Monday, August 31
10:20 PM What a great day it was. The weather was perfect for mowing and weeding. Then I came inside to cook spaghetti for Becky before heading off to Greek class. We had only 4 students tonight, but all of them did superbly on their exam. I'm proud of each one. Becky is resting comfortably. I'm going to watch a bit of Gettysburg before turning in. I can't wait to get back to campus tomorrow. I'm expected to do the impossible on Wednesday and give a 5 minute sabbatical report to the faculty. I need at least an hour. God has been so good to me this past year it is unbelievable.
12:42 PM I have met many Korean missionaries the world over, including Ethiopia. They are some of the most incredibly passionate and committed Jesus followers I know. I have had the privilege of teaching 6 times in Korean seminaries. As this story shows, Korean missionaries have paid a tremendous price for their faithfulness to the Gospel. People may think they're crazy. Maybe they are in the world's eyes. But to me they are Epaphrodituses (Phi. 2:25-30).
12:26 PM Rosewood Farm welcomes its second calf of the season.
12:12 PM Expecting a high today of 69. Fall is in the air. Wonderful.
9:41 AM Harvard is some university. I see that the inimitable Harvey Cox will take advantage of the school's traditional grazing rights to bring a Jersey cow to school on Sept. 10. Hmm, I wonder if I could do the same thing on our campus, sort of to show my solidarity with Harvard -- you know, one bovine lover to another. The big unanswered question, of course, is: who will clean up afterwards?
9:28 AM Thank you, Alan, for reminding us that there is no teenage Holy Spirit and adultHoly Spirit. There's just the Holy Spirit.
8:50 AM It's going to be a great week: Andreas Köstenberger guest lecturing in my theology class, our first quiz in beginning Greek, translating the opening paragraph of Philippians in our syntax class, mentoring my doctoral students. Thank you Jesus for your kindness to me.
8:43 AM I appreciated Zach Kennedy's latest blog post on what the kingdom looks like. I wish I had that perspective when I was in seminary. I pray that all of my students would catch a glimpse of this vision of the kingdom. The church must understand that it is not a club to be served but a work force to be deployed around the world in Jesus' name.
8:38 AM Greek class will meet tonight at The Hill. You'll grade your exam over chapter 16 and then I'll introduce nouns of the third declension, which are sure to give you a Charley Horse between the ears unless you're real careful. Don't worry: I'll simplify things.
8:32 AM Once again thanking Mrs. Lapsley for her visit and the Lord for giving Becky a good week with her mom.
8:25 AM Over $60,000 was given at SEBTS to our "Christmas in August" offering for missions. Praise be to God. Is it possible, however, to become too concerned about money and to assume that missionaries cannot be sent out unless they are fully supported by those at home?
Think about it, blogging buddies.
If we really believe that every Christian is a missionary, then this situation must change. Each and every Christian must be ready not only to give but to go. There are nations whose doors are wide open to businessmen and educators who are paid salaries for their work. It is my conviction that unless a much higher percentage of "laypeople" get involved in missions and evangelism, the task of world evangelization will not be done. Not long ago I received an email from an American who was teaching New Testament Greek in a secular university in a closed country. He wrote to tell me that they were using my beginning grammar in class. He was being paid to teach not only Greek but courses in New Testament as well. Amazing! Although not a "fulltime Christian worker," I consider him as a missionary, which indeed he is.
I'm not saying we shouldn't increase our giving to the Lottie Moon offering. But I am saying that we should face the reality of the need for tent-making missions. If the average church today should suddenly take seriously the notion that each Christian is called to fulltime Gospel service (as we are), we would have a revolution in missions overnight. To whom did our Lord entrust the Great Commission? To pastors only or to the whole laos -- all the people of God? Unless the church harnesses its "people power" for world missions, the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers will never be effectively implemented.
I deeply appreciate the appeal for our students to consider going overseas as fulltime, paid missionaries. This is as it should be. I also think it is time for a concomitant challenge to our students to consider themselves as missionaries in the nonprofessional sense. Each of us is to be Christ's servant in all sectors of life. Each of us is to take the Gospel and its saving message out to where the people are. Each of us has a responsible trusteeship for the physical, political, and social worlds in which we live. As I have grappled with my own priorities, I have sensed a renewal in my own life and vision. God has rebuked me for thinking I could abdicate my responsibilities to professionals. I am committed to working with my fellow "lay priests" to build on the teaching of the Scripture that says that all of us are to be involved in service, whether this means volunteering to teach a Greek class on Monday nights in my local church or spending several months each year in Ethiopia.
Bottom of the bottom line? It's not "THEIR" job to get the work of missions done. It's MINE.
8:10 AM Greek students! Richard Sugg has produced an excellent system of free vocabulary cards for my beginning grammar. If you're interested in using them, go here.
Sunday, August 30
1:22 PM Boy does this story bring back memories: Tsunami at 10. I was 5 years old when the tsunami hit Kailua. I clearly remember the sirens wailing and the radio telling us to move to higher ground. So what did my uncle do? He took us all to the beach to watch the tidal wave. I'm amazed that no one was killed. "Through many dangers...."
The picture below shows the 1946 tsunami in Hawaii that hit the islands on April Fool's Day. The result was great loss of life.
12:51 PM Church was great. As Jason spoke from 1 John 3:18 about loving one another my mind kept wandering to Rom. 12:10: "Be devoted to each other like a loving family." I am totally proud of my church. Not only do we believe the Word but we also seek to obey it, especially its love commands. I so enjoy hearing brother Joel, week in and week out, talk about our privilege to "one another" and brother Jason talk about the mission of the church to the nations. I'll admit it was hard for me to listen to Jason talk about James (below right). James went with us to the Gujis as our translator. I've written about him here. James gave his life for the Gospel. His sacrifice will always exemplify the love of Jesus to me.
It was great to see people love on Becky this morning. They embraced, exchanged "Love you," then embraced again. I often think how much God must delight to see His children acting like family. I have to say it makes handling Becky's illness a lot easier for me.
Mom was a real blessing this morning. Her prelude ("Amazing Grace") was beautiful, as was her offertory anthem. By the way, can you guess the name of mom's flute choir in Dallas? Here's a hint: "________ of the Spirit."
We'll miss mom when she leaves tomorrow. She's been the hands and feet of Jesus to us in so many ways. Right now she's cleaning the lunch dishes even though I offered to do it. She is a great blessing to us.
8:22 AM Off to Bethel Hill -- with Becky!
7:56 AM Tom Fisher reflects on Viola and Barna: Pagan "Church" Buildings.
7:44 AM Good news. Ca-Vel Baptist Church raised over $550.00 for Ethiopia yesterday in Roxboro. Thank you, brothers and sisters of Ca-Vel!
7:23 AM Becky's latest essay in her series on suffering is called Coping with Trauma. I appreciate her perspective:
Life is full of trauma. It is the Lord Himself who keeps us from being destroyed by the trauma. The beginning of healing is to purposefully, consciously, methodically remember His active presence in the midst of the trauma. From this exercise will come the calm and peace that always flows from Him; His healing oil runs over the wound. The pain does not leave, but now it is mingled with calm as we see His strong arm acting on our behalf.
Saturday, August 29
4:58 PM The price of books is being bandied about again I see. Two brief thoughts:
1) Most of the publishers I have worked with have listened to my appeals and have tried to keep the price of my books in the moderate range. This is especially true of Baker (6 books thus far). This is easier to do, I suppose, when the book can be expected to sell well as a seminary or college text.
2) Students can and should shop around for the best buy. If they can find one of my required texts on Amazon, for example, more power to them. Personally, I buy used books rather than new ones from Amazon. For the most part these have been in very good condition.
I do think publishers have a good feel for what the market will tolerate. On the rare occasion when I require a text that everyone knows is overpriced, I tell my students: "This book is worth its weight in gold, and will cost you about as much." But in no case do I think any publisher I have worked with is a Scrooge McDuck.
2:32 PM A brief update on Becky. All in all she's doing very well. Her pain remains under control for the most part. Her tiredness dogs her but it is to be expected. Having her mother here has been a Godsend. Right now she is napping. Otherwise she does handwork and rests. If she feels up to it -- and her mother gives us the green light :) -- she hopes to attend the main service at The Hill in the morning. We'll see.
One thing is certain: The Lord in His faithfulness is helping us. Thanks to Him for enabling us to praise Him in the midst of the storm.
2:12 PM A belated congratulations to Timothy Tennant upon his selection as the new president of Asbury Theological Seminary. What a joy to see a missiologist take the helm of this outstanding school. In multos annos!
11:16 AM Whatever you do, do not read the book Count It All Joy: Testimonies from a Persecuted Church by John Cumbers, who served in Ethiopia along with Becky's mom and dad. A chapter is devoted to the warlike Guji tribe. I must tell you, I feel a stab of pain whenever I read it. Over a year ago I rode the crest of God's cosmic wave as I preached among the Gujis. The work was exciting, exhausting, and unpredictable. I do not think I am being morbid, but I would gladly give my life for this tribe. Such a sacrifice would be no more than what many others have offered -- Guba and Guyo, for example, two Burjis who were ambushed by the Gujis who shot them and then mutilated their bodies. But the Burjis have forgiven them. When you release the wrongdoer from the wrongs they have committed, you remove a malignant tumor from your heart. Forgiveness is love's revolution against life's injustices. I invite you to consider how ordinary people in southern Ethiopia struggle with daily life. Loves nudges me toward helping them. It is awesomely hard for me to realize that we still have not purchased an ambulance for our clinic there. My meager message here is only that we should not forget a people whose lifestyle may stick in our craw. The church in Gujiland needs neglect like New Orleans needs a hurricane. Over a year ago I made a modest beginning along with brother Jason Evans. I do not know whether I shall ever return. But God has created a momentum that can carry us forward. I am eager to move on to the next step, the new beginning, the place where we who are now separated can come together again.
9:55 AM I have no particular reason for posting these pix other than the fact that I like them and that I am the editor of this blog. Here mom and Nate play flute and pump organ together. They are filling Bradford Hall with wonderful hymns of the faith. Nate's piano lessons were paid for by his grandparents, and this is the result. I often ask myself, Where are the young people today who are learning how to play a musical instrument? I played the trumpet since the fifth grade. Nate played the piano since he was young. Becky is a wonderful classical pianist. Is soccer really more important than music?
Mom cooked this wonderful meal for us last night, which included hormone-free beef raised on the farm. Mom has always been a great cook, seamstress, and Bible student. Little wonder her eldest daughter can cook so well, sew her own clothes, and study the Word on her own.
I love this picture of our grandson Micah. It seems it was just yesterday when I held him in my arms as a newborn. Now he is three. "They're young and then they're grown." It happens just that fast.
And here's Isaac. Isaac loves his Mama B and brings much laugher into our home. He and Mama B are always conspiring to do something silly.
Caleb is a very special young man. He has a unique gift for helping people and is always eager to serve. I have no idea what he's doing here but he is certainly putting his heart into it.
9:25 AM Today the Roxboro Chamber of Commerce is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Personality Festival. Bethel Hill will be performing, and Ca-Vel Baptist Church will be raising funds for Ethiopia. For more information, go here.
8:52 AM Next week in our New Testament Theology class we will be studying the theology of John's Gospel. The subject is far beyond either my intelligence or my personal experience. This Gospel contains things so high I cannot attain them. How can one measure one's life against the humility and self-abnegation of the Stooping Servant of John 13? Lew Ayotte, in his recent review of The Jesus Paradigm, bemoans his failure to live up to the example of Jesus. The reality is that the author of that book is the greatest failure of all. My ugly flesh reared itself up only last night as I spoke rudely to someone I love deeply. Becky saw it and immediately reprimanded me, as she should have. To ask for forgiveness was a crux (the Latin word for cross), a crucial moment in my walk with God. If only my readers knew how alive the old man is within me! And I am to teach the theology of John? Is there a more precious revelation of the heart of our loving Lord? Sovereignty silences my mouth. John is too high for me. So is Jesus.
Or is He? Does He not still stoop to serve His unworthy followers, motivated only by love? I know my own weaknesses, but He knows them better. What can I do except to choose to believe in this Foot-Washing Savior, to trust, to accept? That much I can do. He is still the God of this prideful New Testament teacher, this sometimes rude and arrogant husband and father, this sinner saved by grace.
8:22 AM I have learned that Christianity means suffering. To a heart willing to be shown, God will reveal the meaning of the cross. This is one reason I am so pleased with Energion's new critical studies series called Areopagus. Its books will ask hard questions about Christian living, about the intersection of the cross and Christian conduct. There is, of course, a subtle snare in books like these. Too often they sound like self-improvement books that promise more than they can deliver. We cannot make sense of life. Only God can. And He has. He wants to transform every form of human suffering into something radically beneficial.
Although I am humbled that my Christian Archy is the first book to be published in this series, I cannot say it brought me great joy to write it. I am reminded of St. Augustine's words, "The very pleasures of human life men acquire by difficulties." The kingdom of God, as I note in the book, is not abstract. It is a call to come, follow Christ. It is another chance to die. You will never know the turbulence, the deep currents that produced this book. At times my heart was wrung until I felt helpless. Perhaps in reading it you will be able to identify with my journey. Perhaps you will wish to contribute something to the series yourself. We are desirous of books that will challenge the status quo, books that go to the heart of an issue, books that force us back to the text of Scripture, not our traditions.
There is no doubt in my mind that God pays attention to our struggles, our doubts, our honest questions. Is it too hard for us to believe that He yet has something to teach us?
Friday, August 28
6:04 PM Vernard Eller, Christian Anarchy (229-30):
Christians must love the world and be of active service in it—yet without ever once buying into the world's understanding of itself or affirming the faith it proclaims.
3:45 PM Just woke up from a nap. Time to spread more manure before the rain gets here. The ladies are excited. They're fixing a huge pot roast fur supper. The Blacks will join us.
12:34 PM Mom is a wonderful flutist. Looks like I'll get to accompany her this Sunday during the offertory. We'll be playing, "There Is a Redeemer."
11:52 AM Irony of ironies: Africa has an obesity problem. Even Addis Ababa now has fitness clubs, if you can believe it. But, as the Newsweek article says, we've seen this problem before:
"If you go back in time to about 1950 in the U.S. and Denmark," he says, "they had more or less the same picture … nobody cared, nobody recognized that it was an issue."
We've got photos of farmers who lived in our area 100 years ago. Not one was overweight. The problem is not obesity but inactivity.
Hmmm, I think it's time to take the dogs for a walk....
11:30 AM I'm told that the epitaph on Ruth Bell Graham's tombstone reads: "End of construction. Thank you for your patience." I couldn't have said it better myself.
At the age of 57 I think I'm finally coming to a sane evaluation of myself. Amid the challenge of helping students over the past 33 years I've been learning to live a more Christ-centered life. I used to see problematic students as interruptions rather than as opportunities to show Christ's love. My agenda at the moment was more important to me than their well-being. Now I realize that they are all works-in-progress, as I am: we're all still under construction. Frankly, I feel ill-equipped to help them. I've had to exchange my own confusion for God's wisdom. For me, ministry is not fireworks. It's a daily struggle to be a conduit of God's love and acceptance at a particular point of need in someone's life. Ironically, it's surprising how often I forget, or feel completely unable, to draw on the resources of the God who lives within. I imagine Ruth had the same struggles. We all do I guess. But one day we come to the end of road -- the work finished, perfection attained, Christ finally exalted. Until that day:
"Construction ongoing. Thank you for your patience."
11:12 AM A thousand thank yous to all who have sent Becky cards via snail mail. They are a tremendous encouragement.
11:07 AM Christianity Today states The Case for Early Marriage. The article makes some good points. I think the myth of adolescence may play a larger role in the debate than many will admit. In my book on the subject I cite a certain Rabbi Hisda, who regretted that he was 16 when he got married. He said that if he had married at 14 he would foregone two years of illicit thoughts. A hundred years ago in the U.S. men could marry at 14 and women at 12. Adult expectations were not postponed until people reached their 20s. Perhaps if we were not so quick to declare a moratorium on adulthood, our youth would be mature enough to marry much earlier than they do now.
10:52 AM Been asked to give the faculty lecture this semester in chapel. My topic? Missions of course. The date is Thursday, Nov. 5. Please pray for and with me that God will be pleased with my lecture and that our students will be challenged to greater obedience to the Great Commission.
9:17 AM Nate and I were out mucking manure at 7:00 this morning. He and Jess have just left for Oxford to check out a book sale at the public library. One of the nice things about having a daughter who operates an online bookstore is that I get to read her books before she sells them. Right now Becky and her mom are laughing up a storm in the kitchen. Music to my ears.
8:58 AM Henry Neufeld will publish his first novel at Energion Publications. I don't read much fiction but I might make an exception for this interesting-looking title.
8:50 AM Almost forgot! Here's a pic of the prayer blanket:
Thursday, August 27
9:22 PM To the 5 and 6 year old Sunday School class at Christ Baptist Church in Raleigh, our heartfelt thanks for the beautiful prayer wrap blanket you sent to Mrs. Black. She just opened it and is thrilled at its beauty and grateful for your thoughtfulness. May God bless each of you for your kindness to us.
8:14 PM Thankful for the joy of taking Becky and mom out to dinner tonight. Right now mom is getting out her flute and I'll accompany her on the piano. God is so good to us.
2:47 PM A popular New Testament scholar, once a committed Christian (or so he claims), now raises skepticism about the text of the New Testament. His name came up briefly in yesterday's lecture. I had to smile. Keenest intellects have spent a lifetime struggling with this book and have confessed to barely scratching the surface of its depths. How sad that someone would deny his soul the meat of the Word of God because his mind got stuck on one of its bones. Everything hinges on one's pre-suppositions. Every one of us has to take a position on 2 Tim. 3:16. If the Bible is not the inspired Word of God, then our faith is in vain, and the skeptics are right. Unless we approach the Bible with the heart of a child we will never get anywhere.
And therein lies the tragedy of so much of what goes by the name "New Testament scholarship."
2:33 PM Once again the Rondeaus visited us. This time they brought homemade meatballs that snuggled nicely into sub sandwiches. Liz also brought Becky a book she had put together of some of the wonderful emails Becky has received since her illness began. We talked very little about Becky's condition. I think we all realize that faith takes us where medicine can't. The boys checked up on the cows and climbed trees, while Nolan slid off into a tranced mode. I continue to be pleased at the way the boys are maturing. Grace is such an incredible thing. We need it not only to face suffering and pain but to mature from childhood into adulthood. Thank you, Liz, Caleb, Isaac, and Micah for bringing us so many smiles and laughs today.
P.S. Here are some pix (surprise, surprise).
11:58 AM I am strangely touched by the death of Ted Kennedy. Perhaps it was his cancer. Perhaps it was his singleness of heart, his passion for the causes he believed in, his ability to work with his opponents to pass legislation.
In my own life I must be very sure that I have passion. I must make sure that Christ is supreme. Any overemphasis will make me temporarily off balance, so I must constantly go back to the person of Christ.
I must also be intentional about working with others -- especially those with whom I disagree on minor matters -- in working for the kingdom. If Mr. Kennedy could walk across the aisle to pass a Medicaid bill, how much more should I be willing to work with my fellow believers for the sake of the Gospel?
Jim Elliott once said, "Wherever you are, be ALL there, and live to the hilt whatever you are convinced is the will of God for your life."
In one sense, I think that Senator Kennedy had a similar passion. When the "lion of the senate" roared, people hopped to. The further I travel on the pathway to glory, the more glorious it becomes, because I am given to understand that every glad surrender of self to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is merely a step toward an existence with Him eternally.
11:25 AM How can churches promote the Christ-centered life? Christ is our first priority! He must be central. In everything He must have the preeminence (Col. 1:18). His presence, purpose, and power must pervade everything.
What will enhance His preeminence?
Some time ago I began a list of ways I feel we can help our local churches become more consistent with the Scripture's emphasis upon the supremacy of Christ. If we take Col. 1:18 seriously, its ramifications in any local church will become creative and exciting. But we must be willing to follow the Scriptures into the nitty-gritty, day-by-day workings of our churches. Rigid, harsh, legalistic measures have no place in this process. But perhaps there are some practical steps we can take as the Holy Spirit leads us.
1) Work to implement a biblical pattern of plural eldership.
2) Acknowledge Jesus as your church's only "Senior Pastor" (1 Pet. 5:4).
3) Substitute the name "Jesus Christ" for your pastor's name on your church's marquee.
4) Begin calling each other "brother" and "sister" in accordance with Jesus' teaching in Matthew 23. This includes leadership.
5) Follow Paul's injunction in 1 Cor. 14 and allow several people to teach during the assembly while others weigh their teaching. This can be accomplished even if you retain the traditional homily/monologue by allowing others to have a "word" either before or after the sermon.
6) Encourage the priesthood of all believers by allowing greater participation in your gatherings.
7) Observe the Lord's Supper regularly (weekly if possible) as a full meal in which you celebrate the presence and soon return of Jesus. Remember, many evangelicals are converting to Catholicism and the Orthodox Church today partly because they have grown weary of the anthropocentricity of the typical evangelical church, where the pastor is central.
8) Leaders can avoid giving the impression that they are "above" or "apart from" the congregation by speaking from the floor (instead of from the platform) and by foregoing the use of a pulpit.
9) Put missions first in all you do. Your church can't come first. If you're occupied with its life and function, you'll think inwardly. What sets a true evangelical church apart is its commitment to the Gospel.
10) Accordingly, adjust your church budget to reflect a commitment to outreach rather than inreach. No more of the mindset of "God bless us four and no more"! In prayer, in strategy, in cooperation -- become intentional about reaching out. We do this by working in social concern within our communities, by planting new churches, by encouraging sister churches, by eating and drinking with the lost and even attending their parties (as Jesus did). We do this by folding the new lambs into the flock. We do this by growing through world missions and by developing a plan to infiltrate and influence it for Jesus Christ. We do this by keeping the Great Commission before the people both in knowledge and in practice. We do this by supporting missionaries -- not just those sent out by a denominational board but real flesh-and-blood church members. Elders themselves must lead by giving and going. Let your church reach and reach and reach -- in all directions!
11) Teach your people that every Christian is a minister and a missionary and that all of us together are necessary if the Body of Christ is to grow. Then, as the bond of love with Christ and others is secured, we can go out into the world and do great exploits for God.
Church of Jesus Christ, it is absolutely essential that we raise up a generation of leadership that has a biblical philosophy of ministry. This is my goal in all my teaching. Please pray for me and my students, that together we might major on the time-honored, Spirit-ordained, scriptural basics of Christianity!
9:16 AM This morning I wrote the following in my diary:
I have the privilege of entering another prayer battle today. On the one hand I bow in gratitude to God for His great goodness to me. Despite Becky's illness, our lives have been sweetened, as Rutherford once put it, "at the lips of sweet Jesus." But I am also overwhelmed at the thought of not returning to Ethiopia in the near future. I seem to be assaulted by paradoxes -- weakness to be turned into strength, poverty to riches, humiliation to glory, the perishable to become imperishable. If I am going to trust God for my eternal future, then I must trust Him for my today. Paul's Roman imprisonment made the believers there more bold to speak about Christ without fear. An illness led him to travel to Galatia, bringing the Gospel to unreached people groups. I am trusting God that He will use Becky's affliction to reach people whom we might not have otherwise reached through health.
What can I do with my burden of unease and doubt? Nothing, except to take it to the cross. There alone will I find peace. Christ speaks: "I will be with you all the days, always...." Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.
I recall hearing Corrie ten Boom once say, "God has no problems, only plans." My longing, my craving, for Becky's healing is there, but I offer it up to the Lord. I know that He is intensely interested in her. What happens to Becky is His business. We are not our own. We belong to Him. My acceptance or rejection of God-given circumstances is a choice that I have to make. There is no use for me trying to understand how God works. The truth of His kingdom defies my human understanding.
I need prayer. I'm beginning to see His sufficiency, but it is dimly, as through a mirror. Suffering has drawn me into a much deeper fellowship with Him than I've ever known before. But God please help me if I am to suffer alone!
Truly it is a merciful Father who is stripping me of my self-sufficiency.
8:50 AM Yesterday we received the pathology report from UNC. I think the best way for me to tell you its results is by quoting an email that Becky just sent out to our Ethiopian children and friends. Here is her email in its entirely.
Good morning, my precious Ethiopia family! I hope you are enjoying the Lord's presence in your day, that you are seeing His glory and that you are enjoying full surrender to His will.
I am getting stronger every day. Although my strength vanishes quickly, it is good to feel strong :) God has been good to me in every way, and I know that much of that goodness has come to me because of your prayers, and the prayers of the Ethiopian church.
About 7 hours ago I had a long talk with one of the surgeons; there were 3 surgeons operating on Friday. The surgery was a complete success in the sense that all the reproductive organs were removed without complication or difficulty, and I am recovering without great difficulty.
The surgery removed the part of my body that was known to have cancer, but we could not tell if the cancer had moved away from the uterus to other parts until after the surgery. During the surgery, they took 3 things to check: the uterus, the lymph nodes and abdominal fluid. These 3 things were checked thoroughly for cancer cells.
The first thing they discovered is that the type of cancer is not "papillary serous" but it is "clear cell". This difference has little meaning....both are the aggressive cancers. Only 10% of all uterine cancers are papillary serous, and 5% are clear cell. The prognosis for clear cell is a little better than for serous. Humanly speaking, I had about 1/2 of 1% chance of getting this cancer!
There were no cancer cells in the abdominal fluid. There were cancer cells in the pelvic lymph nodes, but not the abdominal lymph nodes. The cancer had spread through the lining of the uterus and into 1/2 of the muscle of the uterus.
All cancers are "staged"...this means they are given a number which shows how advanced or spread the cancer is when it is discovered. There are stages I, II, III and IV. Stage I is the cancer that has spread the least, and Stage IV is the cancer that has spread the most. Each stage has A, B, C subcategories; A is the least and C is the most.
In my case, the doctors have assigned Stage III-C. This is a very strong, spread cancer, and we will be doing very aggressive chemo & radiation to try to get rid of it. We have removed the uterus, but the cancer has spread in microscopic sizes to the other parts of my body; this microscopic spreading cannot be surgically removed...so it must be killed by chemo therapy & radiation.
All medical research uses the Stages to help to communicate and evaluate things. In cancer situations, a patient is labeled as "survived" if they live for 5 years after the cancer is discovered. For Stage III-C, clear cell cancer, there is a 50% chance that I will live for at least 5 more years. Of course, this is man's scientific way of thinking about things. There is no "if" with God. As I have said before, I am not afraid to die; I only want to make sure that I am living for His glory whatever days He gives to me.
So now, what is the plan? For the next 4 weeks I will rest & heal from the surgery. The last week of September the surgeon will check to be sure that everything is well-healed. The first half of October, Papa B & I will travel to Texas to present Ethiopia to churches there; we will also meet with people about the Burji well, the loudspeaker recordings, & other things. It will also be a special time with my parents.
Starting in middle October, I begin with chemotherapy treatments. I will be in the hospital for 2 days for them to put a special catheter into deep veins in my chest. The chemo therapy treatment is given thru this catheter into my blood system; I will get 3 treatments that are 3 weeks apart.Then they will do a special CT scan to check for cancer; if they find it has spread, then we will give more chemotherapy. Otherwise, we will start radiation to the entire pelvic/abdominal area. This radiation will be every day Mon-Fri for 6 weeks. The hospital is 1 1/2 hours' drive from the farm, so we will probably move closer to the hospital for this time.
After the radiation, I will receive 3 more chemo treatments, each treatment 3 weeks apart. And then we will re-evaluate everything.
I am telling you all of this to say that I do not think we will be coming to Ethiopia in December. All of this together will take about 8 months....so it will not finish until April. We are still hoping that we can come in early March, but we will have to see how things go.
Our plan is to continue to meet with churches here about Ethiopia, to continue to help with the clinic & things in Ethiopia by sending emails/phone calls, etc. There is much work to be done, and as God gives strength for each day, we will get it done. We will start to organize the Team to come in July, and we are trusting Him to give enough strength for this. There are MANY here who love you and are eager to come.
So this is my full report. Thank you, again for your prayers. And thank you for all your emails; you are a blessing & comfort to me. Please do not hesitate to send me emails about ministry things, so that we can continue to work together for the Kingdom. Please do not stop praying for me....for physical strength and for spiritual strength. And if God is willing, we will see you sometime in 2010.
With much love, rejoicing in His plan,
7:55 AM A special "thank you" to the Southeastern Women's Club for sending Becky this gorgeous bouquet of roses. We praise God for all of you.
7:50 AM In class yesterday our guest lecturer Maurice Robinson did an excellent job of defending the longer readings in the 4 passages under discussion (Matt. 5:22; John 3:13; John 7:53-8:11; Mark 16:9-20). In passing he mentioned that he had published a lengthy examination of his text-critical views. If you'd care to read it, you may find it online here. Here's his peroration:
The Byzantine-priority position offers a clear theoretical and practical alternative to the pessimistic suppositions of postmodern eclectic subjectivity. The various eclectic schools continue to flounder without an underlying history of transmission to explain and anchor the hypothetically "best attainable" NT text which they have constructed out of bits and pieces of scattered readings. In the meantime, the Byzantine-priority theory remains well-founded and very much alive, despite the orations and declamations which continue to be uttered against it.
Thank you, Maurice, for an excellent and challenging lecture. And students, I hope many of you will consider furthering your studies in the field of New Testament textual criticism. It's a field that is white unto harvest for evangelicals.
7:43 AM If you prefer wireless reading devices to hard copies, take note that my beginning grammar is now available in a Kindle edition.
7:35 AM A Thursday shout out to my colleagues Andreas Köstenberger and Scott Kellum, whose book signing for The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament was held yesterday in the campus bookstore. I hope the book does well and finds a large readership. It deserves it.
7:30 AM Eric Carpenter is reading Lee: The last Years. I picked this book up years ago on a visit to the Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University in Lexington.
Two things struck me while reading this excellent book:
1) Lee apparently rued his military career once he became an educator. He felt that leading men in peace was greater than leading them in war. And what a college president he became. He took an institution that had only 40 students and 4 faculty members when he assumed the helm in 1865 and transformed it into a major college by the time of his death in 1870.
2) Even more impressively, the first building Lee had built on campus was a chapel for the worship of Almighty God. When it was finished, everyone wanted to know one thing: Would the great general require attendance at chapel services?
To the surprise of most, he didn't. He said that you don't force people to worship God. Yet the chapel was always full. The reason? Every time a chapel service was conducted, there was President Lee, sitting in his pew in the front of the building. Lee led not by compulsion but by example. Or, we might say that he led by the compulsion of example. The is one reason why I don't take attendance in any of my classes and why I am very happy to give my students take home exams. I trust them. I trust them to do what is right. In the Christian life, we are free, but we are only free to do what is right. Once we do what is wrong, we have become slaves to sin. I tell my students, "I love you. I trust you. If you decide to cheat, it's not worth it. The Holy Spirit will be all over you."
I have lectured in many venues about General Lee, not so much about his military genius as his Christian character. But I also appreciate and respect the kind of educational leadership he gave the nation, now reunited, during one of the darkest periods in her history. Lee put his politics aside to serve the school of which he was president and its students, many of whom had followed him in war. Now it was their honor and privilege to follow him in peace.
If you ever find yourself on the campus of Washington and Lee University, don't forget to visit the Lee Chapel and see where the humble general sat and led his colleagues and students in the worship of God.
7:12 AM When we received this email yesterday from brother Oshe in Burji, I was moved to tears:
Dear Becky and David how are you? As soon as I heard about Becky I sent a message to all our churches in village. On Friday many many Burji Christians are feasting and praying for Becky surgery. We praise the lord thousand and million time. We relieve a bit after I read PopB E-mail today.
On Friday payer many hundred people participated in prayer, my daughter Dalo 2 years and one month old joins us in prayer. She say again and again “protect Becky…Heal Becky.’’
Many Christian walks on Saturday for four to five hours, and many called from village to know about the result on Friday Becky surgery. God is good every day. Since we heard this news we all feel sickness like you, and we all feel pain like you. For tomorrow we called the entire leader from our Burji (33) Churches to Soyama to pray together from each
each church men elders , 5
each church women elders , 3
each church youths leader , 3 altogether 363 people in Soyama hall for prayer. We decided continual to pray until our God give completely cure to Becky.
With love, Oshe
There you have it. Today, over 6,000 miles away in the town of Soyama, Ethiopia, 363 blood brothers and sisters in Christ are on their knees praying for my wife. Incredible.
Wednesday, August 26
9:54 PM From the BBC comes this photo essay on "Chinglish." Hilarious! I can identify, as my first language was Hawaiian Pidgin. Fo fun kine stuff, go here.
9:50 PM Read this if you think that terrorists deserve to be tortured.
9:43 PM For those of you who think that the apt art of alliteration is always awesome ("Cash for Clunkers," "Some Smug Slug"), you may want to read Wayne Stacy's The Annoying Artificial Application of Alliteration.
9:30 PM As a teacher, this essay got me thinking. Thanks, Pat, for your honesty. Even after 33 years in the classroom I still fell that have a long ways to go to become a first-rate teacher. These kinds of articles really help.
9:23 PM New Testament Theology students, be sure to watch Richard Bauckham's You-Tube called Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. It represents one perspective on the origins of the Gospels from a leading New Testament scholar. On Wednesday of next week I will try to give you a different option.
9:15 PM "You can have an airtight logical argument and still be wrong." This is just one of many unforgettable quotes I heard during yesterday's convocation message given by our dean, David Nelson. The Word of God, said David, demands our fidelity and obedience, not just our study. But study it we must, and we must never demand belief in what the Bibles does not teach. As I look around me here on campus I see a beautiful balance between head, heart, and hand. I see nobody thumping prophecy or the gifts of the Spirit or Calvinism over the Gospel, which is the "bottom line." People like that may exist on campus, but if they do they are certainly in the minority. The students I know are passionate about eliminating the inconsequential and concentrating on what is eternally important. I also know that every one of my faculty colleagues seeks to build into the heart of each and every student a genuine, heartfelt love for the world. Oh, how God loves people! Fellow Christians, I truly believe that when brothers and sisters in Christ believe deeply in the truthfulness of the Word of God and in the power of their common Lord, and when they commit themselves to live and serve together, then the commitment to reach out to the needy in this world will flow as a natural consequence. That's the lesson I heard in David Nelson's message. When we learn to take the Bible seriously, not just as a book to be studied but as Truth to be lived, when we learn that we are truly members of one another, when we learn to visibly and radically love each other, the grace of God will begin to overwhelm us. This is why I urge you to listen to this powerful chapel message. You will realize in a new way what the Bible says about unity in the cause of the Gospel. Then any break in fellowship due to lesser matters will absolutely shock us and repel us.
Tuesday, August 25
6:17 AM For the next two days I will be performing brain surgery -- well, at least my Tuesdays and Wednesdays always feel like that.
Nonstop classes, meetings, lectures, plus convocation (which is always a blessing). Southeastern is first and foremost a missions center, seeking to spread the Good News outward in every possible way. Peter Drucker (the management expert) always asked his clients, "What are you trying to accomplish?" The great danger most seminaries face is that they turn in on themselves. This is not a put down. I honor and respect all of my sister evangelical institutions of higher learning. But we are all so prone to getting confused and lost in the midst of pressures from every direction. My idea of a seminary is a place that is committed to the world Christ died to save. I pray that our chief goal will always be in harmony with God's concerns. I pray that we will always take Christ's Lordship with ultimate seriousness. I have learned that there is only one thing that can motivate students to be all they should be: Christ! James Denny once wrote, "No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time." I'd like to change the word "man" to "seminary." Our seminary life should deliberately revolve about what's important to God. So to my students I say, to my colleagues I say, to all of us I say -- Let us move out in unity and innovation and faith to the needy world around as our top priority. Then everything else -- academics and publishing included -- will fall into place.
Please pray for and with me that God will use me and my colleagues to raise up a mighty army of cross-bearing students who will make serving others in Jesus' name their number one goal in life!
6:05 AM A belated shout out and congrats to Scotteriology for its 500th post. This is a really fun site!
Monday, August 24
8:40 PM Well, pardners, things have been wild and wooly out here on the old homestead (cue theme from "Bonanza"). Mama B arrived today from Dallas, accompanied by her one and only (and handsomest) son Ben, Becky's VERY younger brother who lives in Cary, the hottest town east of the Mississippi. Ben is now sprouting a new hairdo -- or is that a hair-don't?
Here he is comparing hairlines with Nolan. I think the baby wins hands down.
What a feast we enjoyed, specially prepared for us by Ben's wonderful wife Tamara.
The show-stopper, as always, was Mr. Blue Eyes himself who, believe it or not, has begun teething and he's not even 3 months old yet. That rascal -- growing up way too fast.
Mom will be with us all week, trying to keep her eldest daughter out of trouble. Bon chance, mom!
4:15 PM The Frankfurter Allgemein reports that Germany's system of earning a doctorate is corrupt, in this aptly titled piece Dr. inflationis causa. The money quote:
Und also entsteht ein Markt für Intelligenzsymbole, die sich so leicht fälschen lassen wie andere Symbole auch.
One astounding fact from the report: About 24,000 doctorates are awarded each year in Germany. The world over, it seems that the doctorate is becoming an indispensable status symbol.
3:32 PM Our daughter Liz passes along this wonderful anecdote:
Last night I was playing with my boys on the playground at Drakes Branch [Baptist Church]...we were early for church. There was a sign posted "Children may not play on equipment unless accompanied by a member of DBBC."
Caleb said, "Mom we can't play here."
"See, it says...must be accompanied by Dr. Black's Body of Christ."
"Well, actually, Caleb, that's not what that sign means, but I think you're on to something."
What do you think, Papa? What if all the BC's stood for Body of Christ instead of Baptist church?
3:20 PM Guess what I just learned? That the Anglo-Saxon word for "disciples" is leorning-cnihtas. So I am told in The Life and Growth of Language by William Dwight Whitney (1896). We might translate the expression literally as "learning-knights" in the sense of the Latin discipuli or the Greek mathetai. Of interest to me is the use of cniht, "knight," whose German equivalent ("Knecht") means "servant," whereas the English "knight" refers to a person of high chivalric origin. Elsewhere I have suggested that the Greek word for "disciples" is best rendered "servants-in-training," for that is exactly what disciples of Jesus are. Perhaps this is yet another example of how the English rendering of a Greek term obscures the meaning of the original Greek.
In any case, Jesus calls us to be His disciples -- His "servants-in-training." My hunch is that many of us have forgotten this signification of the term "disciple" and instead think it is to be understood in a titular sense. There is an unfortunate irony here. Discipleship has come to mean little more than being baptized and joining a church. But now I see that following Jesus can (and does) mean something very different from that. Following Jesus does not mean believing certain things about Him. It means to give one's heart, one's very life, to the living Lord in humble service to others in His name. I know I keep repeating this truth like a mantra, but I am absolutely convinced that it is true and that we too often miss it. Discipleship is essentially living under the Lordship of Christ. I invite you to hear what the Gospel writers say discipleship means. It is a journey from theology (which is still vitally important) to ethics.
Naturally, this understanding of Jesus leads to a quite different image of the Christian life and, if you are a seminary student, to a different understanding of what it means to study theology. If one does not see that, one remains in the prison house of false expectations. For example, the theology of discipleship lays to rest any danger of elitism in the church. All of us, whether educated or uneducated, whether of high social standing or of no social standing at all, must move into each other's lives, caring for one another, comforting one another, admonishing one another, and (at times) confessing our sins to each other (James 5:16). But I cannot go any further into application just now.
Suffice it to say: If I fail to live as an obedient disciple of Jesus, it does not necessarily prove that I am not a Christian. It does mean, however, that the world has every right to make the judgment that I am not a Christian.
2:32 PM In her latest essay, Update from Becky, our recovering patient lists her praises and prayer items.
2:12 PM The mucking is done. Either the manure is getting heavier or I am getting older.
10:46 AM Boy is it hot. And we've still got manure to spread!
10:30 AM Question for theologians: Why is there no category for "Missiology" in our systematic theologies? Or "Hekastology" for that matter? At best, Missiology is subsumed under Ecclesiology. Our theology seems severely unbalanced to me. You can be sure we will discuss this issue in our New Testament Theology class.
10:12 AM Thanking God this morning for His healing power, great surgeons, pain meds, and a future hope.
9:20 AM A teacher's prayer:
Thank you for the appetite and opportunity to teach. I praise you because I realize you never ask us to do anything you have not prepared us to do. On the basis of this truth I take up the mantle of teaching again.
There is one little problem, however. I do not know how to teach. Never before have I realized how impossible the task is. Lord, I need you to teach me that each of my students has an anointing from the Holy One and has no need for any man to teach them. May you do the teaching, and may I get out of your way.
Lord, make me to say only the words of your choosing. Make me to do only what will glorify your purposes. Please cram my barefooted helplessness into the shoes of your strength.I pray this in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
8:22 AM My snake-handling colleague Alvin Reid continues to stir the pot. Stir on, bro, stir on!
8:02 AM Wayne Leman discusses synonymy in an excellent essay called Overburdened. Wayne focuses on Paul's teaching in Galatians 6. Here Paul writes that we are to "bear each other's burdens" but "carry our own load." Interestingly, one of the "loads" Wayne mentions is the responsibility to work for our own living. Steve Atkerson asks how this principle may be applied to elders in his essay Full Time Ministers. He writes:
Following Paul’s example, the elders were also to earn their living from secular jobs so as to be able to help the weak and live out the words of the Lord Jesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Thus, from Acts 20:32-35, it is clear that elders are generally to be in the financial position of giving to the church, not receiving from it.
This makes entirely good sense when we realize that elders in the New Testament were home grown and already had jobs, homes, and reputations in the community, rather than being parachuted in from the outside. I will not speak for others, but I can tell you that very few pastors in the community in which I live in southern Virginia have much credibility among their flocks for the simple reason that were "hired" to move in among us, and the suspicion always lingers that one day they will be "hired" by another flock to move on. The solution to this vicious cycle may well be identifying leadership from within our own congregations to serve in leadership roles.
For more, go here.
7:40 AM I am not surprised to learn that our leading on-ground commanders in Afghanistan think our troop levels are too low to defeat the insurgency (see the New York Times essay, U.S. Military Says Its Force in Afghanistan Is Insufficient). Modest resources usually lead to modest accomplishments. On the basis of my own experience in Ethiopia I would say the same thing is true in missionary work. I thank God for the volunteers who work with us and for the sacrifice and investment they make to those who are really needy. My prayer is that their number will increase in the years ahead. This semester I will be challenging my students to take at least one short term mission trip this year and to set a standard of seminarians who are radical about the message and mission of Jesus. I can't wait for my classes to begin!
7:10 AM Odds and ends:
1) No Greek class tonight at The Hill.
2) In Wednesday's New Testament Theology class, our special guest lecturer will be my colleague Maurice Robinson, who will speak on "New Testament Theology and Textual Criticism." He will discuss four important variants: Matt. 5:22; John 3:13; John 7:53-8:11; and Mark 16:9-20. If you would like to attend as my guest, just send me an email. The lecture starts at 2:00 pm.
3) Wednesday evening I am giving an Ethiopia presentation at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Mayo, Virginia (about 10 minutes from South Boston). We begin at 6:00 with food and then gather for the presentation at 7:00 pm. All are welcome. I will give a basic overview of the work the Lord Jesus is doing in Burji and Alaba. Call it "Ethiopia 101" if you like.
4) Classes start for me tomorrow, right after our convocation at 10:00. Don't forget the special offering for missions in chapel ("Christmas in August"). Let's invest our treasure in a Stock Market that can never crash!
Sunday, August 23
7:55 PM We enjoyed watching the video together. I thought the musical score was wonderful. Becky continues to do well, buoyed up by your prayers. I've enjoyed watching her receive cards in the mail, many of which she has placed on our library mantle. What a blessing to be loved so much by so many.
7:43 PM Linguists tell us that human beings are the sole possessors of language. One linguist I read said of animal speech, "But these are not only greatly inferior in their degree to human language; they are also so radically diverse in kind from it, that the same name cannot justly be applied to both." As to human and animal language being different, there is no need to argue about that. But why shouldn't a dog's bark or a chicken's cluck be called "language"? This thought came to me as I was checking up on the cows this afternoon, accompanied by the dogs. As we approached the newly born calf, her mama made a sound whose meaning was unmistakable: "Come near us and you'll pay" (photo). That, along with the pawing of her hoof on the ground, eventuated in us keeping a respectable distance from Calf and Cow. If language is comprised of audible signs, I see no reason for denying that capacity to animals.
You can see that the cows are now feeding upon the most luscious pasture. In a few days nothing will be left but grass stubble, and they will be off to greener pastures.
4:35 PM Richard Suggs has developed a Greek parsing worksheet. To be honest, it's all Greek to me.
4:27 PM Becky's up again. She's handling everything superbly. My constant prayer is that no infection will develop. Right now she's talking to her mom and dad in Dallas. I've got a casserole in the oven, and we're planning on watching Little Women tonight. Life is good.
4:22 PM I see Nate's moved the cows from the horse pasture to the back field. Out of sight but certainly not out of mind.
4:12 PM President Obama realizes he needs the support of the faith communities if he is to pass major health care reform. This is the gist of an essay published recently in theWashington Examiner.
One thing seems clear to me: the president will continue the Bush policy of using religion to bolster his policies. This includes holding prayer meetings, supporting faith-based initiatives, and seeking the support of leading evangelicals. If you look at American history, you will see that the church bore most of the responsibility for social welfare prior to the 1930s. After the Great Depression, the U.S. government stepped in to relieve the burden. Some argue that this was necessary, that the church was simply too overwhelmed to carry the load any longer. There is some truth in that assertion. But the real problem, it seems to me, is that the church has failed to live up to its calling. Is it really too late for the church to reclaim its earlier social responsibilities? Sadly, the answer is probably yes, unless Christians of all denominations repent of our materialism and misplaced priorities (our giant salaries, lavish sanctuaries, etc.). One often hears that the Bible contains over 2,000 references to the poor. But these references are to the believer's responsibility, not the government's. Fidelity to the Scriptures would seem to require evangelicals to expend more effort working to alleviate the grave social needs of our nation by spending less on ourselves. Here's an essay about one church's efforts at doing just that.
In my forthcoming book, Christian Archy, I state the issue this way:
It all boils down to priorities. And there is absolutely no reason why our priorities should not change. We must ask ourselves, "How would God have us use the resources He has given us to have the greatest possible impact on the kingdom?" In practical terms, this might mean using the Bible instead of quarterlies in our Sunday School classes. It could mean renting a facility to meet in rather than building an expensive sanctuary. It will certainly mean using all of our resources with a sense of global responsibility. As Paul said, stewardship requires us to ask how we can use the resources God has entrusted to us more equitably (see 2 Cor. 8:13-15). Each of us must examine our lifestyles for wasted resources that could be invested in the kingdom. We must become better stewards of our time, budgets, homes, and physical recourses.
This readjustment process does not mean falling into the trap of legalism. It does not mean establishing additional "programs." It is the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, who must be at work so that we may see what the church must become as it emerges from its cocoon and into ministry in the world.
2:55 PM Christianity Today discusses the trend to return biblical education to the local church, a trend (by the way) I support. Where I differ with this article is the implication that only megachurches can begin such new ventures. That is simply not true, and even a small local church like Bethel Hill (where I fellowship) has begun courses in Greek and apologetics. I also think there's a danger in starting any school, church-related or not, that follows closely the teaching or persona of a famous teacher/pastor. I know it's not faddish to say that, but theology is not about men (or women), despite those who dispassionately enjoy calling themselves adherents of Calvin, Luther, or Wesley. That said, I do appreciate the emphasis in some of these new seminaries on church planting, which in my opinion is what seminary training should be all about.
2:30 PM The Jesus Seminar has a new home.
2:20 PM Phillip Jenkins writes about Lalibela's amazing stone churches. If you're ever in Ethiopia you simply must see them.
2:05 PM Mark 16:17-18 and snake handling are back in the news. But the question remains: Are these verses authentic? Should they be read and preached? My answer is yes to both questions, and I have stated my case here.
12:15 PM According to the "Report of the Findings Committee Conference on the Concept of the Believers' Church," held at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1967:
Every believer participates in the full ministry of Christ. Every believer is a priest, every believer is a prophet or preacher. Every believer participates in that servanthood which Jesus revealed as the mode of His rule. Every believer is endowed with a gift, the exercise of which is essential to the welfare of the body. We reject the concept of ministry as a unique sacramental, professional, or governing caste, and the concept of "laity" as usually defined negatively from that perspective.
See James Leo Garrett, Jr., ed., The Concept of the Believers' Church [Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1969]).
Do you agree with this statement? If not, why not?
11:40 AM Looks like the ELCA is now accepting non-celibate gays and lesbians as pastors. This is tragic. But I have a question: Why do some evangelicals get their dander up over homosexuality and not, say, over divorce or gluttony? Divorce, of course, was universally condemned by evangelicals until the Reagan Revolution. The Religious Right could no longer fetishize divorce when its star in the White House had been divorced and remarried.
I am by no means -- nor have I ever presented myself to be -- an objective observer of American evangelicalism, but I see no good in the pugilist rhetoric coming from preachers about the apostasy of this or that denomination. Perhaps we should also develop some scruples about "extraordinary rendition" or the use of torture on human beings -- some guilty, some not (see this recent Newsweek article). I'm sorry, but it seems to me that the use of torture is as much a moral issue as abortion or homosexuality, and I will continue to treat it that way.
10:36 AM Want to go skiing or snowboarding in Virginia, in the summer? Now you can. Read about it here.
10:20 AM B's up and about. Just ate some Ramen soup. Right now she's listening to Scourby (KJV, Genesis) and doing handwork. Man do I love her.
9:42 AM With apologies to all of my environmentalist friends for adding to the earth's greenhouse gasses, here's a picture of our new calf:
9:08 AM Back to my World War 2 escape story, Mission Escape, by Sydney Smith:
Wings Day has just been captured after escaping from Dulag Luft near Frankfurt. He is sent to the Baltic coast and arrives at Stalag Luft 1 (in Barth), built to hold allied air crew (photo).
Wings immediately organizes an Escape Committee and selects Jimmy Buckley to serve as "Big X." Smith writes:
Wing's organization had its try-out at Barth and learned valuable lessons. It did not chalk up any startling escapes, in fact there were a great many failures; but it proved itself a commonsense set-up. The great confidence which the prisoners had in it, and the loyalty, cooperation and devotion with which they worked was due to Buckley's leadership. He had none of the quarterdeck about him. He was quite the opposite, and with infinite patience he would thrash out the problem to the end. He was absolutely impartial and completely disinterested: all his thoughts were directed towards what was best for the service.
"All his thoughts were directed towards what was best for the service." Doesn't your mind travel to Eph. 4:11-12 when you read this quote? Pastors were never called by God to do the work of the ministry. They were called to "equip God's people for works of service." Jimmy Buckley was head of the Escape Organization. Yet he never planned his own escape! All of his time and effort went towards enabling others to break out of the camp.
"He had none of the quarterdeck about him." This is another way of saying that he was approachable, humble, and thought nothing of himself. I am thrilled that in my church I have two pastor-teachers who are exactly the same way. They exemplify the "mind of Christ" and thus lead by example every bit as much as they lead by teaching (see Alan Knox's latest remix). They are quite content to be known as "brother Jason" and "brother Joel," and indeed I feel like they are just that -- my very own blood brothers. Donald Kraybill once wrote: "Leadership is only worthy of allegiance when the led freely grant it to the leader in response to the leader's servant posture" (The Upside-Down Kingdom, p. 238). In the New Testament the church is never viewed as a one-man team with the "pastor" doing all the work while the "laypeople" watched. Because of the limited capacity of one person to lead the church, New Testament leadership was plural and equal, with no system of hierarchy. Moreover, in the worship of the church the leaders are never seen as dominating. Instead, a pattern of multiple participation by the congregation seems to have been the mark of all apostolic churches (see Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 4:11-16; 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), regardless of their geographical location (see 1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:16; 14:33). The New Testament teaches that the congregational meeting is to be a place where all Christians exercise their spiritual gifts and stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
Howard Snyder once asked, "Must the pastor be a superstar?" The answer is clearly no. Pastors are called to be CEOs -- "Chief Equipping Officers" -- just like Jimmy Buckley was called to enable others to attain their freedom and full potential as allied officers.
8:32 AM Is missionary work something onerous? Hardly! Missiologist Leslie Newbigin, in his book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (p. 116), makes this delightful statement:
There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of "the missionary mandate." This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Missions begins with a kind of explosive joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told.
What a joy to be involved in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth! Can you tell that Becky and I are anxious to get back to "Utopia"?
8:03 AM The Fiji military is taking on -- well, you'd never guess who.
7:59 AM Surf's up on the east coast, thanks to Hurricane Bill. I suppose there's an plus side to almost everything in life.
Once, when Becky and I were taking some courses at Jerusalem University College in Israel, we went down to Ashkelon (photo) on the coast to check out an archaeological dig. While we were there I noticed some pretty big waves. They were 10-15 feet at least, with rip tides. The lifeguards were enforcing a "red flag" day = no swimming, period. Little did they know that visiting that day was a surfer from Hawaii and a former California life guard. Now, life guards comprise a very close-knit fraternity. So, as one life guard to another, I asked if he might be willing to turn his back for an hour or so while I did some body surfing. He gladly complied, and to this day I still can't believed that I have surfed the Mediterranean Sea.
7:45 AM Becky passed a restful night. I will stay home from church today to care for her. We are well covered meal wise, as Becky and a friend cooked up several dishes before the surgery. Oh, I need to tell you -- on Thursday Becky baked a cake for the nursing staff at UNC, for which they were most grateful. That's SO Becky to be baking for others the day before her surgery.
Saturday, August 22
8:45 PM Nice visit from the Blacks. Nate scarfed down some leftover Ethiopian food. Jessie and Nolan were a blessing. Becky still doing well. Just put her to bed. We prayed especially for Dylan, a young man in our church who injured his sternum in a 4-wheeling accident. He's still hospitalized. I'm asking for a breakthrough tonight.
Oh yeah ... all of us are cheered by the birth of our first calf of the year. What a special gift from the Lord and a reminder that His mercies are new every morning -- or, in this case -- every afternoon.
5:35 PM A thousand apologies for not reporting to you sooner, but we arrived back in Virginia to a huge electrical storm and our power was out for several hours. The good news is that BECKY IS HOME! Her hysterectomy was a complete success. It was super sweet to have so many brothers and sisters with us at the hospital during the surgery, and who knows how many thousands praying for Becky all over the world. I cannot help but want to just cry out, "Praise ye the Lord!"
The whole experience at UNC exceeded our expectations. We feel that our Lord did "above and beyond" on our behalf. There were no complications to the operation at all, and Becky was up and walking around last night. As I type these words she is resting comfortably. Her pain is under control. Her spirits are good. You get the picture. "Praise ye the Lord!"
Now we await the pathology report. On Wednesday of next week, her medical team will hold an inter-disciplinary consult and "stage" her disease. This will determine Becky's treatment program from here on out. Between now and then lab techs will be busy biopsing tissues taken from Becky's body. So there is still MUCH to pray about.
And me? I am exhausted but rejoicing. I feel like the Lord has brought into my life some pretty powerful prayer warriors. Gideon had his 300 Strong, but I feel as though the Lord has given us 3,000 or more. Believe me, I have needed to lean on all of you the last few days as my emotions have gone bonkers at times.
Anyway, we're back, and we're doing well. Special thanks to Nate, Jess, Nolan, Jason, Joel, Jon, and of course Liz for presencing Christ to us during the operation, and to all of you who have prayed, called, and sent us emails (believe me, I will try my best to answer them today or tomorrow). A giant "grazie" to Miss Rachel and Miss Suzanne from the seminary for sharing their baked Ziti with us for supper last night. Finally, a big shout out to the doctors and staff at UNC, including two phenomenal nurses in the "Short Stay Unit" who did a fantastic job shepherding Becky through the last 24 hours. One of them originally hailed from Erlangen, Germany. Ricky, I enjoyed speaking German with you, even though you accused me of having a Bern accent!
Love to all,
Friday, August 21
4:18 AM Becky writes:
This morning at 3:45 I sat on the front porch, having a last moment of quiet with my Lord. I was as clean as could possibly be for the surgery. All was dark as I sat in the rocking chair. The night air was cool, but warm. A soft breeze flowed across the porch. I could hear the bull frogs in the pond and the soft crunch of cows chewing their cud in the pasture. An occasional bird called.
The sky was dark; no moon. It was full of vibrant stars. Close to the horizon was a red-sparkling planet. The blink-blink of an airplane floated across; I couldn’t find any smoothly-sailing satellites. The lights of neighboring Clarksville gently light up the lower sky.
The second that I came onto the porch and saw the sky, I thought to myself, “That sky is the same sky that hung over Job. He mourned the loss of his children under that sky. And Abram….he pitched his tent in Canaan land under those stars; they were the witnesses to the covenant between him and God. And David, both as lowly shepherd and then as exalted King; those stars witnessed his insignificance, then his exaltation, and finally his being hunted down by men with vile motives.”Almost since Time began Man has looked to the stars for instruction in his life. Today many people, even so-called Christians, want to read their horoscopes daily! In their struggle to know about their life, they miss the whole message of the stars.
The stars tell us the story of His place and our place. You see, the stars are fixed from generation to generation, from situation to situation….just as their Creator is. He does not change; He remains constant.
Beneath the stars is the world of Man…city lights, flying airplanes, mosquitoes buzzing, activities. In constant commotion, going here and going there, busy about nothingness.
But He remains constant. Watching all. Governing all. Undisturbed. Unthreatened. Wars rage at every level. We move from ecstasy to despair and back again…but He remains unchanged.
He is there. He wants us to notice Him. He wants us to get the message of His stars. Our life depends upon that message!
But we must stop. We must look. We must listen.
Today, have you heard the message of the stars?
Thursday, August 20
8:37 PM We've got to get up at 3:30, so it's off to bed. Not that you need a reminder, but here's the precious lady we are all praying for:
Here Becky holds her grandson Nolan Elijah for the first time:
Becky, tireless advocate for the church in Ethiopia:
Becky with her mom, Betty Lapsley:
Becky loving on one of Sheba's puppies:
Becky cooking a meal during one of our reenactments:
Becky the avid gardener:
Becky caring for an orphaned goat:
Finally, this is one of my all-time favorite pix of my wife, praying at Nate and Jessie's wedding. It is no exaggeration to say that Becky is a Proverbs 31 woman through and through. Her husband rises up and blesses her.
Becky we love you!
7:30 PM These words of Malcolm Muggeridge, the great British wordsmith, are strangely on my mind this evening. For, as I said at Bible study last night, I have found that nothing in my life (though I have a great deal) satisfies me, because none of these things was ever intended to satisfy me. Please read these words and see if your own heart does not resonate with them.
I may, I suppose, regard myself or pass for being a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets – that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue – that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions – that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time – that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you – and I beg you to believe me – multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing – less than nothing, a positive impediment – measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.
I might put it this way: Love is not sex, wealth is not money, faithfulness is not success, and relationship is not religion. Does that make any sense?
7:03 PM Nick Norelli reviews The Dictionary of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation, to which one of my colleagues (Andreas Köstenberger) contributed. Kudos to Andreas and to the publisher, Routledge.
6:45 PM Did I tell you? Sheba is pregnant. It will be great to have puppies around again. Sheba is such a great mother. I love it that there is always new life on the farm.
One of her pups went to a great family in Durham. Galana was a real sweetie-pie. Hope you guys are still enjoying her!
6:03 PM Right now we're packing for the hospital. I plan to stay overnight with Becky as long as I need to. In the meantime, your emails have been a blessing.
5:54 PM Allan Bevere's latest, Brett Favre Meets St. Augustine, will get you thinking.
2:35 PM Just heard from UNC. Becky needs to be at the hospital at 6:00 am. I assume her surgery will take place sometime around 8:00 am. I'll do my best to keep everyone informed through this blog.
12:49 PM Nate got the mower working, so hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go!
12:42 PM Becky's latest essay is called The God of What-Ifs.
12:22 PM Billy Graham once said, "Life at its best is full of sadness." Larry Crabb, in his book Finding God, puts the same truth this way: "In even the happiest of Christian lives there are deep pockets of incurable pain." Paul said, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." All three men are describing what I call the "human factor" in life. As Becky faces surgery tomorrow and the prospect of a long and painful recovery, I'm very much aware that without her I would not be writing these words. For 33 years we have served Jesus together, growing in grace in the midst of our weaknesses and struggles. We are still in the process of learning "My grace is sufficient." We discussed this verse as we drove home from church last night. Becky put it this way: "God has plenty of grace for our every need. But we must accept that grace. God is like a mother who has just cooked a lavish supper. She calls to her children 'Come and get it!' That's how God invites us to partake of His grace."
It is my prayer that as we face the storm Becky and I will learn more about the availability of God's grace, and that we will be driven deeper and deeper into His Word with all its mystery and unfathomableness. In my own life, I am praying for a new "grace awakening," asking God to grant me a greater "bigheartedness" (Phil 4:5) toward one another -- both individuals and organizations. I want to see God break down the barriers between different visions in the church and create a Holy Spirit marriage of them. I am praying for a greater "Acts 13 breakthrough" in my own heart so that God can use me to take the Gospel to all peoples. I especially desire that God would give me a Matthew 9 vision and a passion to pray more fervently that the Lord of the harvest would send out more workers to the harvest field. I am committed to working with those who love the Lord Jesus to build on the teaching of the Word of God to mobilize my students for world evangelization. I refuse -- absolutely refuse! -- to teach a theology that is not also "practical." Orthodoxy, by definition, is orthopraxy. Either theology serves the mission of the church or it is inconsequential, a game we "scholars" play at the expense of ministry and mission. God help us!
I say this without pride, but I do believe Becky and I have arrived at the point in our lives that, like Paul, our only concern is the progress of the Gospel. We think of ourselves as resident aliens whose real home is "somewhere beyond the blue" and, therefore, "we "can't feel at home in this world anymore." We live as strangers in a strange land. We both long to "go home," but in the meantime our one desire is to "live as good citizens of heaven in a manner worthy of the Gospel," as Paul puts it in the key verse of Philippians (1:27). Luther once called security "the ultimate idol." Our security is not in our health or possessions. My bout with malaria was enough to convince me that God can take away a person's health in the twinkling of an eye. No, our fragility reminds us that we must turn to God for everything. Throughout the centuries, common women and men like Lottie Moon and Jim Elliott caused remarkable things in their worlds to happen when an eternal perspective invaded their souls. They set standards that leave me breathless. This is how Becky and I want to live the rest of our years: demonstrating in word and deed the splendor of the living Christ and His incredible power to rescue the perishing and give them a new and abundant life.
I have taken a lot of words to say a simple thing. I don't mean to complicate God and His ways. It is clear that God longs to do something beautiful in my marriage through the experience of the coming months. The passion to finish our course remains as strong as ever.
12:04 PM J. B. Phillips (photo), in introducing his translation of the Book of Acts, says of the earliest Christians, "These men did not make acts of faith, they believed; did not say their prayers, they really prayed. They didn't hold conferences on psycho-somatic medicine, they simply healed the sick."
I was delighted with our prayer meeting last night and impressed with the courage it took for our elders (we still call them "deacons") to obey James 5 and anoint Becky with oil as they prayed over her. There will never be a widespread renewal in Christianity until the church turns from its preoccupation with tradition to a concern to follow the Bible in even the smallest details. I want to thank pastor Jason, whose leadership caused our prayer meeting to become a witness to the power of petition to unleash the supply of the Holy Spirit (Phil. 1:19). We have a great and sovereign God who specializes in working in the midst of "clay pots." But He also delights, I believe, in even the smallest acts of obedience to His Word. I am convinced that pastoral fear can be overcome, despite our weaknesses, because those whom Jesus calls to be His followers still have the capacity to hear and obey truth. I praise any pastor, whether in Roxboro or Rangoon, who cares for the kingdom enough to resist accommodation to the world.
Wednesday, August 19
1:19 PM I've tried three times to start the lawnmower and it won't start. Must be providential that I not mow today!
1:08 PM If you're free on the 28th-30th of next month, Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL, is hosting a conference called Evangelicals and the Nicene Faith. Speakers include my own dean, David Nelson. Lectures that caught my eye were "The Nicene Faith and the Catholicity of the Church," "How to be Confessional, Baptist, and Arminian," "The Nicene Faith and Evangelical Worship," and "Toward a Generous Orthodoxy." The cost is only $95.00 and includes two meals. Can't beat that!
12:52 PM Finally, tensions are easing in the Horn of Africa. But for how long?
12:32 PM I'm famous. I made Craig's List.
11:58 AM Swiss chard, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. All snug as a bug in a rug in our new winter garden, which we planted this morning. Ain't it sweet?
9:03 AM Speaking of prayer, yesterday we received this email from our brother and co-worker Oshe in Burji, in southern Ethiopia:
Dear Sister Becky how are you? After I read unexpected news in your E-mail I am really saddened by this news. Becky was one of the very highly respected Sisters in our Burji churches, and other Burji comminute with her good heart and the love she shows for everyone in the equal way for those who know her. For some time I was unable to believe this news and I said to God why why why ………..this happen to her? She is our dear one. This is unanswered question in my life. After I read your part two article I really settle down myself.
Please take comfort in the word of God which says:
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4
I am sending a letter to all Burji churches to let them know, and I know that they also will be praying for you. I pray that the almighty God gives you the courage to this tough time. Please notes that me, my Family, and all Burji churches with you with our thoughts and prayers. On Friday we will be in prayer. Please update every information to us.
With much love
Oshe Burje Soyama Burji
How precious! If the Ethiopian church is known for anything, it is known for its prayer life. The people of Burji love Becky as if she were one of their own -- which she is. Becky spent several of her childhood years in these beautiful mountains. Whenever we visit she feels at home. The villagers have even told us they are prepared to build Becky her very own hut in the highlands. Below are some photos of these incredible people. I want you to see them, to catch a glimpse of their faith and love, to witness their simple life, unencumbered by all the things we think are so important. It is these precious saints of God who are praying for my wife to be strong, to face the storm calmly, to put her trust in a God whose kingdom knows no national boundaries. He is as alive in the mountains of Burji as He is in the hills of southern Virginia. Praise His name!
8:43 AM Tonight I've been asked to bring a devotional on prayer at our weekly prayer meeting at The Hill. I will show how prayer can make a real difference -- IF it is tied to the work of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (see the Granville Sharpe construction in Phil. 1:19). Of course, I will be a hypocrite in doing so. I sing "Sweet Hour of Prayer" and spend but a few minutes each day in prayer. And do I pray earnestly? The Bible says that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. It says that it is not by might nor by power but by His Spirit. I know this intellectually. I can teach it to others. But my life barely conforms to it.
I see through a mirror darkly. I know in part. Thankfully, Jesus is greater than any man's experience.
Tuesday, August 18
9:08 PM What a wonderful evening I just had! It was all our daughter Liz's fault too. She decided it would be a good idea to have an Ethiopian dinner before her mother went in for her surgery. In Raleigh there's a great ethnic restaurant called the Abyssinia that makes excellent injera and wat. (You need to try it sometime. It's located near NC State on Western Ave.) After school I drove there (you have to understand what a great sacrifice that was for me. Driving in Raleigh is like driving in L.A. -- and I don't mean Lower Alabama either -- but Becky is worth it) and picked up about 9 dishes. Then I drove home (thorough rush hour traffic -- argh!) and found Becky and some dear ladies from Bethel Hill enjoying a time of tea and fellowship. That was sweet! When the Rondeaus arrived we did what our family does so well: we ate until we were all as stuffed as a Strasbourg goose. Nate, of course, played "shark" with the boys on our bed, then it was time for ice cream on the upstairs porch. The puppies got into the action too. What a crazy, funny family I've got, but I love each one. And at the heart of our home is a lovely lady named Becky, whom we sought (so very feebly, I'm afraid) to honor this evening. Becky is God's gift to me -- and to you too. Why to you too? I guarantee that most of the accomplishments I've had in life (including the smoothing out of a whole bunch of very rough edges) are the result of her gentle, loving, and godly life. She has sacrificed so much for her family, it was kind of nice to do something thoughtful for her in return.
Oh yeah ... check out these pictures if you are so moved.
5:27 PM Two new job openings: Assistant Professor of Religious Studies (College of Wooster), and Assistant Professor, Religious Studies (Santa Clara University).
5:22 PM Syntax and Exegesis students: I have just updated the course syllabus and schedule. Please go to the seminary website and become familiar with the important changes I've made.
5:17 PM This email arrived today from one of my Bethel Hill Greek students:
I hope you don't mind my request, but I noticed that you will be teaching first-year Greek students this semester. I would like to get the Bibleworks version of BDAG, but I need to sell my hardcopy first. It's in pristine condition. It sells for $120 both used and new at Amazon.com, so I'd like to get around $80 for it. Would you be able to mention this to your students?
This is a pretty good deal. Send me an email if you're interested.
5:12 PM I was deeply touched by Becky's latest essay in her suffering series. She writes:
If we are not sensing any opposition from non-believers, then we must examine ourselves to see if we are indeed following Jesus. His way goes in the opposite direction of Society. Where Society says "fight," He says "surrender." Where Society says "hold onto it," He says "let go of it." Where Society says "take revenge," He says "love and forgive."
I can't help but think of what Paul said about suffering in 2 Tim. 3:12: "All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Notice that Paul does not say "some" but "all." No one can be a true follower of Jesus and live peaceably in a crazy planet like ours. Unless, of course, we have declared a truce with the world. Do you have any wounds to show that you have been in the battle? Where are the marks of the cross among today's church members? I'm not talking about the troubles we have as a result of our humanness. Neither is Becky. The trouble Paul is talking about is trouble that is caused by our identification with Christ. I think of our Gondar evangelists who have been beaten and jailed without charges in northern Ethiopia. I think of our evangelists in Burji who go without food and leave their families for long periods of time because they are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. I think of a 15-year old American who went with us to Alaba and faced all the dangers of being in a place where Christians are being killed for their faith. My point is this: A humble Christian can know more about what Paul is teaching in 2 Tim. 3:12 than all the professors exegeting their Greek New Testaments put together. How is it that a man can claim to be a New Testament scholar and never lift his little finger in service for the Gospel? At times I think that all of our book-learning and degrees are so many religious calisthenics, a form of godliness without the power.
Sometimes it seems to me that we are living in a feast of words and a famine of obedience. I encourage us all to lay it on the line when it comes to following Jesus, even into the hard places of this world.
6:31 AM Off to Wake Forest.
6:26 AM Becky has just posted Part Three in her series on suffering.
6:20 AM As classes start up for me next Tuesday I am very excited to be returning to the classroom. On Tuesdays I have the honor of teaching beginning Greek to a large class of ready-to-read-the-New-Testament-in-the-original-language students. Also on Tuesdays I'll be doing some special training called "It's Still Greek to Me." This course will give students the tools they need to build a lifetime of using Greek in their personal lives and ministries. Then on Wednesdays I'll be speaking to a smaller group of more advanced students about the big, big things God is doing in His amazing kingdom. The course is called "New Testament Theology," but of course it's all about King Jesus and the kingdom He preached, Paul preached, and we must preach today. I can't wait to get started!
Please pray for me as I prepare my lectures and begin my 65th semester of teaching. Students, see you in the classroom.
Monday, August 17
5:40 PM Time to cook Chinese stir fry, then it's off to The Hill for Greek class.
5:35 PM I'm constantly amazed at the dozens of emails Becky receives each week. I promised myself I would not post too many of them here, but I couldn't pass on this one that arrived in our inbox today. It gives you the "feel" of the letters that have brought so much joy to Becky (and me) in the past few weeks. A big "Thank you!" to all who write. May God bless you for your ministry of encouragement to us.
Hi, I just wanted to drop a quick line, to tell you I'm thinking of you both and praying for God's grace upon you this week. Mrs. Black, we at ______ are praying for your healing, and for your continued peace in Him. We love you both dearly. I passed along your message to ________, and am printing out your blog on suffering for her. I receive so much encouragement myself from the blog, from every writing, including the manure mucking! Life does go on regardless of circumstance. But as you know, we are not under our circumstance, we are under a God who has control over our circumstance.
If there is anything you need that I can help you with, please ask. Meanwhile, the prayers will continue daily.
Much love to you both.
5:22 PM A few minutes ago, just after Nate and I finished mucking manure, he looked into the sky and shouted, "Dad, take a look at that cloud!" What an unusual formation indeed. With a child's imagination I thought to myself, "Maybe that's the Jesus Cloud!"
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
12:35 PM Here's the plan for the week: Tonight is Greek class at The Hill; Tuesday I go to campus, then we have Ethiopian dinner with the Rondeaus at Bradford Hall; Wednesday night is prayer meeting at the church; Thursday we've set aside for last minute grocery shopping.
Today we've been prepping the garden for our new crops.
We worked until it got too hot to be outdoors. This is how far we got this morning:
Once inside I cooked pancakes for Nate and me (we like them golden brown!), while Becky prepared turkey sandwiches for herself and Jessie.
Nolan slept the whole time.
After lunch I helped Nate unload a now sofa he and Jess had purchased in Creedmoor. It's a beautiful settee dating to about 1880. It will grace their parlor.
Finally, we had to nail up the wicket gate on the north side of the garden because the dogs (especially one particular rascal) had been pushing it open and escaping.
Try to get through this, Miss Dadya!
Right now it's nap time, then back to work in the garden.
7:41 AM Alan Knox hits it out of the ball park with his latest essay: In Theory. His point? What good is Bible study if we fail to put into practice what we know to be true? This is one of the main issues I deal with in The Jesus Paradigm, and it is why I spent a whole chapter on the Anabaptists. Among other things, these sixteenth century radicals believed in "biblical authority instead of ecclesiastical tradition," "the Bible as a book of the church instead of as a book of scholars," and "a hermeneutic of obedience instead of a hermeneutic of knowledge." For them, the Bible, not tradition, provided the patterns for church life and organization just as plainly as it revealed the basic theological content of the faith. That belief earned for them the implacable hatred of the church hierarchy.
I conclude chapter 2 of The Jesus Paradigm with these words:
There can no longer be any doubt that our churches have departed from biblical norms. Could it be that we lack the prime essential for discipleship -- a personal commitment to the lordship of Christ? I ask myself: Where are the young and women of today's generation who are determined to stand upon Scripture alone, who are resolved to live by it, and who are committed to obeying it in their lives, their families, and their churches? I venture to say that the twenty-first century church is at a vital crossroads. If we should dare to submit ourselves anew to the full biblical witness to Christ and his church, I believe that the most significant renewal movement in the history of the church may yet await us.
Our problem is not one of knowledge but of obedience. The Paul of 1 Corinthians 14 has proven to be too hot to handle, too radical for the established church.
7:22 AM Please pray for Becky and me as we prepare for B's surgery this Friday. It will be a very busy week. We've never encountered anything quite like this before in our marriage. But God has already done a phenomenal job in our hearts and minds. Pray that God uses our testimonies in practical and transformational ways wherever we go. If the Gospel we represent revolves around us -- our health, our happiness, our ministries -- it is no Gospel at all. But if it revolves around Christ and His action of selfless love for others, then it is truly "Good News."
What will Friday's surgery determine? As I see it, there are three possible outcomes.
1) The doctors will discover no cancer whatsoever in Becky. Jesus will have healed her completely.
2) The doctors will discover that her cancer is limited to her uterus and hence is more "treatable" than otherwise.
3) They will discover that Becky's cancer has metastasized to other organs of her body. In that case Becky will be sick sick.
I don't know about you, but I'm not ruling out scenario #1. I'm not saying that Jesus must heal Becky. That would be heresy. Paul's "strength-in-weakness" teaching is as relevant today as ever. I'm tired of those "faith" healers who claim that God is under an obligation to heal us if we are Christians. The challenge with that notion is that it is just plain wrong. However, no one who reads the Bible would ever rule out the possibility of a miracle occurring, even today. So I have a question for you blog-readers who love Jesus: Do you believe in miracles? Are you praying for one? I'm typing these words to myself as much as I am to you. Becky and I do not seek healing for healing' sake. Our only desire is to continue to serve the rule of King Jesus with maximum impact.
Yesterday in his message brother Jason noted Paul's attitude toward Christ while in prison ( Phil. 1:12-26). Here was a man who lived totally for the Gospel. The Philippians may have supposed that his imprisonment had spelled the end of Paul's Gospel ministry. "Oh my, Paul is no longer free to preach! What will he do now?" To this Paul writes: "Contrary to what you may think, my imprisonment has actually turned out for the progress of the Gospel. Now everyone knows I'm in prison, not for being a criminal, but for being a Christian. Not only that. More and more of the believers here in Rome have been encouraged by my example to preach the Gospel more fearlessly than ever. Even the members of Caesar's own household have heard about Jesus!" I recall that when I was at UNC, the doctors were amazed to see a malaria case. "How was it that you contracted this disease?" they would ask, opening the door wide for a testimony of the love of Jesus. Becky and I are praying that wherever she goes, she will be a cheerful testimony to the love of Christ and the saving grace of God.
Paul said, "For me to go on living is Christ, and to die is gain." Here was a man whose sole concern was for the Gospel -- to know Christ, and to make Him known. I suppose we can do that in a hospital bed or while receiving chemo and radiation as easily as we can in an Ethiopian village.
Sunday, August 16
8:07 PM Good news! Becky's mom will be joining us a week from tomorrow to be with her daughter after the surgery. Mom will stay with us for at least a week. Mom, this means the world to us. Thank you!
8:00 PM I've got more information about the Amelia Baptist Church fund-raisers I mentioned below.
1) The first is a new church cookbook, to which the lovely ladies of Amelia will be contributing. The proceeds will go to Ethiopia. Becky herself has contributed several recipes. My all-time favorites are "Veepa's Rice" and "Curried Chicken-Broccoli Casserole." They are to die for. No, don't write and ask Becky for the recipes. You can purchase the cookbook when it comes out.
2) The second fund-raiser is a "Night of Pampering" at the church, to be held Saturday, Sept. 12, from 4:30 - 6:30 pm. Featured will be nutrition tips, a manicure, a facial, and a massage. But admission will cost you. You are asked to bring any one of the following items for Ethiopia:
- Non-prescription reading glasses (strengths 1.0 and 1.25)
- $5.00 toward an Amharic Bible
- Ovulation kits
- Pregnancy kits
- Protein bars for the evangelists
By the way, guys, this should be obvious, but the evening is only for the ladies.
We are praying earnestly that both events will be smashing successes. Isn't it obvious that we serve a kind Master?
6:26 PM I have been in such a frenzy of work and activities lately that I haven't had much time to update you on the farm. We're still enjoying life here at Rosewood. Today it is beautiful, almost fall-like, the kind of Sunday afternoon I would often spend on horseback when I still owned horses. Becky's summer garden is winding down, and soon she'll be planting her winter crops. The guy with the brown thumb gets to pull up all the old plants and run the roto-tiller. I was glad to see that Nathan had rotated some of our cattle to the pasture next door to Bradford Hall.
To be honest, I enjoy watching the cows immensely. We've got so many pastures that one often goes without seeing the animals for months on end. Currently Nate and I are looking at getting up a second cutting of hay within the next couple of weeks. There's no escaping the pleasures of farm life, the pride of knowing you've done your work well, and the pleasantness of a place where the rules still work. The old adage is true: The land shapes the people, and the people shape the land.
6:12 PM What a wonderful morning at Bethel Hill! Once again I witnessed the Body of Christ in action. I saw the whole people of God -- both the so-called clergy and the so-called laity -- functioning as true ministers of Jesus Christ. As pastor Jason walked us through the first eleven verses of Philippians, God opened the windows of heaven and we got a glimpse of what a New Testament church really looks like. Later Miss Mary brought a word the Lord Jesus had given her for the congregation.
Burdened for the sick in our midst, she quoted the words of James: "Is anyone sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will save the person who is sick. The Lord will restore him to health, and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven." Throughout the service I thought of Paul's words in Eph. 4:4: "There is one Body and one Spirit."
Now, what is truly remarkable is that the Body at Bethel Hill loves Becky and me! In fact, it is a church in which every member is prized, every ministry appreciated, every differing experience of the grace of God treasured. Perhaps the word "together" best describes Bethel Hill Baptist Church. We are "joined together" (Eph. 2:21), "built up together" (2:22), "heirs together," "members together," "sharers together" (3:6), and "joined and held together by every supporting ligament" (4:16). When brother Jason referred to the lump in his throat when he heard the news about Becky's illness, he was merely describing the sense of interdependence all of us at The Hill feel about each other. This morning, as the church prayed for Becky, I saw this mutual love in action.
The church was saying to her, in essence: "Your life is divinely ordained and significant. Your cancer is not an accident. The way you are put together is part of God's design for you. And we love you just the way you are. We will pray for your healing. And we will stand by you no matter what happens."
This koinonia dimension of the church is not limited to any one congregation. The church is by nature different from every other society in the world. A splendid example is Amelia Baptist Church, which not only held a yard sale for a clinic vehicle but in the coming days will have two other fund-raisers for Ethiopia. Here is the church in Amelia, Virginia and the church in Bethel Hill, North Carolina united in Christ's mission and vocation, working together for the kingdom of God. The great mystery of the Gospel for Paul was that Jews and Gentiles were heirs together in Christ, enjoying complete equality and mutuality in Him. So it is today among the people of God throughout the world.
Recently I received an email from a young man who had been badly burned by the church. "Why should I go through the agony of an open encounter with a local body of Christians again?" he asked. The church has all too often been deaf to the cry of Christians for genuine community. Friend, maybe it's time you gave up your seat in the bleachers for a bench in the locker room. Someone once said, "The church is like Noah's ark. It sure does stink, but if you get out you'll drown." You and I are the church. That's why it's so often in a mess. But we still love it. Like it or not, we are all part of the community of sinners. This is all the more reason to come together regularly in order to spur one another on to love and good words.
Lord, make me to love your church. It is the door to worldwide missions and ministry. By your grace, help me to take responsibility for the Great Commission. Allow me to realize what an awesome privilege it is to be a part of a church that truly loves you and loves others. I thank you that even though we stink at times, we're not drowning.
I pray this in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
7:58 AM Becky continues her series on suffering with Part Two.
7:45 AM Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it would give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.
7:21 AM Henry Neufeld calls our attention to an article on church nominating committees. I read it and am glad I did. Here's one take-away:
If your ministry is struggling without leaders, do not re-evaluate your leadership development program first. It is time to re-evaluate your disciple-making system. If you have next to nothing in the area of reaching lost and broken people, then your leadership development system will yield very little results. A lack of leaders is a symptom of a much greater problem-you lack transformation in people's souls. Do not mourn your lack of leaders; mourn your lack of changed lives. If you have changed lives, the leaders you need will emerge.
Saturday, August 15
9:25 PM This just in!
Becky Lynn & Dave,How God blessed us! Our last count for the 2 day sale as of 4:30 this afternoon was 3140.40. To God be the glory! It was so good of you to come and be with us today. We will have a check in the mail this week ... still hope to some donations from those who could not be a part of our sale.
We serve an amazing God!
9:04 PM What is a "Circle of Love"? It's a group of women at Amelia Baptist Church surrendered to Jesus and His mission. As with Mary the sister of Lazarus, the Canaanite woman, and the women "who ministered to Jesus" during His earthly ministry, these dear ladies are exemplars of devotion and love to Christ.
Believe me, they are our modern-day Phoebes and Pricillas! But that's not all. You should have seen them as they worked together at the yard sale. Always smiling, joking, laughing. It was all very colorful and joyful, let me tell you. The Bible says that God gives us all things richly to be enjoyed -- and I suppose that includes an indoor "yard" sale!
The result? God honored their prayers and their labor in a mighty way. It was wonderful for Becky and me to be eye-witnesses of their commitment to world missions. Such selfless sacrifice lies at the heart of the whole Christian message and separates Christianity from all religions. These precious women are a reminder to me that we are all clergy -- priestly ministers. There is a direct and living connection between the Head (Jesus) and every member of His Body. My experience today strengthens my resolve to abolish the laity in our churches and to return to Paul's teaching that the Body grows and builds itself up in love "as each part does its job" (Eph. 4:16). Did I mention that Amelia Baptist Church is currently without a "pastor"? That does not slow them down a bit! As Markus Barth reminds us, the whole church "is the clergy appointed by God for a ministry to and for the world" (Ephesians, p. 479). "To and for the world" -- this could well be the motto of a healthy church. It certainly describes God's people in Amelia.
Let's all take a cue from the "Circle of Love" and seize the opportunities God has given us today to be His hands and feet in our communities and the world. Who knows what might happen as a result?
Friday, August 14
8:45 PM The Lord gave us a great Friday. A long one too. Our schedule was jam-packed. We left the house at 5:30 am and got back at 8:00 pm. Nate and I just finished mucking manure as the sun set -- beautiful! Upon our return we were blessed with this email from Amelia Baptist Church about the yard sale it held today for Ethiopia:
Today was a big success! We made over $1300.00. We hope to do at least that good tomorrow.
Isn't the Lord great? Tomorrow Becky and I plan to attend the event ourselves. Right now I have to answer my emails.
Thursday, August 13
9:25 PM How well do you know German? In the book Mission Escape, which I am currently reading, Wings Day has just been shot down over Germany. Author Sydney Smith relates:
He was greeted ... with the Germans' classic remark to all new prisoners: "For you the war is over."
How do you say "For you the war is over" in idiomatic German? If you get this right, you know your German!
8:45 PM How spoiled we Americans are! Becky and I keep thinking, "What would Ethiopians say if they saw that?" One example: Becky will have, not just surgery, but robotic surgery. "Modern medicine" seems to have reached its pinnacle here in the States. Yet neither Burji nor Alaba has a hospital, let alone robotic surgeons. Ethiopians lack medical insurance and disability pay. You can't walk anywhere without seeing a beggar or someone desperately ill. Whereas health has become our national obsession, disease is an everyday occurrence in the Horn of Africa, as much a part of daily life as the flies are.
There is one thing, however, that Christians in America and Christians in Ethiopia have in common. We believe that Jesus can still heal the diseased. The mechanics, of course, are completely up to Him. In the Gospels we read that Jesus healed all who were brought to Him regardless of gender and age -- or type of disease. I imagine He was like a one-man emergency room. Today sufferers in Ethiopia still flock to Him. As I write this, my mind races back to a young man named Kuro who lived in Soyama, Burji. He had become blind, and we felt that his blindness was due to a brain tumor. What could we do for him? We are not "faith healers."
We did what we could. We sent him to Addis Ababa to confirm our diagnosis. But the doctors could do nothing for him, and so he returned to Soyama to die. We last saw him curled over in pain in his village hut (photo) as we gave his family some pain medication to help ease his final days. It is not that Jesus wasn't there or that He didn't care. He could have healed Kuro in absentia. He simply chose not to do so.
The Gospel always emphasizes that Jesus went to where the people were. He didn't have a town hall meeting or a call-in program. He traveled to the villages where the hurting lived. Likewise, today He comes to us in women baking casseroles. Or in a sympathy card. Or when you get an email from a complete stranger. In performing such menial chores, we are actually being Jesus to others.
This realization cheers me. Should I ever find myself at the end of my rope, I can count on Jesus not to let go of the other end.
8:30 PM Thank you, Miss Mary. The chicken casserole you cooked for us was delicious. We love you.
5:27 PM The fear-mongering continues. Obama will nationalize health care (no, he offers a public option), and your handicapped child will have to appear before a "death panel" (Palin is at it palin). How can anyone possibly believe such nonsense? My concern is about bureaucratic efficiency – something the government is notoriously poor at. My guess is that health care reform will suffer a slow death, if it isn't already brain dead. The drug and health insurance industries will see to it.
5:16 PM I found this sermon incredibly encouraging: Vom Christentum enttäuscht -- von Christus überrascht!
5:10 PM I am looking forward with eager anticipation to Alan Knox's lecture in our theology class this semester. The church's corporate behavior in "worship" is often – perhaps normally – inhibited by a thousand conventions that have nothing to do with the Bible or even the Gospel. The gathering of the church, according to the New Testament, has quite a different focus. The New Covenant is new because, and only because, it is a function of love. It is authenticated by the drama of a koinonia that ought to be a mixture of mutual exhortation and encouragement among persons talking freely, sharing burdens, and receiving the comfort of truth. Here they realize that this world is their Father's house, not some "worship center." The law of love is the one constraint that governs their actions. I would say that unless the leaders (elders) of a church community can be persuaded to talk quite freely to one another about the need for mutual encouragement as the focus of the gathering (Heb. 10:24-25) their stewardship in the community will not be worth two cents.
6:25 AM Back to school. Need to post one more course schedule on the seminary website. Stop by my office if you need to see me; the door is always open.
6:22 AM Becky has started a series on the topic of suffering. Her first essay is called God Didn't Make Me to Suffer!
6:16 AM Several of my students have begun translating the Latin church fathers, having realized that most English translations, including the famous Loeb series, are extremely dilatory and unreliable. This naturally puts the reader who does not know Latin at a great disadvantage. Why, my dear friends, do people rely so much upon translations? I was immensely tickled to see that one of my best students was mortified to see how inaccurate his translations were. I find no reason to mollify his horror. I hope no one will make excuses like "But I could never learn to read Latin." Greek students will find the grammar much simpler than Koine, and it is great fun reading about Caesar's exploits. Then there are dozens of patristic commentaries on the New Testament written by the Latin fathers. The Vulgate is on the same epic scale and is much more interesting that one supposes at first blush. The neglect of Latin should, I feel, be remedied, but who am I to say that -- except perhaps the world's leading infracaninophile?
6:10 AM Yesterday evening we had a delightful time with the Blacks, freshly returned from their jaunt up north. Nolan continues to steal our hearts. What a "doll baby," as Becky would say. Here are the perfunctory pix:
Wednesday, August 12
6:52 PM Here's the lineup (thus far) of the guest lecturers who will be addressing my New Testament Theology class this fall. Lectures will be held on Wednesdays from 2:00-3:00 pm, followed by a 20 minute Q & A session. If you'd like to attend any of these sessions as my guest, let me know.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Maurice Robinson (Ph.D. SWBTS). Dr. Robinson’s topic will be “New Testament Theology and Textual Criticism.” He will examine in detail four important variants: Matt. 5:22; John 3:13; John 7:53-8:11; and Mark 16:9-20. Dr. Robinson is a published author in the field of New Testament textual criticism.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Andreas Köstenberger (Ph.D. TEDS). Dr. Köstenberger, a noted expert on John, will speak on the theology of the Fourth Gospel.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. David Beck (Ph.D. Duke). For many years Dr. Beck has taught the course on Acts at the seminary. He will be lecturing on the missionary strategy of the apostles.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Robert Cole (Ph.D. UCLA). Dr. Cole’s lecture will cover the use of the Old Testament in Paul’s writings, including Galatians.
Guest Lecturer: Mr. Alan Knox (Ph.D. in progress SEBTS). Mr. Knox, who publishes the website The Assembling of the Church, will speak on the purpose of the gathering of the New Testament church.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. John Hammett (Ph.D. SBTS). Dr. Hammett will lecture on the place and importance of the book of Romans in church history.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Tracy McKenzie (Ph.D. SEBTS). Dr. McKenzie will speak on Paul’s teaching about marriage in Colossians and Ephesians.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Nathan Finn (Ph.D. SEBTS). Dr. Finn is a Baptist historian. His topic will be the theme of unity in Philippians and its implication for modern issues of cooperation for the sake of the Gospel.
Guest Lecturer: Mr. Mel Winstead (Ph.D. in progress SEBTS). Mr. Winstead is currently writing a dissertation on the use of participles in Hebrews. He will speak on the warning passage of Heb. 6:1-11.
Guest Lecturer: Dr. David Lanier (Ph.D. SWBTS). Dr. Lanier will speak on the authorship and argument of the book of Hebrews.
6:30 PM Here's a huge shout out to Matthew Rummage and Jamie Huff who just stopped by to pray with Becky and me. Both Matt and Jamie served in Ethiopia with us. You guys are the greatest. God bless you!
6:06 PM On my drive to work this morning I heard a story at NPR about the new generation of earth scientists. It was a great report because it got me thinking. This quote by a senior scientist jumped out at me:
My generation has done the best science it could and I think we've learned a lot about the Earth," he says. "But you're always looking for new ideas."
I think that quote summarizes where we are today in New Testament studies. It is time to move beyond group think and static consensus. I have expressed publicly my admiration of and respect for the work of my generation of scholars. I still feel on balance, however, that we are no longer asking the radical questions we ought to be asking. We have spoken the first word but not the last word. To this end, I am encouraging my students to reexamine their beliefs on a number of important issues. To be specific: the synoptic problem (must we believe that Mark is our first Gospel?), textual criticism (must we reject out of hand the Byzantine text?), authorship issues (could Paul have possibly authored Hebrews?), hermeneutics (can we integrate linguistic insights into our study of the Greek New Testament?), etc. Every detail of our discipline should be reevaluated to see whether or not it frustrates this end. Above all, if we respond to this challenge and look for new solutions to old problems, Jesus Himself will have to be the focus of our reflections. We will have to return to Him again and again and therefore find it impossible to rest content with any concept that impersonalizes the Christian faith.
5:56 PM What's wrong with this picture of America's largest mega-churches? Its focus on a one-man pastorate, of course. Today I am glad to say that among many young Christians I know, careerism is beginning to take a back seat to humble, team-style leadership. I am beginning to see more and more students come to the realization that every Christian is a minister and that God has given each of His saints, men and women alike, gifts that make an important contribution to the health of the church (1 Cor. 4:7). These students are eager to begin working in a leadership team for the purpose of equipping the saints (Eph. 4:11-12). They are anxious to labor among servant-leaders who differ in giftedness but who have equal responsibilities. They see themselves as a "fellowship of leadership" (I owe this wonderful expression to Michael Green) who serve as equals, not as CEOs in a chain of command. They understand that Christ is the only head of the church, its only Senior Pastor, and that under His leadership elders are always plural.
When builders in the nineteenth century sought to complete the Cologne Cathedral, it was not necessary to prepare a new plan but only to retrieve and study the design as it was first conceived by Meister Gerard in the thirteenth century.
I often wonder why good and thoughtful people so easily forget the scriptural injunction to make all things according to the pattern shown to us on the Mount. We would be wise to pause a moment and consider how much we need to understand and then put into practice Paul's broad perspective on leadership in the church.
5:34 PM Well, it's certain now. Obama is the Antichrist. What would we ever do without World Net Daily?
5:22 PM I know you've been wondering about Becky's CT-scan. In an email to a friend today, Becky reported:
About an hour ago I talked with the oncologist. The report is over all "good." The CT does not show any major/large/gross spreading to other organs, and it does not show enlarged lymph nodes. What it does show is 2 very small nodules, one in each lung. These are very small, and are labeled "indeterminate." The recommendation is to repeat the CT scan in 6 months.
I asked the oncologist: Does this mean that stage 4 is excluded? And he answered "No, we do not stage on the basis of purely radiologic evidence. Some spreading is too small to show up on CT scan. Not until we look around during the surgery will we be able to confirm that it has not spread."
So what we can say at this point....Stage 4 is not ruled in, but it's not ruled out either.
Surgery is scheduled for Friday, August 21st....total hysterectomy, with tubes & ovaries. And if they find spreading during surgery, they will resect around any spreading.
Thank you again for your prayers on our behalf. God is answering them! Please mark your calendars now for the date of B's surgery: Friday, August 21.
6:49 AM Big news. I'll be on campus again today, now that I'm feeling much less like a corpse. I'll be up to my ears in syllabi and course preps. The campus is remarkable for its fauna, flora, and even smells, though outdoors it is positively too hot to do anything. The other big news is that Nate and Jess arrive home today and, of course, we're expecting a phone call from Becky's oncologist with the results from yesterday's CT-scan.
A thousand apologies, dear students, for not posting my fall semester syllabi early, but I should think they will be posted by this evening -- all very readable and intensely interesting, of course. You New Testament Theology estudiantes in particular will be pleased at our line-up of guest lecturers for the semester -- Köstenberger on John, Beck on Acts, Lanier on Hebrews, McKenzie on Ephesians, Robinson on the textual criticism of the Gospels, Cole on the law, Alan Knox on 1 Corinthians, and, for you alliteralists, Finn on Philippians. I may even get in a lecture or two myself (ha ha!). Next week Thursday the new semester begins. Can you believe it? Tempus fidgets -- as the ancient Romans would say.
6:34 AM I have been reading a lot of German in my spare time lately, especially Barth (the elder), who always says what he means and means what he says.
However, it is one thing to read Barth and quite another to understand him. Under such circumstances it is no dishonor for the foreigner to retire from the field, vanquished, and hope the day will come when he or she will be able to appreciate both Barth's syntax and semantics. But I don't think I ever will.
Speaking of my Teutonic affinities, it does not seem that our little German colloquium will materialize this semester after all. Apparently there are not enough little Germans to make it happen. But I am sure our students will get along well enough without it. I intensely sympathize with our doctorands who have to pass an exam in Goethe's mother tongue. Learning a foreign language is, however, an excellent thing, even a language that is spoken and written backwards ("I know that Jesus for my sins died has") or just doesn't make any sense when translated into English (witness the German who said to his American waiter, "I am here since an hour. When do I become a fish?"). And so forth, ad infinitum.
Tuesday, August 11
7:20 PM A wise old preacher once said, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." Without doubt for the Christian that includes a time to be on the receiving end of the prayers of God's people. How can we thank you enough for your prayers as well as your emails? It may take us a while, but we will answer every letter you have sent us. Paul once said that we are "one Body in Christ, though many, and individually members of one another'" (Rom. 12:5). What a wonderful privilege as Christians to be bound together in one Body in a fellowship that goes far beyond common hobbies or political affiliations. Yet at the same time what a deep responsibility to every other Christian in the entire world, regardless of age, level of intelligence, nationality, social status, denomination, or race.
Whenever one of us has a burden, all of us have to put our shoulder under the weight, whatever the burden might be. I empathize greatly with Eric Carpenter's recent posts on Christian unity, as I feel he is trying to get beyond the nomenclature of oneness to the demonstration of the reality of our oneness in Christ. The real challenge is not so much academic or cognitive (though doctrine is vitally important). The real challenge is to demonstrate the reality of our unity by such things as cooperation in the Gospel, sympathy, prayer, reluctance to be overly-critical of others, and offering practical help when needed and not only when it is asked for. Our burdens are to be carried jointly! Becky and I are amazed at the kind of fellowship we are experiencing since the announcement of her illness. We've been offered homes in the Bahamas and even in Humble, Texas! In addition, we have a remarkable local church fellowship at Bethel Hill that demonstrates at the grassroots level our oneness in Christ. The simple and liberating truth is that while "every act of giving and every perfect gift comes from above," these gifts are often mediated through the open-handed goodness of God's people. Speaking personally, as I read the emails that arrive on an hourly basis I am speechless, struck dumb by an awesome sense of the mysterious love of God. This is something that no man could ever organize. It is God on the loose -- awesome, majestic, mysterious, and powerful. The operation of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ is absolutely phenomenal!
6:33 PM Oddly, today my mind wandered nostalgically back to the doctoral dissertation I wrote many years ago. In 1984 it was published in New York as Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I hope people have been properly edified by the pedantic statements it contains. What I profited the most from in writing it was a very practical lesson. I came to realize that God's means of making us strong is by making us weak. Not only that, this truthful discovery was not to be ensconced in the ivory tower of that great university along the Rhine. The brutal and the intellectual joined hands. Not only did I come down with laryngitis just as I was about to hold a major lectureship (and therefore had to cancel it), but Becky found herself in the university hospital for a month, the victim of a painful arthritic flare-up. At the time I was intensely young and immature, and it never occurred to me that God would ensure that my academic study of weakness would be more than an intellectual exercise.
Since then I have learned, on bright and cloudy days, that strength-in-weakness is a warning against a conceited and selfish lifestyle and is, in fact, a whole philosophy of life. I have long gotten over the jollifications of the first days of my academic career. At the same time I have come to detest self-pity. It so easily becomes a mere indulgence, a vice of the mind quite as deplorable as any other evil habit. But what about pity for others? I am well and happy but my dear wife suffers, and how I suffer with her! Sometimes I feel entirely incompetent to write anything on the subject. I can't formulate for myself the formula I wish to formalize. How whole-heartedly I agree with C. S. Lewis, whose A Grief Observedcontains these profound words:
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by the rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it? The same with people…. Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.
This may sound awful, but I can't bring myself to take Paul, Apostle of Weakness off the shelf these days or even look at it. I wish it were as easy to live a book as it is to write it. Still, I am looking forward with faith, hope, and patience to the lessons I have yet to learn about weakness. As Becky put it to a phone-caller recently, "Victory is possible only through surrender."
Amen and amen.
7:55 AM The good work goes on. This Friday and Saturday God's people at Amelia Baptist Church in Amelia Court House will hold a 2-day garage sale. All proceeds will go to Ethiopia. Amelia Court House is within an easy drive of Richmond. As we have often found to be the case, so now. God always graciously supplies the needs of His work.
If you can't make the garage sale but would still like to consider how you can help, Becky has compiled a clinic shopping list. Again, Becky and I pay all of our own expenses; there is no "overhead" in our work, so that whatever you send goes to where the needs are. How precious it is to depend upon God for everything!
7:33 AM Today's schedule seems easy compared with yesterday's. We will leave the house at noon. Becky has "pre-care" at UNC at 2:00, then her CT-scan at 3:30. We expect to hear the results of the scan tomorrow afternoon. Already we have been richly rewarded by waiting on the Lord. He listens to the supplications of His children. But our requests must be made on the basis of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. Friend, have you ever trusted Jesus for your salvation? Make certain today that in no degree your righteousness is presented to God as the grounds of His acceptance. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me." Becky and I are praying that you will trust Him today as your Savior and Lord.
Monday, August 10
9:12 PM Well, are you ready? Becky has just posted her thoughts about our day. As you can see, the BIG news is that we're off to a great start with Becky's oncologists. No pessimism allowed when the Lord has provided the cream of the crop -- cutting edge, aggressive, congenial, with a servant's heart added for good measure. Another blessing is the outpouring of love and affection for my dear wife. Jesus, I can't thank you enough for inventing the Internet (sorry, Mr. Gore) that puts us in touch with our friends all over the world. I know in my own life, the greatest joy comes from sharing in the ups and downs of others and joining with Jesus in the sufferings and joys of my fellow believers. There's unparalleled jubilation when God moves and heals miraculously, and there's sadness and quiet trust when He chooses to allow suffering for a greater purpose. Either way, I've learned to be incredibly grateful for the peace that passes all human understanding.
What's our greatest need right now? As Becky mentioned, tomorrow's CT-scan is crucial. It will probably determine whether Becky's cancer has metastasized and, if so, which other organs are involved. It's an incredibly powerful tool. So let's be praying for a good report. EITHER WAY, I know that God made Becky (Psalm 139), and He doesn't make mistakes. I can be confident not because I trust in a machine or a procedure but because God loves Becky no matter what and she has purpose because God made her unlike anyone else in the world.
As for me, I'm spending lots of time giving thanks for our special friends and loved ones who have showered Becky with affection. We sailed through the day on your prayers!
7:02 PM Becky and I left the house at 6:00 am and just returned. But it's been a fantastic day! We'll have a full report as soon as I feed the animals and cook supper for my precious wife. Chinese, of course. (Sigh.)
Sunday, August 9
8:15 PM Hey there Nate, Jess, and Nolan! We're missing you guys but know you're having a great time. Here are some pix of your farm and animals so that you don't get TOO homesick up there in Maryland. We love you! See you soon.
6:50 PM Dear Web Family,
I'd appreciate your prayers for Becky and me right now. Last week Becky was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of uterine cancer. Tomorrow we meet with an oncologist at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill to schedule her surgery. We are told the prognosis is not good, but God knows. In the meantime, Becky has written a wonderful testimony, which you can read here. I'm sure you will find it to be a blessing, as I did.
As you can see, we have decided to go public with our private journey with the hope that our willingness to be vulnerable and honest will encourage others in their own walk with God. Paul once wrote, "We have this treasure in clay pots" (2 Cor. 4:7). Yes, our earthly containers are fragile, but we don't want to emphasize the clay pots at the expense of the "treasure"! Perhaps as our own journey unfolds you too will discover that the treasure is Jesus Himself, and that suffering can become a spiritual discipline if it's done with our eyes focused on Him.
I'll let you know how things stand when we get back from the hospital tomorrow. If you wish to email a note of encouragement to Becky, feel free to do so. I trust that there will be a huge amount of intercession in and around Becky's life right now. Believe me, as her husband I will be grateful for each and every prayer. I only wish I could trade places with her.
Life can be strange at times, can't it? I get back from Ethiopia on June 14 only to find Jessie at UNC recovering from an emergency C-section. Then I end up there quite unexpectedly with malaria. Now it's Becky's turn. It's as if God were inviting our entire family into greater intimacy with Him. What lies ahead for us? No one can predict with certainty. I am sure there will ups and downs. But no matter what direction we move, I pray that we will grow to be more like Jesus and better able to serve some portion of His great kingdom.
Margaret Clarkson's "So Send I You" is considered to be the greatest missionary hymn of the twentieth century. Verse 4 is powerful:
So send I you to leave your life's ambition,To die to dear desire, self-will resign,To labor long, and love where men revile you,So send I you to lose your life in mine.
As I think of human suffering, my theologian's mind goes numb. But one thing I know: Whatever happens from here on out, Becky "lost her life in His" many years ago. For a follower of Jesus, can there be a greater privilege, a higher calling?
Rejoicing in Him,
Dave and Becky
Saturday, August 8
4:18 PM I see that the new Union University website is up. Very attractive indeed. Its undergraduate School of Christian Studies is undoubtedly one of the best in the nation. By the way, I had the joy and privilege of co-editing two books with its current president, David Dockery. At any rate, in multos annos, UU!
3:23 PM Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, discusses my all-time favorite German hymn, Bach's Jesu, meine Freude. He does an excellent job of it too. Here's his peroration:
That's a lot of heavy theology. In moments of deep pain and grief, however, God's people don't need to hear a shallow, jolly, "cheer up." They need the solid consolation that grows from knowing that the lover of their soul, their Savior, is as near as their own heart. They need to know that Jesus, through the Spirit, is in them and loves them. He is "Jesus, my joy"—Jesu Meine Freude.
Here are the words to my favorite stanza (in German):
Weicht, ihr Trauergeister,
Denn mein Freudenmeister,
Jesus, tritt herein.
Denen, die Gott lieben,
Muß auch ihr Betrüben
Lauter Zucker sein.
Duld ich schon hier Spott und Hohn,
Dennoch bleibst du auch im Leide,
Jesu, meine Freude.
And in translation:
Go away, mournful spirits,
for my joyful master,
Jesus, now enters in.
For those who love God
even their afflictions
become pure sweetness.
Even if here I must endure shame and disgrace,
even in suffering you remain,
Jesus, my joy.
Praise be to God!
2:58 PM Check out the Christian Scholars Directory, a labor of love by Anna Blanch. Well done, Anna!
1:50 PM Stephen Notman reviews Richard A. Muller's The Study of Theology: From Biblical Interpretation to Contemporary Formulation.
1:34 PM Wheaton College announces an opening in Old Testament, while Brite Divinity School seeks to fill a position in Jewish Studies.
1:16 PM Jeff Nelson describes the meeting(s) of his church. This is just the sort of thing that happens when you begin to take 1 Corinthians 14 seriously.
1:05 PM Speaking of anniversaries, Greater Europe Mission will celebrate its 60th this year. Becky and I spent the summer of 1978 as short-termers with GEM in West Germany, where she worked at the German Bible Institute in Seeheim while I played trumpet on a brass octet that evangelized the country from north to south. Those were exciting years for us as newlyweds. Now we are about to celebrate 34 years of marriage, and we are still seeking to serve Him together wherever we go. What a great adventure it's been!
P.S. -- Do check out the GEM website. It's full of opportunities to serve Jesus in what I consider to be the dark continent of today's world. One such ministry is called Euro-brass, a team similar to the one I served on so many years ago. Put your musical talents to work for God!
12:33 PM Did you know that Hawaii (where I was born and raised) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its statehood on August 21? I well remember that day, even though I was only 7 years old at the time. To get you in the mood to celebrate, you simply must listen tothis song.
12:22 PM From YouTube comes Scot McKnight on being missional. It's excellent. And I say that as one who is not a big fan of the emerging church.
11:35 AM Nice read: Quotes by Will Willimon. My favorite:
The test of the religion of the heart is religion of the hands. How we not only believe in Christ but how we practically follow Christ.
11:24 AM The Heresy wants to know, Why bother with preaching? Elders, of course, are to be teachers, not preachers. And they are not the only teachers at that.
10:37 AM The New York Times asks, "Who Moved My Cathedral?", concluding that"Successful megachurches reflect American corporate history and management theory."
Nickels and noses seem to be the criteria of a "successful" church these days. For a refreshingly different perspective, you might want to check out brother Knox's latest post:Excited about what God is doing. Yes, Alan, it is exciting.
10:23 AM I have just been reading Hauerwas's Unleashing the Scripture, which, under its hideous verbiage, is full of fascinating ideas.
What a pity that he is neglected. The book is almost uniformly bad as writing but its ideas are good. I have particularly been savoring the chapter on "The Bible and America." In endnote 7 on page 154, by the way, I find this quote by Mark Noll from the latter's essay, "The Bible in America" (JBL 106  504):
Bible scholars, as good Americans, are usually friends of democracy, and democratic impulses have been very important in the story of the Bible on these shores.
Biblical scholarship, however, functions as a pontifical discipline, extraordinarily dependent on a small body of not quite infallible oracles, often German, whose conclusions serve to delimit the boundaries of normal science every bit as effectively as papal pronouncements did for Roman Catholics in bygone days.
Noll is right. And it is one reason I refuse to be put in a box -- anyone's box. However, I remain quite unconvinced by Hauerwas's argument that the Bible should be taken out of the hands of the people. At the same time, in an odd sort of way I think he is absolutely correct in saying that the Bible has become far too Americanized. Yet another reason, I suppose, to spend some time abroad and get oneself out of the American ghetto if at all possible.
Friday, August 7
7:36 PM Coming back from feeding the calves this evening. The dogs lead the way.
Right now it's time for ice cream and watching Little House with Becky.
1:08 PM Students, I am working diligently on the syllabus for New Testament Theology but it will still take at least a week before I can finish it. I am currently lining up several guest speakers who will be lecturing on topics in their areas of specialization. I think the final product will be well worth the wait.
12:32 PM It's a beautiful day. The humidity is gone. Dogs have been walked. Book on Archy is finished (again). Rejoicing in the Lord.
9:00 AM Off to tend to the dogs, puppies, pregnant cat, cows, calves, bulls, and chickens. This is an Animal Farm, I tell you, but I love every minute of it!
8:44 AM This weekend I was scheduled to preach 3 times in Pensacola and was also slated to do a book signing. Imagine with me the difficulty in having to cancel, but my convalescence left me no choice. I realize, however, that God is the God of the second chance, and we're hoping to reschedule. To be honest, God is teaching me some pretty heavy-duty lessons these days about trust, dependence, and yieldedness. I can't travel much but I can write. Today I'll keep busy by adding one more chapter to my book on Archy. Then it's back to syllabus writing. I may be a plodder, but I get there eventually.
8:12 AM Last night I finished reading a new book about the most famous POW escape of World War II. Tim Carroll's The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III recounts, in 336 action-packed pages, how the allied airmen at Sagan achieved the impossible by breaking out of Goering's "escape-proof" prison.
Why am I so attracted to this story? Because of the obvious parallels between escaping from a POW camp and the work of the Gospel. The task facing the church today is overwhelming. The laborers are few. That's why Jesus told us that whole-hearted commitment to the work God's kingdom is our inescapable (no pun intended) duty. It is so easy for us to get our eyes off of life's real issues. But we are called upon as followers of Jesus to reflect His love by sacrificing ourselves for the blessing of others. The Bible knows nothing of a two-tiered system of Christianity in which some people do the work while others sit around and watch.
So I ask myself: If 200 men men could work tirelessly for a year to accomplish the impossible, who can't we in the Body of Christ drive ourselves to gain God's approval as workers who have no need to be ashamed? Listen to Paul: "Christ knows, and so does the Holy Spirit, that it is no mere pretence when I say that I would be willing to be damned forever if that would save you" (Rom. 9:3). Paul is saying that time and effort are immaterial when it comes to the conversion of one single individual! Do you have that kind of divine impulsion? Do I? Only the Christian who is willing to share the burden will share the blessing, just as only those who worked on the tunnel were permitted to use it. When all the finer points of theology have been debated, nothing remains more simple yet more demanding than the Master's call that we give our all for the Gospel. No one is a greater example to me of this attitude than Becky, who works tirelessly, night and day, to organize our work in Ethiopia, without receiving a penny of salary. She does it joyfully, as unto the Lord, and in His strength. If only I had a fraction of her commitment!
The Great Escape from Sagan began at exactly 10:30 pm on March 23, 1944. But it didn't just "happen." It was the culmination of a year of meticulous planning, back-breaking toil, and ingenuous workmanship. The same is true of missions.
Thursday, August 6
5:55 PM What an exhausting day it's been. I just returned from UNC where I had a great appointment with my Infectious Diseases specialist. She thinks my malaria has only a 5 percent chance of reoccurring. She'll also email me with the blood work results, though she feels strongly that right now I'm malaria free. Thank you God for such a great internist.
We lost power last night at 6:00 pm during a huge thunderstorm with hail. This meant that I had to walk the property line this morning to make sure a tree hadn't fallen on any of our pasture fencing. Brought back many happy memories of the years of putting up fencing with Nate. We fenced in all 123 acres and even cross-fenced the property, just the two of us. I still can't believe it. Those were some great days -- hard work, lots of pain and sore muscles, but oodles of laughs. What a blessing!
Right now I'm off to do farm chores while Becky prepares liver and onions for supper. God is good.
Wednesday, August 5
4:35 PM 3 John 4!!! We just received some wonderful news from our Ethiopian daughter in Addis. Emebet lives in a home for young ladies. Here is what she wrote (she refers to her house parents as "dad" and "mom"):
This afternoon a girl named Haimanot came to our house. Dad and mom met her last week on the street near the stadium and invited her to come to our house to talk if she wanted to change her life. So today dad and I talked with her and I helped her pray to receive Christ as her Savior. I am happy! She is coming Sunday to church with us.
Emebet is an excellent student and is also taking guitar lessons. She is a talented singer and has composed her own praise songs. Above all, she loves people. Emebet, we love you!
1:52 PM Thanks to the grace of God, Christian Archy is finished. I need to have a few friends read it before sending it off to the publisher. A couple of teasers:
By way of impudent generalization, I will attempt in this book to describe the way forward. It seems to me, from my reading of Ellul and especially Eller, that we can discern three processes, three movements in this symphony of truth that I will now call "Christian Archy." I think that we have in this symphony an explanation of the astonishing change that brought Christendom into existence out of Christianity, even though the biblical revelation lends the exchange absolutely no support. From this point on, then, let us briefly examine Christian Archy and see whether it can help us to better understand how the church has been subverted and how it might be reconstituted along biblical lines. It is absurd to think that my synopsis is either sufficient or efficient for this to occur. At the very least, my hope is that my audience will feel compelled to "take up and read" for themselves the provocative works I am merely trying to summarize here.
This may be the nub of the matter for many of us: our traditional patterns of religious and political scalp-hunting are the very things that prevent the Holy Spirit from penetrating the stubborn patterns of our lives. And the more sincere and humble the activist is, the firmer is his or her hold on other people – and therefore the more dangerous. We are so accustomed to the church having its ethics commissions and public policy boards that we find it practically impossible to imagine the church without them. It is well to remember that neither Paul nor any of the other apostles ever challenged the political status quo. They never saw and never imagined a church with people rushing on their feet to keep the political machinery going. The church can overcome this false allegiance only by returning to the basic doctrine of Christ's incarnation and his utter devotion to the kingdom of God.
10:22 AM Who needs Cash for Clunkers? I'm waiting for the Cash for Cluckers program.
In his district in East Texas, he said that Pilgrim's Pride, a poultry producer, had recently filed for bankruptcy. "Where's their 'cash for cluckers' program?" he asked, liking his line enough to repeat it on the House floor on Friday.
10:10 AM We have so much as a family it's hard to know where to begin in terms of giving thanks. I continue to improve steadily. Tomorrow's visit to UNC will determine whether there is any malaria left in my blood, but symptomatically I'm doing good. We are praising God for His healing in lots of ways. Nate, Jess, and Nolan leave today for a weeklong visit to her family in Maryland, so I'm resuming all farm chores. Last night we enjoyed dessert together in our cozy library. I was thinking how wonderful it is to be a grandfather. Nolan is so beautiful. Personally, I need to finish my syllabus for New Testament Theology and type the final chapter for my book on Archy. Now if I could just figure out how to teach the theology of 27 profound books in one semester, life will be good.
Here's boring you with some pix from last night. Pretty amazing how big Nolie Polie is getting!
Tuesday, August 4
4:55 PM I love Barth! Referring to Paul's report in Phil. 1:12-26, he writes (Philippians, p. 26):
To the question how it is with him the apostle must react with information as to how it is with the Gospel.
What a great perspective on life! Imagine being asked "How are you?" and replying, "Well, Christ's love is still gripping me, still propelling me to share the wonderful grace of God with others." There is no such thing as un-missional Christianity. If it is un-missional, it is not Christianity.
4:25 PM Just added 4 more pregnant cows and a new bull to our herd. They're enjoying the luscious fields after all the rain we've had.
4:12 PM Still typing away. Our pooter is about to give up the ghost. We ordered a new one today. I love writing!
11:10 AM This is a great quote from a great essay:
When we insulate ourselves from other serious points of view only for the purpose of being confirmed in what we already believe, we cannot say that we have seriously considered the issues before us. It is only in exposing ourselves to other points of view with a willingness to have our perspectives challenged, that we can be serious intellectual players in the important matters before us. Those who only watch the FOX evening lineup of shows and those who only watch the prime time cast on MSNBC are not serious thinkers.
10:28 AM Stop the presses! My voice is back. I stopped my meds yesterday and this was the result. I suspected all along that my hoarseness was due to the Primaquine. Thank you Jesus!
10:17 AM The writing juices are flowing freely, and I am almost done with the final chapter of my little book called "Christian Archy." A theological Rolls Royce it is not. Think of it more as a Tata Nano -- compact, good on mileage, easy to park in narrow spaces.
Sometimes the best way to begin the study of a subject is by taking a bird's-eye-view on a level understood by all. Besides, as Callimachus put it so long ago, mega biblion, mega kakon -- a big book is a big bore. Short and simple introductions do no harm. Is this not one of the things that professors like myself are for?
8:21 AM It's going to be a good day. The operative word is REST.
7:32 AM Even though we've never met, Henry Neufeld and I have become close friends by working together on TJP. What's really great is to see his heart as a publisher and his desire to raise up a generation of on-fire, Spirit-filled, thinking Christians who are vibrant in prayer and missions. I really believe he thinks that Acts 1:8 can be applied to book publishing -- taking the Gospel to the "ends of the earth" through the printed page and even electronically. I so enjoy working with publishers of this caliber, men and women whose goal is to help people find the grace of God. So check out Henry's latest blog post -- and his heart -- if you have a chance today. You won't be disappointed.
7:08 AM Happy 70th Anniversary to Baker Book House. Baker’s been kind enough to have published 6 works by yours truly. Praise God!
6:55 AM God has opened yet another door for Becky and me to walk through. Yesterday brother Willie of Zion Hill Baptist Church showed us around their facilities in the Mayo community of Virginia. We will give an Ethiopia presentation there on Wednesday evening, Aug. 26, at 7:00 pm. It's very interesting to me that this connection came about through relationships between some of our friends at Bethel Hill and their co-workers in Mayo. I am fully convinced that, as we utterly depend upon for this work (it is HIS work!), we will never lack. Sometimes I forget what an awesome privilege it is to make disciples and to be a disciple for that matter (for Christ and through Christ of course!). So if you live near Mayo, Virginia, I hope you will consider joining us on Aug. 26. Becky and I do not view these presentations as mere human endeavors. Every one of us can be a vehicle through which the Holy Spirit works to transform lives.
Monday, August 3
4:05 PM Time for a nap before Greek class tonight.
4:02 PM Just back from campus. Great to see all my old friends. The highlight was Alan Knox's oral. He passed with flying colors. Please join me in praying for Alan as he begins to write his prospectus and then his dissertation. If you want to congratulate Alan, click here.
Left to right: me, Alan Knox, David Beck, and Maurice Robinson.
5:55 AM Good morning, bloggers and bloggerettes! I have just finished re-reading Gordon Prange's remarkable history of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 called At Dawn We Slept, which includes a lengthy section on the aftermath of the attack and the subsequent hearings.
The verdict of history is that both Admiral Kimmel and General Short were guilty of acts of omission by failing to be prepared for the attack on their watches. Blame was properly assessed in Washington as well, but the majority of blame rested squarely on the shoulders of the two local commanders in Hawaii. By failing to place their commands on a war footing or having them fully alerted, they were guilty of "errors of judgment." They failed to appreciate the significance of intelligence and other information available to them, including the famous "war warning" of Nov. 27. Try as they might, neither Kimmel (photo) nor Short were able to clear their names of all shadow of blame. The Honolulu Advertiser and Star Bulletin, in a combined editorial on May 15, 1968, perhaps said it best: "He [Kimmel] was caught in the net of the Navy dictum that the man on the bridge is responsible for his ship. It may not be fair but it is just. The buck stops there." In the end, neither man could "pass the buck" to the War or Navy Departments. Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, was in a state of preparedness but not a state of alertness -- and therein lay the tragedy of Pearl Harbor.
I must confess that in my own life, I have not been immune to failures as a man, a husband, and a father. What a terribly negative thing to say on a blog that is supposed to encourage its readers! But I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not consider myself to have arrived when it comes to the task of living the Christian life. While it may sound odd to you, I spent the great majority of my adult life being a good church-goer and pursuing all the advantages and comforts of evangelical scholarship in an atmosphere of shortcuts, easy formulas, and rules that simply could not hold up for the long haul. Today I have no "easy answers" that will clear up the issues either in your life or mine. I do know one thing, however. If you want to sort out the priority issues in your life, do not wait for a severe mercy from the hand of God, as I did. The central secret that determines the outcome is the choice to yield one's life to Jesus and to His humble service. With regret I look back on the wasted years of my life as a "good evangelical." I am always quite sympathetic to young people who visit me and reveal a similar sense of futility. My message to them is, "Do not wait as long as I did to become available for sacrificial service in the kingdom. The life that I've discovered to be far more important than my career is the beauty that reflects the humble Christ and His power to make people into whole human beings." I've learned the lesson of Helen Keller: "Life is an exciting business and most exciting when lived for others."
I started out my ministry as a scholar. I'm finishing it as a servant. With the passage of years, I've learned to own up to my failings as a "good evangelical." I would never have sought out any of those failures, those sins of omission, but having failed, I consider the resulting lessons priceless.
According to At Dawn We Slept, Admiral Kimmel felt he could never be satisfied with the verdict that held him responsible for "errors of judgment." He sought complete exoneration. He never once considered that he might possibly have made a mistake, even one of judgment. Writes author Prange, "Such self-righteousness is always irritating, whereas the American people usually react sympathetically to anyone who frankly admits to being less than divinely inspired" (p. 705).
As for me and my house, the buck stops "here," not with Becky or anyone else. Jesus is not calling me to the "good life" of American churchianity. The smallest acts of humility and beneficence are to be imitations of the condescension that brought Christ from highest heaven to the obedience of the cross. That is what will always attract to the life of the apostle Paul the longing eyes of Christians -- the power of the Holy Spirit energizing his every thought and action, the love and light of God spilling out into the hearts of others, the willingness to do for other people with genuine unselfishness. Above all, there was his divine mission to preach Christ despite the bitter hatred of his enemies. He lived -- and died -- with the knowledge that he would have to give an account at the judgment seat of Christ, and his heart was renewed through every discouragement and shortcoming by the vision of the crown of life that the Lord would place on his head, if he proved faithful to the end.
Grace and peace,
Sunday, August 2
6:32 PM Joyful day at Cavel. Saw many wonderful friends, including Julian and Betty Motley. Julian pastored for 47 years before becoming the director of placement at the seminary. He retired in 2007 and is now an interim at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Youngsville, NC. Julian became pastor at Cavel in its 17th year. You will never meet a more gracious couple or more dedicated servants of the Lord Jesus.
The day exhausted me. I keep telling myself, "Don't overdo it, Dave."
8:22 AM Grace Livingstone answers questions about her new book, America's Backyard: The United States and Latin America from the Monroe Doctrine to the War on Terror.
8:15 AM Gordon Fee's new commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians looks like it will be a real winner. Be sure to check out the PDF sample.
8:10 AM For years now I've taught and preached directly from my Greek New Testament. It's one of my greatest faults. It is never proper to assume that one's audience knows the biblical languages well enough to be able translate in passing. But I can't help it. Here's the board from an exegesis lesson on Galatians I taught in Romania a couple of years ago as I tried to show how the opening greeting functions like a table of contents for the entire letter. I do, however, try my best to give a running translation as I go through the passage.
Saturday, August 1
7:13 PM Steve Hickey reminisces about his Bonhoeffer studies in this delightful post called I sat in Bonhoeffer’s chair, but walking in his shoes is far more difficult.
6:40 PM Did you know that TJP is available in Kindle?
6:29 PM Another great home-cooked supper by B. Can't see why people want to eat out all the time.
5:32 PM Greatly blessed by this sermon by Jon Glass (it's the second in the list). It's called "Eat, Heal, Tell." Jesus instructs us about the perfect model of doing missions, a model that He Himself perfectly exemplified in His earthly life. Thanks, Jon, for this reminder that I need to identify with people and meet their needs as well as tell them about Jesus.
2:10 PM I thought I might let everyone in on what my latest writing project is. There are two of them in fact, one introducing "Christian Archy" to a wider public, and the other a book that will attempt to flesh out what I believe the kingdom would like like if ever we took Jesus' teachings seriously. I'm calling the latter book "Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk." The former work will summarize the writings of Vernard Eller and Jacque Ellul and will be nothing more than a short pamphlet. I wish I had lived a generation earlier to have heard Ellul in person (I understand he often spoke at SBL meetings). So many charming and beautiful things in him, but they seem to me insufficiently organized artistically -- rather the raw material of Christian Archy than the philosophy itself. There will, if I am successful, be a basic précis of his thought for posterity to work on. The Archist philosophy of life is not exclusively true; but my word it goes a good way and covers a lot of ground.
Both books, of course, will be terribly incomplete. Time and energy do not permit me to treat either subject in any depth. Whenever I think about my commitment to the work to which God has called me, I am reminded of the words of Hudson Taylor. At the age of 62 (I am 57) he wrote (John Pollack, Hudson Taylor and Maria, p. 125):
God chose me because I was weak enough. God does not do his great works by large committees. He trains somebody to be quiet enough, and little enough, and then uses them.
1:55 PM Anne Blue Wills reviews American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism. Her conclusion:
Many of the motifs of earlier conversations about Islam recur in early-21st-century imaginings: an insistence on Islam's demonic or violent nature, for example, and on its inevitable, ultimately unsuccessful challenge to Christianity. Our skittishness toward Islam has a long history, but we have been shadowboxing an imagined Islam. Kidd suggests that Americans may now be reaping the whirlwind, and his book offers an informative tonic that might move Christians in the U.S. beyond deeply embedded suspicions and into more hospitable encounters with Muslims at home and abroad.
12:02 PM Speaking of horses, it's time for me to saddle up again and get back into the swing of things. Tomorrow Becky and I will be at Ca-Vel Baptist Church in Roxboro to help them celebrate their 75th anniversary as a church. This precious congregation has given sacrificially for the Lord's work in Ethiopia, and we are so grateful for their friendship and support. Then on Monday I will return to campus for the first time in several weeks to administer a Ph.D. oral. Monday night, Lord willing, our Greek class at Bethel Hill will resume with a quiz over chapter 14. None of this would have been possible without the faithful prayers of God's people for yours truly. He is one grateful man today.
11:10 AM Here's a delightful little essay called Lessons from My Horse. Of all the animals I've enjoyed through the years, nothing can top my equine friends. My horses have been my teachers in so many ways. (If you're bored and have nothing better to do today, you can read about it here.) All I can say is that I miss my horses terribly, and I will never forget the companionship they gave me through many enjoyable years of riding.
10:42 AM The irrepressible Jim West pontificates on bearded women and 900-pound men in his latest post: Biblical Studies Carnival 44: The Funhouse Edition. Not for the faint of heart!
10:20 AM This month begins my 34th year of teaching Greek. It all started when I was a student at Talbot. I was taking 9 hours of graduate courses and teaching 11 hours of Greek and New Testament in the undergraduate college. Our Greek textbook at the time was by Chase and Phillips, which was also being used at Harvard. I taught classical Greek for many years before switching over to Koine. I owe my entrée into teaching to a very great and good man named Harry Sturz, head of the Greek Department at Biola University. His life was a perfect blend of humanitas and pietas, and I shall forever be grateful to God for the chance Dr. Sturz gave this fledging Greek teacher so many years ago. I have Googled in vain for a photo of my esteemed mentor. He is gone but certainly not forgotten.
Harry Sturz, by the way, was the author of an excellent book called The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism, which belongs in the personal library of every serious Greek student.
9:42 AM If you're interested in studying Greek linguistics, here's an excellent bibliographyby Michael Palmer to get you started.
9:26 AM Michael Lewis is beginning a series of messages on one of my all-time favorite books, 1 Thessalonians. I wish him well.
9:08 AM This morning I am haunted by Charles Wesley's terrible line: "Deepen the wound thy hands have made."
It is fatally easy to represent Jesus as nothing but a great Healer upon whom one is to call in times of physical distress. He is that, but He is so much more than that. He wants us to be like Him -- "conformed to the image of His death," wrote Paul. This means to me that the enjoyment of good health is no more than a physical restoration of well-being and in itself does not lead to a restoration of the sufferer's relationship to God. It is not to make us happy and healthy that Christ died, but to make us holy and useful for the kingdom work to which He calls each one of us. He does this by making us weaker and weaker until the divine power alone is seen in our lives. I am personally disposed to say that my illness has a much greater purpose than even I am aware of. The question is, Am I prepared to say, with Job, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him"? Jesus does not bring us physical healing so that we can continue to worship and serve Him half-heartedly. Thus the words "Deepen the wound thy hands have made" are for me more than the words of a hymn. They are my prayer.
Deepen the wound thy hands have made In this weak, helpless soul, Till mercy, with its balmy aid,
Descends to make me whole.
The sharpness of thy two-edged sword Enable me to endure; Till bold to say, My hallowing Lord Hath wrought a perfect cure.
I see the exceeding broad command, Which all contains in one: Enlarge my heart to understand The mystery unknown.
O that with all thy saints I might By sweet experience prove, What is the length, and breadth, and height, And depth, of perfect love!