February 2010 Blog Archives
Sunday, February 28
9:59 PM Breaking news from Chicago: Margaret Mitchell will assume the position of dean at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Mitchell's Paul and the rhetoric of reconciliation: An exegetical investigation of the language and composition of 1 Corinthians is one of the best books I've read on the discourse structure of that book. I think it's most remarkable and deserves wider recognition than it has achieved.
9:47 PM What happens when a theology student gets angry.
9:31 PM Over at Theological German, Herr Mark has added a very useful link called the Bonhoeffer Index. Perhaps my favorite link is the last one, On the German Language, in which Bonhoeffer admits that German can give even a native speaker a painful charley horse between the ears.
Below: Historical distribution of German speaker in the U.S. (note the Hill Country of Texas!).
8:59 PM My favorite quote from Allan Moseley's sermon this morning on head coverings (1 Cor. 11) was this gem: "We should dress to amplify our witness for Christ." I have heard a good many messages from this difficult text but none better than this one. To listen to brother Allan's message entitled "His Way," go here.
7:57 PM Although I have been highly critical of the policies of former President George W. Bush in these pages I have nothing but praise for his post-office demeanor and his willingness to assist the current president with his Haiti relief efforts. I am also glad that he feels his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ sustained him throughout his presidency. According to AP Texas News,
Mr. Bush, I wish you every blessing and look forward to reading your memoirs.
7:43 PM The president apparently still struggles with his smoking addiction. God bless the man for trying to quit!
7:17 PM Markus Barth audio files here! I had the wonderful opportunity to hear the man himself lecture on baptism while taking a course from him on Mark's Gospel back in 1981. A treasure trove indeed!
6:34 PM Eric Carpenter has been reading The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara, a novel about the American revolution. I too enjoy reading the Shaara novels, including my all-time favorite, Killer Angels, written by Jeff's late father Michael.
The key point to remember, however, is that these books are novels. The dialogues are purely fictional and imaginary, and it would be fruitless and perhaps even dangerous to draw any conclusions about the individuals portrayed in them. Imagined conversations are just that -- imaginary -- and therefore are only moderately instructive. Or at any rate they are to be read with a grain of salt. As much as I like Martin Sheen and the movie Gettysburg (based on the Shaara novel), I must certainly read history if I am to be accurately informed, say, about Lee's conduct and strategy at Gettysburg.
So if you do read Shaara I might suggest you place him in juxtaposition with the works of historians.
6:12 PM We were delighted to be able to make a personal acquaintance with our prayer partners at Christ Baptist Church this morning. Here's Becky sharing with these precious 5 and 6 year-olds about the faithfulness of God.
She spoke for about 20 minutes and then introduced a Christian "catechism" of sorts. It was wonderful.
Becky: "Is God in control?"
Children: "Yes, God is always in control."
Becky: "Is God loving?"
Children: "Yes, God is always loving."
Becky: "Is God just?"
Children: "Yes, God is always just."
She also asked the children to clap while reciting their catechism as an expression of their joy before God and their confidence in His unchanging character. After that the children placed their hands in the hand prints they had made on a new blanket and prayed for a 3-year old who is suffering from lung cancer. How precious!
Becky, of course, is so very pleased with the prayer blanket the class sent to her. It was such a pleasure and an honor for us to visit with our prayer partners today!
We then drove to the Abyssinia restaurant in Raleigh where we enjoyed a monstrously good meal of kay wat, tibbs, and assorted Ethiopian vegetable dishes. I was extremely pleased with both the quality and the quantity of the food. After dinner our waitress Meskerem went way beyond the call of duty and brought out Ethiopian fandisha (popcorn) and authentic Harar coffee! I had, of course, mentioned to her previously that we were there to celebrate the end of B's radiation treatments, but still this was a wonderful and unexpected touch. Of course our Amharic began to return to us in droves, and even I was surprised how easily certain expressions came to mind. I am now fat and happy and eager to get back to Utopia (we leave in less than 3 weeks, if the Lord wills). The Abyssinia is a remarkable place and one we highly recommend. I have spared you more lyrical effusions about the restaurant in the hopes that you might pay it a visit yourself.
We have now come to the end of one chapter in our life (chemo #1 and radiation) and soon will begin another (chemo #2). How we praise God for His goodness in opening our spiritual eyes to see that He is always in control, always loving, and always just. It is our continuous prayer every day before God that He might use us and our testimony to draw people to Himself, whether they work in a hospital or in a restaurant. I myself am completely bowled over by the beauty of the Lord. I want to be like Job who lost everything and yet was still able to worship God! Becky and I are learning a great truth about the Christian life: everything we hold in our hands must be held loosely and must be invested gladly in the salvation of souls and the furtherance of the Gospel. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for each and every day you grant us in which to praise and serve you!
Restaurant pix (of course):
6:52 AM Hawaii "dodged the bullet" and the tsunami never fully developed there. This was Ala Moana Beach yesterday -- deserted on a busy Saturday.
I have memories of waking up at night in Hawaii to the sound of the tsunami warning sirens, which for many was just another reason to do nothing. Our family did what so many people did yesterday in Waikiki -- moved to higher ground.
6:46 AM More good audio from my former colleague at Talbot, J. P. Moreland. Thank you, Geoff, for the links!
6:40 AM Here are the speakers at the April Wheaton Theology Conference featuring Tom Wright. Should be quite interesting.
Saturday, February 27
9:20 PM The name Karl Barth may not be on everyone's lips anymore, but Tyler Wittman says that open season on the good professor may not be over yet. His essay Barth and the Fundamentalist "Man-Eaters" is a reminder (to me at least) that Basel as a center of European culture has had and probably always will have a difficult time understanding American evangelicalism.
I had a little cache of friends in Basel who were very Barthian in their view of the Word of God, and I should not be surprised if they thought I was off my theological rocker for holding to the doctrine of the verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture. High comedy at times, let me assure you! I think the whole matter of misunderstanding between American and European theologians shows a pretty state of imbecility; it's not pleasant to think of the sheer folly of grown men talking past each other when they could be enjoying a good Jägerschnitzel and moping over topics of substance.
8:21 PM Allan Bevere posts his favorite Methodist blogs of the week. Very helpful resource, Allan!
7:10 PM I snapped this pic of Mr. Nolan at Bethel Hill a couple of Sundays ago.
He's being spoiled by "Aunty" Stacey. Bec and I will miss being with our Hillian family tomorrow. We're visiting Christ Baptist Church in Raleigh to say "thank you" in person to the 5 and 6 year old Sunday School class that has been praying fervently for Miss Becky during her illness. I may even surprise my Abasha wife and take her out for Ethiopian food afterwards.
6:06 PM Just enjoyed a barbecue sandwich for supper. Becky made it from lean hormone-free beef, compliments of Rosewood Farm, Virginia. Nothing better.
Off to feed the beef!
5:08 PM Everyone who knows me knows my passion for the church to move beyond popular Christianity and embrace a lifestyle of evangelism and selfless deeds. We are the Body of Christ on this earth. "He alone is the Head of the Body, the church," writes Paul. All who believe in Christ are the church. All of us are His hands and feet -- not just certain "specially called" people. "As He is, so are we in the world," says 1 John 4:17. Jesus' glorious ministry on earth is now ours as we make His interests known in every country on earth.
The latest essay on my home page deals with this issue. It's called Who Does God Use? For the Christian, the decision to become a servant is life-changing. If this "job description" makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, join the club. Living a submitted and surrendered life is not a natural thing -- it's a supernatural thing. But the fact remains: Christ wants us to live and operate in the same mysterious authority and power that characterized His earthly ministry. Peter and John were uneducated fishermen, yet see how God used them! And He can use you too.
4:23 PM I know, I know, this is silly, but I had a few spare minutes on my hands today.
A Psalm of David
Friday, February 26
9:50 PM No news here. After doing my farm chores I cooked supper for B and me (Chinese food -- all vegetarian tonight), then worked on THE CHAPTER. A few minutes ago I read the link that is all the rave of the blogs this evening and I am very glad I did: an excerpt from P. T. O'Brien's Hebrews commentary (.pdf) in the Pillar series.
From what I have seen this is a good book. But on the other hand I expected a more even-handed treatment of authorship issues and at least a passing nod to those obscurantists (like myself) who have the audacity, naiveté, or stupidity to have attempted to defend the Pauline authorship of Hebrews in writing. But I had better leave the matter there. O'Brien has a very clear, hard, and acute intelligence and a considerable knowledge of his subject. He is about as good a commentary writer as one is likely to find anywhere (comparable to the series editor, Don Carson). But for me the most critical issue is situating the book in early Christian history, and the consensus view in the Eastern church that the letter was Paul's continues to haunt me. Well, at least Peter doesn't misquote Origen!
Becky's meeting on solar power went extremely well, by the way, in case you were wondering. It is a tiresome business but one to which Becky is better suited than I am. I am the ultimate electronics klutz -- prodigious technical difficulties enclosing a beach bum core. Please accept my sincere gratitude if you joined me in praying for the meeting. Thank you once more.
3:05 PM Jeff over at Scripture Zealot has some advice on making Greek vocabulary cards. You would, I think, enjoy reading it.
2:48 PM All I can say is, "I agree!"
2:42 PM George Hillman writes a fitting tribute to his colleague at Dallas Seminary, Dwight Pentecost, whom he calls "a real cornerstone."
Two years ago a student here at SEBTS transferred to Dallas, saying he had always wanted to study personally under two men -- Harold Hoehner and Dwight Pentecost. Can't say that I blame him. Dr. Pentecost, by the way, co-officiated at my wedding at Grace Bible Church in Dallas in 1976.
Speaking of seminaries, was this recent photo taken at DTS or Gordon-Conwell?
2:26 PM I have been having great fun on my chapter. It's a beautiful day to write outside, though a little chilly (44 degrees currently). It's amazing to me how a book written about 3,000 years ago can still be relevant. I am delighted to think that I will have an opportunity to make my thoughts on the subject available again after all these years. Writing suits me, though I think I'm an average writer at best. Makes one thankful for small mercies.
1:52 PM Richard Hall praises his local book store. He writes, "I'm still a fan of Amazon and the like. But there really is nothing like good local service." Richard makes a very good point about brick-and-mortar bookstores. I'll never forget finding used books in the shops in London's Piccadilly Circus that I could never find online in the States. The service was terrific and the booksellers were very knowledgeable too. Reminded me a lot of the famous Archives Bookshop in Pasadena which I frequented while teaching at Biola/Talbot. You gotta love knowledgeable bookstore owners!
1:40 PM Photo of the day:
For the story behind the photo, go here. As one contestant put it after the competition was over, "I don't know if I want to surf for a while." I know what you mean, I know what you mean!
1:23 PM Quote of the day #2 (Near Emmaus):
12:16 PM I have a couple of Greek students who are currently researching the problem of "deponency" in the Greek verb system. If that includes you, might I recommend this excellent essay (.pdf) by Carl Conrad called Active, Middle, and Passive: Understanding Ancient Greek Voice? Be sure to check it out.
11:15 AM Nate and Jess, this one's for you. I just LOVE your farm! I can see Nolan now playing in these fields.
11:10 AM What do you think about this comment made on this post?
Sadly, I must agree. The main challenge I have as a Greek prof is not teaching Greek but motivating my students to use (rather than lose) what have worked so hard to acquire. Something seems to break down between graduation and life.
That's one reason I wrote a little book called Using New Testament Greek in Ministry. I'd give my right arm to see graduates of seminaries reading or at least constantly consulting their Greek New Testaments. How foolish to think that God will not hold us accountable for putting our knowledge to use in His service!
10:13 AM Quote of the day (Wayne McDill):
Read Jesus' Communication Strategy. By loving other people, they meet Jesus Christ, even though at first they don't know whom they met!
10:04 AM According to Hansung Kim, "Acts 6:1-7 may provide some valuable insights for the cross-cultural conflicts between Western missionaries and Majority World missionaries." I hope that everyone interested in cross-cultural missions will read this fine essay.
9:30 AM For my newest Greek students: Here are the Greek vocab cards I mentioned in class this week. They are keyed to our textbook. I find it rather disastrous to fall behind in vocabulary.
9:21 AM Poison or potion? I'm talking about those church signs one sees everywhere while driving. Carola Vyhnak enters the controversy here. Peu de nouvelles ici.
9:11 AM At 9:30 this morning Becky has an extremely important meeting to plan the installation of solar power at several churches in Burji this summer. I am praying for an excellent meeting and for good mutual understanding of the work that still needs to be done. Will you join me?
9:06 AM Over at AmCon magazine, British journalist Rod Liddle opines that we can expect nothing to come out of the so-called Chilcot Inquiry on the Iraq War.
We are all against war I suppose. But it doesn't seem to do much good to record that fact unless we are willing to do something to stop it in the first place or else to mitigate the results of war in some particular case, accompanied by a theory as to the best way of creating conditions in which the commission of such wars can be less frequent in the future. The prosecution of the Iraq War was terribly misguided in the first place, but it is not by proclaiming this fact in a loud voice that this particular habit of human beings will be stopped.
The British "inquiry," it seems to me, is somewhat like fiddling while Rome burns.
8:48 AM It's official! Robert Cole and I will be team teaching a freshly-minted course on the Septuagint this fall semester. The prerequisites are a year of Hebrew and Greek each. I expect it to be a large class. This is, I do believe, the first team taught course in the history of the seminary. Three cheers for teamwork!
8:12 AM This week I received a complimentary copy of the latest issue of the Christian Research Journal. You absolutely must get a copy and read it. Why? It provides a thorough reassessment of the "Local Church" movement of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. Titled "We Were Wrong," this issue publicly acknowledges that the Christian Research Institute -- one of America's leading discernment ministries -- had misunderstood the LC movement and had wrongly characterized it as cultic.
On p. 3 we read this amazing statement:
And on p. 62, Hank Hanegraff, president of CRI, concludes:
My hat is off to CRI and its president for its gracious acknowledgement of error. How easy it is for us to mischaracterize others in the one Body of Christ with whom we might disagree. Perhaps there is a salutary lesson here for us all. We can brag all we want about belonging to a "doctrinally pure" church, but it doesn't change the fact that the Bible clearly says, "If you live after the flesh, you will surely die."
7:34 AM Yesterday Alan Knox posted a lengthy quote from Markus Barth's commentary on Ephesians. Barth was one of my New Testament professors at Basel. He was both an outstanding lecturer and an excellent writer. Although I greatly appreciate Harold Hoehner's commentary on Ephesians (which he wrote after a lifetime of teaching from that book), I still am of the opinion that Barth's two-volume Anchor Bible commentary on Ephesians is unsurpassed.
Of course, we all eagerly await the release of Thielman's Baker Exegetical Commentary this year, which Matthew Montonini takes note of today in a fine post called Wow, What a Lineup!
7:23 AM Today I am rewriting chapter 4 of Paul, Apostle of Weakness. Only two chapters to go and the book will be ready for the publisher.
7:18 AM Ars Technica reviews Windows 7. I couldn't be more pleased with the new operating system, which (in my opinion) leaves Vista in the dust.
Thursday, February 25
9:55 PM A quick note to thank all of my Greek students for doing such a great job on their first exam of the semester. No 110s this time around, but there were a couple of 109s. Don't despair, you still have two more tries at a free book. However, what REALLY makes me happy is the desire I sense among my students to be Christ-like and to eschew "convenience store" Christianity. I have already talked to many who are willing to share in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings wherever He leads them. And something else. They are willing to do the hard work necessary to prepare themselves to serve Him with the greatest impact. If Jesus Christ had to learn obedience through the things that He suffered, how dare we try to squirm out of accepting difficulty and hardship? Today, God is calling out an army of students who will accept the call to live a life of radical Christian obedience. I am privileged to be able to teach some of them week in and week out. Words cannot express how joyful that makes me.
8:04 PM If you're as disturbed as I am over our government's assassination policy (American citizens are NOT exempted), you must listen to Ron Paul's House speech. Paul believes it's his pesky duty to point out to his colleagues that such actions are un-American and unconstitutional. Ditto for secret renditions and secret imprisonment. We're told the trade-off is our security, but has anyone ever traded away something and kept liberty?
7:40 PM Just back from feeding the cows in two different pastures -- in the dark. Since we're enjoying a full moon, I took the dogs with me. I know I talk too much about my bewilderment with animals, but aside from the great joy I find in my family and my work, my animals are always of special interest. I took this picture earlier today.
I can't just feed the cattle any more. I have to pause and watch them. Did you know that animals have emotions? They must have. I can see it on their faces. What a life -- filling yourself up with the joys of farm labor and farm animals. God's temple is brightly adorned with them, and I never tire of enjoying their company.
6:10 PM "Southern Religion and Its Effects" is the latest essay by my colleague Alvin Reid. The article is a good one, much enriched by Alvin's own experience of growing up in the South. You can read it here.
5:56 PM I forgot to mention yesterday another reason why I love Koreans so much. South Korea is the world's second largest source of Christian missionaries (behind the U.S. but ahead of the U.K.). Koreans are in over 160 countries, from Africa to East Asia to the Americas, many serving as tentmakers. During my 6 trips to South Korea I've had the privilege of teaching many choice servants of King Jesus whose one goal was to take the Good News to the nations. May God bless our Korean brothers and sisters as they set the pace for the rest of us!
9:18 AM I just finished posting an essay called Missions As Partnership. It is the first in a series of essays about our upcoming trips to Ethiopia in March and July. Speaking of the March trip, Becky spent an hour on the phone with Oshe yesterday. Oshe is a church leader in Burji, where Becky grew up. There are 33 churches in Burji and each is longing for Becky to visit them. Oshe had originally suggested that each church send two representatives to greet Becky in the main town of Soyama. When the people heard this they were quite insistent: "We all want to see her face to face!" So we are to go out to the churches instead. Oshe has chosen five different churches in five different locales for us to visit. All the people from the surrounding villages will come and greet their beloved Mama Becky personally. Isn't that sweet? Becky has always been a Burji and always will be. They are her people and mine as well (though I have been adopted into the family!). And no one has prayed more fervently for Becky during her illness than the Burjis. What a grand reunion that will be!
Wednesday, February 24
4:56 PM Ken Schenck engages in some quixotic jousting in his aptly titled post Perfect Arminianism. His conclusion:
What do you think?
4:50 PM I'm eager to post a link to an excellent book on German: The Big Yellow Book of German Verbs.
A Ph.D. student of mine who is reviewing his German showed it to me today. It is a fantastic tool. Not only does it conjugate the verb but it gives you umpteen examples of it being used in actual sentences. Thank you, Michael, for turning me on to this resource!
Let me add here a word of appreciation to all of my doctoral students who are working so hard to master their modern languages.
4:43 PM I am encouraging all of my Greek students to purchase a Hebrew New Testament. I want them to be aware of the Semitic flavor of the Greek New Testament, including the four Gospels. I am glad to see another writer join me in my assessment. Michael Marlowe's The Semitic Style of the New Testament is well worth your time.
4:37 PM I just loved the ambiguity in the title of Matt Evans' post Interview Fee. Matt, of course, was referring to money, not Gordon Fee. Hence his is a case of unintentional ambiguity, as, I think, are most of the cases in the New Testament. It also illustrates the fact that ambiguity is context-dependent, so that what is ambiguous in one context might not be ambiguous in another. Because most Greek words are polysemous, the context is usually necessary to disambiguate the meaning of an ambiguous lexeme or syntagmeme. On the other hand, some instances of ambiguity in the New Testament are obviously intentional (e.g., anothen in John 3:3, 7). This is all the more reason to encourage our Greek students to move away from word bound exegesis!
Below is an example of visual ambiguity:
4:23 PM The great A. T. Robertson writes (p. vii of the Big Grammar):
To the good professor I offer my heartfelt thanks for the reminder that the languages are of absolute importance – even though some Ph.D. students might be more inclined to give him a heartfelt raspberry ("unvoiced linguolabial trill," for you purists out there).
4:19 PM Paul made a deliberate calculation to accept sacrifice and suffering to follow Christ. So had the Thessalonians. That truth stuck me when studying 1 Thess. 2:1-8 yesterday in our Intermediate Greek class. Our distorted Madison Avenue ideas of the good life don't quite square with that, do they? I am stunned by the way Paul eschewed throwing his weight around (that's what the Greek expression means in 2:7). Today we have substituted a religion of status and wealth for one of humility and poverty. The reason is simple: comfort is king. Paul gives us an example of what missionary service should look like: no false motives, no greed, but selflessness and sacrifice instead. God forgive me for ever having worshiped the idol gods of popularity and comfort!
4:14 PM Over at the Telegraph, Gerald Warner blogs about the strange case of the German homeschoolers who are seeking asylum in the United States.
In case you're coming late to the story, the German crackdown on illegal homeschoolers has become so draconian that Uwe Romeike and his wife Hannelore now teach their children at home in Morristown, TN. Amazing to think that we now have a new breed of immigrants – educational asylum seekers.
4:05 PM Been mulling over names in the New Testament. I mean names like Silvanus ("Forest") and Paul ("Paltry") and Philemon ("Lover"). Should I take these as live metaphors? After all, my name is Black and I am white. And could any of these biblical names have had derisory connotations? I think of Epaphroditus. "Dedicated to [the goddess] Aphrodite" is its meaning. Yet no one in the New Testament was more unlike a pagan goddess than he. English examples include Boyd ("sickly") and Kennedy ("helmet head"). My favorite is perhaps Goldwater, which originally was a synonym for urine. So, back to Paul. Was he trying to imply anything by preferring his Roman name to his Hebrew one (Shaul – "asked of God")? We know he enjoys word plays involving names (cf. Onesimus in Philemon 11; Onesimus means "useful"). I don't know – I'm just thinking out loud.
3:55 PM One of my doctoral students is the son of missionaries in Japan. We often mull over Japanese words that are taken from English. Today I mentioned a few of these loan words to see if I got them right: Erebata, nekutai, bata, sarada, remon, chiizu, bifuteki (Elevator, necktie, butter, salad, lemon, cheese, beef steak). I recall once hearing a German refer to "Die Teenagers," and in Ethiopia "Okay" is as ubiquitous as its Amharic equivalent, "Ishee." English has become a world language, and along with it American culture has become influential wherever you travel. This is not, in my view, necessarily a good thing. In Ethiopia, the only nation in Africa (other than Liberia) never to have been colonized, Western values such as materialism and immodesty have become more and more noticeable in recent years. The Ethiopians themselves have an expression for this: "cultural colonization." Some think it's a good thing; others are not too sure. I belong to the latter category. In the churches in Ethiopia, for example, I have witnessed a typical Western phenomenon: a growing attachment to educational status symbols. In the kingdom, of course, titles and position and degrees and earthly honors mean nothing. In the kingdom I am not "Dr." Black with certain special privileges because of my educational attainments. I, like you, am simply a servant. Whatever Jesus asks me to do I must do it, be it simply to distribute protein bars to hungry evangelists in Alaba or open the Bible and teach from it verse by verse. Earthly rewards don't matter either when you're a slave of Christ Jesus. This notion that status doesn't matter is so difficult for us to accept in our world of man-pleasing. That's why it's so important for us to decide right at the get-go to be nothings like Jesus, making ourselves of no reputation. We must make a conscious choice not to place any value or trust in worldly status symbols. We must decide that the only life worth living in one of radical Christian servanthood.
I am afraid that the Ethiopian church has fashioned for itself a Western yoke. Such yokes are always tiresome and painful to bear. Whether we live in Boston or Burji, God wants us to lay aside our plans, our schemes, our status, our schedules and learn to serve Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Simple but not easy, right?
3:42 PM A huge thank you and shout out to the Korean Students Fellowship at SEBTS for putting on the luncheon of a lifetime yesterday in the Ledford Center. That was so very gracious of you! I could eat Korean food each and every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- and I am being serious!
Tuesday, February 23
7:11 AM Quote of the day:
Where did I find this amazing quote? Here. Thanks for pointing it out, Craig. Even Mu is teary-eyed!
7:05 AM In case you were wondering, yes, I was glad that Ron Paul won the recent CPAC straw poll. I have a lot of appreciation for the man. He respects the U.S. Constitution and so do I. I resonate deeply with his message of liberty and limited government.
But political power corrupts. Always. It doesn't matter who is in power. Kingdom people aren't interested in changing society through political means. They are too busy creating another society on another foundation.
In short, I have no faith in politics. In no way can the kingdom be imposed by power, which is what government is. At the same time, we are to pray for the authorities, not against them. And, I think, we are to pray especially for their salvation.
Monday, February 22
4:22 PM Tomorrow's the big day!
4:22 PM Last week I spoke with yet another student who wants to do a Ph.D. in New Testament yet who had never seriously considered studying abroad. "I could never study at Oxford in a million years!" I told him that we don't test the matchless resources of God until we attempt the impossible. I urged him, "Never put God in a box in any way, shape, or form."
Friend, we insult God whenever we tell Him of our inadequacy and then ask Him to settle for less than best. That's like accusing the Creator of the Universe of shoddy workmanship!
God never created a "nobody." So AIM HIGH -- you'll never reach higher!
Below: Regents Park College, University of Oxford, England.
4:08 PM Quote of the day (source):
3:53 PM Well, I see that yet another fine blogger has squandered his precious time by reviewing one of my books. Seriously -- thank you, Jason! My favorite quote from the review:
3:45 PM Just back from UNC. Today Becky had her last high intensity radiation treatment. (Yes, we rang the gong last Thursday, one treatment early, but only because it was the one day we could get the whole family together.) And, thank God, it was relatively pain-free! Now that is one huge answer to her husband's prayers!
Believe it or not, we will miss our friends at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. And you know what? I think they will miss us too. These were lots of hugs today as everybody said goodbye to Becky. We have been SO pleased with the care we've received. Today I hand delivered letters to the top administrators of the Center simply thanking them.
Wherever I go, I've noticed that workers of all stripes need to feel that their work is significant, means something, and is appreciated. Often we see neither the importance of gaining such significance nor acknowledging it when we see it in others. Soooo, if any of you UNC health care workers just happen to be reading this:
from Becky and Dave!
7:03 AM A few words for my Greek students this morning. I realize that your study of Greek is hard work -- exceedingly hard for some of you. I know that many of you struggle with interruptions on every hand. Others of you are procrastinators. Some perhaps wish you were studying another language! You may be tempted to think that you are expending second-class time when you are reviewing principal parts or parsing verbs. What you need to realize is that you are working every bit as hard as my son Nathan is when he is sharpening the blade of his chain saw.
If you want to grow in your effectiveness for Christ, if you want to be a sharp tool in His hands, you must be engaged in the growth of your mind. We grow when we pursue the discipline of study. I budget time for it daily. I have learned the importance of feeding my mind on truth that will better enable me to serve Jesus. If you are not studying regularly, then chances are you are not growing!
Sunday, February 21
9:32 PM These three are for Caleb, Isaac, and Micah. Do you boys recognize this house? Yep, it's Papa B and Mama B's home. I think you boys need to come and visit us again real soon. After all, we're long overdue for another Henny, Jenny, and Penny story, don't you think?
I know your daddy makes the very best pancakes in the whole wide world. But Papa B's aren't too bad either. I made some for your Mama B and me tonight for supper. They sure tasted yummy!
Finally, here's your cousin Nolan riding in his mommy and daddy's truck. Your Aunt Jessie sent me this picture with her cell phone this afternoon. See how Nolan loves playing with his toes? You boys are too old for that I bet. Or maybe not?
Well, know that your Papa B and Mama B love you. See you real soon.
2:45 PM Reading this BBC report makes me want to take a nice long nap. Good night, everyone!
2:20 PM Brother Jason's excellent message from Acts 7 today about manmade traditions got me thinking. Have you noticed just how many missionary "methods" and "strategies" have developed over the past few years? I simply can't keep up with them -- or their fancy-sounding acronyms. Each claims to be a "new" approach, but are they really? I once read that Thomas Edison felt he could claim only one invention -- even though he held over a thousand patents. All of his other "inventions," he said, were merely adaptations of other people's insights!
It would do us a world of good, I should think, if we in the church would begin to see the Scriptures as the sole basis for all we do in missions. For example, if in fact there is only one kingdom, then we must all work together for its spread. The consequences of this idea are enormous. For Becky and me, this means that our mission work must involve coming alongside and assisting the existing evangelical churches in Ethiopia, rather than planting our own churches made in our image and according to our likeness. Many Christian missionary agencies come dangerously close to giving the impression that they alone can do the work of the Gospel. This is partly because they lean heavily on a few elite missiologists or strategy coordinators. The result is too often a steady drift away from basic principles of Scripture. How easy it is for us to innovate purely for self-aggrandizement or to develop programs that promote only our denomination or missionary organization!
There came a time in my life when my study of Jesus made me deeply desire the capacity to follow His simple principles of living. Perhaps there would be some practical benefit to us if we placed on moratorium on all of our manmade methods and strategies and returned to reading the pure milk of the Word. I know I need to do this. How about you?
9:10 AM Off to The Hill. Becky's energy is great!
9:02 AM What a beautiful morning for feeding the cows. Here's my home sweet home. I never tire of this view of Bradford Hall.
This is our newest hay barn. Nate and I built it from scratch, and I mean from scratch. Looks old, eh?
Our Angus love our hay. I think I would too if I were a cow.
Nate and Jessie's home place. Unlike Bradford Hall, this house is really old. As in 1820. Love it!
My little helpers. They run interference for me wherever I go. Of course, they always have to be in the lead. After all, they own the farm!
Have a good one!
7:22 AM "We're co-laborers for God." I guess that might have served as our theme for yesterday's orientation meeting at Bethany Baptist Church in Rougemont, NC. Here met 22 stalwart souls who are determined to go to Ethiopia this summer come frog or freezing rain. Our meeting began with getting everybody's "mug shots." Here Alan Knox poses for the camera. Alan is one of our "green" team members -- this will be his first trip with us. The pictures of our team members will be sent on to Burji and Alaba so that the believers there can begin to match names with faces and we won't seem like such strangers when me meet face to face.
Here veteran Jason Evans is reciting his memory verses to the people at his table. We each had to memorize a passage of about 10 verses from either the Gospel of John or 1 John. The theme was love.
Then each table had a season of prayer, realizing that only God can give the increase in our work for Him.
Afterwards Becky led us in a marathon 6-hour meeting to discuss, among other things, our individual giftedness, our place on the various teams, travel and medical details, and cultural issues. Lunch was graciously provided by our host church (thank you, Bethany!).
Co-laborers work together, sharing the burden and the resources. With prayerful expectancy, your Ethiopia 2010 team is raring to get on with the work to which the Lord Jesus has called us. Please pray for and with us that His will and His will alone might be accomplished in and through us!
7:13 AM Moody Bible Institute (Spokane campus) announces an opening in New Testament and Greek.
7:06 AM Not too sure what to make of this chart. Churchianity does not necessarily mean Christianity.
7:00 AM Haven't watched any of the Winter Olympics and don't intend to. This does not mean that some very good things can't come out of the Olympic Games. Eric Liddell, who ran in the 1924 Paris Olympics, is a good example. I really like this quote of his:
The man who spoke those words died on the mission field serving Jesus. It was he who said:
Yes, yes, yes!! We are all missionaries -- or ought to be!
6:55 AM Been there and done that. That's what I thought when I saw this awesome photo of Mavericks.
Nothing worse than a wipeout on the face of a huge wave. You are sucked under, tossed around mercilessly, then spit out (hopefully) just in time to grab a quick breath before being slammed by the next wave in the set.
Serving Jesus is a high and holy calling -- and an exceptionally difficult one. I don't know about you, but I always feel like I'm barely treading water. Truth be told, wherever we serve Jesus, we're overextended by design. That's what faith is. It's a response of obedience to an impossible task.
How exciting is the Christian life! Breathtaking in fact! I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
Saturday, February 20
9:04 PM If B and I were prepped up and prayed up earlier, now we are pumped up! What a wonderful meeting the Lord Jesus gave us. We sensed the sweet presence of the Spirit as we made plans for the trip. Remember: If the Lord appoints, the Lord provides. He never calls us to do something without enabling us to do it. As iron sharpens iron, so our team members sharpened each other today. We're especially grateful for the way the "veterans" jumped in and helped. Thank you, guys and gals! I've got oodles of pix but am too tired to post any this evening. After all, we left the farm at 8:30 am and got back at 8:30 pm! The hungry cows sure were happy to see us!
All I can say is this: There's something about mission work that brings all of life into focus. Values change. Love deepens. All goals, all choices in life are colored by the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus. My only regret is that I didn't get serious about discipleship earlier in my life!
8:15 AM Well, Becky and I are prepped up and prayed up. Off to orientation!
8:13 AM In our study of 1 Thess. 1:6-10 last week in Greek class we were reminded that the nascent church in Thessalonica had endured severe tribulation. One immediately thinks, of course, of all the places in the world today where Christians live in daily fear of repression and persecution. Where Becky and I work in Africa Christians are often harassed, arrested, imprisoned, and even murdered for their faith. Even though there is little of this kind of persecution in America, we should remind ourselves that we belong to a suffering family, and that when one part of the Body suffers, all suffer with it. Unless we recognize this inescapable truth, Christianity collapses into just another clique.
Friday, February 19
7:56 PM There's plenteous food for thought in this essay called How (not) to be an American Missionary in Scotland. Here's my favorite part of an essay that is well worth reading in its entirety:
Right on! There is one kingdom, and it has nothing to do with nationality or denomination. The sooner missionaries learn this truth, the better.
4:46 PM Today Bob Cornwall wrote an interesting post entitled Calling God Father -- Meaning? He notes the continuing debate over the correct interpretation (and translation) of the word Abba in the New Testament. The fact is that there is a great dearth of material on the whole concept of the fatherhood of God. Consider this fact: Our systematic theologies have sections on Christology and Pneumatology, but where is the corresponding section on "Patrology"? It's simply not there. The topic of fatherhood is usually relegated to the chapter on "Theology Proper."
Our theology will never be balanced until we have a proper understanding of God as Father.
4:13 PM Ever heard of a Winckler? A Winckler was an Anabaptist who dared to preach or teach without the call or commission of the magistrate. Wincklers were subject to arrest -- and worse -- from both Protestants and Catholics alike.
I'd like to introduce you to a Winckler by the name of Melchior Rink. One day in 1531 it seems that the good mayor of Bacha informed Landgrave Philip that "we conducted a search at places that were suspect and found Melchior Rink (whom they call 'The Greek') with twelve others ... gathered together; we learned that they had preached specifically on the passage at the end of Mark, where Jesus Christ our Savior instituted baptism, explaining it in the way customary with their sect."
Two things are remarkable to me about this vignette from the lives of the early Anabaptists. (1) They apparently knew their Bibles. In fact, Melchior Rink was known as "The Greek" because of his proficiency in the Greek language. (2) They seemed to love the ending of the Gospel of Mark because it taught that believing goes before baptizing. Yet, despite their exegetical ability and their commitment to sola scriptura, they were hunted down like dogs.
The Anabaptists never made peace with the magistrates partly because they refused to go along with a sacralist view of ordination. Today our First Amendment officially repudiates such sacralism, and yet one still hears pastors referring to the "authority vested in me by the State of ______"! In recent years the Lord has been teaching me a wonderful truth from the lives of the Anabaptists. The call to walk in the way of the cross is the call to become Jesus' suffering friends. Indeed, it is out of our friendship with Him that we are privileged to embody His sacrificial love.
Thank God for the Wincklers of this world!
3:55 PM While it's on my mind:
Where does a mission trip to Ethiopia begin?
Some of our Ethiopia team members find their chief desire is to do medical work. Others find that their initial interest is teaching or preaching. Still others are led to do basic construction work. But wherever we start, we can't be so focused on our private ministries that we forget the most important "mission strategy" of all -- love! Missions, in fact, is not about programs or ministries or facilities but about people. Ultimately, it is only when we have the cross before our eyes, and when we realize how great God's grace is, can we talk about doing missions.
We do not go to Ethiopia as crusaders with a view of imposing our ideas on others. Africans have had quite enough of that. We go to pray and work with our Ethiopian equals for God's kingdom to be expanded and for His ways to be followed in each of our countries and indeed the whole world!
3:45 PM We've been busy as beavers today, and that includes Miss Becky Lynn, who has been organizing tomorrow's meeting. This, by the way, is the farm's nerve center.
It's where blogs get blogged and essays get essayed and trips get planned. Here are just SOME of the handouts B has prepared for our orientation tomorrow.
As thou canst seest, it promiseth to be a very full day! Becky worked 6 straight hours this morning sitting in that chair, and I think she deserves a big round of applause for her perseverance!
Meanwhile, Master Nathan and I have been busy unloading and sorting these gorgeous boards he got from a local lumber mill.
Solid oak too. What we don't use for our own buildings we'll end up selling.
Right now Becky's resting, Nate and Jessie are finishing up a painting job at a nearby town in Carolina, and I'm doing some writing. Tonight I'm cooking -- did you guess it? -- Chinese food for supper. Can't wait!
7:51 AM Full day today: prepping for our 6-hour meeting tomorrow with our Ethiopia 2010 teams, helping Nate stack lumber, cleaning house, etc. Today's high will be an unheard-of 51 degrees. Spring, are you finally coming?
6:58 AM This is the passage I will recite tomorrow at orientation. I reproduced it from memory:
6:50 AM Quote of the day (J. Gresham Machen):
6:34 AM I've got 80 Greek students doing a take home exam this weekend. Verb morphology is the subject. Praying for them!
Thursday, February 18
9:10 PM In the Old Covenant sacrificial system, sheep and goats died so that others could live. In the New Covenant, believers are called living sacrifices. To be a living sacrifice is to die to self and to be willing to gives one's physical life for others if necessary. This, I think, is the thrust of Lionel Wood's latest blog post called Who Am I Responsible For? Prioritizing in the Kingdom. To be a living sacrifice is to choose inconvenience over convenience, and risk over safety. This is how I want to live my life. It is all the more difficult because I am not a servant by nature. I don't like to wash feet. That's perhaps why Paul said, "I make myself a servant" (1 Cor. 9:19). In other words, serving is absolutely essential, for without serving Christianity is a farce. It becomes Mere Doctrianity. Thank you, brother Lionel, for reminding me that "I am responsible for everyone God puts in my path and I have the resources to meet such needs. This is Kingdom responsibility."
8:15 PM If God is willing, Becky and I will leave for Ethiopia in exactly 4 weeks. We'll be with family again. We are one in Christ -- not Americans and Ethiopians, but blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ.
It's good to remember that God has no favorites. How easy to conclude that we American evangelicals have the inside track, that we're God's favorite kids.
It doesn't hurt to remember that whenever you travel abroad.
8:01 PM "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16). Rosewood Farm is a "lonely place," but is it a place of prayer? Lord, make it so!
7:45 PM Here's another reason why I love Zwingli so much:
Amen, brother Huldreich! Little wonder it has often been said that infant Anabaptism was born on Zwingli's doorstep. Unfortunately, Zwingli went on to say, "If however I were to terminate the practice then I fear I would lose my prebend." Seems like a believers' church was too radical a step for the great Reformer.
What steps are too radical for you today? For me? Why do we drag our feet when the Scriptures are so clear? To go against the grain is no small thing. If you do so, you will be accused of being divisive. Friends, "Scripture plus tradition" is the most dangerous heresy the church has ever known!
If we are going to proclaim sola scriptura, then we had better live it too.
7:16 PM What a wonderful day it was! We passed out the goodies and the letters, then it was "photo op" time. Here we are with Miss Crystal, Becky's lead radiation nurse, who was a pure joy and delight to work with.
And here's our family with Dr. Varia, Becky's outstanding oncologist.
Then it was time to ring the gong. The first one to hold the mallet was, of course, Becky herself.
Then each of the boys had their turn. Here's Caleb (loud):
Then Isaac (louder):
Then Micah (loudest):
And last, but certainly not least, Nolan (assisted by Micah):
At supper Nate and Jess presented Mama B with a beautiful tea cup and saucer set.
Becky is now sound asleep. We rejoice in the goodness of the Lord to us. We are eager to see how the Holy Spirit will use Becky's written and unwritten testimony in the days and years ahead. As we were leaving UNC one person told Becky that hers was the kindest letter she had ever received in all her years of working in the hospital. May the response to the Gospel message be just as positive!
10:22 AM Matt Evan's latest interview -- this time with Dan Wallace -- is simply superb. Dan is absolutely right that one of the continuing controversies in biblical studies over the next few years will be the debate over the recoverability of the "original" New Testament text. Dan, by the way, spoke at our SEBTS conference on the ending of Mark a few years ago. The conference papers were published here.
Kudos to Matt for the interview and to Dan for his stellar contributions to the field!
10:05 AM Alan "Knox" it out of the ballpark again! Read As simple as knowing, hearing, and responding.
Better yet -- don't just read it, do it!
9:59 AM Here's another installment of "Let's revise our language." My suggestion this time? That we use "Christ-like care" instead of "pastoral care." We must go beyond the traditional understanding of "pastoral" as describing only a position or an office. Yes, Christian leaders are to exhort and admonish believers with patience and love -- see 1 Thess. 5:12-13. But it is also true that the responsibility to exhort and admonish does not belong solely to them -- see 1 Thess. 5:14! All of us as believers are to have the eagerness and humility to serve one another through exhortation and comfort. All members share equally in diakonia (Eph. 4:11-13).
9:40 AM Good morning, friends!
Through the years I've learned to gauge the spiritual health of a Christian by noting the presence or absence of a complaining spirit. Whenever we grumble or complain as Christians, we have obviously failed to grasp the great truth of 1 Thess. 5:18 -- "In everything give thanks." Everything in our lives -- everything! -- has been sent for a divine purpose. 1 Thess. 5:18 is a nuclear reactor intended for every Christian. Let's remember that the mark of a Christian is the ability to praise God no matter what the circumstance. This is the power of grace.
Let me be very frank with you. As we ring the gong today at UNC, it is not to celebrate anything that man has done. It is to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today -- and, yes, forever! His character never changes. He is always the same. He is always the God of peace. He is always the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. He is always the God of mental health and stability. The mightiest demonstration of His power is not a blast of radiation but the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We talk about "conquering cancer," but the greatest conquest ever made was when the Lord Jesus Christ conquered inner space by entering the hearts of simple men and women like Dave and Becky Black.
Please pray for Becky today. She has baked cakes for all of the radiation staff -- doctors, nurses, techs, receptionists, and parking lot attendants. More importantly, she has written a letter to each one. Through these weeks of treatment Becky has had the opportunity to speak with many of them about their souls. This letter is her testimony to them of the life-changing power, not of religion, not of church membership, not of earthly relationships, but of Jesus.
For me personally, Becky has been a living example of Phil. 4:13 -- "I can handle anything in union with the One who gives me strength." What a wonderful, brave wife I have! What a great God we have been allowed to serve together for 33 years! In Him is a full supply to carry us through. This will be the theme of our "gong show" celebration today.
Our gracious Father,
A cancer hospital is a witness to the uncertainty of man's reasonings and man's hopes. But the sureness and security of the one who believes in you can never be shaken. We are so grateful, Lord, that by grace you have led us to this day. You have tested us, and we know you are faithful. Now help us to show others who you are. Help them to see that you can be trusted, be it through difficulties and trials, through heartaches and tears. May they come to the place in their lives where they look unto Jesus and find in Him their Savior and Lord, just as we have done.
This is my prayer in Jesus' name,
Wednesday, February 17
9:48 PM Just released: Photos of the Winter White House in my home town of Kailua, Hawaii.
9:32 PM Ph.D. students! Test your German:
Were you able to translate this simple prose? For more, go here.
9:23 PM N. T. Wright for Everyone: Part Two.
8:59 PM Quote of the day (Aussie John):
How right you are, John. And I am the chief of sinners in this regard.
7:44 PM Matt Evans gives Adam Winn's The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel: An Early Christian Response to Roman Imperial Propaganda an A-.
Thanks, Matt, for these wonderful reviews!
7:36 PM Christianity became "Doctrianity" during the Protestant Reformation. So argues David Bercot in his book Will the Theologians Please Sit Down, which is reviewed here. If you're a fan of Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli, hold on to your hats!
6:54 PM I got a question for all of you Greek students out there. It is something that has been on my mind for a very long time. The question is this:
Do you believe that the rhetorical level of language is a significant level for receptors?
I realize that language operates on many different levels. But is the rhetorical level an important one? And if so, should we not attempt to reflect this level when we are translating from the Greek New Testament?
Unusual word order in Greek is a good example of what I am talking about. Let me offer some passages from the book of Hebrews for your consideration. The following translations reflect the Greek word order:
2:9 -- "but we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels -- Jesus"
7:4 -- "to whom Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils -- the patriarch"
13:8 -- "Jesus Christ, yesterday and today the same -- and forever"
Typically these verses have been rendered as follows:
2:9 -- "but we see Jesus who has been made a little lower than the angels."
7:4 -- "to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils."
13:8 -- "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever."
The problem with theses renderings (in my very humble opinion) is that the separation of words that naturally belong together is often used in Greek to indicate emphasis. Thus in the ISV you'll find these passages rendered as follows:
2:9 -- "But we do see someone who was made a little lower than the angels. He is Jesus..."
7:4 -- "Just look at how great this man was: Even Abraham -- the patriarch himself -- gave him a tenth of what he had captured."
13:8 -- "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today -- and forever!"
I could cite other passages as well:
1:4 -- "a superior (than theirs he has inherited) name"
4:8 -- "not about another (he would speak later) day"
10:11 -- "the same (he would repeatedly offer) sacrifices"
10:12 -- "one (for sins he offered) sacrifices"
12:3 -- "such (he endured from sinners against himself) opposition"
This feature, by the way, is sometimes called hyperbaton.
So, back to my original question: Are literary devices such as these a part of the meaning of the text? And if so, should we ignore them?
What do you think?
P.S. I've discussed these examples in my essay "Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews," Filologia Neotestamentaria 7 (1994) 43-52. If you'd like a copy, let me know and I'd be glad to send you one gratis.
4:51 PM This email came today:
Isn't that wonderful!
4:40 PM Ken Starr's new home has two openings in religion.
4:38 PM Heartiest congratulations to my colleague Tracy McKenzie on the publication of his new book Idolatry in the Pentateuch. This work is Tracy's doctoral dissertation written at SEBTS under the supervision of John Sailhamer. Way to go, bro!
4:26 PM For a great report on Darrell Bock's recent visit to Liberty University, go here. Darrell's topic? Justification (à la Piper and Wright). This part was especially good:
Amen to that!
4:20 PM Again I'm indebted to a blogger for reviewing one of my Pulitzer Prize losing books, in this case The Jesus Paradigm. Thank you T. C.!
4:15 PM The latest issue of the Biola Magazine offers an essay called Dispatches from Abroad: How a Change of Scenery Can Enliven Our Faith. The author notes:
I am always interested to see the reaction of our Ethiopia team members when they travel abroad, many of them for the first time. It can be an enriching, terrifying, and humbling experience – all at the same time! A fusillade of thanks to Biola for this excellent reminder of why it is so important for us to step outside of ourselves and our own cultures.
P.S. Again, I strongly urge all of my students to prayerfully considering earning their doctorates abroad. You get two educations for the price of one, and you learn, as the author of this essay points out, that our God is truly a global God.
4:10 PM So, guess what killed King Tut? Yep. Malaria. What a painful way to go.
4:04 PM Arthur Sido says that reformation is not enough. We need a new radical reformation. I have described what such a radical reformation might look like in The Jesus Paradigm. A growing number of people believe, as I do, that it is not enough to cry "biblical authority!" Jesus, in the power and presence of His Holy Spirit, wants to change us completely so that we live on the principle of explicit revelation and implicit obedience. As Arthur says, Jesus preached the Gospel of the kingdom on a much broader canvas than we do today.
Tuesday, February 16
5:50 AM Hey guys, remember that idiotic '70s television series called The Gong Show with emcee Chuck Barris?
Only talent of the most dubious sort was featured, and if you were particularly awful the judges would strike a large gong and you were ushered offstage. Often the audience would sense when the gong was about to be struck, and their anticipation built to fever pitch as the judges gleefully waited to administer the coup de grâce.
Well, that can't even begin to match the mood of anticipation here on the farm as we look forward to gonging the mother of all gongs on Thursday, if the Lord wills. Makes me so happy I may surprise everybody with a Gene Gene the Dancing Machine act. Don't say I didn't warn you!
5:43 AM Who are the great intercessors in your life? Right now Becky and I are enjoying a number of intercessors who pray for us on a regular basis and especially for our journey with cancer. You can spot them a mile away. They email, write, and call. They carefully ask questions about the issues we're facing. Their prayers provide a protective curtain around us, shielding us from the fiery arrows of discouragement and fear. A major part of their intercession is that we might not grow weary and that we might be constantly renewed in our inner being. Humanly speaking, we depend on them to help us make it through this season of life.
I want to say a big thank you to all of our prayer partners who are traveling this road with us. Thank you for picking up part of the load and for comforting us with your concern and kindness. I'm prepared to say that we have been reassured of the steadfast love of the Lord because of you.
We appreciate you!
5:38 AM Lionel Woods loves the church. So do I, bro!
5:35 AM Forthcoming book announcement from Energion Publishers: The Character of Our Discontent: Old Testament Portraits for Contemporary Times. The author is Allan Bevere.
Monday, February 15
9:23 PM Great movie! Love a show where the camera is not always moving and the music is performed by an actual orchestra. Course, any movie about my favorite animal has got to be good. Here's a pic of Cass Ole, whose white markings on his forehead and pasterns had to be died black for the movie.
Did anyone else notice that a Thoroughbred is substituted in the final race scene for Cass Ole, an Arabian? But enough nitpicking. The music, the camera angles, the acting -- all make the movie simply unforgettable.
In case you're suffering from insomnia tonight, this essay about my horses will put you sound asleep! It's called My Horses, My Teachers.
7:12 PM Becky's up and about again. Tonight we're gonna watch The Black Stallion together and just gel -- the two little love birds that we are!
7:08 PM I am amazed at how often we let unimportant issues get in the way of our working together for the Gospel. It's interesting that the only use of "yokefellow" in the New Testament is preceded by Paul's request that fellow laborers who are alienated from each other "agree in the Lord" (Phil. 4:2). Amazing and wonderful, isn't it, how the Gospel changes everything in our lives, even our ability to work with those who are different from us! This is the work of the Spirit of God as He comes to us in the Word.
3:41 PM Andy Bowden writes:
Of the emails I've received, Andy's was the first to answer all 5 questions correctly. (Many of you got tripped up on Galatians.)
Some of you will cry foul because Andy is my personal assistant. In Andy's defense, I must say that he started working for me only two weeks ago, and he and I have never personally discussed these matters. So congratulations Andy on a job well done!
By the way, Andy blogs here. My thanks to all who played along!
3:10 PM Pastor friend: You can't care for the flock yourself. The demands are too many. The needs are too diverse.
Pastor friends (note the plural; I am referring to a church that has multiple elders/pastors): You can't care for the flock yourselves. The demands are too many. The needs are too diverse.
Whether your church has a single pastor or several, the message is the same: Every-member ministry will begin when you start to accept the limitations of your love, energy, and giftedness.
2:01 PM Greetings, July 2010 Ethiopia team members! Don't forget that you must have your New Testament passage memorized perfectly by this Saturday's orientation meeting #2. I've chosen the John 13 passage. It started coming easily as soon as I started rapping it! Becky has begun working on the agenda for the meeting and I can say that you are in for one great time!
Remember: You have been "set apart" by your local churches to represent them, so represent them well -- even at the orientations!
1:23 PM Reviewing 1 Thess. 1:1-10 for tomorrow's class. Every pastor claims to be a "servant." The question is: Are you a "servant with the serving" or a "servant to be served"? A biblical leader is a player-coach for lay ministers!
1:12 PM It's Contest Time again! A free copy of Using New Testament Greek in Ministry, The Jesus Paradigm, It's Still Greek to Me, or Christian Archy to the first blogger who can correctly state (or guess!) my views on:
1) The authorship of Hebrews (Paul or not?)
2) The earliest Pauline epistle (Galatians or 1 Thessalonians?)
3) The disputed words en Epheso in Eph. 1:1 (original or not?)
4) The earliest written Gospel (Mark or Matthew?)
5) The meaning of Papias's words hebraidi dialekto (referring to Matthew's original language [i.e., "in the Hebrew language"] or to Matthew's writing style [i.e., "in a Hebrew style"]).
If you've read my works, you'll know the answers!
Note: contest open to bloggers only. Yes, I'm being biased this time!
12:39 PM We're back. B is washed out from the procedure. I just put her to bed. Thank God for caring doctors and nurses!
6:57 AM The momentum is building! We're coming down to the wire and Thursday is still set as "gong day." Caleb, Isaac, Micah, and Nolan are ready and eager to help Mama B strike the bell of freedom. This morning B will have another high intensity radiation treatment, so I'm asking for your special prayers. We enter the week feeling confident in the Lord's provision, grateful for His love, and eager to serve Him in the midst of our weaknesses.
Sunday, February 14
8:14 PM Beginning Greek students, this week we will review the entire indicative verb system. Yes, we have come that far! So please be prepared to explain the morphology of any verb you come across in your text. In class we'll remind you how to do that before sending you home with your first exam of the semester. This is a very significant step forward in our study of New Testament Greek and opens the door to the remainder of the grammar. I want you to know how pleased I am with your progress, but we haven't arrived at the goal yet. So...
FULL SPEED AHEAD!
7:45 PM The perfect ending to a perfect day -- Nate, Jess, and Nolan stopped by for a hot fudge Sunday. Enjoy the pix!
4:42 PM Okay, I'm gonna be right up front with yall and warn you that what follows is another photo essay! If you're bored to death viewing my pictures (and I wouldn't blame you one bit if you are), then stop by again later. Otherwise, I invite you to read on.
We spent the afternoon visiting Matt, Liz, and the boys in beautiful Charlotte Court House.
I never tire of the architecture in this fair city in the only county in Virginia that boasts an absence of traffic lights. Patrick Henry once stood in this very square in 1799 during a debate. The place reeks with history.
When we arrived, Liz had waiting for me a very special gift: pistachio nuts. (Thank you, Liz!) So the boys and I had a "pistachio party."
Caleb reads the Greek New Testament!
Papa B volunteered to cook supper, Caleb serving as associate chef.
The meal, I think, was enjoyed by all. We call it "Papa B's Goulash."
Then it was off to town for a bit of sledding. The photo below shows Caleb and Isaac taking off. In the biggest competition of the day, a tandem race to the bottom of the hill, Caleb and his Papa B barely lost to Isaac and his dad. Well, they lost by a mile.
Isaac enjoys helping Mama B with her sewing.
Here Caleb shows off his excellent portrait of a crab. A happy one too!
Then we drove back to Rosewood, tired out but happy. Right now Becky is sleeping and I'm about to shovel manure. More rain/snow is expected tomorrow, so "never put off to tomorrow what you can do today."
3:50 PM This has got to be the world's best Valentine's Day heart ever:
Three cheers for skubala!
8:36 AM The author of the travel guide Europe Through the Back Door discusses the blessings of international travel in this essay at The Christian Century. You will perhaps not agree with all of his perspective (I certainly do not), but the essay is worth reading if only for the reminder of how ethnocentric we Westerners can be when traveling to places like Africa. For indeed, there is a huge difference between being a tourist and being a traveler:
I trust that our Ethiopia team members will read this essay and take it to heart. But I also hope that all of us will remember that even as travelers (and not mere tourists) our job is bigger, and more important, than merely developing a sense of empathy and solidarity with the poor.
8:18 AM Kingdom people will want to read this essay by Brian Fulthorp: on the nature of incarnational ministry. The money quote:
Becky, by the way, has published an essay that deals with this same issue. Please take a moment and read her The Role of Humanitarian Aid in Building the Kingdom. She concludes:
These are critical times and crucial issues. I for one want to be absolutely certain that the Gospel message remains primary in all that I do for King Jesus.
8:05 AM From The Times Online: Prince Charles lauds 'encouraging' evangelical Alpha movement. If you are unfamiliar with Alpha, go here.
7:48 AM As the Vancouver Winter Olympics gets underway, I'll be rooting for a country that is near and dear to my own heart.
7:22 AM From the Houston Chronicle comes this editorial: Happy Singles' Awareness Day (SAD). The key quote:
7:15 AM Quote of the day (Karl Barth):
7:10 AM At The Times Literary Supplement, A. N. Wilson reviews William Oddie's Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy. The review is pungent at times:
But Wilson is quite right. How often do you find someone's "throwaway remarks" to be among their wisest sayings?
Truly, the "prince of paradox" is well worth reading, and not merely for his verbal legerdemain.
6:45 AM In the latest issue of Theology News and Notes, Glenn Hinson asks,
This is an appropriate question for an essay called Trends in Baptist Spirituality. Think back for a moment over the names of people in your own life who have exemplified what Hinson is describing. We are called to run the same race. I can say without fear of contradiction that, in my own life, Becky has been among those few "whose lives are irradiated by grace, who seek not to be safe but to be faithful, who have learned how to get along in adversity, who are joyfilled, who are dreamfilled, who are prayerful."
Faith dares. It pays no attention to impossibilities. Think of Sarah. Here was a woman who was 90 years old. No gynecologist alive would have given her a chance to have a child. But she pressed on anyway. You can see that kind of daring faith in Becky.
This very day, I am called upon by God to dare to do the impossible against all the silky arguments of the world. Lord, grant me the simple faith to trust your Word and to live according to it!
Saturday, February 13
9:15 PM Our new Ethiopia team members might want to check out this series of photos at the National Geographic site. Fantastic! (Amharic = "Gobus!")
9:05 PM One of my colleague's latest books has received a very positive review.
The book is A Theology of John's Gospel and Letters, and the author is none other than Andreas Köstenberger. Kudos, Andreas!
8:53 PM Becky and I just watched an episode of the Waltons featuring a crazy Baptist preacher who tries to frighten everybody into the kingdom. Livy, of course, is on John's case to get baptized. The story ends happily, however; John Walton worships his own god in a sincere way, and that's all that matters in the end. Becky put it well when she said, "The Waltons is all about the primacy of the family and doing good to each other." She's right. Don't look for the Gospel on Walton's Mountain.
6:42 PM This is certainly an idea whose time has come:
P.S. Sorry, Alvin, looks like snakes are excepted. You'll just have to take Maximus up with you.
6:32 PM Bec's been sewing a couple of new dresses for Ethiopia. She finished the first one today.
Here's a close-up:
Sweet-tastik! If the Lord wills, we leave in just 5 weeks.
5:59 PM More on Melville Cox, the first American Methodist missionary to Africa. He volunteered for service even though he knew he had tuberculosis.
He wife and child had just died. He himself would perish within four months of arriving in county. In this short span he founded a church and a school.
Exemplary, truly exemplary. And the irony is that he would probably have been turned down for missionary service today.
For more on this humble saint of God, go here.
2:56 PM Back home after doing farm chores on this beautiful winter day. Nolan was the chores supervisor.
Here are some of our bulls enjoying their locally grown, naturally fertilized hay.
And here's a load of lumber Nate brought home yesterday. Got it at a bargain price too. Nice going, son. We'll unload it just as soon as we find a place to put it!
It wouldn't be a farm without chickens, now would it? Chickens were our first "pets." Had gobs of them in California.
We've started nailing up old odds-and-ends on the side of the hay barn. Neat, huh?
I don't believe I've ever introduced you to the farm cemetery. Well, here it is, with Nate and Jess's 1820s farm house in the background.
Anderson Boyd, the former owner of the farm, is buried here, as are his two wives (the first one died and Mr. Boyd remarried.)
Wife #2 didn't have a headstone, so Nate had one made.
After working we loafed around for a bit, just enjoying the outdoors. We weren't the only ones. Sheba and Dayda love the snow.
And Nathan loves his puppies, including little Miss Daisy.
Last but certainly not least is Sheppie, the only male dog on the farm. He is Dayda's pop.
Hard to believe, but we've owned the farm now for about 10 years. Seems like we've always lived here. I'm grateful for each and every day I get to spend at Rosewood.
12:25 PM Guess who just sent us a Valentine's Day card? That's right. Our little grandson himself. And he included a couple of pix along with his card. Care to see them?
Thank you, Nolan! We love you!
11:40 AM Three thoughts from my morning devotional from 1 Cor. 12:4-6:
1) "There are different gifts but the same Spirit." I do not ask God for my gifts. I discover them. Then develop them. Then use them.
2) "There are different ministries but the same Lord." Every believer has a "ministry." At least one, if not several. The Lord Jesus is the one who determines what these are. Wherever He plants me in ministry, there I must stay.
3) "There are different results but the same God who produces everything in everyone." I don't have to worry about the results if (and that is a very big "if") I am exercising my gifts in the place of the Lord's appointment. This relieves me of ever having to compare myself with anyone else.
Now, let's apply these three principles to blogging:
1) Publishing an online diary/weblog is an ability given to us by the Spirit. Yes, it is an ability that can be developed. Yes, there is always room for improvement. But one is either a blogger or not a blogger just as one is either a singer or not a singer. How will you know if you are a "gifted" blogger or not? I don't have the answer! It's probably a combination of desire, satisfaction, commitment level, etc.
2) The purpose of a Christian blog, it seems to me, is to be ministry. At least that's how I view DBO. I want this site to encourage, comfort, and challenge (see 1 Cor. 14:2). I want people to be uplifted when they come here. I want them to be drawn closer to the Lord God and encouraged to follow Him in greater and greater obedience (as He leads them).
3) All bloggers are interested in their web stats, number of hits, visits, etc. But in the end all of that is irrelevant. The results of what we publish are up to God the Father, who is the one who "works all things in all." If you are a gifted blogger who is using your blog to serve others, leave the results up to God. If only one person ever leaves your site spiritually refreshed and challenged to greater love and obedience, then you are a "success" in my book!
11:12 AM Over at the Evangelical Textual Criticism site, Mike Holmes has a great post about editorial corruption which, as an editor myself, I take to heart. The editor's infraction in this case involved substituting the active voice for the passive, apparently because the original sentence broke a cardinal rule of "good writing." Oh, you know the rule:
"The passive voice is to be avoided."
Yeah right. That's almost as silly as the rule that tells us to never split an infinitive or the one that requires us to always avoid the apt of alliteration.
Grammar Police, take a hike!
10:48 AM Alan Knox provides his own translation of Phil. 1:7-11, and a fine translation it is. Read it for yourself and see if you don't agree.
1) "partners in grace" -- yes!
2) "that your love will keep on growing and growing" -- that's what the verbal aspect certainly implies!
3) "insight and experience" -- perfect!
4) "while being filled" -- I dunno. The participle is in the perfect tense. How about "because you have been filled"?
5) "the things that righteousness produces" -- love it!
Oh, Greek students out there -- have you read your Greek New Testament yet today!??
10:22 AM Good news, fellow bloggerites! Becky's series on suffering is now being translated into Spanish. I've just posted the first installment. I'm delighted to be able to make it available to our Hispanic readers out there in cyberland. May all glory go to King Jesus!
10:05 AM Fluffy flakes have been falling all morning long, leaving the impression that God took out His powdered sugar dispenser and shook it cheerfully.
How beautiful! How great our Creator-God!
7:51 AM Interested in Greek discourse analysis? Then go here. You won't be sorry.
7:18 AM The inventor of Frisbee has died. If only the rest of us could stumble upon ideas like that! I’ll never forget one of our Burji team members trying to introduce the Frisbee to some children a couple of years.
The kids got the throwing part down pat. But Danny forgot to tell them what to do after the thing was launched. The first throw ended up smacking a young man right in the nose! At any rate, Mr. Morrison's invention drew quite a large crowd for our evangelistic puppet show that day.
7:14 AM Brewton-Parker College announces an opening in Christian Studies.
7:12 AM Interested in some basic principles of word studies? Then have a gander at this fine essay (.pdf) over at the McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry. The discussion of the Greek word apostolos is simply outstanding. If I understand the author correctly, he concludes that the term apostolos is about the closest thing we'll encounter in the New Testament for a term that can mean "missionary"!
7:08 AM If you travel or work internationally, you might want to take a look at the Corruptions Percentage Index. A regional index for Sub-Saharan Africa may also be found there. As you can imagine, I have a deep interest in this part of the world.
7:00 AM I see the debate over the "Camel method" of evangelizing Muslims has made news again. I am not a big fan of that method or of any method of evangelization for that matter. I once asked a man in Ethiopia what he and his fellow believers were doing to reach their neighbors for Christ. (They live in a village that is almost 100 percent Muslim.) His answer was simple and to the point. "We live holy lives before others," he said, adding, "And we love and forgive them when they persecute us." Mind you, these were the words of a man whose 8 year-old daughter had just been beheaded because her father was a Christian. Love borne of faith and the Spirit effects a breakthrough of the boundary between the two kingdoms!
6:55 AM When Lionel Woods says that pastors ought to work jobs like the rest of the men in their congregations, I think he's on to something very important. He does a good job of answering what is perhaps the most frequently raised question: Who will lead the church if our pastor is out in the workaday-world earning a living for himself and his family? The answer, of course, is to be found in the concept (and practice of) shared leadership. Lionel, of course, is not thinking about a church with multiple salaried staff members. Not at all! He writes:
Lionel, allow me to give an example of what you are trying to teach us. I've been reading a short book on the history of Grace Bible Church in Dallas, Texas. This was my wife's home church for many years. Becky and I were married there in 1976. It was there that such men as Dwight Pentecost and Chuck Swindoll served, and where men like Harold Hoehner were ordained. In 1976, Dr. Pentecost decided to retire from the pastorate of the church, and the church, instead of hiring one man to do all the preaching and teaching, selected three men (who also happened to be Dallas seminary professors) to preach on Sundays. The question immediately arose: Who will do the visitation, counseling, etc.? Here's the answer they came up. The congregation realized that visiting needed to be the responsibility of all the church elders and indeed of the congregation itself.
Behind Lionel's essay is perhaps a deeper issue, one that has to do with the very nature of the church. What is "the church"? May I give you one possible definition? A church is a group of people who have learned to live their faith in mutual concern for each other and the world. When we view church in this way, all members will be involved in some aspect of kingdom service in church and community. Leadership will be home-grown and shared. All will identify themselves as fulltime "ministers" with one common goal. Teaching-learning will not be assigned to only one person. Reformation of this sort is never easy. The Reformers found themselves trapped by traditions many centuries old. They were tied into a hierarchical structure. "Ministry" was assigned only to ordained men. They found it very difficult to break away from this pattern just as we do today.
A final thought. Recently I received an email announcing that one of the churches in our regional association is holding a service "to ordain So-and-So to the Gospel ministry." Might I suggest that our churches hold a similar service, not to ordain one man to the ministry but every single believer? Call it a "Church-Wide Ordination Service" if you will. It may be a small first step toward building churches that develop God's people into living, working, witnesses to the Gospel.
Just a thought.
6:45 AM In Greek 4 we're going through 1 Thessalonians. The last line on this page of my Greek New Testament is 1 Thess. 1:5, where Paul says "You know what kind of people we were among you for your sakes."
These two brief prepositional phrases pack a wallop: "Among you," "for your sakes." What a vast area of thought that opens up! This was Paul's missionary method and motivation. He did everything "among the people," not from the outside (or from above). He did everything on their behalf, not for his own benefit. I must learn from Paul. I must live among the people when I am in Ethiopia -- not above them or beyond them. And I must make sure that they know I am there to serve them, not myself.
It is here, at the grass-roots level, that we are called upon to demonstrate the reality of the Gospel.
6:35 AM Hey there music fans! Nate and I had a blast at the concert in Raleigh last night. We grabbed a bite to eat at the downtown IHOP, which boasts "all you can eat" pancakes. Nate, as usual, took advantage of the offer. Here he is with his firsts!
Then we drove two blocks to the church ...
... where we met a lot of nice folks, including the church organists, one of whom is playing a concert next month. He tells me he is going to feature Marcel Dupré, who is perhaps my favorite French organist. The organ itself was phenomenal. Here it is in all its glory.
We thoroughly enjoyed the music, the acoustics, the repertory, and the organist who, like most performers, had a flair for the eccentric. During intermission I wandered outside and snapped this photo.
Please note the date when Mr. Cox left for Africa and the date of his death. He died in Liberia serving Jesus. I need to read more about Melville Cox, but what I do know is that he valued service to our Lord greater than life itself.
We drove home in a snowstorm. What greater excitement can you ask for! All in all, it was a wonderful evening of food, fellowship, entertainment, chewing the fat -- and stuffing ourselves with pancakes.
Friday, February 12
6:43 AM Good morning blogging buds,
I thought some of you might be interested in an update on the book I'm currently working on, a revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I've rewritten the introduction and chapters 1 and 5 and will be adding a new prologue and a lengthy epilogue designed to bring the discussion up to date. Quite surprisingly, the core of the book has not changed since it was first published in 1984. Throughout the years I've had dozens of requests for the book so I really feel it's the right time to complete this project and get the book re-released. It's been coming together nicely. Today I will begin rewriting chapter 2. I hope to have the book finished and sent to a publisher by the end of summer 2010. If you feel so led, I'd appreciate your prayers as I work on this project as well on my other books (Godworld, Paul and Hebrews Compared, etc.).
Thanks a million.
Thursday, February 11
10:51 PM Tonight I listened to Brahm's German Requiem while reading my WW II escape story, Free As a Running Fox. I know, that's like having catsup on ice cream. But that's me.
6:53 PM Hey there, music lovers. Check out this magnificent pipe organ. Not too shabby, eh? It boasts a mere 5,447 pipes!
Its home is the historic Edenton Street Methodist Church in Raleigh. Tomorrow night at 7:30, Mr. Peter Richard Conte, organist of St. Clement Church in Philadelphia, will perform the music of Bach, Brahms, Kreisler and others on the 97-rank organ designed and built by the Létourneau Company of Quebec, Canada. This is one of the largest pipe organs in the southern United States. Nate and I will be attending. You're welcome to join us if you live in the RDU area. And guess what? The concert is FREE!
More information: go here.
5:50 PM Just back from feeding the cows and taking our dogs for a walk. They needed it, having been cooped up all day in the back yard. They encountered a skunk last night and have been excommunicated from the house until the smell dissipates. They enjoyed traipsing along the farm paths, and so did I. What a beautiful evening it was, wouldn't you agree?
And lookie here! I ran across Mr. Blue Eyes himself, who was out for a stroll with his mama.
I think he was excited to see his grandpa, don't you? I know I was excited to see him and his mom!
And so the day draws to a close.
4:56 PM How's Becky doing? Glad you asked. We had a great day today. We left the house at 7:30 so that Becky could get to her class on ultrasound in Wake Forest. Then it was off to UNC for her radiation treatment. Know what? Only 4 more to go! You know what THAT means, don't you? Becky gets to ring
The radiation oncology department at UNC has this nifty old gong, and when you have completed all of your treatments you are allowed to give it one giant wallop. If all goes according to schedule, we anticipate the BIG DAY will be next Thursday. We're inviting the whole family to attend this stellar event, and we're going to ask the grandkids to help Mama B make a noise loud enough to be heard in California. Afterwards Papa B is inviting everyone out for Mexican food and we will CELEBRATE the Lord's great goodness to us. Can't wait!
Thanks for asking, and thanks for praying.
4:44 PM This email just arrived from my father-in-law in Dallas:
Be careful out there, dad.
4:41 PM Quote of the day (Geoff Smith):
Amen and amen!
4:17 PM Highland Christian Fellowship in Boone, NC, announces a "Making Friends for Christ" seminar with Dr. Wayne McDill, Professor of Preaching at SEBTS. Dates are Feb. 26-27. For more information, please go here.
4:12 PM Once again, Alan Knox veers from the status quo by challenging our concept of church "membership." He is correct to do so. Nothing is perhaps more championed in our churches than the number of names we have on our church rolls. There's a joke where I live that goes something like this: "There are more Baptists in Mecklenburg County than there are people." It may be a joke, but I'm not laughing.
In all fairness, not all Baptist churches jump on the membership bandwagon. Mine is one of them, for which I am extremely grateful. But here's the problem. Posts like Alan's are likely to be read and glossed over without any of us changing the way we "do church." Our zeal for reform flags somewhat when we are confronted with entrenched ideas about church membership. Alan's is just one of many progressive voices for reform. The question is: Are we listening? Here's what I'm discovering. The evangelical faith that nurtured me as a child has so distorted the New Covenant teachings of Jesus that it bears scant resemblance to the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ. Even the secular press has begun to mock our inflated membership statistics, and rightly so. Frankly, we fetish numbers.
How did we get to this point? And how we do we return to the simple patterns of the New Testament? The point here is not that the Bible is unclear about church membership. It is not. The biblical teaching on our being "members of one another" is an unambiguous as its teaching about Christian unity (e.g., John 17, Phil. 2:1-4). Alan's radical notions about church membership do not comport very well with most church leaders' agendas. And that is the truly the saddest fact of all.
Folks, like it or not, we're called to live in the mode of Christ's prayer in John 17. It is not for us to impose upon Scripture our preconceived notions. Let's simply obey!
P. S. If anyone is interested, I have tried to address these matters in a couple of publications, including:
"On the Style and Significance of John 17," Criswell Theological Review 3 (1988) 141-59.
"Paul and Christian Unity: A Formal Analysis of Philippians 2:1-4," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28 (1985) 299-308.
If you'd like a copy, just let me know.
4:04 PM This isn't grey's anatomy is a medical blog from the front lines in Haiti. Be prepared for some heart-wrenching stories and some stomach-churning photos. But this is real life folks! Thanks, Jen, for these updates. My prayers are with you and your team.
3:55 PM Bitsy asks, "What makes for a good, long-lasting marriage?" My answer?
"I am sorry."
Three short words. Four simple syllables. Plain and to the point. Powerful. Healing.
3:43 PM My beginning Greek grammar has been in a lot of different places, but Justin has gone so far as to take the book with him while deer hunting. Now that's a first! Thank you, Justin, for taking the time to review the book. May our Lord Jesus richly bless you and your Greek studies!
3:40 PM Currently I'm reading through Rachel Shain's master's thesis entitled The Preverb Eis- and Koine Greek Aktionsart (.pdf). It is an excellent work. Thank God for the younger generation of Greek scholars!
(NOTE: Shain is correct to give the nod to Fanning rather than Porter. Just my opinion.)
7:03 AM Mark Strauss of Bethel Seminary West gets it right when he says:
Read Matt Evan's interview of Mark here.
6:51 AM A recent study is reporting that fake universities in the UK are offering bogus degrees by the thousands. These include phony doctorates. To be honest, I have mixed sentiments about such degrees. On the one hand, I have known people who have received doctorates from accredited and even respected universities yet whose opinions I consider to be utterly worthless. On the other hand, I've known people who are simply brilliant yet who have received their degrees from diploma mills. In the final analysis, degrees say little about one's intellectual acumen in my opinion. That said, I would much prefer that my students go on to earn their degrees from respected (by the world's standards) institutions, if only because it will help them in terms of employment. The obverse is also true: why anyone would proudly claim to possess a degree from a diploma mill escapes me.
Tragically, the report also notes that the US has even more fake schools than the UK. Now that is truly shameful.
6:45 AM A hearty "Congratulations" to Dr. Craig Williford, who will be installed next week as the new president of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. Like all true scholars, President Williford is a blogger. Actually, he co-blogs with his wife Carolyn (now there's an idea!). Carolyn's post about temptation called Words of Denial is an example of the excellent writing you'll find at their site.
Kudos to you both!
6:36 AM Klaus Fielder has written a thought-provoking essay in which he argues that a definitive history of German-speaking evangelical missions needs to be written. He is so right. In Basel I became acquainted with the stellar work of the Basel Mission. Hundreds of missionaries from all over Europe were trained at the Basel Mission and sent to faraway countries, many in Africa. But it was when I taught a 2-week course at the Freie Hochschule für Mission in Korntal (near Stuttgart) several years ago that I became convinced that German missions is one of the world's best-kept secrets. The subject would make an excellent doctoral dissertation.
So, with Klaus, I ask: Any takers?
Wednesday, February 10
10:18 PM A big "Thank You" to Henry Neufeld for doing such a splendid job with The Jesus Paradigm website. Henry is a cyber whiz if ever I've known one!
9:57 PM B and I enjoyed watching a couple of episodes of the Waltons tonight. Clean entertainment at its best. In one story a traveling salesman sells the family a set of books, promising them entry into a whole new world. I can recall the similar magic that books had for me growing up on a small island in the middle of nowhere. By reading books (especially the Hardy Boy series) I traveled throughout North America and beyond without leaving the shores of Hawaii. I would read late into the night and often dream about faraway places after falling asleep. I'm an avid reader today partly because of those childhood books. What pleasant memories were evoked by watching the Waltons tonight!
6:57 PM BREAKING NEWS:
6:46 PM This is definitely THE quote of the day (Arthur Sido, again!):
6:34 PM To all of you beginning Greek students who have just joined my classes: Be sure to check out the vocab cards that Richard Sugg has created. They are a great asset to our course. Forgive me for not mentioning them to you earlier!
6:20 PM I'd like to offer a brief follow-up to Lionel's discussion of seminaries in the role of the church.
The denominational seminary has a vital role to play today. It can either reflect and teach a one-man ministry pastorate, or it can reflect and teach that pastors/elders are equippers and strategists and catalysts seeking to revive the ministry of the so-called laity so that North American Christians can carry on a peoples ministry as seen in the book of Acts. Titles, formalities, and traditions often hinder the latter approach. But in fact many seminary professors are leading the charge in recovering the priesthood teaching of the New Testament. They do not call into question the existence of elders in the New Testament. They do, however, challenge the elders in their classes to work toward a more strategic use of their pastoral skills in the deployment of the entire congregation for the fuller exercise of every believer's God-given priesthood. In my opinion, this should be the blueprint for education whether in the seminary or in the local church. Unless elders take seriously their charge of equipping, the church (and the seminary) will retain a much too exclusive concentration on the church as a clerical and sacramental institution.
If we really want to be like Jesus we're going to have to insist on full participation of all Christians in the edification and evangelism ministries of the church. No pastor can fulfill the responsibility Christ gave to each believer. This gives our generation the gigantic task of continuous reorientation.
6:12 PM Interested in the work of Tom Wright? Then you must read Nijay Gupta's guide to Wright's thought. I'm asking my doctoral students to take a look at it.
6:06 PM The first annual Society of Vineyard Scholars Conference is being held this week in Houston. The theme is "The Theology and Practice of the Kingdom of God: Justice, Power, and the Cross." For a copy of the conference program, go here (.pdf). I see that Jason Clark, a doctoral student at Kings College London, will be reading a paper this year. I wish him and the conference well.
6:00 PM Alan Knox has just received the news that his Ph.D. thesis prospectus has been approved. Congratulations, Alan. For his thesis title and an outline of his work, go here. I anticipate a very positive and constructive dissertation.
5:53 PM Bert Watts shares his reflections on cancer, suffering and the gospel. Bert notes:
I too take this faith position about healing. I stand upon "God's triumphant victory" with my eyes wide open. The malady of our times is not cancer or any other disease but rather our paltry thoughts about God – His power, His love, His character, and His promises. Thank you, Bert, for reminding me to see the victorious cross as the center of all of life.
5:44 PM Nick Norelli pontificates on the "correct" pronunciation of the word Septuagint. This is blogging at its best.
5:38 PM Congratulations to Dr. Chris Tilling.
5:35 PM Azusa Pacific University announces an opening in Theology. (We Biolans had a huge rivalry going with APU, but it's still a good university!)
5:31 PM I'm pleased to announce that yet another Southeastern Ph.D. graduate has published his dissertation. If you're at all interested in the issue of tithing you must give David Croteau's work a look: You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe? David teaches at Liberty University.
Incidentally, when John MacArthur was asked, "Does God require me to give a tithe of all I earn?" this is how he responded:
MacArthur's answer may be found here.
Meanwhile, our responsibility is to be faithful stewards of all that God has given us, no matter what our income level may be.
5:22 PM Drew Tatusko writes:
I agree. A very significant factor in biblical studies is the integration of sociology and theology. When I prepare my doctoral students for their comps I always ask them to read an essay by Robert Mulholland of Asbury seminary called "Sociological Criticism" (in Interpreting the New Testament). Examples and resources are also suggested. Can this method by misapplied? Of course it can. But neither should it be ignored. There needs, however, to be a push for sociological critics to standardize their nomenclature and methods – but this is true in many other areas of scholarship as well (e.g., linguistics and biblical interpretation).
5:18 PM Michael Halcomb reviews Ben and Ann Witherington's new novel Roman Numerals.
5:14 PM The disturbing trend continues:
5:10 PM Check out the Brook Hills College and its Institute for Disciple-Making. This is an idea whose time has come! As the site says:
5:04 PM Greek students, I greatly appreciated this email. With the permission of the author, I share it with you:
5:01 PM (Funny) quote of the day (Chris Heard):
Chris, I think this bathroom may have been designed with you in mind:
Monday, February 8
5:58 PM Arthur Sido asks, "What does a real man look like?" His answer:
Read Being a Christian dude. Well done, Arthur.
I'll just add this: Godly manhood always focuses on Christ. It takes the initiative in building friendships. It radiates the fruit of the Spirit. It has firm convictions but is never overly-critical or condescending. It has a joyful, warm, and friendly spirit. It is other-centered. It is willing to risk rejection and censorship even from the Body of Christ.
A godly man is a walking miracle.
5:37 PM Quote of the day (Stephen Young):
5:21 PM Matt Evans is translating through the Gospel according to Mark. You can track his progress here. This is the ONLY way to keep up with one's language skills!
3:14 PM Brother Lionel continues to think outside the box, big time! Here he ruffles feathers with a post called Who Should Train Pastors??? Seminary in the Role of the Body. As one of my deans once put it, if local churches were doing what they were supposed to be doing, there would be no need for seminaries. Amen!
By the way, as soon as Becky is better I plan on continuing to hold classes at my local church. I've already taught Beginning Greek. I'm thinking I'll teach New Testament Introduction next time around. Or maybe the book of Philippians. Or maybe basic theology. Or maybe ....
2:58 PM Continuing to pray for an "impossible" conversion. With God all things are possible.
2:51 PM Is an ad like this the best way of reaching out to atheists with the Gospel?
I think there's a better way. Try going out of your way to befriend them. If you don't know much about their lives, ask them. After all, that's what friends do. The cumulative weight of all of these encounters builds momentum toward the cross. You will feel awkward at times and wonder if you're compromising the truth of the Gospel. You may be attacked by others for befriending an "enemy" of Christianity. I say, "Take the risk anyway!" Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors. At the very least that means being warm and friendly to them!
Many people reject the Gospel because they've been chewed on once too often. Let's not be guilty of that when we can be guilty of scandalous love!
2:28 PM The faculty just received this invitation via email:
I'll be there, I'll be there!!!!
2:20 PM In a recent post, Seth Ehorn quotes Don Carson as saying:
Truer words were never spoken. God help me never to rust out as a teacher!
2:07 PM We're back! Becky did exceptionally well throughout the procedure, even though there was considerable discomfort and pain. Right now she's asleep.
As we were driving home from UNC my mind went back to a drive Becky and I once made through the beautiful Hill Country of Texas. Every so often we would see a road sign with the warning "Hill Ahead," meaning, of course, that one could expect a steep downhill grade ahead. Most of these so-called "hills" were nothing but slight descents. However, we'll never forget seeing the "Hill Ahead" sign, cresting the top of a giant mountain, and then wondering if we would ever arrive at the bottom of the hill, the decent was so steep. We survived the plunge, looked at each other, and said "Now THAT was a hill."
My analogy may be a bit trite, but it seems to me that we have crested the hill of Becky's treatments. We've only got 7 more radiation treatments to go out of 35 (2 of which are, however, of the high density variety like she "enjoyed" today), then only three more chemo treatments. I feel like we are racing down the other side of the mountain -- frightened and exhilarated all at the same time.
So sleep, my darling, sleep. Thanks to the goodness and grace of the Lord Jesus, we're almost to the finish line.
Übrigens, ich lieb' Dich sehr.
6:20 AM Off to UNC Chapel Hill with Becky, rejoicing in the Lord's goodness and trusting in His provision. Wherever we go and whatever we do today, let's confess our need of God, willingly submit to His agenda for our day, and express to Him our desire to walk empowered by His Spirit. Let's also thank Him ahead of time for His awesome, amazing, and enabling grace.
6:13 AM Over at the Baptist Bible College Blog we find a reminder of the importance of having a good roommate in college. At Biola my roommate was a blind Indian from the jungles of Brazil named Rubens Marshall.
I chose him as a roommate because I thought he needed help, but it was I who was blown away by his kindness, helpfulness, and Christian walk. We spent 4 years rooming together in the dorm. He taught me Portuguese and I taught him Hawaiian. We attended church together. We both loved music and played piano duets in the Biola chapel services. He was the best man at my wedding in Dallas.
Today he serves Jesus in his home country of Brazil. Even though he was completely blind from birth he played clarinet in the band and was an excellent classical pianist. He went on to earn a masters degree in Romance Languages and Linguistics from UCLA. I tell you, his zest for life put mine to shame -- royally. The "health and wealth" boys would have been greatly embarrassed by Rubens' incredible faith despite his so-called "handicap." He had a light that could burn through hardened steel and far greater vision than I will ever know. I'll never forget him.
Sunday, February 7
7:09 PM Just prayed for a lost person I know. Every soul is vulnerable to prayer.
7:06 PM Aviation history will be made tomorrow morning at 10:00 am when Boeing's new 747-8 takes off from Everett's Paine Field in Washington State on its first test flight. I'm a bit partial to this airliner since a good friend of mine pilots a 747 between Chicago and Beijing twice monthly. I can recall flying in the first 747 some 40 years ago from Honolulu to Los Angeles. Back then we were treated to plenty of leg room and even a passenger lounge with free refreshments. Profitability issues soon put an end to all that comfort. Boeing claims that the new 747-8 will have 16 percent more cargo capacity and 17 percent lower fuel costs than the 747-400. I can't wait to ride on it.
6:26 PM Greek students, just a friendly reminder that your Greek prof stands ready to help you any way he can this semester, whether by personal appointment or by phone or by email. My contact information is on the syllabus, and my door is always open. I am so excited to see what the Lord Jesus is going to do in our lives this semester as we begin translating His precious Word together. Luther once said that reading the Bible in translation is like kissing your bride through the veil. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but he has a point! So I would encourage all of you to begin now to dedicate yourselves not merely to gaining an understanding of what the Bible says but to obeying it. For if our "walk" backs up our "word," we will have a powerful two-edged sword for evangelism. No matter how much book learning we may acquire, we are never to lose our visibility as lights or our flavor as salt!
6:20 PM Right now I'm praying for this little guy who is a bit under the weather. Mr. Nolan, your Mama B and Papa B love you very much and are asking the Lord Jesus to make you well real soon.
3:54 PM Okay, you knew it was coming:
3:32 PM Did you know that Western Seminary in Portland has a blog? Well, they do. And a fine one at that. Go here to read it.
3:25 PM A religious revival in secular New England? Chris Armstrong thinks it is possible.
3:19 PM What's a box for scarves doing at Bethel Hill Baptist Church?
We're collecting them for the sisters who so faithfully serve alongside our team members whenever we go to Ethiopia. Need I say anything about the importance of co-workers in the Lord's vineyard? This is at least a small token of our appreciation for their labor of love.
The collection is open through June.
2:34 PM What a blessing to watch 4 young people being baptized this morning! The soul of each one had been bathed in prayer. They were loved on in very specific, tangible ways. It was largely the Body of Christ being the Body of Christ that they were drawn to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I thank God for each one of them!
Before the baptism brother Joel reminded us all of the significance of what it means to make a public profession of faith in Christ. As he put it, in many places of the world today this simple act of obedience can lead to imprisonment and even death. Thank you, pastor Joel, for reminding me and all of us that true discipleship is always costly. No, there's nothing salvific about the act of baptism. But done in the name of Christ and for His glory, such actions become Spirit-powered weapons that are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Now it is incumbent upon us as a church to hold these precious young people accountable for their pledges, to love and encourage them in the faith, and to see that they never walk the Christian pilgrimage alone.
8:32 AM Quote of the day #2:
Read the entire essay called Leading Winsome Lives. You will never view 1 Pet. 3:15 in the same light again!
8:22 AM Quote of the day (Dallas Morning News):
Mr. Jeffress is referring to my wife's former youth pastor in Dallas and current pastor-teacher at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. I love that about Charles Swindoll: His teaching is simple without being simplistic. In multos annos, brother Chuck!
8:04 AM Speaking of the weather, the sun has risen from its long slumber, the roads are clear, and our church fellowship is meeting!
8:00 AM I liked Obama's neologism, didn't you? He used "Snowmageddon" when referring to the snowstorm that shut down DC.
Reminds me of another neologism I encountered recently: "Karmageddon." It's like, you know, when everybody has REALLY bad vibes, you know, about the future and, like, when everyone's afraid that the world will, like, EXPLODE. A real bummer, man.
7:48 AM Good news! The Ethiopian Airlines flight recorder has been retrieved from the Mediterranean. The discovery should help investigators determine the cause of the crash.
7:42 AM More thoughts from Paul, Apostle of Weakness:
7:12 AM This was too good not to link to:
7:07 AM Scott Thompson asks, "Why shouldn't church leaders make use of social media?" You can join the discussion here.
Saturday, February 6
8:45 PM Here's a new book I'll be ordering:
We were one of the first families to move to Kailua from Honolulu in 1955. Kailua was a small town back then. Today it is Hawaii's second largest city.
It was my home until I left for college in California. The town is nestled along the shores of one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Kailua is a surfer's paradise with a shore break, reef break, point break, and even island break.
The view of the Pali Mountains from my home was simply spectacular. Featured on the book's cover is the famous Mount Olomana, a hiker's dream.
It was in Kailua that I came to Christ at the age of 8 and was baptized.
It was there that I first fell in love with the Word of God and the local church.
It was there that Becky and I spent our honeymoon. It was a wonderful place to grow up, and my mind often wanders disobediently back to its quiet shores.
7:36 PM Farm chores:
4:25 PM Becky has 8 radiation treatments left. Three of them will involve high intensity radiation through an internal probe. She is scheduled to have her first such treatment this Monday at UNC. It will last 3 hours.
The doctors have been very up front with us. The procedure will be painful. I am praying that the techs will allow me to be with Becky during the treatment.
Becky, as you know, loves Jesus. She cheerfully faces the challenges life brings her. We trust the heart of God completely. We cling in faith to His promises. He will be present with her in that treatment room even if I am not. My prayer is simply:
Will you, dear friend, join me in so praying?
3:58 PM Good afternoon, thoughtful bloggerites! Got time for a brief introspective post?
For me, the computer is an inky and mysterious world. It is in this strange and awesome abyss that I spend many hours each week blogging, writing my books and essays, and reading what others are saying. I am constantly made aware of the small knot of people who read my words and who, for whatever reasons, use my blog as a foil by which to silently grapple with the deeper issues of life. I feel as though I am constantly teetering on the edge of ineffectiveness. It takes only a few dashed expectations before one is tempted to give up reading certain bloggers. This, in fact, happened to me recently. A blogger whom I once delighted in reading suddenly became arrogant, puffed up with success. I simply lost interest and made other sites my chief targets of interest.
I can't help but wonder how many good bloggers have utterly failed because they began to operate on the treadmill of writing from a spiritually dehydrated condition. Is this not the very condition that we face in blogging?
From an examination of my heart, I conclude that much of what I have done in my life has been crudely ambitious. I have constantly desired praise rather than wisdom and admiration rather than equipment for service. I have known what it means to be an empty shell. I have known what it means to wonder what people think of me rather than what they think of my Lord. I realize that people visualize public figures in evangelicalism as indestructible, committed no matter what, determined to serve others. I am driven in pain to conclude that I just as susceptible to hubris as the next man or woman.
Funny, these feelings of inadequacy. Am I alone in having them? And what, if anything, can I do to handle them when they come?
Amy Carmichael, whose biography, as you know, I have been enjoying immensely, has impressed me as a woman filled with godly wisdom. I have a feeling that we have run very similar races in life, that even our service for Christ takes on twisted motives we find it difficult to sort out. We pray that the glory of God alone would be seen in our efforts, yet we are conscious that the approval of others is often of equal importance. I'd like, then, to leave you with what Amy called her "confession of love." I have always been convinced that reading missionary biographies can cut to the quick of our over-complicated lives. Amy's words have done just that for me. I trust that her confession may be as comforting to you as it was to me.
Confession of Love
My vow: Whatsoever Thou sayest unto me, by Thy grace I will do it.
My constraint: Thy love, O Christ, my Lord.
My confidence: Thou art able to keep that which I have committed unto Thee.
My joy: To do Thy will, O God.
My discipline: That which I would not choose, but which Thy Love appoints.
My prayer: Conform my will to Thine.
My motto: Love to live, live to love.
My portion: The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance.
Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee as Thou deservest; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward save of knowing that we do Thy will, O Lord our God.
11:49 AM "It is through many tribulations that we must inherit the kingdom of God." So said Paul in Acts 14. It's a message that many evangelicals are unwilling to accept, according to this study: Theologian: Most Christians Infected with Prosperity Gospel. The study concludes:
How very true. I recall reading Larry Crabb's book Finding God and being amazed at the revolution that took place in his thinking about suffering once he personally experienced a "severe mercy." He concluded that God was under no obligation to take his problems away. Rather, his problems were there to help him find God.
I am amazed in my own life how often God wishes to reveal Himself to me in the tragic moments when there is pain and hopelessness. That is one reason why I feel I need to republish my book Paul, Apostle of Weakness, for it contains a truth that I am slowly beginning to fathom: My weaknesses are not simply to be tolerated; they are to be considered my greatest badges of honor, because they identify me with my crucified Savior.
11:22 AM Quote of the day #2 (Bob West):
11:01 AM Here's a tweet I just saw :
Huh! You think that's a workout? Well, try spreading a trailer load of manure. In the snow!!
I love farming!
9:39 AM The Old Geezer finally comes clean. Read Who wears the pants in your family?
(By the way, it's nice to see that I'm not the only old geezer out there who blogs.)
9:24 AM Quote of the day (Brian Fulthorp):
It seems to me somebody ought to write a book about Paul's theology of "weakness." Ahoy, mate! Somebody already has!
In my opinion, the work of a genuine Christian peacemaker must be to call civil governments to account and help limit the violence when conflict is actually in progress. At the very least there is never any reason to glorify war or to utter blatantly warmongering statements such as were made by candidate John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign. Kingdom-minded people will reject the mindset of Western imperialism and refuse to support the notion that Christian mission benefits from the spread of empire. They will always place love of enemy at the heart of the Gospel rather than at its periphery. They will affirm allegiance to Christ that transcends national boundaries or roles. Above all, they will live lives of radical discipleship and be willing to suffer in the spirit of the cross and undergo a literal baptism of fire if need be.
Obama's politics are much too bellicose for me. As Laura Flanders noted three days ago in The Nation, military spending will increase dramatically under the current administration. Perhaps the president would do well to read another German theologian of a slightly different stripe, one who wrote,
This theologian is, of course, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and his book is called No Rusty Swords.
Of course, I could be completely wrong about my beliefs! Moreover, my views certainly do not represent "the Christian position." In fact, there is no distinctly "Christian" position on this matter. Neibuhr and Bonhoeffer disagreed with each other, and so can we. But what we cannot do, what we must not do, is think that our main calling in life is to resolve political disputes. Inevitably we'll disagree about many of these matters. But we cannot allow our polarizing positions to mar our kingdom fellowships or distract us from our main job. The hope of the world is not in politics but in King Jesus. If our allegiance is to the reign of God, then it cannot be to anything else, including government!
8:16 AM This is one of my favorite ashtrays. I like it because it is a good illustration of the sanctimoniousness of so many of our attempts to "put in a good word for Jesus."
Christians fail in evangelism because they are not building relationships, because they're not loving and praying for others. God says, "Love your neighbor." If you must chose between loving a lost soul and expressing your disgust about cigarette smoking, I'd say go with the lost soul! After all, I really can't see Jesus putting out an ashtray like this one, can you? Or maybe you could!
8:12 AM I was listening to a sermon online last night by the pastor of a church that has several satellite campuses throughout the Triangle. "We're one church that meets in several different locations," he noted as he began.
That's a wonderful truth! The church of Jesus Christ is ONE church. This means that "my" home church, Bethel Hill Baptist Church, is not the ONLY church to which I belong. And, in fact, our pastor could legitimately get up on Sunday and say, just as truly as the pastor of the church with satellite campuses could say, "We're one church that meets in several different locations."
Several years ago I discovered a brutal truth about myself. I realized that I rarely delighted in what was happening in other people's churches or in other seminaries. I felt somehow that someone else's success was a threat to my own. That was a rather frightening personal flaw! The competitive spirit was a poison that I had allowed to destroy the joy of working together for the Gospel.
So I have a question for you. Does "church" mean to you only your church? Or your denomination? Or your small group? Or you and your satellite churches? Or are you able to rejoice when you hear of others in concert with the Spirit of God who are committed to the expansion of God's kingdom?
Think about it.
8:03 AM Love this picture of horses running in the snow.
Mine used to romp and play on snow days. Boy do I miss Cody and Traveler!
Friday, February 5
9:58 PM Am listening to Becky speak with her mom and dad in Dallas. Mostly laughter. They have a great relationship. So grateful for mom and dad and their testimony of faithfulness to the Lord. They've been super supportive during our journey with cancer.
9:48 PM Read this in an obituary today:
All too often our lives and calendars make little room for others. Most of us would be tempted to think that encouraging others is something we do over and above our regular work. This obituary of Donald Wiseman highlights what I would like others to remember me for: an enthusiast and encourager of others. That's my goal even though I've got a long ways to go!
9:18 PM Our ministry in Ethiopia is very much a team effort. This is true in Gondar, where we are working with the evangelical churches in the city to reach the rural communities for Christ. What kind of team players are necessary to get the job done? There are several positions on the team, if you will, that need filling. Here are the leaders of the Evangelical Churches Fellowship of Gondar. It was they who invited Becky and me to come and help them send out evangelists two by two into the province.
And here I am teaching the Bible in one of their churches.
Again, each person you see here is a special teammate.
They represent the supporting churches who are responsible for the daily welfare of the evangelists who are serving on the front lines. "A Christian fellowship loves and exists by the intercession of its members for one another," writes Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together. These churches are our intercessors, generating a constant flow of praise or concern for the teams they have sent out. During my stay in Gondar I often have the privilege of addressing these churches, encouraging them to raise up a powerful and passionate people to expand Christ's kingdom. Note the eagerness with which the youth are eager to listen and learn. I love to see people with open Bibles on their laps! Lord willing, in a few short weeks Becky and I will gather with these saints again in northern Ethiopia. We will also meet with our 6 evangelists. What a reunion that will be!
Paul often referred to his "fellow soldiers." He realized that he could never operate without partners. He shared information on the movements of his co-workers, and it is very clear that he did not like to be without partners in his work. So it is with Becky and me. We love our partners in Gondar. They are working hard to spread the Good News. They are ordinary people -- men and women whose lives, like yours and mine, are routine -- making a special place in their hearts for the lost. Praise God for them!
6:31 PM From a friend:
6:23 PM Elizabeth Elliott's A Chance to Die has Amy Carmichael writing the following about mission hospitals (p. 291). It think it's a good reminder of why the spiritual must always be central in what Becky and I do in Ethiopia.
12:22 PM The snow has now changed over to freezing rain, and we're expecting rain this evening, then more snow tomorrow. No doubt about it, the long-expected severe winter everyone was anticipating has arrived!
12:19 PM How large was the second temple? Click here to find out. (Simply brilliant, Dr. McGrath).
11:32 AM Kudos to the Swiss for granting two innocent Guantanamo detainees asylum. Mr. Obama should be thankful to have such friends in Europe.
11:10 AM Am I a radical?
It all depends on how you define the term.
If by radical you mean a scholar who denies the orthodox tenets of Christianity, I am hardly a radical. But if you mean someone who tries to get to the root of the matter, I would hope I quality for the epithet!
Tom Wright once suggested in The New Testament and the People of God that so-called "radical" criticism has not been radical enough. It has been content to sit on modern hypotheses except, perhaps, for tweaking them now and then. If we are to create new hypotheses or -- is it even possible? -- to return to old ones, everything must be questioned. And to do this it is vital that we return to the primary sources.
It would not be much of a caricature to say that evangelical Christianity has suffered recently from a lack of radicalism. For me, it is not sufficient to believe in the inspiration of Scripture (as I do). The purpose of Jesus' coming was not simply to bring redemption but to show us the beautiful kingdom He is working out. If today there is to be a new wave of seriousness about Jesus, it will have to begin with a new commitment not only to what He says but to living out His radical ideas.
It is a residual weakness of evangelicalism that we tend to highlight one aspect of our faith at the expense of another. There are huge issues at stake here, which I hope to point out in my book Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. To put it bluntly, we have been shadow-boxing with the text and using scholarship as a convenient excuse to evade developing a kingdom mindset. I suggest that authentic Christianity has nothing to fear from sound theology, but theology is not to be separated from Christian praxis. This unwarranted division is the fatal flaw the ultimately vitiates all of our cries for people to get "back to the Bible!"
Maybe if we lived the kingdom instead of just talking about it, the world would sit up and listen to what we had to say.
Go ahead, be a radical!
10:21 AM The snow is coming down again and is beginning to stick, we we've canceled our radiation treatment today. I don't want to even think about what the roads in North Carolina look like today. Be warm and safe wherever you are!
10:16 AM Becky writes:
Since my diagnosis 6 months ago, I've been trying to get some things done that have been waiting years for my attention. One of those projects is the framing of Grandmommee's rug. Grandmommee was my grandmother on my father's side. Born in 1891, she weighed only 2 1/2 pounds at birth. The doctor said "Forget about her...let's try to save the mother." Her grandmother took her home, stuck her in the oven to keep her warm...and in the providence of God, she lived 105 years! Another proof that the gift of life is in the hands of our Lord, and He determines how He will use that gift. There is much peace & joy if we will live by this Truth.
Grandmommee was orphaned at age 12. Her father had served in the Confederate Army, so we grandkids got an almost first-person account of the War. After the War, her father became a medical doctor and printed the first medical journal in the State of Texas; it was printed on the bottom floor of their home. Grandmommee's grandfather also served in the Confederate Army as a chaplain. After the War, he was an itinerate preacher in Texas, and also helped to start Texas Wesleyan University. As a young lady, Grandmommee wrote out all his sermon notes; this labor of love gave her a strong foundation in the Scriptures.
Grandmommee began teaching Bible school at age 13; she gathered the children who were playing around the burial places of her parents. She taught them weekly near the cemetery. As an adult woman, she helped to start Child Evangelism Fellowship in Dallas and she had weekly women's prayer & Bible study groups in her home. One time Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer came to her women's group & presented his vision of a non-denominational seminary in Dallas. At that meeting, one woman pledged the funding of all faculty salaries for the first year, and another woman offered the use of a building. So we jokingly say that Dallas Theological Seminary started in Grandmommee's living room!
She continued these weekly women's prayer & Bible study meetings in her home until age 102. She taught the Schofield Bible Course (a 5-year program teaching thru the Bible).
Spiritually, she impressed me a great deal. One of her favorite hymns was "Jesus led me all the way", and I loved to play a special arrangement of the hymn for her. When I was younger, she often reminded me of the counsel Proverbs 3:5-6, and as she reached the centennial mark her favorite verse was 3 John 4: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." As my children have grown up & started their homes, this verse has echoed through my own heart. Another spiritual impression is how she wholly trusted the Lord to hear her prayers. If she & I prayed over a matter, and I brought it up again later, she would say "Now, BeckyLynn, we've already left that with the Lord." How thankful I am to the Lord for the rich spiritual heritage I've been given. May He grant to me the wisdom & energy & focus to pass along a similar heritage to my "children" (blood or adopted).
In the 1940s, Grandmommee made this rug. It is made of small strips of her dresses, and the dresses of her daughter Jane. As I look at it, I'm reminded of the challenge to have a Kingdom focus, as Grandmommee did.
10:08 AM Ted Gossard was kind enough to post not one but two entries on his blog about my book Christian Archy:
Thanks, Ted. I am truly honored!!
9:55 AM This came in an email today:
Now my students will think that correct spelling is no longer important!!! Ugh!!
9:47 AM Free download: The Authority of Elders in the New Testament by Matthew McDill. Matthew argues:
Matthew, by the way, is an elder at Highland Christian Fellowship in Boone, NC.
9:32 AM It's been a while since I bored my patient readership to death with umpteen pictures of farm and family. So I thought I'd rectify my deleteriousness this morning!
Thursday, February 4
8:45 PM Our thanks to Richard Sugg for setting up our brand new pooter this evening. May God richly bless you for your kindness to us!
4:08 PM Before I forget: The doctor said that Becky is doing great. She has only 8 -- count them! -- radiation treatments to go and then she's DONE! Then get this -- her blood counts are holding steady. Now that is a huge answer to prayer. Finally, the doctor says that her symptoms should abate by the time we leave for Ethiopia next month, so that, Lord willing, Becky should be symptom-free while we are traveling. Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying to the Lord on our behalf. He is at work, and we stand amazed at His great goodness to us!!
Speaking of Becky, I can't resist posting this photo of my dear wife when she lived in Ethiopia. Once a Texan, always a Texan I guess. Ain't she sweet? Ride 'em cowgirl!
3:55 PM Heartfelt thanks to brother Jon Glass of Cresset Baptist Church for allowing Becky and me to speak in two of the chapel services at Cresset Christian School this morning. I thought our message was extremely well received. And what message was that?
Our focus today was on our Bible memory program. This is an idea that God gave Becky several years ago. The program is very simple. We seek to provide Amharic Bibles for Ethiopians who could never afford to buy a Bible in a million years. In fact, even if you had a million dollars you could still not buy a Bible because they are simply not to be had in rural Ethiopia. The program goes like this:
1) You receive a copy of 9 passages of Scripture in Amharic.
2) You memorize perfectly each of these passages.
3) You then recite each of these passages to your church elders.
4) Once you have completed your memory work, your name is added to a list of those who will receive a beautifully designed, hardback Amharic Bible.
Thus far we've distributed I'd guess about 7,000 Bibles, and not one of them was passed out "for free," if you know what I mean. Of course, these Bibles were not free in the sense that somebody had to purchase them. And that's where many of you enter the picture. Each Amharic Bible costs no more than 5 U.S. dollars. Imagine that -- the cost of a Big Mac Meal! Through the generous gifts of God's people this program has been a huge success. And as I type these words several hundred more people are working hard to complete the memory program before our team returns to Burji in July.
Incidentally, there was no literacy in Burji until fairly recent times. In fact, Becky's father, Brad ("Tex") Lapsley, built the first school in Burji back in the early 1960s. Before then nobody could read or write. Today, almost everybody is literate but they still lack the Word of God. What an amazing to honor to watch them receive their Bibles and then sit down and read them.
Now, let's be honest. Most of us have more Bibles than we can shake a stick at. Is that good stewardship of the Lord's resources? I am as guilty as anyone else.
There is no greater joy for Becky and me than to watch children and even older men and women hold their new Bibles for the first time and then turn the pages until they find the passages they worked so hard to memorize. I'm sooo grateful to the Lord for having given Bec this idea. And I can't wait to get back to Burji to pass out more Bibles this summer!
6:34 AM Off to IHOP with my sweetie pie!
6:16 AM Conclusions #18-19 (from Paul, Apostle of Weakness):
6:12 AM Becky just shared with me something she heard on BBN this morning:
5:55 AM Quote of the day (David Nelson):
Read When Words Aren't Enough.
5:47 AM You simply must watch Danny Akin's convocation message from Tuesday's chapel service. It is titled "Marks of a Healthy Community of Faith." You can find it here. Incidentally, we are welcoming a huge incoming class this spring. Very grateful for each student God sends our way.
5:30 AM This morning I intended to write something profound about education, but I'm brain dead. (Don't worry, I'll recover soon.) Today's gonna be a busy one. We're speaking about Ethiopia twice at Cresset Christian Academy in Durham, then it's off to UNC for (a) blood work, (b) radiation, and (c) meeting with B's doctor. Then it's back to the farm to meet up with one of my students who is helping us set up our new computer. Before all this kicks off, however, I'm kidnapping Becky and taking her to IHOP.
Have a good one wherever you are, and please be safe on the roads.
Wednesday, February 3
8:34 PM Last week I said goodbye to my grader for the past three semesters. Enoch Kwon hails from South Korea and has done a fantastic job helping me with my various writing projects. Enoch will be spending his final semester at the seminary leading the Korean students' fellowship. Enoch, you will be sorely missed!
In the meantime, my new assistant is Andy Bowden, an up-and-coming Greek scholar who will also begin his Th.M. studies with me in the fall. Andy's main job will be to help me collect anything written about Paul and weakness in the past 25 years as I prepare my revision of Paul, Apostle of Weakness. Welcome to the astheneia team, Andy! Andy, by the way, writes an excellent blog called a Bowden Blog. Check it out when you can.
Let me end this post by saying how blessed I feel to serve in a seminary that allows each of its faculty members to have an assistant every semester. My helpers have saved me countless hours of grunt work in the library, for which I am eternally grateful!
8:10 PM If you're a brand new student in my beginning Greek class and have heard the word "morpheme" for the very first time, you may be feeling like this right about now:
I want you to know that I feel your pain. After all, I'm the one inflicting it! As I said in class: I realize that a morphological approach to the Greek verb is more difficult at the beginning of your studies. But if you will just hang in there, I promise you that our approach will pay high dividends. You will not only be able to master Greek paradigms, you will understand how the language works -- and that is worth every drop of sweat invested now. So please do not despair! Simply remember that although the word might be the smallest free form in a language (an item that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content), the morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning. Never, ever, look at the word as the minimal unit of language again!
7:44 PM We had a wonderful faculty meeting this morning, the first of the new semester. I was reminded of why I love serving and teaching here at SEBTS so much. It's really very simple: The Great Commission. That's what we're all about. "Your objective, gentlemen, is to harvest a crop," Jesus said to His disciples. And we are to do it by loving on others until they ask us why.
God isn't asking us to back unbelievers into a corner so that we can mash them with our mental machinery. Yes, we must discuss Christianity. Yes, we must preach the Good News. But not by pulling up our theological dump trucks, yanking the lever, and then pulling a wheelie out of the parking lot. We are to bring men and women to Christ by living out His cross-love.
My friend, once you fall in love with Jesus, you will do everything in your power to introduce others to Him. He's a wonderful, magnificent, all-powerful, humble, and loving Lord. To do that, we've got to get involved in the lives of others. I sense that desire among my students. I sense that desire among all of my colleagues. I know that this is the heart beat of our magnificent administration.
Let's unleash foot soldiers for Jesus. Let's be foot soldiers for Jesus! Amen?
7:31 PM Conclusions #16-17 (from Paul, Apostle of Weakness):
Today, by the way, I began revising chapter 1 of the book. I'm having more fun than a barrel of worms. I never dreamed that I would be rewriting this book 28 years after I first set pen to paper!
7:17 PM This great quote from A Chance to Die reminded me that soul-winning is the work of God from beginning to end (p. 51).
Could it be that there are times when we think that we are the only ones who are indispensable to the salvific work of God? I think so. But salvation is the work of God. If you want to be a redemptive person, you must remember that it is the responsibility of the Redeemer to draw all people to Himself, and that He often uses many different "blows" in the process!
7:12 PM Just cooked pancakes for Becky and me. We both had a huge sweet tooth tonight.
6:23 PM God "so" loved the world – adverb of degree ("God loved the world so much") or manner ("God loved the world in this manner")? See Jeff's fine discussion here. (I tend to agree with the ISV’s rendering – for obvious reasons.)
6:20 PM Quote of the day (Eric Carpenter):
Love them? You've got to be kidding. Why, they're our enemies and the enemies of Christianity. (*Sarcasm.*)
Folks, Eric is right. So I have a suggestion. It's a crazy, kingdom-focused idea. Rather than telling atheists what a friend they have in Jesus, why not tell them what a friend they have in you? Folks, bumper stickers and hateful blog posts aren't gonna win the world for Christ. Remember: The medium is the message! Or at least a big part of it.
Oh, I almost forgot. Eric's thoughtful essay is called God Doesn't Believe in Atheists.
6:06 PM Hey, fellow bloggerites! Check out a brand new e-zone that was launched today. It's called Bible Study Paths and is the work of Henry and Jody Neufeld (Henry is one of my favorite publishers). Everybody who knows my work can see why I would be so excited about a website that encourages personal Bible study. The battle we're in can't be waged with the "weapons of this world." Our sword is not an earthly weapon but the Word of God. Now, if you're like me, you think of Bible study as being a very difficult task. Indeed it is! Whenever we're involved in a faith enterprise we're overextended by design. That's why we need to approach the Bible with great humility and allow it to be its own interpreter as much as we possibly can. I'm up for the challenge. Are you?
By the way, you can check out the good stuff Henry publishes here. (Insider's scoop: Look for more good stuff shortly.)
Monday, February 1
12:53 PM Speaking of non-conformity (or maybe that be should be obscurantism), someone just emailed me with an interesting question: Does anyone else hold to your views about synoptic origins? I had to answer, quite honestly, something to the effect of "Not that I'm aware of. At least not in print." And that's fine with me. As I tell my students, I may be wrong, but I'm not afraid to publish my views for everyone to see (and ignore)!
12:38 PM Guess what? Apparently Robert E. Lee was a nonconformist. General Lee? Yes, the good general himself. He was constantly upsetting the apple cart as an educator. He refused to establish unnecessary regulations at Washington College. His motto was "Make no needless rules." He pushed as hard as any educator in the nation for electives. Let the students have a say in their own education, he argued. When the Lee chapel was built he made attendance non-compulsory, much to the surprise of the student body. Finally, there's this (Lee: The Last Years, p. 156):
Isn't that great? Gives the rest of us non-conformists hope!
12:26 PM Today Becky is sewing not one but two dresses for Ethiopia. The fabrics are gorgeous. It's just like my wife to make the most of her time, to be cheerful always, and to look to the future with joy and anticipation. Which sounds to me a lot like Amy Carmichael. To quote from A Chance to Die again (p. 30):
Remember, these words were written by a woman whose husband was martyred and who knew something of the loss she describes here.
I cannot see Elizabeth Elliott holding a pity party for herself, can you? Neither can I see Becky doing that. How I thank God for such women. The Lord must love me very much to have given me a wife whose worth is far above rubies.
10:30 AM Someone once said, "We tithe to ourselves," meaning that much of our offerings goes to improving physical plants, paying salaries, etc. We do indeed tithe to ourselves. Which makes Arthur Sido's latest blog post all the more important: What would our church budget look like if Jesus was on the Budget Committee?
Arthur, I wish I could say that people will listen to you and that churches will reexamine their priorities in terms of their giving. Obviously what you're saying calls for initiative on the part of people, especially church elders (or "deacons" as we often call them in our SBC churches). Our misplaced priority system is wrong. The New Testament calls it wrong. It is anti-Scriptural, anti-Christian, and against the love command of God. This is so practical that I would like to pin-point it with a question: Will the elders/deacons of local churches, many of whom I know read this blog regularly, take this admonition practically and seriously? Otherwise, what good does it do to "rant" (as Arthur admits he is doing)? Elders, am I putting you on the spot? You bet I am!
9:41 AM David Lee reviews Alexander Strauch's Biblical Eldership. It's a fine review of a book that all of us should read at least once in our lifetime.
Here's a quote from the review that I'd like for you to ponder:
Isn't this wonderfully simple? Isn't it beautifully scriptural? Isn't it time we asked the Holy Spirit to implement it in our churches? Oh, the Body of Christ! Oh, to see it operating as the Head intended!
9:22 AM Interested in learning more about the biblical principle of every member ministry? Check out David Roger's excellent piece by that title. Here's a teaser:
9:10 AM This just arrived via email:
Here is a point I wish to make crystal clear. As individuals, the writer correctly points out, each of us is going to make mistakes. This problem can be alleviated to a great degree by receding into the wisdom of the group. Nonconformity to the world must certainly, in my opinion, involve leadership that is both plural AND nonhierarchical.
Once again, may I humbly and respectfully ask those of you who are senior pastors and who thus set yourselves apart from the eldership to reconsider your position in light of 1 Pet. 5:1-4?
8:51 AM So Prince Harry is thrown from his polo pony. I wish I had a dollar for every time I had an "unplanned dismount" from one of my steeds.
8:02 AM The CSMonitor does it again. Read More airport security won't do much to stop terrorists. Leaving the Middle East would. The final paragraph is the best.
7:45 AM Do you spank your children? Or engage in any kind of discipline with them? Amy Carmichael was the disciplinarian at her home for children in India. But with an interesting twist (A Chance to Die, p. 213):
Once in a while I run across a passage in my reading that is so sublime, so beautifully expressed, so amazing, that it defies commentary and I simply must quote it. This passage is one of those.
7:38 AM Michael Palmer has added two more books to his excellent Greek linguistics bibliography. You can check them out here.
7:34 AM Diglotting offers a review of Richard Young's Intermediate New Testament Greek – A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach. Always glad to promote the author of a Greek textbook!
7:24 AM Conclusions #14-15 (from Paul, Apostle of Weakness):
You can see that we are leading up to a grand conclusion!
7:18 AM Our latest Spanish essay has been published. Please feel free to share it with all of your Hispanic friends. It's called La Gran Comisión del Matrimonio.
7:12 AM Listening to Becky play "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" on the piano. What a blessing.