Category Archives: Dwight’s Family

Don’t You Know?! (ουκ οιδατε;)

The twenty-first century is a spectacularly bad time to schedule a midlife crisis, particularly if you are by nature skeptical. If you don’t know what I mean, read on.

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As I hover on the brink of my mid-forties, I find that there are a lot of things I don’t know. Take life decisions, for example. I never did know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’m still not sure sometimes. I don’t know how to sort out the mixture of divine guidance and human fallibility in my various moves, including my move to the United States in 2003 and our move to Atlanta in 2016. I don’t know which of my past actions to count as mistakes and which to read as good decisions, all things considered. I often don’t know the best way to make right the things I do know I’ve done wrong.

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Looking ahead, I often don’t know the best ways to help my wife, my daughters, and myself grow into the persons God designed us to be. I don’t know how long we should keep participating in the church we’re going to now or what church effort it would be wise to plug into after that.  I don’t know where finances will come from for our senior years, and I don’t know how I could adjust current financial choices to better prepare for those years—or if God’s preferred preparation is to simply be generous now. Speaking of generosity, I don’t know how to help most of the people around me who need help, partly because I am more aware than ever that I, too, need help.

I don’t know.

I also don’t know a lot about God and the Bible. Although it makes best sense to me, I don’t know for sure that creation happened in six 24-hour days—or why I first typed “six 14-hour days”! I don’t know for sure what Jesus meant by “except for fornication” when he taught about divorce. I don’t know whether John 7:53-8:11 was originally part of John’s Gospel or not, or exactly how we should think about the borders of the biblical canon. I don’t know why God elects to save some and not others, nor how his election interacts with the human volition of potential missionaries and potential converts. I don’t know why he allowed me to hear the gospel while many others haven’t.

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I don’t know exactly how gender roles should be expressed in the home and the church. I don’t know exactly how the children of believers fit within the church, or how we best help them transition to make the faith their own. I don’t know why some Christians experience miraculous manifestations more often than the rest of us. I don’t know how, living right here in Atlanta, to best help Jesus’ church become a place where differing gifts, cultures, ethnicities, and more live together in “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

I don’t know.

Oh, I have some reasonably-informed working positions on some of those questions. Most of them don’t exactly leave me troubled—at least not most of them most of the time.

But I don’t know. And I don’t always know how to respond to people who think that they know, and that I should, too.

Worse, I live in a time when it is perhaps harder than ever to know anything for sure. We have access to more knowledge than ever, yes, but we also have access to more articulate counter-arguments than ever. No matter what hard-won conclusion you think you have reached, a simple “Google” will take you to someone who is equally confident you are completely wrong, with mounds of evidence that supposedly defends their conclusions.

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AI (artificial intelligence) experts warn that we are on the brink of a new era when it will be nearly impossible to tell authentic video footage from computer-generated video. Simply by taking a photo or two from your Facebook feed and some random audio of your voice, they (who?) will be able to “record” a video of “you” saying anything they want. If it is hard to be sure about anything now, just wait a decade. It will be even harder.

I don’t know. And I won’t know the answers to many of my questions, either. That, too, is becoming clearer as the years pass and my limitations press in.

Is it possible to truly know anything? Or do we now know (!) that it is arrogant to say “I know”? Is it actually a form of oppression to expect others to know anything and to hold them accountable for their ignorance or uncertainty?

The apostle Paul didn’t seem to think so. As I’m reading through 1 Corinthians, I’m noticing a recurring question: οὐκ οἴδατε; Or, if you prefer English to Greek: “Don’t you know?”

Actually, I suspect Paul’s tone could sometimes best be translated with an exclamation mark added: “Don’t you know?!”

Paul expected his readers to know a lot of things. He didn’t expect them to know everything, for he knew he possessed special apostolic revelation, revelation that could be passed on only through a long process of teaching. But he did seem to think there are certain facts that any follower of Jesus should know.

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In a day when we find it hard to be certain about anything, we need Paul to clear the fog and put some spine in our backs. Yes, there are times when it’s okay to say “We know.” Apparently it’s even okay to say “Don’t you know?” from time to time. After all, when you can say “I know” about the most important things in life, then you can live with only partial knowledge about the rest, right?

What about you? Do you know anything?

Here, for our mutual reflection, are all the passages in Paul’s letters where he asks the question: οὐκ οἴδατε; Don’t you know? Since I can’t generate a video of Paul asking you these questions, you get to read them. In a world of uncertainty, here are a few of the things you can know—and some things you should do based on that knowledge:

Οὐκ Οἴδατε; Don’t You Know?

…that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)

what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.  (Rom. 11:2-5)

that you [plural] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Cor. 5:6-7)

…that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? (1 Cor. 6:2)

that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? (1 Cor. 6:3-6)

that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

…that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! (1 Cor. 6:15)

…that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Cor. 6:16-17)

that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. (1 Cor. 9:13-14)

…that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. (1 Cor. 9:24)

James uses the same words to begin this question:

…that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

And Paul uses a parallel expression (ἀγνοεῖτε; “Do you not-know?” or “Are you ignorant?”) in these verses:

that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3-4)

that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Rom. 7:1-4)

What do you know? What things do you consider knowable? How do you talk with others about these things? If you know a thing or two, share it in the comments below. And thanks for reading!


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Churchfunding: 2018 Year-End Report

Since our “churchfunding” house loan was a public adventure, I want to give public updates from time to time. How is it working for us by now? In short, we are making monthly repayments as planned and remain deeply grateful for all who helped us purchase this house. However, there are changes to our church planting activities which I will share at the end of this post.

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families.)

At the beginning of 2018, we owed $48,037.50 in house loans. By the end of 2018, we owed only $41,937.50. Here is how that $6,100 difference breaks down.

We repaid $5,470 in loans in 2018 at the planned rate of $500 per month. Why is this total not $6000? Several lenders, when offered their promised repayment, declined the 10% interest we had promised. One declined $500 in principal as well. We are thankful for this generosity!

In total, we were forgiven $630 in principal and interest in 2018. $630 plus $5,470 equals $6,100. This means our house debt declined by $100 more than we expected in 2018.

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment?

At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within 7 years—before the end of 2025.

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Our cash flow is tighter than I predicted a year ago that it would be. I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books (extra over this holiday season), but my number of piano students plateaued in 2018. I temporarily reached 23 students, but finished the year with the same number I had a year ago—about 18. On the positive side, as was true a year ago, I have a handful of students planning to resume or begin lessons in January. If I could reach 30 students, our cash flow would be more manageable.

Our largest expense in 2018 was buying a “new” (2002) Toyota Camry to replace an old Jetta. We were not sad to see the Jetta go, though we received less than we asked for it, and slightly less than the buyer promised to pay. Other “extra” expenses included a Greek class for me (highly recommended—see here), cello and violin lessons for our two oldest daughters, and some business tax I had overlooked.

House projects in 2018 were very minor. A hall closet finally got proper shelving:

And, much to the mutual relief of thirsty neighborhood children and a mother weary of distributing drinks, we installed a fountain in our front yard!

The dead backyard trees and leaky shower and unusable basement entrance I mentioned a year ago are still awaiting their turns.

Meanwhile, we experienced our first significant flooding in our basement just this past week, due to heavy rains.  A leaky and inadequate city sewer line through our yard exacerbated the problem. Priya and I carried out about 100 gallons of water in pails. I expected this would happen sometime. Now we know where the “weak points” are. I am hopeful we can seal off some of the leaks and slow the flooding next time.

House prices in our neighborhood continue to rise. More vacant homes are being refurbished and inhabited, including on our own street. The real estate website Zillow, which estimated our house value at $81,000 back in March 2016 just before we bought it for $65,000, now estimates our house is worth about $188,000. It predicts the value could increase by around 15% in the next year to nearly $216,000. God knows and time will tell.

Church Changes

“The house that God bought” saw many ministry opportunities over the past year, such as:

  • 23 Sunday morning church gatherings (avg. 13 in attendance)
  • Several Bible study sessions
  • Many piano students and a “Living Room Recital”
  • Sharing our yard, bike pump, and fountain with neighbor children
  • Sharing food with hungry people knocking at our front door
  • Hosting international students for Thanksgiving
  • Homeschooling our children

In early November, however, the couple who invited us to Atlanta to join them in church planting decided to step out of this church planting effort. The Smuckers are focusing instead on other learning and ministry opportunities in the community. As a result, Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta is no longer an active gathering.

Our family is seeking God’s direction for this changed situation. We have opened up ourselves to the counselors who helped us during our decision to move here. Meanwhile, we have been attending a church on the east side of the city, Cellebration Fellowship, where my Choice Books supervisor and his family have also recently started attending. The pastor and church there have shown us grace.

We realize that many of you who supported us in our churchfunding house loan project did so in part because you were excited about supporting a church plant effort. We have not given up on this possibility, but feel a need to re-evaluate this goal in light of changed circumstances.

We welcome your prayers as we seek God’s light for life and ministry in the coming year. If you have questions or counsel, we invite you to contact us privately.

We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters. We want to faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2018 and be salt and light in our community.

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight & Zonya Gingrich


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Hospitable Barbarians and Homeless Hearts

We gave him one safe night, a shower, laundry services, a meal and a half, prayer, and an invitation to change his mind. It was all we could do.

Yesterday friends from out of state contacted us to let us know a young man from their community was in our city. He had chosen a homeless life, recently turning down a job offer in favor of a life that he thinks will be a greater adventure of imitating a homeless Jesus and telling others about him. But when he contacted friends back home yesterday morning they learned someone had tried to rob him since arriving in Atlanta. So our out-of-state friends contacted us, also giving us some background on the young man, background that includes attendance at their church gatherings and some family history that would be challenging for any one of us to process well. We gave our out-of-state friends permission to pass our contact information on to the young man, and he called me yesterday afternoon.

So I picked him up at Centennial Park, and he spent the evening and the night with us. Last evening I put him on the phone with our out-of-state friends, giving him a chance to hear their concern and their desire that he come back home. But he admits little sense of the dangers of his chosen path, so was not deterred. Then we called one of the shelters downtown that he had heard about, to see if they had a room for the night. As I expected, they didn’t. “Come at 6:30 in the morning,” they told us. So he slept on our sofa instead.

Just now I returned from the shelter, after helping him find the line of men waiting for a bed or other assistance. When we first pulled up, a couple men along the sidewalk wondered why we were there. They saw the young man’s guitar; “Are you here to sing?” When they learned he was looking for a room, I heard them wondering why he was carrying a guitar. Actually, he was carrying a guitar, a big backpack, and an over-sized duffel bag—about three times as much luggage as any other man I saw there. Does he realize this may make him the target for more robbery attempts like the one he experienced at gun point the other night? And will the shelter allow him to keep that much luggage there? Will he manage to keep it all dry as the tale end of Hurricane Michael blows through here the next few days (as I showed him last night)? How long will his laptop survive if his phone has already broken during his first week on the road? What will he do if he loses communication? How happy will the over-worked shelter be to host someone who purposefully left home and declined a job offer just two or three weeks ago? They are overwhelmed already with people in desperate need, people mastered by addictions, people without anyone who is calling them home.

But he has the armor of God like Ephesians describes, he told me last night. And when I asked him how I could pray for him, he told me he’s not really concerned about his safety. Rather, he wanted me to pray that he can have good conversations with people about Jesus and that he will find other church people along the way as he hikes northward. Church people who will need to host him while he declines their advice that he choose a safer, self-supporting life? There are plenty of people where he came from who need Jesus, our out-of-state friend reminded me on the phone last night. Why couldn’t he talk to others about Jesus there? Why not stay near people who know him, who truly care when they see signs that he is making dangerous choices?

You seem to have lived your life between two poles, I told him last night—between the southern state you left and the northern state where you are headed. And he’s usually traveled between the two, he acknowledged, at the wrong time of the year. So now he’s heading north just as the weather there is turning cold, expecting to arrive within six months but without any real travel plans. He has been homeless once before, he said. But that was in the South. Things will be much harder northward as winter nears. But the other pole is pulling again, and I think he hopes to find himself on the road there.

And so, as I left our young friend at the shelter this morning, I felt a sinking feeling inside. “You know how to find me if you need me,” I told him before I left. It was still dark.

Last night after dinner we read the first half of Acts 28, which tells of how the shipwrecked Paul received hospitality on the island of Malta from the hands of the “native people.” That’s the ESV’s nice way of translating a term that more literally means “barbarians” (i.e., people who didn’t speak the Greek language that civilized people used). As we read this passage with our new young friend at our table, I couldn’t help mentally noticing that we were cast, ironically, in the role of the hospitable barbarians. Unlike the barbarians in Acts 28, I’m under no illusions that our new friend is a god. I’m pretty sure he’s not an apostle, either. (We might be barbarians, though.) But he did need some hospitality, so we gave it as best we knew how.

Northern friends, if you see our friend or one of his brothers, consider helping him a little if you can. He will probably thank you for a meal or a chance to read the Bible together. You might even, as I did, see a bit of yourself in his face.

We gave him one safe night, a shower, laundry services, a meal and a half, prayer, and an invitation to change his mind. It was all we could do.

PS: I wonder how often God feels the same way about me…


Thoughts? Share them in the comments below. And thanks for reading. 


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