February 2007 Blog Archives
Wednesday, February 28
6:06 PM This wonderful email arrived today:
I too thank the Lord Jesus for these young men (and women) who are committed to thinking biblically about the church. It is an exciting time to be alive.
5:56 PM Earlier I mentioned the trailer-load of flooring we got from an old house in Oxford (see photo). It is in tip-top shape for being over 100 years old. The house was built when machine-sawn lumber was just coming into vogue. The fashion prior to that was to have wide heart pine floor boards, but with the advent of machines it was now the "thing" to have narrow boards.
Here at Bradford Hall we chose to imitate the older style of flooring, using boards of various widths. They vary from 4 inches to 16 inches in width. It gives our place that old-fashioned look we enjoy so much.
5:44 PM Big news! Nathan and I just finished putting up 1,000 feet of woven wire in one day (almost a fifth of a mile!). That's a farm record, I do believe. Every bone and muscle in my body is sore, but it's a good soreness. Know what I mean? More fencing tomorrow, weather permitting.
Here's a satellite map showing the fencing we've already put up (note the dark lines). Our goal is to complete this major project by the fall. Nathan figures we've got about a mile of fencing left to go. This includes fencing to subdivide the farm.
7:28 AM A reminder to my Greek students: the genitive stem of third declension nouns is worth memorizing. Along with the definite article (the unfailing means of telling gender). Along with the nominative. Along with an English gloss. See how simple learning Greek is? O, and don't forget our third declension ditty:
7:23 AM We just added to our speaking schedule Messiah Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC, Sunday, March 25, at 10:30 am. Becky and I have been wanting to visit this congregation for a long, long time. Now's our chance. What a blessing. They've expressed an interested in -- you guessed it -- Ethiopia. By the way, if you want a good, biblical statement about a "senior pastor," you'll do no better than this:
Isn't that great!
7:18 AM Yesterday Nate and I got a trailer load of tongue-and-groove pine flooring as well as a bunch of floor joists from a house in North Carolina. The house was a 1900 model and located in one of the nicer parts of Oxford. It could easily have been remodeled/restored. Today it will be torn down. Sad. Old houses have such character and class. Today it's back to putting up fencing. The weather promises to be as sunshiny as yesterday. I even got a slight sunburn while working in Oxford. Imagine, a sunburn in February.
Tuesday, February 27
8:50 AM I see congratulations are in order for Izzy and family. And quite a tale she tells! I am glad for the outcome of the game, as I have always been an incurable infracaninophile. Then again, I once taught a summer course at Lancaster Bible College and loved every minute of it. One of my favorite buddies, Richard Fairman, teaches there. And the campus is located in the right place -- at the outskirts of beautiful Amish country.
The nationals are next. Go Chargers!
7:58 AM Greek students! You can practice translating John 1:1-5 here.
7:53 AM Now this would have been a great book to have owned growing up in Hawaii. I had no idea that "Ilipilo" Street in Kailua meant "Smelly Skin" or that "Kaluamoo" Street was a "Lizard Pit."
7:40 AM Founders College, a new private institution not 20 minutes west of our farm, will be having its first open house on Saturday, March 10 at its historic Berry Hill location. Students will get gourmet meals and private rooms, all for "only" $28,000 (tuition) a year. The college has not been without its share of controversy. On its ideology and faculty (or lack thereof), go here.
7:35 AM Jonathan Edwards on sleeping in church:
And if you do fall asleep in church....
Monday, February 26
11:47 AM Mrs. Julie Austin (of Parenting with Purpose) has begun publishing monthly updates about our work in Ethiopia. Her first installment is an interview with Becky. To read it, go here. Thank you, Julie, for this wonderful labor of love.
8:50 AM Golden Gate Seminary’s Karr reckons that “building and staff consume 75% of a standard church’s budget, with little left for good works. House churches can often dedicate up to 90% of their offerings. Karr notes that traditional church is fine ‘if you like buildings. But I think the reason house churches are becoming more popular is that their resources are going into something more meaningful.”
7:40 AM Chuck Huckaby offers some helpful observations about family integrated churches.
6:31 AM So, today's the day that Titanic director James Cameron is supposed to sink Christianity. With this kind of press coverage, we must be getting close to Easter.
6:27 AM How Ed Miller got Karl Barth's chair (and how Stanley Grenz almost took it from him). What a story.
Note: Ed and I were students together at the University of Basel in the early 1980s. He was just finishing up his doctorate, I was just starting mine. What he says about theology and pipe-smoking is absolutely true. I can well remember one of Markus Barth's doctoral seminars being in a dark and crowded upstairs room with all the doors and windows firmly shut and everyone (except yours truly) puffing away at their pipes. If I ever die of lung disease I'll know why. Those were good years. Very good years. Thanks, Ed, for this reminder.
6:24 AM This put a smile on my face:
6:19 AM This is going to be a very busy week. Not that I will be teaching. I won't. It's our semester break. Our main goal is to get more fencing put up on the property. Then there's that house Nathan is tearing down in Oxford. Then on Friday it's beef day again. Butchering has to be done before the warmer weather arrives. Our good friends Kennon and Sherree will be helping us.
Here's something you can do this week if you like. Do you know of a pastor who needs some encouragement? I don't necessarily mean the one with the Rolex watch, the diamond studs, and the Mercedes Benz. I'm thinking of the guy who's name would be found at the end of Hebrews 11. You know, the guy who trusted Christ and ended up in chains or being sawn in two. The pastor that "never moved on and up." Send him a word of encouragement this week. Tell him, as Paul put it in Hebrews 11, that he is so incredibly special to God that the world is not worthy of him. Don't think about it. Do it.
It would make the vacationing prof happy.
6:12 AM The Basel Mission was founded in the year 1815. It's focus was Africa (mainly the Gold Coast). Here's a fascinating website that provides photos from the Mission's work between 1850 and 1950. The Basel Mission was very big on education (which is dear to my own heart). They realized that evangelism is only half of the Great Commission; teaching is the other half.
This means that when I am instructing Greek at a theological college in Addis Ababa or speaking at a pastors conference in the city my work is just as much a part of the Great Commission as when I am showing the Jesus Film in a Muslim village in the middle of Podunk. Can I get a witness?
Incidentally, the current counterpart of the Basel Mission is called Mission 21. Click here to visit its website. And may we all be as committed to edification as we are to evangelism.
Sunday, February 25
5:22 PM Today Becky and I had the pleasure of attending Bethel Hill Baptist Church in Roxboro, NC, not to speak (as we normally do) but simply to fellowship with our dear friends south of the border. Shepherd Jason Evans fed the flock from Joshua 8. I enjoyed his message tremendously. (Jason, by the way, is working on a Ph.D. in preaching at SEBTS.) I always like listening to someone else speak. Jason spoke from the heart. I like that! There was nothing irritating about his manner, no hint of a judgmental or superior attitude. Just a love for the Word and a love for people. His point was that we don't tell God how to work. He calls the shots. And even after we have failed him (as the Israelites did at Ai), He can still use us -- if we are willing to be obedient to Him. We have to humble ourselves and ask for help! The other thing I remembered him saying was this: as a general rule, God blesses men, not methods. Great stuff.
In two weeks we'll be back at Bethel Hill, this time to give the church an update on their sister church in Ethiopia. Nine of their members will be going with us to Burji this June, including Jason (that's his missionary mugshot below).
Saturday, February 24
7:11 PM Speaking of messy churches, here 's some sound advice from Steve Atkerson (scroll down to "Problems to Expect").
5:51 PM Starbuck's evangelism.
11:47 AM The housing boom in America definitely has a dark side: shoddy construction. You'll find defects everywhere. Yet a house built 200 years ago can last practically forever if it is kept up. (Keeping the roof in shape is vital.) We built Bradford Hall with that in mind. Strong rolled-tin roof. Long-lasting hardy plank siding. And much of the interior wood came from old houses (one house dated from 1790). For our flooring we cut, sawed, and planed our own pines.
Likewise, today we are called to be obedient to God's pattern for building His church. We insult God when we tell Him we have a better idea. It's accusing Him of shoddy workmanship. That's what's scary about faith. Whenever we're involved in exercising biblical faith (i.e., trusting God's patterns of doing what we do), we're overextended by design. When I'm working with Nathan (my brilliant chief carpenter), I find it helpful to report for duty. I willingly submit to his agenda for my day, express to him my desire to be a help (and not a hindrance, klutz that I am), and thank him ahead of time for letting me assist.
Yes, it's a team effort. But the guy with the know-how calls the shots. I would guess that's the way it is in your home too.
Shouldn't it be that way with God and us?
10:18 AM At the office this week I received yet another mailer offering the "key" to effective evangelism. Sorry, not gonna buy into it. Nope. No way. Don't be fooled by imitations, folks. Anyone who thinks he's harnessed the Holy Spirit has simply harnessed cheap psychology and worldly imitations. I prefer to stick to the basics: loving, caring, and serving in the name of Christ. And our task is not just to make decisions. It is to bring people to the point of discipleship.
How did I get on these junk mail lists in the first place?
10:10 AM Why do pastors move from church to church so often? Jim Elliff offers an explanation. A must read.
9:23 AM Just back from feeding the animals. "Boy, are we happy," they say. Below are the goaltlets, including little Miss Fluffball.
Our broilers are also bright and cheery this fine morning. "And why not?" they ask in surprise. "We live in the bestest chicken mansion ever built!"
"The calf pen is the place to be today," say the little guys.
O, and don't forget to say hi to Traveler! He's the nicest horsie you'll ever meet.
Them thar big boys look awfully spicious to me. Think they're plannin a breakout? (By the way, I can't keep Trav in the pond pasture no more. When he sees me, he swims across.)
Of course, you can't go anywhere on the farm without being tailed by Dick and Mary. (Tom flew the coop, off to find hisself a mate, I spose.)
That's all for today, folks. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of "Life on the Farm"!
Friday, February 23
3:08 PM J. K. Elliott emailed me today from Leeds to say he just posted an obituary of Bruce Metzger in The Independent. I found it online here. Wonderful words, Keith.
3:02 PM Everyone seems to have an opinion about the last twelve verses of Mark. Well, for what’s worth I finished my paper on this topic today. Becky was working, and Nathan is out of town, so what better chance to set my face steadfastly towards Athens. Not that my essay will please everybody (or anyone for that matter). It’s quite obscurantist and even fuddy-duddy I suppose. But I admit all that at the outset of the paper. At any rate, it’s the best I can do. By the way, I found the perfect joke to open my paper with. It’s a howler. Hope you’ll be there to hear it.
2:58 PM I know that spring is on its way because I did something last week that I haven’t done in a very long time – I walked to class without my overcoat. I can also tell that it’s nuisance season for me. Who needs a barometer when you can have sinus headaches?
2:50 PM If Acts 1:8 is any guide, missions ought to take place locally (Jerusalem), regionally (Judea and Samaria), globally (uttermost parts of the earth), and (as we might infer from the mention of Samaria) cross-culturally. Thus, dividing our missions efforts into “North American” and “International” seems a false dichotomy to me. Every Southern Baptist ought to be a North American Missionary. And every one of us ought to be an “International Missionary.” The key is a love for the lost, wherever they live. Perhaps it’s time to consider consolidating our boards into one “Great Commission” entity that would foster church planting locally, regionally, and globally through supporting the efforts of local congregations. Once our lives catch on fire with the love of Jesus, we will inevitably be on mission. Let’s make every one of our churches a Great Commission congregation and forget the methods. Our Lord Jesus is not a system. He’s a person, and evangelism is simply bringing another person face to face with this Person. Here's one thing Becky and I have been discovering: if you become radical about the Gospel, you’ll be radical about everything else in your life. It takes no special training or education. The early Christians were uneducated nobodies, ignorant fishermen. Even an educated man like Paul wasn’t impressed with book learning. If we can become so thrilled with Jesus that we appear to be drunk to others, our meetings as believers most certainly will not be in vain.
2:41 PM One of the things you’ll notice when you go to Ethiopia is the large number of Ethiopians wanting a visa to go to the United States. The government is not very happy about it and is doing all it can to stop brain drain from occurring. You can’t really blame it either. Everyone seems to want to leave. But here’s what we tell people: the capitalist system in America doesn’t offer anything better. It really doesn’t. It cannot make people contented, and it never will. Both communism and capitalism have gone bust. Thankfully, Christ will survive no matter what happens to Christendom. A marvelous example of this is in impoverished Romania, where the evangelical (i.e., non-Orthodox) church is a persecuted minority, and things will likely only get worse. (See this controversial new law.) Yet I never met more contented Christians anywhere in the world, and they are committed to making Christianity work in their post-communist society. I thank God for each and every one of them.
Below: Last November I had the privilege of lecturing to pastors and students in Oradea, Romania, and many other cities as well. My translator was my good friend and seminary colleague from Midwestern Seminary, Radu Gheorgita. Our subject? What a biblical church looks like.
6:34 AM My father-in-law just sent this along from Dallas:
To commemorate her 69th birthday, actress Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall for the benefit of the AARP. One of the numbers she performed was “My Favorite Things” from the legendary movie “Sound of Music.” Here are the lyrics she used:
Ms. Andrews received a standing ovation from the crowd that lasted over four minutes.
Thursday, February 22
7:50 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Are You a Missionary?
7:45 AM I see that the ruins of Saccara, Egypt, are in the news again. You won’t believe this, but in 1984 Becky and I took a very long camel ride to these pyramids and then back to Cairo. It was quite a trip. We even climbed to the top (sans camels) of one of those massive edifices (I have a photo somewhere to prove it). Afterwards I decided I would buy my camel saddle, which now adorns my Wake Forest office. Incidentally, the way we got from Jerusalem to Cairo was by public bus. Yes, I said "public." Now that was an experience not to be forgotten. (I try to forget the interminable wait at the Suez Canal.) My, how adventurous Becky and I once were.
7:34 AM Regarding the controversy brewing over the new feminist German Bible translation, The Bible in Fair Language, I thought Michael Moxter said it best: “Die Bibel spricht für sich selbst - aber nur, wenn man ihr nicht ins Wort fällt, um eigene Interessen zu befördern.” By the way, Professor Moxter is no theological slouch. In case you’re curious, this new “translation” (loosely called) was produced by 42 women and 10 men, mostly German Protestants. A typical translation is Psalm 1:1: “Blessed are the woman, the man, who….” However, in Hosea 11:9 the Hebrew ish is rendered simply “man”: “For I am God, and not a man.” One wonders, of course, why this isn’t rendered, “not a man, not a woman.” Here’s one you’ll like: “The apostles [feminine form in German] and the apostles [masculine form in German] gathered around Jesus and reported to him what they had done and taught” (Mark 6:30). The “apostles” here are, of course, the twelve men whom Jesus had earlier sent out (Mark 6:7-12). Matthew 16:17 is rendered, “…Father and Mother in heaven” (instead of “Father in heaven”), while Mary’s cry “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18) becomes “I have seen Jesus, the living one.” This, of course, is not translation at all. (Examples from Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger: Bibel in gerechter Sprache. Kritik eines umstrittenen Projekts.) By the way, I’m curious as to why the publishers of the Bibel in gerechter Sprache chose the word “fair” to render the German gerecht. The meaning is more probably “impartial” or “equitable” or even "egalitarian," don’t you think? “Fair” has some unusual English connotations for a Bible so concerned with gender issues. I’m quite positive the German means something like eine geschlechtergerechte Sprache.
7:30 AM Becky’s just been invited to speak at Hunting Creek Baptist Church in Nathalie, VA, for their next monthly WMU meeting. She will be speaking about Ethiopia. The meeting is Tuesday evening, March 13, at 7:30 pm. If you live in Southside Virginia and have never heard Becky speak, this is a great opportunity. Ladies only.
7:27 AM The Rambling Prophet has a huge heart for rural churches, as do I. For Brother Tony, love is a four-letter word spelled T-I-M-E. I’ll take a dozen just like him.
7:25 AM It looks like there’s a seminary in Birmingham (not England) I’ve never heard of before.
7:21 AM As the “pancake king” in our household, I enjoyed this essay in the Telegraph. And yes, using a heavy frying pan makes all the difference in the world.
7:18 AM Here’s a big Thursday shout out to C. K. for winning the 110 Award by receiving a perfect score on our first exam of the semester. The extra credit sentence he translated? “The faithless women believed in the Lord and became worthy of heaven.” Could you translate this sentence correctly? There are 10 Greek words possible.
7:15 AM Another happy surprise. Our good friends and longtime missionaries to Ethiopia, Ray and Lauralee Lindholm, report that their well-drilling work is going gangbusters. I’m glad, because safe and clean drinking water is definitely a big agenda item in many areas of the country. Becky and I will be staying at their guesthouse in May and we hope to get a firsthand update then. Here's a snap they sent us. This revolutionary well-drilling technique may well change the landscape of Ethiopia.
7:12 AM Chuck Baldwin offers a sobering assessment of our fast eroding Second Amendment. People sometimes ask me if we’re pacifists out here at Rosewood Farm. “Yes,” I say. “Just well-armed ones.”
7:10 AM Big news. After months of negotiations, the property of the Zobechame church in Alaba has been purchased. And the price came in way under market. This is an enormous answer to prayer because these believers will have land and (eventually) a meeting place to gather for their services. You just can’t fit several dozen Christians in a little hut.
7:07 AM It won’t be long now and we’ll be translating the book of 1 John in Greek class. Wow. And to think that a few months ago we didn’t even know the Greek alphabet. I think everyone will enjoy 1 John. It’s one of my favorite Bible books. I’m sure it’s at least in the top 66.
7:04 AM Now here’s a man I can appreciate – a cowboy pastor-teacher who loves Latin.
7:00 AM We leave for Ethiopia in exactly14 weeks.
Tuesday, February 20
5:50 AM Almost forgot. Yesterday was Bereket's spiritual birthday. Happy Birthday, son. We're so glad you're part of our family, and His.
Here's Bereket with the surgeon who performed his cornea transplant. Talk about a miracle.
5:47 AM Our email address email@example.com is not working. You can use firstname.lastname@example.org until we get it back up again.
5:36 AM I just reread At Dawn We Slept and, of course, had to watch Tora! Tora! Tora! again. Becky asked me if I had ever seen a downed Japanese plane growing up in Hawaii. Actually, I have. Just behind Punchbowl Crater and above the Manoa Valley (where the University of Hawaii is located) is a small mountain called Tantalus. As a teenager I would often hike to the top. In one particular steep section we found the remains of what looked liked a Japanese Zero (it may have been a Kate). Had the terrain not been so challenging I'm sure we would taken pieces of the wreckage home with us. One thing I do have from that era is an original copy of the front page of the Honolulu Star Bulletin for Sunday, Dec. 7:
Monday, February 19
6:45 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Our Goals for 2007. Man, this is turning out to be quite a ride. Worth at least an "E Coupon" at Disneyland.
Thank you, honey, for writing these reports and for doing such a great job of organizing all of our trips abroad. You are the wind beneath my wings.
6:40 AM Patrick McCullough lists several of the late Bruce Metzger's online essays here. As you can see, I was once privileged to edit a volume to which Prof. Metzger contributed a brief essay. It was a joy working with this gracious gentleman and scholar.
Here's an interesting coincidence that happened on the day of his passing.
6:32 AM Over at Random Thoughts, Ben Howard remains to be convinced that the letter "w" in English can be classified as a vowel.
Maybe this will help.
6:26 AM Here's one from the vault, in honor of Presidents' Day.
Sunday, February 18
6:34 PM Sunday shout out to our friends at North Roxboro Baptist Church in the great state of North Carolina. Here we met up with pastor Ben Durant, a former student of mine, and his lovely wife Betsy. Both of them have a huge heart for missions and, in fact, Betsy grew up as an MK in Israel.
Once again, it was WMU Sunday, and the ladies of the congregation "took over." The music was exceptional, including the choir number -- all of which focused on world missions.
Becky then spoke on the work the Lord Jesus is doing in Ethiopia, especially in the Burji region near the Kenyan border. Brother Ben had expressed to us a special interest in this part of Ethiopia.
Afterwards the Missions Committee invited us out to lunch to discuss in greater detail the opportunities and needs in Burji and elsewhere. I want to thank pastor and flock alike for allowing us this great privilege of sharing our burden for Africa with them. Afterwards Becky said to me while we were driving home, "It sure is fun, honey, working with you as a team for Ethiopia." I couldn't agree more.
8:51 AM You'll never guess what the Austins had for Breakfast the other day. Click here if you dare.
8:10 AM Good news! We just received word that Mohammed is to be baptized soon, along with several of his fellow prisoners in Alaba. I couldn't be more pleased. Baptism counts in Ethiopia. It is a public expression of total commitment to Jesus Christ and remains a foundational mark of sanctification. Jesus lived a life of obedience, and we must follow His example, as unpalatable as that may sound in today's society. I suppose there is no greater joy than seeing someone you love follow the Lord Jesus in faith and obedience. Boy, would I like to be there!
By the way, we were also told that all the guards in the Alaba prison greet us warmly. No, they are not Christians -- yet. But we have a great relationship with them. I think it all started when I asked them if they would like their portraits drawn while I was waiting to see Mohammed one day. Before I knew it there was a long line of smiling faces waiting for their own picture. As we pass the guards in town on their way to work they stop, get off their bicycles, and chat with us as if they had all the time in the world. In fact, the above photo of Mohammad and me would have been impossible had it not been for the good relationship God has given us with his jailors. Photos are strictly forbidden in the Alaba prison, but we received an exception, and that from the highest authorities. God is so good.
Question: Will you stop and pray right now for Mohammed and the other believers in prison, that they will bear much fruit for Jesus in their Muslim jail?
Saturday, February 17
4:23 PM Today we received the most wonderful email from our adopted son Bereket up in Gondar, Ethiopia. Here's a portion of it:
We met Bereket during our first trip to Ethiopia as a couple over two and half years ago. Only God knew what He wanted to do in his life, and in ours. Truly we are the most blessed people on earth. Here's a photo of our first encounter with this young blind boy from Gondar. If you are not familiar with the story of Bereket, you can go here.
4:04 PM Attention all students! Cancel all surgeries! Postpone all nervous breakdowns! Reschedule all vacations! Mark your calendars now for our Student Day to be held at Rosewood Farm on Saturday, April 28. Come as early as 10:00 am and stay as late as 5:00 pm. Lunch will be served at 12:00 noon. All of my students along with their spouses and families are cordially invited to attend. Below are some pix from previous get-togethers. See you then!
Friday, February 16
5:36 PM I just enjoyed an afternoon nap, then I walked the dogs down to the road to check the mail and feed the cows. I'm feeling tons better. Becky's home-made chicken soup did the job, I'm sure. Now as long as I don't overdo it I hope to be back in the saddle tomorrow. Lots to do!
2:32 PM I dare say, the question Alan Knox raises in his latest blog entry would have been impossible had not he and his fellow believers at Messiah Baptist Church been putting first things first. Though I've addressed the issue of open sharing before, I'll add a comment or two here. In many of our churches today, Christianity is far from the revolutionary novelty it was in the first century. There was nothing at all bourgeois or status quo about the earliest Christians. They saw their gatherings as bold and dynamic rather than dull and predictable. Least of all were their services dominated by clerics and choirs. Their mutual interaction showed Christian love at work, which is precisely why so many outsiders were attracted to this new movement in the first place (John 13:35). Did their meetings ever get messy? Or ugly? Or in need of correction? Did they ever need to exercise "tough love"? No doubt. Just read 1 Thess. 5:14. But herein lies their secret. When the unruly (idlers) in Thessalonica were starting to cause trouble, Paul exhorted their own brothers and sisters to handle the matter. He did not place the onus on the leaders or allow every-day Christians to abdicate their responsibility to admonish their fellow Christians. Tough love is not just for elders. (See this essay.) I think these early Christians succeeded where we fail precisely because they knew they were "co-souled" (to use Paul's unforgettable word in Phil. 2:2) -- inextricably interwoven with each other's lives. Did not Jesus give us a command to love one another? And how did He love us? Totally. Sacrificially. Messily, I might add. If we could only learn to love like that, perhaps we could learn to put up with one another even when we think some of us are talking rubbish, or even when we have to admonish a brother in love. However, this will never, never, ever work in a Christian community that lacks commitment and loyalty to one another. Period.
2:20 PM Miscellaneous news and notes: On Wednesday I came home from school feeling lousy. Turned out to be the stomach flue and a head cold. The stomach is much better, thankfully. I'm spending most of my time in bed reading and working on my talk for the April Conference.... This week I sent my Greek students home with their first major exam of the semester. It's a review of the entire indicative verb system. The questions? Parse 20 Greek verbs. That's it. Plus the 10-point Greek to English extra credit sentence. I fully anticipate handing out several 110 Awards next Tuesday. The key? Think scientifically. And never look at the word as the minimal unit of meaning. That's the job of the morpheme. If you approach the language this way, everything else should fall into place.... Your Ethiopian missionaries on the road again this Sunday, this time at the North Roxboro Baptist Church in Roxboro, NC. We've also been invited to have lunch with the missions committee after the service. I am continually amazed that God has taken us into partnership with Himself. What a privilege it is for Becky and me to share our heart for Ethiopia with our fellow believers. It will take me years to understand God's love for the nations. I will never fully plumb it. Meanwhile, what a joy to speak in churches that have a clear, unromantic recognition of the appalling need of those who are without a Savior.
Thursday, February 15
10:37 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Codependent No More!
10:34 AM Bryan College in Dayton, TN, announces an opening in Bible and Christian Ministry.
10:25 AM NPR ran a story on Tuesday about the Toy Fair going on in New York City this week. The bottom line? Parents, be prepared to empty your pocket books – and to buy lots of ear plugs. I thought of the contrast one finds in Ethiopia, where children have no toys whatsoever. Manufactured ones, that is. This young man from Alaba is busy working on his "Isuzu truck." He used scrap metal, shoe polish cans for wheels, etc.
Et voila, the final product. Nifty, huh?
This monster truck even has a rear view mirror. I give these young people an A+ for ingenuity and imagination!
10:13 AM Rep. Ron Paul will participate in the first national presidential debate in April. Mr. Paul hopes to make a impression among the Republican faithful. We’ll see.
Tuesday, February 13
6:42 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Taking Care of Each Other (Part 2).
6:40 AM "Someday we'd like to buy a farm and try our hand at raising animals." I can't tell you many times in the past 6 days I've heard that remark. Mostly from our homeschool friends. We were once there too. I tell people it's easy to forget the principle of ability. I'm afraid that many of us are unfaithful to God when it comes to applying this principle. As Christians we receive many gifts and abilities from the Lord. But there is no guarantee that one of these gifts will be the ability to work with our hands. I know I don't have this gift. In fact, farming would have been a complete impossibility for us had it not been for the practical skills of our son Nathan. From a child he has had a builder's mind. And it's entirely intuitive. He developed this ability while working on his HO model railroad layouts at home. As the youngest member of the Los Angeles Model Railroad Society he went from laying track to designing and constructing complicated layouts with realistic-looking scenery. He advises people to "know yourself." Don't be someone you're not. A gentleman farmer is one thing. Operating a working, productive farm is something else altogether. We're always willing to share about our experience when asked. In many ways we are still novices. But our primary advice is this: the agrarian life is not for everybody. Ask God to show you where your abilities lie. If they're not in manual labor, perhaps you'd be better off with just a few acres and sticking with more modest homesteading goals. Either way, the Lord Jesus is a Good Shepherd. He'll show you what to do.
Here's one of Nathan's unfinished layouts, now in cold storage until he has a family of his own.
And here's a view of the house Nathan designed and built for his mom and dad. I took this photo yesterday at sunset. Farming is a lot of work, but the natural beauty of a farm can't be beat.
6:23 AM It's a special joy for me to witness congregations in which something dynamic and exciting is happening. (A good example is Highland Christian Fellowship.) These churches are refocusing their priorities, especially on missions. Don't be deceived into thinking that church renewal is primary organizational, or that devising new programs will bring about new life in the church. Church renewal happens when we get beyond the surfacy and superficial, when the external becomes internal, when what was secondary becomes firsthand. And what is firsthand? Read Matt. 28:18-20. Or Mark 16:15. God wants to make us radical, life-long disciples of Jesus, people who have met God at the core of their being and whose lives and priorities match His own. For such men and women, being the people of God means more than "going to church," or "believing in Jesus," or "being good." It means becoming a part of what God is doing worldwide to bring man back into a vital relationship with Himself. They are "on mission" 24/7. This mission is both personal and social. It is always redemptive. And every Christian -- young or old, educated or uneducated -- is called into this ministry. I'm seeing this new set of priorities in more and more churches, and I'm glad for it. "Working for God" no longer means just contributing money to pay for salaries or teaching Sunday School or working with youth. It means giving our lives to God in behalf of the world He is seeking to redeem. It means that we join with Him in that work.
6:12 AM While driving home on Sunday we passed an Arabian horse farm. All of a sudden I was filled with nostalgia. What amazing creatures, those Arabians. I still think it's the perfect horse. After all, that's how all horses looked before men started breeding them. The Arab is the original horse. There is no more intelligent creature. The bond between an Arabian horse and his rider is unbelievably close. I know. My first and favorite horse was an Arabian gelding. I still miss Cody today. But more than that, I look back on my hundreds of rides with him with great thankfulness in my heart for His Creator. God must love me very much to have given me a horse like that.
Monday, February 12
3:46 PM We're back. And what a great trip it was. Here are some pix of our Ethiopia presentations. Our first stop was Rocky Mount, VA, where we met in the living room of the Meggs family.
To our great delight we met a family there who had just adopted 4 Ethiopian girls. One of them was even from the same area that Becky grew up in. A delightful serendipity.
As they were leaving, the girls just hugged and hugged on Becky, their sister Ethiopian. They couldn't get enough of her.
Then it was on to Bristol, TN, where we were hosted by the Williams family. Sweet fellowship, attentive audience.
The next day a grand birthday party for several young people was held in Sevierville, TN, and Becky and I were asked to share briefly about the Lord's work in Ethiopia.
Our final stop was the Highland Christian Fellowship in Boone, NC. This is a fairly new congregation that meets in a rented hall.
Their lead Bible teacher happens to be one of my Ph.D. students. Here Matthew McDill shares from 1 Cor. 10:16-17 about the one loaf of bread that symbolizes Christian unity. Each Sunday HCF observes the Lord's Supper along with a full meal. Hmm, sounds a lot like Acts 2:42 if you ask me.
You guessed it. Matthew and I were the last ones talking after lunch.
Thanks to all who helped to make this trip possible:
1) The Meggs who hosted us on Thursday night.
2) The Austin family who fed us a superb dinner on Friday afternoon.
3) The Williams family who graciously opened their home and hearts to us on Friday evening.
4) The Suarez family who fed us again late Friday and allowed us to spend the night in their beautiful new home.
5) The Igarashi family who hosted the birthday party and were willing to add a taste of Ethiopia to the merriment.
6) The McDill family for hosting us on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
7) Our brothers and sisters at Highland Christian Fellowship for giving us an opportunity to speak to them on Sunday morning.
8) Dana McDill for sending us home with a loaf of her freshly baked bread.
9) Jessica, Julia, and Joy Austin for adopting our orphaned goat "Breakfast." (They've decided to keep the name.)
10) Last but not least, our son Nathan for intrepidly driving us hither, thither, and yon -- all 800 miles of it.
May God be praised for all He is doing both in Ethiopia and the states to expand His kingdom.
Thursday, February 8
9:59 AM Before we hitch up the wagon and hit the dusty trail, two brief reminders:
1) The church in Burji needs emergency aid due to the recent tribal war with the Gujis. (Please scroll down to February 1.) If you can assist them, I know they would appreciate it. Becky and I will forward to the church whatever gifts you send.
2) On Monday we hope to finalize our Ohio trip itinerary. Please let us know ASAP if you'd like us to stop by your town on the way. (Kindly scroll down to January 26 for details.)
Again, on this road trip we'll be sharing (via slides and video clips) what the Lord Jesus is doing in Ethiopia. Stops include Rocky Mount and Abingdon, VA, Rockport and Sevierville, TN, and Boone, NC. The latest weather calls for clear skies (PTL). Also, on Friday my internet service provider is changing servers for DBO, so my site may be down for a while. I don't anticipate any trouble during the transition, but you never know. Look for an update Sunday night or Monday morning. Until then, God bless, and remember that your Shepherd loves you very much, and so do we. Dave (and Becky)
Wednesday, February 7
7:59 PM Spring Arbor University announces an opening in Greek and New Testament.
7:53 PM Wikipedia has an excellent entry on Thessalonica.
7:50 PM Here's an interesting fact. Many of our Ethiopia team members speak fluent Southern drawl. (I am still learning the dialect, having lived in the South for only 8 years.) It will be interesting to see the reaction to “suthen” when we arrive in Alaba and Burji.
7:46 PM If you’re looking for some assistance finding tools for academic research on the web, help has arrived.
7:40 PM The other day I shared my thoughts about the importance of mentoring (modeling) in the Christian life. For some reason my mind keeps going back to a professor I had at Biola University (“College” at the time) named Dr. Ebeling. He taught courses in theology. But his passion was missions. He had been a missionary in China before being booted out by the Communists. I loved the man. I took every course he ever offered, because I wanted to be like him, as he was like Christ. Funny, do you think my heart for world missions today might be due partly to his influence in my life 35 years ago? I think so. Today in Greek class we discussed 1 Thess. 1:6, which says that the Thessalonian believers imitated Paul and the Lord. Note the order: Paul was the human instrument that God used to reach the Thessalonians. But by patterning their life after Paul they were really imitating Jesus. You can’t have the one without the other. Who is modeling that kind of commitment in your life today? If you don’t have such a person, why not ask Jesus to give you one, just as Jason and his friends in Thessalonika had Paul and Silas and Timothy? He will do so. He delights in giving us good gifts.
7:26 PM We leave for Africa in exactly 113 days. Yes, the countdown has begun. Meanwhile, this weekend we’ll be on the road again representing the churches in Ethiopia. Here’s an excerpt from an email Becky sent out yesterday:
We do ask for your prayers for wisdom as we travel and prepare to go back to the Horn of Africa this summer (and take others with us).
7:20 PM Kudos to my colleague Keith Harper, who just launched a website devoted to Baptist history. I look forward to reading it and learning a great deal that I do not know.
7:15 PM We just received word that Mohammed is doing very well in his Alaba prison. Reading his Bible. Growing in the Lord. Radiant in his new-found faith. Confident in Christ. I think it is providential that the Lord has placed him where he is. He can be followed up and nurtured by the elders and believers of the Alaba Town Church. It’s also convenient for us to visit him when we are in Alaba. I'm speaking selfishly, of course. I’m a glad man whenever I can visit my children in the Lord.
7:12 PM Check out this video of a guy surfing at Kailua Beach. Man, does that bring back memories. Whenever the North Shore or the leeward side wasn’t breaking, you’d find me here, about 5 times a week. It didn’t matter what condition the surf was in – big or small, glassy or windswept. Kailua was a great break. Eerie, isn’t it – seeing a younger version of yourself on the web.
7:08 PM I used to be impressed by large church buildings, elaborate worship services, and charismatic preachers. And we had them aplenty in Southern California. I have since set my face steadfastly against such notions. The church is not the extravagant structure on main street. It is Mary serving breakfast to her family, John taking the 7:30 train to work, April in her chemistry class, and Josh in his suburban business office. The church is a living, pulsating organism. This is a crucial issue, though it is frequently brushed under the carpet. This weekend we will be with several home-church types. What excites me the most is seeing their interest in reaching beyond the four walls (er, living rooms or barns or rented halls) of their church to serve others.
7:02 PM Jonathan Grubbs sent along a link to this essay: The Myth of the Teenager. The money quote:
That takes some chutzpah to say in today’s teen-crazed world.
Tuesday, February 6
5:46 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Taking Care of Each Other.
5:34 AM Last night we met with our group going to Alaba this summer. It's the team principle at work. Blessing and edification emerge at both ends as believers in America and Ethiopia are "mutually encouraged by each other's faith" (Rom. 1:12). There is a great value in terms of believers going out from one church to another, not least in unity and partnership. It's a reminder that we are all part of a great family and that we cannot live in isolation from one another. The visionary outreach of some churches is really remarkable. There is an eagerness to forego the comforts of Western life. The result? Both the overseas church and the home congregation are enriched and strengthened.
Monday, February 5
7:17 AM The latest addition to our home page is called Why I Love WMU Sunday.
Sunday, February 4
5:55 PM The doggies and I just got back from a delightful evening walk. Thought I'd try out our spiffy new camera along the way. Here's the backside of Bradford Hall. The sun is just beginning to set.
Shiloh takes a drink of water at the pond. No, we didn't design it to be heart-shaped when we dug it. It just turned out that way.
We met up with Nathan, who was getting the tractor ready to take our wire rolls down to the valley in the morning. The ground ought to be frozen enough for us not to get the tractor stuck. We hope.
The dogs really like our manure piles. "My, what treasures we find here," says Shiloh as he plays king of the mountain.
A few of the boys came to greet us. They are a right friendly bunch, these fellows. Shortly two of them will be in our freezer.
Then it was back to the Hall, where daddy made some muffins for everyone to enjoy.
Including the puppies.
Well, Nate just arrived, so it's time to devour our muffins. See ya!
1:16 PM We had a delightful and blessed morning service today, led by our WMU director, Mrs. Joyce Murray (below), who is also our pastor's wife. The women did all of the "ministry," including officiating....
taking the offering....
and preaching (oops, speaking)...
Which brings up a question. Why do we limit their participation to one Sunday a year? I'll have more to say about that tomorrow.
7:30 AM Important announcement! The John and Julie Austin Adoption Agency has just placed our orphaned goatlet into a good home. A very good home, I might add. Their own home, in fact. Delivery will take place next weekend. We will miss our little pumpkin, but I can't think of a better family to care for him. And care it will take. Breakfast's bladder and bowel functions are most certainly operative.
7:22 AM I was surprised at the good number that turned out for our sessions yesterday on the Bible. After all, they could have attended "What Makes Good Sex So Good." I suppose they see the Bible as an essential tool for a good marriage. If we can't trust what the Bible has to say about the marriage relationship, can we trust it about anything? By the way, I loved teaching university students again. I had that joy for many years at Biola University. It is a salutary reminder that the future of the church lies with this generation, not with the "Greatest Generation" of Baby Boomers. University students have a big enough conception of Jesus to be emancipated from the shackles of attempting only what has been done before. And what a heart for the Gospel they have. The Gospel must be preached to unbelievers; the believers must do it; and the Holy Spirit wants to reach the lost on our college and university campuses. And this generation is ready. One student asked me if I'd be willing to speak on his secular campus. I'd jump at the opportunity.
7:12 AM This morning is WMU Sunday at our home church. Becky's speaking on "missions from a woman's perspective." Becky is definitely the facilitator, organizer, and administrator of our trips to Ethiopia. I often follow in her wake, and gladly so. She networks more easily than I ever could. Her interpersonal skills are amazing. Most of all, she's a genuine person who just loves other people, regardless of their status in life. I wish you could be here today to hear her.
Saturday, February 3
8:10 AM My topic at today's conference will focus on the Battle for the Bible that began in the early 1900s and continues today. Not so much the attacks by liberals on the truthfulness of Scripture. We evangelicals have also been gullible to folly. I will never forget the year 1976. TIME magazine had declared it the "Year of the Evangelical." We had an evangelical in the White House. In the same year Harold Lindsell's blockbuster The Battle for the Bible was published. Fuller Seminary's Dan Fuller was claiming that Paul was wrong (and even self-contradictory) in his teaching about women (Man as Male and Female). I was beginning to look into doctoral programs. Inerrancy was on everybody's lips. Scholars, even avowed evangelicals, were discovering "errors" in the New Testament. I think the tumult is much the same today, if more subtle. Can we really trust the Bible? This question is just as relevant today as it was in the 70s.
7:53 AM Frank Page's chapel message on Tuesday was all about bearing fruit (Luke 13:6-9). In this story of Jesus, the farmer's only concern was fruit. "If the tree is barren, cut it down! Why let it deplete the soil?" The gardener had an emotional attachment to the tree. Not so the farmer. "Leaves aren't good enough. I want fruit!" I wonder, how does this apply to evangelism and the work God is doing in Ethiopia? The gardener in Jesus' story was as innocent as a dove and as shrewd as a potato. God wants our enthusiasm, but we can't throw basic principles of spiritual horticulture out the window. That's why I am so excited that we're studying the book of 1 Thessalonians in Greek class this semester. It's all about approaches to evangelism and church planting. Paul shows us how God has provided us with everything we need to ensure our fruitfulness. Just read 1:2-10. God has provided us with a strategy and case studies to show us how it works. Just read 2:1-12. He's scouted out the enemy and given us insights into their attack. Read 3:1-5. He's established travel restrictions to teach us humility and produce purity. See 4:1-5:22. With all this provision, what's keeping us from seeking out the millions of lost sheep out there? We're sent to find them. Let's deny ourselves, serve others, demonstrate the reality of being delivered from darkness into light, and show the love of God and the power of the indwelling Christ!
Friday, February 2
9:57 AM The latest addition to our home page is called The Importance of Mentoring.
Thursday, February 1
2:50 PM Looking to restore an old house? Here are some helpful tips.
2:30 PM This is a good reminder that the church is a "community of unity." Christians have no right to live in disunity with other members of the Body (Eph. 4:3). The whole family is responsible for each member, and each member is responsible for the whole family. In the Body of Christ, brother-sister relationships are vastly more important than maintaining our positions of status that come from pride. This is why Jesus spoke so adamantly against the use of honorific titles that separate rather than unite (Matt. 23). Only God can take a boy from Hawaii and a girl from Texas and unite them with boys and girls and men and women in southern Ethiopia. When Jesus came into this world with the love of God, He crossed all the barriers that existed within the culture of man for the simple reason that these barriers do not exist in the community of God.
2:09 PM Here are some obligatory snow day pictures, cooped up as we are on the farm. Actually, I'm enjoying being cooped up for a change!
Trav seems to prefer the snowy pasture to his shelter in the barn. Maybe he's enjoying the snow as much as we are.
Breakfast knows that the warmest spot in the house is next to the wood stove in the library. Ain't he sweeeeeet?
Is it a lazy day? Just ask Miss Sheba.
They're saying the snow will turn to ice this afternoon and evening. If you have to drive today, do be careful.
12:18 PM Check out the Gender Genie. Quite amazing!
12:11 PM The First Blog Camp Switzerland will be held in Zürich on March 24, 2007. For a list of European bloggers who are planning on attending, as well as the conference's "unAgenda," go here.
10:53 AM Why would anybody exchange a new house in the suburbs for the dust, drafts, and cobwebs of an antebellum fixer-upper? Just ask my son. But he's not the only one I know who has forsaken the cookie-cutter anonymity of suburbia. Nate and I have been browsing through this journal of a house restoration not far from us here in Virginia. It's monstrous work, as you can see, but the character and history of old houses make the labor worthwhile. We're about half way done fixing up Nathan's 1820s farm house, whose former owner (Corporal Anderson Boyd of the 59th Virginia Infantry) is buried out front in the farm cemetery. Meanwhile, we are known for scrounging structures from neighboring farms, including our latest find, this old corn crib. Most people are eager to give away what they consider eyesores. To us they are wistful reminders of a by-gone day and only enhance the beauty of our "old-fashioned" farm.
10:09 AM We just received this letter from the church in Burji, southern Ethiopia, where Becky and I work. You will recall that tribal warfare broke out late last year between the Burjis and the Gujis. Even though the war is over, the consequences remain.
8:59 AM The VII International Meeting of Greek Linguistics will be held Sept. 13-17, 2007, in the Aula Verde of the University of Cagliari. The meeting is titled: Greek morphology between typology and diachrony.
8:55 AM This blogger is fanatical about studying Spanish, so much so that he has kept a log in the language. Why do some people excel in learning a foreign language and others muddle along? Answer me this question: Do you love the language you are studying? Are you passionate about learning it? If not, you will likely muddle on until you lose interest altogether. I couldn't make it through a single day without reading my Greek New Testament, at least a verse or two. Well, that's an exaggeration, but not much. What's more, after 30 years of teaching this language I still feel like a small child wading on the shore of a limitless ocean. Language learning is satisfying for me, partly, I think, because languages are so beautifully and wonderfully made (kudos to their Creator). They're just as beautiful as a sunset or a sunrise.
8:48 AM Peter Leithart thinks the apostle Paul may have been a bit of a linguist. I have no doubt this is true. I think Paul could also be called a sociolinguist, in that he implied that a human progresses from childhood to manhood without an intermediate stage (adolescence): see 1 Cor 13:11. Children think, reason, and even speak like children, but adults do not. About what age does this transition take place? Luke 2 seems to provide a clue.
8:42 AM Now this is really good news. Congratulations, Kovaahe. I can't wait for the day when we can dedicate the Alabinya Bible.
8:38 AM This story reminded me of our life in Basel way back in the early 1980s, when Becky and I immersed ourselves in Swiss culture and language. There were no shortages of opportunities to practice German (and to make fools of ourselves), but our persistence eventually paid off. Becky likes to say that I knew all of the theological words, while she was a master of "grocery store" German. We complemented each other nicely. My hat's off to Becky. She arrived in Basel not knowing a word of the language and within three months was speaking it fluently. Again, there is no better method of language learning than the "immersion" technique, even if you are not a Baptist. Of course, Schwyzertüüsch is a bit more difficult to learn.
Below: A tram arrives at the famous Karl Barth Platz in Basel. What happy memories.