April 2010 Blog Archives
Friday, April 30
9:52 PM We are enjoying immensely having the boys in our home today. They are so well-behaved, respectful, and eager to help with our various projects around the farm. Matt and Liz are doing a phenomenal job of raising their boys to be obedient, joyful, and a pleasure to be around. This afternoon we were kept very busy as we happily worked together as teams. Becky is now getting them ready for beddy -- after we enjoy a small bowl of ice cream, that is. I thought I'd post a few pix from the day's activities in case anyone was interested.
1) Caleb and Micah help me fill in a hole in the back yard.
2) Isaac and Micah help Mama B with potting some plants.
3) Here Caleb mops the upstairs porch in preparation for our sleeping there tonight.
4) Alpha is as sweet as sweet gets.
5) Micah making sure the dogs' food bowl is full.
6) Here Caleb helps us to pack reading glasses for Ethiopia.
7) Isaac writing the strength number (100) of these non-prescription reading glasses.
8) As always, the boys just have to play on the hay in the barn.
9) The cows have just been fed. It's hard work, right Isaac?
10) The boys checking out their sleeping arrangements. Mama B will sleep on one end, while Papa P will sleep on the other. Aren't we adventurous?
11) Dinner was a smashing success tonight, no doubt because of my "secret ingredient" (which the boys have promised not to divulge to anyone).
12) Last but not least, all of the dogs were happy to see Alpha, but none was more eager to romp with him than his aunt Daisy.
Time now for our Henny-Jenny-Penny story. I'll try not to let my imagination run too wild tonight, but there's no telling where things will lead.
12:33 PM Off to get Becky's blood work done, have lunch, and pick up the boys.
12:22 PM Quote of the day (Eric Carpenter):
11:38 AM Our plans for this evening just got more exciting. The boys' new puppy ("Alpha") will be joining us. That will make 9 Shelties on the farm. Not only that, but Becky has decreed that we shall all sleep outside on the upstairs porch tonight. A more appropriate setting for a mystery-packed Henny-Jenny-Penny story, I can hardly imagine. At any rate, it should be a wild and crazy evening. The boys will help me cook Chinese food for supper and pancakes for breakfast tomorrow morning, which will make matters infinitely more difficult and extraordinarily more enjoyable at the same time. I so often pine and long for domesticity, especially when it comes in bucketfuls! Do try not to be too jealous of us.
11:22 AM I just re-read Allan Bevere's latest (noted below). I wanted to add here that what Allan is saying about Christ is also essential for New Testament ecclesiology. How? The New Testament teaches us that one's Christian profession is only Christian in proportion to its correct theological understanding of Jesus Christ in His incarnation. Thus the Christ-evaluation is the only valid evaluation of Christianity. The Christ-evaluation asks whether or not all of the components of what we call "church" are Christ-centered, Christ-approved, Christ-oriented, Christ-organized, Christ-originated, Christ-grounded, and Christ-motivated. If we remove Christ -- not the Christ of modern theology but the Christ of the Scriptures -- then the church will be nothing but a house built on sand -- a sad parody of the ekklesia that Jesus envisioned in Matt. 16:18. Heb 8:5 (one of my favorite verses about the church!) reminds us that Moses did not draw up his own blueprints for the tabernacle of God. God handed down His plans sovereignly. Today, we draw up our plans and then seek divine endorsement instead of seeking the divine plan first. We should have enquired, "Lord, what should your church look like?" This is where the Magisterial Reformers went terribly wrong, in my estimation. They made a show of seeking God's pattern for the church but it was His stamp of approval on their blueprints that they were after. As Allan reminded us, it's high time that the church reported to the Architect for its pattern.
Again, the conversation will continue. But in the meantime may I encourage all of us -- whether you are a Methodist like Allan or a Baptist like myself -- not to wait for the outcome of the discussion. We can start right now by living the Christ-life and by bleeding together to manifest Christ's love to others.
9:18 AM Good news! God has answered our prayers for housing for the two Melesses in Ethiopia. The costs are being covered by a person in Virginia and by a person in Texas. Isn't this wonderful news! How God provides for the needs of His people!
Thanks to all who prayed.
9:15 AM Alan Knox has gone charismatic.
9:06 AM Our daughter Liz gets a brownie button this morning for pointing out to me a major typo on the back cover of Christian Archy. Can you spot it?
All I can say is: Embarrassing.
8:56 AM Gettin' ready for a busy weekend. Tonight Caleb, Isaac, and Micah are spending the night with us, then tomorrow we drive to western North Carolina to speak in two different churches on Sunday about the glory of the Lord in Ethiopia. The boys, of course, can't wait to have another "Henny, Jenny, Penny" story from their Papa B. What kind of predicament will the 3 hens get into, and how will they fare???? Stay tuned....
8:45 AM The ever-quotable Allan Bevere comments on the hippie version of Jesus in liberalism. A sampler:
Be sure to read this provocative essay in its entirety and the ensuing discussion in the comments.
8:36 AM This brought a smile to my face.
The children at Cresset Christian Academy sent Becky a packet of get-well cards. Aren't they wonderful?
8:26 AM Want to think with me about something?
Is it really wasteful to spend so much of our money on our church buildings, staff salaries, and programs? When Mary anointed Jesus, people said she wasted her ointment (Matt. 26:8). But Jesus is worth all we can give Him. He accepted her high-priced perfume. To Him, it wasn't wasted at all. Mary's gift was the expression of a heart of love for the Savior. Our Lord honored it, and the house was filled with its fragrance.
So where do we go wrong?
I think our problem is that we confuse our priorities for God's priorities. Mary's example of extravagance is often used to defend extravagance in "the house of the Lord." But Jesus is clear about what pleases Him -- the sacrifice of our substance for things of eternal value. Look at our churches -- has there ever been so much squandering of wealth? What a waste of God's resources. This is no day for the church to seek comfort and security when 1.6 billion people are dying without the Gospel. No, I am not a Scrooge who laments generosity. But how can we possibly be slaves of the trivial when the nations are perishing? I often put it this way: Gross inequity is as sinful as gross iniquity. Salvation begins with coming to Christ but it continues with coming after Christ. His command -- His CAUSE -- has nothing to do with lavish sanctuaries. What He looks for is our Jesus-looking acts of sacrificial love to transform the world into a place over which He reigns. As I argued in The Jesus Paradigm, the quest for bigger and better always has and always will destroy the church. I suspect the devil especially loves it when we debate the size of our new "sanctuary" -- as is inevitable once we become preoccupied with ourselves instead of the nations.
The size of your church building isn't going to change the world. How you live will. Let's be the kingdom!
Thursday, April 29
3:30 PM Isn't the farm just loverly today?
3:24 PM I love Eric Carpenter's website, don't you? If for no other reason than Eric is constantly pointing our attention back to the Word of God. He is continually combating the false notion that it doesn't matter what we believe so long as we feel good about ourselves as Christians. Spoken like a true Calvinist, Eric! The joy of a Christian is always based on the statutes of God's Word. But we must have both words and music. My problem with the type of orthodoxy that Eric so often lauds is that it does not sing. The first love, the shout of victory, the joy of salvation are not always evident. Statutes there are, but where's the song?
As much as I appreciate Reformed theology, I never want to forget that Christian living is the greatest of arts and requires that we make every effort to show ourselves approved unto God not only through right words but right actions.
3:17 PM While doing my yard work today, this question came to my mind: What will be the eternal impact of my revival this week? A preacher out to make a "name" for himself is living in the flesh as truly as a man who is living with a woman out of wedlock. What part do our motives play when we serve Christ? Can a sermon, even a good one, be "wood, hay, and stubble"? There are many puzzling questions like these in my little theological notebook to ask about when I get to heaven -- though I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't be there 10 minutes before I throw my notebook away.
Oh, before I forget: A nice serendipity while speaking at Pleasant Union was the absence of chairs on the platform. You know, those "chief seats in the synagogues" that often resemble electric chairs?
Everyone just sits together as a congregation, including the guest speaker. I commended brother Terry for that. Jesus said that those who take the highest seats get demoted. His servants are not to sit but to serve. It's good to see more and more churches moving away from their silly platform accouterments.
3:12 PM Mowed and edged today. For several minutes I tried unsuccessfully to start my weed eater. Then I read the directions and it started right up. Is there a spiritual lesson here?
12:10 PM Becky has just published her latest essay. It's called "Roots: Ethiopia Church Version." I love it. It's a reminder to me how much we owe the first generation of missionaries who came to Burji many years ago. Thank God for those who, like Jim Elliott, gave up the good life in narcissistic America to serve Jesus! Becky writes:
To read the whole story, click here or go to our home page.
11:13 AM A very good morning to all of my blogging buddies! Ready for a few disjointed thoughts this morning? As everyone knows, I spent this week teaching at Pleasant Union Christian Church in Lillington, NC. An indication of my involvement is that I stuffed myself on good old home-style cooking every evening!
I spent a lot of time just connecting with people. Today I'm spending time reconnecting with Becky and getting some much needed yard work done. I think the meetings in Lillington went well but I am exhausted. Between teaching all of my classes, attending various meetings on campus, counseling with students, and putting several hundred miles on my car, I've been pushing really hard, so some down time is a happy thing. I de-stress best when I'm doing things I really enjoy such as mowing the yard, blogging, and sipping coffee with Becky on the front porch.
And how is B doing you rightly wonder? She's still moving forward "full steam ahead" with her chemo treatments. The next one resumes on Monday at UNC. I am praising God for His goodness in lots of ways but nowhere more than in His provision of some awfully good health care. It's gotten so that I can take a nap while driving to Chapel Hill; my car goes on auto-pilot it's made the trip so often. Becky continues to work tirelessly on our Ethiopia projects but she also has to monitor her activities so that she doesn't overdo it. It's a very delicate balance to maintain, as you can imagine. As I was teaching on Ephesians 5 and marriage this week in Greek class I was thinking how wonderful it is to have the level of trust and commitment that Becky and I enjoy in our marriage. I know I'm a pathetic egghead for saying this, but I am tired of all those marriage enrichment seminars out there and those colorful gimmicks to "enhance" our marriages. We need to understand that only the love of God can ultimately satisfy our deepest need for unconditional love, and only following His will fulfills our need for significance in this life. I hear so much today about "compatibility" (or the lack thereof) and "meeting my psychological needs." Paul tells us to look out for the needs of others, regarding other people as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4). Marriage can't be "all about me." If we have this attitude, then we will remain faithful to our spouse up to the point of diminishing returns. As long as serving our wives brings us what we want, we will gladly keep our marriage vows. What a godless notion. Have we forgotten that marriage is for better or for worse? I don't suppose that there has ever been a marriage that at some point has not reached a seemingly irredeemable low point. And it's only normal that we should want to be deeply intimate with another human being. The problem is when we allow our relational needs to assume greater priority than simply doing what God wants and tells us to do. I am unconditionally opposed to any line of thinking that undermines the concept of personal responsibility in marriage, but I also oppose the notion that following Christ guarantees a life of satisfying emotions and fulfilling experiences. So you're not "compatible." So what? Love each other any way. I love that line in the movie Rear Window where the wise old lady says to Jimmy Stewart, "For 30 years my husband and I have been two incompatible misfits, and we are still madly in love with each other." Marriages (especially in America) spend a disproportionate amount of effort on seeking self-fulfillment. The average married couple is clueless as to the deepest needs of people all around them. We have a culture of consumerism that puts the focus inwardly on our home, our family, our needs. We need to realize that marriage is not about us. It's about modeling for a lost world what real love, commitment, forgiveness, and dogged persistence look like. As I see it, Christian marriages today have two options. We can echo the actions of the rich young ruler and walk away from Jesus and from our commitments because we're not willing to give up the idols in our lives, or we can respond as the disciples did by leaving everything behind to follow Him in obedience. Let's just love our spouses, accept them, enjoy them for who they are, and especially work together for something bigger than ourselves! Agree or disagree with me, it's something we all need to think deeply about.
The experience in Lillington this week made me think of the beauty of the Body of Christ. There's something radically pleasing when Christians of different denominations can unite around the Word of God and the Great Commission. It still boggles my mind how much I felt right at home with these complete strangers. I've also been thinking how good it was to get reacquainted with my former student Terry Beatty and to meet his lovely bride Emily. They met after Terry had come to Pleasant Union as their new pastor. Emily had already been part of the congregation. I couldn't help but ask Emily a really stupid question: "What was it like dating your pastor?" O, the lavishness of God's grace!
Speaking of brides, I'm planning on "kidnapping" Becky for our anniversary in September. It's been way too long since we've been to Hawaii, where we spent our honeymoon 34 years ago. Shhhh. It's a total surprise for her.
Monday, April 26
3:23 PM Off to speak on one of my favorite topics: global evangelization. Grateful to be a Great Commission Christian. Young people, don't wait as long as I did to get into the Gospel business.
3:20 PM Snake season is most certainly upon us. We found a huge black snake in our chicken house eating our eggs today. That's a no-no. Earlier Nate came upon 2 copperheads near one of our fence lines. Be careful out there.
3:12 PM What I've been up to:
1) I dug into the mulch pile like a madman today trying to get Becky's gardens ready for planting.
2) Et voilà!
3) Also helped Nate load two trailers with Rosewood hay. The trailer on the left (50 bales) goes to Stovall, NC. The one on the right (85 bales) goes to Fuquay.
Nate will deliver both tomorrow. We're almost sold out of our cuttings from last year, which is very good news as we will need all the barn space we can get for this season -- which can't start soon enough as far as I'm concerned!
8:58 AM Time to mulch Becky's garden beds. Love working outdoors.
8:44 AM I love JETS. The latest issue boasts a delightful book review of The Color of Church: A Biblical and Practical Paradigm of Multiracial Churches by Rodney Woo (pp. 201-202). Read it if you can. Woo is (rightly) critical of the so-called homogenous unit principle of the church growth movement. He also thinks we ought to treat seriously any racial or cultural diversity that threatens church unity. That thought strikes home whenever I think about the strife between the Gujis and the Burjis in southern Ethiopia. I'll be talking about that this evening, by the way, as our "revival" continues at Pleasant Union. Tonight is missions night -- more slides than you ever wanted to see, but hopefully one will strike home.
8:37 AM Tom Wright's Wheaton appearance continues to be the talk of the blogs I see, and rightly so. What an author and speaker -- quite apart from the things he says.
He's the man, I believe, every budding theologian should be apprenticed to. The fine art of producing enormous effects with the minimum of obviously visible means has rarely been elevated to such a height. He's the only person on earth, I suppose, who's ever succeeded in making the debate over Paul's view of justification seem interesting. Agree or disagree with him, you would do well to get your hands on everything he's written. Taken in alternate sips with Piper, Wright's works gain in intensity of flavor (or should that be "flavour"?). Plus, the man has a wonderful beard, as do all great men.
8:26 AM It's human nature to employ social labels. We love to put people into our little boxes according to race, social status, level of education, country of origin, etc. -- and the labels on the boxes determine to a great degree how we think about ourselves and how we treat others. Everyone we know generally fits into one of these boxes. Occasionally we place people in the wrong box. I think this is true of people who have a formal education. We assume a particular person has greater knowledge of the Scriptures if he or she has a theological degree from a Bible school or seminary. In fact, some of the most biblically illiterate people I know have degrees in theology. I believe that God wants to transform our social interaction completely. Jesus taught that external labels have so significance in His kingdom. It's not that the title "Dr." Black is inherently sinful. The problem is when we see other people as doctors or students or Republicans or Democrats or home-schoolers or government-schoolers or males or females rather than as siblings in the family of God. This is the upshot of Andy Bowden's latest blog post, which I am very grateful I stumbled upon this morning. On the surface there is probably nothing harmful or positively evil in referring to me as "Dr." Black. The danger is when we allow our titles to keep us from each other. When this happens, the tail of social convention wags the dog of Christian unity.
For what it's worth, I could care less about formal titles. The early church did without them. And they did just fine. Look at the way they called each other by their first names -- Paul, Peter, John, Barnabas. They seemed to truly believe that the kingdom of God is flat. Titles that emphasize status differences are neither necessary nor healthy. Why not just call each other by our first names or -- if an epithet is necessary -- by "brother" or "sister"?
Sunday, April 25
10:33 PM Just pulled into the driveway. Heard many testimonies after both services of how God is at work in people's lives. Praise His name!
Just put 290 miles on the car. Both it and I are feeling it. Till tomorrow....
6:12 AM Off to Lillington, NC to speak at Pleasant Union Christian Church. Services this morning at 10:15 and tonight at 6:00 pm, then Monday through Wednesday at 7:00 pm. Looking forward to meeting up with former student Terry Beatty who shepherds there. Appreciate him and his love for Haiti (from which he just returned). Plus, not everyone can claim to have taken off in an airplane 25 more times than he has landed in one! In case you'd like to pray for our services, here are our message titles and texts:
Sunday am: Jesus and the Age 30 Transition (Luke 3:23)
Sunday pm: Jesus and the Age 12 Transition (Luke 2:42) -- Youth Night
Monday pm: Jesus the Model Missionary (Matt. 9:35-39) -- Missions Emphasis
Tuesday Night: The Greatest Question Ever Asked (John 21:15-17)
Wednesday: The Gospel according to Four Women (Matt. 3:3-6) -- Evangelism Emphasis
For Youth Night I'll be showing a great clip from a movie about coming of age -- The Man from Snowy River. The teen years can and should be our best years, not our worst.
So glad for this opportunity to do some very simple Bible teaching to God's people. May the Edifier do His work. I'll try to give you an update tomorrow.
Saturday, April 24
6:14 PM Alan Knox continues to publish his renderings from the book of Philippians, which takes lots of guts hanging it out there for all to see. His latest contribution is his translation of Phil. 3:7-12, which includes a number of difficult lexemes, including one of my all-time favorites, skubala. What do you think of "unspeakable filth"?
6:08 PM I see that Eric Carpenter has posted his follow-up essay. It's an excellent response. Please take time to read it.
5:32 PM Brief farm update:
1) The fence is done. Finished it at about 2:00. All we have left is to build the gate. Here's Nathan measuring for it. He'll build it himself (as is our normal practice). Then we'll move the angus into the new field, where plentiful orchard grass and fescue await them.
2) I also had time to finish weeding and roto-tilling Becky's raised garden beds today. Next step: provide each with a layer of compost and let them "sleep for a while" -- at least until B is ready to plant. Since we'll be in Africa for 5 weeks this summer she's trying to plan it so that we begin harvesting when we return to the farm.
3) Lastly, Becky and I finally conceded defeat. To our dogs no less.
It was a case of the age-old battle of wits between Dog and Owner. Owner says Dog must stay out of garden and so erects electric wire fence. Dog says it will find a way to outsmart Owner's defenses. Sure enough, our electric fence turned out to be utterly worthless. Those two rascals ambulated whither they wanted. The fence is now down. Owner will build tall slatted fence this time.
Right now a light rain is falling in southern Virginia. B is cooking soup for supper, then I need to finish preparations for the 5 messages I'll be bringing starting tomorrow morning. Calm before the storm. Praying for God to open the good old spigot of heaven.
9:19 AM Watching this story carefully.
8:55 AM Quote of the day:
J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism.
8:51 AM Good morning blogging buds! Not much news here. I've been working on my book called Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. I am projecting a kind of picaresque hybrid of the intellect and emotions -- a mixture between Gilbert and Sullivan and Karl Barth. I have neither the time nor the imagination to deal with such a subject, but it is nonetheless interesting work. Here's a section I penned this morning:
Meanwhile, the sun shines feebly at our latitude, and as a gesture to my status as "patriarch" of Rosewood Estates I hope to make a trash run this morning and then help Nathan finish his fencing project.
Friday, April 23
8:51 PM Nathan drove up with a load of manure just as I was finishing supper. I normally don't like to work on a full stomach but when ya gotta work ya gotta work.
Afterwards we all enjoyed some ice cream in the library and then Nolan played an organ concert for us on the clavinova. I think we called it "Toccata and Fugue in Baby Minor." You can see that he's just as excited about keyboards as his dear old dad and grand pappy are.
One day when he's performing at Carnegie Hall reporters will want to see this here picture, and that's a fact!
6:22 PM Nolan, you're not the only baby who loves to flap his hands and wave his arms.
Just thought you ought to know. Love, Papa B
5:52 PM One of the reasons I oppose the professionalization of pastoral ministry is because I believe that Jesus would have opposed it. He demonstrated that kingdom ministry meant personal interest in other people as demonstrated by intercessory prayer and by deeds of selfless love. He prayed for His disciples on the night He was betrayed, and He constantly showed personal and even sacrificial interest in the well-being of others. His ministry was person-centered. The practical effect of Christ's ministry upon ecclesiology is twofold: All believers are priests by the fact that they are one with Christ, and all believers are ambassadors for Christ because He Himself has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. As Catholic theologian Hans Küng (pictured) puts it in his voluminous work The Church (p. 473):
Thus in earliest Christianity church leaders were almost invariably not supported by the churches to which they belonged. They had daily associations with their fellow believers at their trades and carried on their own mercantile pursuits. Today churches maintain an unnecessary tension between the believer and the hierarchy, as well as within the hierarchy itself. As Lionel Woods puts it in an insightful essay:
It is quite understandable, then, that many students of the Word today are beginning to question the hierarchical models of church leadership they encounter in their denominations and seminaries.
4:50 PM Unless the wind of the Spirit blows, a hurricane of sincere oratory blows in vain.
4:34 PM Eric Carpenter (who is always teachable) reviews the book Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion and raises concerns about its basic premise. I look forward to Eric's follow-up reviews.
4:16 PM Are you teachable?
This was the question I asked myself this week as I read a marvelous little book put together in honor of one of my favorite exegetes, Karl Barth. The book is For the Sake of the World, and the final chapter caught my attention as did no other: "Barth As a Teacher" by John Godsey.
Oh, did the memories flood my mind as I read this chapter! (I had attended the lectures of Bo Reicke and Markus Barth, the son of Karl Barth.) Students at Basel can never forget their professors' lectures -- how the class would eagerly await their arrival, how we would "applaud" by rapping our knuckles on our desks as the professors made their grand entrance, how we would listen with rapt attention as they delivered their brilliant lectures (all of which eventually ended up being published as books or essays -- John Godsey notes that it usually took three semesters of lectures for Karl Barth to produce one volume of his Church Dogmatics), etc., etc. And then there were the seminars. Barth would begin his seminars by asking a student to give a précis of that week's reading, then together they would launch into a sometimes heated discussion. Barth loved his students but he had an eagle eye for prideful sophomores who came off as arrogant know-it-alls. In one seminar, after a student had criticized Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Barth issued the reprimand: "As soon as you have read everything Bonhoeffer has written, then you may criticize him!"
I can always tell when I have a teachable student or a puffed-up braggart. And I most certainly am not averse to pin-pricking balloons and watching them deflate. There is nothing worse than an unteachable person. In fact, one of the requirements to be an elder/pastor is "teachable" (at least that's how we rendered didaktikon in 1 Tim. 3:2 in the ISV; see BDAG for this option). Students, do try to be teachable. This is all the more important if you DO know a lot about your subject. If you are leading the discussion, allow others to ask you questions, to interact with the material; in fact, you might want to ask a few questions yourself. Beware the pride of knowledge. There is nothing uglier, I think.
Are you teachable? Am I?
2:36 PM Acts 20:24 is a phenomenal verse:
This verse perfectly summarizes my goal (and Becky's): To tell everyone everywhere about God's amazing Gospel of grace. It is only the outliving of the in-living Christ that brings glory to God. Everything else belongs in the wastebasket. When Christians in Tertullian's day sold idols and excused themselves by saying, "But we have to make a living," he asked, "Must you live?" Paul said, "For me to live is Christ," period. He must have the first word and the last word in our lives. And when He says "Go," we had better be going.
2:21 PM Nate just made a hay sale here. Then he got a phone call for a large order from Fuquay-Varina. It's been a good day for the Rosewood farmers. Grateful to God.
11:55 AM Taking a break for lunch. We've also got someone coming to look at our hay at noon. I predict another satisfied costumer!
Earlier Lizzy and the boys brought Alpha to visit with his mommy Chloe. That puppy is adorable!
Almost as cute as my little Nolan!
9:32 AM Today Becky is reflecting on trees. You can read her thoughts at the Bethel Hill blog.
9:25 AM Thanking God for sending Rosewood Farm some much needed rain on Tuesday. Today the sun shines brightly and I'm looking forward to working with Nathan on farm projects. We need to finish the new fence, and then he wants to put up a new hay barn with some old logs he salvaged.
Why does Luke 12:18 keep coming to mind?
9:20 AM On Sunday I begin a 4-day "revival" at a church south of Raleigh. I dislike the term, and never use it myself. (I prefer to call it a Bible conference.)
We often make the mistake of considering the deeper Christian life as something occasional and irregular. We therefore require a crisis (revival) to return to normal spiritual health. Frankly, a revival can easily degenerate into an alibi for staying subnormal the rest of the year. The New Testament has little to say about revivals but it has a lot to say about teaching. We must beware of cheap substitutes for biblical truth. Above all, let's remember that the church is not about us. We Christians love to get together and outdazzle one another when we ought to be the light of the world out in the darkness where we are needed. How sad to hold a spectacle when the people in the community all around us continue to die and go to hell. Sorry to be so blunt but I think the average church is clueless as to real purpose of the Body of Christ. Let's be faithful citizens of heaven and do what Jesus has called us to do!
9:15 AM Got this picture yesterday from Nate. It shows Nolan on his front porch surveying his vast kingdom lol!
Grandchildren are such awesome occasions of grace and gratitude. Life. Beauty. Hope. To be honest, I weep whenever I think that we almost lost Nolan. The bottom line is the absolute trustworthiness of our God. He is good and worthy of our trust for our entire lives. So my goal right now is to accept every blessing God sends my way, including every single day that He allows me to enjoy the companionship of Becky.
9:01 AM This week I met with several prospective students on campus. What a joy to talk about the goodness of the Lord at SEBTS! I told them, Don't come here unless you are passionate about the Great Commission. We're all just a bunch of knuckleheads who love Jesus and a lost world. No, our scholarship here isn't bad. In fact, I think we've got some great scholars and writers. But mostly we're about a gory, bloody story, repulsive to the "refined" values of academia. What we teach is foolishness to this age and a scandal to the intellectual. This is the heart of Southeastern. Dead with Christ, we live to tell His Story. Don't come here to "find yourself." Come here to lose yourself. "We lose what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose."
Thursday, April 22
8:36 PM This BBC report about the Gaza Surf Club and their exploits in sewage-ridden water made me smile.
Reminded me of a place I used to surf in Honolulu where the sewer lines emptied into the Pacific. We called it "Flies" (for obvious reasons). Even have an old picture of yours truly taken there back in his surfing days. Skinny dude, eh?
I could also tell you stories about body surfing some pretty big waves in the Mediterranean near Ashkelon back in the 1980s but I'll spare you.
8:06 PM Recovering from a glorious yet exhausting day. Enjoyed each of my 4 chapel sessions at Cresset.
I focused on the glory of the Lord in Alaba. Many Muslims coming to faith in Jesus! (Reports here.) While I was speaking in chapel Becky was buying up all the non-prescription eyeglasses she could find in the city of Durham. We plan on distributing several hundred of them in July. Cresset, by the way, is sending 4 of their own to Ethiopia with us this summer. They will minister in Burji.
For lunch we dined at the restaurant atop this Durham landmark at the gracious invitation of brother Rick of Cresset Baptist Church. God has given him a passion for the nations! I just love 2 hour conversations that are focused on the kingdom.
Tonight the Cresset students are performing The King and I. I hope all goes well. Pastor Jon will be presenting the Gospel at the conclusion of each performance, and I am praying for a good response.
Wednesday, April 21
9:32 PM So, who has been blogging longer than I have? The winner of Monday's contest is none other than Rick Saenz over at the Dry Creek Chronicles. Rick writes:
Now THAT is one nice man. Be sure to visit his blog -- and read his forthcoming reviews. And thank you, Rick, for your example of perseverance.
Also be sure to check out Rick's interviews with the owner-operators of Rosewood Farm in southern Virginia:
9:10 PM Just want everyone to know that I was really and truly born in Hawaii. Queen's Hospital, to be exact. June 9, 1952. I've even got a birth certificate to prove it. In case you were wondering.
8:27 PM Oh, this is good. I mean gooood.
Read The Purpose of Seminary. And then be sure to bookmark Fight the Good Fight.
8:10 PM I rushed home from work today to perform surgery on Becky Lynn. Well, minor surgery, to tell the truth. VERY minor. She got a splinter in her hand yesterday, and she called the good doctor in Wake Forest and left a message on my answering machine that she would need a wee bit of assistance (from a medical EXPERT, that is) removing her thorn in the flesh. The operation, I am pleased to report, was a complete success, though a little painful for the patient. She did so good that the physician of record decided to reward her, not with a mere lollipop, but with a pizza. The Pizza Hut special that is. A large hand-tossed pepperoni for only $6.99. Can't beat that, especially on a country doctor's wages. Got home only to find the sun setting in all her splendor. ("Sun" is a feminine noun, isn't it?)
Then we get this picture from Nate and Jessie who are having dinner at their most-favored seafood restaurant in Henderson, "Nawf Carolina." The place is called "220."
Now if this ain't the most handsomest 10-month old child in the world I don't know who is. Takes after his mama (sorry Nate). Tonight we're just "hanging" after a busy two days of work. Tomorrow I'm speaking 4 times in 4 different chapel services at Cresset Christian Academy in Durham ("Nawf Carolina," that is, not England). Honored to be there.
5:08 PM Stop the presses! Sound the trumpet in Zion! The new Bethel Hill Baptist Church website is up! Here's proof. Check it out and let the webmaster (Becky) know what you think.
4:58 PM Henry Neufeld notes that The Jesus Paradigm is now available for the B & N note ebook reader. Go here if you're interested.
4:52 PM The awesome rewards of teaching: As part of my job I get to encounter students who are passionate about the kingdom and about being servants in that kingdom. It's awesome being around people who don't feel the need to be the "boss" where God plants them. The hallmark of Jesus' kingdom was His willingness to spurn all the perks that were rightfully His. He left everything, and He asks us to do the same (see Luke 5:11, 28). The Christian faith is nothing other than the willingness to follow in Jesus' footsteps, as we will see in Greek class next week when we begin translating 1 John (see 2:6). Can you tell I'm jazzed?
4:44 PM Check out Celucien Joseph's Around the blogs feature for the latest in biblioblogging. This is a super helpful feature and one I hope brother Celucien continues.
4:41 PM In case you're debating whether to take my LXX course in the fall:
Here's a pic of the great scholar himself (note handsome beard):
4:30 PM Here's something I've been thinking about.
I realize that many of my readers are committed to following Jesus and His model for the church, yet we seem to get bogged down in the practical application of biblical truth. What would happen if we went back to square one? What if we recalibrated our thinking so that The Cause of Causes (the Gospel) became the main passion of our lives? If and when we put Jesus first – being His hands and feet in the world, offering even our enemies a warm embrace in His name, being willing to engage in Dangerous Discipleship – don't you think that everything else in terms of church reformation would fall into place? The real problem in our churches is not that we are mired down in traditions. The real tragedy is that we have gotten our eyes off of the world for whom Jesus died. For instance, if we really believed that there are over one billion lost souls in this world who have never even heard about Jesus, then we would automatically begin rethinking how we spent the Lord's money. Do we really need those Sunday School curriculum booklets? The answer is "Yes" if we put our church first. The answer may well be "No" if we consider the needs of the world. Calibrating our church budgets in light of the mandate to evangelize the whole world takes the focus off of ourselves and our comfort and spotlights the crying and dying needs of others. Moreover, a missional focus takes our eyes off of "our" kind – our churches, our denominations, our missionary programs – and unleashes holy havoc across the world as we intentionally adopt a cooperative model of serving King Jesus and building His kingdom of love.
Yeah I know, none of this is news to you. But that's part of the problem. We so easily forget first things and make second things first things. So let's rethink our church structures and priorities, not because someone tells us to, not because "the denomination says so," but because Jesus calls us to radical, scandalous love for the nations! Praise God for the work He is doing in the hearts of His people in North America who are beginning to reach outside of themselves in order to make disciples of the nations. Think about it. When the church acted like this in the days of Acts, the entire culture was changed. The Holy Spirit is a pyro at heart and wants to set us ablaze with the Gospel wherever we go in this world. May God raise up a new generation of passionate and compassionate Jesus followers in our generation. And wherever we go and whatever we do, may we preach The Cause of Causes and its Savior more than we preach anything or anyone else.
4:15 PM Congratulations to Kyle, Brian, Yong, Nathan, Adam, Ronnie, Chris, and Joshua. Each of them received a perfect 110 on their latest Greek exam and thus merited the prestigious and much-sought-after "110 Award" (= a free copy of one of my books). I love it when students rob me blind!
Tuesday, April 20
6:38 AM "What drove Jesus should drive us today." That's my motto for the next couple of days of teaching. You say, "But you're a Greek teacher, Dave!" That's true, but my students are all members of The Cause team. They believe that Luke 19:10 describes their mission, not just Jesus' mission. So, in everything that I do this week on campus -- teaching my Greek classes, mentoring my doctoral students, meeting with people in my office, writing my book chapters -- it'll really be all about implementing The Cause of Christ. I will definitely let you know how it plays out.
By the way, heartiest congratulations to my student Jimmy Cockman on the acceptance of his Ph.D. prospectus! Jimmy will be writing his dissertation on post-conversion faith and cognition with special reference to plant metaphors and dendritic fractals. Jimmy, to paraphrase Oswald Chambers, "Give God the best that He has given you!"
Off to school.
Monday, April 19
9:37 PM Here are a few pix just for fun. They were taken 30 years ago. Actually, I do have a reason for posting them. Becky and I had invited the Jost (pronounced "Yosht") family out to a Chinese restaurant in Basel. The Josts attended die Baptistengemeinde Basel along with us.
Now keep in mind that Becky knew not one word of German before we moved to Switzerland in 1980. Not one! But lookie here -- not only is she holding her own, but she's the life of the party.
What was her "secret method"? I call it (the good Baptist that I am) the "immersion" technique. Sink or swim. We avoided the American ghetto like the plague and so Becky had to speak German all the time we were there.
I tell you, she did a splendid job. She was helped by a dear lady in our church family who tutored her once a week -- for free! In no time at all -- I'd say in about 3 months -- Becky could hold an intelligent conversation in German. Even today, when we want to keep secrets from others in our presence, we will converse in that language. So, my dear doctoral students, it can be done. In fact, it must be done. I know of no excuse that would allow a doctoral student not to have a fluent reading knowledge of German by the time he or she graduates. None!
P.S. Incidentally, this was the first time the Josts had eaten Chinese food. That cuisine is not too popular in Basel, needless to say. I did a typically Hawaiian thing and asked everybody to use chopsticks during the meal. Hilarious!
P.P.S. In Ethiopia Becky will often be conversing in Amharic when all of a sudden a German word or two appears out of nowhere in the conversation. Bec is usually completely oblivious to what is happening until I tell her. Hilarious again! That happened to yours truly just tonight in the Mexican restaurant when I was asked if I wanted the bill and I replied, "Ishee"! (That's Amharic.) Aren't languages funny? Aren't people funny?
8:51 PM Jessie just sent us this pic via email, with the caption, "I come from the land down under." G'Day, Nolan!
7:56 PM Andy Bowden, my assistant and Th.M. student, is in deep trouble. Somebody pleeease go and help him out!
7:50 PM Some really great news. Becky's bone pain level is ZERO! It's just not there. She feels and looks great, so much so that she was able to get outdoors today. So much so that she said "Yes!" when I invited her out to dinner tonight. So much so that right now she is packing some of our ministry suitcases for the July trip. Ain't that somethin'? Ain't our God somethin'!!!
3:42 PM Arthur Sido contributes yet another helpful essay to the discussion about what the church is -- or ought to be. In Assuming the church Arthur argues that:
To me any church that lives only on the traditions of the past is doomed to stultify. Perhaps criticisms of the church such as those being offered by Arthur can jar your church out of its complacency. They sure get me to thinking!
3:20 PM Ouch! Need to get de-ticked.
3:08 PM Thanks to our trusty farm awl we got the cedar posts in today and thus finished up another section of our new fencing.
We are now on somewhat of a hiatus. Nate has gone off to help a neighboring farmer seed and fertilize his fields. Just like the old days, when everybody helped everybody else. I love this aspect of country living. Of course, there ain't too many farmers left in our area, just Nathan and the old timers.
Earlier today Nate and I spread a trailer load of skubala. I have never worked harder in my entire life. The load came from a new client of ours who decided to pack the load down so that the trailer has 3 times the amount of manure on it as normal, even though the height of the load was normal. It was the mass that killed us. I've thought about complaining to the FSC (Federal Skubala Commission) but what good would that do? They'd probably just say, "Count it all joy!"
12:54 PM Here's another contest for you:
Who has been blogging longer than I have?
I began my blog on November 13, 2003. Can you beat that? Contest closes at 9:00 am tomorrow morning (Eastern Time). The prize to the "oldest blogger" who writes in is a copy of either Christian Archy, The Jesus Paradigm, Rethinking the Synoptic Problem, Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, or Using New Testament Greek in Ministry. You decide. The only catch is that I will expect you to mention the book on your blog. You can even review it if you like!
9:30 AM I see that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs has a very bad feeling about Iran. I am always appalled when I hear people prattling away of "police action" and the like when in fact they mean high explosives and thermo-nuclear warheads. The prospects in the Middle East look to me worse than ever. Meanwhile everything goes on as normal waiting until it is too late to make something constructive happen. What an appalling reminder of the lesson of the Sibylline legend: less and less for a higher and higher price until the price is infinite.
9:23 AM I am suffering agony at the moment over the refusal of my right elbow to cooperate and get with the program. I'm afraid the beastly thing will take longer than I had hoped to repair itself. All I can do is pound nails and spread manure with a bit less energy than I am used to.
9:18 AM Someone asked me recently what I thought of a certain foreign language method on DVD. You know, the one that is being touted in all the airport terminals these days. For what it's worth I'll offer my opinion, having once sampled the program at the Dulles airport. The sales pitch affirmed that no study, no practice, no hard work was necessary for the course. Others may sweat and toil at language learning, but you will master the course almost in your sleep.
I know better. Every language I've learned has come to me through old-fashioned blood, sweat, and tears. No exceptions. If you're struggling to learn a language, there is no quick fix. Sorry. It doesn't exist. But if you were to give more time and study and effort to the language, you would master it in a reasonable amount of time. Guaranteed!
Notice I said time, study, and effort.
7:35 AM There can be no Great Commission resurgence without a spiritual awakening in our churches first. If you're interested in some books that sparked a spiritual and intellectual reawakening in America in the recent past, be sure to read the works of Elton Trueblood, formerly a professor at Earlham College in Indiana.
Your Other Vocation was published in 1952, and Incendiary Fellowship in 1967. Trueblood's goal was to spark a revival among God's people right where they were, every day of the week. This, by the way, is not a new melody. The musical score was given by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 and Hebrews 10.
7:30 AM Don't forget that this Wednesday is Secretary's Day. I am blessed to have a wonderful administrative assistant at the seminary. She's an amazing worker and a blessing from the Lord. Looking forward to giving honor where honor is due this week.
7:14 AM For my fellow air travelers:
7:04 AM FYI: Eisenbrauns is offering my Scribes and Scripture: New Testament Essays in Honor of J. Harold Greenlee for a discounted price. The volume contains essays by Gordon Fee, F. F. Bruce (pictured), Bruce Metzger, Moises Silva, and others.
Incidentally, at the Eisenbrauns site you'll notice a positive review of the book by a certain "Burt" Ehrman. For a sneak peak at F. F. Bruce's essay "Textual Problems in the Epistle to the Hebrews," go here (.pdf).
Sunday, April 18
9:54 PM Looking at the photo below of our dinner table reminded me of the rules of etiquette we have had for a long time. Every family has their own I suppose. Here are a few of ours. As you can probably guess, most of these "rules" exist to honor the lady of the house.
1) Women are always seated before men.
2) Everyone is served before all can eat.
3) No one eats until the lady of the house says "Enjoy!"
4) Everyone is expected to take a portion of every dish. If you don't like something you must still take a "thank you" serving to show your appreciation.
5) Plates must be cleaned, dessert or no dessert.
6) No one leaves the table until they are excused.
Do we sometimes "break" these rules? Of course we do. But normally we try to observe them as a courtesy to each other.
What's the mealtime etiquette like in your family?
9:42 PM Allan Bevere, my esteemed co-editor of the Areopagus series, has just published his sermon on John 21:1-19. You can listen to it here.
9:33 PM Eric Carpenter's latest post called Wreakreational Dating is well worth your time. Plus, I just love neologisms.
9:22 PM Here's another post-conference report from someone who was there. The Wheaton conference with Tom Wright, I mean. Thanks, Michael. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments.
8:56 PM Had a wonderful surprise this afternoon. Matt and Liz brought over some lasagna for supper and we spent a wild evening together taking walks on the farm and just being family. Here Mama B is about to say the magic word that empowers everyone to begin eating: "Enjoy!"
And that Nolan. He is growin' up way too fast. He'll be walking before you know it.
In fact, he already is, with a little help from his Papa B.
Micah and Nolan having a deep conversation on the front porch.
The boys picked out their new puppy today. Here's the little guy they selected. They've named him Alpha. I suppose that means they can have 23 other pets (Beta to Omega).
The "girls." Ain't they sweeeeet?
Bye-bye Alpha! Enjoy your new home!
2:54 PM Guess what? I've been grounded. Becky says no manual labor for me today. Seems I've got a bad case of tennis elbow. No, I haven't been playing any tennis, but 6 hours of repetitive motion with the paint brush, plus 3 hours of nailing staples to fence posts, did my right elbow in. So I'm out for the duration -- of today. Which means that I have an official excuse to do what comes all-too naturally for the Hawaiian beach bum in me. Loaf.
Now, which book shall I read...?
2:37 PM Just back from the Blacks' farm. Loved this new sign they got at a thrift store:
Nolan sure enjoys being outdoors. Here he is with his mommy:
And with his daddy:
Want to hear somethin' funny? Nate and Jess were at a fast food place in Henderson the other night when they were greeted by one of my students. I asked Nate, "How in the world did he know who you were?" "The blog," Nate replied.
1:24 PM If you've been reading the news lately you know that federal elections are to be held in Ethiopia sometime in May. Our Burji team leaves for Ethiopia on June 30th. In between, the State Department has issued a travel advisory to U.S. citizens who are planning on being in-country before July 1.
Becky and I want to be prudent without being fearful. The fact is that nobody really knows what will happen this summer in Ethiopia. Becky and I were in Addis Ababa 5 years ago during the last national election when there was a great deal of unrest and some bloodshed. This year the opposition seems to be much quieter than it was in 2005. Personally, I do not anticipate any violent disruptions of civil order this summer. Unless the U.S. State Department prohibits us from going, our trip is on as scheduled. The one area that everyone is saying will definitely be affected is in communications, and I predict that Internet availability will be even more uncertain than it is now. Still, we are used to going without when it comes to email.
On a much larger scale, I want to remind everyone that deciding to follow Jesus is not a matter to be taken up after all one's ifs and buts and reservations have been attended to first. No one enters the kingdom of heaven with their feet pointing one way and their face the other. Jesus had much to say about would-be followers who boasted, "Lord, I will follow you, but..." (Luke 9:61). The Bible tells us that Jesus set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). Many Christians today are steadfastly going nowhere. I do not know what the future holds for us in Ethiopia, but one thing I do know:
As our prayer partners, I will try to keep you fully abreast of the latest news from Ethiopia. In the meantime, let us pray, as we are commanded to, "for rulers and for all who have authority. Pray for these people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life lived in a godly and reverent way" (1 Tim. 2:2).
Praying for the peace of Ethiopia,
8:22 AM How would you like to join us in praying for the Alaba evangelists? Becky had an opportunity to interview several of them during our recent trip to Ethiopia. She has written summarizes of each of them. Today we begin with:
Here's Becky's report:
Your prayers for Shifaraw and his family are greatly appreciated. He is a real Epaphroditus to us -- willing to give his very life if necessary for the sake of the Gospel.
7:57 AM The Great Commission is the church's marching orders. Period. It sums up the mission of every individual follower of Jesus and every believing family and every church and every Christian organization. It even sums up our marriages. The first task of every Christian is to extend the kingdom of Christ among every people group in the world. Everything else must be subordinate to that purpose. Did you notice that I included marriage in the equation?
What this means for Becky and me is that every activity, every effort, every project we do is to be evaluated in terms of how they contribute to the ultimate mission of the church -- world evangelization. Is that true of your marriage? For more, go here.
This photo was taken over a year ago. It shows us in our pre-malaria, pre-cancer existence. So much has happened in our lives in just one year. Yet I can say without any hesitation that Becky and I are more committed than ever to living every day for the kingdom. Our motto has become: "Expect troubles as being usual; accept them as being usable. They open a gateway to the grace of God."
7:22 AM You gotta love Alan Knox's latest translation from the book of Philippians (3:1-6). It's a phenomenal passage and Paul's "Declaration of Independence" from all that had held him back from following Jesus. Can't you just hear Paul's friends saying, "Have you heard about old Saul of Tarsus? Poor guy. He got off to such a great start. He was a brilliant scholar. Even studied under Gamaliel himself. Then one day on the road to Damascus he gets sunstroke and he's been a religious fanatic ever since. Look at him now -- in and out of jail all the time. And to think what he could have been!" In my Greek New Testament at this point I have written these words:
Not at all! Paul was a "have it all" who gladly surrendered everything to Jesus. Discipleship cost Paul everything he had. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT.
What has following Jesus cost me? What do my students see when they look at my life? Do they see someone who writes the score and expects God to play it? Or do they see someone who is guided by a Higher Power?
7:12 AM Have you ever had someone disappoint you in ministry?
On our recent rip to Ethiopia Becky and I experienced the blessings of the Lord one after the other. But there was one major disappointment we encountered. God used it to teach us an important lesson about ministry. The experience was also a reminder to us that things do not always turn out uniformly. People sometimes fail to keep their word. The apostle Paul had his disappointments. Some of his friends even deserted him. Actually, I am somewhat relieved that ministry is never one unbroken record of success lest I become proud and self-sufficient. Any building project involves some dust and confusion. My uncle worked in the steel industry in Youngstown, Ohio. Today the great steel mills are idle. I can imagine the good people of the city saying, "We'd welcome a little grime and soot again."
I'm not a perfectionist. God's servants have always persevered through the discouraging and the unlovely. Ministry stirs up grime and soot, but better that than idleness.
Saturday, April 17
8:34 PM This evening I took my sweetie pie for a long country drive. Did her - and me -- a world of good. The countryside is so beautiful during this time of the year. We stopped at our favorite country restaurant and got us some flounder, then visited with a good friend and neighbor of ours who is in rehab having recently suffered a stroke. Carl lives 3 farms away from us and has been farming for 7 decades. He helped us cut our eye teeth when we moved into the area 10 years ago and has been a farming buddy ever since. Carl is a wonderful Christian gentleman. We think the world of him and his wife Myrtle. This year they will have been married for 64 years. As Carl put it to us, "We've had lots of good times, and some tough times, but you can make it if you want to. After all these years we still love each other."
If you want to.
Those words haunt me. I know of a precious couple who are in the process of splitting. They've concluded that their marriage is too far gone to be salvaged. That may be true, humanly speaking. But marriage between two believers is more than a human reality. I have to wonder: "If you want to." One thing is certain: They will be no happier in a second marriage, or a third. As Carl said, there will be good times, and there will be bad times. That's reality.
As Becky and I talked about Carl and Myrtle on the drive home, we had a good laugh when we realized that we've been married for "only" 34 years (come this September). Carl and Myrtle's marriage make us look like spring chickens. Everything is relative, I guess. "After all these years we still love each other." It's true of Bec and me. I hope it's true of you too. It can be if it isn't. God is the glue that holds a married couple together. And He loves to heal broken marriages. In fact, He specializes in things thought "impossible."
Thank God for marriages that have stuck it out for 64 years. Chalk it up to God's amazing grace.
1:08 PM My colleague Alvin Reid discusses his weight loss program and says -- it works! If you've ever struggled with extra pounds (and who hasn't?), give his essay a read.
12:53 PM Eric Carpenter assesses the recent Together for the Gospel Conference:
This is an astute observation, Eric. Today we are accustomed to merely assuming what the church is without ever thinking about our ecclesiology. This cannot be healthy. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes about putting away childish things when we become adults. As Christians, of course, we are limited by earthly conditions, but woe on us if our limitations are of our own making.
12:37 PM Guess what? We've been so efficient that we've run out of woven wire. I kid you not. This is as far as we got today.
Nate and Jess have gone off to the big town of Henderson, NC, to get some more wire and to run errands, so we may have to return to this job tomorrow or Monday. This afternoon I plan to work on the syllabus for my Ph.D. seminar on linguistics this fall, plus get some more reading done in Hebrews. Right now Becky is sound asleep.
11:34 AM Our work is going gangbusters. I love working outdoors with Nate. I told him, "Sure glad I'm doing this and not sitting in an airport somewhere in Europe right now."
We had just unrolled this woven wire when I said, "I'm famished. Let's get a bite to eat before continuing."
Just so happened that Becky had lunch waiting for us -- macaroni and cheese along with a fresh salad. While the men worked the ladies visited, along with Nolie Polie. I tell you, that boy is photogenic!
9:42 AM It's up! Read A Home for Melesse.
Off to work on the fencing with the boss man.
9:04 AM Becky has written a powerful new essay called "A Home for Melesse." It's about one of our evangelists who is ministering among the Muslims of Alaba. I need to edit it and add pictures, but rumor has it that the farm manager is looking for me to help him put up fencing today, so you might have to wait until later today or tomorrow to read Becky's piece. I assure: it will be worth the wait.
And Becky, you ask? Her pain ebbs and flows -- it's up to around a 7 in the evening then it subsides to a 3 in the morning. She can walk but she is very unsteady on her feet. I'm asking the Lord Jesus to please keep her from falling. I think she'll mostly stay in bed today.
Thanks for asking!
8:57 AM I'm reading a really excellent book on reaching Muslims for Christ. It's called Fresh Vision for the Muslim World. In light of the ongoing controversy over the qualifications of a so-called Muslim expert in evangelical circles, it is refreshing to report that author Mike Kuhn is exceptionally well-qualified to write a book on Islam.
His long-term immersion in Islamic culture and his fluency in Arabic are matched only by his obvious love for Muslims. I've especially enjoyed reading the vignettes of real people who, having grown up as Muslims, are now following King Jesus. Mike's advice in this book is to "beware of slogans, sound bites, and bandwagons." I am challenged by this outstanding treatise to do more that I've done in the past to incarnate the kingdom of Jesus among Muslims where I live and abroad. I believe that 2 Cor. 5:14-21 teaches that we are Christ's ambassadors to the lost all around us. He has given us the ministry of reconciling others back to God. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to begin prioritizing the Great Commission and integrate it into the rest of my life. I want to be willing to let my life be broken and smashed in order for the radiance of the Gospel to break out!
8:50 AM Our thanks to the ladies who have volunteered to sew eyeglass cases for us. Already several hundred have been sewn. Isn't God good?
8:38 AM Becky, as everyone knows, is a great seamstress. Sewing is a dying art these days, but not at Bradford Hall. I enjoy watching B as she gets out a pattern, cuts out her material, then sews a brand new dress.
Consider the spiritual application. Today we have many Old Testament patterns in our churches. Whenever we hear of "holy" men performing "holy" functions in "holy" buildings, it's likely that we have a throwback to Old Testament patterns of worship. The New Covenant can be likened to a whole new article of clothing. When Becky sews a new dress, the pattern she uses is of great value to her. In fact, it's indispensable. It is that pattern that gives shape to the garment. The Old Testament worship was that pattern. However, once the garment is complete, the pattern is of no further use. It has simultaneously fulfilled its purpose and lost its purpose. Why, if the garment is ready, would anyone want to wear the pattern?
This is essentially the argument of my favorite New Testament letter, the epistle to the Hebrews. Jesus Christ is the garment of which the Old Testament priesthood was the pattern. Hopefully, this broadening of our understanding of God's purposes in the New Covenant will help us gain fresh vision for what we do as God's New Covenant people. Let us not forget that the pressing need of the world is to see the manifestation of the kingdom of Jesus in all of His people, not just a select few. Each of us is to serve King Jesus as His fulltime ministers. We must get out of the ownership business and into the stewardship business. We must become like a bank manager who handles millions and millions of dollars but has no right to use any of that money for himself. We must realize that we are all fulltime priests of the Most High God. Our life, and everything in it, small and great, is no longer ours. It was purchased by the blood of Christ.
Moreover, once we realize that we have only one King and we're all building only one kingdom, we should be able to partner with our brothers and sisters all around this shrinking globe of ours. There is no other way to reach a world that has a population of over 6 billion souls!
7:03 AM This ABC News clip about Bruce Waltke is proof of how "fair and balanced" our media are. We are told the debate is between "Creationism" and "Evolution." Why not the more accurate and balanced "Evolutionism"? On the other hand, I loved this completely accurate and scientific study on The Trustworthiness of Beards:
On campus, the Moses generation all have beards, while the Joshua generation think they can get away with mere goatees. Oh well; they'll grow up one day.
Friday, April 16
5:34 PM Am re-reading the Greek text of Hebrews in preparation for my class on that epistle in the fall. In his typically breathless style, the author connects one idea with another with bewildering speed. The book is so rich and diverse in its descriptions of Christ it's leaving me breathless. (Or maybe I'm out of breath because of all the physical labor I did today!) The new emphasis in Hebrews is not on the building but on the people. They form the church. In this church the sacrifices are offered by all, not a select few. And finally, these sacrifices are not animals but spiritual sacrifices, beginning with praise and thanksgiving. Sixteenth century author George Herbert penned this prayer:
Finally, we are to "do good and share." What an awesome thought: Christ has no hands but my hands today!
Back to this wonderfully rich book. I'm in chapter 13, which sounds awfully Pauline if you ask me.
5:12 PM Praise God. Got 45 boards primed. Tongue-and-groove boards are always slower than normal ones.
11:13 AM I've got good news and I've got good news. The good news is that Becky's pain subsided overnight and she is doing much better in that department. She is very tired though (as is to be expected) and has gone back to bed again. I'm hoping and praying she gets a good long rest. Furthermore, the good news is that the Lord gave us a perfect day here in the Virginia Piedmont for working outdoors. The project du jour is to finish priming about 400 floor boards for our front porch, whose rotted lumber has long been the subject of discussion on this blog.
This is the third time we've replaced our front porch flooring -- and it had better be the last time for a good long while.
While I was priming I got a call from Nate to help him load some hay and I jumped at the opportunity to give him a hand.
Here's the load -- 120 bales in all -- headed for South Boston today to make some horses real happy.
Of course, Joe Cool himself supervised the whole thing. Can't wait till he's big enough to toss a few bales around himself. Won't that be fun!!??
Back to work....
6:58 AM Thomas Roten, who won our "name the sites in Hawaii" contest, reviews the book he won as a prize: New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. Thanks, Thomas!
6:53 AM Allan Bevere's The Character of Our Discontent is now available for preorder at Amazon. From the product description:
An Old Testament-neglecting Christian is a contradiction in terms.
6:45 AM Looking for a Sheltie? Look no more. Mr. Nolan Black has several for sale. For pictures, prices, and descriptions, you're only a click away.
6:37 AM Ethiopia, where electricity is always highly unreliable, introduces its first electric car. This is not a joke. Read the BBC story here.
6:30 AM "Halftime at the dog show." Sent to me by my father-in-law, the world's ultimate dog lover.
6:22 AM Follow Nijay Gupta as he blogs at the Wheaton Theology Conference this week. The big question is: Will he come away with as many free books as did Eric Carpenter at the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville?
Thursday, April 15
8:51 PM I love brother Lionel's passion for the church and especially for Jesus, and nowhere is this passion more noticeable than in his latest post called Is There One Blueprint for the Church? When Jacob met God again at Bethel after wandering at Shechem, he learned an important lesson: God is more important than any place (see Gen. 35:7). Notice that Bethel (House of God) had become El-Bethel (The God of the House of God)! This is what Lionel is saying has happened in his own life, if I understand him correctly. Many a Christian has undergone a similar transformation. Our experience begins with a hallowed spot (Bethel = a certain doctrine or belief about the church) and moves to a still deeper consecration (El-Bethel) when God becomes more important than the place or the experience. Does that make any sense?
Church of Jesus Christ, we need a mighty movement of God from Bethel to El-Bethel, to God Himself!
8:22 PM Prayer request: Becky's pain level has been steadily increasing. It now stands at a 6 (on a 10-point scale). She is having difficulty walking. I just put her to bed. Please pray with me that she sleeps well and that her pain meds work. Thank you and God bless you for your love for us and for your faithful intercession for Becky.
5:56 PM I suppose there are many lessons to be learned from Bruce Waltke's resignation, but I am reminded of the truth that the Bible is at times a very difficult book to interpret. I'm sure Old Testament scholars would be the first to agree.
The keenest intellects among us have spent a lifetime with the Bible only to confess barely touching the surface of its treasures. My own approach? Take the Book for what it claims to be (the inspired Word of God), then rest my weary soul upon its teachings. True, there are many of its truths I will never fully understand this side of heaven, but I don't deny myself a good filet of fish because I may be stuck temporarily on one of its bones.
5:48 PM We need to be careful, I think, when we ask God to glorify Himself through us. Why? Because sometimes He chooses unusual ways to bring glory to Himself. Lazarus was sick for the glory of God (John 11:4), and Peter's was death was to glorify God (John 21:19). Bringing glory to God cost John the Baptizer his head. Really, I think it is incidental whether we are healthy or sick, whether we eat and drink or go without. Our business is to glorify God -- period!
That's why I'm sacred to death to pray, sincerely and without any mental reservations, "Lord, glorify Yourself through me." But pray it I must. In fact, I just did.
5:32 PM When I was studying the early church fathers for my book Why Four Gospels? I asked a leading scholar in the field, "How do you know you have the right translation?" His reply was, "I've translated them myself!" He had translated the church fathers for himself from the Greek and Latin. That is the best translation of all. I say this to remind my Greek students that no translation is quite as effective as the I-did-it-myself edition. Of course, some of these translations are very incomplete. Many are mere parodies of the text. But we will never improve our language skills until we do the work of translation for ourselves. Yes, I know it takes time, and lots of it. But it must be done. The average language student is flabby for lack of such exercise.
How's your Greek? Do you work at it? Have you had your exercise today?
2:33 PM There's a good discussion at Jon Glass's blog on what a 1 Corinthians 14-style meeting should look like. I encourage you to join in the discussion. One of the most joyful elements of following Jesus is the relief it brings from slavish adherence to manmade traditions. What a change from the yokes we fashion for ourselves, which are almost always tiresome and difficult to bear. At the same time, change never comes easily, and we must make a conscious choice to think biblically and act lovingly whenever reform is called for. I appreciate the spirit of both Jon and Alan in their interchange and believe that such interaction is healthy for the Body of Christ.
2:20 PM I just prayed for lost friends. Prayer is a cosmic struggle to win them for Christ!
2:16 PM In a recent blog post Alan Knox offers a refreshing view of Christian unity as a "first tier" doctrine and gives an uncompromising call to live a life of unity even with brothers and sisters with whom we might disagree. His post is called Unity a 'first tier' doctrine? Here's a sampler:
Unity is described in many ways in the New Testament, but never more dramatically than when we are told that we are all members of one and the same body. Only by understanding this metaphor will we get a biblical picture of our true state "in Christ" and of the greatness and glory of our salvation.
The message, surely, is loud and clear.
1:51 PM Felicitations, salutations, and lugubriations to "Master Pastor" Mark Turner for being the first blogger to select John Albert Broadus as the scholar pictured below. He will receive his very own copy of The Jesus Paradigm just as soon as I get his snailmail address.
For more on the life and ministry of J. A. Broadus, go here.
8:25 AM In case you're interested in acquiring a copy of my now out-of-print The Myth of Adolescence, EBay is offering a copy for a mere $100. There is a better way, however. Go here for more information.
8:02 AM Oh, this is SO good. I found it over at the Theological German blog. Amen!
7:48 AM Just prayed for all of my students who are attending the Together for the Gospel Conference this week in Louisville.
7:34 AM I appreciated this thoughtful response to my comments about the so-called debate between Ehrman and Evans:
7:28 AM I snapped this picture not 5 minutes ago while walking the dogs. It shows the fog rising from our pond. Simply beautiful.
6:55 AM It's contest time! A free copy of The Jesus Paradigm to the first blogger to name this famous Greek scholar and Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Homiletics:
6:38 AM I am painfully aware that it is impossible to put into words the wonderful miracles that God allowed to take place on our last trip to Ethiopia. We witnessed His sovereign hand at work hourly, and that is not an exaggeration. Becky has tried to capture some of our experiences in her latest essay, which is really a series of vignettes on the theme of God's providential activity. Her essay is called Show-Casing the Sovereignty of Our God: Examples from Our Recent Trip to Ethiopia. It is my hope and prayer that it will bless you as much as it did me when I read it.
5:52 AM "Imagine the vanity of thinking your enemy can do you more harm than your enmity." Augustine.
5:45 AM Up early. Can't sleep. A good time to pray for my students as they are poised to begin translating the book of 1 John. It's been a long and difficult road to get to this point, but I have found -- and I hope this is an encouragement to you -- that the difficulty grows less as one persists. After a few months of study one is able to keep the mind directed, focused, and single-pointed more easily than at the beginning. Of course, it is good to keep the ultimate goal of our studies in mind: mutual edification. Someone who has mastery over means without knowing what ends to use them for, or who knows only selfish ends, is a dangerous character. Conversely, someone who knows the best ends, but lacks the means to realize them, isn't much use to anyone. Students, try to keep this in mind as we begin the difficult but richly rewarding study of the biblical text.
Wednesday, April 14
9:15 PM Dr. Rick Hodes, an American doctor who works among Ethiopia's children, appeared this morning on Good Morning America. For the story, go here.
8:41 PM I'm an archaeologist. Today I couldn't find a student's quiz. The student assured me that the quiz had been turned in to me. I finally found it -- in a large stack of papers on my desk. I guess it was around the Roman or Iron Age level. Which makes me an archeologist.
8:28 PM Have you noticed? Jesus' kingdom is wonderfully designed to infiltrate the many cultures of our world. And Jesus can use any number of (unusual) means to show people how much He loves them, including eyeglasses.
Tonight Becky is putting our nonprescription glasses in their cases and then packing them away in shoe boxes.
These glasses will be distributed by our teams in both Burji and Alaba this July. This simple act of love will, I believe, open windows for the Gospel.
If you'd like to help, Becky tells me that she still needs cloth eyeglass cases. Write us for simple instructions on how to make them.
P.S. Becky is doing great after Monday's chemo. Very little pain or discomfort. I'm convinced it's due to the prayers of God's people. Please keep it up.
8:10 PM Once again, Arthur Sido challenges the sacred cows of American evangelicalism. Read his latest post called Church Supplies? and you'll see what I mean. A snippet:
Arthur writes in the prophetic mold and refuses to tickle our ears. Dare to read his blog and be challenged and -- maybe -- even changed.
8:05 PM Rather than sending out missionaries, in many countries we can and should partner with churches and national Christians who are laboring for the kingdom. But this will never happen if we insist on carrying out only "our" ministry in their part of the world. In Burji, Becky and I work with the local church elders.
In my opinion, this is how missions should operate in many nations of the world. In Ethiopia, B and I have the privilege of sharing in the harvest. This philosophy of ministry allows us to participate in the forward momentum of Christ's kingdom without having to relocate to Ethiopia. Not long ago a student came up to me and announced, with great excitement, "This year our church is planting churches in Turkey and China!" My response may have shocked him but it is true. I said, "Did you know that there are already churches in Turkey and China?" I find it incredible how few of our churches are partnering with local churches in other nations to help them do the work of church planting. In a word, we must be more excited and convinced about the reign of Jesus in all nations and among all peoples than we are about our own missions strategies and programs. Missions must be cooperative if we are to reach the nations of the world!
7:05 PM Quote of the day (David Platt):
6:57 PM Mike Rudolph, one of my Ph.D. students, showed me this wonderful German-English diglot today during our mentorship.
He loves it. I can't think of a better way to master theological German than to read the Scriptures. The English version is the ESV. The Amazon link is here.
5:56 PM I watched Ehrman versus Evans today. I've got to hand it to Bart: He's as quick on the draw as his exegetical predecessors on the left.
Wouldn't it be nice if scholars simply talked about their presuppositions and left the matter there? Forever the naïf, I gasped at the credulity of both speakers. Did either of them really think they could convince the other side?
Onward, then, with the quest for the historical Jesus! But please do acknowledge that your presuppositions will color everything you end up believing.
5:49 PM This is Global Missions Week on campus and an exciting time to be at Southeastern. In chapel we've had messages from David Platt (photo) and Jerry Rankin, and tomorrow Ed Stetzer will speak.
I've also invited a missionary to present the challenge of global missions to my Greek students in each of my classes. Missions has become a highly professionalized and specialized field of study, and our own faculty can claim some of the world's leading missions and evangelism professors (including our resident snake-handler, Alvin Reid).
I have noticed, alongside this movement of professional missionaries, a growing call today to return to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. A significant fact in the modern church is that it is becoming in various degrees a "people’s church." Believers are not satisfied to be mere supporters of global missions. They are beginning to see themselves as part of Christ's missionary force in the world. They have the same spirit that activated the early Christians who planted the church in Antioch. The call today is, "Every member a missionary!" The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is an assertion that God's redemptive activity in the world is to be proclaimed in and through the lives of all believers. This doctrine, I believe, is a positive, comprehensive, and unifying principle that springs directly from the New Testament concept of "church." The Gospel is not merely to be believed – it is to be passed on by living conveyers of the love of Jesus. It is unmistakably clear that missions in the New Testament is not to be consigned to specially called ordinands but describes all Christians in their role as priests.
I say a hearty "Amen!" to all that God is doing through our various missions agencies. At the same time, I want my students to know that all of them are called to serve the kingdom through fulfilling the Gospel mandate of Jesus. I believe it is high time that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers be taken out of the slogan category and established as an essential and determinative element in the missiology of the church. Students, what this means is that each of you needs to see yourself as part of Christ’s working force in today's world to reach the billions of lost souls out there. You say, "But I'm not a trained missionary." The believers in the book of Acts were woefully unsophisticated by modern standards, yet never before or since has a generation of Christians so moved the world that their enemies could say of them, "These people have turned the world upside down!" I believe the current generation of students has the stupendous task of engaging in global missions personally. Christ needs His full task force in the field, not just a few professional missionaries, if the Great Commission is to be carried out in our generation.
Meanwhile, it is positively perilous for us to listen to outstanding missionary speakers like David Platt and Jerry Rankin unless accompanying it all is an outlet for our own commitment to the Great Commission. Let us do the work to which God has called each of us and live each day as though it were our last!
5:24 PM This alert arrived in my inbox today:
Which is to say that we live in a very sinful world and that politics provides for us no certainties whatsoever. In the words of Ambrose Redmoon, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."
Monday, April 12
9:50 PM Whew -- what a day! I left the house at 6:30 this morning and returned at 8:30 pm after getting B's prescriptions filled. Too tired to blog except to say that Becky's 7-hour chemo marathon went without a hitch and afterwards we were able to find a bunch of free shoe boxes at the Shoe Department in Durham's New Hope Commons. We need them to package our eyeglasses for Ethiopia in, and the price was right. I wouldn't mind it at all if this post sends some business their way. They were very excited about our ministry and went out of their way to help. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
6:19 AM I am so grateful for the excellent health care we've received at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. First Jessie, then me, and now Becky have been the recipients of state-of-the-art medicine, and all within only a one and a half hour drive from the farm. This morning at 8:00 am Becky resumes her chemotherapy treatments there -- her final series, Lord willing. I am asking the Lord to minimize if not remove the painful side-effects that are expected. He did this the last time B had chemo and it made recovery so much easier for her. Becky also has a follow-up appointment with the podiatrist to examine her broken toe, which held up quite well in Ethiopia despite all the walking she did. She is one trooper, that gal is.
Sunday, April 11
8:32 PM To our good friends at Amelia Baptist Church -- thank you so much for taking all that trouble to host us today. We thoroughly enjoyed fellowshipping with you over breakfast, during the Sunday School hour, in the morning service, and during the covered dish meal that followed. Altogether it was a splendid day -- and a very full one at that. I logged 275 miles on my odometer and we got back to the farm a good 10 and a half hours after we left it this morning. We were thrilled to share with you stories about God's kingdom in Ethiopia, which is "Good News" as compared with all the bad news of which our unhappy world is now getting such an overdose. Now you can see how your investment in the Burji ambulance has paid dividends for all of eternity! By all means please continue to pray for Becky and me as we prepare for our July trip, which is only 2 and a half months away. (Is that possible!) The work is a laborious, niggling type of activity that places huge demands mostly on Miss Becky, our organizer. Meanwhile, I do hope that you as a church will begin praying about sending your own representatives with us in the not too distant future. The opportunities are endless -- and the call is obvious! We are saints together, and the burdens must be carried jointly. Well, I know I'm preaching to the choir, so let me thank you again for helping to bear the burdens of your brothers and sisters in faraway Ethiopia in such a sympathetic way, thus fulfilling your vocation as saints. May the Lord richly bless you for it!
Pix (of course);
6:50 AM Today's destination:
Tons of history here too. The Confederate railroad passed through town, and General Lee and his retreating troops waited here, in vain, for supplies on April 5, 1865, just days before the inevitable surrender to Grant's troops. The drive to Amelia Court House takes one along historic route 360 with its old homes and farms. Already I can tell that the weather today is perfect for a nice long drive in central Virginia. Can't wait to see our old friends at Amelia Baptist Church!
6:43 AM The life of Christ in one sermon. Give it a listen. Go Jon!
6:34 AM A tip of the kepi to this young vet who is on his way to Ethiopia to treat horses and donkeys for vision problems. As an avid equestrian, I cannot tell you how terrible I feel whenever I see horses and donkeys mistreated, as they sometimes are in Ethiopia. Indeed, the animal suffering I see is shocking. I often hesitate to ride in a gari (horse-drawn cart) for that reason. I am not an animal rights activist, but I cheer anyone who tries to alleviate the sufferings of these wretched animals.
Saturday, April 10
9:18 PM It's late and I'm tired but I just have to share a thought the Lord just gave me. I'm a professor of Greek, as you know. But what is my purpose in teaching Greek? What do my students really need? Here's the thought the Lord just impressed upon me: Students need teachers who believe in them to accomplish great things for the kingdom. I know, there's nothing profound about this idea. But it hit me like a ton of bricks tonight. I am a shepherd to a flock of young(er) people whom God has entrusted to me and I need to take that responsibility as seriously as I possible can. You see, God has called all of us to serve His kingdom. That includes me, and that includes you. We need to be passionate about the Father's business. That's my heart's desire. And that's got to be the goal of all of my classroom teaching. Jesus is worth it. His Cause is worth it. The kingdom is worth it. It is worth my VERY BEST.
8:47 PM Thanks, brother Jason, for the reminder that language is rooted in culture and history and that I cannot just study Greek if I am to understand my Greek New Testament. Goethe said, "Language is the mirror of culture." You simply cannot understand a culture unless you understand its language. This, I admit, is one of my greatest failings as a missionary to Ethiopia. I know so very little of the language, and even after 11 trips I still feel as if I know nothing about the culture. I would feel much more comfortable if I worked in, say, Germany or German-speaking Switzerland, where at least I possess a modicum of fluency in the language. With work I think I could also do well in a Francophone nation. But "Exhiabiher chai no" is true in whatever language we express it: "God is sovereign." He has sovereignly disposed that I should serve Him in Ethiopia, and so I do the best I can to learn as much Amharic as my over-worked brain will allow. Actually, what I need to do is spend 3 months in language school in Addis during a sabbatical. That would be fun and profitable!
For your evening entertainment pleasure (and my eternal embarrassment!), here's a brief clip showing me assaulting the Amharic language. Hey, at least I'm trying LOL!
By the way, the Bible I'm promising to give away is free to anyone who will memorize 9 passages of Scripture (which we provide). One day, if Ethiopia should ever be closed to faranji missionaries, I will know that at least we have done what we could to provide the Scriptures to those who would work for them.
7:38 PM Hey friends. Just back from helping Nate with the manure. What a perfect evening to work outdoors. Nate has just gone to a neighbor's farm to check on his barn. Seems a twister on Thursday night took off the roof and deposited it, in one piece, about 100 yards away. Nate's been asked to troubleshoot and see if the roof can be repaired or should be replaced. That's pretty cool. Even the old-time farmers around here look to Nathan for his expertise in all things construction.
Earlier today we had a great orientation meeting, and I want to be sure that the Messiah Baptist Church family knows just how much we appreciate them for opening up their hearts and their facility to us today. They even provided breakfast and lunch for us, and boy did we eat good.
Tomorrow the good work continues as Becky and I drive north to Amelia Court House to present the Ethiopia work at Amelia Baptist Church. We're speaking in Sunday School and church and then staying afterwards for a covered dish supper. Amelia has long been a valued partner in our work and we thank God for another opportunity to share the glory of the Lord in Ethiopia with them.
Right now B is watching an episode of Little House. Believe me, she deserves the down time. She has worked very hard this week to prepare us for our meetings today and tomorrow.
Below is just a simple reminder of the importance of prayer in the work of the Lord. Please pray for us and with us that God would break us down so that His divine power alone would be seen in all we do.
7:34 AM Becky and I are off like a herd of turtles for our orientation meeting, but before we leave I have got to link to this great blog post by one of my former students, Michael DeBusk. It's called A year of teaching Greek. Nothing makes a professor happier than a student who takes the ball and runs with it and who uses knowledge in the service of others, as Michael has done by teaching Greek to his friend Casey. Michael, thank you for making my day. May your tribe increase!
7:22 AM It's great fun to be blogging again after a two and a half week hiatus. I feel like I'm back at Sunset Beach riding one of those 20-footers again. Cowabunga, dude! Blogging has become one of several creative outlets I enjoy -- at least I hope it is creative and not merely redundant. When you visit here you are entrusting to me one of your greatest assets -- your time. I pledge to be the best steward of it that I can be. My blog is a potpourri, I know -- much like a collection of paintings in an art gallery. Some pictures you like, others you put up with. By the way, your picture is probably in here somewhere. We're attracted to certain blogs (and turned off by others) because they somehow reflect our values. As you know, I often write from the perspective of an ancient Jesus Freak and in ways that reflect my Anabaptist leanings. I also write from the perspective of a citizen of an economically powerfully nation and as someone who is wealthy simply because I live where I do. But national identity means little to me, ultimately. I am a citizen of God's inverted kingdom, challenged constantly to live the upside-down way of life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus' kingdom teachings are normative -- though this is not to say that I faithfully put them into practice. Kingdom living is fundamentally a relationship with the King Himself and with all other citizens of this kingdom. Notice I said citizens of this kingdom and not mere church goers. This distinction between kingdom Christians and church kingdoms has been debated by scholars, but I find it helpful. In the end, the kingdom of God is a call to respond to the cross-life of Jesus and has very little to do with all of our big, important organizations. The kingdom transcends the church in many ways, not least in that predates it. The genius of Christianity (as opposed to Churchianity) is that it can rise above our rigid differences on its way to forming elastic skins for the kingdom's wine. I'm likely to return to this theme in the days ahead, trying to ferret out the spiritual and social dimensions of Jesus' kingdom teachings. As I said, it'll be like surfing Sunset Beach all over again.
Friday, April 9
9:14 PM I love this photo. It shows the farm at dusk this evening, with Nate spreading manure in one of our pastures.
I took it while checking the mail with the puppies. Then I joined in the fun. Off in the distance I could hear Miss Jessie on her lawn mower. All of us are glad, I think, that Spring has finally sprung, though it has also made us aware of just how much work there is to do and how many projects we have yet to start. A bit of sad news. We lost a cow today. She had been sick for about a month. I've slaughtered and butchered a good many of our cattle throughout the years, but it still hurts when you lose one to illness. Thankfully her heifer is weaned.
Tomorrow's a very big day -- our third orientation meeting with our Ethiopia teams. This time we'll meet at Messiah Baptist Church in Youngsville -- er, at the place where Messiah Baptist Church meets in Youngsville. (Go here for an explanation.) We're scheduled to meet from 10 to 4:00 pm. Don't think about going to Ethiopia with us unless you are prepared to WORK.
1:22 PM Back to work.
1:00 PM Break time. 3 garden beds down, 4 to go.
All I can say is whoever invented the rotary tiller deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor. I also need to mow (see photo of monster grass below) but I just discovered that my mower's carburetor is on the fritz. Of course, I had to wait until the busiest season of the year for lawn mower repairs to check it. Somebody hit me with the stupid stick.
Right now B's frying hamburgers to go along with her fabulous potato salad. Speaking of burgers, flying from Addis to Frankfurt on Lufthansa I sat next to a lady from the Saar and we spoke German for 7 hours. I told her a really lame joke when I said, "One day I drove to Hamburg to get a hamburger." You've got to know German to appreciate it.
10:12 AM As promised, party photos:
1) The master chef at work.
2) Shrimp and pasta. Olive Garden, eat your heart out.
3) Happy meal time.
4) Mama B in tree house with boys.
5) Our precious daughters.
9:11 AM I have some wonderful news to report today. (I am a monster for not reporting it earlier.) While we were in Ethiopia a peace conference took place between the Gujis and the Burjis in southern Ethiopia. There were expressions of remorse and a good deal of footwashing, from what I was told. When Oshe drove through Guji territory (always a rather tenuous exploit) he was greeted by waves and smiles by the Guji villagers. Will this reconciliation last? Time will tell, as it always does. A big test is whether or not the Gujis will continue to come to Burji on market days. If they do, then it will appear that the footwashing was more than symbolic. I imagine that the Christians among both tribes took the lead in this effort. In God's kingdom, love replaces hatred, basins replace swords and guns. Believers transcend tribal boundaries and international passports. We acknowledge one King and take His cross -- and ours -- seriously. If God is willing, we will return to the Gujis this July, embracing a basin ministry among our Christian siblings and sharing the Gospel with those who are still outside the family. Please pray for continued reconciliation between these tribes and especially for the progress of the Gospel.
Here I am (with my translator James) sharing Jesus' love with the Gujis in one village on my last visit to this region. God has planted a deep love in my heart for this tribe.
8:55 AM Quote of the day:
Read Airline fees: Where will they pop up next?
Would you pay to use the onboard toilet? To use the overhead compartment? Don't laugh -- it's already happening.
8:51 AM Felicitations to Rod Loose of Immanuel Lutheran Church and his 6 Greek students for completing their first year Greek course. I hope the journey was not too intolerable and that the reward will be great!
8:45 AM Bob Cornwall reviews Allan Bevere's forthcoming The Character of Our Discontent. I must confess that I a bit biased toward Allan. I enjoy reading his essays very much. Clean dissection and clear exposition of complex topics. I hope the book does well. To get your free advance review copy of Allan's new book, go here.
8:37 AM I appreciated Henry Neufeld's wise response to my essay The Thessalonian Road to Self-Support. Henry writes:
Henry is absolutely correct. The only way out of the fantasy and illusion of so much that seeks to counterfeit Christianity today is to return to the biblical doctrine of every-member ministry. This is a lost art to most modern believers. But it was tried, tested, and proven in the early church. If I have any prayer at all for readers of my essay, it is that God will use it to help them take first steps toward rediscovering the priesthood of all believers in their own lives and churches.
Thursday, April 8
10:02 PM Just back from the party of the century. Matt cooked a delicious supper and then we just reveled in each other's company. Took gobs of pix and video. I "may" (wink, wink) post a few of them tomorrow. Right now I'm bushed from gardening all day and need to spend some time in a good book. Know what I mean? Sleep tight!
9:56 AM Need evidence of the fall? Look no further than our backyard garden.
Even the dogs are pleading with us, "Let us out, let us out!" Guess who gets to pull up all the weeds and overgrown plants?
9:40 AM What in the world is a Christian? What the world sees, and knows, and respects, and is attracted to, is one thing and one thing only. Forget about the size of your church or how many committees you sit on or your popularity as a public speaker. The one thing that counts is your love. That's it in a nutshell.
Becky has just posted an essay called "Medical Intervention for the Gospel's Sake." It's the tale of three people in Southern Ethiopian whom the Lord Jesus led us to help. One of them is now in the presence of the Lord Jesus. Her name was Akee and she is your forever sister in Christ. Here we are loading her into our ambulance.
To get "the rest of the story," you'll have to click here. May God bless you for your prayers for Ethiopia.
8:27 AM This article defines the church as "having the preaching of the Word, there's a right administration of the sacraments and there's church discipline." Do you agree? How would Jesus have defined "church"? Or Paul?
7:58 AM Kingdom Christians take their heavenly citizenship seriously but they also know how to laugh. Becky's hairpiece was a big hit everywhere we went in Ethiopia. Need proof?
7:46 AM A friend sent along a link to a great interview by Michael Bird on the Authorship of Hebrews. It's always refreshing to find someone taking the external evidence seriously. I happen to agree that the letter is Paul's though the amanuensis (or stenographer) might well have been Luke. But I simply cannot accept direct Lukan authorship, as is argued by my very good friend David Allen in his forthcoming work.
7:41 AM I'm enjoying reading this wonderful book by Johannes Krug on Paul's concept of power in weakness.
It is Krug's 2000 doctoral dissertation written for Klaus Berger at Heidelberg (a lovelier city I have never been in). All I can say is: Thank God for Inter-Library Loan!
This particular volume came to me from my sister seminary in New Orleans. It joins several other borrowed books that sit on my reading desk. Lots to read this weekend. I sense that Krug's book is really a landmark work and so I am taking very careful notes in view of incorporating some of his insights into the final chapter of my revised Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I feel like I'm back in Basel again.
7:36 AM The apostle Paul was a good example of what a missionary should be. It is almost impossible to grasp the brilliance of what he says about work in his letters, which make a complete mockery of our laziness and selfishness. Paul was driven by an impulsion to be completely without offense in all that he did, including the area of his personal finances. I've tried to encapsulate some of his teaching about money and work in my latest essay. It's called The Thessalonian Road to Self-Support. When we follow Paul's example, things are different -- to put it mildly.
7:22 AM Yesterday he was 6, today he is 7. Happy Birthday, Caleb! See you at the party tonight.
Wednesday, April 7
6:26 PM Quote of the day (Jerry Rankin):
Read Paying to Fulfill the Great Commission.
6:22 PM Bill Heroman says Women shouldn't Biblioblog. Makes me want to mimic John McEnroe and scream, "You can't be serious!" But of course he is. Wonderful post, Bill.
6:16 PM Cornerstone University announces an opening in New Testament.
6:04 PM I just spent an exciting, busy, and intense two days on campus. I think I'm getting predictable, though. Let's play, "You might just have a class with Dave Black."
If you hear "It's all about missions" over and over again…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If you go, "Oh, no, not another quiz!"…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If you hear the professor repeating "Greek is not the Open Sesame to understanding the New Testament"…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If you strive to get a 110 on your exams (and thus win a free book)…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If you hear silly jokes…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If you are asked to recite Greek aloud…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If you have a Greek spelling B…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If you are called upon to pray in class…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If your prof keeps talking about his wonderful wife…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If you start reciting from memory the case-number suffixes …you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If your two-year old daughter knows the "Greek Alphabet Song"…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
If your teacher resembles an aged fossil…you might just have a class with Dave Black.
Incidentally: This is the view that greeted me when I pulled into the farm driveway this evening.
Simply beautiful. Good to be home again.
Tuesday, April 6
6:48 AM I'm off to school -- but not without first publishing my latest essay. It's called Are You a Kingdom Christian?
It will feel odd driving on roads that are not filled with potholes, people, and animals.
Monday, April 5
8:02 PM Guess who I just ran into? Nate and Jess. They just returned from Danville where they went shopping and dining for their anniversary.
They were out "strollin' with Mr. Nolan."
Aren't you glad I had my trusty camera with me?
6:20 PM The dogs just finished taking me for a long walk on the farm. What an interesting place, always changing yet always staying the same. It looks like Spring has most certainly arrived judging by the amount of pollen there is on our pond. Our cars are also smothered in the green stuff. It's a strange sort of beauty, don't you think?
I also see that Nate has started fencing in the "Rabbit Ear'" pastures next to his old house. This is some luxurious hay, let me tell you. The cattle will love it.
Finally, here are some old logs Nate salvaged. He wants to construct yet another barn out of them, with the assistance of his dear old dad of course. Pleasure to help, son.
Ah, farm life.
5:05 PM Glad to see that Chloe's pups are doing fine. They sure have grown since I last saw them.
3:58 PM Eric Carpenter is all for Strong Pastoral Leadership -- properly defined of course! Eric posts some really fine essays but this one tops them all. Thank you, Eric, for your fidelity to the Scriptures, and to the Chief Shepherd they exalt.
3:46 PM Thanks for the welcome home, Henry. I thought you'd be interested in these pix I took when we were packing the vehicle for the drive from Alaba to Addis. I gave a copy of The Jesus Paradigm to our son Nigussie, who literally took the book with him wherever we went. It's not every publisher who has his books read on top of a Land Cruiser in Ethiopia.
3:10 PM She's back! Tired but happy. This house is not a home without her. Look for reports after she gets some rest. God is good.
11:02 AM I'm currently writing an essay on missions and finances, particularly the issue of the funding of church planting. I've been scouring the Pauline epistles to see what the greatest church planter who ever lived had to say. (Thus far my essay is tentatively titled "The Thessalonian Road to Financial Freedom.") I'm also reading some good stuff in the blogs. I ran across this essay today: What Every Church Planter Needs, in which the author makes this statement:
What do you think? Should we automatically assume that we need to raise funds to start a new church? Should we also consider Paul's example of self-support?
I'll post my thoughts soon.
10:14 AM Rick Brannan asks, Need Help with New Testament Exegesis? I might want to add my friend Rich Erickson's A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Exegesis.
Perhaps Logos will pick up this work in the future.
10:02 AM Only one month to go to haying season. Can't wait.
9:54 AM Quote of the day:
Read this quote in its context.
9:48 AM Washing three loads of clothes. No, not at the same time (in case you ladies were wondering).
8:58 AM Time to spiffy up the house for my sweetheart. Ain't marriage fun?
8:50 AM Every blogger should have a link to his or her speaking schedule. Here's one of the best I've ever read.
8:37 AM I missed some great blog posts while in Ethiopia. I loved this one:
Read Unity on my terms.
(P.S. "The most rightest one." And Arthur accuses me of neologisms? LOL!)
8:31 AM Here's a shout out and "thank you" to Alex Stewart, Paul Himes, and Andy Bowden for covering my classes while I was gone. I know you guys did a great job.
7:30 AM Everywhere we went in Ethiopia people poured out to express their love and prayers for Becky. I took this picture in Nedele in Burji territory, about as far away from civilization (as we define it here in the West) as you can get. The entire village turned out to greet their daughter. Then a district elder led the villagers in prayer for B.
Looking at this photo I'm reminded of Jesus' story about Naaman in Luke 4. Jesus' point was that belonging to God gives no one a special right to be healed. Jews were passed over, but Naaman -- the Gentile! -- was healed. Many of us, I believe, misunderstand what the cross symbolizes. It is not our cancer or our broken toe or our malaria. The cross is something we deliberately chose. Becky herself has never prayed for her own healing. Her prayer is to be found faithful. The cross means denying ourselves, losing our lives in the world (for however many years God grants us here), and picking up our towel and basin. B is quite content to depart and be with the Lord, though she is also happy to give her life away in loving service to others. I, for my part, am a bit more selfish than my dear wife. I'm asking the Lord Jesus to heal her completely from the cancer that has invaded her body. Either way, neither of us doubt the character of God. As Becky likes to put it, God is always loving, God is always just, God is always in control. How thankful I am that God walks with us through our personal tragedies. If He can count each hair on our head (and for some of us that is a very simple task), He can certainly count each tear we shed.
Becky, by the way, resumes her chemo treatments next Monday.
7:10 AM Today is a very special day here on the farm. Not only is B coming home but Jessica and Nathan were married on this day two years ago. Here we are praying over the couple during the celebration that took place at Rosewood.
Happy Second Anniversary, Nate and Jess. We love you both very very much.
Sunday, April 4
10:41 PM "Home, home on the range...." Yep, pardners. I am BACK! How can I possibly describe my trip? It was magnificent in every way. It was filled with blessing upon blessing. The Lord opened door after door for ministry. Praise His name! I want to say THANK YOU to those who prayed for us while we were gone. God heard your prayers! I also want to thank our many friends and co-workers in Ethiopia who labored side-by-side with us. You are simply marvelous! More than ever I've become convinced of doing missions local church to local church, bypassing bloated bureaucracies (sorry about the alliteration, but once a Baptist always a Baptist LOL). And more than ever I've become gravely concerned about the spiritual condition of the Western church in light of the enormous needs in other parts of the world. I fervently love my brothers and sisters in America, but at the same time I'm deeply grieved over our fascination with material prosperity and personal pleasure. Going to Ethiopia is a reality check. Many of the believers there have next to nothing yet I have never seen such simple faith, humility, and love. To be sure, not all Ethiopians are kingdom Christians. They are just as susceptible as we are to half-hearted Christianity. The Scriptures that speak of the cross -- discipline, sacrifice, suffering -- seem unbelievably impossible to many of us today. Authentic Christianity has become distorted by a works-less faith. I thank God for the many faithful servants of the Most High God I have met both at home and in Africa who have rejected this false notion. It the coming days Becky and I will be sharing with you some of the great things that God is doing through them. It is all the Lord's doing and nothing for which we can take any credit. Day after day we witnessed His power expressed through countless acts of selfless service.
Looking back now over the past 10 years I praise God for allowing Becky and me to reprioritize our values and lifestyle. I thank Him for the many churches in America that are committed to the Lord Jesus and His Great Commission. At the same time I am saddened that the bountiful provisions of our culture have left us blinded to the situation in the sin-blighted Majority World. Frankly, I return to America deeply concerned, asking myself how we can possibly spend $35,000 on Lifeway Sunday School materials (as one church I know does) when the same amount of money could build simple churches in 5 villages in rural Ethiopia. I recently heard of one American congregation with a "living Christmas tree" whose scaffolding alone cost the church more than $25,000. "I am not to judge these churches," I tell myself. But the inequity stuns me. How much longer will the evangelical church in America remain disconnected from the rest of the world? Unless you travel outside of North America you cannot possibly appreciate the needs that exist in places like Africa and Asia -- two continents I visit frequently. I look at the United States with our Christian theme parks and our Christian magazines and our Christian retreat centers and our Christian TV stations and our Christian "Praisercize" and our Christian rock concerts and our gymnasiums and our air-conditioned sanctuaries and I have to ask myself -- what is all of this for? Why aren't we sacrificing for the Gospel in the inner cities in our country and in the lost regions of the world?
I believe it is the deceitfulness of sin that keeps us from forsaking our Western cultural values that so directly contradict the lifestyle that our Lord Jesus commands. We modern Christians have divorced faith and works. Our concept of missions has been reduced to fundraising. But missions is not the money we give but the life we live. Missions, for me, has become simply an extension of my life. I believe this will be the case with every Christian who truly believes in the Great Commission. Jesus asks us to make missions the central passion of our lives. This means that everything we do as Christians -- gathering, singing, fellowshipping, teaching, admonishing -- must be done with one thing in mind: expanding the kingdom of God by reaching lost men and women wherever they live. Since when has selfless love become optional for the Christian? We need to repent of the self-centered Christianity that characterizes the modern American church today. A couple of years ago I sat in a new church sanctuary in North America. It was one of the most inefficient and oversized buildings I have ever been in. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions in light of the pressing needs in the Majority World. How can we possibly justify such extravagance in view of the Scriptural teaching about wealth and equality (2 Cor. 8-9)?
Our churches have become little more than bless me clubs. We even spoil our youth when we should be exposing them to service opportunities both in America and internationally. Youth leaders have fallen victim to a bigger and better mentality. Our youth do not need more emotional rallies. They are called to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ in the midst of a fallen world. The church in America is becoming more and more dependent on shortcuts, gimmicks, seminars, strategies, demographics, experts, and man-centered solutions to our problems. Whatever happened to the simple teachings of Jesus and the apostles? The Great Commission does not require us to attend classes on evangelism. It requires us to wait patiently on the Lord, whose Spirit will certainly equip and empower us to be effective witnesses wherever we are. How easy it is for us to make decisions and plans without prayer and waiting for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must stop trusting in our missionary methods. Even the greatest manmade methods are but shallow reflections of the great principles of God's Word. Tragically, we have fallen in love with the latest fads and church growth strategies.
I, for one, have had quite enough of it. I am ready to become a kingdom Christian. I am ready to work with every Bible-believing, cross-carrying Jesus follower in Ethiopia and anywhere else in the world where God sends me.
Care to join me?
P.S. Becky arrives tomorrow afternoon. God has given her much strength during this trip. Everywhere we went the believers were thrilled to hear her testimony. Again, thank you for your prayers on our behalf. Glory be to God!