Rob Sportsman
Rob Sportsman

Hello ! My name is Rob

& I love studying the Hebrew Bible.

The content on this site is based mainly on a Hebrew Exegesis class that I took in a past summer at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where I was required to translate all the text of the book of Jonah from Hebrew to English, break all the chapters down into propositional outlines, and write a sermon for each dissected chapter.

The bible study notes are based upon my translation of the original Hebrew text. The main focus of the bullet point Jonah bible study notes was on how underlying Hebrew keywords bring out small nuances of meaning, not otherwise clearly evident in the English translation of the text.

At TEDS, I broke down the Hebrew text into phrases organizing them into what Walter Kaiser calls a block diagram. Then I used the Hebrew word processor DavkaWriter to interact with the original text more efficiently. Finally, I described in English what was happening in the Hebrew text one phrase at a time in outline form.

The last part of the syllabus required me to write a sermon for each chapter in the book of Jonah. I used the block diagram to help structure the sermon and then studied the main Hebrew keywords to organize the sermons. I tried to keep each Jonah sermon anchored in the original Hebrew text.

Anyone wanting to dig deeper into the book of Jonah can benefit from this site. The Jonah bible study notes and sermons may be downloaded and used free of charge for personal growth or in a church setting. I hope all the hard work I put in will benefit someone trying to lead a bible study about the prophet Jonah's chaotic life experiences.

Degrees & Coursework

  • Master of Arts in Theological Studies
    Ashland Theological Seminary, 2009
    Magna Cum Laude (3.8 GPA)

  • Old Testament & Semitic Languages
    Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2002-2004 (3.96 GPA)

  • Bachelor of Arts in Bible
    Minor in Biblical Languages
    Central Bible College, 1999
    Magna Cum Laude (3.8 GPA)

Snippet of Biblical Hebrew Text
Snippet of Biblical Hebrew Text

My Story: Lessons Not Learned from Degrees

I won the state championship in archery when I was 15 years old. Before I graduated high school, I had collected around 70 trophies and medals altogether, including a 2nd place NFAA Outdoor medal and two 3rd place NFAA Indoor medals. I also had been awarded my blackbelt in Taekwondo.

Shortly after turning 18, I stood in front of the mirror in disbelief. My right eye had drifted upward while I slept the night before. Now I couldn't compete in archery tournaments because of severe double vision. I could no longer use archery to escape real life. Life was about to change drastically.

I hadn't been a Christian long, and I begged God for help. After work I came home, read my Bible, prayed to God, and went to bed. I spent hours reading and rereading the biblical text to try to understand it better. I sought God with all my heart, memorizing verses on healing and talking to God continually.

The doctors had frustrated me. I was convinced that God could heal me, so I got my hands on a national church directory. I spend several hundred dollars on postage and mailed garbage sacks full of letters out to churches. I remember the expression on the postmaster's face, but I was driven.

I attended a youth camp in Excelsior Springs. Having just turned 18, I could only go to the evening services if I washed dishes during the day. I decided to go. One night I lay flat on a hard floor pleading with God to heal me. Tired. Desolate. Alone. Desperate. I poured my heart out before God Almighty.

The next night the evangelist invited people to the altar for healing. Two young men asked me, "Do you believe God can heal you?" I answered, "Yes, I do!" Since I hadn't been officially diagnosed, I didn't know what was wrong with me, but the moment they prayed my right eye rolled down straight.

My right eyelid still drooped while the other one was too wide, so God hadn't completely healed me. Instead of double vision, my eyesight remained blurry. God, however, did reveal himself to me by touching my eyes. Though my future would be stormy, I had tangible proof that God paid attention.

I stepped onto the campus of Central Bible College in the fall of 1994. Huge silver sunglasses covered my disgusting eyelids. I reluctantly took them off as I walked into chapel for orientation. I spent much of my time in the dorms, not wanting to be around people. I cried out to God in the prayer room, "Why me?"

I enrolled in a lot of classes. Doing homework with blurry vision challenged me. When I covered one of my eyes, the other eyelid would raise, and I could see clearly. I could read for about 10 minutes before my pupil would dilate. Then I'd switch to the other eye. Back and forth for hours, I worked to keep up.

This gave me headaches. I napped frequently which led to restless nights. I attended classes, returned to my room, and studied for hours on end. My study time included 15 minutes of worshipping God every hour. Oftentimes, I skipped lunches because of my insecurities. At night, I talked with God at the campus pond.

Every morning, I looked into the mirror and wished I could wake up from this nightmare. I stared at my droopy eyelid and wondered, "What will my future look like? Who will hire a sick person? How will I pay my financial aid back? Will I really be able to handle all the homework? What will my family think about all this?

I went home for summer break and worked in a sawmill. One of my eyes turned red and itched horribly so I went to the doctor. She noticed my droopy eyelid along with pink eye. I told her that I had some muscle weakness in my arms and legs. She suggested I had MyAsthenia Gravis and should see a neurologist, but I didn't.

Returning to CBC, I didn't realize the worst was yet to come. My body weakened more and more each day. The condition began to target different muscles. I reached over to turn the alarm clock off one morning and my arm dropped to my chest. My triceps were weak. I struggled brushing my teeth and putting a shirt on also.

Some mornings I woke up already fatigued. Sunlight burned my eyes outside. Nausea and headaches overtook me. I dreaded going to the cafeteria because of difficulty chewing and swallowing food. At times, I coughed uncontrollably just drinking water. One time for 3 days straight, I had to physically hold my eyelids open.

Another time I went down to the gym to watch the Spartans play a basketball game. After the game, I tried to shoot a free throw. I didn’t have enough energy to get the ball to the rim. I used to love going into an open gym and shooting one jump shot after another. Now I couldn’t handle the weight of a basketball, even with granny shots.

I walked back to my room ticked off and letting God hear about it. Even in my anger, I sensed His Presence. Between Bowie and Horton dorms, His voice interrupted my diatribe. “Hold on. I am with you.” I stayed angry the rest of the night. I used to hit the weight room in high school all time, but now I had become so weak it was humiliating.

The disease also targeted my voice. One night I read a book out loud. At first my voice became nasally then projected no sound. I stopped reading for about 30 seconds and tried to read again. This frustrated me, but I remained persistent. I pleaded with God, “Are you going to take my voice too? I’m studying to be a pastor but without a voice, how can I preach?

I realized that I needed to see a neurologist. He finally diagnosed me with MyAsthenia Gravis and prescribed a high dose of Prednisone for me. My symptoms slowly dissipated, but the medicine created other problems. My skin dried out and flaked off. I felt as though poison ivy covered my entire body. I itched miserably with little to no relief.

A dermatologist recommended that I take cold showers, pat my body dry with a towel, and apply lotion to my skin. He also suggested that I keep my dorm room at a cool temperature and wear loose clothing. This brought me some relief. Until I lowered the dose of medicine, however, my skin itched profusely.

My body finally adapted to the medication and the symptoms subsided. I began to eat right, run three times a week, and lift weights at the gym. I could see clearly enough to regain my basketball jump shot. The homework wasn’t as challenging. I could also star gaze when I expressed my gratitude to God in the evening.

My senior year of college some my friends me helped me overcome my recluse lifestyle. I always kept my door open. Students came into my room to hang out, but I never went out of my way to get to know others. By withdrawing, I had become socially inept. My friends helped reform me somewhat.

About a year after my college graduation, the disease attacked my body with a vengeance. My dad helped me walk into Trinity Hospital at Kansas City, Missouri. My legs nearly collapsed. My neurologist administered a breathing test, but I could barely seal my lips on the tube. Because of my faint breath, he knew that the disease had targeted my lungs.

The doctor suggested that I endure an EMG Test. We went into another room where he put needles in some of my nerves. He had me flex as electricity surged through each needle. The lights in the room flickered. My body flopped around on the medical table. The doctor then chalked off my jugular vein and placed a metal-tipped device on my neck.

He told me that any part of my body could jolt, but I had to hold my neck in one spot. If it moved, he would have to perform the test again. He pulled the trigger with five sequential clicks. My body jumped every direction. By the time the test ended, my face looked pale white. Right afterward, the nurses took several tubes of blood. (I’ve had an EMG since. It isn’t nearly as dramatic today.)

The doctor recommended that I have my thymus gland surgically removed, a common treatment for MyAsthenia Gravis patients. He scheduled the surgery. I fasted from food the day of the operation but didn’t know that I wasn’t allowed to drink a pop. Oops! The surgeon decided to drug me up and move forward as planned.

In the first operation, I watched him cut into my skin with his scalpel through the reflection of his eyeglasses. It burned a bit but wasn’t unbearable. He inserted a catheter into the left aorta of my heart. When the drugs wore off, I noticed a tube with two ends sticking out of my chest. With every beat of my heart, each tube lunged upward.

The nurses hooked one end of the catheter into a machine to cleanse my blood of antibodies. Then it pumped the clean blood through another tube back into my body. This medical procedure, a Plasmapheresis, gave me the strength to cope with the removal of my thymus gland. Just a few days later, I had my thymus gland removed.

The incision for a Thymectomy mirrored that of open-heart surgery. The gland rested between my lungs and on top of my heart. The doctors cut through the sternum of my chest. A wire now held my chest together loosely. All doped up, I vaguely remember witnessing to a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit.

The surgeon entered the room afterwards. I sensed something amiss. He said, “Your thymus gland grew three times its normal size. With the nerves to your vocal cords entangled around it, I had to sever some of those nerves. I aggressively cut the tumor out just in case the growth turned up as cancer. I didn’t want it to come back.” He then warned me that I might never speak again.

After a week in the hospital, the doctor sent me home. I stayed bed ridden for 8 weeks. I couldn’t get out of the bed on my own. With the inability to speak above a whisper, I couldn’t yell for help when I needed to go to the bathroom. I had to beat on the wall with my fist instead until I got help. That became frustrating.

I thought I’d be a real man and not take a pain pills. After about a week at home, I caught a cold. Every time I coughed, the bones in my chest would grind together and snag. I would cough hard again, so that they returned to their normal position. I drank NyQuil and popped cough drops for some relief.

The cold kept me awake at night. I coughed repeatedly. The smell of my flesh healing drifted into my nostrils. This made me nauseous and sick to my stomach. I eventually filled the prescription for my pain medication which brought temporary relief. Until my cold left, I remained incredibly miserable. Over the 2-month recovery, my voice slowly transformed from a whisper to a soft voice.

Seven weeks passed. I could finally walk around on my own. Before the operation, I weighed 165 lbs. I stepped on the scale to see a mere 145 lbs. I determined to regain muscle weight. I put my sweatpants on and started jogging down the road. I hadn’t healed completely and felt discomfort in my chest with every stride.

I enjoyed a break from the symptoms for a few years. By eating healthy and lifting weights, I managed to gain all my weight back. This season of remission only lasted for what seemed like a short time before my health took a turn for the worse again.

My eyelid drooped and most of my strength left me again. I had spent many hours building my body up but for what? In a matter of days, it all faded away. I had nowhere to run except God. In the past, I had survived by talking to Him every night. I needed His strength to survive this raging storm.

I took temporary disability from my job. With good medical insurance, my neurologist recommended an Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG). This procedure consisted of two separate IV injections lasting four hours each. The medicine would neutralize some of my rebel antibodies. The second night I developed a headache worse than a migraine. All night long I dry heaved every ten minutes.

I sped to the hospital the next morning. I became so sick that the nurses thought I had undergone chemotherapy. They gave me an IV of fluids for dehydration. I dry heaved most of that day. After a day in the hospital, I returned home. I hadn’t improved much after the IVIG, so I decided to trust God once again to heal my body.

I spend a few weeks really seeking God with all my heart. I decided to visit my friend Frank in Springfield, Missouri. We went to wash his car. I felt God’s Presence upon me there in that moment. My vision went from blurry to clear, blurry to clear, then remained clear. God had touched my eyes again!

My voice cracked and hurt every time I prayed or worshipped God, so I fasted the following week begging God to take away the pain and increase the volume of my voice. It had been over a year since I had spoken to God pain free. While I was worshipping God in an empty church, the pain suddenly left, and I could speak louder.

Shortly thereafter, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School admitted me into their Master of Arts in Old Testament and Semitic Languages. The classes demanded a lot of time and hard work. Some of my coursework included several advanced Hebrew classes, Greek Exegesis I-III, Biblical Aramaic, and Ancient Syriac. Life at Trinity kept me busy.

I pushed myself to excel academically. I remained healthy for the two and a half years that I lived there, except for one semester that I had double vision. I had to read an intimidating amount of material. I pushed through and managed to earn a 3.96 GPA with 56 credit hours.

After this, I worked as a youth pastor for 4 years in the Detroit area. The youth group had around 30 young people representing several different ethnic groups. This was a culture shock at first, but definitely a good experience for me. City life is much different from small rural towns.

Next, I pursued a Master of Arts in Theological studies at Ashland Theological Seminary. Every night I stepped out of my apartment to talk to God in the prayer garden beside the library. I enjoyed all my classes as I sifted through the works of N.T. Wright and Carl Henry to write my thesis the final semester. In June 2009, I graduated with honors.

Since then, I really enjoyed the 11 years I spent as a full-time teacher at Great River Christian School in Burlington, Iowa. I taught mainly core English classes but also had the privilege of teaching Algebra II for several years. In July 2023, I moved back to the place where many years of my childhood were spent.

Archery trophies
Archery trophies
Newspaper Clipping
Newspaper Clipping