. I'm looking forward to shuffling back into Becky's garden and getting my hands dirty again. I laugh out loud whenever I watch the donkeys romping with each other. Good thinking requires quietude and time alone. Wherever you live, dare to honor God with your "firsts" (time, money, health, etc.). Stay focused on your dreams and goals. Read Proverbs whenever you can. I have never found anything better on human nature. Love, if you would be loved. It is a maxim of prudent people to lean on God's understanding when making decisions. Take one step at a time, day by day. But keep moving forward, and always rejoice in small blessings.
Grace to you,
Tuesday, January 24
6:22 AM In 2004 Becky and I took our first trip together to Ethiopia. I had no inkling I would ever return. But the second night there I lay my head on my pillow and said to Becky, "I love these people so much it hurts." Since then we've made well over a dozen trips to Ethiopia together.
It is a hard and difficult field. The poverty of Ethiopia is proverbial. Yet never have I been more conscious of the Divine Presence. One has the feeling that Ethiopian believers commune with God face to face.
People often ask Becky and me, "What is your five year plan for Ethiopia?" We have none. No one year plan, either. Our only goal is to be obedient. Missionary work is not a human endeavor. It is God's work and it must be done in His way and by His power.
It seems like I've aged many years since I began going to Ethiopia. I can think of nothing more difficult than ministering in the bush. But I can also think of nothing more rewarding. That is why I am longing to return to Ethiopia this July. I can declare without reservation that the task is impossible, without God. As Christians, our highest calling, our ultimate goal, is to glorify God by fulfilling His Great Commission. Not to be happy. Not to find fulfillment. Not even to be loved or appreciated. These things may be important, but they are not primary. I urge all of us to become better servants of Jesus this year. When you give yourself away, you find everything.
Monday, January 23
5:50 PM We have received word of significant unrest in a part of Ethiopia where Becky and I have worked since 2005. Christians are being targeted. Please pray for peace.
5:29 PM The chemo infusion room today was filled with warmth as Judy (a dear Jesus follower) gently administered Becky's Avastin. Becky and I slept part of the time while Nigusse studied his Greek. After the treatment was over we met with Becky's oncologist to discuss her condition. February 7 will be a critical day. On that day Becky is scheduled for her next CT scan and then a meeting with her lead radiologist to discuss her tumors. Since this test is scheduled for a Tuesday I will miss my classes (don't worry -- I'll have a sub teach for me that day) but it's important that both Becky and I witness the test results in person. Needless to say, this will be a crucial test, determinative in fact. We are receiving excellent health care at UNC. It inspires awe in the God who cares for every little detail of our lives. Cancer is a mean beast, but I'm grateful for doctors and nurses who try to demystify the process and especially for a God whose grace overflows to a chief of sinners like myself and who gives abounding hope for the future as we go through deep personal struggles.
10:06 AM I have just uploaded the weekly assignment schedule for our NT 1 class that begins on Wednesday. Students, check it out!
8:08 AM Just saw this:
Now that is one long teaching career!
7:42 AM Met a Nigerian yesterday at Cresset. I was reminded to pray for the persecuted church there.
7:34 AM Looking ahead: The 20/20 Collegiate Conference is just around the corner. The dates are February 3-4. Hear D. A. Carson, Tony Merida, and many other speakers. My breakout sessions will be on Saturday at 11:15 and 1:30. The topic is "Why do we have four Gospels (and not three or five)?"
7:30 AM Tomorrow is convocation at SEBTS. Johnny Hunt will speak. Please join us at Binckley Chapel at 10:00. (Icing on the cake: You get to see the faculty dressed in their monkey suits.)
7:24 AM Kevin Brown explains the three types of parents.
7:14 AM Thankful for a wonderful meeting at Cresset Baptist yesterday, where Becky Lynn gave an update on the work in Alaba and Burji. God gave Becky her voice back just in time!
Here "Mama Leigh" Humphreys guides the introductory meeting for anyone interested in going with us to Utopia this summer. Great job Leigh!
Then it was off to the Glass's for injera b'wat! Jon (who pastors at Cresset) and Matthea are both veterans of our work in Ethiopia.
Finally, last night we enjoyed dinner with Ed and Dolores Johnson from Bethel Hill. Ed's been with us to Ethiopia several times. Ed and Dolores and wonderful partners in the Gospel.
So, what's it like entering a village in Ethiopia? I shot this video as we entered Benaye in Burji. Remarkable.
In Burji the Gospel is impacting everything and everyone. Can't wait to get back there this summer!
Sunday, January 22
7:30 AM Odds and ends ...
1) Tomorrow I take Becky back to UNC Hospital for her 9th Avastin treatment. Next step: CT scan to check the growth of her lung tumors.
2) My teaching schedule for the spring semester is as follows:
Already scheduled as a guest speaker in my NT class is my colleague David Beck (Ph.D., Duke University), who will lecture on the Beloved Disciple.
3) Today begins a marathon of Sundays in which we will be presenting the glory of the Lord in Ethiopia in various churches in Virginia and North Carolina:
So great to see such interest in Ethiopia.
4) Prayed this morning for my personal assistant, Thomas Hudgins, and his wife Lesly, whose father has just been diagnosed with cancer.
5) Quote of the day: "The grace of God is all about God cleaning up our vomit."
6) Despite her chest cold, Becky has been blogging. Her latest post is called Are You Sure You Are Saved?
Saturday, January 21
8:30 PM So proud of Nigusse. He did an excellent job in his Baptist History class. I have rarely seen anyone work as hard as he did. We treated him to Ethiopian food as a "thank you."
Congratulations, Nigu, on a job well done. We love you.
12:27 PM I really love thinking and writing about the church. Read The Church Is a Granary.
10:56 AM Just spent two and a half hours discussing Phil. 1:1-2 together -- just two verses of Scripture but we all feel as though we barely scratched the surface. The Word is rich.
7:02 AM It's a beautiful rainy morning here, God preparing our fields for a harvest of hay this spring and summer. Before I leave for my "Iron Men" meeting I wanted to ask: Have you seen the latest issue of JETS? In it there's a very fine book review. My friend George Guthrie reviews my friend David Allen's Lukan Authorship of Hebrews. George rightly rejects David's position. Just because there are linguistic and conceptual affinities between Luke and Hebrews, this does not prove Lukan authorship. In other words, internal evidence is not probative. I argue this exact position in my NT classes. George then concludes his review with this statement:
Question: Which comment by Origen is being referred to here? Could it be this one:
Or maybe this one:
Or is it this one:
You see, Origen consistently cites the epistle as Paul's, though he was unsure as to who the penman might have been. I have been trying to point this out for several years now. I imagine that George was referring to Origin's statement that only God knows who the writer of Hebrews is. But that says nothing about authorship. (Paul did not write Romans. Tertius did.) Application: Even the statements of the church fathers must be interpreted in context.
This morning our men's group begins our study of Paul's letter to the Philippians. I am eager to learn from my brothers. Context will be key!
Friday, January 20
9:45 PM Good evening, friends. I have just put Becky to bed, and I feel like blogging.
Perhaps it's a sign of superannuation, but there are days (like today) when I feel singularly aware of the passing of time and the brevity of life. In those evenings when I am too weary or bored to read anything else -- except perhaps a Civil War novel -- I still find serene refuge in the book of Ecclesiastes. I think I will never be bored in heaven. Omitting the apostles, I should certainly begin by talking to David and his son Solomon, who are responsible for some of the most heart-wrenching writings in the Bible. "A man's life is his whole life, and not the last glimmering snuff of the candle," someone once said. Was it David, or Solomon perhaps? The blessings that God has given me in my work and service for Him are altogether in a different class from all the other sources of happiness and pleasure that have come to me, including my family, friends, and farm. I appreciate what Catherine Marshall once wrote following the premature death of her husband Peter (he was only 47). She said that she finally became convinced that being lost in grief is nothing more than an act of self-pity. The very best thing an older person (like myself) can do is to admit, "I may be getting older and slowing down, but I still have a lot to offer this needy world." If God wills, this year I will travel 4 times to Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. I have a hard time sitting on crowded airplanes, but imagine for a moment if we did not have airplanes and instead had to travel by steamer to faraway places. When you are following hard after Jesus, God has a way of stretching you beyond your ability -- intentionally. Life is not a fun-in-the-sun Hawaiian vacation. You have to continually adjust, constantly adapt, and you had better be ready for some tough times. Satan roars. Friends and relatives disappoint. Roofs leak. Bills come due. Dreams lie broken and scattered. Health quietly caves in. Cancer strikes you or someone you love, and you put her to bed worrying about what the future holds. Despair looms.
Is there an alternative? My friend Solomon says, "Sow your seed in the morning, and don't be idle in the evening." This means that, despite my age, it is still good to be alive, to laugh, to cry, to study, to teach, to write, to travel, to work, to invest in others' lives, to love (and thereby risk rejection) -- in short, to give God full freedom to take my little jar of clay and reshape it into a delightful dispenser of His love.
He can do it. He will do it.
8:38 PM Of all the essays in the new Festschrift for Howard Marshal, the one I am most looking forward to reading is Eckhard Schnabel's "Early Christian Mission and Christian Identity in the Context of the Ethnic, Social, and Political Affiliations in Revelation," though each of the essays looks excellent.
8:22 PM A new student from Hawaii asked me what he could expect in my Greek 2 class this semester. This was my reply (new students take note please):
4:42 PM SEBTS student William Birch has written an insightful essay called You Do Not Suffer Alone. Let's be clear that the sufferings we are talking about are not our aches and pains or even the tragedies of this life. Everybody has those. All of us suffer because we all belong to the human race. The sufferings of Christ are those that are unique to the kingdom. The suffering we experience is because we are walking down a kingdom path and following the way of Jesus. In other words, these are sufferings we could avoid if we weren't a kingdom person living for the Gospel. Suffering is a choice. We choose to suffer because we are followers of Christ. Paul exclaims, "I want to experience those sufferings! I want to be conformed to the image of His death!"
But these are not the only things we suffer. Last night I listened to the finale of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. It's probably the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard in my entire life. The finale is absolutely my favorite part of an outstanding composition. It captures the sorrow and melancholy of one whose heart is broken over a world of sin, for a world that is in turmoil because it rejects God, for the pain of sickness and separation, the pain when one says goodbye to a sweet memory, the pain that one experiences when one is cast upon the sea, adrift in the Slough of Despair. Who can soothe such a grief? We live in a broken world, immersed in sorrow and suffering. We realize that it is only God's grace that can get us back on track, that every need, every care, every sorrow, every desperate act, every struggle, everything is seen by the one who knows the end from the beginning, who numbers the hairs on our heads, who provides drink for tiny sparrows, for whom nothing in our lives is trivial, and in whose light and love the broken heart becomes the healed heart. I wept, wishing to feel all the hurt, letting it come and then letting it go … surrendering to the Truth.
4:36 PM According to Technorati, "The Blogosphere is constantly changing and evolving. In 2011 we are seeing bloggers updating their blogs more frequently and spending more time blogging." Read State of the Blogosphere 2011. Yes, I'm totally convinced that blogging is here to stay. But our blogs will inevitably evolve. "May the past be a rudder, not an anchor" would be my encouragement to any of you who might be struggling to revitalize your blog. Be true to yourself, blog about whatever interests you (and those interests will change over time), and do try to post frequently. If you have something worthwhile to say, you won't lack for readers.
4:30 PM Congratulations to SEBTS students Graham and Susan Michael on the birth of their twin daughters Evelyn and Abigail!
4:24 PM Interesting blog post this: Rejoice For Your Dull Pastor. What do you think?
Wednesday, January 18
4:20 PM Becky is doing better today. I think we've got the cough under control. We'll spend another quiet evening together. I'm cooking Chinese for supper and then we'll just "hang out."
4:12 PM Got some great news. If you've been to our Greek Portal you've noted that it is pretty barebones. Well, all of that is about to change. Matthew Myers, my new assistant, is working on revamping and significantly expanding the Greek Portal to make it, we hope, one of the leading Greek sites on the web. My prayer is that it will become a major hub of information for what is going in Greek studies today and a great resource for all students of the language.
Now, there's a way you can help us. If you know of a website that you feel just absolutely has to be included here, please let us know. It need not be the website of an accomplished scholar either. You see, one of the things I love to do is encourage younger scholars and students to contribute to the study of Greek. Our message is simple: Greek is for everybody. So if you think you have something to contribute to Greek studies today, please let me know. I am eager to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Matthew, by the way, blogs here. Check out what he has to say about More Light on the Path – an excellent tool to maintain your Greek and Hebrew.
4:02 PM Is there a "coming death tsunami" in the United Methodist Church? Lovett Weems seems to think so. Go here for a full report.
6:10 AM Praying this morning for my Greek students who are taking their midterm at home. What a wonderful group. Encouraging to see their dedication to the text of Scripture. Brings back memories of my first year of Greek.
Tuesday, January 17
5:06 PM I want to thank Craig and I'm sure many others who've been praying for my Becky. She is mending, though slowly. Tonight we plan on kicking back and watching an old movie together. Rear Window maybe?
4:57 PM Just did a trash run to the local dumpsters. 10 trash cans full, too. This is one of the great joys of country living.
3:52 PM Odds and ends ...
1) Quote of the day:
Strikes just the right balance if you ask me.
2) Danny Akin has discovered a New Unreached People Group.
3) Denver Seminary announces an opening in Justice and Mission.
4) Todd Graham discusses the downside of live presidential debates
3:23 PM Hey folks. Sorry I'm not blogging as much as I used to. I've been overwhelmed with teaching responsibilities this week and other "stuff" (if you know what I mean). A week ago Monday I spoke to a group of pastors in Annapolis about the need for unity in the cause of the Gospel. My text was the entire book of Philippians! One pastor asked me a very good question: "How far can we go, Dave? We can't compromise basic doctrines of the Christian faith in order to cooperate with others, can we?"
The answer is simple. I think the New Testament is very clear about this. The fact is that you can attend churches in America today where the ministers are traitors to the cause of Christ. Jesus described them as wolves (heretics) in sheep's clothing. Paul told the Ephesian elders, "Even from your own numbers men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:30). It's a tremendous strategy of the Evil One – angels of light appealing to us through deception. No doubt about it. Philippians does not teach unity at all costs. So please do not say that I teach we are to put our brains in park or neutral when we become followers of Jesus. Pastoral ministry begins with an inventory of the enemy's strength and tactics. So says Paul in Phil. 1:9 (love must be controlled by knowledge and full discernment). So if we desire true Christian unity, we must stand up and fight for the truth, taking the great doctrines of God out of mothballs and hurling them back at Satan.
As all of you know, there's a trend among evangelicals to "seek first the kingdom of America" rather than "the kingdom of God." I encourage us all to be true defenders of doctrine by refusing to put our faith in anything other than Jesus and the radical, self-sacrificing, Calvary-style mustard seed kingdom that He established through His blood. It is absolutely scary to hear the things certain evangelicals are saying about their favorite candidate for president. No doubt about it – the nation is looking for a savior, a messiah to bail us out of our ills. Every candidate who is vying for the nation's top job claims to have THE answers to all of life's questions. "Our opponents say this, but the REAL answer is …." Folks, I'm a citizen of a different country (Phil. 3:20), and I am here for only one purpose, and that is to be a full time ambassador of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the hope of the world. Our only real security is in Yahweh. As I mentioned at the outset, I have a hard time justifying all the pom-pom waving I see in light of Philippians' call for all Christians to humble themselves and put their complete faith and trust in King Jesus. I'm convinced that it is only when we foreswear all nationalism and ANY human means of advancing God's kingdom that we will find our true identify as followers of Jesus.
Live for the kingdom!
Monday, January 16
6:57 AM Prayers appreciated for Becky, who is really struggling with a crazy head-throat-chest problem for over a week now. She can't stop coughing. I keep thinking, "She's already got enough stuff in her lungs (tumors); she really doesn't need any more there." I'm asking God to please clear out her lungs before her next CT-scan so that the test will be accurate. Also, please pray for Nigusse as he finishes his J-term marathon this week. It has been a heavy but good class. His passion for the Gospel is unbelievable. I love him so much.
Off to school.
Sunday, January 15
7:23 AM Good Sunday morning, one and all. The verdict is in, I see. Rick Santorum is the Jesus candidate. Once again, we've managed to feed our self-fulfilling prophecies and assuage our self-doubts. Pat on the back! Oh, I wonder what Perry is thinking. After all, he's a real evangelical Protestant. So far he hasn't spoken out, but the bottom is clearly out of the boat.
I wonder if this is what Jesus had in mind when He said, "My kingdom is not of this world."
It matters little to me that some Magisterium in Texas has anointed Santorum or that the evangelical subculture prizes conformity above all else. Allegiance to any human institution or political party is not faith. It is misplaced faith.
Let's stay focused on the King.
Saturday, January 14
5:05 PM Nigu and Becky have gone off to South Boston for haircuts while I have been getting some writing done. I'm busy but not too busy to enjoy this view.
The sun sets in southern Virginia and leaves a glorious memory behind.
12:30 PM Oh, this is a cute story for all you dog lovers out there: Kota the Lovebug. Yes, it's overkill. Dogs can't work miracles. Or can they? I snapped this photo last night while I was reading.
Dayda's asking to be petted. I accommodated her, of course. Shelties are very affectionate. They require lots of love and attention. Too much, perhaps. But if you don't like it, you need to get yourself a different breed of dog.
To say that my puppies bring me joy would be a huge understatement.
12:16 PM Quote of the day:
The speaker is Scot Simon, host of NPR's Weekend Edition, which I was listening to this morning on my drive to Bethel Hill. Scot was referring, of course, not to what we stuff into our mouths but the information we derive from the Internet. Think internet obesity. Now, there's a novel concept. We have a glut of information on the web. Selectivity is required, in huge doses. Or, as Scot's interviewee put it:
11:57 AM I'd like you to meet some friends of mine. From left to right they are Woody Jacobs, Chris Jacobs, and Jason Hatley.
We all belong to Bethel Hill. Jason has been to Ethiopia with us several times. Chris just got back from Brazil. Woody is on his way to India this summer. We call ourselves the Iron Men ("as iron sharpens iron"). Each Saturday we will meet together for Bible study and prayer. We'll be talking about ministry to others in ways appropriate to our own giftedness. If Jesus could use 36 rag-tag teams to extend the kingdom, maybe He can use us too. One thing is sure: If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time. Edification is no exception. Our goal is to sharpen each other with the Scriptures and provoke each other to greater love and good works.
Woody, Chris, and Jason, I love you guys. Quite honestly, I don't have a clue about what the Lord Jesus wants to teach us in the coming months. It will take diligence, faith, and courage -- in equal amounts. The fact is, we need each other. And the best part about it is that Jesus is with us. We are co-laborers with Him. Already you guys have fired me up. I'm ready to do back flips for Jesus. (Well, not quite.) Maturity is always a return to thinking realistically about yourself. Spiritual growth requires feedback.
So where do we go from here?
6:50 AM Good morning, friends. You won't believe this: A blog post called Jesus - A Practicing Socialist. I feel positively giggly. This is the message I've been trying to get across to my students for years. Note this paragraph:
Our world is in desperate need of this kind of obedience. We know all too well that orthodoxy without orthopraxy is a gross evil. There is deep wisdom in Jesus' words in the Great Commission: "observe," "command." Not that such obedience is easy. Jesus never promised that discipleship would be a piece of cake. He has called us to littleness, to die to our ambitions so that others might believe and live, to infect this dark world with His love. And the people who are changing the world today are the risk-takers who, like Epaphroditus, are willing to gamble away their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
Let's define our success as evangelicals by the standard of obedience, not the standard of knowledge.
Friday, January 13
8:58 PM Students, before I forget to mention it completely, today I posted the syllabus for our NT 1 class this spring semester. My apologies for not having it up earlier.
8:22 PM As a language lover I must say I was a bit taken aback when I read an article over at the BBC site about Newt Gingrich's latest attack ad against Mitt Romney. Come to find out that good old Mitt speaks -- French! This is truly an alarming development. The next thing you know, we'll discover that Mitt enjoys an occasional plate of blanquette de veau.
One thing is clear. It's going to be an interesting year, Toto.
6:31 PM Some good essays on New Testament eldership here by my colleague Ben Merkle.
4:50 PM Eager to take my bride out for dinner in just a few minutes. As I sit here typing this, I am pondering the fact that I am the single most blessed man on the planet.
4:43 PM Looking forward to some much needed rest this weekend. Henri Nouwen's famous words come to mind: "Take my tired body, my confused mind, and my restless soul into your arms, and give me rest, simple quiet rest."
4:40 PM Wheaton College announces an opening in Old Testament.
4:36 PM I had a delightful surprise when I got to the office this morning. Someone had left me a paper bag filled with herbal teas from the Caribbean. Kind friend, you made my day. Thank you. The icing on the cake? I'm not normally a tea drinker, but these teas are delicious.
4:28 PM Greetings, fellow bloggers!
NPR ran a story today that caught my eye: Evangelical Leaders Struggle to Crown a Candidate. Apparently Republican leaders are trying to come up with a "Jesus" candidate for president. It seems that few things are as important to the Religious Right as getting their man in place politically. Now, of course society needs good leaders making policy and directing our affairs. But as believers, we can never be sure "our" candidate is also God's.
Here's my rational for this assumption: it completely subverts Christ's teaching. Jesus demands that all of His followers carry the cross and persevere in sacrificial suffering for His name's sake. The only kingdom we're to sacrifice for is the kingdom of God. We are to be noted for our Calvary-like, counter-cultural lifestyles. Consequently, we must always be on guard against substituting the kingdom of America for the kingdom of God. The character of God's kingdom is widely different from what is commonly envisaged today. Its glory is revealed only through suffering – a point that Jesus' disciples, then and now, have been slow to understand. The kingdom of God is never imperialistic. It has no political ambitions. It conquers not by force but by love.
Experience has shown that once the church has become just another worldly archy, once it has allowed itself to be subverted by politics, it has achieved a "victory" at the expense of the Gospel. The Gospel is something intolerable because it requires us to renounce our illusions and the blind cul-de-sacs of our religious archys. The tragedy is that so many Christians have freely chosen this course of action. They have voluntarily opted for Christendom over Christianity. This "subversion of Christianity" (the title of one of Jacque Ellul's books), this matter of putting our petty gods above Christ, causes the church to miss its way. When the church behaves like this, and when its leaders and theologians go along with it, it utterly fails to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, overcoming evil with good (instead of with political force). Jesus taught us that only powerless love is the basis upon which to build the kingdom. In Him we find a true Revolutionary who is capable of saving the world without political coercion or violence of any kind (including military).
In my opinion, the efforts to crown an American "Jesus candidate" is nothing less than shocking. You know the church is in trouble when Washington replaces Jesus as the hope of the world and when America replaces the kingdom of God as the rule we are to persevere for. I could go on and on but I think I've made my point. I'll end by simply noting that Jesus never connected freedom with political freedom. The chief business of the church is to emulate the true Jesus and the true kingdom He came to establish. That's why it's a waste of time to look for a political Messiah, be he a Mormon or a Baptist. Let's refuse to put our trust in the archys that are premised on replacing the true kingdom of God.
Thursday, January 12
8:24 PM Got this from Amazon today:
Here in Virginia we call this the battle of "Sharpsburg." Becky and I participated in the gigantic 135th anniversary reenactment of Sharpsburg/Antietam 13 years ago. My unit was in the famous "Sunken Road." We were told we all had to die. It's a bit frightening to see 12,000 Federal troops marching straight toward your position. I can't imagine the courage of the men who stood and fought in that road bed.
Incidentally, my maternal great-grandparents lived along the Antietam Creek in Western Maryland. They were the Millers. You may know that many of the mini-battles that fateful day were fought on the farms and in the corn fields belonging to the Millers of Sharpsburg. My kin were all German Baptists, and hence pacifists. What an irony that the single bloodiest day of a very bloody conflict was fought on pastoral land owned by men and women who eschewed war. If you've never visited the Antietam National Battlefield you should. When you do, be sure to visit the famous Dunker Church around which the battle swirled that morning and in the early afternoon. Sharpsburg/Antietam was the turning point of the Civil War. I am told Sears' book is an excellent military treatment of the battle itself. We'll see if this is true.
6:42 PM This morning I was interviewed by one of my doctoral students for a seminar he is taking during J-term. The question he asked me? "What was your first year of teaching like?" My response? "How do you expect an old man like me to remember something that took place 35 years ago?"
I enjoyed the interview. It was an opportunity to pause and reflect on just how good and gracious the Lord has been to me. That a skinny kid from Kailua Beach should have been asked to teach Greek at Biola is nothing less than a miracle of grace.
I won't regale you with my answer to the student's question. I just want to give thanks where thanks is due:
Sincere thanks to all of you.
5:30 PM Hello virtual friends. I'm enjoying a wonderful evening at home with Becky. We have begun recovering from our colds. After I got home I crashed and burned, but after a 2 hour nap I feel 100 percent better.
Up to a few odds and ends?
1) A few reflections as we finish up our second week of Greek in J-term. Although no one got a perfect score on the exam, most everyone did very well. I am proud of them all. Greek, as I've often said, is not a difficult language to learn. It doesn't take a smart student to master, just a hard-working, motivated one. The future church is in the hands of these young people. I'm happy to teach them because it's my investment in the next generation.
2) Here are three blog posts worth checking out:
3) Ran across this quote while surfing the web:
The speaker is Corrie ten Boom, who suffered greatly under the Nazis during World War II. Corrie learned to look at the bright side of discipline and suffering. There is always something good about the struggles we go through. God uses hardships to prove our sonship. God only disciplines His own.
4) Once in a while in my reading I run across a statement that is so beautifully expressed that it defies summation and I must simply quote it. Here's one I read this morning by Jim Groen:
Amen to that. Sadly, because many pastors are not training the so-called laity for works of service in building up the Body, the members are deprived of becoming the Lord's instruments of meaningful service. I encourage all of us to look for ways to mobilize and train the whole church for missions and ministry. Ministry is not up to one man. It is not even the work of associated pastors. It is the job of all of us.
5) Time now for one of Becky's delicious suppers. Peace out. Dave
Monday, January 9
6:13 PM My thanks to pastor David Orr for hosting me this weekend at Weems Creek. I spoke 4 times to the congregation and once this morning to a group of pastors. I also had a fantastic tour of our nation's Naval Academy (thank you, Eric!). It was a great trip but there's no place like home. Both Becky and I are sick, I with a chest cold and she with laryngitis. We're coughing in unison. Even in sickness it seems we're "partners." Pix, of course:
Here I'm speaking on "The Gospel according to Four Women" from Matt. 1:3-6.
I loved chatting with these midshipmen.
This morning our topic was the discourse structure of Philippians. Have I interested any of you guys in refreshing your Greek? I hope so!
Tomorrow it's back to school, where we will be grading our first exam in Greek 1. I wonder ... who will earn the prestigious 110 Award and get a free book? Stay tuned ....
Saturday, January 7
6:48 AM Good advice about blogging from Michael Patton. I liked this part:
Great advice and great post. Ultimately, however, the only rule about blogging you need to know is that there are no rules for blogging, except for one, of course: Check your spelling before hitting the post button. (I am BAD at this.)
Speaking of blogging, I'll be away from my computer for a few days. It's a quick trip, though, so look for pix of Annapolis when I get back on Monday night.
Friday, January 6
9:10 PM Odds and ends ...
1) Excited to see the new cover for my forthcoming book Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?
2) Here's the latest news about Becky. On Tuesday she completed another Avastin treatment at UNC Hospital. She has one more treatment and then another CT scan, which should tell us whether we should continue with the Avastin or if we have to have another dose of intense radiation to reduce the tumors in her lungs. (The procedure is called Cyber Knife.) Psychologists tell us that gratitude has a lot to do with life satisfaction. Becky and I are truly grateful to all of you who have been praying for us. Becky's type of cancer is enormously complicated. I am often reminded that we live in a broken and fallen world. It makes my longing for the final outbreak of the kingdom even keener.
3) Logos Bible Software is currently featuring the Filología Neotestamentaria Journal Collection. Here's the publisher’s description:
As an editor of the journal I greatly appreciate this offer.
4) Today my colleague Bob Cole brought me some of his homemade salsa and chips to test out. Almost called 9-11. Hot but good. He's sending me the recipe.
5) Andy Bowden is preparing spiritually for Germany. He'll be both a fulltime student and a fulltime missionary. Love that perspective! I enjoy Europe. Always have. Like many of you, I've traveled there extensively. In the early eighties I lived in Basel, Switzerland, while earning my doctorate at its ancient university. In particular, I've always been interested in Europe's religious history. We in North America owe so much of our spiritual heritage to the influence of Europeans like Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and even to lesser known figures such as Zwingli and Oecolampadius, the reformer of Basel. The temptation, therefore, is to think that Europe is a great place to visit but not necessarily a mission field. We think of it as already Christianized, a place to see beautiful churches and cathedrals. But make no mistake about it: Europe is a mission field. The vast majority of Europeans have no meaningful contact with biblical Christianity. Even the tiny minority who do attend a state church seldom hear the Gospel preached. John Blake, the former director of the Billy Graham Association in Spain, has noted: "Europe has almost the lowest percentage of evangelicals in the world." Indeed, according to one report, the combined populations of Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Austria—197 million people in all—has but a total of 0.7% evangelicals, the same as the entire nation of Egypt! Yet who ever thinks of Europe as being like Egypt in its need for the Gospel?
Andy does, and I'm mighty glad to see it.
6) North Carolina Wesleyan College announces an opening in Religious Studies.
Thursday, January 5
5:28 AM Praying for all of my J-term students this morning. This promise is strong: "I can face any circumstance in union with the One who energizes me."
5:22 AM I've calculated that I wrote about 400,000 words in 2011. This includes blog posts, web essays, and two book manuscripts.
In 2003 NRO columnist John Derbyshire did a similar calculation and concluded, "The depressing thing about writing columns is that only a tiny proportion of what you write sticks in people's minds, and the rest blows away like chaff in the wind." I agree. Perhaps what is most important is not anything specific we say. Your blog (and mine) has a particular "ethos," a unique message we're sending to our audience. On balance, are people being encouraged toward kingdom living when they read our blogs? A good question to ask as we begin a new year of writing.
Wednesday, January 4
7:10 PM William Birch asks What's So Great about Southern Baptists? The whole essay makes for an enjoyable read, but I especially liked this part:
4:34 PM News and notes ...
1) As we look ahead to the year that stretches before us, here's some good advice from Matt Capps in a blog post called The Gospel and Pastoral Burden:
What a good word that is for us today. I might add one more thing: "God is God." And because He is God, we His people have only one job, and that is to serve Him and His kingdom by doing what Jesus did. In this election year I urge all of us not to get distracted from the one kingdom we are truly members of and the one task kingdom people are given. Vote your conscience, but it is imperative that we don't become sidetracked and preoccupied with "civilian affairs." Our divine call is to love and go out of our way to serve all people regardless of what political party or what politician they support.
2) Special thanks to Andy Bowden for his help this week with calculating grades from last semester.
3) I'm in the countdown mode for my trip to Annapolis this Saturday. Lord willing I'll fly to Baltimore, take a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy, and then speak at Weems Creek Baptist Church on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. My topic on Monday morning for a leaders' conference is "Missions, the Heart of Philippians." I find it very invigorating to be able to share the results of my exegesis of this wonderful book with a group of pastors. Accuweather says the temps should be bearable for this time of the year in coastal Maryland.
4) The J-term class is just rushing along. Today we covered chapter 4 of my beginning Greek textbook. I'm having lots of fun watching the eyes of my students smile at me whenever the new concepts become clear to them. Greek students, be sure to check out Mark Goodacre's Greek New Testament Gateway. It's an outstanding, practical resource. While you're at it, take a look at these wonderful video clips of Greek grammar produced by Ted Hildebrandt of Gordon College.
5) My newest personal assistant is Matthew Myers. Welcome to the team, Matt! Here he is setting up my iPad so that I can edit Word documents on it when I travel.
6) I confess to not having given much thought about the Driscolls' new book Real Marriage. The reviews are already coming out and most of them are largely negative. I recommend those by Rachel Held Evans, Tim Challies, and Denny Burk. All three are excellent reviews. I haven't read the book, nor do I have any plans to do so. While we're on the subject, I might recommend Danny Akin's God on Sex: The Creator's Ideas about Love, Intimacy, and Sex, Andreas Köstenberger's God, Marriage, and Family, and Daniel Heimbach's True Sexual Morality – all written, by the way, by faculty colleagues here at Southeastern.
7) Today we introduced the second declension. So, how do you pronounce the noun logos? I'm talking about the Bible software. Find out in this humorous video clip.
8) It happened entirely by accident, but yesterday I ran across a notice that Chuck Smith has lung cancer. Please pray for him and his family.
9) This essay made me stop and think: Counting the Unaccountable.
10) Time to take a walk on the farm with my bride and then have dinner together.
Monday, January 2
6:31 AM Excited to begin teaching Greek 1 today. Needless to say, there are many online resources at your disposal. These may be found at my Greek Portal. I like these tools. But use them with care. Think about it: It may be better to write your own Greek vocabulary cards rather than simply printing the ones you find online. As the saying goes, Use it or lose it.
See you in class!
Sunday, January 1
3:55 PM Hi folks. Just a brief report about today's activities.
1) In Sunday School at The Hill we welcomed back Bailey and her dad Chris who just returned from serving the Lord in Brazil.
Chris also led our Sunday School class in a great discussion of what the kingdom looks like. When you consider the uniform and emphatic teaching of Jesus about living for things that count for eternity, it begins to make sense when you find yourself doing radically crazy things for Him. Thanks, Chris and Miss Bailey, for setting a good example for the rest of us.
2) Every once in a while people ask me about what the persecuted church looks like. I had a very practical reminder of that this morning as we sang "Holy, Holy, Holy" during our service. The words "Though the darkness hide Thee, though the eyes of sinful man Thy glory may not see" were coming out my mouth, but this was the man I was looking at.
It was my wife Becky's idea to post these photos of our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the church's "sanctuary." Please keep brother Youcef in your prayers as he suffers for his Christian faith in Iran.
3) India is another nation where there is a great deal of suffering for the cause of Christ. But that won't stop Joel and Nigusse from visiting there next month to pave the way for a church-wide mission trip there this coming summer. What a great team Joel and Nigu will make.
4) Speaking of Joel, his message today on 1 John 2:15-17 was a reminder to me that there is still a lot of the love of the world in me. His message was encouraging -- and convicting.
5) My former student Richard Zuelch sent me an email reminder this morning that today is the anniversary of the death of J. Gresham Machen. Richard paid tribute to him here. Machen is a reminder that there is nothing new under the sun. Theological liberalism comes and goes. So do political fashions. News headlines tell the same story again and again. Christians are puzzled and baffled in such a time. Then comes along a J. Gresham Machen to remind us that, for many of us, Christian living is only a sham battle. We shadowbox, beat the air. We may use new gadgets and gimmicks (like my new iPad!), but we avoid the real battle at all costs. I thank the Lord for men and women like Machen who call us back to reality. The worst way out of apathy is by dodging problems, avoiding the clashing of personalities, and getting around persecution. May the Spirit prepare us in this new year for the daily grind, and may He fire us with unusual strength for the special task of confronting our national and personal idols.
6) Finally, on a personal and purely selfish note, isn't Bradford Black absolutely the handsomest grandson you've ever seen? We bumped into him and his family in our driveway coming home from church.
Like I say, he's one cutie-pie. Precocious too. He's only 3 and a half months old yet he already has two teeth.
Ain't "grandloving" fun?