December 2007 Blog Archives
Monday, December 31
2:05 PM We're keeping the boys again today, who are down resting, which leaves me with a few free moments to provide a brief update of sorts:
1) If you are wanting to brush up on your Brazilian Portuguese, might I suggest you take a look at this site? (My college roommate for 4 years, who was a native of Brazil, taught me just enough Portuguese to be dangerous.) Muito Obrigado.
2) Don't anybody tell me that New Testament textual criticism isn't important: Is it 666 or 616?
3) Ron Paul is the only pre-Constantine candidate. This latter essay is excellent, even if you are not a history buff.
Meantime it is a gorgeous day today, and the sun is shining brightly -- and not only weather-wise.
7:58 AM The latest addition to our home page is called New Years Greetings from DBO.
7:56 AM There is "absolutely no front runner" in the GOP race, and "13% of Likely Primary Voters remain undecided," according to this report, which is pretty good news for Paulistas everywhere, including Germany, France, Portugal, etc.
7:50 AM Nathan stumbled upon this picture yesterday. Can you guess what this building is?
Guess again. This outhouse even has wainscoting. It appears that some people just have too much money.
7:43 AM It seems that every year here in the South one hears the expression about the weather, "This has been a very unusual season." At least this is true the10 years we've lived here. The falls seem unusually wet and the summers extraordinarily dry, or vice versa. No longer being a peripatetic family doesn't mean that the seasons about us will not wander from their natural courses. It has indeed seemed unusually dry these past few years. We live in what is referred to as growing zone 7, which (as I understand it) means that the climate will always be somewhat variable and unpredictable. But we must have water to live on, and the Lord does promise to meet our needs. How beneficial, then, the rain we have received in abundance, and how grateful a farmer must be to the Almighty. As everyone who enjoys an agrarian lifestyle knows, little things mean a lot, especially a good soaking rain every now and then to replenish the wells and to convey much-needed moisture to the fields. Very thankful I am, then, to the Creator for His abundant goodness to us these past few days.
7:35 AM Attendees at the Ron Paul "Straßburg Tea Party" issued this declaration. Here's a portion of it. Ausgezeichnet!
Sunday, December 30
5:13 PM Becky continues to fight a spell of sub-parness, and I would greatly appreciate your prayers for her physical strength and health, as she is scheduled to leave for Africa in only 8 days.
9:09 AM Last night we lit a fire and watched "Gettysburg" -- as passionate and piercing a movie as I've ever seen. I do not like to watch it often as it fills me melancholy and sadness, though the bravery of Lee and Armistead, Reynolds and Hancock, can be appreciated with comfort. The movie is a crass reminder that war is capricious and always unpredictable. In most cases it is wholly unnecessary and superfluous. Any way you look at it, it's a dreadful business. Meantime, my constant prayer to God is that He might bring our men and women home soon, si telle est sa volunté.
Saturday, December 29
3:53 PM Forgive me for reminiscing, but I've got Alaba very much on my mind these days. These photos were taken two years ago in Alaba on our (Western) New Year's Day, a surprise party having been given for the two faranjis who were visiting. Seems just like yesterday.
The Ethiopian New Year is, of course, in September. How very thoughtful of our friends to remember us in this way.
I miss Alaba deeply, including these two church leaders. May God bless them and assure them of my prayers.
3:37 PM Have you read anything of interest lately? My own serious reading has been in the French Bible, in La Bible de Semeur to be exact (which I greatly prefer to Louis Segond). I am impressed with its precision and accuracy, and it is entirely illuminating for anyone seeking to master the language. I feel terribly encouraged, for example, by its translation of 1 John 3:18: "Mes enfants, que notre amour ne se limite pas à des discours et à de belles paroles, mais qu'il se traduise par des actes accomplis dans la vérité." A truly magnificent rendering. The entire Bible reads this way.
3:23 PM Becky has written a wonderfully fine essay called "The Role of Humanitarian Aid in Building the Kingdom," and I agree entirely with its perspective and thrust. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" is a wise saying and may be supplemented, in many cases, by another: "Sufficient unto the method is the evil thereof." Ethiopia is a field that has, in my opinion, suffered tragically from a wrong policy with regard to humanitarian work. If drilling wells and providing health care are pursued too narrowly, and apart from relationships, they lead only to sterile materialism, the fruit of which is the complete absence of evangelistic outreach. To me this situation is deplorable. The secret here, as in most other things in life, lies in considering one's ultimate goal. Genuine life, real life, eternal life, even abundant life in the here and now cannot be achieved by aiming directly at humanitarian ends, but only by aiming primarily at something else -- or, better, Someone else. Becky's article is painfully good, and I hope she will publish it for all to read and benefit from. She has made her point in a brief, clear, and practical way. I believe, as Becky has shown, that it is always necessary to subject ourselves and our methods to the teaching and pattern of Scripture, especially of Jesus and the apostles, if we are to refrain from excessive indulgence in do-goodism.
Speaking of relationships, men hug each other in Ethiopian society, a custom I think is very commendable. This man is a former Muslim leader and a hajj. A rural congregation now meets on his property. I love him as a brother, which indeed he is.
8:36 AM "Nous avons le bon message: liberté, paix et prospérité," s’est exclamé le directeur de campagne Kent Snyder. "Et nous avons aussi le bon candidat: Docteur Ron Paul."
8:33 AM Herewith I acknowledge a bit of political web-surfing. Huckabee, I confess, leaves me remarkably unmoved. No doubt the man has a certain charm, but he has a fearful streak of hubris in him that comes out with a vengeance in such unguarded moments as his notorious cell-phone conversation with God. On the other hand, Ron Paul's speeches are like coals of fire. I shall be curious to see how he he fares in Iowa. I have a sad feeling that the Ron Paul Revolution is too good to be true and that the nation is condemned to repeat history by electing the "ideal" politician who will lead us into some new and dreadful conundrum. Aren't they remarkable, these Republican candidates? I have reached the point where I value Jerusalem more than Athens and certainly both more than Washington. But gratefully, there is the sovereignty of God to rely on and the hope that our politicians' panaceas will be exposed for the delusions they are. Alas, Americans live under the fatal illusion that our national problems are susceptible to solutions at the federal level, when they are not. And so we may well be at the point of missing the last bus.
8:23 AM Weather-wise we have had the worst drought since Dante wrote the Inferno, but we are now seeing some rain showers and it looks like they may extend throughout the weekend. God does answer prayer, though we are undeserving.
Friday, December 28
9:51 AM Alaba was and is a strong center of Islam in Ethiopia. It is also known for its manifold diseases, including malaria, typhoid, and typhus. I well remember how astonished I was when I realized that even the most basic precautions against these illnesses were not practiced or even known. The government health clinics there are doing what they can to treat these diseases, but the lack of education remains a problem. We have now received word that an epidemic of malaria seems to have broken out and almost every family has one or two members who are sick and some are dying. It is an enormous strength and encouragement to spend time in prayer together seeking God's help in this dire situation. I wish that I could convey more effectively the need for the concerted prayers of God's people on behalf of the people of Alaba, especially those who are now in a life-and-death struggle, not only physically but spiritually. Again and again I must remind myself that the physical matters little when issues of eternal significance hang in the balance. If the dynamic power of the Gospel is at work, all else will fall into place. And what a difference the Gospel has already made! I have come to have a deep respect for the believers who live under such harsh conditions, and especially the evangelists who labor day after day and year after year for a pittance. Their work is a reminder to me of the Parable of the Sower as they carry the name of Jesus far and wide to enable others to experience the blessing of spiritual life. Already there is an astonishing harvest from the seeds that have been planted in the soil of Alaba, but do we not have the responsibility to water them if we are able?
7:45 AM Ron Paul on abortion: in his own words.
7:42 AM We did get to the nursing facility on Wednesday night for some singing and visiting. I'm sure the systematic boredom and dreary schedule of the nursing home is very trying, but it is a splendid place to attempt to fulfill James 1:27 and, besides, we must all face times of loneliness. I did notice and appreciate the fact that someone had brought their pet dog to visit its "grandfather," and I witnessed again the joy an animal can bring to a man. For most of us, I fancy, animals are objects we take for granted until they are taken from us, and then we are ashamed of ourselves and our lack of appreciation.
7:36 AM Once again I am discovering the wit and eloquence of the apostle Paul in his great letter to the Romans. The effect he gets out of the Greek language is something incomparable. The play on the phron-root in 12:3 appears quite unattainable in English and in German and French as well. "Don't hyper-phronein beyond what is necessary to phronein but instead phronein so as to so-phronein." Incredible. Language, I find, gives me as much pleasure as music, and strains of Paul's prose continually waft in my ears. What I should like now more than anything is a year or two of quiet meditation in this cavernous book, but then it would be impossible to do anything else. Reading the Scriptures in the original is a pleasure and so is not having to read for a class assignment but simply for the joy of it.
7:23 AM Not much news here. I potter about on my Anabaptist book, and of course the farm always needs attention. I have sent and received numerous emails as I try to put together my 2008 speaking and travel schedule, and it is all very lively and exciting to imagine what the Lord Jesus might have in store for me. Quien sabe? I may be in Asia again, and in Eastern Europe, and plans are definitely on for Ethiopia both in the summer and late fall, when I hope to be on sabbatical. Becky's suitcases are beginning to fill up and she has already arrived at the point of having to say no to requests to take this or that along for someone else. She has a great deal going on and I have asked to her write a blog entry, if she can find the time to do so, to bring everybody up to date.
Thursday, December 27
5:19 PM The news? Not much, except that I've received some gratifying correspondence from converts to the Ron Paul Revolution, and to the U.S. Constitution. People are beginning to educate themselves, in a desultory way perhaps, about politics, and the more one knows about the Constitution the more solid a foundation one has to build a Weltanschauung upon and the more easily one can reject the jejune and unhealthy notions of nationalism. Readers of my website, at least those who become correspondents, are finding in Congressman Paul one of the few oases in the pervading gloom of Washington.
Meanwhile I am reading Maupassant for the sake of my French. It's very beautiful I think, but also very difficult. I know nil about French literature but I am told, and readily believe, that Maupassant's works are masterpieces of French prose. As for my future plans, school for me starts up again in a week's time, and several dozen students have already signed up for the class, choosing, I suppose, to study Greek rather than waste away their days in idleness. Speaking of idleness, I can imagine no dismaller waste of time than to wait for a web page to download, and this problem is no doubt due to the latest fad in web design: the advertisement. This is happening even at my favorite sites such as LRC. Speaking purely selfishly, I think this is an abysmal development in every way. One ought to be able to make one's point without prostituting one's pen or causing country folk like myself to suffer like Job. I will consider capitalism a complete and utter failure if we don't get DSL out our way in the very near future.
Finally, after a day of delivering hay and mucking manure, Nathan and I completed the building of our new hay barn by constructing and installing the upstairs doors, a picture of which follows for your amusement.
7:55 AM Yesterday my wife did the nicest thing. She collected pictures of some of the dresses she had sewn and sent the photos to her mother in Dallas, along with a robust "thank you" to her mom for taking the time to teach her that skill -- a dying art among today's mindless TV generation. Here are a couple of the pix Becky included in her letter. They speak for themselves.
I am myself astonished at Becky's abilities and talents. I see in them a fresh understanding of what the author of Proverbs meant when he wrote: "She looks for wool and flax, And works with her hands in delight." And, "She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple." These efforts received, of course, an enormous impetus from her mother who, while raising 5 daughters in a very busy home, taught them that something truly beautiful can come out of the truly ordinary.
7:20 AM Here's the best quote I've seen in ages. It comes from a fellow horse lover.
I can say a hearty Amen. Note: For more on the magnificent and rare Caspian breed of horse, go here.
7:13 AM Today the Ron Paul Revolution comes to Des Moines. Like the Little Engine That Could, Congressman Paul just keeps on chugging along. I'm not convinced that the "movement" is at hand, but it does seem that movement is happening, and that in itself is a very positive development. Ever vigilant against freedom-restricting pressures, Ron Paul is fearless in challenging demagogues and exposing political salesmanship. While George W. Bush frightens the nation with baseless epithets and impugns the loyalty of patriots who oppose the ill-conceived and ill-executed war, Paul insists on focusing attention on the truth about our economy and foreign policy, however distasteful. He realizes that America's greatest aspirations are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. More and more Americans are hearing the ring of honesty, goodwill, and liberty in his words. He is attempting to do the impossible: alter the course of American democracy and move the United States from a position of unfettered, unilateral power toward a humble foreign policy based on a scrupulous concern for international peace and national sovereignty. Along with so many of those who are gathering in the mid-west, he finds the America of saber-rattling and chest-thumping detestable. There is an appalling lack of awareness of the seriousness of the emergency confronting the nation, and he is doing his best to dispel the darkness. No wonder he has captured the imagination of the younger generation of Americans who are assembling by the thousands today in Des Moines.
Keep on chugging, brother Paul.
Wednesday, December 26
5:53 PM Peu de nouvelles ici. The rain has just stopped (we got just over two and a half inches), the doggies have been walked, and the sunset photo of the year has been taken.
Due to the "season," our Wednesday night praying meeting and Bible study has been canceled, so we'll be going to the local nursing facility instead to sing for the fine folk there, after we enjoy our fine Chinese cuisine.
12:30 PM Rick Saenz of Cumberland Books emails to say that he has just made his Plain Talk conversations available for free download on his website. I must say this is a very gracious offer, and one for which we can all be thankful.
12:15 PM This is a powerful word on forgiveness from the BBC:
12:12 PM I have recently been reading Peggy Noonan, with the greatest pleasure and profit. What a really creative writer, when she is at her best, as she is here writing on Huckabee. It's a pity that evangelicals tend to avoid her work, probably because she is a devout Roman Catholic. Her essays deserve more than a passing glance, agree or disagree with what she has to say.
11:37 AM Life goes on here as usual. Becky has completed one of her two long dresses for Ethiopia and has just finished the beautiful embroidery work she's adding to the second dress she's still sewing.
With the rain now falling I suppose we are poised in the brief halcyon period between the rains and the snowfall that occurs (though not always) in late January and February. I am using the semester break to improve my French, which I speak very badly and in a horribly illiterate manner -- well enough, though, to find my way through the maze of Paris. My goal one day is to travel to francophone Africa and perhaps do some good for the kingdom, in what form I have no idea as of yet. The difficulty is finding someone who is fluent in French to converse with, though I must confess that I am very loathe to speak the language to anyone at all. My German I've managed to keep alive and well only because I spoke it for so long in Germany and Switzerland, and Becky and I will sometimes lapse into it when we want to utter secrets in the presence of others. I prefer reading Barth, Bonhoeffer, Moltmann, etc. in the original German and always find the substance interesting and the manner of speaking eminently lucid. There is always some loss when one translates foreign works into English, and for this reason I strongly encourage all of my Ph.D. students to read their French and German every chance they get. Cullmann's Christ and Time, for example, is an uncommonly interesting book that I have read both in German and French (Cullmann was, of course, from Alsace). For beauty it compares with the elegant English prose of Markus Barth's Ephesians commentary in the Anchor Bible series, perhaps the greatest commentary ever written on that great New Testament epistle. As one can see, I am an incurable language-lover, though learning languages is a lifetime process and an unsatisfactory one at that, since one never seems to master any of them as one should like to. At any rate, à bientôt, I hope.
10:52 AM How very thoughtful of Camilla S., a pastor's wife in Virginia, to send along this handmade blanket for Aberesh's baby. I think it is a magnificent work of art and also very practical, don't you?
This, or something like it, it seems to me, is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote Rom 12:13: "Share what you have with God's people who are in need." I only wish I could see Aberesh's face when Becky presents it to her, and especially to see the baby snuggly wrapped in it.
7:46 AM I have received a very nice photo of David Yoo at his graduation ceremony two weeks ago. David (Dae) was one of my two graders last semester and assisted me very ably in various and sundry projects, mostly of a research nature. The Lord Jesus always, without exception, gives me the very best assistants. I feel very close to Dae not least because we share a common patronym: my Korean name is Pae Dae Ho, bestowed upon me during my third trip to Korea by my pastoral students. I'm not exactly certain what its meaning is, but I'm told it's complimentary.
7:42AM It's a rainy day, and no one is complaining of course. Yesterday was a good start to our fencing project, but several posts still need to be set before we can put up the wire itself, so mountains of work must yet be scaled.
6:34 AM In my daily reading from the book of Romans I was pondering chapter 15 when three Greek words leaped off the page as I read them. In verse 20 we read, "My goal (philotimeo) was to spread the Gospel where the name of Christ was not known." In verse 23 we read, "For many years I've deeply longed (epipotheo) to visit you." And in verse 25 we read, "Right now I'm going to Jerusalem to serve (diakoneo) the Christians there." I think these three terms wonderfully describe Becky in every way, for she is very goal orientated, she has a deep desire to return to her second home in Ethiopia, and she is traveling to Alaba simply for the purpose of trying to be of some help to the Christians there. Paul's Greek here is really very skilful, and its weight and concentration basically untranslatable. Yet in English one can still see the richness and breadth of Paul's missionary passion to be and do and say everything for the sake of others. Soon Becky Lynn will find herself amidst a sea of goats, little children, and dusty streets, and she will revel in every minute of it.
By the way, a rumor is circulating that needs to be dispelled before it gets out of hand, and that is that I am sending Becky to Ethiopia so that I can cook Chinese food every evening for supper, using our farm fresh round steak plus my special secret ingredient. That's an untruth of enormous proportions. I may cook it for lunch as well.
Tuesday, December 25
6:39 PM No big news to report other than that we set several posts today, and that it took us all day long. Meanwhile a very pleasant portrait of George Washington has found its way into Nathan's front downstairs room (is it a "parlor" yet?) courtesy of EBay. I wish you could see it in person, but this photo will have to do. The nation's father seems a bit out of sorts if you ask me, but I may misjudge. It does, however, make a nice companion to the portrait of R. E. Lee, another famous Virginian, that hangs in Nathan's kitchen.
8:55 AM Are foreign languages really worth the trouble? Not always.
8:50 AM We received an incredibly wonderful email from Gondar yesterday with details about conversions and discipleship training, details that I cannot share here because they involve sensitive work but for which we can all be thankful and joyful. Please accept our heartfelt thanks for making the evangelization of Gondar a matter of concerted prayer, and please know that Becky and I think most affectionately of you. Bless you all!
8:43 AM Have you read Wordsworth's Ode to Duty? It is exceptionally well done I think. The following lines reminded me of my wife as she prepares for her journey into the great unknown:
8:34 AM I am sure than no one will be very interested, but today Nathan and I begin putting up more fencing on the farm in hopes of subdividing a rather sizable portion of land as a place for the goats to graze before spring arrives. Do you know it is still in the high 50s here during the daytime, with little prospect of any significant precipitation in the forecast? In fact it is ideal weather for working in the woods, cutting down cedar posts, digging post holes, etc. It's difficult to explain, but Rom. 14:5 came to my mind today as I put on my work clothes. Here the original literally states, "For one judges day from day, and one judges every day" (meaning, of course, "One person decides that one day is holier than another, while another person decides that all days are the same"). I suppose I am an every-dayer on a day that most of my friends are day-from-dayers. But all of us, I trust, are enjoying the blessings of hearth and home and in this way share a common experience. I hope all goes well with you and your family wherever you are on this day the Lord has made, and whatever you may be doing in labor or leisure.
Monday, December 24
9:20 AM In a time of reflection upon the "glad tidings" that "a child has been born unto us," I have natality much on my mind. But it does not concern the sterile ceramic deities of our puerile manger scenes (was there no manure in the stall?) but a real child, a living child, a growing child in a faraway land whose 5 siblings are dead and whose mother faces the shame of childlessness in a society that values fecundity. Today I am prayerful that our God, who is rich in mercy, may intervene in the destiny (in fact He controls it!) of this precious unborn infant and grant both mother and child, as He did 2000 years ago, life, health, and strength. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future I will be able to wish them a "Happy Birth Day."
9:12 AM Two weeks and counting until Becky departs.
9:06 AM Today we're off to Mount Tirzah Baptist Church in Charlotte Court House for their annual Christmas eve service and, most especially, to have lunch with the pastor and his wife and 3 sons, who are family to us. This is the same church where Becky and I presented Ethiopia to a home school fellowship as well as to the entire congregation, so you can see how we love them dearly. Theirs is a most beautiful piece of the country in graceful Charlotte County, which boasts of nary a stop light, a fact which adds a certain charm to the neighborhood. We ourselves once looked for a farm in the county, but nobody was willing to sell one at the time, and I can't say I blame them. If you ever have a free day and would like a pleasant drive into a very beautiful part of Virginia, do yourself a favor and visit Charlotte County. (The antebellum court house is pictured to the right.)
No further news, beyond the fact that I'm feeling much better, lobe den Herrn.
8:55 AM I have nothing to add to the incessant chatter about Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism, but you might find this essay interesting, including these amazing statistics:
8:48 AM I took this photo last night in our library here at the Hall. It shows how I do most of my writing, with the "Three Ps" of pad, pen, and puppy. It's almost become a nightly ritual. Shiloh is nearing 12 years of age, which means we household Methuselahs have to stick together.
(Mini-sermon: Enjoy your pets while you can. They are exceedingly wonderful companions. But they won't be around forever.)
8:38 AM A hearty and sincere thank you to everyone who has written to me with the promise of interceding on behalf of Becky while she's in Ethiopia and for Aberesh and her infant. I am keeping a list and thanking God for you by name. So far Aberesh's blood pressure has been normal, so the Lord Jesus is already answering your prayers. However, preeclampsia tends to do its devilish damage in the final stages of pregnancy, so we must not relent in our praying.
8:23 AM The Republican primaries are now in their opening stages of ebullition. It is gratifying to know that it is no longer a question of the lesser of two evils, as a really great American is in the race, and to stay, while others are beginning to drop like flies. Meanwhile, the whole dreadful business of war grinds on, producing exactly the kind of political, economic, and moral results predicted by Ron Paul in 2003. The funniest feature of the primaries will no doubt be the people who try to make Paul look like a silly isolationist, which, of course, he is not. They will couch their attack in the flag, but the ploy will not work – thank God for the Internet! I’m glad that the good Congressman is flourishing to the extent he is. It’s good for the nation, and it’s good for the principle of constitutional government. Still, I am always appalled when I hear people who ought to know better prattling away of “isolationism” and “pacifism” and the like, when in fact the beast has quite a different nature. The hostility that Mr. Paul evokes among many church people is piercingly clear evidence of the extent to which Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four has come true. But Ron Paul can handle all this and a great deal more. He is an excellent toreador, and tosses his constitutional darts where they have the greatest effect.
Sunday, December 23
5:49 PM Becky was the perfect hostess today as we welcomed 4 new members of our rural community to Bradford Hall for dinner and a walk on the farm. Her menu: beef roast with carrots and onions, garden fresh greens, oven-fried potatoes, gravy, rolls, dessert (fresh apple cobbler), and coffee. I passed on the cognac. (Just kidding.) I see the blogs are quoting something we'd written about our family not observing Christmas, not giving gifts, etc., and one would think that I had committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. For us the issue can be boiled down to one or two basic principles, I think, one of which is purely economic, as I cannot justify spending a dime on the trappings of the holidays when this year I will need to fund 5 round trip tickets to Ethiopia out of my own pocket. I can't see that there's anything to be gained, however, by debating the matter, and if people want to distinguish their rationalizings from mine it's their prerogative. We have, up to date, not discovered anything in our family that would make us any better than any other family, Christmas or not. On an entirely different note, here's a picture I took a few minutes ago of the moon rising above the pines of Rosewood, a reminder to me that it is unnecessary to fret over such little things in life when there is One capable of such irrefutable power and beauty.
8:43 AM Dictionary.com has posted its words of the year for 2007. What a crazy world we live in.
8:40 AM News here is unexciting. I have been been doing some reflection lately on the fact that so few Greek teachers employ linguistic science in the teaching of New Testament Greek. I tried to address this issue in a chapter in a book I co-edited, Interpreting the New Testament. The language of the New Testament is just that -- a language. As such it is to be studied and taught as one would study and teach any language: according to the acknowledged principles of sound linguistics. There is obviously no hope of thinking rationally about language apart from linguistic science. Linguistics is over 150 years old, yet it has barely entered into the curricula of our seminaries and Bible schools. Most pastors remain perfectly ignorant of it, and seem perfectly content with their ignorance. I hope this will all change for the better in the future. I do see the younger generation of Greek students taking definite steps toward consolidating their linguistic knowledge and applying it to the languages of the Scriptures. The really deplorable thing is that the number of teachers of the linguistic method is at present ludicrously small. Je le regrette beaucoup. A change would entail, I'm afraid, some very radical alterations in the way evangelicals think of the sciences.
No other news, except that I've come down with a bit of a sniffle, "overwork" no doubt playing a role in it all. If it becomes bad enough, maybe I will ask Marse Nate for a day off tomorrow.
Saturday, December 22
3:02 PM Miscellany:
1) On the writing front, after my Anabaptist book is polished off I hope to get down to a volume of essays, beefing up a number of old ones and writing some new ones. Meanwhile I am much engaged in the works of Ron Paul, who is in so many ways representative of my own viewpoints. He is like a highly educated professional living in the midst of barbarians who don't understand and take no interest in any of the things with which he is concerned, and by whom he is constantly mentioned with ridicule. Long before Ron Paul became a household name I was reading his essays and I even quoted him when I wrote the Welcome to my website years ago. His writings have crystallized my thoughts round some difficult points, though they have also convicted me of the asininities of some of my earlier writings on religion and politics. My book of essays won't be too interesting and it won't offer much that people haven't read before; but if there is a fair prospect of reaching an audience that prefers books to the Internet (or that simply does not have access to the web), I am sure that the project will not be a total waste of time and effort.
2) On the political front, the longer the war goes on the more one loathes it. Prussianism seems everywhere. Even habeas corpus is almost a thing of the past. More on this in my book on statism.
3) On the Ethiopian front, we are now deeply involved in ministry that requires word and deed to be wedded. The feeding of the prisoners in Gondar, for example, gives credence to the preaching of the Gospel, and the preaching gives eternal significance to the feeding. Likewise down south in Burji the reopening of the Galana clinic (if that be God's will) will go a very long way in evangelizing that arid and unhealthy region and also make the preaching work of the evangelists carry weight. Wherever Becky and I travel in Alaba and Burji I sense that our words are given a respectful hearing not because we are Americans but because we are doing what little we can to care for their sick and to relieve their heavy burdens to a degree. I think the important thing is that we do not separate word from deed in the work of the Lord.
Meanwhile Becky has begun shopping for last minute items for Ethiopia. She was on the Internet for a long time trying to find a Doppler for Aberesh's baby, and just now she and Nathan have gone off to shop down in Oxford for protein bars for the evangelists. Her Amharic is coming along splendidly, as far as I can tell, and there are reminders throughout the house, at eye level, that we have a dedicated polyglot in our midst.
7:58 AM Brother Paul often referred to the church as a body. I suppose you can learn about the working of a body even if it's a cow's. The most important members are normally hidden from sight: the viscera, including the heart, lungs, liver, etc. These, Paul would say, are worthy of great honor, and protection, by the other members of the body, including those parts that are "out front." Nobody ever sees the viscera, but apart from their faithful operation, day in and day out, the body could hardly function. In my little essay, Got Any Splanchna?, I was eager to show how people who exercise humble deeds of mercy in the Body of Christ are every bit as important as those who teach. Indeed, being loving toward others is a message, a logos, just as surely as a three-point, carefully alliterated sermon, perhaps more so. So then, I think Paul would say: whether we teach or serve, or do both, we can all be splanchnatic: genuinely loving, caring, considerate.
7:45 AM The textual variant in the Greek text of 1 Thess. 2:7 is hugely important. Does Paul refer to himself as a "baby" or as "gentle"? The difference in Greek is almost imperceptible (cf. the English sentences "The cattle eat it" and "The cat'll eat it"). And there are many ramifications for Christian leadership as well. For a detailed discussion, go here. Either way you end up on the textual slide rule, the humblest men in our congregations ought to be the spiritual leaders, don't you think?
Friday, December 21
6:03 PM G'Day, mate. We're done with the cow. And with cutting firewood. And with spreading manure. The Massa really worked me today. I can only think of one thing: Gen. 3:19 sure is true. Can't stop now, though. Time to make Chinese stir fry, with BOTH of my secret ingredients. Then read a great book.
Life is good.
8:36 AM Seems most everywhere I speak, people know about this interview with Nathan. Happened just last weekend. Home school types, with stars in their eyes, want to know, "What's it like having a real, working farm?" And, "Give us a few pointers on how to get started!" Since many of them have heard Nathan's interview, I always begin with this one, hard, inescapable fact: Don't try this unless someone in your family has the natural skills to do it. In our case, I don't have them. Not one. Nada. Which means that Rosewood Farm would have been an utter impossibility without Nathan's abilities and dedication.
There's nothing he can't do: build a house, bush hog a pasture, bale hay, fix broken equipment, paint a roof, butcher a cow, slaughter a chicken, construct an outbuilding, plow a field, plant corn. Now, I work as hard as he does, but it's all grunt labor. He da man wit da know-how. And ya'll need at least one of them on your farm.
By the by, farming is hard work. Very hard work. If you've got a paunch, don't even try it. It won't get you in shape; it'll maim you. Be realistic: Is having a farm a starry-eyed dream or a get-your-hands-dirty-24/7/365 goal? Can you build things with your own hands and fix them when they get broken? Do you ENJOY working out-of-doors? Do you have the capital saved to buy a farm property (at least 50 acres)? Around here, land is going for about $4,000 an acre, and that's cheap. Not to mention the cost of animal care. Not to mention constant building projects and repairs. If this sounds discouraging, it's not meant to be. I just want you to think realistically. When we first moved from California to the tobacco fields of rural Granville County in 1998, TIME magazine had just published a front page article called "Exurbanites." It told the story of city-dwellers who had bought rural properties only to sell out after 5 years because they could never adjust to an agrarian lifestyle. So before you take the plunge, I'd suggest you listen to Nathan's interview if you haven't already. If you don't have the CD, you can read this. Bottom line: Agrarianism isn't for everybody. And that's A-OK. As with all of life: Know thyself.
8:22 AM Alan Knox is right: whenever church members talk about "holy people" doing "holy things" in "holy places" they are using Old Testament terminology, not New. I've written in my series on the Anabaptists:
I think the Anabaptists hit it out of the ball park with their New Covenant-centered ecclesiology. This is hinted at by one of the commentators over at Alan's site. Because the Anabaptists rejected the "externalization" of the church, they were hated and persecuted by their less Baptistic brethren. I say, "Gott sei Dank" that these intrepid dissenters were faithful unto death for their New Testament convictions.
8:15 AM More vocab has been posted. Thanks Alan and Glenn!
Greek students, check out this great link:
8:10 AM Chuck Baldwin keeps tabs on the Ron Paul Revolution here. Nice, up-to-date listing, too.
8:03 AM I see the blogs are abuzz about the topic of Christian unity, and the net result is, I feel, largely salutary. I expect the discussion to continue for a very long time to come because, like the flowers on our farm, the subject of unity is a perennial matter. I feel impelled to add to the discussion by offering what I believe might be a useful example of what Christian unity looks like, and of course I am thinking of the way in which the 5 evangelical churches of Gondar are cooperating to bring the Gospel (along with soap, toilet paper, and a hot meal) to the 1500 prison inmates in that great city in northern Ethiopia. Note that this unity is not institutional but organic: these churches relate to each other by praying on each others' behalf and by sharing the burden of ministering in their community. Theirs is a unity expressed not through a complex organization but rather in a wide range of activities, mostly evangelistic in character. This is to me quite a remarkable thing -- that evangelical believers from different denominations can manifest the unity of the Spirit not only in a metaphysical heavenly sense but in a dynamic local sense. This fellowship of Christians in the service of the Great Commission is a marvelous example of the commitment to the needs of others enjoined upon us by Paul in Phil. 2:1-4. It is a reminder that the term koinonia in the New Testament refers to a participation in a common objective (including the making of financial contributions) rather than a denomination or even a loose association of churches. I know that I owe it to those humble Christians in Gondar to do all in my power to support their ministry in prison and their attempts to evangelize their neighbors.
Below: Becky and I show the Jesus Film on our laptop during a visit to Gondar in June, 2005.
Thursday, December 20
4:50 PM Update: Though Becky will be going alone to Ethiopia this January/February, we are both planning a trip at the end of May that will likely last 4-5 weeks. We do plan to get down to Burji near the Kenya border and then out to the Galana clinic to begin preparations for its refurbishing. I trust that the Lord will provide the funding for it, but that's completely in His hands. Becky and I see ourselves as mere conduits connecting local churches in the U.S. with local churches in Abyssinia. As God provides, we move forward. We are also making definite plans to visit Gondar during this trip. Very exciting things are happening in northern Ethiopia among the Orthodox, but the details will have to wait. Meanwhile, I am considering invitations to teach in Tennessee, Ukraine, _______, and ________ in 2008. (I cannot mention the latter two countries by name.) Decisions, decisions!
4:45 PM I just cleaned up the yard, Another few hundred pounds of lean beef about to be put away into the freezer. Becky's still shrink-wrapping in the kitchen, but I just had to get off my feet. We plan on doing cow # 4 tomorrow.
10:20 AM Speaking of the U.S. Constitution:
7:56 AM Homeschool mom Carmon Friedrich explains why she prefers Paul over Huckabee.
7:39 AM Today we are butchering yet another cow. Again, none of this could be done without Nathan living on the farm, though he has his own house. Propinquity makes cooperation so much easier than if he had chosen to live elsewhere. The weather is perfect for our task: a high of 53 under partly cloudy skies and little wind. Still no measurable precipitation in the last few months, so it only makes sense to take advantage of the dry weather to do outdoor projects. Meanwhile I work away at my book on the Anabaptists, getting more deeply and deeply involved in all the difficulties. I wish I could afford to spend years on a book, but those days are long gone, if they ever existed. The bleak wintry scenery makes indoor activities like writing all the more attractive, however.
7:30 AM I want to mention that our eldest Ethiopian son Fasil is to be married next year on June 14, and Mama B and Papa B have been asked to attend the ceremony. After 31 years of it, I can say I am definitely in favor of holy matrimony, and I am sure Fasil's bride will be of the same opinion. How curiously our Lord works in relationships -- to think that Fasil waited many, many years to get married. What a beautiful picture of Christ and His bride emerges. I am so happy about this occasion though I'm sure an Ethiopian wedding will hold many surprises for faranjis like Becky and me. Nothing else occurs to me at the moment other than to say: Felicitates, Fasil and Rahel!
7:23 AM This email blessed our socks off. I publish it with the author's permission.
Wednesday, December 19
12:19 PM Chuck Baldwin, my good friend, is a kook. If Chuck's a kook, I'm a blithering idiot.
Reminds me of what Vance Havner once said about true Christianity: The normal has become so subnormal that we think it's abnormal.
11:49 AM Becky and I just had a great meeting with a local church pastor who is interested in a new work that God is doing in Burji. It involves refurbishing a decrepit health clinic in the middle of a malaria-infested valley and hiring a medical staff to provide basic health care to thousands of Burji people. Here are some excerpts from the bullet points Becky Lynn put together for our meeting:
1) First, the emphasis on spiritual ministry:
2) Secondly, the potential to reach the lost with both medical care and the Gospel:
3) Thirdly, the specific medical treatments that can be attained at the clinic:
4) And here's what a church leader in Burji had to say about the need for a health clinic:
I closed the meeting with two simple verses: "Now suppose a person has plenty to live on and notices another believer in need. If he doesn't help the other believer, how can God's love be in that person? It's just impossible! Dear children, we must show love through sincere actions, not through empty words" (1 John 3:17-18).
By the way, here's a picture of the now unused and unusable Galana clinic:
I snapped the following photo of Becky in the Burji highlands just above the Galana clinic site. Who knows how many of these women have lost their children due to the lack of medical care near their homes? They and their families could easily come to the clinic if it were refurbished and opened again. And while receiving the medical care they needed, they would hear the story of the Great Healer!
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: we sure don't deserve to be involved in the work of the Lord in Burji, but we sure do appreciate it. What a great Savior!
10:48 AM "Greetings! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Paltry. That's right: people think I'm pretty insignificant. (I used to be called Sha-ul, "Asked of God," but that was long ago.) Jesus Christ is my owner. Because of what he's done for me, I've made myself his slave. He owns me and everything I have. In fact, I've gotten out of the ownership business. I'm now a steward of what he owns. I'm willing to make any sacrifice for him. God has chosen me to personally represent Jesus on this earth -- to show others his goodness and his love. I have one goal in life: to tell people how much God loves them and how he has provided a means by which their sins can be forgiven. This is all God's doing, not my own. He appointed me to be Christ's representative. He separated me to tell others about his love for them. Isn't he good?"
Thus my paraphrase of Rom. 1:1, which I'm translating in my daily devotionals. (The text reads literally: "Paul, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, called an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.") As you can see, I'm rewording the meaning of the text, trying to avoid Christian jargon. It's an awfully difficult task -- to make words written thousands of years ago come alive to me, in my own life and circumstances. I'm finding it electrifying. I recall what J. B. Phillips wrote in the preface to his Letters to Young Christians: "...again and again the writer felt rather like an electrician re-wiring an ancient house without being able to 'turn the mains off.' " This is not the result of pure reasoning. God must reveal Himself to us through His Word as we depend on the Holy Spirit to "guide [us] into all truth" (John 16:13). As I say, it's electrifying!
8:06 AM I don't want my indebtedness to Alan Knox to pile up, so I think it best that I link to this article sooner rather than later: Guaranteed church building program. Alan writes (to church leaders):
I have one question: Have we learned nothing from the indigenous mission movement? At one time missionaries refused to let the indigenous people do anything. The latter were not considered fit for responsibility. The "efficient" operation of the mission station was more important than giving others responsibility. Meanwhile, the mission staff was sorely overworked.
Is this not the very same situation in our churches today? A huge gap exists between the pastors and the people. The professional clergy are unwilling to entrust full responsibility to the "laity," failing to realize that all believers are equally ministers and priests. The result is the tragedy of overworked leaders and underworked parishioners. The main business of pastor-teachers is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry, with everyone putting his or her effort into the task. It is clear that the fundamental problem is a faulty understanding of the doctrine of every-member ministry and the priesthood of all believers.
When Becky and I fly to Ethiopia, there are perhaps 5 crew members for every 100 people. This is a fine proportion in that situation, but an awful percentage in the church!
7:26 AM I see that Miss Belgium was booed for speaking French. Join the club. The French utterly dislike my accent, and I can't say I blame them.
7:21 AM Calling all Christian surfistas: I know there's a group of you reaching out to the surfing community along North Carolina's beaches. Does anyone know of an organizational name or a website I can link to?
7:13 AM In 2008 I hope to return to Europe to teach pastors again. Could I only set before you what I have seen in places like "Christian" Armenia, your spirit would be stirred in you like Paul's to see the city of Athens wholly given over to idolatry. The darkness is so great and the chances of the true Light shining so small. I am full of sober hope that God can work a miracle in Europe, but I am by no means sanguine. There is a vast amount of work to be done, for Europe is as much a mission field as Central Asia. Indeed, the combined populations of Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Austria—197 million people in all—has but a total of 0.7 percent evangelicals, the same as the entire nation of Egypt! Somehow or other we have to wake up to the needs of the "Dark Continent." What on earth are we doing to evangelize the current generation of Swiss, for example? (To my knowledge we have not a single Southern Baptist missionary working full-time in Switzerland.) It is something I struggle to understand. Whenever I have shared my faith in Europe there were always people ready to listen, sometimes to heckle, sometimes to engage in serious conversation. Over the holidays one of my seminary colleagues will be taking a group of students to the Czech Republic, and in previous years groups have gone to Austria, Spain, and Scotland. It is the devil's lie that "Christian" Europe can be left alone while we reach Asia for Christ. More than once I have heard dedicated young people in Europe tell me, "This is God's continent. The devil has taken it over. We are going to do everything we can to push him out by taking the Gospel to every European." That sounds too simple perhaps, but I am convinced that this idea of simply living out one's faith actively is a vital key to evangelizing Europe. My question is: What can we Americans do to help? A spiritual Berlin Airlift might be a good place to start.
Below: My students and their wives in my pastors class in Alba Iulia, Romania, last year. My translator was my friend and colleague at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Radu Gheorgita.
Here's my best Dracula impersonation, standing before the Count's infamous castle in Transylvania. Do I look Romanian? In fact, I am half Romanian, my mother's family having emigrated from Cluj to America in the early 1900s. Maybe that's why I love Europeans so much.
Tuesday, December 18
2:34 PM The dry, dusty town of Alaba in Ethiopia has become for us one of the best-loved parts of planet Earth. When I first visited Alaba I was eager to see how direct evangelism was taking place everywhere in this Muslim province, even in the remotest towns and villages. Alaba indeed holds a very special place in our hearts. It's been fun listening to Becky practice her Amharic as she prepares to return to Alaba. To learn a foreign language you have to become a little child again. So far Becky has been well-supplied with lessons suitable to her powers of comprehension, but very shortly she will dive in head first, and either sink or swim! I trust it will be a happy time for her and Aberesh; and even should something go wrong, God can still turn it into a source of manifold blessing for which we can give thanks. And yet, now that Becky is returning to minister among the people of Alaba, I wonder: Is she being prayed for as she should be? I am asking the Lord Jesus for 10 friends who will take this to heart and pray daily that Aberesh will have a healthy baby and that Becky will know exactly what to do as her medical advocate.
Here endeth my sermonette on prayer, but it will do me a world of good to know that there are 10 of you interceding for Becky and Aberesh. If God should give you that desire, perhaps you would be so kind as to let me know in an email. Thanks, and God bless. Dave
12:28 PM Guess what I've been up to on this sunny day? Well, first of all we delivered 50 bales to a ranch in Stovall, NC. Since the proprietor is a long-time customer we kept our prices low (only $5.00 a bale, instead of the $9.00 a bale that hay is being sold for at Southern States). This drought has been hard on horse people. Last Sunday in Wilkesboro I spoke with a lady who is selling off her three horses. She can't afford to buy enough hay to keep them through the winter. Very sad.
Take a look at these gorgeous ponies, enjoying some of Virginia's finest horse hay, grown at Rosewood Farm.
While dropping off the hay we saw a stack of old tin in desperate need of salvaging. Never fear, Nate is here! With the owner's permission, we grabbed the whole lot. I figure we saved a couple hundred bucks on this tin, and it only cost us a half hour of labor.
And here's some good news. Today we released Aster from our goat hospital into the main pasture. That's an answer to prayer.
When we got back in the house, look at what Becky Lynn had waiting for us. It's just like her to take such good care of her men folk. Home made vegetable soup, piping hot.
All in a day's work....
9:23 AM Exactly three weeks from today, Becky will arrive in Ethiopia to help our dear sister Aberesh. To me it is all very thrilling to be engaged in such an adventure of faith. We have complete peace that we are doing the right thing, though we have never been separated for such a long period of time before. I do not recommend it -- especially if you have small children at home! Needless to say, I will miss her very much. I will also miss Ethiopia. To visit that country is all very odd and mysterious at the beginning. My first taste of Ethiopia was so vivid it can never be forgotten: the loud noises and street smells of Addis Ababa; the rows of tropical fruit trees in Dilla; the graceful movement of the women in their beautiful national costumes; the big, umbrella-like acacia trees on the road to Hosanna; the simple huts and branch-built corrals for the goats and oxen. Down-country it was like leaving the twenty-first century and stepping into the world of a first-century inhabitant of Galilee. Above all else was the breath-taking beauty of the country, from the Rift Valley to the mountains of Burji. I never expected to find such beauty or hospitality in a country that would soon become my second home.
Sadly, the sewage of western pop-culture, with its hedonism and materialism, is seeping into the nation at an alarming rate. I often wonder: Is Ethiopia, the only African nation never to be colonized, now to be colonized by Western culture? Will the church of Jesus Christ be able to preserve what is worth keeping in Ethiopian culture while rooting out what is worst? There is so much about Ethiopia I simply do not understand, and I find so much unpredictable, except for this one truth: We must, all of us, take our bearing from the Morning Star, the Light of the World, who dispels our darkness and shines even unto death and beyond.
I am feeling nostalgic about Ethiopia today, so you'll have to forgive me for posting these pictures. One never forgets walking from village to village. Here's the "road" to Shargo, in the Burji highlands. The entire village came out to welcome us.
Here Becky is sharing the love of Jesus with a group of curious students in a government school in the Burji highlands.
These women stare in amazement at my wife. She is probably the first white foreigner they have ever seen. The rapport with Becky is instant.
The elders often insisted I have my feet washed after a long day's work. I didn't resist. Foot washing is still practiced in parts of Ethiopia.
These children prepared a special musical program for Team Ethiopia when we arrived in Soyama last June.
"We live for Gospel. Gospel is our power." These hand-made signs greeted us wherever we went. Remember: 60 years ago there was no Gospel witness in this area of the world. Amazing.
Here's a thought: There are no ordinary Christians. Christ's love compels us -- controls us, urges us, impels us. We have no choice but to share the Gospel with others. Christ's love grips the heart of the humblest Christian, propels him along one course of life to the exclusion of all others. Is that not so? Let the kingdom expand!
Monday, December 17
4:15 PM We had some holy and hilarious fellowship this weekend visiting with the Austins in Abingdon on Friday and Saturday and the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church family in Wilkesboro on Sunday. With all due respect to Martin Luther and the apostle Paul, I can state as a categorical fact that the just shall live by food. Becky and I don't observe Christmas, unless the party happens to be at a good friend's house and involves lots of finger food and a wacky gift exchange. We love the Austin clan. They're a little bit crazy, but which family isn't?
Becky and Julia did hand work in the cozy living room...
...while Nathan and Joy sang songs of the season.
Josh and I enjoyed reading Romans together in Greek. All in all a really marvelous time, including watching the premier of "The Hound of the Baskervilles." My favorite (unscripted) moment in the movie is when yours truly (Sir Charles Baskerville) is walking in the yew alley and along comes one of the Austin's hens. She really stole the show.
Then it was off to Mt. Pleasant. It came as a great surprise to me how tall pastor Kevin is. And get this: he's pastoring the church he grew up in. I think there's something healthy and beneficial about that. He's a man of great zeal, controlled by the guidelines of Scripture. Like the Bereans, he's knock-down determined to acquire the truth and to put it into practice. The church made a huge sacrifice for Ethiopia. They contributed just under $1,000, and every penny of their love gift will go to help the saints in Ethiopia. Both Becky and I had the privilege of addressing the congregation, sharing with them how easy it is to get our eyes off life's real purpose and on to secondary issues. As much as I support age-integration, homeschooling, and other worthy (and, I believe, biblical) causes, in ultimate terms these are all secondary matters. We should not get diverted from life's great aim -- to spread the Lord's name and love throughout the earth until He is glorified by all the nations. To see this congregation exercise the ministry of giving with such joyful generosity was a huge blessing to me.
It was a reminder of a great truth: Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today. A big thank you, then, to the Austins and to brother Kevin and his flock for loving God, us, and the Ethiopians!
Friday, December 14
6:44 AM This is too funny. (Thanks to Jeff Mackey.)
6:40 AM I've decided to take the plunge and begin re-reading Romans in my daily Greek devotions. Romans is probably the most complete and condensed statement of the Gospel and yet it is hardly obtuse theology. I have the strong conviction that Paul sees the finished work of Christ and the centrality of the atonement accomplished on Calvary as having tremendous ecclesiological implications. Political (ch. 13) and social (chs. 14-15) issues are no less important to Paul than soteriological (chs. 1-11) and ethical ones (ch. 12). I especially want to learn what Paul thinks about the kingdom of God and how it impacts history. The book no doubt is full of profound insights, and Paul's lucidity and brilliance in the Greek text will, I'm sure, make for some challenging twists and turns. I have no doubt it will be an uphill and at times discouraging task. I confess that I embark on it with considerable trepidation, but if I do not set an example for my students how can I ever expect them to read their Greek daily?
Below: The ruins of Corinth, where Paul spent 3 months writing the book of Romans on his third missionary journey. He could write to the Latin-speaking Romans in the Greek language, which had become the lingua franca of the day.
6:25 AM This Sunday Becky and I will be speaking at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Boone, NC, rekindling interest in foreign missions (especially in Ethiopia) and also speaking on adolescentism. We hope to show that, in a world deeply divided by barriers of race, culture, and class, the church is a supra-national center of unity. It is through loyalty, not to a national cause, but solely to the Kurios of the universe, that there can be genuine unity of any kind.
Thursday, December 13
5:23 PM Taking a break from grading, I went auf der Suche for our helpers and found them busily occupied. Now we know what Isaac and Mama B were up to!
And look at Nathan and Caleb, spreading horse manure down in Hidden Valley to cover up the new grass seed they had just sown.
As for Micah, he had his hands full checking up on the goats and cows. Here he is reporting in: "Everything's fine, Papa B."
And finally, some very good news: It just now started to drizzle. Let her pour, let her pour!
12:13 PM I'm busy grading exams from my New Testament class but had to pause to congratulate John N. and Craig T. for earning a perfect 110 on our Greek final. In fact, 23 students (out of 55, excluding audits) earned a semester average of 100 or higher in the course, thus receiving an A+. They did this by consistently doing the extra credit work: translating from English into Greek. All are to be commended, though, for putting up with me and finishing the course.
Meanwhile, Greek Student: Quo Vadis?
10:56 AM We're having a blast with the boys today. They are always eager to help us with our work. Here Caleb works with uncle Nathan to load the trailer with 50 bales of hay for delivery today.
Then it was time to fill a bucket with fresh water for one of our sick goats.
Meanwhile, Isaac was busy as a beaver helping Mama B by stirring up some secret concoction they're working on.
And Micah is always eager to help rearrange our pantry.
Their mommy and daddy will be joining us for supper tonight. Meanwhile, back to work.
9:35 AM I am very grateful and happy to report that our son David in Alaba is doing much better. If you recall, he had been suffering for weeks from malaria, typhus, typhoid, and a bacterial infection. Your prayers have made a big difference. Many thanks indeed.
9:27 AM Becky leaves for Ethiopia in only 3 weeks. Almost immediately upon her arrival in Addis Ababa she will have a most important meeting. It will be with the head of an organization that teaches villagers how to do well drilling. As you know, it has long been our desire to dig wells and thus supply fresh drinking water in Alaba and Burji. There is always a certain tension among missionaries between those who are devoted to personal evangelism and those who are concerned about social issues. We see no problem in bringing both sides together in a joint operation. Once we have trained local church leaders to dig wells on church property, they will have an important preaching point where their evangelists can point non-believers to the Water of Life as they come to draw water for free. It will, no doubt, be very hard work. Kindly remember Becky in prayer as she meets with this organization. We are hoping that several church leaders from Alaba and Burji will be able to attend the conference as well.
7:53 AM What do these countries have in common? Armenia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom. The fact that (1) I have been on their soil, and (2) they’d rather have Ron Paul as the next U.S. president than any other candidate.
7:42 AM Forgiveness in action:
Read more at the YWAM website.
7:35 AM Students: My J-term syllabus for Greek has just been posted to the seminary website. If you are taking the course no need to cumber the virgin soil with any preliminary reading of the textbook. We will start everything from scratch, as if no one knew anything about Greek.
7:31 AM Mennonite missionary and teacher Mark Baker discusses what we can learn from church-to-church relationships across the great cultural divide. My own opinion is that we cannot understand our own church culture until we have traveled abroad and have something to compare it with. Or maybe the word is contrast. At any rate, there’s an awful lot we can learn from other-culture churches, as Mark points out.
7:28 AM Alan Knox has begun posting our beginning Greek vocabulary over at StudySEBTS. Thanks, Alan, for providing this service to our students. It really looks good.
7:25 AM I have been a monster not to have linked to this before, but you simply must read David Gordon’s review of A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, by Glenn Greenwald. You’ll find it at the von Mises Institute site. Yes, this is the same Glenn Greenwald who deftly handled Dennis Prager in their on-air debate.
7:20 AM Alan Reynolds has posted a delightful essay called Those Wonderful (Christmas) Holidays. He’s listed (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) a few things we might want to forego if we really wanted to placate the secularists during the holidays. His approach is charming and thought-provoking. For what it’s worth, I venture this response, with sincere apologies if I offend anyone who just cannot live without the fanfare of Christmas:
1) Actually, we’ve given up on Christmas trees in our home. Long time ago, in fact. Alan writes, “No wreaths, garland, lights, candles, etc.–anything that wreaks [sic] of Christmas.” That pretty much describes our household during this time of the year.
2) Christmas vacations? Time off, maybe, but I still work. In fact, six days a week, if not seven. My “vacations” are dedicated to traveling abroad, usually to Ethiopia, or else speaking in churches stateside about missions (as we will do this weekend in Boone, NC).
3) Easter. No big deal to us anymore. Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday.
4) Taking two days off on the weekend? Not moi. As I said, Saturday is a work day for me (I do farm projects). And Sundays? Preaching and/or teaching.
5) Other holidays? Happy to live without them.
Having said that, my personal views will do nothing to spoil the fun we’re going to have at a friend’s Christmas party this Friday night, nor will it stop us from taking advantage of the Christmas holiday to evangelize the prisoners in Gondar.
7:05 AM I am now reading Ben Witherington’s Making a Meal of It – the best thing, in spite of a rather obscure style, I’ve read in a long time on the subject of the Lord’s Supper. Ben notes that the supper was partaken in the early church as part of a larger fellowship meal that symbolized the unity of all believers. He writes (pp. 60-61):
Ben’s emphasis on unity is well-placed. I cannot see the early church having two tables of the Lord: one for men and one for women, one for the weak and one for the strong, one for the educated and one for barbarians, one for homeschoolers, and one for government-schoolers, etc. When I published my essay The One Table of the Lord it was gratifying to get an email response from an elder of a church whose practice was to have the heads of households serve the elements to their family members only. This elder came to see that the basis for unity is never to be an ancillary to faith in Christ such as an age-integrated philosophy of ministry or a patriarchal style of leadership in marriage and the home. But the question remains: if the table is such a symbol of our unity, why do we observe the supper so infrequently? My essay Temples of Ceramic Deities tries to address this problematic issue head on:
Wednesday, December 12
8:38 PM No special news to report on the writing front. I work away at What I Have Learned from the Anabaptists for the moment – an odd, crossword puzzle endeavor if ever there was one. It seems impossible to reduce to 30 brief chapters the work of the Anabaptists in light of modern ecclesiology. As my editor wrote to me when I first sent him the proposal, “You’re not supposed to be learning from the Anabaptists. You’re a Greek professor.” He has a point. I suppose my work in ecclesiology is an Ersatz for my interest in the local church. I hope and even anticipate – in so far as any rational anticipation is justified in this lunatic industry – that the book will clarify for the general public my thinking about the Body of Christ. At the very least I hope to avoid casting a haze of dubiety over matters of plain biblical significance. In every respect I find myself going against the stream, and in a good many places I am finding that I have to rethink long-held opinions. I suppose that is the main reason why I am writing this book. I think that should I ever write an autobiography it will be full of my struggles to find out how to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus.
Meanwhile, you may have noticed that I haven’t produced very much in the way of Greek tools recently. That is intentional on my part. It often happens when beginning a writing career that one mounts a single subject and rides round and round on it without being able to dismount. I hope to avoid that tendency. I’ve also slackened in my production of journal articles, choosing instead to focus on my website (both essays and blog). Not long ago it occurred to me that I gave the better part of 30 years to the writing of “timely” articles, and those articles sleep now in forgotten volumes of Novum Testamentum and New Testament Studies. I am not a grouser, but I had hoped for greater influence, especially in the area of New Testament textual criticism. Maybe someday an obscurantist scholar will revisit my work in this area, though he will have go back at least to the Crusader level before his archeological dig turns up anything noteworthy.
Meanwhile: Onward and upward!
Tuesday, December 11
4:59 AM This is the last week of our fall semester. A few reminders:
1) If you are in my New Testament class ("Jesus and the Gospels"), you will have the entire class period on Wednesday (3 hours) to take your essay exam. There are 4 exam questions, which may be accessed online at Campus Net. Please provide your own writing paper. I will provide the stapler. Remember: the more thorough your answers the better. You may also use an unmarked Bible during the exam.
2) If you are in my Greek class, tonight your take-home exam is due at 6:30, at which time you will grade your own exams (as usual). This is your last opportunity this semester to get a copy of one of my books for free (the "110 Award"), so do your very best to denude my library.
3) I am going out of town after graduation on Friday, so I plan to have all of my semester grades calculated and reported before then. No need to go to the Registrar's office anymore to check on your grade or wait for a written grade report. Just check your student account at Campus Net and save a tree.
4) I am teaching J-term Greek again this year. Classes begin on Jan. 3. We meet daily from 9:00-12:00.
These 9 years of teaching at Southeastern have greatly enriched my life. Nine years -- as long as the siege of Troy! For most of these years my thoughts have been directed to international missions more constantly than to anything except my family and my professional work. This holiday season will be no exception as we prepare to send Becky overseas and I as teach during J-term to help pay for our trips to Ethiopia this June and again in the fall. But as much as I enjoy and love mission work, the romance of teaching has always held sway in my affections. I'm thankful for a good semester and I look forward to the next one with eager anticipation.
To all: Finish well in your assignments!
4:45 AM I think "Festschrifting" is great fun. I have already edited, in deep secrecy prior to its revelation at an annual SBL meeting, a Festschrift honoring J. Harold Greenlee, and now it seems I am compelled to add yet another "celebration writing" to the volumes that grace our library shelves. Who it is will have to remain a secret for some time, however.
Monday, December 10
3:18 PM We just spent several hours pulling cut nails from this flooring. We sold it to a gentleman in Durham who'll use it in three of his bedrooms. This is all part of Nathan's salvage business. The man found us on Craig's List. Brought in a nice little income for Nate too. Old tongue-and-groove flooring like this is very hard to come by.
Right now Becky and Nathan have gone down to Oxford to swap out manure trailers. My job? Turn off the pressure cooker when the buzzer sounds. Becky's been cooking up more of her delicious garden greens.
6:54 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Are We Still a Nation of Liberty-Lovers?
6:50 AM Meet your sister in Christ: Aberesh. I'm glad we found this picture of her. I pray daily for her and her husband Tilahun. What humble servants of our God.
6:43 AM We all had a big laugh in Sunday School class yesterday. After I had requested prayer for Becky's trip to Ethiopia to assist Aberesh and to learn Amharic, I also asked prayer for Nathan "while he's trying to learn how to speak the local Southern Virginia brogue." Seemed everyone had a funny "accent story" to tell, especially about, well, "about" (pronounced "a boot"). Growing up in Hawaii I spoke pidgin, the "unofficial" language of the Islands. My thick accent caused me some embarrassing moments when I went to California for college in 1971. That and my surf bumps. What are those, you ask? Nobody knows today, now that no one knee paddles their surfboards anymore. They're big, ugly bumps on your knees and feet (topside) due to the constant rubbing against the board as you paddled out great distances. As I gradually adjusted to mainland living and did less knee paddling (the beaches in California are all shore breaks), my bumps disappeared, as did my accent. As for Nathan, he's got a ways to go before he'll be mistaken as a local by his speech (even though his neck gets red when he works outside).
6:34 AM As everyone knows, I am childishly fond of escapes into escapades about World War II allied airmen, especially those held in German POW camps. I watch as they are violently shot down and captured ("Für Sie ist der Krieg vorbei"), as they tunnel or disguise their way to freedom (or death), as they are recaptured and begin to despair of ever seeing hearth and home again. If I had not early fallen in love with the Greek language, I have not the slightest doubt that I would have become a professor of modern history. Allow me to share yet another example of the superb prose one finds in Free As a Running Fox, the story of British Spitfire pilot Tommy Calnan. Here he has just been surrounded by a group of farmers with their shotguns near Merseburg after making an escape through the window of a train and being free for three days:
I wonder if anyone else in history ever surrendered with such aplomb. Calnan's assumption of an air of "arrogance" was indeed a stroke of genius. I only wish I could hear him speaking, hear the disdain in his voice, the haughty look in his eyes, or see the bumbling idiocy of the farmers, for whom unthinking obedience to authority (even that of an enemy combatant) came automatically, as it did to many Germans during the war.
Sunday, December 9
7:59 AM Last night our guests watched one of my favorite movies, The Black Stallion. It brought, as you can imagine, a flood of happy memories of my own Arabian gelding Cody as well as my great and good Thoroughbred Traveler. Our guests were surprised that I had given up riding, that Cody had died, and that I had given away Traveler. At 55, I told them, it was time to take in sail -- just a little. The truth is, I was a very fast rider, and I was always a little afraid I would not be able to tolerate the potential injuries that come from cross-country riding, including the inevitable unplanned dismounts. There are few temptations more subtle than the temptation to go beyond one's physical strength. Should I, then, buy an older horse for pleasant rides in the pasture? That thought has crossed my mind a thousand times, but being earthbound has given me more time for essential farm projects and for what I like doing best -- writing. I still sense that at the end of the tolerably long row of books that bear my name on their fading dust covers there exists room for one or two more; at any rate, I am already committed by contract to press on. For 15 wonderful years I took great pains to be a rider and a very good one at that. But to watch a beautiful movie and get my riding enjoyment vicariously is not all that bad. Not bad at all.
7:43 AM Becky and I were married in September, 1976, but we had been seeing each other since September of 1973. Our weekend guests asked us how we met, and we told them our separate versions of the story, mine using a strict economy of words, and Becky's filling in all the important details, much as Mark's Gospel does in the triple tradition passages. The short version is that we met while standing in the cafeteria line at Biola College. I had just received a box of chocolate-covered Macadamia nuts from home, and when I noticed a tall young lady behind me I offered her a nut. We sat together at lunch that day, and two years and 8 months later I proposed to this graceful Texan. I fear my version is much duller than Becky's, and she is always quick to mention that she knew, the instant she saw me for the first time, that one day I would be her husband, that my days as a single man were numbered, and that I would begin the responsibilities of my teaching career with her by my side. What would you call that? A word from the Lord? Female intuition? Prophecy? No answer to me seems wholly conclusive. But there you have it: a fait accompli in a cafeteria line brought on by two hungry stomachs and cemented by, of all things, a nut.
Saturday, December 8
5:02 PM Below is a photo of a very common but simple Ethiopian meal, consisting of injera (a pancake-like bread) and wat (a stew dish).
Becky and I have been afforded a unique opportunity to provide a simple meal like this to some 1500 prisoners in an Ethiopian prison on their Christmas Day, which is January 8. That's only one month from today. Along with the meal will come a simple but clear Gospel presentation. Perhaps you would prayerfully consider becoming involved in this wonderful outreach. Becky has written a report about it called Christmas and Prisoners.
Thank you. Love to all, Dave
12:21 PM In 1988 I published Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications. There are dozens of books on that topic now, but mine was then almost a pioneer volume. It suggested new methods of approaching the field of Greek grammar, was promptly adopted by many colleges and seminaries, and has apparently been one of the most influential of the books the Lord has allowed me to write. A few years later I revised it and added a chapter on discourse analysis. It is now time to pour the old wine into even newer wineskins, and I would gladly entertain suggestions for improvement from anyone who has read the book or has used it is a textbook, on either side of the desk.
10:32 AM While we're on the topic of Christian unity:
This from Moltmann. There's a great deal of truth to what he says. Of course, one of the "religions" he is referring to is the worship of the state (Nazism). Hence the development of the "Confessing Church" during the Second World War.
10:19 AM A reader sent along this link to Tiny Texas Houses. (I didn't think anything was tiny in Texas.) She thought Nathan and I would enjoy the pix. We did. Here's my favorite:
10:08 AM Here's an assignment for your weekend enjoyment, prompted by Alan Knox's post called Jesus died for unity. Take your Bible and turn to Rom. 15:1-8. (You will recall that Paul calls Christ a diakonos in verse 8.) Study the text, then rephrase it in your own words. Here's one possible approach:
Verse 1: We need to be patient with one another, especially with those with whom we disagree in the Body of Christ.
Verse 2: We must stop thinking only of ourselves.
Verse 3: We must be like Christ, who did not think only of Himself. He endured insults on our behalf.
Verse 4: The Scriptures are our source of confidence and encouragement.
Verse 5: These Scriptures teach that if we follow the example of Christ, God will allow us to live in unity and harmony with each other.
Verse 6: Having unity brings great praise to God the Father.
Verse 7: Let us, then, accept one another in the same way that Christ accepted us. He did this to bring glory to God.
Verse 8: Christ became a servant to the Jewish people to set an example for us Gentiles.
See how everything ties together? In fact, it can be said that the whole argument of Romans leads up to the problem of Romans 14 and 15 (disunity) and Paul's solution: love. A good summary statement is Rom. 14:29: "So let's pursue those things that bring peace and that are good for each other."
As Alan says, "doctrine without unity is not sound doctrine at all."
8:29 AM Next week I will complete my sixty-first semester of teaching, broken only by my graduate studies in Switzerland. I have had the blessing of meeting many interesting people during this time, have written several books (I wish I had written them better!), and have taught thousands of students -- from Korea to India to Spain and around the world -- who seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. I gladly echo the words of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress:
Many weaknesses I have, but ingratitude is not one of them, and today I wish to express my sincere thanks to all of my students, in three classes this semester, for being such serious-minded scholars, and I trust that the scraps they may have gleaned from our table will only whet their appetite for more. I have never cared for fiction, but if I did I should describe my pilgrimage in education as the "best of times" and the "worst of times," worst only in the sense that it took me several years to learn to loathe intellectual pride -- which explains my disinclination for honorific titles and my keenness for the natural beauty of a plain agrarian lifestyle. During my first year of teaching I discovered the simple beauty of the Greek New Testament and was intoxicated by it, as I still am. It never surprises me when my students tell me that they actually love the Greek language, and I am quite sure that any skepticism they might have about the ultimate value of their labors will be dispelled once they gain a working knowledge of Koine. Years ago I too was bent, grimly and ferociously, upon mastering every secret of Greek grammar. I owe my interest in the language to my Greek professor at Biola, Dr. Harry Sturz, who, though not a "scholar" in the strict academic sense, was a model Christian. (He had a precedent: "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.") Any teacher can communicate facts, but facts do not necessarily bring wisdom or insight. Dr. Sturz invariably instilled within the hearts of his pupils a passion for the language of the New Testament, and an even greater love for its Author and Subject. Personally, I owe a great deal to Harry Sturz, and not merely because he offered me my first chance to earn a living by teaching at Biola.
A wise educator once told me, "Remember that your classroom is your own house. Treat your students as your personal guests, and you will have no trouble." I must at times confess during my 31 years of teaching that I have seemed a worried and anxious host, but the guests have always been uniformly considerate. They have been most kind to me, and I shall miss their presence in my "house" until we meet again in January.
Note: As you can see, my "house" occasionally migrates to foreign soil. Below is my beginning Greek class at the Evangelical Theological College in Ethiopia.
My intermediate Greek class at the Mennonite Bible College in the teeming metropolis of Addis Ababa. The campus has now relocated to Debra Zeit, an hour southeast of the capital.
My students in Oradea, Romania, a year ago. These were younger pastors who were dedicated to following the Scriptures in their ecclesiology and who found the autocratic form of leadership so prevalent in that part of the world deplorable.
Giving a lectureship in the Ukraine last July. Here my audience was comprised of the elders of the largest Baptist church in Nikolayev. Again, our textbook was the Bible.
Friday, December 7
1:55 PM Chuck Baldwin has just written one of his most perceptive essays on politics and the so-called Christian Right. Read it here.
12:25 PM Two brief comments on Alan Knox's excellent blog entry of today:
1) Jesus Himself is a diakonos (see Rom. 15:8 -- don't you love the Greek text!!).
2) Perhaps the question is who should "deac," not "deacon." If you're befuddled, go here.
10:28 AM This week I received a couple of new books on Greek from various publishers. The contents are well enough, but I am not impressed with the print, font, or paper quality. Look at most any book published prior to 1960 and you will discover a significant difference. Publishers then were experts in typography. Their passion was the making of beautiful books. They considered it their job to make books faultlessly, rather than to read them. Simply take a look at Eugene van Ness Goetchius's magnificent Greek grammar and you will see what I mean. Even the paper has an aesthetic quality rarely found in today's publishing world, where an exact profit-and-loss accounting of each book and each author conspicuously wags the dog. Sadly, "inexpensive" today also means "cheap" in far too many cases.
10:20 AM We had rice for breakfast this morning. Along with fried eggs and toast. In Hawaii rice was typically served for breakfast, just as grits used to be served in the South (rather than hash browns). It really is quite tasty with eggs. Becky reminded me that while we were in Greece, okra was served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Odd, isn't it -- the culinary customs of nations and people.
7:17 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Pearl Harbor and the Cycle of Fear.
7:12 AM I want to take a minute and commend this excellent website to anyone who is attempting to master theological German. There is certainly something to be said for availing oneself of such wonderful helps if you are a student of the language.
Before leaving for West Germany as a short-term missionary in 1978, I worked incessantly at my German, for it was obvious that I could never study in a German-speaking university (which was my desire and goal) without an expert knowledge of the language. I used the simplest of conversational grammars as my textbooks, and later proceeded to intermediate-level readers. Paul Mittmann, an erstwhile Wehrmacht soldier who after the war had emigrated to Anaheim, California, became my tutor in conversational German. Once in a while I preached in his small church -- one of the few Lutheran Brethren congregations in Southern California -- reading from the hand-written notes I had labored over for hours. It soon became necessary to decide on my doctoral program, and naturally I discovered plenty of reasons for applying to both Tübingen in Germany and Basel in Switzerland. Though accepted to work with professors at both institutions, I chose the latter due to the reputation of my soon-to-be Doktorvater, Professor Bo Reicke, who hailed from Sweden. That an American should go to the continent to study theology seemed a natural course of action to me. Indeed, it scarcely occurred to me that I would go anywhere else. The only schools in America that I considered attending all had professors who themselves had received their own training abroad, and I did not think it very wise to get my education secondhand.
Basel to me was an entrancing place, and it was not long before I got some inkling of the meaning of that mysterious German word Gemütlichkeit. Since I could already speak and write German, Professor Reicke was eager for me to move speedily ahead with my dissertation, which I decided would investigate the various Greek words for "weakness" in the Pauline corpus. The lectures I attended were unlike anything I was used to back home. As soon as the professor entered the lecture hall we students stopped our chattering and literally knuckled our applause on our desktops. There were free organ concerts every Friday evening and church services every Sunday morning. Becky and I secured a tiny one-room apartment a half block from the Rhine and settled down to endure the coldest winter that Switzerland had had in years. I was duly matriculated as a doctoral student and began attending seminars. The air in many a doctoral seminar was notorious for its foulness, as most of the students had taken up pipe-smoking in apparent imitation of their esteemed professors (e.g., Markus Barth was an avid pipe-smoker.) Unlike the American system I was so used to, there were no tests or exams to measure a student's progress. The professor merely signed each student's registration card at the beginning and then at the end of the course. We had, of course, no shortage of motivation to attend lectures given by such world-famous scholars as Martin Anton Schmidt, Jan Milic Lochman, and Ernst Jenni. One of my favorite seminars was conducted by Professor Bernhard Wyss, a Greek philologist then at the height of his fame. There were three of us in the seminar on Greek minuscule manuscripts of the ninth century, and the reward for our perseverance was a visit to the university library at the end of the semester to examine an original Erasmus Greek New Testament, published in 1516.
But of course I had been drawn to Basel by the fame of that great New Testament scholar and delightful teacher, Bo Reicke, under whose tutelage I worked on my dissertation. Within a year's time I was able to return to California and resume my teaching responsibilities at Biola University. In 1983 I spent 7 weeks in Basel preparing for my orals and graduated that summer. While there I made a pilgrimage to all the important sites in the life of Ulrich Zwingli, the great reformer of Zürich. All the while I attended the Baptistengemeinde Basel and preached there numerous times. On the Sunday before my final departure from Basel I gave a sermon in dialect, having made an arduous but belated effort to learn Baseldeutsch.
Professor Reicke's impact on me is difficult to measure. He showed the imaginative instinct of an independent thinker as well as a consummate technical scholar. I feel very blessed to have been his student. When I left Basel in the summer of 1983 I never saw him again.
What I have been relating would have been impossible without a knowledge of the German language. I remember how surprised I was at learning that many of my American colleagues could neither read nor speak German with facility, even though they had doctorates in New Testament. I hope, then, that my students do not mind if I try to seduce them into not only learning but mastering this wonderfully useful language.
Below: A panoramic view of the beautiful city on the Rhine, where Germany, France, and Switzerland all meet.
Thursday, December 6
11:56 AM Today is a perfect day for walking on the farm: bright, sunshiny, and crispy cold. This is one of my all-time favorite views of Bradford Hall with its dependencies.
Nathan raises all of our calves from about 2 days old, so they are very human-friendly and will come right up to you. This little feller allowed me to rub his back.
The dogs sniffed out these feathers in the pasture. Looks like we lost yet another duck. O well, I suppose the predators need to eat too.
I was curious to see how Sheppie would react to the animals. His herding instinct kicked in immediately. Here he's facing down Edelweiss.
Over a year ago our Nubian Floppy gave birth to this beautiful white girl but sadly died two days later. I raised Snowball and bottle fed her until she was a month old. I guess she thinks I'm her mommy. She's my favorite goat by far.
I'm so thankful that God has allowed me to live on a farm. I don't deserve it, but I sure do appreciate it.
11:17 AM James Ostrowski's pep talk for Ron Paul just about says it all:
And don't forget the tea party on Dec. 16!
9:31 AM People have been asking me, "How in the world can you and Becky be separated for 9 long weeks while she's in Ethiopia?" I will try to answer this question, though here I can do no better than a brief croquis.
1) As you can imagine, we've had some long prayer and much earnest thought about the matter. We are in complete agreement that this is the will of God for us. "Can two walk together unless they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). (By the way, in 31 years of marriage we have never made an important decision unless both of us were in complete agreement. My thinking has always been, "Why should the Holy Spirit tell me to do one thing and Becky another?")
2) Becky is uniquely suited for this ministry. As you know, Becky will be in Ethiopia to help Aberesh, an evangelist's wife who has lost several babies in utero. The problem is likely pre-eclampsia, which requires very close monitoring. Becky has been a nurse for 30 years and has risen to the height of her profession (ICU). Also, Becky has herself experienced pre-eclampsia, and so she has personal knowledge of its dangers. It is Becky's task to watch Aberesh very closely and do all she can to see that this precious sister in Christ is given the best medical care that is available in Ethiopia, both pre- and post-partem.
3) I like to tell people, "If you want to understand my wife, just read Romans 16:1-2." Usually, people compare Becky and me to Priscilla and Aquila. We always travel to Ethiopia together. But on this trip she will be more like Phoebe. Note that Phoebe is described by two words: "diakonos" and "prostatis." In the New Testament the noun diakonos is often translated "deacon," not always a good choice in my opinion. The English word has a religious connotation lacking in its Greek counterpart. A diakonos is simply a person who serves other people. If you know Becky, she is a deacon par excellence. (I have written about this often.) The second word is even more emphatic. The Greek term prostatis is defined by Douglas Moo as “one who came to the aid of others, especially foreigners, by providing housing and financial aid and by representing their interests before the local authorities.” Moo thinks Phoebe was “a woman of high social standing and some wealth, who put her status, resources, and time at the service of traveling Christians, like Paul, who needed help and support” (Romans, p. 916). Now, if you will combine Rom. 16:1-2 with Phil. 2:3-4, you will understand exactly why Becky is going back to Ethiopia.
4) Finally, Becky wants to learn the Amharic language desperately. Being in-country is by far the best way to do that. Having learned to speak a few foreign languages myself, I can empathize with her. Language is made up not only of words but of rules and logic. It is precisely vague, if you will. You can't learn Amharic in haste. It takes time and commitment. So let's all be rooting for Becky as she climbs this enormous mountain!
In short, Becky and I both feel we are called to do all we can to spread the Good News of the kingdom and to assist God's people to the best of our (limited) abilities and resources. We have discovered that the god of TV or sports or pleasure or "Christian" holidays can be just as much an artificiality as any of the monstrous deities of pagan cultures. The same can be said for our culture's love for "Christian" radio and TV preachers, which for some crazy reason we prefer to the pure milk of the Word of God -- a book filled with joy and vitality, courage and wisdom. God inevitably disappoints the man who is attempting to use Him to prop up his own comfort and plans.
You ask, "What will you eat while she's gone?" I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that there's one meal the man of the house can make (it calls for a very special ingredient). It's a good thing that both he and Nathan enjoy this meal, because the bad news is that's about all he knows how to cook.
7:58 AM Ron Paul – the conscience of the GOP.
7:54 AM Our family will be watching Tora, Tora, Tora again this year – probably the best dramatization of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. And this reminder: The story of Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, is a wonderful testimony to the mercy and grace of God. You can read about it here.
7:45 AM Alan Knox, one of my outstanding Ph.D. students, has just been interviewed at Said at Southeastern. Alan blogs over at The Assembling of the Church. This isn't the first time Alan has been interviewed, however (see his DBO interview).
7:42 AM Celebrating Christmas – in October?
7:40 AM The Swiss are (justly) proud of Ron Paul:
Read Ron Paul Lobt die Schweiz. (Note: It's true. I don't know the name of the current president of Switzerland. Even when I lived there in the early 1980s I couldn't tell you who he [or she] was.)
7:35 AM The New Year will be fast upon us. With that in mind, some 300 years ago a man named Jonathan Edwards made 70 resolutions. Here’s a sample:
Each resolution is still worth reading today. They are a reminder that our business as Christians is to glorify God in body and spirit, by life or by death, in sickness or health, by what we do and what we do not do, whether we eat or drink. Like Edwards, I want to learn to pray, not “Lord bless me,” or “Lord use me,” but “Lord glorify Yourself through me.”
7:31 AM Click here to see a tribute to Larry and Jean Elliott, two simple Jesus-followers. The Elliotts were killed March 15 in Mosul, Iraq. They are buried at Grassy Creek Baptist Church, 15 minutes from my farm. Their life and death confirm the words of yet another Christian martyr, Jim Elliott:
Wednesday, December 5
6:17 PM Mavericks in Monterey, CA, has been breaking big lately, as in HUGE. In fact, on Tuesday a 45-year old man died there trying to surf nearby Ghost Trees. Tonight NPR was reporting that waves as high as 80 feet were being ridden. I have three brief thoughts:
1) Having surfed waves both in Hawaii and California, I know that each place measures wave size differently. In Hawaii, where I was born and raised, we always measured a wave from the back. In California, where I lived for 27 years, waves were measured from the front. Thus in Hawaii a 25-foot wave would measure 40-plus feet in California because a wave sucks out in the front. So I find it hard to believe that actual 80 footers were breaking at Mavericks. Here's a shot of a big wave at Mavericks. I estimate the wave size to be 20 feet, even though the face of the wave is at least 35 feet.
2) I am 55 years old and haven't surfed in 10 years (since I moved to the East Coast from California). Even though I'm in very good physical condition and am an expert swimmer (I was a life-guard in California), I think it's a bit overboard for anyone over 30 or so to risk life and limb riding big waves. When I was 16 I thought nothing of it and could hold my breath for a couple of minutes when taken under by a huge wave. But I've noticed that the older I get, the weaker my lung power has become. It's just the natural process of aging I suppose.
3) That said, everyone has to test one's own limits. "Know thyself" is a famous Greek saying, and it applies as much to surfers as to anyone else. My sympathies to the family of Peter Davi, whom I know died doing something he enjoyed. If you have never felt the thrill of speeding down the face of a monster wave at 30 mph, you have really missed something special.
5:38 PM Izzy Lyman is writing again, this time over at Taki’s Top Drawer. Don’t miss her take on the Ron Paul Revolution here. And while you’re at Taki’s site, why not check out this essay on the myth of adolescence? It deals with a new book exposing the fabrications of a whole generation of social scientists. (For the record, I prefer to call the myth adolescentism, since it’s a social theory and not a fact.)
5:32 PM Special hello and thanks to our four presenters in New Testament class today: Blake, Wes, Bob, and Paul. Each presentation was centered in the cross and Christ-exalting. I am blessed to be part of such a great class. I have sensed a strong working of God’s Spirit among the students all semester long.
5:28 PM Here’s a cool web page I ran across recently: UK Baptist Blogs.
Tuesday, December 4
5:57 AM Today is a very big day. I begin orals at the seminary. This time I'm on the giving end. Each student in my Ph.D. Greek Linguistics Seminar gets a half hour to shine.
5:53 AM A message from Ron Paul. (Thanks to my friend Lee Shelton.)
5:50 AM Bro. Matt reviews Spirit-Led Preaching.
5:45 AM Last night we crawled into bed at 7:30. Barely. We were that tired. At least we were able to process another cow. Our freezers are now full enough to take us through 2008. Not bad for two days of work. And the beef? Never tasted better. We even had Chinese food last night to celebrate (with my secret ingredient, of course.)
Monday, December 3
7:24 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Regrets.
7:21 AM Click here to read about the fascinating advice Bruce Metzger gave to one of his doctoral candidates just prior to that student's oral dissertation defense at Princeton. Apparently Metzger was fond of telling his students to say "I don't remember" instead of "I don't know" if they didn't know the answer to a question. This brings back memories of my own oral exam. At the University of Basel, you took your orals after your dissertation had been approved. You had to wait several months from the time your dissertation was accepted before you could schedule your exam. In my case, the orals were to cover 3 areas in New Testament studies, one of which was Paul's letter to the Philippians. As you can imagine, I spent several weeks studying that epistle and everything written about it in English, German, French, etc. When the day of my orals came I felt confident that I could answer any question thrown at me by the 3 examiners. If I recall correctly, the subject of Philippians came up after the other 2 areas had been discussed. Professor Reicke was the one who began the questioning on Philippians. Guest what? He asked not a single question about Philippians! Instead, he used Philippians as a platform from which to ask me questions that would show whether or not I understood the Pauline corpus. He would ask, for example, "Where in Paul's other letters does he discuss the theme of suffering, as he does in Phil. 1:29?" Or, "Phil. 2:5-11 is not the only example of the Adam-Christ contrast in Paul's thought. Can you discuss how he develops that theme in his other writings?" Again, not a single question was asked about Philippians per se. Very wise on his part, I thought later, but I sure was sweating bullets during the exam. Needless to say, I felt very stretched after taking my orals. But that was one of the reasons I went to Basel in the first place.
On one occasion during the exam I did indeed have to admit "I don't remember." I had been asked by Professor Martin Anton Schmidt to repeat Oscar Cullmann's famous couplet. The answer, of course, was "schon erfüllt, noch nicht vollendet." I knew the answer but developed a bad case of stage fright. I couldn't spit the answer out for the life of me. Here's the funny thing. They knew the answer. I knew the answer. They knew I knew the answer. I knew I knew the answer. Why, everyone in the whole universe knew the answer to that simple query. It was perhaps the easiest question I was asked during the entire 3-hour session, and I was completely tongue tied. So I admitted, in a sheepish voice, "Ich hab's vergessen." They mentioned the answer, we all got a big laugh, and on we went to the next question.
Sunday, December 2
1:27 AM Just back from Bethel Hill. Nice serendipity: the entire service was missions-focused. The Bethel Hill Puppeteers did a skit on reaching out to the lonely in our communities. Excellent! Their skit was called "Light the World."
Then pastor C. Balasingh from Tamilnadu, India, brought a powerful message entitled, "Four Reactions to the Birth of Christ," from Matt. 2 and Luke 2. He teaches in a Bible College and also runs an orphanage in southern India. Pastor Jason Evans has ministered with brother Balasingh on four different occasions in India. Here's a pic of Jason and his wife Molly and pastor Balasingh and his wife Helen.
I wish every church was as missions-minded as our dear friends at Bethel Hill. May their tribe increase.
8:24 AM This morning Becky and I will be visiting the Ethiopia team over at Bethel Hill Baptist Church in Roxboro. I can tell you one thing: all of them are eager to go back to Burji. So are we.
8:17 AM Click here to read Jeff Tucker's latest essay on good table manners. Allow me to add three more.
1) Always seat the ladies first. Men (and boys) may not be seated until Mama and sisters and female guests have been seated. Yes, guys, you are permitted to seat the ladies.
2) After the food is passed around and served, everyone waits until the lady of the house gives the okay to start eating. In our household the magic word is "Enjoy." Everyone is to follow this rule, even infants in high chairs.
3) Nobody gets up from the table until the meal is over. This includes restless children. In our home it's usually the lady of the house who determines when the meal is over.
You will notice that all of these rules have something in common: they display deference, respect, and love toward the lady of the house.
Happy wife, happy life.
Saturday, December 1
5:47 PM Nathan sure is multitalented. Not only can he build, he can tear down. Today, after completing our gutter ministry, we traipsed off to a neighbor's farm to get the tin off the roof of his old barn.
As always, I did all the hard work while Nathan goofed off. Not really. On projects like this, Nate takes the tin off while I load it into the trailer (and take pix, of course).
A couple of hours of labor and -- voila! -- a trailer load of free tin.
The owner's riding mower was on the fritz, but Nate had it working again in no time all, much to the joy of the proud driver. The problem was a belt that had come off, and the poor man was about to spend 100 dollars just to get a repairman out to the farm. Once again, Nathan saves the day!
You know you live in the country when you see bumper stickers like this one: "As a matter of fact, I do own the road!"
By the way, the barn was located next to this old house (early 1900s) that Nathan restored about a year ago. The owner's wife grew up here. Her grandfather built the house and barn.
So there you have it. A day in the life....
8:07 AM Becky has written the following financial summary on our work in Ethiopia. I hope it will help you as you consider your missions giving this year and next.
Following is a summary of the things on which we are focused this year. Each of these items is designed to help the local Ethiopian churches in Gospel outreach and in internal spiritual growth. These projects have been appointed by the Holy Spirit to us and have been developed in partnership with the local Ethiopian church leaders. As always, all gifts to this work are forwarded 100 percent to Ethiopia; our personal expenses, the expenses of our Ethiopian children, and all administrative expenses are borne by us personally. Will you commit these needs to prayer?
If God has appointed you to help in this way, please send all checks to 2691 White House Rd., Nelson, VA 24580, payable to BeckyLynn Black. Tax-deductible checks (minimum $500, please) should be payable to Averett Baptist Church, with “Ethiopia mission” noted in memo section.
BURJI TOTAL: $39,200.
ALABA TOTAL: $15,700.
GONDAR TOTAL: $13,100
As you can see in Becky's report, the needs are plentiful. For further information on any of these projects, or to be added to our email update list, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also access our Ethiopia Files here. Thank you for your love, prayers, and support for God's church in Ethiopia. Dave
7:17 AM Did you try translating the following sentence into Greek? Remember, there are 10 possible words in Greek.
Here's the answer:
6:55 AM Any literature profs out there who want to move to Basel?
6:52 AM If you like the participial ambiguity in the old saw, "Did you see the grandfather clock going upstairs," you'll love this one.
6:45 AM The Lord Jesus had His paint brush out this morning: