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November 2011 Blog Archives

Sunday, November 27

6:47 PM Eager to get back to school after our break. One more week of teaching to go then I'm off to the Uttermost. Praying that all of my students finish well. If any of you need help or are facing unexpected difficulties, do let me know. This isn't "Grace" Theological Seminary, but it's close. My office door is always open.

5:30 PM Tonight I'm reading, one last time, a doctoral dissertation and a master's thesis, the authors of which are being called before the Grand Inquisition tomorrow morning.

I crave for myself and for my students the mot juste, a greater mastery of exact expression, on the premise that if something deserves to be said it deserves to be said well. None of us, naturally, will ever write like a Tom Wright, but all of us, I think, can gain something from training in observation and accuracy of phrase. From boyhood I have been a lover of good books (the Hardy Boy series got me started), and since then I've sought to handle the literary scalpel with Germanic thoroughness. Certainly, one learns to write by writing, and by reading. I enjoy both.

4:39 PM Wonderful time this morning. Here's our group:

We had people from Brasil, El Salvador, India, Colombia, Jamaica, Nigeria, Mexico, and other countries. I even got to practice what little Portuguese I know. I thoroughly enjoy this kind of ethnic diversity. It's a foretaste of heaven.

6:54 AM Off to speak to the Internationals class at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Raleigh.

6:52 AM Brian Fulthorp jumps in.

Saturday, November 26

8:38 PM Had a great time tonight. Love students who are on mission for Christ!

5:21 PM Looking forward to hosting a seminary couple for supper tonight. They are in for a real treat -- Becky's one-and-only curry/chicken/broccoli casserole (with turkey this time). Scrumptious.

12:58 PM The saga continues ...

I once took a seminar in Basel with Professor Reicke. It entailed translating the Greek and Latin Fathers. We were asked to come to class each week prepared to recite and translate without any notes whatsoever. After two semesters of these grammatical drills we were expected to sit for our Greek and Latin orals that were personally administered by our Doktorvater. Since I had already been teaching classical Greek at Biola I fared well in the seminar, through Latin was a bit of a challenge as I had merely taught myself the language out of a textbook. I enjoyed everything Professor Reicke did in his classes, but in this seminar his wit and humor seemed to evaporate, and there was only grammar and dull recitation. I obeyed strictly the rules forbidding the use of translations, though more often than not "I found out the Latin by the meaning rather than the meaning by the Latin" (to paraphrase Samuel Johnson). At any rate, Professor Reicke evidently felt it his duty to examine me after only one semester, and I received a passing grade in both languages. I disliked the drudgery of rote translation intensely, but today I chalk that up to boyish folly. Since then I have been associated with grammars all of my academic career, and have toiled hard over the grammar of many languages. The irony is that I am absurdly ignorant of the formal rules of English grammar and often have to rely on the English majors in my classes to resolve points of controversy.

To be continued ...

9:47 AM Over at the Treasuring Christ Church website Sean Cordell, one of my former students, has posted a wonderful piece called Meals are more than food, just ask Jesus. He notes that meals are times of community, as seen in three ways:

  • Meals are places to honor one another.

  • Meals are places to serve one another.

  • Meals are places to enjoy one another.

Little wonder the earliest Christians apparently enjoyed a fellowship meal on a weekly basis. Thanks for this great message, Sean!

9:32 AM This morning I needed to clarify something for Nigusse. He was a bit taken aback when I said that university professors in Basel did not have regular office hours in which to meet with students. This is certainly contrary to what he has found to be true here at SEBTS. I explained to him that there is probably nobody more highly esteemed in all of Europe than a full professor in a government university. As a doctoral student, I was really a member of a very elite society of gentlemen and scholars. The top of the ladder reached even unto Heaven (or so I foolishly thought), and though I was perched at the very lowest rung, I was already seeing visions and dreaming dreams. Returning to California put a quick end to all of that. I was brought back to earth when I resumed my duties as a lowly instructor of Greek at Biola. At any rate, if you are thinking about studying on the continent, I hope this explanation helps. As a regular university student you might not find your professors as accessible as they are here, but then again, doctoral students are usually allowed into the Inner Sanctum. 

9:01 AM Are you praying

7:46 AM Our poor son Nigusse. When he saw those pictures of Becky and me in Basel yesterday he couldn't believe his eyes. "You were once -- young!" he blurted out. That's right, Nigu. And since you asked for more pix, especially from our college days, I am only too happy to oblige. Yes, these are actual photos of your Mama B and Papa B, taken at Biola College. Enjoy! 

Friday, November 25

3:52 PM Ordering Ben's book about his doctoral studies has inspired me to write my own version of "Is There a Doctor in the House? -- Dave Black Style."

In 1980 I was duly matriculated at the University of Basel. I immediately registered for 7 courses. In those days we did not have to attend lectures unless we wanted to. Your professor simply signed your Testatbuch at the beginning of the semester and again at the end. For all he knew, you might actually be taking a course at a different university. The system worked well -- if you were a self-starter. I studiously attended every lecture. I will never forget my first classroom experience. As Jan Milic Lochman entered the lecture hall we students ceased our chattering and rapped our knuckles in applause. For 60 minutes Professor Lochman poured forth a torrential stream of eloquence about his hero Comenius, that great Czech theologian. As the hour struck, he stopped and walked out amid a tumult of cheering. And so it was with most of my lectures.

I was often invited to coffee by other ex-pat students, mostly Germans or South Koreans, to discuss theology in one of the local Stuben. As perhaps the only inerrantist among the Doktoranden I was assaulted mercilessly, but I managed to stand my ground, and no friendships were broken over our disagreements. (I never did become a Barthian.) When I was not in class I was researching my dissertation topic in the University Library which, as you may know, allowed no access to the shelves. It often took an hour or more for an attendant to find a book. As a matter of fact, the Theologisches Seminar (pictured below) had its own theological library to which we doctoral students were granted unlimited access night and day, and it was there that one could usually find me during the afternoon and evening hours.

Occasionally a visiting lecturer would offer public lectures in Basel, and in 1980 this included none other than Francis Schaeffer. As a fellow American I cheered him vociferously, but most of his audience was lukewarm at best, probably because the good doctor was highly critical of Swiss society at the time.

Neither my major professor nor any other professor at the university had an office on campus, so if one wanted to discuss anything with them one had to meet with them in their homes. I was frequently a guest of Bo and Ingelisa Reicke and an occasional visitor at the home of Oscar Cullmann on the famous Birmannsgasse. One time I had the privilege of sharing a meal with Professor Markus Barth and his wife at their villa in Riehen, just outside of Basel on the German border.

That winter of 1980 in Basel was the coldest I have ever experienced. Even the Swiss were commenting on how frigid the temperatures were that year. But our social life suffered little as a result. Once a month Becky and I would take in a free organ concert at one of the city's cathedrals, and every Friday evening we treated ourselves to the one and only MacDonald's restaurant in town. (She ordered a Big Mac, while I insisted on my Filet-O-Fish.) Once we attended a symphony orchestra concert, where we happened to run into the Reickes. Because of our close association with the Baptist community in the city (we had joined die Baptistengemeinde Basel), we were frequently invited to eat with one of the church families, either in their home or in a local restaurant. Here, for instance, is a photo of us with the Jost (pronounced "Yosht") family.

We decided on Chinese food this particular evening, a novelty for them.

Here's Becky teaching their daughter Klärli how to use a pair of chopsticks.

A very good time was had by all, I do believe. Friendships such as these made our stay in that city on the Rhine a richly rewarding one.

Becky and I found Basel a fascinating city. The ancient buildings and narrow streets had scarcely been altered since the days of Erasmus and Calvin. The Great Minster afforded a spectacular view of the Rhine, while the ruins of Kaiser Augst ("Caesar Augustus") took one back in time to the Roman occupation of "Basilea" some 2,000 years ago. Sometimes we dined in a restaurant overlooking the Middle Rhine Bridge (a local landmark) and watched the barges on their way down the river to Rotterdam. I frequently patronized the local bookshops even though I had no money to buy anything. On Sunday mornings we faithfully attended the Gottesdienst at the Baptist church, where there were never more than 30 or 40 people in attendance. If I recall correctly, I preached 4 or 5 times there (in High German) before we returned to the States. A handful of other Americans were attending the university at the time (the names of David Moessner and Donald Verseput come to mind). I recall standing out as the only alkoholfrei American in the group, nor did I smoke a pipe as did so many of the other doctoral students at the time. (Markus Barth's seminars were filled with so much pipe smoke that I am certain I will succumb to lung cancer one day as a result.)

I once accepted an invitation to attend Bernard Wyss's course on reading ninth century Greek minuscule manuscripts, the reward for which was a visit to the sub-basement of the University Library, where an original 1516 edition of the Erasmus Greek New Testament was physically placed in my hands -- a rare volume that I greatly desired to steal, as improper as such an act would have been for a Basel Doktorand. Sometimes Becky and I would tramp together in the Black Forest or the Vosges, and I clearly remember one day standing on the exact spot in the middle of the Rhine where Germany, France, and Switzerland meet. We also managed a trip to Greece during this time, where, believe it or not, I fell in love with okra (which I had previously detested). Exams there were none, save the orals at the end of my program and the inaugural Greek and Latin orals. The theory was, of course, that doctoral students were highly self-motivated and loved to work independently of extrinsic motivations. I wish that as an undergraduate I could have experienced this kind of freedom, but in college we were treated like glorified high school students.

At any rate, I still possess the love of learning that I mastered while a student in Basel, and I got some inkling of what the Germans meant by that mysterious word Innigkeit. Eventually I graduated (with high honors) and life returned to normal, but the radiant happiness and excitement of those old days along the Rhine have never left me.

So ... what was your doctoral program like?

6:49 AM Just ordered from Amazon: Billy Graham's Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well and Ben Witherington's Is There a Doctor in the House? They'll come in handy on those 14-hour flights I've got scheduled in December. And being the WW 2 escape junkie that I am, I also ordered Airey Neave's classic They Have Their Exits.

The next time I'm in Germany I simply must visit Colditz Castle. 

6:25 AM On our plate today: Helping to serve at a luncheon at Bethel Hill for a family whose mother/grandmother just passed over. Always love being at The Hill. We've got some really extraordinary folk there. For example, I have a very good friend whom everybody loves for his unabashed Jesus-like exuberance. Last Sunday, when I stuck out my hand to shake his, he said, "Forget the handshake, Dave, just give me a bear hug." Now remember, here is a man's man. Got me to thinking. It is no accident that, in Christ, we men are called to virtues that are often stereotyped as "feminine" -- patience, gentleness, verbal communication, service, touching. Just read Eph. 4:32-5:2 if you don't believe me. The Church is a she (the Bride of Christ). Now, there's nothing wrong with maleness. I enjoy my masculinity. What's wrong with our male way of thinking is our fear of the feminine. In Ethiopia, Christian men hold hands with other Christian men. (No sexual connotations are communicated by that act.) There the church rises above our Western sexual stereotypes. I noticed the same thing when I was in India. The crucial truth is that, although male aggressivity and female passivity are ingrained in us from early childhood, as followers of Jesus we are all called upon to live beyond our conventional notions of masculinity and femininity. Even the apostle Paul (surely a man's man) could write about himself, "We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her children" (1 Thess. 2:7). Men and brethren, whether or not you hunt or play sports, nothing is more important relationally than the royal law of love by which we lose all fear of the feminine and gladly give bear hugs to men we love.

6:08 AM Henry Neufeld jumps on the bandwagon. Read Fun (or Weird) Facts about Me. Sure makes me want to visit Sacajawea Peak in Oregon. Oh, and Henry, aren't we about due for an Energion-sponsored tour of the Outback?  

Thursday, November 24

7:07 PM In memory of Governor William Bradford (of Mayflower and Thanksgiving fame, and my wife's ancestor), I offer this truthful quote:

All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

6:48 PM Becky has published some wonderful thoughts about Black Friday.

6:37 PM Carl Sweatman keeps it rolling.

5:52 PM Just back from a nice long walk on the farm with Becky and I see that yet another good friend Down Under has joined the fun. And what might that book be about, Craig? Inquiring minds want to know ....

12:10 PM Odds and ends ...

1) In gardening news ... isn't this the sorriest sight you've ever laid eyes on?

Our vegetable garden definitely needed some work today, so while Becky was cooking up a storm (turkey and all the fixings) she asked me to pull up the old tomato plants, which I was happy to do.

You could not have asked for a more beautiful day in southern Virginia. I think the tomato patch looks a bit more decent now, don't you?

While we were at it, we decided we'd plant some iris bulbs in the front flower beds. They will make our yard come alive during the winter months.

 

2) I see Mark Stevens took me up on my offer. Read A little about me.

3) And here's a mega shout out to John Mureiko of Kerens, TX, who just finished his first year of Greek. You can read about it in his latest blog post called I'm Finished!!! I quite agree that this post deserves three exclamation points. John, I was so glad to be able to get yall started back in August.

 

But I'm even happier to see that you have now completed what you started. I tell you, my hat's off to you in a big way!

4) Finally, look what just came out of the oven.

Nigusse, get ready to eeeeeeeeat!

8:26 AM "So, what will be our Thanksgiving verse today, honey?" Becky asked me as we sipped coffee this morning in front of a warm fireplace. The verse that came to mind was, of course, 1 Thess. 5:18: "In everything give thanks." We both agreed that we should give thanks "in" everything but not necessarily "for" everything. After all, that's what we have been taught all our lives. Then I remembered. "There's a verse somewhere," I muttered, "that says we are to give thanks for everything." Indeed, there it was -- Ephesians 5:20: "Giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God our Father." Sure enough, the Greek preposition was huper, "for." The takeaways from this verse struck us immediately:

  • Thankfulness is to be the consistent attitude of our lives; we are to give thanks "at all times" (pantote).

  • Thanksgiving must be more than an attitude, however; it must be expressed.

  • We must learn to give thanks not only "in" every circumstance of life but also "for" every circumstance of life.

  • A thankful spirit is possible because our gratitude is based on the name (character) of the Lord Jesus. Because He is our Master (He is in control of everything that happens in our lives), for us to be grumpy and gripy is like slapping Him in the face.

  • Thanksgiving is directed toward God our Father -- our Creator God (who is sovereign over all His creation) and our Father God (who is our Abba, tenderly loving us more than any earthly father ever could).

B and I are honest when we say to you that the trials of our life have only made us more kingdom-focused than we would have been had we not faced these very difficult situations. Truly, we give thanks for them. Trials happen every day of every year around this planet of hurting humanity. Pain is a universal problem. But God works through every trial that comes our way. He has a Divine blueprint for our lives, and because He is the Originator of the plans, they are workable, believable, and reliable. And best of all, He promises His support to all who trust Him through the painful yet essential process of growth.

Isn't that something to be thankful for?

6:58 AM Potpourri ...

1) If you're looking for Thanksgiving around the web, don't miss Becky's definition of thankfulness.

2) Brian LePort is back home safe and sound after attending his first AAR/SBL meeting. As I recall, last year everybody was "live-blogging" the event. This year, well, the blogs gave way to Twitter. Next year I plan to be in Chicago (the Lord willing), so hope to meet you there, Brian.

3) Peter and John were "idiots" (Acts 4:13). This essayist says so. What do you think? Sound exegesis? Or etymologizing?

4) How do we "seek" first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33)? This answer might surprise you.

5) Mark Stevens says it's time to update your blog roll.

Wednesday, November 23

5:08 PM More farm news ...

1) Just took the dogs for their evening romp.

2) I also fed the donks while I was at it.

3) Here are two questions: Why do dogs have to chase donkeys?

4) And why do they just have to drink rain water (even if it's dirty) when they have delicious well water at home?

Animals! Don't ya just love 'em?

4:28 PM Good evening, bloggers and bloggerettes! Today Nigusse and I got out our trusty Stihl chain saws and laid into the bushes and trees that had been growing along our pond dam/driveway.

The weather was perfect for working out of doors, and we managed to finish the project in no time at all.

Always something to do on a farm!

How's it look?

8:15 AM Interested in a DVD Greek course? Good discussion here to get you started. Our own DVD set is available at a reasonable cost. I am amazed at just how widely it is used. In fact, we just got an order from New Zealand!

7:34 AM Looking ahead ....

During the final two weeks of the semester I have asked two of my doctoral students to lecture in my NT 2 class. Paul Himes will speak on 1 Peter and Alex Stewart on the book of Revelation. Both are covering these subjects in their doctoral dissertations. One of the most winsome traits to be found among the younger generation of New Testament scholars is their desire to learn and then to apply that knowledge. As the Scriptures make abundantly clear, the kind of knowledge that God honors and uses is applied knowledge. That's why it's so exciting for me to see my students studying so hard and then seeking to share their knowledge with others. They have a teachable, probing, discovering, and nondefensive spirit. I'm having a great time mentoring them in their program here. I don't know who's enjoying it more, they or I. And the best thing of all is that they genuinely desire to put into practice what they are learning in God's Word. May their tribe increase.

It just so happened that both Paul and Alex sat for their Ph.D. comps on the same day and had the same persecutors-in-chief (Beck, Robinson, Black). Here's Paul. Paul has begun teaching in our seminary's hybrid program.

And here's Alex. Alex has accepted an appointment to teach New Testament at Tyndale Theological Seminary in Holland upon graduation.

Please pray for them as they complete their dissertations this school year.

5:38 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Bec and I were up early this morning to Skype with the team at 4:00 am (noon their time). Everyone looked and sounded great. Remember the bookmarks Becky laminated for the village children?

We punched a hole in each and added a loop of yarn as decoration. Well, it seems the children are wearing them around their necks. The Gospel going forth throughout Alaba!

2) Less than two weeks to go till my next international trip.

3) Arthur Sido has problems with artificial barriers at the Lord's Table. So do I. Incidentally, the Lord never "invited" anyone to partake of His meal. His words are in the imperative mood and are a command: "Do this ...."

4) How Bob Jones University is changing.

5) The inaugural issue of the journal Soma has an excellent discussion of missions called Christian Ecumenical Partnership from Edinburgh 1910 to the Present: The Home Base, Education, and the Persistence of a Global Church Perspective (.pdf). Missions, it argues, should be a global partnership. I couldn't agree more. (For the philosophy of missions that Becky and I have adopted, see How We Do Missions.)

4:46 AM Tomorrow's turkey day. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers!

So, what are the most precious gifts for which an old man ought to thank God? I have not the slightest doubt that the answer is: the blessing of God Himself. Everything else pales in comparison. Domestic happiness, public recognition, health -- the Trinity is in a different class from all other sources of happiness in life. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking this way. I am childishly fond of a good meal, a happy fireside, a pleasant vista. To climb the Acropolis and marvel at the symmetry of the Parthenon, to ride camel-back to the pyramids of Sakhara in Egypt, to saunter through the ruins of ancient Rome, to linger in the streets of Paris, to marvel at the Great Wall of China or the Herodian fortress at Masada or the grand temples in eastern Korea or the ancient churches of southern India -- all these bring a kind of ephemeral happiness which, though merely passing, are still pleasures. I have always had a roof over my head, always food and family and friends, to say nothing of the joy of a good day's work whether in a classroom or in a hayfield. But that transcendent relationship we call "Christianity" -- that is something to be enjoyed and not to be talked about. I certainly have nothing to complain about under this heading.

The kingdom of God is a place of safety. When you love God first and others second, every other priority of life falls into its proper place. The true disciple of Jesus is someone who is most definitely not looking back. He is concentrating on where he is going and not where he has been. He is looking forward to the day when God will make all things new. Every day it becomes more and more crucial to me that I forget those things that are behind and reach forward to those things that are ahead. Small tasks remain to be done -- and maybe a few larger ones too.

The Master's not through with me yet, or with you for that matter. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, November 22

11:02 AM On Dec. 4 I will be holding a church leadership workshop in Durham, NC. I thought you might be interested in the reading assignments that must be completed prior to the workshop. If you are interested in the topic, you might want to take a look at them yourself. You can print out the list and check off the boxes as you complete your reading.

□ The Book of Acts.

Essays by Alan Knox:

1. Elders (Part 1) – Introduction

2. Elders (Part 2) – Character

3. Elders (Part 3) – Leadership

4. Elders (Part 4) – Teaching

5. Elders (Part 5) – Shepherding

6. Elders (Part 6) – Overseeing

7. Elders (Part 7) – Conclusion

What does it mean to lead among the church?

How leaders work WITH the church.

When a leader is just one person among the church.

When elders/pastors don't have to act like employees.

By working like this.

Why I'm glad not to be that kind of pastor.

Pastoral worries.

Leadership is not decision-making.

When equippers don't equip.

Essays by Arthur Sido

Resumes and ministry.

Pastor principal professional pay.

Knowledge, edification, and worship.  

Preaching the Word is not just for pastors.

Essays by Dave Black

Paul's "Thankless Thanks" in Phil. 4:10-20

What Does a New Testament Church Look Like?

The Rule of Paul

The Thessalonian Road to Self-Support

Sacerdotalism Or Every-Member Ministry?

Recovering Paul’s Perspective on Pastoral Leadership

Companionate Leadership

Church as Meetinghouse

Greener-Pasture Pastors

Why We Must Insist On Every-Member Ministry

Building Christ’s Church: His Way or Mine?

Booklet by Alexander Strauch

Biblical Eldership

7:15 AM Good morning, fellow wayfarers!

Do you have traditions? I do, and one of them is to re-read a certain book about this time of the year. It is a wonderfully written volume called At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. It is a hefty tome and requires a good month of relaxed reading if I am to complete it before that "day of infamy" -- December 7, 1941. Each time I read this book I find a fresh thought that bears fleshing out. Here's the latest: How momentous are the little decisions of life! Every major chapter of our lives had a very small beginning. For Admiral Yamamoto, head of the Japanese Navy, that small beginning came in April of 1940. One day while talking to his chief of staff he muttered, more to himself than to anybody else, "I wonder if an aerial attack can't be made on Pearl Harbor"?

Twelve short words -- and a year and half later Pearl Harbor would become a turning point in world history, an event so horrific, so spectacular, that an entire generation of Americans would grow up saying "Remember Pearl Harbor."

History often impinges upon such smallish decisions. Here I am with Becky while we were dating in La Mirada, California.

When I finally proposed to her it was a small scratch on the slate of history. But that decision has shaped my life for over three decades. What university should I attend? Should I go on for that doctoral degree? Whom should I marry? How does one separate cause from effect or determine the significance of one small decision in life? I believe the reason God does not wipe out our past memory is because He wants to use that part of our lives for the work He has called us to do. He can take each and every decision we've ever made -- wise or unwise -- and make it to be our greatest lesson in the future. He can weave it into the tapestry of our life, and out of it He can teach us wonderful lessons that otherwise we would never have learned.

I guarantee that no matter how old you are, God still has a new work He wants to do in your life. Tell Him you intend to keep on running the race set before you in such a way as to win the prize. Set high goals for yourself -- you'll never reach higher. Don't be afraid to make those really tough decisions that glorify Him. God can use you today to be a blessing to others around you. But following God's will doesn't happen automatically. That's because He has given us a choice as to whether we will seek His will and do what He says. We must decide. We must step out by faith. At this season of the year, perhaps a good place to start is by "giving thanks in all things" (1 Thess. 5:18). Thank the Lord for preserving you to this point in the race. Ask Him to guide your every step. Only He knows the way you should go. Align your heart with His, and watch Him bring your little dreams to fruition.

As for Becky and me, 35 years after she accepted my proposal, we are still moving forward, still passionate about the Gospel, ever seeking new ways to serve King Jesus together. Because of Him, our best years are still ahead.

Now that's something to be thankful for.

Monday, November 21

5:19 PM Hartford Seminary announces an opening in New Testament and Christian Origins.

4:58 PM Here's another quote from my forthcoming Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?

I can’t help but wonder which came first: the impulse to over-theologize the New Testament, thus removing our personal responsibility to obey the implications of Jesus’ teachings, or the tendency to separate thinking from living, doctrine from practice, orthodoxy from orthopraxy. Either way, the answer to bad theology is not no theology but good theology. Let me emphasize again: I love theology! I am all for engaging our minds to their fullest when it comes to the Scriptures. A man who has authored or edited such books as Interpreting the New Testament, Rethinking the Synoptic Problem, and Learn to Read New Testament Greek might well feel justified in calling himself a serious student of the Bible. But the sad reality is that one can write books about the New Testament and yet fail to incarnate the teachings of Jesus in one’s own values, beliefs, and practices. And that is precisely my point in this book. The holiest and most necessary expression of Christian theology is also the most ordinary. God’s grace is experienced in every sphere of life, including such mundane acts as working, eating, and socializing.

Do you agree? Is there a disconnect between the academy and the world Jesus died for?

12:52 PM Recently Mark Goodacre asked, Is blogging really worth it? What an excellent question! For what it's worth, I offer a quick response. It doesn't matter who you are, or how long you've been a follower of the Lord Jesus, or what age you might be, or the condition of your body and soul -- this blog is for you. I've been a devoted follower of Jesus for 51 years and I need this blog too. In fact, I write it for myself as much as I write it for you. That's because you and I are alike. We both find life, at times, complex rather than simple, difficult rather than easy, challenging rather than exhilarating. In the midst of our busy lives, with all of our challenges, it's good to take the time to refocus our attention on God. In the past 8 years I've come to realize just how important blogging has become to me because it allows me time to reflect on all the good things God is doing in my life (and in the lives of those whom I love). It helps me keep focused on who God is and who He has made me to be. By speaking about His goodness and love, my faith is strengthened and I am encouraged to believe the impossible. Who among us doesn't need that?

This blog is dedicated to all my brothers and sisters in the Lord all over the world who long to deepen their walk with God, move into everything He has for them, and become all He has made them to be. My prayer for this blog, and for yours, is simply this: "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us" (Psalm 90:17). I am desperately aware of how much I need His power to transform my life and my circumstances. I don't want to be a spiritual underachiever. I don't want to live an ineffective life. The purpose of this blog is to help us not to forget Him. It is my joy to publish it and my honor to affirm that all my longings, loneliness, and emptiness are more than met in Him. No one will ever know me as well or love me as much. And the same goes for you.

12:18 PM Encouraging word here from Henry Neufeld about avoiding stereotyping when arguing for one's theological point of view.

11:49 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Today I'm fixing a water leak in my crawlspace. Have no idea what I'm doing. Thanks for troubleshooting with me, Ed.

2) Thomas Hudgins is offering a free beginning Greek class in Spanish. You can either attend the class in Apex, NC, or attend "live" via the Internet. For more information, go here (English) or here (Spanish).

3) Recently someone asked me which commentary on Philippians I liked in addition to Hawthorne's. Hands down the answer is O'Brien's.

4) In case you didn't know, we have a web page called Ethiopia Files. We delight in sharing what the Lord Jesus is doing in that great land. It's updated frequently, so do check in with us often.

5) My Ph.D. student Paul Himes has published his favorite resources for studying Jesus and the Gospels

Sunday, November 20

9:47 PM Grateful that my sinus headache has finally passed. Thankful for Maxalt tablets. Even more thankful for a God who heals.

8:20 PM From the new Spanish edition of my beginning Greek textbook:

El idioma griego ha tenido siempre una atracción peculiar para los lectores y los expositores del Nuevo Testamento. Más de un centenar de gramáticas de introducción de griego del Nuevo Testamento se han producido en inglés, muchas de ellas por eruditos de primera clase. Seria inusual, por lo tanto, si la gramática actual no estuviera llena de la influencia de los de la más antigua y estoy seguro de que los que requieren este libro verán las deficiencias de sus precursores. Encuentro, sin embargo, alguna satisfacción al saber que cualquier tema es promovido, en un pequeño grado, por el tratamiento independiente de la misma materia a la luz de lo investigaciones más recientes. Por consiguiente, el objetivo del presente volumen, que fue escrito por la amable invitación de los editores, ha sido para satisfacer la necesidad de hoy en día relacionada con esta materia, una metodología lingüística informada, y un énfasis en los modelos contemporáneos de aprendizaje de idiomas. Las explicaciones simplificadas, los vocabularios básicos, y los ejercicios abundantes en exégesis, el énfasis lingüístico sientan las bases para cursos posteriores en la gramática. Es mi esperanza que este libro demostrará ser de gran ayuda de sus predecesores, y que la naturaleza de las lecciones lo establecerá como una introducción útil a la lingüística griega, un campo que está especialmente preparado para proveer una nueva luz sobre las palabras de la Escritura.

The project is well under way and I couldn't be more excited. Currently we are in discussions with a publisher in Latin America. Prayers would be appreciated.

(By the way, today I treated Becky and Nigusse to lunch at a Mexican restaurant. We were undercharged for our meal. I handled the whole thing in Spanish. Aren't you proud of me?)

7:58 PM This was the week when Herbert Cain failed his Libya test ("I got all this stuff twirling around in my head").

Students take note. When the day of the final comes and you have run out of reasons for doing so poorly in class, you can always resort to alibi:  "Well, you see, your expectations of me are way too high. You actually expect me to remember all this stuff you taught me? Man, I went through brain burnout months ago!"

Of course, there's another alternative. You can always admit you didn't study and that, as a result, you know nothing about the subject.

7:38 PM Odds and ends...

1) Today Nigusse led our Sunday School class. He taught from Ephesians 4 and the way we grieve the Holy Spirit through our harmful words. As he spoke I thought about blogging. Our blog posts can be harmful or helpful. They can build up or tear down. They can make the Holy Spirit happy -- or make Him sad. Blogging is a great joy but also an awesome responsibility.

2) Thanks to your prayers and the help of the Spirit, our Skype connection with our team in Alaba today was excellent. Each of the Bethel Hill crew spoke briefly and then elder Jason prayed for them and their work. Tomorrow the team will begin fanning out to their various ministries. No vacation for them there!

3) Looking ahead ... tomorrow Becky has her next Avastin treatment at UNC. I have toyed with the idea of taking Becky and Nigusse to the Ethiopian restaurant in Raleigh for lunch. You know, showing solidarity with the team, and all that. Do we miss Alaba? Are there cows in Texas?

4) Finally, Jason brought a great Thanksgiving message today on -- the wrath of God! Becky and I both took thorough notes. Hers are published here. Enjoy!

8:53 AM Once again, Kolo got his horns stuck in the fence while trying to eat some grass on the other side. His mama, Fandisha, stayed close by, worried to death I'm sure.

Not to fear: We are here to extricate our goats from their self-induced problems.  Lessons?

1) The grass is always greener on the other side.

2) Our greatest assets (horns) can also prove to be our greatest liabilities.

3) A mother's love is eternal.

8:42 AM Hello Internet friends,

Some of you who have been reading this site for a while may recall that I've been working on a new book called Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? My desire is to reflect accurately what Scripture teaches in the area of associating with non-Christians and their world. I'm not especially concerned with our hallowed manmade traditions of doing missions. I feel like I've hit on some insights that provide a framework that allows me to combine the twin foci of unity and missions that we see throughout the New Testament. So if you'll bear with me, I think I'll introduce you to a few quotes from the forthcoming book. For starters, here's something to chew on:

Jesus’ disciples enjoyed community simply because Jesus and not a set of dogmas was at the center of their life. They never tried to “build community.” They didn’t have to. Community was the result of being united in the Christian mission; community emerged naturally when they committed themselves to something bigger than themselves. And so it is in the church today. It is my personal observation that most Christians begin to enjoy genuine community only when they begin to serve the poor, evangelize the lost, and plant churches. The glue that unites them is the missional task of loving their neighbors. A shared sense of mission drives them to community. Their congregations are mission-shaped. Like Jesus, they literally go. For them the Bible, not tradition, is normative, and they hold themselves accountable to each other in love even while they work closely with the surrounding neighborhood, developing strong links between Christians and not-yet Christians.

I think it's very clear that the New Testament affirms Christian mission as the basis for our unity in the Body of Christ. I feel compelled, out of fidelity to Jesus, to repudiate the notion that cooperation is impossible on a practical level. I'll leave you with this teaser thought: Jesus prayed for our unity in John 17. Can Jesus pray a prayer and it not be answered?

Enjoy the Lord's Day!

Dave

Saturday, November 19

6:48 PM The topic of conversation around the dinner table tonight? Alaba, of course. Many, many happy memories of our times there. And to think it all began because of the murder of a Christian in 2005. It was about then that I began to seriously question the "cult of verbal Christianity" -- the almost intentional preoccupation with Bible teaching to the exclusion of wordless ethics of unmotivated, daily, pedestrian relationships with the suffering church. Loving people far away -- this was always a matter for professional missionaries, not for me. Each of us, I suppose, has to settle this point once and for all. The power of love is attested by our sacrifice, not by our God-talk. We have to make a definite choice to put the kingdom of God first and then trust Him to add "all these things" to us. I am so grateful for that day when I made my first trip to Alaba. It is a place that will always be deep in our hearts.

4:21 PM The disturbing image of students at U. C. Davis being pepper sprayed by police reminded me of something the Polish novelist Stanislaw Lec once said: "In a war of ideas, it is people who get killed."

The appeal of the OWS movement sounds so modern -- rejection of their parents' values, redistribution of wealth -- but it represents the same old half-truth that gave us Socialism. Ideologies, whether of the left or the right, share the same common flaw -- they miss the paradox of the cross. As C. S. Lewis reminded us, there are only two kinds of people -- those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "Very well, then, thy will be done."

Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, and today we blame either big government or Wall Street for what ails us as a society. We are experts at passing the buck, blaming everything and everybody but ourselves for the selfishness we see in the world. The prodigal son had a list of alibis a mile long, but his salvation began when he said, "I have sinned." Modern prodigals on both sides of the political spectrum spout a thousand excuses -- and then go on feeding the hogs.

Truly, we reap what we sow.

12:15 PM Click here and take a tour of Israel via IMAX. Incredible! 

11:10 AM My body is here in Virginia but my mind wanders disobediently to faraway Alaba, land that I love. How are our missionaries doing? How effective will their ministries be? These questions constantly run through my mind. It is becoming clearer and clearer to me each day what missions is. It is a process, and a highly unpredictable one at that. It begins by giving up our presumptuous notion that we can give salvation to anyone. Only the Father can draw the lost to Himself. The work of missions is His from beginning to end. This is a truth that missionaries of Jesus Christ fully and consciously accept. Of course, this does not relieve us of our obligation to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ concrete. This is, after all, our task. This applies not only to the spoken word but also to the language of gestures and actions. I always show this photo whenever I speak about missions because it encapsulates for me what the word "missions" means.

The true import of the Gospel is always perceived through the visible signs offered. The message of Jesus Christ cannot be presented abruptly, without the use of love language that is comprehensible to the listener. In fact, the missionary cannot offer anything more than signs, and it is Christ who then speaks through His Spirit among these signs.

Because missionary service is nothing more than signs, nothing more than a summons, we have no guarantee that it will be effective in any given situation. As a general rule, of course, the Gospel is effective, but if people do not respond to it -- well, that is the rub. As missionaries we have no right to expect a concrete response. All we can do is go on living the signs, aware that the summons to Christ cannot be reduced to any one method or strategy. What we cannot do is fail to touch the person's basic humanity that lies buried beneath the trappings of skin color, educational status, or nationality. No one knew this better than the apostle Paul, who once said of his own missionary work, "Because of our love for you we were ready to share with you not only the Good News from God but even our very own lives. You were so dear to us!" (1 Thess. 2:8).

I am certain that everyone on our team -- Cindi, Katy, Kandace, Abigail, Dale, Jason, Kevin -- all of them together truly and deeply love the people of Alaba. Like the Jesus they serve, they do not try to shine by virtue of their educational or cultural background. They wish to touch people at the very core of their being. The course of history will reveal how effective they were in doing this.

9:25 AM I hesitate to link to this blog entry lest I inadvertently give support to The Etymological New Testament. But Bible students should be aware that this sort of thing happens. For example, here's John 3:16:

For Placer so loved the system, that he gave his uniquely-becoming son that whosoever is trusting into the same, should not be from-whole-loosed, but have life of unconditional-being.

Theos means "Placer"?

Incidentally, etymologizing is not a modern phenomenon only; it was widely practiced in the ancient world as well. And it is one of the exegetical fallacies that Ben Baxter discusses in his forthcoming book "In the Original Text It Says." As I've pointed out to my students hundreds of time, you don't have to have been born and raised in Hawaii like me to know that a pineapple is not an apple that grows on a pine tree.

9:11 AM Becky wants to know, Are You Still Swimming? 

9:04 AM You won't hear about it on CNN, but I have some news that ought to make headlines worldwide. Today we Skyped with Ethiopia for the very first time in history.

We spoke with the Team and everybody looked and sounded great. Tomorrow we hope to Skype with the team in our churches to allow the U.S. congregations to see "their" missionaries.

Please pray, if you would, that all goes well with the connection. I can't tell you what this will do for our ability to communicate with the church in Alaba. Today the Team is resting for the first time since they left on Wednesday. Tomorrow will be a full day of teaching and preaching. In the meantime, let's continue "Skyping" with Heaven, where the connection is always good.

8:31 AM Good day to you, bloggerites of the world!

This week our Greek 3 class finished translating the book of Philippians. We went out with a bang. If anyone wants to know why I recommend Gerald Hawthorne's commentary on Philippians, his discussion of 4:10-20 is a big part of the reason.

Hawthorne makes the following points about the passage:

1) Although Paul championed the right to be supported by those to whom he preached, he preferred to support himself by manual labor.

2) He insisted on doing this for three reasons:

a) He wanted to offer the Gospel free of charge.

b) He wanted to ward off any accusations that his mission was a pretext for greed.

c) He wanted to set the proper example for others.

3) Paul never hesitated to ask for money -- for others!

4) The Philippians' gifts to Paul were unsolicited and violated Paul's strict principles.

5) Paul, therefore, must insist on his own financial independence even as he gratefully acknowledges their generosity towards him.

6) Paul is "self-sufficient" (the Greek word is autarkes) -- completely independent of external circumstances, people, and things.

7) His self-sufficiency is relative, however. He can face any circumstance only because he is "in union with the One who infuses me with strength" (4:13).

It is evident that receiving gifts from others was a very sensitive issue for Paul. It was a matter that required both firmness and tact. Hence he thanks the Philippians without really thanking them. (Some have called Phil. 4:10-20 Paul's "thankless thanks.") The value of their gift was primarily as an expression of the work of Christ in them. Paul is, I suppose, the classic example of a tentmaking missionary. He does not seem to have been concerned about his finances. The Lord had indicated to him that he should work for his own living -- something he is eager to exhort his fellow believers to do as well (Eph. 4:26; 1 Thess. 4:11-12). Yet he was humble enough to graciously receive unsolicited gifts. The only thing he would not do is ask for money for himself.

Most of us find conversations about Christian finances difficult, as did Paul. What on earth are we supposed to do when a close relative of ours asks us to support their summer mission trip? We, like Paul, must be in vital touch with the Lord. We must be prayerfully open to sensing His leading towards the individual He wants us to help. I am certain that I have missed many opportunities because I have been too distracted by my own agenda. But it is essential if we are to help other people that we follow the Lord's leading. One approach that has occurred to me is this: When a loved one asks me to support their summer mission trip, I can say: "I'm happy to help you, but you must match every dollar I give you from your own savings." When I give, I want to see that there is at least some effort by the recipient, if he or she is able, to add to the kitty out of their own savings and thrift. Serving Jesus is costly. Paul knew this very well. During the day he preached; during the night he plied his trade. The truth of the matter is that Paul, united with Christ, was able to face life confidently, irrespective of the aid of others. He was "untroubled by the vicissitudes of life" (Hawthorne). He lacked nothing. And this is true partly because he was willing to support himself.

I find that this principle is perfectly possible to operate in today's world. And I am quite certain that the combination of a high work ethic with a generous spirit of giving (and receiving!) is a great attraction in proclaiming and demonstrating the Good News.

Wouldn't you agree?

Happy working -- and giving!

Dave

Friday, November 18

5:50 PM Ethiopia Team update:

  • Praise God that the team arrived safely in Alaba.

  • Praise God that everyone is healthy and rested.

  • Pray for Miss Cindy as she begins her women's class tomorrow morning.

  • Pray for Kevin who will be setting up Skype and practicing with Becky all day tomorrow. 

1:08 PM This just in! One of my students, Jacob Cerone, has just produced interactive Greek vocabulary cards not only for my beginning Greek grammar but also for Metzger's word lists and the LXX. Go here to check them out. You will not be disappointed.

(Note: Where it says "Sets (92)" you will need to scroll down to access my vocabulary.)

Thank you, Jacob, for this phenomenal labor of love!

12:48 PM Honored to be invited to speak in the Local and International Sunday School Class at Mount Vernon Baptist Church on Sunday, November 27, at 9:45.

11:56 AM Greek students! I've just added the following to my Greek Portal:

The "Living Koine" Approach:

Some professors are trying to teach the biblical languages by using techniques commonly appropriated when learning modern (living) languages. This "living language" approach goes by various names so we'll try to highlight some of the more notable ones here:

 
Randall Buth has popularized a living language approach to learning the biblical languages: http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/
 
Christophe Rico has a PhD in Greek Linguistics and teaches at the Hebrew University in Israel. His living language approach is called "The Polis Method:" http://poliskoine.com/site/
 
Daniel Street teaches at Criswell College and uses the Living Koine approach: http://danielstreett.wordpress.com/
 
Finally, the B-Greek Forum has a running post on current instructors of the Living Koine approach: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=772&sid=dbba84ffdb2f0fb9c43773b88d787eeb

11:28 AM Lee University announces an opening in Theology, as does the University of Dallas.

11:04 AM A thousand apologies for not posting these pictures sooner. I know all of you have been waiting breathlessly to see photos of the blanket Becky made for baby Beki in Burji. Isn't it somethin'?

Note the date: The Ethiopian (Julian) calendar is 7 years behind ours (the Gregorian).

On Wednesday a group of supporters got together at Food Lion in Roxboro to pray for the departing Ethiopia Team. I wanted so much to be there but had to work.

Below: The Intrepid Seven, arriving at RDU. Go, team, go!

Here Mama B gives some last minute instructions to Jason and "Papa" Kevin. (Yes, since Mama B and Papa B cannot go with you, you are now officially a "Papa," Kevin.)

Can you believe it? None of their bags was overweight!

You ask, What are those pompoms for? Believe me, baggage claim is negotiated a lot quicker when you have brightly-colored pompoms on your bags.

I snapped this photo not 20 minutes ago. Becky had called the home of Martha and Demissie in Alaba to check up on the team, who were all at church. So she had a nice conversation (in Amharic, I might add) with our dear sister Martha.

Martha is a national treasure in Ethiopia. She feeds our teams breakfast and dinner each and every day.

She is as much a part of Team Ethiopia 2011 as you are -- if you are praying!

10:06 AM Looking ahead ...

Mark your calendars now to attend the annual 20/20 conference on the SEBTS campus. The dates are February 3-4. This year's theme is "The Scriptures Come to Life," and the plenary speakers include Don Carson, Danny Akin, and Tony Merida. Lots of breakout sessions too. (I've been asked to speak on the topic, "How do I read the Gospels, and why are there four Gospels?") For details, go here.

9:38 AM Good morning, friends!

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what makes missions so important. By very definition, missions is the task of the church, yet up until now "missiology" has remained on the margins of theology. By and large, theologians do not pay much attention to missions, and even newer theological approaches to missions seem designed to revitalize Christendom rather than to call into question age-old assumptions and institutions. How can one really call upon institution that is organized to lead and ask it to serve? Are we not inclined to cling to traditional notions of missions instead of submitting everything we do to the judgment of the biblical text?

The subject of missions demands careful and critical study. Nigusse keeps telling me that I'm going to end up one day writing an entire book on the subject. Years ago I almost did. In the late 1970s I had a meeting in Tübingen with Peter Beyerhaus, the university's highly esteemed professor of world missions, to discuss the possibility of writing a dissertation under his direction. He was eager to begin, but by that time I was already committed to studying under Bo Reicke in Basel. As you know, I ended up writing a dissertation about the church and Christian living (Paul, Apostle of Weakness). But the church comes after the Gospel mission, not before it. The first exists for the second. The church exists only to carry on what Jesus Himself did, incarnating His ministry in a modern cultural context. As I frequently tell my students, "The church is the Body of Christ, and what did Christ do with His body? He gave it for the world." As Bonhoeffer once put it, "The Church is the Church only when it exists for others" (Letters and Papers from Prison, p. 203).

In a brand new essay, my Old Testament colleague Tracy McKenzie and I offer a new analysis of the church as a missionary organism. Our essay is called Top Ten Misconceptions about Missions. Our thesis is that as local congregations begin to study the Scriptures (both Old and New Testaments) they will become what they are by faith: God's missionary people. This is the first of several essays I plan on co-authoring with faculty and student colleagues who share my interest in the theology of the Gospel mission. Who knows where this will lead. Maybe a co-authored book? We'll see ...

Please take a look at our essay and let us know what you think.

Blessings in the Lamb,

Dave

Thursday, November 17

6:50 PM Thank you, Henry, for joining us in prayer for Ethiopia Team 2011! 

6:45 PM I've begun doing the final edits of a magnificence little work.

It's by Ben Baxter and called "In the Original Text It Says." It deals with those infamous word study fallacies that are still celebrated today in sermon and commentary. Here's what Stanley Porter of McMaster Divinity School has to say about the book:

Ben Baxter has written a provocative study that will challenge pastors to be better informed linguistically and hence to be able to be more responsible exegetes. We who teach and preach the Scriptures are given a tremendous privilege and opportunity to open God's word for our people, and we cannot afford to make serious mistakes that misconstrue  its meaning. Although often overlooked, language study stands at the 
heart of good exegesis. Baxter's book will be a valuable tool to help  pastors and teachers avoid falling into some of the common errors and abuses of interpretation of the Bible. I highly recommend that pastors read and, more importantly, learn from and use this book.

Allan Bevere (a magnificent blogger!) and I have added it to the Areopagus lineup.

I'm very pleased with this work and glad I was able to persuade Mr. Baxter to submit it to us. Look for an early 2012 release.

3:52 PM Heartiest congratulations to:

1) Andy Bowden for the phenomenal job he did yesterday in my NT 2 class.

2) Miss Ev Wesson who celebrated her 85th birthday on Tuesday. She has served the Lord and Southeastern as a secretary for 50 years. Happy Birthday, Miss Ev! May God richly bless you for your faithfulness to Him!

3:40 PM Newsflash! Our Ethiopia team has arrived in Addis! Went straight through customs without a hitch. They are now resting at the Addis Kidan guest house before leaving for Alaba tomorrow morning. Keep praying!  

3:26 PM Odds and ends …

1) Here are five myths about young adult church dropouts.

2) Dallas Seminary's Michael Burer has been blogging from the ETS meeting in San Francisco.

3) Someone sent me this:

EXERCISE FOR PEOPLE OVER 50

Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side. With a 5-lb potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax.

Each day you'll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer. After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb potato bags. Then try 50-lb potato bags and then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-lb potato bag in each hand and hold your arms
straight for more than a full minute. (I'm at this level.)  

After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag.

4) Finally, for no particular reason, here are some fun facts about me:

  • My favorite food is … Korean.

  • I cannot stomach … watercress.

  • My favorite TV show is … I don't watch TV.

  • In my spare time I … write.

  • One word used to describe me when growing up … lazy.

  • One word used to describe me today … diligent.

  • If I had a million dollars I'd … give them to the church in Ethiopia.

  • I send this many emails each day … 50.

  • Being a teacher is … humbling.

  • My favorite book that I've written is … The Jesus Paradigm.

  • Before I die I want to meet … Aussie John and Mark Stevens (both live Down Under).

  • My (earthly) hero is … Conrad Grebel.

  • My favorite theologian is … Jacques Ellul.

  • I went to high school at … Kailua High School (go Surfriders!).

  • My favorite spot on earth is … Waikiki Beach at sunset.

  • If I wasn't an educator I would be… an airline pilot.

  • My favorite Bible verse is … Phil. 1:29.

  • My favorite pet is … our Sheltie Sheba.

  • My favorite commentary on Ephesians is by … Hoehner.

  • I am embarrassed that I … can't remember people's names.

  • I used to teach at … Biola University.

  • I once lectured …  on the Costa del Sol in Spain.

  • Becky and I honeymooned in … Hawaii (obviously!).

  • Our first mission trip together was to … West Germany.

  • My first book publisher was … Peter Lang (New York).

  • My first journal article appeared in … the Grace Theological Journal.

  • I was once asked to … head up the Ph.D. program at SEBTS.

  • I have been invited to write commentaries on … Hebrews and Philippians (I passed on both).

  • My longest selling book is … Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek (first published in 1988).

  • My rank in the army (as a Civil War reenactor) is … private.

  • During reenactments I have preached sermons with the following in attendance … Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

  • My fastest speed on horseback when riding cross-country was … 40 miles per hour.

  • Number of "unplanned dismounts" while riding … 3.

  • I named one of my horses "Traveler" after … General Lee's steed.

  • My favorite Hitchcock movie is … North by Northwest.

  • Most people don't know that I … have to work hard to learn a foreign language.

  • I have never been in … South America.

  • The number of states in the U.S. I've been in is … 48.

  • While in high school I made … first chair, first trumpet, in the all-state band (I don't play a lick today).

So … what are some fun facts about you?

Tuesday, November 15

5:58 AM Here's a brief discussion of the Life Cycle of a Pastor. What a very sad commentary. And so unnecessary. We assume that our churches will have a solitary (and soon-to-be-moving-on) pastor. You find nothing of the sort in the New Testament. Theirs was a fellowship of leadership. It involved a team. I am convinced that this is the only real solution to "pastoral tenure." What do you think?

5:48 AM Quick update:

1) Our Ethiopia team leaves tomorrow. Becky has produced a day-by-day itinerary and prayer guide for your convenience. Like Jesus, they are joining those at the bottom, the people on the margins of life. God bless them, each one. They covet your prayers.

2) In Wednesday's NT 2 class our guest speaker will be my Th.M. student (and soon-to-be doctoral student at the University of Munich) Andy Bowden, who will be examining with us the discourse structure of James. His approach is, I must say, refreshingly unique. Before he lectures I'll be sharing a few thoughts about the letter's emphasis on practical Christian living ("Christianity in overalls"). As always, do join us if you are so inclined.

3) Nigusse and I are making our twelfth missionary journey to Wake Forest today. Yes, we are calling our trips to campus "missionary journeys." We pass through Judea (Mecklenburg County, VA) and Samaria (Granville County, NC) before reaching the uttermost parts of the earth (SEBTS in Wake County). We indulge this little fiction as it makes the drive a bit more interesting and enjoyable.

Monday, November 14

1:44 PM Becky just left for church with her laptop. At 2:00 she will Skype Nigusse on the new Alaba laptop which is now on our kitchen counter. If everything works as planned, Bethel Hill will be able to have a video conference with our team in Alaba during our morning service next Sunday. Mind-blowing.

1:35 PM Good day to you, bloggers! As you know, this weekend I was honored to speak at Hunt Springs Baptist Church in Sanford, NC. My talks centered on how radically different the kingdom of God is from the kingdoms of this world and why it is important to faithfully follow the Scriptures in obedience and love, even when this goes against tradition. I just loved the warmth and humility of this wonderful congregation and especially the passion of their pastor to follow the simple teachings of Scripture. One example: The church has declared the entire month of December as "Pastor Appreciation Month." As a congregation that recognizes the sole headship of Christ as the Senior Pastor of the Church (praise God!), they will spend each Sunday and Wednesday during December sharing testimonies of what Jesus Christ has meant to them this past year. Isn't that magnificent?

I think my talks were well received (which is not to say they couldn't have been presented better!). I honestly was delighted when Pastor Wes agreed to announce the event as a "Bible Conference" instead of your typical Baptist "revival" meeting.

As you know, my passion in teaching is to see every Christian instructed in the Scriptures in such a way that they are motivated to become involved in fulltime Christian ministry. Each of us had been ordained by God for missionary service. I like the thought found on the barn of a farmer in Georgia: "Christianity is our business; we farm only to pay expenses." We're all in the business of Christianity regardless of how we earn our livelihood. In the New Testament, the term "call" refers to God's call to salvation and service. Every Christian is called by God to serve Him in the church and the world through personal ministry. Each of us has a gift from God to exercise in the building up of the church for the common good (1 Cor. 12:4-6). God has invited every one of us to experience the joy of serving Him!

A pastor's aim is not to do the work of the ministry but to see that others are engaged in the service of God. Accomplishing this goal requires that pastors/elders become competent equippers who multiply their ministry by the work of those prepared for service. The hierarchy model of church government insists that every organization must have a key or dominant leader. It charges the pastor to be this leader. However, this status and function as Head of the church belongs to Christ alone. Thus ordination, as practiced by most churches today, is unhelpful. If only "real" ministers are ordained, people who are not ordained will have no incentive to develop their gifts of preaching and teaching. Paul made it clear that all of the Colossian believers were to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). The author of Hebrews makes the same point when he writes, "Exhort one another every day" (Heb. 3:13). The message is clear. All Christians are Body-builders (they are to "edify"), but we do not all build in the same way. The New Testament envisages that all Christian disciples will be involved in the "work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). According to Paul, every member ministry is the normal Christian life. It means standing together with our leaders in profound unity, teamwork, and solidarity. In Phil. 1:5, Paul refers to this solidarity as a "partnership" in the Gospel. All of us -- leaders and led alike -- are Gospel partners, longing and striving to see the Gospel defended and proclaimed.

Recently someone suggested that our churches should not have "membership" covenants any longer. Instead, we should have "partnership" covenants. I love that idea! I mean, in the final analysis, what we're after is not more passive church members, right? In our spectator-oriented culture, it's essential to realize that a major element of growing in grace is a willingness to get our hands dirty in real-life ministry.

Do you know the biggest hurdle to this? Me. If I fail to get involved, I will spend my life simply getting by. I've got to give myself permission to serve, plain and simple. God has a unique work for me to do. At the risk of repetition overkill, may I remind us that a life committed to Christ is not a laid-back vacation? God, in grace, has given us the privilege of serving Him. So are we?

I came away from the Bible conference with a refreshing reminder of just how powerful, beautiful, and amazing God's Word is. My conviction is that if our churches would hold loosely to our traditions, we would be able to raise up a generation of leaders and followers who boldly embody Jesus' upside-down kingdom values. May it be!

Cheers,

Dave

Saturday, November 12

8:34 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Last night Nigusse and I waited upon Becky and her friend Rachael, who came over for supper. We figured Becky needed a respite from her arduous labors for Ethiopia. We served them appetizers in the living room ...

...then supper in the formal dining room.

Yes, food was eventually served.

2) This weekend I will be in Sanford, NC, for a series of messages today and tomorrow. The venue is Hunt Springs Baptist Church. Wes, my NT 2 student, pastors there. Service times are 1:30 and 6:00 today and 11:00 and 6:00 tomorrow. And of course, we will be doing lots of good eating today at 4:00 pm. We are Baptists, you know. I hope we will all rekindle our passion for the kingdom while holding loosely to everything else in life. 

3) Bible translation is not easy. This video of the ESV Committee on Translation hard at work is proof positive. I'm reminded of the fantastic truth that we have a God who enters our world through the words of His Word.

4) My hat's off to Arthur Sido for his excellent article on Christian fundraising.

7:50 AM Energion announces a new book on missions.

7:42 AM BeckyLynn here, with a brief report of our day yesterday.

1) Usually for several days before the Team leaves, our home turns into one big suitcase!

The suitcases are packed full of things for the Ethiopian church, but they are not closed until the last minute. Then we weigh them and hope they are not more than the 50 pounds allowed free. At 51 pounds, they cost a mere $200 each! The suitcases for this trip are filled with 2 invertors for the Burji church's solar system, 5 more Sabers for the Rural Bible Teaching program, several sacks of clothes for the evangelists, protein bars, and eye glasses. And hidden in with the rest of the things are clothes and gifts for my "children"...Baby Becky in Burji, Little Tiblett in the village of Shule (Burji), and Young Nathan in Alaba Town. Baby Becky is getting a rattle, Tiblett is getting a Toddler Bible Story picture book, and Nathan is getting some trucks, an ambulance, and a fire-engine (both of which light up and make the appropriate sounds). Sure wish I could be with them when they get their things :)

2) Now let me share with you how my Lord does His work. Several years ago a friend gave me a book marker that she had made. It was laminated, with a picture and a poem. I've kept it, thinking it would be good to do something like this for Christians in Ethiopia. Well, the time has come!  We have 3 young ladies on the Team leaving Wednesday who will be working with the children of Alaba. I'm guessing about 500 children in the Town and villages will be touch by these young ladies. They will be learning about the characteristics of Jesus.

So God put into my head to make these bookmarkers for these children. Two years ago I made laminated posters for the clinic walls. Nigusse and I have cut/pasted from those posters to make these bookmarkers. "Jesus is the Good Shepherd." "Jesus is the light of the world." "Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life. "And so on.  A message about Jesus is on each side, along with a picture or decoration. After laminating them, we've punched a hole at one corner, and we will string yarn through the hole, so these can be hung in homes, etc. Our goal is to make 1,000 of these bookmarkers! They will be spread all over Alaba! The Gospel going forth in the hands of these little children....into their homes, their schools, their neighborhoods, their playgrounds.  And who knows what God will do with His word!

"God is doing a great work!" "God is getting ready to save someone!" Nigusse's enthusiasm is genuine. It has been overwhelming to me to think that my Lord has given me this idea, has given me all the materials to do the work, and is allowing me to have a part in His Kingdom in Ethiopia!

I tell you! There is NOTHING so satisfying, so thrilling, so energizing as working in His Kingdom!  Not marriage, not children, not grandchildren, not health, not wealth, not home or farm ... nothing comes even a little close to the joy and satisfaction of doing His work! Thank you, Lord, for allowing me this privilege!!

In the Kids Kards below, one says "Jesus is the Light of the World; the person who believes in Him will not walk in darkness." 

The other one says "Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever comes to Him will have eternal life."

Friday, November 11

1:20 PM Glad to announce the appearance of the latest volume in our Areopagus series. It's called Except for Fornication: The Teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage.

There will, of course, be disagreement with any book on such a controversial subject. Because divorce (and remarriage) is so prevalent in the evangelical world today, books like this one are important. Without giving away the conclusion, I'll just say that I believe the author has shown us a legitimate way of interpreting the passages involved. It is academic yet readable. I greatly enjoyed editing it.

1:02 PM This week in our Greek 3 class we exegeted Phil. 4:1-9, a passage full of references to the need for unity and cooperation in the cause of the Gospel. I want to say from the start that I have tremendous respect for my students who are trying to effect changes in their churches. I deeply appreciate the fact that they want to go about the process in a way that is conducive to unity and does not fight against it. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I do think it is wrong to force change without at least doing our very best to build a consensus. Commenting on harmony in the church, Howard Marshall (New Testament Theology, p. 347) writes:

Such harmony could arise in two ways. One possibility is that there is considerable toleration of different points of view, so that people do not fight over differences of opinion on nonessential matters. The other possibility is that people are united because they are in agreement about how they should think and act.

This is excellent advice from a leading evangelical scholar. Let's say, for example, you are a leader in a traditional Baptist church and have a desire (which you share with a few others) that the church move forward toward what you consider to be a more biblical ecclesiology, in this case a plurality of elders ("elder-led congregationalism"). This desire, if pursued, is likely to lead to divisions in the church if carried out selfishly – that is, if you fail to consider the needs of others rather than just your own. So, although you are convinced that having multiple elders is a healthier and more biblical pattern for the church than having a single pastor, you are not interested in fighting to get your way. In seeking to introduce change to our churches, there can never be any irritation or ridicule toward someone with whom we might disagree. We must banish from our mindset once and for all both censoriousness and contempt. At the same time, it is still possible (and, I think, both desirable and needful) that every congregation consider carefully what the Scriptures teach "about how they should think and act" (as Marshall puts it). I think this is what Paul means by "being of the same mind in the Lord" in Phil. 4:2. He is referring to a disposition of like-mindedness whereby we bring to the table an attitude of unity, cooperation, amity, and harmony. This is a far cry from putting our brains in park or neutral. And it is certainly no excuse for sloppy thinking. There must be agreement in the congregation that the Word of God comes first, and that whatever course of action is decided upon must be dictated by conviction and not simply by convention. We would all do well to remember that it is our duty to have biblical convictions, and that it is our equal duty to allow others to have theirs. But I'm talking about convictions, not blind allegiance to tradition.

I'm hopeful that all of us, but especially the 20- and 30-somethings in our churches, might be willing to be nothings in God's great kingdom-building program, and that we will refuse to overemphasize the "distinctives" that divide us rather than the faith that unites us. It is my constant hope and prayer that we will adopt a big-hearted and grace-awakened approach to kingdom work without legalism, traditionalism, manipulation, negativism, bitterness, and perfectionism. The quality of our churches depends on it. Paul wrote about putting away childish things when we became adults (1 Cor. 13:11), and that includes mindless adherence to ritual. The readers of Hebrews were sternly chastised for their inattentiveness to God's Word and to their responsibility for spiritual growth (Heb. 5:11-14). It is folly to limit our understanding of the faith to what we learned when we were spiritual infants.

Friends, we have so often failed on character, we have so often failed on kindness, we have so often failed on love. But there is nothing weak or effeminate about grace. At the same time, the church must always be reforming itself. It is just as easy to fail on truth as it is to fail on love. So let’s be patient with each other, remembering that there are some things that will never clear up until we grow up, and others not until we go up.

7:35 AM Lookie what came in this week's mail:

Thank you, Henry, for sending it to me. It is a splendid grammar and leaves no stone unturned.

German books make great bookends, don't they? 

7:22 AM Hey there bloggers! As you may know, I'm in my thirty-fifth year of teaching and writing. What does this mean? What have I learned in all these years, if anything? As I've pondered these questions I have come up a few somewhat tentative answers:

I am not nearly as smart as I once thought I was.

I still make lots of stupid mistakes, such as blogging without carefully proofing my spelling.

I regret that I did not start blogging earlier.

I enjoy teaching more than ever.

I now try to delegate to others what I used to insist on doing myself.

Good teaching focuses on the best students. That is, good teachers think about how they treat their best students and then treat all their students the same way!

Surprisingly, I've written more articles and books than I set out to when I first started teaching.

Everything I've written could have been written better.

I would like to attend more annual meetings (SBL, SNTS) than I'm able to.

Things I like: students who ask questions, well-written term papers, having summers and semester breaks off for travel, the Kona coffee my secretary makes for me every morning, and ethnic diversity in the classroom.

Things I don't like: waiting days for a response to an email I've sent someone, New Testament commentaries that simply repeat what everybody else is saying, not being able to stay up and study as late as I used to, and book reviews that say absolutely nothing.

I definitely don't travel as well as I used to; at 59, I'm beginning to feel my age.

I feel the debate over verbal aspect is much ado about nothing (there are 3 aspects, and the indicative mood grammaticalizes time).

Perception is reality; depending on my attitude, I can spread hope or despair in the classroom.

I am not impressed with size; bigger is not necessarily better. (This applies to churches as well as Christian colleges and seminaries. Oh, did I mention books?)

I feel strongly that attendance should never be required in the classroom.

I pray for my students more than ever, usually outdoors here at the farm with my eyes open, enjoying a natural conversation with my Father.

If I were younger I would do another doctorate (this time in missions).

Nothing makes me smile more than watching my first year Greek students finally "get it."

As never before I realize the importance of love, which alone can keep me from libertinism on the one hand and prevent me from being shipwrecked on the rocks of legalism on the other.

A caring heart is everything in a teacher.

Well, so much for my musings, which probably sound a bit idyllic and utopian. I admit that many of my ideas about teaching are more idealistic than realistic. But I am an optimist! I suppose the best thing about my work is that it's never boring. My workplace is a dynamic environment, and I can't wait to face a challenging task that constantly requires new ideas and a fresh outlook. Teaching is a passion for me and so I never feel really out of place in the classroom. My goal is to provide a healthy learning environment for every student that enters my classroom. Thankfully, when I was a student I had several teachers who modeled what a good teacher should look like, and I suppose my own teaching is a thank-you to them.  Above all, I love learning, and I always hope to remain a student myself.

My thanks and love to the thousands of students I've had in my classroom through the years, to my colleagues who are always uplifting and encouraging, and to my Lord who gave me this passion for teaching and learning. I feel very blessed.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to proofread this blog entry.

Thursday, November 10

4:58 PM My thanks to my colleague David Lanier for his wonderful exposition of Hebrews in NT 2 class yesterday. He scores a solid 10 on his interpretation of the high priesthood of Christ, and deserves a high five for keeping everyone’s attention (mostly through using dry humor, at which he is an expert).

David recognizes the larger metanarrative of the letter and correctly sees the role that the mystery man Melchizedek plays in its argument. He handled well the difficult topic of genre (Hebrews is a "word of exhortation," i.e., sermon) as well as the critical issue of authorship. His talk was easy to follow and thought-provoking, informed by both scholarship and faith. Hebrews is a great book for a Protestant church that is struggling with easy believism and cheap grace. It's tailor-made for a Bible study group. Its focus on the present tense of salvation in no way minimizes the past tense of (forensic) justification. In addition, I love how the author demonstrates how richly valuable the Old Testament remains for the Christian community. No one reading his "word of exhortation" can do so without gaining a deeper appreciation of the great and abiding benefits we enjoy because of what our Great High Priest did for us on the cross.

As an aside, David and I have reenacted in several Civil War battles together. Occasionally he "galvanizes" and fights in the Blue, which means that we have often squared off against each other at about 100 yards distance. Not once, however, has he ever gone down. Either I'm a very bad shot, or the Federals wear Kevlar uniforms.

4:42 PM Got time for some blogspotting? Here are some interesting essays and blog entries I found recently:

1) Play a brass instrument? Europe is calling you! Go here to find out how.

2) Alvin Reid is calling for a revolution in youth ministry. (Hint: A key is incorporating them into the life of the whole church.)

3) The first ever 9 Marks conference in Hawaii is now history. You can read a brief report here. If SEBTS ever opens a campus on Oahu, I volunteer to teach Surfing 101 and Beach Bumming 202. (I'm good at the former but a real expert in the latter.)

4) Rick Perry stumbles at a presidential debate. So what? "There is not a perfect candidate … and I'm proof positive of that every day," was Perry's response.

Good for you, Rick. As a person who knows a little bit about public speaking, I have to say that gaffes are a normal part of doing business. So is the ability to pull yourself together after making one and joking about it. The debate in America today is not about the scope and perfection of a person's elocution but about the nature of politics. I am currently writing a book (called Godworld) in which I argue that it is completely incoherent for a Christian to place any faith at all in the religion of politics. That said, I have never said that Christians should not become involved in politics or should not vote. Just don't claim that your candidate has a unique "Christian" stance on the issues. Vote your conscience, even if that means voting for a man who is known for his shaky debate "performances."

5) Speaking of politics, I see that Michelle Bachmann is telling Americans to give up two Happy Meals in order to pay their Federal income taxes. I have a better idea. You can donate your $10.00 to the needs of God's church in Ethiopia. Brilliant, huh?

6) I have written before about my Ed.D. student Thomas Hudgins and his wife Lesly who are graciously translating my beginning Greek grammar into Spanish. So far they have completed a draft of the entire book and we are now going through it with a fine toothed comb. If you or someone you know would like to help us read through the manuscript, please feel free to contact me at dblack@sebts.edu. I'm continually amazed at what God is doing with this project. Whatever else you can say about language teachers, they sure do have lots of fun. My ministry is one of equipping and encouraging, and it is so good to see that work expanding into another language. Thank you for your prayers for this project. It is a huge task, but God is able.

7) Finally, Rod Decker reviews William Mounce's book Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide. Bill Mounce has done a yeoman's service to the cause of New Testament Greek, for which he deserves a lot of credit. He gives us books that are both readable and accessible. I have read most of Bill's works and have never been disappointed. I recommend his works to all Greek students, whether beginning or advanced.

4:03 PM Greetings, my fellow missions-minded bloggers!

Just back from a great time of ministry on campus. Much of our discussion centered on what God is doing in the world today. I continue to be amazed at how the church is growing worldwide. In China, for example, it is now estimated that there are about 130 million Christians, with about 10,000 new converts each day. Perhaps one of the greatest needs the church in China has is for trained leadership who will be able to disciple the new believers and teach them how to read and study the Bibles on their own. Even in severely restricted nations like Burma (Myanmar) we are seeing an explosion of growth. Many today estimate that the Burmese population is 4 percent Christian and growing. Every night on campus Nigusse and I pray for an unreached people group in a specific nation of the world. In addition, I am always interested to hear of organizations that are trying to do what they can to help believers in these nations. One such effort is called the Chinese Treasures Christian Library 5.0, which contains 177 different Bible, books, and other Bible study resources available free of charge. Becky and I are doing something very similar in southern Ethiopia, where we have distributed the J. Vernon McGee "Through the Bible" series in Amharic to the rural churches, and they are loving it!

Speaking of "Utopia," right now we are in full countdown mode here at the farm. Team Ethiopia 2011 leaves in just 6 short days. If you follow this blog, you know that we talk quite a bit about global missions and the part each one of us has to play in the Big Picture of world evangelization. Just what is that part? Remember: You can't lead a person to Christ. You can't bring another believer to maturity either. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But we can be a link in that chain. For whom are you a link today?  God has made the United States of America the wealthiest nation on earth for a reason, yet so many of us go on living as though we have no obligation to a lost and dying world. I am told that more than 95 percent of the total church budget in America is spent to maintain our programs at home rather than to reach out in missions to others. While we sit here, super-saturated with the Gospel, most of the world is waiting for a first taste of the living water that Jesus promises to anyone who is thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are. Let's all be a link in the chain. We can at least pray earnestly every day for the work of global evangelization. We can go as God opens the door for us. We can seek to be Christ to those who don’t yet know Him by developing webs of friendship. The good news about evangelism and the Great Commission is that you don't have to be a superstar to get involved. I love what we do in Ethiopia because it allows us to partner with simple, everyday believers there who are just like us in so many ways – in need of encouragement and occasional help. You say, "I've messed up too much in my life to be any good to God." I say, let the past be a rudder, not an anchor. Learn from it, but don't ever let it hold you back from living the kind of radical, sharing lifestyle that Christ calls us to.

As our team prepares to leave for Ethiopia, I have a question for you. What is your life worth to you? It's not what we give that counts but how much we keep. John Wesley once said, "To lay up treasure on earth is as plainly forbidden by our Master as adultery and murder." May we all discover the joy of living for something bigger than ourselves, of entering into servanthood on behalf of others, of serving God in the power of the Holy Spirit. God can use us. He really can. Will we let Him?

Missional blessings,

Dave

Monday, November 7

6:31 PM Good evening, friends. Today Becky and I enjoyed a long and enjoyable drive through the Virginia countryside. The weather was beautiful and the trees full of color. The beauty of the Piedmont in the fall beggars anything else. I think I told you that we will be in Hebrews this week in our NT 2 class -- Hebrews being the most non-anonymous of all the anonymous NT writings. (Read chapter 13 and you will see that the readers knew exactly who the author was.) The general consensus of opinion, not only in the academy but now also on the street, is that the apostle Paul could never have authored anything as magnificent as Hebrews. You may have guessed by now that I do not necessarily agree with the majority on this issue. I have little time, however, for such matters these days. Work, real scholastic work, is piling up, and my anticipated leisure after the weekend's campout has failed to materialize. Tonight, however, I have no energy for anything other than snuggling up with my latest book purchase (a tome on the Battle of Chancellorsville). One final thing, though. Today we received this picture via email. It shows Bradford Lee Black at 7 weeks. Isn't he the most gorgeous grandbaby you have ever seen?

Yes, I realize Scripture says that "love does not boast," but I'm sure that Paul did not have grandfathers in mind when he wrote that.

7:45 AM Hello bloggers.

Yesterday I had a lot of fun giving a message about how God is beginning to shake the foundations of the way people in the church think about the kingdom. I spoke about obedience -- not necessarily huge, momentous decisions, but little, tiny steps of discipleship. The kingdom is a subtle contagion. It expands one small step of obedience at a time in our lives. For example, Jesus turns power and authority on its head, and His followers say, "Okay, makes no earthly sense to us, but if that's what the Master says, it's good enough for us." Before his conversion to Christianity in AD 200, Minucius Felix said of the Christians, "They despise titles of honor and the purple robe of high government office ... calling one another brother and sister indiscriminately." He noticed how radically different the kingdom of God is from all versions of the kingdoms of this world. The radical vision of a Calvary-like kingdom is so new to me that I sometimes forget that it's been around for almost 2,000 years!

The congregation I spoke to yesterday is, I think, catching a vision of this cruciform kingdom. Christendom is dying a slow death in America. The church is becoming wary of cheap optimism under religious auspices. Jesus is calling us not to a picnic but to a pilgrimage, and the path is anything but easy. Anything can happen. You can get hurt, and you may be killed. I challenged the congregation to fight "the real battle of Jericho" -- to become aware of the danger of becoming so busy with the trivial that we never get around to kingdom business. Like the Pharisees, we can get so fussy about washing pots and pans and wearing robes and phylacteries and being called rabbi and seeking high places in the synagogue, and all the while tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom ahead of us.

Blessings,

Dave

Sunday, November 6

7:50 AM Here's a nice serendipity. We heard from Oshe yesterday who wrote, "We have another Becky in Burji now." Becky is Desta's new baby daughter.

Who is Desta?

In 2009, sister Desta came to our heath clinic suffering from acute pre-eclampsia. My Becky, realizing just how serious the situation was, placed Desta in the ministry truck and sent her off to the hospital in Arba Minch. Becky wrote specific instructions for the hospital staff there -- you need a medical advocate in Ethiopia if you expect anything to get done -- and told them that Desta needed to have an immediate C-section in order to save her life and the baby's. The hospital did nothing for three weeks. Eventually the C-section was performed, but the baby was lost. Desta's life, however, was spared by the grace of God.

Now the Lord has given Desta a baby girl, born safely by natural childbirth! And she has named the baby "Becky." Thus ... "We have another Becky in Burji now." This, for us, is quite a surprise and a great honor, since it goes against all of the naming traditions in Burji. Here's Becky's reply to Oshe:

Oshe, that is WONDERFUL news about Desta!!!  Praise God!!!  His mercies are new every morning!!!  It is amazing to me that she has named the baby Becky.  I pray that this baby Becky will see the face of God early in life, and will give herself completely to following Him, loving Him and trusting Him.

Below is a picture of Desta on her way to the hospital in 2009.

A year later Becky and Desta were tearfully reunited in Burji.

She and her husband presented us with a goat as a token of their gratitude. What a great honor for us!

Isn't that, as I said, a nice serendipity? Isn't God's grace something else?

This morning, in case you were wondering, I am speaking from Joshua chapter 6 on "The Real Battle of Jericho." It was (a) a spiritual battle, (b) a battle of faith, (c) a battle of obedience, and (d) a battle of humiliation.

Trivia question: Is Joshua a book of history or a book of prophecy in the Hebrew canon? The answer might surprise you.

Have a great day!

Dave

Saturday, November 5

9:36 PM I haven't had an opportunity until now to tell you how our first annual campout went at the farm. Considering the fact that we held it so late in the year (when the weather is so unpredictable), I think it was a huge success.

As a group we camped together, ate together, sang songs together (mostly country gospel -- we're all rednecks, after all), sat around and talked -- a lot -- and otherwise teased each other no end. Because the valley had been flooded out (we received over 2 inches of rain the night before), we set up the tents in our front yard.

On the left is the Hilton where the men slept; on the right is our Civil War reenacting tent that Becky and I slept in countless times on "battlefields" near and far. The young whippersnappers started out there but somehow, by morning, had all ended up indoors in front of the fireplace in the library.

The ladies all slept indoors. We had lots of good talks, as I said, no doubt partly because so many of us have been to Ethiopia together, including Marshall, who is shown here with his buddy "Goosie."

I feel incredibly blessed to have friends like these. What amazed me was how often the conversation turned to the theme of every member ministry and how all of us are in fulltime ministry regardless of our vocation or location.

As you can tell, this is in keeping with my current obsession with the simple pattern of the New Testament. The ladies, of course, fed us royally (thank you!). I honestly doubt whether any of us have ever eaten better.

We sat around singing last night.

But things soon got out of hand, especially when Marshall starting chiming in with his deep bass voice. (I won't say anything about his rendition of "Danny Boy.")

No outdoor bonfire, but marshmallows roast just as well in a fireplace, I guess.

For me the highlight of the weekend was the scavenger hunt that Becky had organized.

We divided into teams and were sent from place to place on the farm to find little placards with Scripture on them.

We all had to memorize Romans 1:16-17, and by the time we got back to Bradford Hall each of us had recited the passage to our group at least 24 times.

Of course, Becky had us compete against each as teams for the right to go first in the lunch line, and, sad to say, my team came in last. (Life is not fair.)

Will we do this again next year? Judging from the positive response of the group members, the answer is a resounding yes. A big tip of the kepi to Becky for all the hard work and preparation she put into this weekend, and to Nigusse for helping me with tables, chairs, and tentage. Nigusse, you were a real trooper this weekend. Bless you for your willingness to adapt to our crazy American culture.

Friday, November 4

9:14 PM Well, the tents are up, the rain has stopped, the moon is out, the temps have dropped, and our campout is finally a reality.  Thanks to the help of miss Abigail, we had 26 people at our dinner table to feast on beef stew and homemade bread. The gang has gone for a flashlight walk while I've been assigned the task of heating up the hot cocoa. Shortly it will be time to roast marshmallows. The big question: Who will sleep outside tonight? Stay tuned ...

2:57 PM Speaking of true biblical manhood, in our Philippians class this week we were reminded of the fact that the apostle Paul was not unaffected by raw human emotion. In 3:18 he writes, "I have told you this many times before, and now I repeat it with tears in my eyes: there are many whose lives make them the enemies of Christ's death on a cross."

There is nothing weak or pitiful about tears. Paul was brokenhearted over the lost. He ached for their salvation. He wept over broken relationships. Honestly, so do I. Frequently. Especially during my prayer times. Nothing in this world can be as dry and flat and tedious as a Christianity without emotions.

Our Lord knows all about weeping. We have historic fact on the subject: "Jesus wept." And He is the ultimate Mensch.

2:13 PM Quote of the day:

For all of my book knowledge and all of my doctrinal study and my ability to deliver a monologue, I am not a very mature Christian. I need to learn from other men and I can't do that in a pew. If we don’t recover this vision, the next generation in the church is going to look even more like a quilting bee and less like the vibrant church full of godly servant-leader men we see in Scripture.

Read Dudes needs dudes to learn how to be dudes.

1:20 PM I'm sure most of you could care less (and I wouldn't blame you one bit), but it was exactly 8 years ago this month that I began blogging. Go here if you'd like to see what my original blog looked like back in November of 2003. Sometimes little things have big consequences. I never imagined 8 years ago that I'd still be blogging today. The thing is, there is absolutely nothing I'd rather be doing -- apart from teaching, evangelizing, traveling, farming, living life to its fullest, etc.! What is most amazing to me is the fact that, out of His unfathomable love, God allows me to do all of these things and not only do them but enjoy doing them. I just wish I could articulate what I'm thinking half as well as some of you out there in cyberspace. Oh, and my blog is SO old-fashioned. Have you noticed? Nothing has changed in all these years (except for the fact that I now know how to center pictures!).

So, 8 years. Not bad for a guy who usually has his nose in a book or is traveling to some faraway country. And this, I believe, is truly a very nice blessing from a very serendipitous God.

12:50 PM The controversy over the best Bible translation continues. Of course, no translation is quite as effective as the flesh and blood kind. As a "living epistle," you are the world's most-read Bible. The only question is: Are you merely a paraphrase, or are you a translation of the original?

12:21 PM Looking forward to speaking in Annapolis, Maryland, January 7-9. Hope to visit the U.S. Naval Academy while I'm there. I'm told the USNA Museum has an outstanding display of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

11:42 AM Campout update: It's been raining all night and the word is it's supposed to continue to rain until this evening, when the weather will turn clear. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny but cold. If nobody shows up, Nigusse and I will have to eat a lot of food, that's for sure.

Thursday, November 3

5:40 PM Looking ahead…

1) In just over four weeks I leave for Asia again. This will be my third major trip there this year, but all for a worthy cause.

2) Good news here: Becky's visa for India has finally come through. Now we're working on Nigusse's. The trip is scheduled for next February. Can't you just see the two of them traipsing around Sikkim, Nepal, and Bangladesh together?

3) This weekend I am back at the Chinese Christian Mission Church in Durham. The first part of the day will be spent having communion with the Chinese congregation. That will be a first for me and I am looking forward to it. Afterwards I'll speak to the English congregation.

4) The following weekend I've been asked to do a "revival" at Hunt Springs Baptist Church in Sanford, NC, Saturday and Sunday. I say "revival" in quotes because actually all I'll be doing is bringing four very simple Bible-based messages that I hope even a young child can understand. If you're in the area (or even if you live in California and have frequent flyer miles), do consider joining us. Service times are Saturday at 1:30 and 6:00 and Sunday at 11:00 and 6:00.

5) Finally, tomorrow night and Saturday – believe it or not! – we're holding an all-church campout at Rosewood Farm. That's right, bring your tents, thermal underwear, and sleeping bags, because it will be cold (as in 30 degrees at night). Just tryin' to toughen ya up for the mission field, boys and girls!

5:12 PM Odds and ends ...

1) East Texas Baptist University announces an opening in Biblical Studies. Ditto for Columbia International University in Intercultural Studies.

2) Here's another reason I love working with Energion Publications so much:

Energion Publications is small (but growing). I have to consider business. I do have to sell books or I'll shut down. But the ultimate mission is not making money. It's about making followers of Jesus. We ask the question of whether we can sell a book before we publish it. But we also ask, "Is this book going to build God's kingdom?" That's part of every conversation on whether to offer an author a contract.

I'm not exactly sure what qualifies to be a "heavy-hitter" in today's world of publishing, but as far as I'm concerned Energion is almost everything an author could hope for. What an excellent, Christ-centered, Gospel-focused, kingdom-building enterprise! Thank you, Henry, for your inspiration, integrity, and determination. It is a joy and honor for me to work with you.

3) I want to commend to you the papers from the conference on church planting and renewal held this year at the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. Topics include the quest for the historical Jesus and the continuation of New Testament prophecy. You can either listen to the audio or print out the lecture notes/papers. My thanks to DBTS for making these papers available to a wider audience.

4) My colleague Alvin Reid has written a phenomenal post about encouragement. We all carry burdens, some larger than others, but all of them are still burdens. In a way that's good news, because troubles are the raw materials for our inner growth. Growth is simply a positive response to our difficulties. But it sure makes a huge difference when we have someone beside us cheering us on. Goethe said, "Correction does much, but encouragement does more." So read Alvin's essay and be encouraged. Then go out and encourage someone!

4:56 PM Greetings, faithful visitors! The Wednesday edition of NT 2 featured my colleagues Maurice Robinson (who spoke on textual criticism in general – and why he defends the Byzantine Priority position) and Steve Frary (who walked us through the variant in 1 Tim. 3:16). Years ago Steve wrote a paper for me on that passage that was subsequently published in Filologia Neotestamentaria. Go here for the online version of Steve's excellent essay. In class, I discovered something about Maurice I had not known before, namely, that he had studied textual criticism under the renowned New Testament scholar Kenneth W. Clark at Duke, which makes Big Bo a truly accomplished textual critic, since he now has the best of both worlds – a Duke education and a Southwestern Ph.D. (Yes, I stole that line from President John Kennedy who, when speaking at a Harvard commencement, quipped "It might be said now that I have the best of both worlds, a Harvard education and a Yale degree.") According to my colleague, it was Clark who first challenged the young New Testament scholar to question the Alexandrian Priority view, which has led to no end of helpful contributions to the field by Maurice. I am so glad to hear that there are profs at Duke who know how to grab students by their brains and turn them loose. We do need to teach outside-the-box thinking to make education meaningful to today's generation of students. I have already told you that I picked my seminary professors because of their ability to motivate, not disseminate (information). This created an atmosphere of mutual respect and maximum learning. This is, in fact, what I am trying to do in my NT 2 class by having so many guest lecturers who are experts in their fields and good communicators to boot. So thank you, gentlemen, for making our class come alive – and that's saying a lot when you consider that textual criticism is such an intrinsically "boring" subject (he-he)!

Speaking of our NT 2 class, you might be interested in some of the class assignments that were due yesterday:

Also, Justin Taylor asks a very relevant question to anyone who is studying the Pastorals, Must an elder's children be believers?

Next week: Hebrews!

Tuesday, November 1

6:45 AM Odds and ends ...

1) Shout out and congrats to my colleague and friend Heath Thomas whose new book Great Is Thy Faithfulness? has just been published. Looks like a winner. And don't you love those Wipf & Stock book covers?

2) Danny Akin answers the question, What Are Your Thoughts About Calvinism?

3) Marian University announces an opening in Pastoral Theology.

4) This week in NT 2 (Binckley 102), Maurice Robinson and Steve Frary will be defending the reading "God" in 1 Tim. 3:16. As always, guests are welcome.

5) Heard of the Great Commission? How about the Mediocre Commission?

6) Need some Ph.D. advice?

7) The Logos edition of the International Standard Version is now available. As you may know, I had the privilege of serving as the New Testament editor when the New Testament was translated many years ago.

8) Finally, the world population reached 7 billion yesterday, just 12 years after hitting 6 billion. 7 billion people are 7 billion good reasons to be about the Father's business of global evangelization.

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