How I Passed My Amateur Extra Exam


I don't have a background in electronic circuitry or radio theory. I'm horrible at math. Yet with three weeks of study I passed the Element 4 Amateur Extra exam, the highest class ham radio license the FCC offers. Let me explain how.

My ham radio hobby began in the 90's. I earned my "no code" Technician, Technician Plus and General class licenses along with passing the 5 and 13wpm cw ("continuous wave" or Morse Code) tests. Most of my communication was on 2 meters (VHF) with a Kenwood TH-22AT handheld. I also had a Yaesu FT-5100 dual band mobile rig so I used 70cm (UHF) but very little. I've had less than a handful of HF contacts on my dad's rig. I've never had a cw or digital contact.

I unwisely let my General class license expire over the years. I finally decided to regain my privledges so I retook the Technician exam and I was a General once again. (I noticed how everthing seemed to turn digital since I had first become a ham. I was an analog operator in a digital amateur radio world.)

Since the FCC no longer required a 20wpm cw test I purchased one of many Extra books found on Amazon; this one was titled, "Pass Your Amateur Radio Extra Class Test" by Craig "Buck" K4IA.  It remained unused for a year. When I decided to dip my toe in the Extra waters I realized just how daunting the task was. The book has a section with just the questions and right answers but reading them wasn't going to do it for me; I was reading too slowly for too much information. There are 622 questions in the pool from which 50 would be drawn, one from each section! I needed help.

I decided to add some audio. (The greater the number of senses you use while learning something the better the retention of the material.) I purchased the kindle book of the same title mentioned above for around $9. Then I began my study. I would use either Alexa or my kindle to read the question and answer as I listened and read along. Often I listened at 1.5x speed. For around three weeks I listened and read the entire question pool once a day, as well as other study.

I grew sick of this intense study so I went to the RCARA Laurel VE testing session in Ashland, KY and took my test. I didn't bother to bring a calculator because I didn't memorize one formula. To my amazement, I only missed one question! Remember, I am not a tech guy. Much of it was gobbledygook. However, I had beaten the answers in my head through listening and reading so thoroughly that I could recognize most of it.

I used little tricks to help with the answers. This isn't a scientific observation but I noticed that if an answer included the word "discreet" or "desired" the answer seemed to be right. 

Anytime you can draw a mental image in your mind helps. For example, the digital mode Pactor doesn't use a keyboard. Well, I don't know what Pactor is but I imagined a pastor in front of his keyboard and waving his hands and shaking his head, "No!" (No, I didn't get that question on the test!)

Remember, you don't have to understand the answers, just recognize them. You can learn later. Pass your test to begin. 

Use any little tricks to help you recognize the answers and they will serve you well. It doesn't have to make sense; it just has to make sense to you!

73 ("Best Regards")

Why Christians and the World Don't Fit

Christians serious about sanctification (the crisis and process of being made holy) will always feel a bit detached from this world system. They know this isn't the Kingdom they belong to; this isn't the ultimate allegiance they pledge to. Their values and priorities are out of sync with (and unappreciated by) the world. Consequently they will feel out of sorts in this world. The Bible says Christ followers are travelers who aren't home yet (1 Peter 2.11-12).
"We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true one. We are in the true one — that is, in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life."
1 John 5:19‭-‬20 CSB

How to Translate the Bible Into English

   Americans don't read very well. Bible translator Dr. Douglas Moo explains, 

First, our translation choices must reckon with our audience’s ability to understand English. I tell you nothing you don’t already know when I say that fewer and fewer American adults can read effectively. A 2013 study concluded that 35 percent of adults in the US can’t read at all or read below a fifth grade level. Even college-educated and fully acculturated adults, who spend their time on Facebook and Candy Crush rather than reading books, have difficulty handling English at any level of complexity...[A]nd if, as surveys reveal, the average American is reading at a seventh to eighth grade level, translations cannot necessarily be faulted for trying to hit that target.

Boyce W. Blackwelder
The writings of the late Reverend Doctor Boyce Watson Blackwelder (February 3, 1913—August 22, 1976) introduced the Church of God (Anderson) to New Testament Greek.  He received his Th.D. while under the supervision of the 20th century Greek grammarian giant, J. R. Mantey, of the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Blackwelder taught at Anderson University School of Theology and was one of our most well-known scholars in the Church of God.  His specialty was New Testament Greek and he published exegetical translations of the four gospels and Paul's letters.  He titled them, simply, The Four Gospels: An Exegetical Translation and Letters from Paul.  Blackwelder also wrote the immensely popular Light from the Greek New Testament.

Dr. Blackwelder believed that accurate translation didn't require a strict word-for-word method of translating but, rather, to express the thoughts/idioms of the Greek (donor language) in an accurate English expression (receptor language). 

As he explains in Gospels:
This is an exegetical translation—not a paraphrase.  The aim of biblical exegetics is to make as clear as possible the means of the scriptural text...[t]hus an interpreter tries to discover what each statement meant to the original writer and render it accurately into the language at hand. 
It is impossible in every instance, to translate the same Greek word by the same English word.  Translation is more than a mere word-for-word rendering of one language into another language.  Transferring the idiom characteristic of the Greek into the corresponding idiom characteristic of contemporary English becomes a challenging task. (pg. 8)
Consider a traditional rendering in a portion of The Lord's Prayer:

Our Father which art in heaven, 
Hallowed be thy name.   (Mat 6.9b)

Contrast it with Blackwelder's rendering:

Our Father who art in heaven,
May Thy name be held in reverence.  (Mat 6.9b)

To seek that God's name be hallowed is to seek that his name be held in reverence.  Which rendering is 
clearer for a 21st century audience?  I believe it's Blackwelder's.  All one has to do is read Blackwelder's translations of the gospels and letters of Paul to see the latitude the Church of God scholar allowed himself in expressing the New Testament language in crisp contemporary English of his day.  (For those who might think Blackwelder didn't stick to the text closely enough, the same charge could be leveled against the Septuagint [LXX], the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced by Jewish scholars shortly before the birth of Christ.  This was the common Bible of the early church and, in fact, heavily quoted by the New Testament writers, themselves. If it was good enough for them then such translational philosophy can be good enough for us.)

The New Testament Greek employed by the biblical writers was Hellenistic koinē (i.e. "common") Greek.  That is to say, it wasn't the literary Attic Greek of earlier writers.  And, in fact, vernacular [spoken] biblical Greek is simpler than a literary [written] 
koinē of the era.  As Blackwelder explains in Light:
Another category of material of the Graeco-Roman world which is an important source of light for New Testament studies is the literary Koine.  There are two types of Koine, the literary Koine which is represented by extrabiblical literature, by most of the inscriptions, and by a few papyri; and the vernacular Koine which is represented by most of the papyri and ostraca, by a few inscriptions, and by nearly all biblical Greek. 
It is not difficult to understand why there were two basic varieties within the Koine.  Though no literary speech develops independently from the vernacular, yet spoken language is never identical with the literary style.  The old Attic of Athens had a vernacular and a literary style that differed from each other, and such a distinction characterized the Koine from its beginning. 
"There was formal literary effort of considerable extent during the Koine period."  The forms of the literary Koine more nearly approached the classical nature of the Attic than do those of the New Testament.  The Koine literati sought elegance of expression while trying to avoid pedantry.  The literary Koine occupies an intermediate position between the vernacular Koine and the older classical form of the language.  (pgs. 24-25)
The Bible's Greek was written in the easy-to-understand everyday Greek that people spoke in day to day life.  Why did the koinē emerge from the formal Attic Greek vernacular dialect?  It had to do with war.  Blackwelder helps us understand in Light:
In the latter part of the fourth century B.C., the forces of Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persian Empire, bringing the language of the victors into the ascendancy throughout the then-known world.  "Remaining as armies of occupation, and settling amongst the conquered peoples, they popularized the language, simplifying its grammatical and syntactical structure." (pgs. 18-19)
The New Testament is beautiful but doesn't try to sound artificial.  But neither was it sloppy speech.  In Light:
Although the new Testament writers were not Atticists, neither were they "mere purveyors of slang and vulgarisms."  [A. T.] Robertson reminds us that Paul was a man of culture as well as a man of the people, and says, "The New Testament uses the language of the people, but with a dignity, restraint and pathos far beyond the trivial nonentities in much of the papyri remains."  "The New Testament is mainly in the vernacular Koine, but it is the vernacular of men of great ability" and reflects definite literary elements especially in the writings of Luke, the letters of Paul, and the Epistle to the Hebrews.  But above all, the New Testament is the language of spirit and life.  (pg. 25)
Bible translations have to change with the times. Why change?  Blackwelder put it well in Light:
There is a need, from time to time, for new translations of the Scriptures because all languages change and every generation needs a clear, accurate rendition of the Book of books.  Certain English words do not mean what they did a few hundred years ago; hence the proper ones must be substituted in order to express in contemporary thought the meaning of the original text."  (pgs. 16-17)
Some words don't need hundreds of years but merely years, perhaps a decade or two.  

Notice carefully Blackwelder's words, "every generation needs a clear, accurate rendition of the Book of books."  Every generation.  The daunting task of translating the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek of the Bible into clear English is never-ending.  We must not ask ourselves merely, "What version do I prefer?" but, also, "What speaks accurately and clearly to this generation?"

My Preaching Translation: The Legacy Standard Bible (LSB)

In 2021 a new translation became available to the English speaking world: the Legacy Standard Bible (LSB). John MacArthur and his scholars at The Master's University and The Master's Seminary were given the unprecedented opportunity by the Lockman Foundation to revise their copyrighted New American Standard Bible and publish it under a new title. The small hand-selected translation committee, in God's wise Providence, had the opportunity to pour over the NASB verse by verse and revise it because of the shutdown in America due to Covid-19. The LSB is the kind of translation for which I have been waiting for years. I specifically have been waiting for a Bible version to accomplish point one below:

1. It restored the covenant name of God as found in the Old Testament. Many translations do not mention His Hebrew name but, instead, print it in all-caps as THE LORD. Lord is a title, not His name. The Trinity's Hebrew name—Yahweh, pronounced closely like "Yah-way"—is extremely important to Him. It is recorded over 6,800 times in the Old Testament!

Yahweh means "He Is." When He speaks of Himself He may say, "I Am." When Hebrew speakers spoke of Him they often said Yahweh, "He Is." Both come from the Hebrew "to be" verb hayah.

Consider this passage from the LSB:

Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am about to come to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ And they will say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

And God furthermore said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name from generation to generation. (Ex 3.13-15)

If it matters to God it should matter to us. Some years ago the Lexham English Bible restored the name of Yahweh in their translation but they never published their version. It is only available in digital format. This prevented me from using the LEB as my pulpit Bible.

2. It translated the New Testament Greek word doulos as "slave." It took intestinal fortitude for them to do it. Some translations translate it as "servant" or "bond-servant" but the LSB bluntly says "slave."

3. They refined and tweaked the entire NASB text, already an outstanding translation. They made it even better. In particular, the translation committee paid close attention to the New Testament Greek verbs and were careful to translate them accordingly, such as the imperfect verb.

I love this translation. Though the carefully-selected translation team differs with me in places—they are Calvinists and Dispensationalists while I remain Wesleyan and Amillennialist—theologically they are all very conservative and able scholars and orthodox in the faith. They are my Christian brothers.

Examine the Legacy Standard Bible yourself for free. Click here to go to the entire Bible which is online.

If you prefer another translation such as the KJV, NKJV, ESV or NIV I have no quarrel. At this time for me, the answer is the LSB. I consult other translations as well. [If I didn't have the LSB I most likely would preach from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).] We really do have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the translated Bible into English.

Alcohol: Ancient & Modern

 Unless it's in cough syrup I abstain from alcohol.  I refuse to have it under my roof.  As for me and my house we will not drink alcohol.  I would never marry a drinker, no matter how light a "social drinker" she would claim to be.  It's either me or the alcohol.  Period.  I believe there are good reasons for refusing alcohol, physically, psychologically, culturally and, most importantly, biblically.

My social stand against alcohol isn't anything new.  Evangelical Christians such as myself once were all tee-totalers.  For some reason newer generations of folks want the hooch.  I just don't get it.  Maybe it's because we don't preach against it anymore.  We should.

Dean Emeritus of Anderson University's School of Theology, Dr. David L. Sebastian,  honored me by asking if I would read and write a short review of his book, Sober Conscious: Educational Essays for Alcohol Awareness

Alcohol and the Christian (Part 1):

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

In Jesus' Name

Many Christians learn, directly or indirectly, to say, "In Jesus' name, Amen" at the end of their prayers. Why do we do it? Most probably do it without giving it much thought. It's just the way prayer is done. Actually, while we don't have to say it (we really don't) it is meaningful when we learn the significance of those words.

In the ancient world a person's name (or a god's) stood for the person. When we say, "Bless the name of the Lord," we are really saying, "Bless the Lord." In the Bible a person's name stood for his character as well. We still say today, "I know that business. It has a good name in the community." 

To say, "In Jesus' name," we mean, "In light of the person that Jesus is, in light of what he accomplished on the cross, we have confidence to say 'Amen.'" Amen is an affirmation which means so be it. Amen is the confidence to believe that our prayer will be answered.

Christianity is all about Jesus. We are "in Christ." We receive grace and mercy from God the Father because we come "in the name of" his Son. All answered prayer happens because of what Jesus deserves, not what we deserve. 

Consider this passage:

I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both "Yes, yes" and "No, no"? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.  (2 Cor 1:16-20 NIV)

Paul said that even if the Corinthians wrongly thought his word was unreliable, Jesus' word certainly is not. God answers our prayer because of Jesus. And that's why we say, "In Jesus' name, Amen." 

Criticism in the Ministry is Inevitable

Aesop (circa 620 BC–564 BC) was a Greek story teller who provided fables to teach morals.  There is one such fable that encourages me in ministry:

The Man, the Boy and the Donkey 
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?" 
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides." 
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along." 
Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: "Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?"
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned. 
"That will teach you," said an old man who had followed them:   
"Please all, and you will please none."

I would phrase the moral of the story in another way: Christian worker, you will be criticized no matter what you do, so never fulfil your ministry to please people.  Only minister to please God.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 ESV)

How I Passed My Amateur Extra Exam

  I don't have a background in electronic circuitry or radio theory. I'm horrible at math. Yet with three weeks of study I passed th...