December 2011 Blog Archives
Friday, December 23
7:15 PM Preachers: Beware of those iPhone toting parishioners who are checking out your every word!
5:38 PM This afternoon I pruned one of our backyard trees and then gave Sheba and Dayda a thorough grooming (brushing, bath, rinse, etc.).
They are now as clean as a whistle. Saved a bucket load of money too. Around here dog grooming goes for at least $40.00 a pop. Now everyone feels a lot better.
Tonight for supper I'm cooking Chinese stir fry again. Yes, I know, it's an addiction. But I could eat rice 7 days a week and still never tire of it.
2:03 PM Who might you guess was the top selling religion author of 2011? The answer might surprise you. It did me.
1:48 PM While in my car I often listen to BBN (the Bible Broadcasting Network). Usually the Bible teaching is excellent, but sometimes you've got to be prepared for a Charlie Horse between the ears. Like today, for example. J. Vernon McGee was introducing the Gospel of Luke. In the opening verses he made special note of the words "eyewitnesses" and "ministers" of the Word. Of the former he noted that the word in Greek is autoptai from which, he said, we get the word "autopsy." Luke, he insisted, being the physician that he was, had done a spiritual "autopsy" on the life of Jesus in his Gospel. The next word in Greek is hyperetai, which McGee interpreted as a nautical term referring to the rower in a boat, a lowly position best represented in English, he said, by yet another medical term: "intern." Luke, McGee pointed out, was glad to be nothing but an "intern" of "the Great Physician."
How we use words matters, folks. Word study fallacies, including the examples seen above, are all too common in our teaching and preaching. Unless we do our homework, our study of the text can actually lead to eisegesis instead of exegesis. All pastors need to read Carson's Exegetical Fallacies at least once in their lifetime -- and then put its teaching into practice. For what it's worth, I also spend an entire chapter on the subject in my Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. If I ever engage in such philological voodoo, please call me out!
1:34 PM If you're ever in Southside Virginia you simply must visit the nature trail behind the famous Berry Hill Plantation, just west of South Boston. I walked it today and it was wonderful.
I witnessed lots of wildlife (rabbits, squirrels, deer) but not another human soul. Peaceful, secluded, quiet. I imagine this wall predates the Civil War and was built by the plantation's slave population. Reminds me very much of the wall surrounding the seminary in Wake Forest.
Healthy hardwood stands are everywhere.
The trail ends at the mighty Dan River.
The Dan originates in Patrick County, Virginia, crosses into North Carolina, and then snakes back into Virginia and finally into Kerr Lake.
At the other end of the trail I found this cemetery but, interestingly enough, no grave markers. Presumably they've all been moved elsewhere.
Driving through the Berry Hill estate one sees many ruins, this one possibly being a former slave quarters (there were no markers).
I've worked up quite an appetite so it's time to indulge in one of my favorite lunches -- a hot dog smothered with mustard and relish, accompanied by a bowl of Ramen noodle soup.
10:53 AM My friend and colleague Alvin Reid just tweeted that he has lost 34 pounds since 2007. "Grateful to be healthier at 52 than I was in my 40s," he writes. Congratulations, Alvin, and thanks for setting a great example for the rest of us. We Baptists seem to be the worst offenders in this regard. Obesity-related problems are the second cause of death in the U.S. yet we continue to over-indulge ourselves at the dinner table. Self-discipline is simply Christianity in action.
Incidentally, Clement of Alexandria, a second-century church father, wrote an entire essay about the sin of over-eating. His message was unpopular then and I imagine many will find it offensive today.
10:08 AM The story continues ...
In 1976 I was married to a beautiful Southern lady in her home church in Dallas, Texas. Becky and I had known each other for years, having originally met in the cafeteria line at Biola (I had offered her a chocolate-covered macadamia nut). She was studying nursing, while I was a Biblical Studies major. Marriage was not an easy decision for me. I had come from a broken home, and I knew that God's original blueprint for marriage was seldom followed or modeled, even in Christian homes. The picture is one of total unselfishness, two persons actively and joyfully fulfilling their duties to their partners. It involves mutual love and respect, a unity of purpose and goals. Is anyone ever ready for that step? Ready or not, we said our "I dos" on September 11, 1976, in a beautiful ceremony at Grace Bible Church, where Dwight Pentecost was pastoring. Becky was glowing in her lovely traditional wedding gown, while I wore a simple white shirt and trousers with a maile lei -- the usual wedding garb for a man in Hawaii. Needless to say, a few eyebrows were raised in tradition-loving Dallas. While Dr. Pentecost participated in the service, our pastor from California (Robert Hakes of the College Church) performed the actual ceremony.
Marriage, as Peter Marshall once said, is not a federation of two sovereign states. It is a union of lives, the confluence of two tributaries that, after being joined together in marriage, flow together in the same channel, sharing the same joys and carrying the same burdens. This is the wonderful goal of a Christian marriage, but it comes at a high price. When two strong, independent people flow together, a lot of power is generated. The current can be very strong and difficult to handle. Rare is the husband who can come into a marriage understanding his wife's needs. He tends to think his job is to provide a living instead of sharing a life. He lacks the tenderness and care that a deeply satisfying relationship requires.
In our marriage Becky and I have had to continually adjust, continually adapt, continually grow. But God has honored our commitment to each other. If I talk about my marriage it's not because it's perfect but because it's the only marriage I know deeply. For 35 years we have learned how to survive and thrive, flex and forgive, using the principles of God's Word. Our only claim is God's amazing grace that enables us to keep on flowing together in an ever-deepening unity of heart and purpose.
(Next: My life as a teacher and how I ended up at SEBTS.)
9:36 AM Just spoke with my bride. Last night they went out for Ethiopian food -- again! Those rascals. Today she and Nigusse are going to take a ride on DART (the commuter train) to downtown Dallas and do some sightseeing. They are staying "warm and well fed," but I do miss them. I've asked Becky to give me a long list of household/farm chores to do so that I can keep busy until she returns.
Now, just where did I put that roto-tiller?
8:07 AM This morning I've been reading John -- my favorite "Christmas" Gospel. It begins by presenting Jesus as the eternal Word of God who "became a human being and lived among us," and it ends with the Great Commission: "As the Father sent me, so I am sending you." Little wonder I am excited to have been asked to give a missions update this Sunday at my home church, Bethel Hill. What better day to focus on global evangelism than Christmas Sunday?
7:34 AM On a more serious note, our good friend Aussie John is recovering from triple by-pass surgery and needs our prayers. We love you, John!
7:26 AM Christmas trivia: The words of "Silent Night" in over 100 languages, including the original German. (Note: Amharic is conspicuously absent.) By the way, does it bother anybody that the English and the German versions of Silent Night are, in several places, like two ships passing in the night? The same is true of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Both reflect more of a thought-for-thought philosophy of translation than a word-for-word one. "Purists" might demur!
Thursday, December 22
6:40 PM It's official. My grading is over for the day. I declare a moratorium on all schoolwork for myself and for all of my readers. Take the night off and enjoy your families (or, in my case, your puppies).
6:32 PM Here's an amazing BBC story about conjoined twins who were born in Brazil having two heads, two hearts, two backbones, but only one heart. Their names? Jesus and Emanuel. O Lord, please help and watch over these precious infants!
6:04 PM Check out this holiday book sale at Energion Direct. Even includes one by yours truly.
5:52 PM I've just finished eating the simple supper I cooked for myself. Since I'm sitting here, bored to death, I might as well bore you too. I thus continue my "life story":
I had never been trained in the science of linguistics. To tell the truth, I had no interest at all in the subject until I began doctoral studies at the University of Basel in 1980. I spent long hours, like graduate students today, in discussing Greek pedagogy with my peers. But I was more interested in pursuing my dissertation topic, which involved biblical theology. I wanted just then to grapple with ideas rather than any more grammar. Though I knew that a "D.Theol." was a pleasant ornament to one's name in a college catalog, I desired other things much more.
There was at this time, however, no diminution of my love for languages. I was spending long hours reading Greek, Latin, French, and, of course, German. What is more, I began reading what linguists were saying about language, and about how it works, and then applying this knowledge to my exegesis of texts. I was interested in allowing the author to be his own interpreter as much as possible. Thus it was that I began writing my book on linguistics, hoping fervently that someone more qualified would do the job instead. Upon graduation from Basel in 1983, I revived my courses in Classical and Koine Greek at Biola College. I craved for myself as well as for my students a greater mastery of exact terms, and I worked away at my book until Baker agreed to publish it in the late 1980s. Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek was an immediate success, though I fear that linguistics professors objected to my infringement upon their traditional rights. All of us at Biola, I think, gained something from that training in acute observation and accuracy of description that linguistics affords.
In the meantime, my essays were being accepted for publication in such journals as Biblica, New Testament Studies, and Novum Testamentum. More books shortly followed. It is pleasant to remember now my first contacts with my editors at Zondervan, Baker, B & H, and Eisenbrauns. These were men who were willing to take a risk with a young buck. I grew very fond of writing, and am still at it today, though my interests have shifted considerably from the day I published my dissertation way back in 1984.
(To be continued....)
4:59 PM Wise words from Hudson Taylor:
4:42 PM Greek students! I've got about 5 seats left in my J-Term Greek 1 class scheduled to begin on January 2. We meet daily from 9:00 to noon. If you'd like to get a semester ahead on your Greek studies, you're welcome to join us.
3:17 PM The Marathon continues. Just passed Heartbreak Hill. Here are the results for the Philippians term papers:
A = 8
A- = 3
B+ = 4
B = 4
B- = 3
C+ = 1
C = 4
D+ = 2
The lowest score was a 77, while the highest was a whopping 110 (this paper was truly exemplary so I added on 10 extra points).
Up next: Grading independent study projects and reading more dissertation chapters. I also have a manuscript to edit for our Areopagus series. Glad to keep busy; I don't miss Becky as much!
12:44 PM On Dec. 19, the Pew Forum published this report on the size and distribution of world Christianity. It is simply mind-boggling. Take this chart, for instance
Just a century ago Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa was 1.4 percent. Today it is 23.6 percent. That represents a phenomenal shift in gravity from Europe to the developing world. Small wonder the report states that
Isn't that amazing? I wish somebody would have pulled me aside 25 years ago and helped me understand these things. Really. Maybe that's why I've become so fanatical about evangelizing the world's neediest regions -- the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
Again, missions isn't complicated. It's seeing a need and then doing what you can to meet it. There is, in that context, freedom and fulfillment rarely experienced elsewhere on earth. Without question, the fields are ripe for the harvest.
So, how will you get involved?
10:58 AM I have just completed grading all of my NT 2 essay exams. That's 60 exams with four questions each. Overall quality: Excellent. I was delighted to see how many students elected to write one of their essays on Becky's lecture on Christian finances from 2 Corinthians 8-9.
Now it's time to knock out my Greek 3 term papers on Philippians.
10:44 AM Do you have a yearly Bible reading plan? Have you ever considered going through the Gospels in detail? Alan Kurschner shows us how:
Good advice if you ask me.
8:12 AM I see the First Lady and her daughters are in Hawaii on their annual Christmas holiday. The question in DC is: Will her husband be able to join them? After all, he grew up in the Islands, and Kailua is his favorite vacation spot. That's the beach where I grew up, and it certainly is a relaxing spot.
But is it worth the 4 million dollar price tag? Tax payers might not think so. Mr. President, I agree that you need some time off. I've got an idea. Why not call the family back home and spend a few days at Camp David like Reagan did, giving your secret service agents some time off for the holidays? Then on Christmas Day you could helicopter over to Bethesda and have Christmas dinner with our wounded warriors. Like the rest of us, think "austerity."
Just a thought ....
7:45 AM News item: Ethiopian Christians arrested in Saudi Arabia for mixing with the opposite sex. Their real "crime" was holding a Bible study. God bless them all.
6:40 AM My thanks to sister Kathy for translating into Mandarin my essay called A Great Commission Marriage. It's been added to my Chinese Essays page. Essentially, it's an essay on what makes marriage truly Christian. I assure you, I am NOT an expert on the subject, but I am striving to follow Jesus in my marriage. He is worthy!
Wednesday, December 21
9:04 PM Just finished grading the final exam over Philippians for Greek 3. Now it's on to the term papers.
6:50 PM Our Southeastern faculty members are becoming prolific authors -- witness this great interview with my friend and colleague Heath Thomas about his new book Great is Thy Faithfulness? Reading Lamentations as Sacred Scripture (Pickwick). Says Heath:
I second the motion! A hearty congratulations Heath, and prayers that many will heed your excellent advice.
4:15 PM Alan Knox sent me a link to this article about a new vaccine for malaria. That would be good news indeed if a vaccine proved effective. Malaria is a huge problem in Ethiopia, where it contributes to 20 percent of under-5 deaths. Mortality rates of 100,000 children per year are not uncommon. Prophylaxis is usually effective in the adults we take with us to Ethiopia, but it is not foolproof (I can testify to that personally). Let's hope that scientists win the fight against this dreadful disease.
4:06 PM This is the scene I encountered when I arrived at my office today. And I thought the "Wailing Wall" was in Jerusalem.
Exegesis papers, essay exams, and course notebooks all await the examination of yours truly. Yes, this semester I had two "graders," but, of course, they never grade for me. That's my job, and I do it gladly.
3:55 PM My thanks to John Mureiko for taking the time to review my book New Testament Textual Criticism.
8:06 AM Here's wishing Arthur Sido a very happy 40th birthday. Ad multos annos!
8:02 AM I loved this essay by Mark Stevens. Our good brother reviews his Christian past and concludes that his years in Pentecostalism were blessings, not a curse. Mark is determined to take a divine view of his past rather than a strictly human one. Mature adults have the ability to flex, accept, change, and shift. They develop a proper response to disappointments and loss. In a word: They grow. Wisdom leads to understanding. Is there something in your past you can learn a lesson from? Don't be afraid to say so.
7:45 AM Steve Scott is suffering from Blogger's Cramp and asks for suggestions as to what to do. This is nothing new. If blogging isn't fun, it becomes just another chore to get accomplished for that day. Quick little ditties are the best blog posts, and are fun to write. Blog about everything under the sun if you want to. Just keep it fun. (Here's an example from Down Under.) If you get stuck in a rut, so what? Nobody is hanging on your words anyway. I've said it since I began blogging in 2003, and I believe it now more than ever. The happiest people on planet earth are not the getters. They're the givers. Blogging means giving of yourself so that others might benefit. Fact is, sometimes we have less of ourselves to give. No sense in trying to patch up the externals if your internals are pitifully lacking. So take a break from blogging, Steve. When the Lord again gives you something to say, we'll be the first to praise Him for it.
Tuesday, December 20
7:31 PM Whether you are a complementation or an egalitarian (or neither!), you will thoroughly enjoy and benefit from this blog post by Brian Fulthorp called Phoebe the Expositor of Romans? I'm for all of us, male or female, to be in "fulltime Christian ministry." In fact, I will say that I know of no one who works harder for the kingdom than my own Becky Lynn. Last Sunday, while "on vacation," she spoke twice, once in a mixed adult Sunday School class at Grace Bible Church, and once at Murphy Baptist Church. Becky has never sought to be an overseer or a pastor. Such a step would not fit her theology, or mine. But if you get into a conversation with Becky, you had better be prepared to talk theology, and I mean deep theology, including some really great insights about church, family, and missions. Elsewhere I have already referred to her as my "Phoebe," and there is no doubt in my mind that she is every bit as much a "deacon" (minister) of the church at Bethel Hill, North Carolina, as Phoebe was of the church in Cenchrea. Did Phoebe provide hospitality for visitors and strangers in her home? So does Becky. Did Phoebe provide material assistance to the needy in the church and elsewhere? So does my bride. This is not to put her on a pedestal. No one would detest that more than Becky! It's just to say that even if women do not serve in the role of overseer or pastor there is still a good deal of biblical data to support the conclusion that women gave leadership within many of the church's ministries and probably also a wide variety of other tasks that complemented and supported the ministries of the elders. My plea is that more and more of our evangelical churches would model the prominence of women that we find in the biblical record. This would include speaking and leading roles within God's design of order in the family and in the church. I don't know about you, but I need the help of my wife in almost everything I do for the kingdom. Her godly wisdom, deep Bible knowledge, and organizational skills are simply phenomenal. She has brought a genuine complementarity to our marriage. Truly, we are partners in the Gospel. And for that I say, "Thank you, sweetheart."
6:53 PM Had a great talk with Becky and Nigusse this afternoon. They are thoroughly enjoying their stay in Dallas. Nigusse and Becky's dad are going through all of the Amharic books and Bibles they have, and Becky is relaxing and working away at a jigsaw puzzle when not helping her mom with household things. Sunday's meetings went extremely well. It looks like we may be taking our first Dallasites with us to Ethiopia in the future. Tonight the gang is going out for dinner at one of the six (!) Ethiopian restaurants in Dallas. I will not be surprised if they visit each and every one of them during their stay, so much does everyone love that cuisine. As for me, Becky has me well taken care of mealwise. Tonight I cooked up some stir fry. The dogs gave me an ecstatic grin of approval as they licked out the pots. Later in the week I'll heat up some of Becky's delicious stuffed peppers. Speaking of our puppies, here's the "Sheltie Love Song." Ain't it cute? Shelties were definitely NOT made to be seen but not heard!
One final note. Students, I plan to be on campus tomorrow to work on my grades. You are always welcome to stop by if I can help you in any way. I'm in Stephens-Mackie 107.
3:56 PM A very Merry Christmas and Happy Anniversary to our good friends Pam and Kevin Brown. I know of no one who works harder for the kingdom. Blessings on you both. We love you and your family.
9:53 AM While I'm here holding down the fort, Becky and Nigusse are enjoying a few days in Dallas visiting her parents. Since this will be Nigusse's first Christmas here, I thought I might offer him a few holiday eating tips:
1) Avoid the pre-meal snacks. Why eat carrot sticks when you can scarf down plate loads of ham and mashed potatoes?
2) Don't hog the nog. If I could, I'd drink every last swallow of the egg nog. Christmas is a good time to exercise a little self-control. Save a drop or two for others.
3) Under no circumstances refuse seconds when offered. You'll offend the cook.
4) Have a strategy. Plan in advance which foods you will avoid and which you will splurge on.
5) Take a long walk after supper. This way you'll have plenty of room in your stomach for leftovers.
6) Remind yourself as often as you need to, even as you are putting on all those extra pounds: "I can always lose weight next year."
7) Remember why you're doing what you're doing. You're celebrating family, food, and the American way. (What's that you say? Christmas has something to do with Jesus?)
9:08 AM Quote of the day:
Read Oh Yes, He's the Right Reverend Doctor So-and-So! by Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary.
8:46 AM If you're at all interested in New Testament textual criticism, Douglass Petrovich send me a link to his defense of the shorter reading in Ephesians 1:1.
You can read it here. Oddly enough, we both wrote our masters theses on this variant under the same professor, Robert Thomas, and we both came to opposite conclusions!
8:26 AM Glad to see that my (former) Th.M. student Andy Bowden is blogging again. So sorry I had to miss your graduation service, Andy!
7:45 AM Odds and ends ...
1) Snapped this photo earlier today. I sorely missed the pines and beautiful sunrises here at Rosewood Farm. One sees little of nature in a city of 6 million.
2) Mark Stevens recommends the NIV Study Bible App for IPad. Can you believe it -- somebody gave me an IPad 2 during my trip. Thanks for the tip, Mark. I'll check out that App.
3) Arthur Sido is ashamed of John McCain, as well he should be.
4) Nick Norelli puts in a good word for my colleague Maurice Robinson's The New Testament in the Original Greek.
5) Finally, while I was away, CCML Publishing Group in Taiwan sent me copies of their Mandarin translation of my book New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide.
All I can say is:
6:52 AM I did a good bit of writing while traveling. My latest essay is called Creditor or Debtor?
Monday, December 19
11:57 PM Hello blogging buddies. Just back from my trip. I had hoped to blog something interesting tonight but I'm brain dead. My teaching went great, thanks to your prayers. T. S. Elliott once said, "The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always asked to do things, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down." That describes me perfectly, I think. Actually, I'm finding in my fifty-ninth year more fun and a new freedom to serve the Lord that I didn't have in my earlier years. I sure am exhausted but at least I am ALIVE!
Talk to you tomorrow.
Monday, December 5
7:42 PM Soon I'm off to regions beyond. This means no blogging for a while. You needed the break anyway. Thanks for your prayers.
Joyfully serving the King,
7:34 PM Check out the latest additions to our Areopagus series:
12:26 PM Last night Becky gave me a long overdue haircut. This astonished Nigusse. "Do wives in America actually cut their husbands' hair?"
Some do. I do not go to a barber. Becky does a great job, and it saves us gobs of money. We figured that by having Becky cut my hair (what little there is of it -- ha!!) we have saved about $5,000 in 35 years of marriage. That's two round trips tickets to Ethiopia. Not bad, eh?
By the way, gray hair is highly respected in Ethiopia. So is old age. I qualify on both counts!
12:12 PM Last night after supper we opened these gifts from the church in Alaba. Becky received this gorgeous dress. Won't she look beautiful in it?
I received a new outfit of all white, along with this Ethiopian banner. Can't wait to wear it.
And here's Nigusse with his matching outfit. Life father like son.
To all of our brothers and sisters in Alaba we say:
11:14 AM Following in the footsteps of her daddy, Katy Brown describes her Adventure to Africa. She writes:
All I can say is a hearty Amen!
11:08 AM This morning we had a wonderful visit with the Blacks. Couldn't help but take a couple of pix of Mr. Photogenic. Here he is with his Papa B:
And with his Mama B:
And, of course, here is Mr. Blue Eyes himself.
Boy will miss I Bradford and Nolan while I'm gone.
11:02 AM Kevin Brown just returned from taking two of his daughters to Ethiopia. You can read his post-trip report here. Note these words:
Now that is one wise daddy speaking. Methinks the Kevin Brown family is indeed a Great Commission family. Can't wait for the rest of Kevin's reports.
Sunday, December 4
6:12 PM Congrats to the leadership of CCMC for putting up with me this afternoon. The Lord blessed our time in His Word as we discussed leadership according to the New Testament.
Next topic: How to teach the Bible simply without being simplistic. My approach has already been translated into Chinese here.
6:45 AM The story continues ....
In view of my undergraduate training in Greek, I was hired to teach Greek at Biola College during my second year of seminary. The year was 1976. We used Chase and Phillips' classical grammar for beginning Greek. It was designed to be covered in one semester at Harvard but we scraped by in two.
Students were obliged to translate and parse and endure quizzes and exams. I was closely supervised by the head of Biola's Greek Department, Dr. Harry Sturz, a textual critic of the New Testament. No one was kinder to me, or more encouraging. I was bent, grimly and ferociously, on mastering every secret of Chase and Phillips. I must have succeeded, as I was hired again in 1977.
I think my chief intellectual adventure in those days was my interaction with Professor Sturz. His noble features showed little trace of the burden of years, and he had already been a legend for years on campus as a symbol of excellent teaching. "He taught as one having authority, as not as the scribes." All of us recognized his immense intellect. Yet he was never dogmatic, never over-bearing. It was there at Biola in the 1970s, under the tutelage of this gentleman scholar as I said, that I honed whatever skills I possess as a Greek teacher.
6:15 AM Odds and ends ...
1) Today I'm at CCMC in Durham. I love this Chinese congregation. My message this morning to the English-speaking group is on "The Forgotten Father." Our church leadership workshop is from 1:00-4:00 pm. I actually plan on doing very little teaching. If there are any questions I'll defer to the Scriptures.
2) My Ed.D. student Thomas Hudgins has some excellent thoughts on cross-cultural missions. Here's a sampler:
3) "We are always thankful as we pray for you all, for we never forget that your faith has meant solid achievement, your love has meant hard work, and the hope that you have in our Lord Jesus Christ means sheer dogged endurance in the life that you live before God, the Father of us all" (1 Thess. 1:3). Grateful this morning for faith, love, and hope -- each a gift from God.
4) The suggestions are now pouring in: more on the optative, provide optional pronunciation schemes, add a Scripture index, etc. I plan on doing all of these -- and more. Your thoughts?
Saturday, December 3
7:07 PM Just back from a hot date with Becky. Yes, we left Nigusse behind to brave the house all by himself.
11:53 AM Truly we have a Great Commission seminary. This weekend our president, Danny Akin, is giving the commencement address at the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary. This is just one of several partnerships that SEBTS has around the world. So grateful for this emphasis.
11:34 AM A huge Saturday shout out and "thank you" to sister Aberesh of Alaba for sending along this delicious ambasha for Becky.
No, Becky is not sharing it with me or Nigusse. But that's okay, as long as she bakes bread for us!
11:34 AM Congratulations to my former doctoral student Matthew McDill and his wife Dana on the birth of their new son Isaac!
10:59 AM An emailer asked me whether the Aussies say we Americans live "Up Above"?
10:26 AM Here's more ....
As a student in Basel I was expected to speak German fluently, unless incapacitated by sheer terror, or by immovable obstinacy. Personally I owe my speaking ability in German to Paul Mittmann of Anaheim, California, who had emigrated to America after WW II, in which he had served as a German soldier. Even now I have flashbacks to the the hours we spent in his living room practicing German together. On Sundays he let me preach a few times in his church (a Lutheran Brethren congregation) in order to improve my diction and confidence.
The real difficulty arose in Basel. I had not been informed that the Swiss have their own particular dialect of German. I had no practice in Swiss German and was terrified of it. Fortunately, I managed to find a Basel German grammar in a local bookstore. All at once, things began to fall into place. The vowels were easy enough, but the consonantal shifts were perplexing. I soon found myself guessing, and of course I guessed wrong. Back to the grammar, I told myself. One could not help but be aware that learning Basel German made High German look like child's play. I formed the habit of speaking dialect whenever the opportunity arose, though I was overwhelmed at first by the pressure it put on my tired brain.
My French was even more problematic. On outings into the Vosges I tried my best to speak the language, but I took some pretty hard knocks. Was I a philologist, and could I ever become one? My French interlocutors, I'm afraid, would have answered that question in the negative.
On visits to the Reickes I would sometimes hear them speaking on the phone. The conversation often took place in Swedish (their mother tongue) but just as often in English, French, German, or even Italian. I imagine they felt sorry for me because I was so linguistically challenged. As I said before, on Sunday mornings we would attend the (High) German-speaking Baptist church in Basel, and I preached there on several occasions. I know no one who did not sincerely appreciate my efforts at communicating in German. My accent left something to be desired, however. In Switzerland I was often mistaken for a German, and in Germany for a Swiss. As a result I began to work very hard on my enunciation and, for the most part, have succeeded in passing myself off for a German in Germany -- which still surprises me.
10:04 AM What? A pastor who holds to Matthean priority? What is this world coming to?
9:48 AM Last night I finished Ben Witherington's book Is There a Doctor in the House? It was not what I was expecting. I was hoping for a more autobiographical approach. But there were many wonderful takeaways. One of the best: Do what God has gifted you to do. Refuse to feel guilty because you're not a gifted teacher or a published author. God does not call everyone to a life of scholarship. Remember: He has a plan for you. Find it. Do it deliberately. Then stand back and watch your light shine!
Ministry begins with an inventory of our talents. They are a clue to where we fit in the Grand Scheme of things. Your faith in your co-laborer, God, is what enables you to dream God-sized dreams. Remember, if the Lord appoints, the Lord provides. If He has called you to an academic career, He will enable you to do it. Ben is sterling proof of that.
I hate for my books to sit around on my shelves, so I'm giving away Ben's tome. Are you praying about a doctoral program in biblical studies and would like to have Ben's book but have already blown your book budget for the year? Let me know. The book is yours. (First come, first served, of course.)
7:45 AM The saga continues ....
In Basel, Becky and I lived in a one-room apartment. To be more exact, we lived in the Parterre, which was about as low as you could get (both spatially and in terms of societal status). You might say that our life was primitive enough to have satisfied Rousseau. We were not permitted to shower or bathe after 10:00 pm (a city ordinance). Nor we could control our own heat (that was left to the landlord). We often had to take hot baths to stay warm during the winter. We had a tiny bathroom and an even smaller kitchenette. But happiness does not depend on physical furnishings. We had youth and vigor. Most of all we had the Lord.
Life was very simple. I toiled over my dissertation while Becky kept busy with her hobbies, including her piano practicing. On occasion, we entertained. One day Becky worked feverishly to prepare our table for the arrival of some very esteemed dinner guests -- none other than Professor and Mrs. Reicke. The latter was a bit taken aback when she entered our humble abode. After all, most of her husband's students hailed from Princeton and Harvard, not from a non-descript seminary called Talbot.
Professor Reicke was extremely kind to me. He gave me access to his personal library, and we enjoyed many pleasant conversations together -- something perhaps unusual in a day and age when a student's chair was not supposed to be cushioned with any intimacy. I took far too little recreation in that era. Still, we did a good bit of walking, despite the ease with which we could have traveled "mit 'em Dram." Naturally I discovered many reasons for preferring Basel above the UK universities. It scarcely occurred to us Doktoranden that we should go anywhere else.
To be continued ....
7:10 AM A pastor bemoans her seminary education, partly because she was never taught how to raise money:
What do you think? Should a seminary teach fund-raising? Would the apostle Paul have agreed with her? I'm thinking especially about his teaching in Philippians.
7:02 AM Jesus told us to "go." But what did He mean? How do you know if you're going? Becky's answers might surprise you.
6:54 AM The suggestions keep coming in. The latest is to add a Scripture index (will do!). But nobody has said anything yet about pronunciation or verbal aspect. Rod? Daniel? Now's your chance.
Friday, December 2
5:53 PM I'm already getting some great feedback about my grammar. Keep it coming!
5:23 PM Good evening, bloggers! Tonight I'm making the final preparations for the church leadership workshop I'm leading this Sunday in Durham. I am very excited about this conference. As you know, on this website we talk a lot about the church. We also talk a lot about taking the Gospel to the world. To go as a church to this world is not an option. So, even though I think it is very important that we discuss what the church should look like scripturally, it is even more important that we be about the Great Cause. Unity is not uniformity. Let me say that again: Unity is not uniformity. We can have diversity in how we do things as long as we have unity of heart and mind regarding our overall mission. On the individual level, this has meant for Becky and me maintaining a humble attitude of cooperation with brothers and sisters as we move into the spheres of ministry God has given us. So I'm suggesting that we continue the conversation about the church. But above all we must all pursue a missional mindset. If we, the church of this generation, hope to touch our generation for Christ, we must deploy as Christians into the world -- together.
12:02 PM So you're a Greek teacher but you don't use my beginning grammar:
But you would if ....
I'm in the process of making a list (and "checking it twice" -- how's that for a nod to Santa?) of suggestions from you, my readers, as to how I can improve my textbook. In other words, what changes would it take for you to make Learn to Read New Testament Greek a serious contender for first place in your heart -- or at least in your classroom? Suggestions already received include:
Add English to Greek exercises
Revise approach to deponency
Expand discussion of third declension
Include a summary chart of contractions
Your thoughts? I promise I will take your ideas (even complaints!) seriously and turn them to the improvement of the grammar in its next incarnation. So here's your chance to tell me what you think. Let me hear from you at email@example.com.
11:10 AM My doctoral student Paul Himes gave us an incredibly practical introduction to Social Scientific Criticism in Wednesday's NT 2 class.
His lecture derived from the significant research he is doing into the social background of the book of 1 Peter. His was one of the finest and clearest lectures I've ever heard on this much neglected letter. What encouragement! What inspiration! And, having his father John Himes give us an update on the church in Japan (where he and his wife Patti have served for over 30 years) was only the icing on the cake.
I've said it time after time, but I can't help but marvel once more: there's nothing like biblical scholarship when it's working right -- that is, when it's placed at the feet of King Jesus and used for the building up of His Body. Beneath every evangelistic effort there must be a pure love of Christ and a wholehearted devotion to biblical truth. Thank you, Paul, for reminding us just how practical scholarship can be.
7:03 AM I have got absolutely the greatest students in my NT 2 class. It's always a joy for me to listen to them read their weekly interaction papers. This week's theme was suffering in 1 Peter. After sharing in small groups I asked two students to read their papers to the entire class, and boy were we blessed. One of these students is named Marcus Twisdale.
Markus has published his essay at his website. His paper is called Suffering for God's glory. Please don't miss Markus's peroration. The other student presenter was Joel Gravely.
With his permission I have published his piece here at DBO. It's entitled Suffering in 1 Peter 3:13-4:19. You could hear a collective gasp as Joel read these words to the class:
How very true.
I hope you find these essays as edifying as our class did. And thanks again to my students for working so hard on these papers.
6:55 AM Ten things I do to prepare for a mission trip:
1. I ask God to sovereignly guide the trip each step of the way.
2. I commit my home and loved ones to Him in prayer.
3. I define my goals beforehand.
4. I make sure I am well prepared for the work I have to do.
5. I pack lightly (I often fly stand by and so do not check any bags).
6. I plan a day of rest after my return.
7. I ask for prayer.
8. I make sure my will is current.
9. I see that I leave behind up-to-date contact information.
10. I pray with Becky before leaving for the airport.
Thursday, December 1
8:28 PM So Thanksgiving is over. Or is it? Here are a few things I'm still grateful for (other than the "usual" topics such as family, work, home, etc.):
I'm really, really thankful for a missionary who came to Hawaii in the late 1950s and planted First Baptist Church, Windward. His name was Rudy Ulrich. It was he who led me to the Lord when I was eight years of age. Eventually he returned to the mainland and we lost contact. But I will make a beeline for him when I get to heaven.
I thank God for my fifth grade teacher at Kainalu Elementary School. One day she began class with the strange words "¿Cómo está usted?" It was my first introduction to a foreign language (other than Hawaiian Pidgin). I knew then and there that language learning would be fun and interesting.
I'm really grateful for my Kailua High School civics teacher, Mrs. Saranchuk. She helped me look at the world through fresh and insightful eyes. I look back with appreciation for the way she allowed me and a couple of friends to produce a creative slide show about current issues in Hawaii and present it to the student body. Really got my learning juices flowing, and they haven't stopped since.
I really appreciate pastors who have begun to shift dependency of church members from them to others. I am amazed at the benefits and pleased with the results.
I'm very grateful for the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century. What a gift they were to the church. I have learned so much from them and their example of costly discipleship. By marrying the ideas of sound orthodoxy and a humble, kingdom-oriented lifestyle, they have helped many Christians in a new way. My only regret is that I did not learn about them sooner.
I am very thankful for the love and prayers of Craig Bennett. He has been a faithful prayer warrior on behalf of my family and our ministry in Ethiopia. I am also enjoying his blog. Craig has a way of stimulating his readers to think deeply. Your faith will be stirred as you read his posts.
I am so grateful for our friends in Basel who took us under their wings while we were "sojourners and exiles" in a foreign land. I think, for example, of Frau Schaub of our Baptist church there, who tutored Becky weekly in German. As a result, within three months B was speaking the language. What a sacrifice of love. Perhaps this is why Becky and I have so much room in our heart for international students.
Finally, I thank God for the horses I've had through the years. I once thought riding big waves was a challenge. But riding horses far surpassed that. They are thinking, feeling creatures. I felt a tremendous boost in confidence as I learned to direct a thousand pound animal through mental focus and a trusting relationship. Nothing is more satisfying than the nicker your horse gives you when he gets to know and trust you. I will miss them always.
So, what are you still grateful for?
5:56 PM Odds and ends …
1) This week I received an email from someone who linked to an essay critical of the "Roman Road" method of evangelism. The writer suggested I might want to link to it. I declined. I'm trying to encourage people to share the Gospel more with their world, not less, using whatever approach works best for them. We don't need a few ideas; we need hundreds of them. Which method of evangelism works best? My answer is very simple: Any method that is both spoken and shown to a watching world. This includes any honest approach to evangelism that you might use. I'm not about strategies. My aim is to stir up in the hearts of God's people a desire to obey Him by sharing the Good News with those around them. Ecclesiastes 11:6 puts it this way: "Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow. Perhaps they all will!" I'm convinced that unless people feel God's presence they'll never be convinced of His love for them. That's why Jesus calls us to love one another. The world instinctively recognizes something attractive when we demonstrate God's love for all to see.
So don't fret about methods. Demonstrate the kindness of God through some act of humble service and thus shine the spotlight on God's kingdom. Doing humble acts of service causes not-yet Christians to notice our lives and to listen to our message. Evangelism is as simple as that.
3) Kyuboem Lee offers some wonderful advice about becoming a bi-vocational pastor. Here's just one of the many excellent takeaways I found in this piece:
For what it's worth, I agree heartily. Most churches today have an imagined role of the pastorate that is both unreachable and untenable. And the root of the problem is that churches have unrealistic and unbiblical expectations of their pastors. In the end, the so-called laity is often not prepared for works of service in building up the Body and is deprived of becoming the Lord's instruments of meaningful service. The long-term health of the church depends on us getting this right.
4) This week in chapel we heard two excellent messages by Chris Wright of Langham Partnership International. LPI is a Christian organization founded in 1974 by John Stott that publishes Christian literature, provides scholarships for theological courses, and runs seminars to train pastors. Chris is the author of several great books including The Mission of God. I especially enjoyed these takeaways from his lectures:
"The doctrine of election is not so much about the arithmetic of heaven. It is the choosing of this people [Israel] so that all the nations might be blessed."
"We are blessed in order to be a blessing to all the nations."
"We are called upon to be a visible demonstration of God's love for the nations."
"The Great Commission begins with an indicative – with an affirmation of Christ's lordship over heaven and earth."
"Jesus' Great Commission hands this off to us."
Chris challenged us to read the whole Bible from the perspective of missions. Most importantly, God is building a work force to bring His love to the hearts of people who have yet been touched. Evangelism is really nothing but an overflow of our understanding of the Scriptures and our relationship with the God of the Bible.
5) Jesus told us to "Go into all the world." Some of us have trouble with two words in this commission: "Go," and "all." Becky writes:
Her essay is called How do you Know …? Do not read it unless you are ready to be convicted! Becky pulls no punches in exposing our silly excuses for what they really are: smoke screens.
6) Can spiritual success keep you from what's best? Ryan Fullerton says yes.
7) Finally, heartiest congratulations to my students Mel Winstead and Andy Bowden. They passed their oral defenses on Monday and will graduate on Friday, Dec. 16. Mel's dissertation is called "The Significance of Verbal Aspect on the Participles in Hebrews with Special Reference to 6:1-12."
Andy's thesis has the title "Interpreting Microstructure through Discourse Analysis, With Specific Application to the Text of James 5:13-18."
Gentlemen, I'm proud of you both. My only regret is that I will not be able to attend your commencement this year due to my travels. But I will be with you in spirit. I know the process seemed long, but, as J. Oswald Sanders once reminded us, God is never in a hurry to prepare His servants:
Again, congratulations and God's richest blessings on you both. You were a joy and delight to work with.
5:32 PM Our wonderful team brought back this wonderful food so that we could enjoy this wonderful supper with our wonderful son.
Thank you, Martha!
4:56 PM Hello fellow bloggerites.
Well, I'll start by saying I'm delighted that our Ethiopia team is home safe and sound after their trip to Alaba. They took up the cross … and, er, their cameras in the service of King Jesus. I hope to be able to link to their reports in the coming days. (You guys sure better blog about the trip!) Active love is contagious. When we care for other people, life is pumped into the whole Body. So I can't wait to hear their reports. And I can't wait to see how this will affect their congregations. As the old song puts it: "It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it."
I'm jazzed about missions. Can you tell? Since the publication of my book The Jesus Paradigm, many of you have become aware of my conviction that the Christian life is more than becoming a successful Greek scholar and a good churchman. The New Testament calls on followers of Jesus to imitate Him by sacrificially serving others. It's just that simple. In fact, I will go as far as to say this about the church: The church's fundamental identity is that of servant, and this Christian identity directs us into the world in mission. How could it be otherwise?
Think about it. Identity and mission are two sides of the same coin. A church that has realized its biblical identity will automatically engage in missional acts. Next to the high call of following and serving King Jesus, arguing about who to vote for in 2012 is a distraction. Christian fellowship, when it is understood as identification with the Crucified, leads congregations into acts of social ministry on behalf of the least of Jesus' brothers and sisters. Is that your focus? Is it mine? All too often seminary professors like me leave the impression that congregational ministry is an end in itself. The false dichotomy between what one does on Sunday and what one does the rest of the week must be rejected. Of all people, Christians are those who ought to see through the rationalizations used to justify our elevation of "worship services" to a place of preeminence. The church constantly requires re-spiration, that is, the continual outpouring of the Spirit of God to breathe new life into our lifeless congregations. Christian congregations are called upon to live in unity with Christians in other parts of the world with whom they form one Body. When our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia or China suffer, we suffer with them. When God blesses them, we too are blessed. The Gospel contains a built-in centrifugal force that thrusts the church into a universal mission. Christianity is inherently a missionary religion. The Gospel of Jesus Christ propels us into the entire world with a mission of uniting all tribes and peoples and languages into this Name. Even if we cannot go personally, intercession can be offered on a regular basis for the needs of the church in other nations. Even the use of artwork or décor in our church buildings can become a focal point of prayer. Here's an example from Bethel Hill:
Every time I walked into the building and see this wall hanging I am reminded to pray for the persecuted church worldwide. Members of the congregation who travel abroad can be encouraged to make contact with believers in the countries they visit in order to deepen relationships between Christ’s people. Not least of all, Christians in other parts of the world need our encouragement and physical presence through our missionary trips. That's why I'm so proud of our Ethiopia team. Each of them realizes that, although there may be security in treading familiar roads, the situation in which the church finds itself today calls for a renewed engagement with the Body of Christ worldwide. If we could only get a firm grasp on the identity of the New Testament church! Our congregations in America are uniquely situated to serve as centers for missions that carry forth the Gospel to their communities and beyond. Let's get busy doing it!
I want to express my deepest love and appreciation to Cindi, Katy, Kandace, Abigail, Jason, Dale, and Kevin for reminding us that the way up is down. Here is the church carrying forth Jesus' own ministry of extending the kingdom. Our team rediscovered the immeasurable joy of serving Jesus. Our age hungers after heroes. What is a hero? To me, a Christian hero is someone who demonstrates what it means to live a servant's life. The history of the Christian church is replete with such witnesses, but none is greater than the simple believer who answers the call to obey and who follows the Spirit's lead. To assume the role of a servant is to reorient one's entire outlook on life. Genuine concern for others replaces self-concern. The energy once devoted to selfish pursuits is redirected on behalf of others. Servanthood means the surrender of all I have and all I am to the Master.
By the way, as some of you know I've been asked to minister several times this year in a nation far away from our shores. I'll be leaving Tuesday on my next trip there. The beauty of God's love on the cross continues to amaze and inspire me. Not that you need to go anywhere to live the kingdom kind of life. Insofar as we, as individuals and as churches, look like Jesus, we are manifesting the kingdom of God. Thanks to all who pray for me and our teams as we travel. It's an honor to partner with you in the Gospel. Let's keep on working to show people what Jesus looks like!
Your co-worker for the King,